Friday, September 30, 2011

Read in September

This month I read the following books:

1 The Princess Curse - Merrie Haskell
2 A Kiss in Time - Alex Flinn
3 Juliet Immortal - Stacey Jay
4 The Iron Giant - Ted Hughes
5 Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins
6 Soulless - Gail Carringer
7 Changeless - Gail Carringer
8 Wonderstruck - Brian Selznick

Picture credit: Reading Girl by Friedrich Von Amerling

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian review

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Ellen Forney
Little, Brown & Company
September 2007

14 year-old Junior is growing up on a rural Indian reservation in Washington state. I thought this was a great book, very moving. I hadn't realized that the book would be illustrated with cartoons, like doodles in the margins. With great humor, Alexie takes a look at the extreme poverty and hopelessness faced by many indigenous peoples today. Nearly everyone Junior knows is an extreme alcoholic, and many meet an early death. His sweet and wise grandmother is hit by a drunk driver. His father leaves the family to go on a bender over Christmas and ruins yet another holiday. A family friend is shot in the face by his drinking buddy over the last sip of wine in a bottle. (The shooter later hangs himself out of grief and sorrow.) Worst of all, his beloved older sister runs off to Montana to get married, and dies in a fire after a cooking accident at a party where everyone had passed out drunk and failed to escape. In light of all this, Junior carries on, poking fun at things where he can, determined to get the best education possible, by commuting to the school off the reservation (or rez, as the locals call it.) Junior struggles to fit in at his new school, and joining the basketball team seems to open doors for him, even as he begins to feel that he doesn't fit in either of his worlds. You know that old saying, "laugh so you won't cry"? The overwhelming heaviness of the subject matter is mitigated by Junior's self-deprecating humor and determination to just keep putting one foot in front of another, no matter what. Charming, funny and sad, I'm only sorry that I put off reading this book for so long.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Closet Clean-up

I really think that librarians have two natures. On one hand, there is an impulse to conserve - to save everything, in case it's needed later. Yes, lots of librarians are a bit hoarder-ish. On the other hand, librarians like to organize. Put everything in order, so that you can find it later. I have to say that I probably lean a little more towards the "organization" side of things.

Here is the children's supply closet at my branch. It's overstuffed with books that have been set aside for storytimes, my supply of puppets and other storytelling props, A/V equipment, some craft supplies and displays and posters to decorate the branch with. Let's take a look.

Wow. What a mess! Here's the closet with the A/V cart taken out.

And here's a close-up of some of the madness.

About half a day of rolling up my sleeves, and making hard decisions about what to pitch, what to keep, what could be donated to other organizations and what to put back in public areas, and here are the results.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bumble-Ardy review

by Maurice Sendak
Harper Collins
September 2011

Poor orphaned Bumble-Ardy has never had a birthday party. In this rhyming story, Bumble-Ardy's Aunt Adeline takes him in. After receiving a cowboy costume as a gift, Bumble-Ardy decides to throw a party on his own while his aunt is out - a party that quickly gets out of control. As the costumed swine begin to "oink loud grunts" and pull "all kinds of dirty stunts", readers are treated to several nearly wordless pages of rampaging pigs, a là the wild rumpus of Where the Wild Things Are. The masks the pigs wear look scary, strange and like something out of Mardi Gras. There's something vaguely menacing about this story - I certainly felt uncomfortable with a few things. I didn't like the pig dressed as an Indian with a feathered headband. Bumble-Ardy is dressed as a cowboy, and many pages, including the cover, feature a pig dressed as a police officer. What's Sendak's message here?

As I read this new Sendak book, something tickled the back of my brain... the story, especially the repeating line of "half-past nine" just seemed so familiar. Was it something from Sesame Street? Yes! Yes it is.

I thought it was interesting that the boy from the original story becomes a pig in this version. Despite changing the wine that was guzzled to brine in this new offering, Bumble-Ardy is still sure to raise the hackles of concerned parents. The fact that Adeline is not his mother in this version, but rather his adoptive aunt, certainly raises the stakes. I think the emotional intensity of children is very well respected here. How many children feel put-upon when a birthday party isn't as grand as they hope? A year ago feels so long ago to a child that it may as well have not even happened. Even a long-anticipated party can feel overwhelming to a young child who will break down when overstimulated. When Adeline comes home and discovers the house a complete mess, she becomes so enraged, her whole face distorts into a blackened mask of fury. Reading the book for the first time, I missed the final page. I initially thought it ended at "Okay smarty you've had your party! But never again!" and a tearful Bumble-Ardy responds, "I promise! I swear! I won't ever turn ten!" Happily, the story doesn't end there. There's one more page, a reconciliation of sorts when true to the original "Adeline, that aunt divine,/Took in her Bumble valentine/And kissed nine times over nine."

A rich and challenging entry into the genre of picture books offering assurances of unconditional parental love, this is a fine addition to Sendak's oeuvre. Be fearless and give this book a chance - children may be able to handle more than you think.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Banned Book Week 2011

It's Banned Books Week! Are you celebrating your freedom by reading banned or challenged books this week? It's been an interesting past few years for me, as I've had the opportunity to see in action everything from very laissez-faire communities where challenges are so rare as to be truly remarkable, to communities where book reconsideration forms fly thick and fast - usually at least 2 or 3 a week. Check out this amazing document of challenged books this past year.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Enclave review comparison

Small ReviewSmall Review has created an ingenious "meta-review" - comparing reviews from multiple bloggers for the "big picture" take on a book. Kudos to her for the great idea - it's a little bit like Rotten Tomatoes for book reviews!

Right now, she's looking at Enclave by Ann Aguirre, comparing reviews from nearly 20 different bloggers, including me. Check it out!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

All These Things I've Done trailer

The main thing to understand about this book, is that a world without chocolate is a dystopia indeed.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Re:Imagine Ed Conference

This weekend, I'm going to the Re:Imagine Ed Conference. I do love going to conferences... always a great way to get recharged and energized about the profession. I always meet interesting people, and come away with fresh ideas from any conference. I really have no idea what to expect from this weekend. I know we'll be working in teams, working and thinking about challenges in library design and how to plan for the future. Expect more of an analysis later next week, after the conference.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

5 Little Ducks Feltboard

This week I put together a simple, but very appealing feltboard for Five Little Ducks. Their feet are actually all one piece, glued to the back - I think it really works.

Five little ducks went out one day
Over the hills and far away
Mama duck said, "Quack, quack, quack, quack,"
but only four little ducks came waddling back...

Four little ducks went out one day
Over the hills and far away
Mama duck said, "Quack, quack, quack, quack,"
but only three little ducks came waddling back...

Three little ducks went out one day
Over the hills and far away
Mama duck said, "Quack, quack, quack, quack,"
but only two little ducks came waddling back...

Two little ducks went out one day
Over the hills and far away
Mama duck said, "Quack, quack, quack, quack,"
but only one little duck came waddling back...

One little duck went out one day
Over the hills and far away
Mama duck said, "Quack, quack, quack, quack,"
but no little ducks came waddling back...

No little ducks went out one day
Over the hills and far away
Mama duck said, "Quack, quack, quack, quack,"
and all five ducks came waddling back.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Weeding Wednesday 4

Weeding! A constant chore. I find it easier if I just do a little bit, day by day, week by week, otherwise you'll get overwhelmed. Here's my pull for the week. First published in 1976 - and hasn't circulated in years and years. If I understand correctly, a kid finds out that it's been determined that the Indians deal to sell Manhattan for $24 dollars worth of beads is ruled not valid. Because of his Indian heritage he's declared the official owner of all of modern Manhattan. I guess you'd have to call this a realistic fiction/fantasy, as this would never happen in real life. Between the kid's crazed expression, the quasi-rainbow behind him, and his feather headress, I have to declare this one so horrible that it's awesome.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hourglass review

by Claudia Gray
March 2010

Young lovers Bianca Olivier and Lucas Ross have run away from Evernight Academy and are living on the run as part of a Black Cross cell in New York. Readers who haven't read the first installments in the series are strongly advised to go back and read Evernight and Stargazer first. This story picks up right where Stargazer left off. Even though Bianca and Lucas are teenagers, their relationship takes on the quality of college students living together. Lucas' mother Kate, never maternal at best, really doesn't appear to bat an eyelash at their relationship, she's simply suspicious of any outsiders. During their getaway from Evernight, Bianca's human roommate Raquel, now aware that most of the students at the school are vampires, chooses to run with them. As Bianca struggles to hide her nascent vampirism, Raquel starts to develop feelings for Dana, one of the Black Cross hunters. There's kind of a dystopian feel to this book, as Bianca and Lucas are on the run, and living in rat-trap motels or abandoned subway stations. Lucas allows Bianca to drink some of his blood, but she is forced to supplement her diet by drinking the blood of pigeons, and the suspicious number of pigeon corpses in proximity to their headquarters tips off Black Cross members that something is amiss.

Thinking that she's been kidnapped by Black Cross, the crew at Evernight makes plans to try to rescue Bianca, Balthazar ends up being captured by the group, creating more problems for Lucas and Bianca whose loyalties are definitely split. And of course, Balthazar's crazy sister Charity is floating around as well, providing a constant sense of menace and threat.

I was stunned by the end of this book. Gray has taken the story in another direction that I definitely did not expect. I was certainly nursing my own theories about Bianca's heritage -- maybe she was a purely human infant stolen by vampire parents who wanted to play house? Maybe she could avoid being turned vampire? Or perhaps her vampiric conversion is inevitable? At the last possible moment, Gray surprises readers once again, with another twist of the plot.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Misfit review

by Jon Skovron
Amulet Books
August 2011

In a story about a girl struggling with her half-demon heritage, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised by the heavy presence of religion, specifically Catholicism in this book. 16 year-old Jael Thompson has been on the run most of her life. She and her father relocate every year or two. She's finally found a little bit of stability and friends in Seattle, when her father mysteriously demands that they hit the road again. The tortured romance of Jael's ex-priest father and demon mother (seen in flashbacks, aided by Jael's magical amulet) is supposed to be incredibly touching, but I failed to connect with either of these characters, especially Jael's now morose father. There's an added element of discomfort I felt in reading about the romance of her parents, which I really could have done without. I wanted all the romance to be about Jael! She does have a crush on cute boy Rob and they make some effort to sneak around their parents so they can see each other, but I didn't feel that Rob was "The One" for Jael... he's more a youthful fling.

Jael's uncle fishlike Dagon provides some comic relief... he's Hell's Baker (although, with all the blood we later find out that he uses, shouldn't he be called Hell's Butcher, or perhaps simply Hell's Chef, instead?) As Jael starts to come into her own, she unlocks her demon powers with an amulet gift from her mother, something her father has kept hidden from her. Much to her geeky mortification, her burgeoning supernatural powers mostly involve suddenly being charismatic and irresistible, especially to members of the opposite sex. Samson-like, her powers are amplified by her long, beautiful hair, prompting her to cut off her locks to keep her powers at bay until she can learn to control them. I liked having a ballsy heroine with a crew cut - it's not something you see much of in young adult fiction.

This book didn't completely amaze me the way that I hoped that it would, but it was still a solid effort and a mostly enjoyable read. Skovron is still a relatively new writer... I'm looking forward to his future efforts.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Rainbow Bookshelves

I found this photo floating around the internet. Beautiful, eh? I don't think I'd ever do this in my home, because after spending all day at a library, the last thing I want to do when I get home is organize more books. I'm sad to say that my home bookshelves are dreadfully disorganized... no rhyme or reason to them whatsoever. Also, with all the teen fiction that I read, I think a large portion of my bookshelves would just be all black spines. Still, a set-up like this would be perfect in the library for those patrons who inevitably ask you, "I'm looking for this book... it has a yellow cover," and come up dry when you ask them for any other information such as title, author, what the book is about, etc.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

This Plus That review

This Plus That: Life's Little Equations
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jen Corace
May 2011

This whimsical mathematical guide takes us into the lives of two little girls, as they put together some ingenious equations. Some of them are obvious, when you think about it, "yes + no = maybe." Others are more purely educational, for example, primary and secondary colors. Others only make perfect sense in hindsight, "chalk + sitting = school" vs. "chalk + jumping = hopscotch." The tiny-eyed, wide faces of rosy-cheeked children are the tiniest bit reminiscent of Joan Walsh Anglund's creations, but the depiction of their daily ups and downs doesn't feel nearly as twee (not to mention the presence of their long straight noses - definitely different than Anglund!) Crisp white backgrounds and creative typography with words that roll, wrap-around, or change size take you through the story. As fresh and clean as the illustrations are, I was surprised to uncover little details such as, "anything + sprinkles = better" is surrounded by a cutely kawaii birthday cake, doughnuts, cupcakes and hidden amongst them is a bowl of broccoli who look delighted to be favored with sprinkles as well. I also liked the overlapping green silhouettes of musical instruments on the symphony page.

There's a certain wry humor to "small + bottle = baby" and "tall + coffee = grown-up" as a dad hugs his baby in one arm, and his coffee with the other. I don't want to quote the whole book, but another of my favorite pages was "cozy + smell of pancakes - alarm clock = weekend" How very true! The illustration depicts a strawberry blonde girl snuggled under a rainbow pinwheel quilt, dreaming of a large stack of buttery pancakes. I'll recommend this fun book for readers 5-8 and see if it sparks them to make up any "equations" of their own.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Book Blogger Hop 14

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly meme hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books.

This week's question is:

As a book blogger how do you introduce yourself in your profile?

Well, my full profile is here, but the quote that I have, "I'm trying to keep up with all the wonderful new things being published each spring and fall... they write books faster than I can read them!" is something that I've been saying for probably over 10 years now. I used to work in an independent bookstore where I did a lot of handselling. Handselling, basically, is talking with people about what books they like, and then making personal recommendations for them - naturally, it involved taking home LOTS of ARCs to read, so you'd always be up on the latest new books. It was a great job, and probably what led me to working in libraries today. Anyhow, after talking up a dozen books or more, I'd nearly always have customers gasp with amazement and say, "Have you read all the books in the store?" And I'd ruefully reply, "No, authors write books faster than I can read them." It's true. No matter how much reading I do, there's always a few titles each year that I meant to get to but never did. C'est la vie.

What do you think of my profile? Should I add anything? Change it? I've been toying with changing my profile picture, although I do really like this one.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Harry Potter Travel Posters


Check out these awesome travel posters. Designer Caroline Hadilkasono says, "What if muggles get to enter the wizarding world? It’s completely plausible... One day it might just be possible that the divide between the magical and the non-magical world would be lifted." They're available as prints or as a postcard set.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mysterious Benedict Society review

The Mysterious Benedict Society
by Trenton Lee Stewart

Little, Brown and Co.
March 2007

The Mysterious Benedict Society is deliciously similar to A Series of Unfortunate Events. The story follows the adventures of four intrepid orphans, each with an idiosyncratic skill set as they battle against phenomenal villain, Mr. Curtain. His twin brother Mr. Benedict is spearheading a fight against him and his mind control machine.

Reynie Muldoon, a smart misfit, joins with Mr. Benedict after answering an ad for gifted children looking for opportunities. Kate becomes the MacGyver of the group, always ready with a contraption to get them out of any situation. Sticky Washington is the brains with his photographic memory and cranky Constance Contraire uses her small stature to good advantage. They manage to infiltrate Mr. Curtain's frightening island orphanage in their bid to take down his insidious propaganda machine from the inside.

The story has so many wonderful turns of phrase. It captures the spirit of using language inventively, without resorting to pedantic device of using dictionary entries. Lots of thought provoking stuff about family, friendship, bravery, happiness and so on, reminded me especially of the final installment of Unfortunate Events. This book has all the elements in place: interesting vocabulary, wierd and unique spy games (Morse Code, coded messages, etc), superior villians, and a plot that races along. Loved it! The book wraps everything up rather neatly, but I didn't want it to end! Luckily, there are two more in the series that follow it, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cover Trend: Coffee

Coffee cups! And some tea cups too. Not all of these stories are about coffee.

The Latte Rebellion
by Sarah Jamila Stevenson
January 2011

When high school senior Asha Jamison gets called a "towel head" at a pool party, the racist insult gives Asha and her best friend Carey a great money-making idea for a post-graduation trip. They'll sell T-shirts promoting the Latte Rebellion, a club that raises awareness of mixed-race students. Seemingly overnight, their "cause" goes viral and the T-shirts become a nationwide fad. As new chapters spring up from coast to coast, Asha realizes that her simple marketing plan has taken on a life of its own-and it's starting to ruin hers. Asha's once-stellar grades begin to slip, threatening her Ivy League dreams, and her friendship with Carey is hanging by a thread. And when the peaceful underground movement turns militant, Asha's school launches a disciplinary hearing.Facing expulsion, Asha must decide how much she's willing to risk for something she truly believes in. -from Goodreads

The Espressologist
by Kristina Springer
Farrar Strauss Giroux
October 2009

What’s your drink of choice? Is it a small pumpkin spice latte? Then you’re lots of fun and a bit sassy. Or a medium americano? You prefer simplicity in life. Or perhaps it’s a small decaf soy sugar-free hazelnut caffe latte? Some might call you a yuppie. Seventeen-year-old barista Jane Turner has this theory that you can tell a lot about a person by their regular coffee drink. She scribbles it all down in a notebook and calls it Espressology. So it’s not a totally crazy idea when Jane starts hooking up some of her friends based on their coffee orders. Like her best friend, Em, a medium hot chocolate, and Cam, a toffee nut latte. But when her boss, Derek, gets wind of Jane’s Espressology, he makes it an in-store holiday promotion, promising customers their perfect matches for the price of their favorite coffee. Things are going better than Derek could ever have hoped, so why is Jane so freaked out? Does it have anything to do with Em dating Cam? She’s the one who set them up! She should be happy for them, right? With overtones of Jane Austen’s Emma and brimming with humor and heart, this sweet, frothy debut will be savored by readers. -from Goodreads

Why We Broke Up 
by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
January 2012

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped. -from Goodreads

Slice of Cherry 
by Dia Reeves
Simon Pulse
January 2011

Kit and Fancy Cordelle are sisters of the best kind: best friends, best confidantes, and best accomplices. The daughters of the infamous Bonesaw Killer, Kit and Fancy are used to feeling like outsiders, and that’s just the way they like it. But in Portero, where the weird and wild run rampant, the Cordelle sisters are hardly the oddest or most dangerous creatures around. It’s no surprise when Kit and Fancy start to give in to their deepest desire—the desire to kill. What starts as a fascination with slicing open and stitching up quickly spirals into a gratifying murder spree. Of course, the sisters aren’t killing just anyone, only the people who truly deserve it. But the girls have learned from the mistakes of their father, and know that a shred of evidence could get them caught. So when Fancy stumbles upon a mysterious and invisible doorway to another world, she opens a door to endless possibilities… -from Goodreads

Better Latte Than Never
by Catherine Clark
HarperTeen May

There's nothing more annoying than working in a coffee shop inside a gas station—and not being able to drive. And having to deliver coffee to your bus driver. Kamikaze Bus Driver sips his coffee, then charges back into traffic before I can even take a seat. I reach out for a seat back to hold on to, but the bus swerves and I fall onto the end of a seat that's already taken, right into the lap of none other than Mike Kyle. I'm shocked. Mike's never been on this bus before. This runs against the laws of nature. I'm just so stunned I can't help blurting, "What are you doing here?" completely impolitely. Then I realize I'm still sitting on his lap. -from Goodreads

How to take the Ex Out of Ex-Boyfriend
by Janette Rallison
Putnam Juvenile
June 2007

Sixteen-year-old Giovanna Petrizzo finds it hard enough to fit in. Three years since her family moved to Texas, she's still the newcomer compared to everyone around her. It doesn't help matters when her twin brother, Dante, takes on the mayor's son by running for class president. The least she could expect, though, would be for her boyfriend, Jesse, to support their cause. But Jesse's apparent defection triggers Giovanna's rash emotional side, and before she knows it, she's turned Jesse from the boy of her dreams to the ex-boyfriend she dreams of winning back. -from Goodreads

The Language of Impossible Dreams 
by Sarah Ockler
Simon Pulse
August 2012

Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances... a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been. So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life... and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done. It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last... -from Goodreads

Confessions of a Triple-Shot Betty
by Jody Gehrman
April 2008

Geena can’t wait to spend summer vacation with her two best girls: her friend Amber and her cousin Hero. All three are working at the Triple Shot Betty coffee shop together, but the moment Amber and Hero meet, the claws come out. They hate each other on sight. Geena’s dreams of a girl-bonding summer fl y out the window, and then threaten to disappear completely when a few cute (okay, drop-dead gorgeous) guys come along to woo the Bettys. But all is not what it seems, and in a story of mistaken identities, crazy summer high jinks, and enough romance to make Shakespeare proud, Geena and her friends learn that when Bettys unite, they can take on the most powerful force in their world: a hot guy. -from Goodreads

Death by Latte
Linda Gerber
September 2009

It was only a few weeks ago that Aphra Connolly’'s life changed completely. She had been living a quiet existence on her father’s secluded island resort, until Seth Mulo turned up and stole her heart . . . and provided information that led her to find her mom in Seattle. But the reunion isn’t quite what she expected. Aphra’s mom, Natalie, doesn’t seem happy to see Aphra, and Natalie’s boyfriend, Joe, insists that Aphra go home. Even worse, Seth shows up, only to ask her to return the ring he gave her the previous summer. At least Natalie’s hunky neighbor is sympathetic. But when Joe is found dead at a nearby coffee shop, Aphra discovers her whole trip to Seattle has been based on a lie. And now someone just might be trying to kill her... -from Goodreads


by Rachel Cohn
Simon Pulse
June 2003

After getting tossed from her posh boarding school, wild, willful, and coffee addicted Cyd Charisse returns to San Francisco to live with her parents. But there's no way Cyd can survive in her parents' pristine house. Lucky for Cyd she's got Gingerbread, her childhood rag doll and confidante, and her new surfer boyfriend. When Cyd's rebelliousness gets out of hand, her parents ship her off to New York City to spend the summer with "Frank real-dad," her biological father. Trading in her parents for New York City grunge and getting to know her bio-dad and step-sibs is what Cyd has been waiting for her whole life. But summer in the city is not what Cyd expects - and she's far from the daughter or sister that anyone could have imagined. -from Goodreads 

Coffeehouse Angel
by Suzanne Selfors
Walker and Co.
August 2009
When Katrina spots a homeless guy sleeping in the alley behind her grandmother’s coffee shop, she decides to leave him a cup of coffee, a bag of chocolate-covered coffee beans, and some pastries to tide him over. Little does she know that this random act of kindness is about to turn her life upside down. Because this adorable vagrant, Malcolm, is really a guardian angel on a break between missions. And he won’t leave until he can reward Katrina’s selflessness by fulfilling her deepest desire. Now if only she could decide what that might be... 
-from Goodreads

Know of any that I missed? Let me know in the comments.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Unwanteds book trailer

Check out this amazing book trailer for The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann. As if I wasn't excited enough about this new book. The trailer looks awesome!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Last Dragon review

The Last Dragon 
by Jane Yolen illustrated by Rebecca Guay 
Dark Horse Comics
October 2011

Lush, detailed illustrations and lyrical fairytale-style writing about a small village faced by an ancient enemy dragon make this a not-to-be-missed graphic novel. As a stand-alone this would be a perfect introduction for readers new to graphic novels. I had expected the story to lean on the standard trope of the world's last known dragon being a misunderstood, lonely creature, who depends on the hero to keep magic alive in the world but instead I was pleasantly surprised to find that in this world, dragons are nothing more than overgrown, dangerous fire-breathing lizards which the human community is more than happy to wipe out.

The village healer's daughter Tansy is a bit of an outsider in the community and even her sisters, practical Rosemary and flibbertigibbet Sage, fail to understand her. She alone is underwhelmed when a blowhard (but gorgeous) youthful hero, Lancot, sweeps into town, bragging of his battle prowess. After the town begins to suspect that their missing sheep (and missing children!) are due to a young hungry dragon, naturally they call on the tow-headed stranger to solve their problem. In a panic, he realizes that his plan of boasting and bluffing his way through this hick town have backfired on him, and his thought bubbles and facial expressions in the next several panels are humorous indeed. Tansy comes to the rescue with a clever plan to outwit the dragon, using Lancot's true skill: kitemaking. It's a bit of a stretch to believe that battling a blast of dragon fire would reduce Lancot's Fabio-like locks to a manly, yet still handsome crewcut, but I was willing to roll with it. This is a very approachable graphic novel sure to appeal to both boys and girls, with gorgeous sepia-toned full-color illustrations and rich language. I highly recommend it!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Decatur Book Festival 2011 Report

Last week I was at the Decatur Book Festival! How did it go? Saturday was the day before the weather finally broke so was a hot, hot day, at the end of a long, hot summer, but the crowds were still out in force. I had the opportunity to tell some stories at the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library tent - even though it was a little tough to scare up an audience, considering there were so many other competing delights to be had at the Festival. There was a Skippy Jon Jones parade, a hula-hooping event and so much more. I spent quite a bit of time, scoping out all the booths - how heartwarming it was to see so many literature lovers gathered in one place! Honestly, I might have a longer and better report of the festival if I talked about all of the things that I missed: there were nearly 500 authors scheduled to appear. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see Libba Bray or Beth Revis, and I also missed seeing Andy Runton, creator of the wonderful, nearly wordless Owly graphic novels. I'm told that Andy Runton is a local to the greater Atlanta area, so maybe I will run into him at some future event. There also was a Pete the Cat parade, full of fans of Eric Litwin and James Dean. Local (and famous) authors Jackson Pearce and Laurel Snyder were there too. It's difficult to say how many people were there, but it was a massive crowd. Some estimates go as high as 80,000 attendance over the long weekend, a number I can easily believe.

What I did make time for was some shopping... I picked up this gorgeous leather-bound journal.

I also stopped to check out this art installation. Passersby were invited to share what they were reading on these faux bookshelves.

What were most people reading? Let's just say I saw a lot of The Hunger Games noted on the "shelves."

Interestingly, the mood that I picked up on was a lot of sadness and worry. I can't tell you how many people told me in wistful tones that they missed the library, and they were disappointed with the e-books revolution because it meant that books wouldn't be around anymore. It felt really good to reassure people that the library, as an institution, isn't going anywhere (at least, I hope not!) A lot of people thought that they didn't qualify for a free library card, when in fact, they do. We got a lot of library card sign-ups that day. Everyone that I talked to was shocked, shocked to learn that yes, you can get e-books at the library. One gentleman asked me if I felt "disloyal" when I read e-books, and I told him, no, I appreciate books in all of their forms. I embrace the future, even as I retain my love for old books.

I pointed out to several people that e-books probably are bad news for cheap mass market paperbacks, but honestly, I have seen the quality of hardcover books increase dramatically ever since e-books have really taken off. Foil embossing, ingenious and beautiful cover designs, reversible dust jackets, deckled edge pages... publishers are pulling out all the stops to make books in their physical form really worth having.

More than one person told me that they felt that they were one of the few people around who appreciated books... part of a rare breed. I took great delight in waving my arms about, gesturing to the 40,000-odd people in the crowd and saying, "Look! There are all your fellow book lovers! Books aren't going anywhere, not when there are so many people who love them."

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hopping around

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly meme hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books.

This week's question is:

Many of us primarily read one genre of books, with others sprinkled in. If authors stopped writing that genre, what genre would you start reading? Or would you give up reading completely if you couldn’t read that genre anymore?

I'm sure it's no secret that fantasy is my favorite genre. I feel lucky that it's probably the most popular genre right now, and has been for at least a decade. I'm tempted to cheat and say if fantasy were no more, I'd read science-fiction, but honestly, the two are lumped together so often, and indeed, sometimes even intermingle in a single book, they're practically extensions of each other. Or non-identical twins, let's say. If I was going to read something really different, I think I'd go with mysteries, especially historical mysteries like Anne Perry's William Monk and Thomas Pitt series. I like cozy mysteries, since the focus is solving the puzzle, without too many gory details on how the murder crime happened. I also like missing treasure mysteries, where no one dies, but the hunt is on for a fantastic hidden treasure, or a lost or stolen artifact.

Parajunkee's View has an interesting question for Follow Friday this week. I can't claim to be properly participating, since I'm pretty selective about who I follow, but she asks: 

Have you ever wanted a villain to win at the end of a story? If so, which one??

Yes, naturally, I root for Snape to win at the end of Harry Potter! Spoilers ahead... Dumbledore was so very old anyway, what if he had just died of natural causes, leaving Snape's reputation (relatively) unsullied. Then Snape could become Headmaster at Hogwarts, freeing him up to harass generations of Potter kids! Rowling has said in interviews that she thinks Snape only gets so much sympathy because Alan Rickman is a brilliant actor, but that's not true! Snape is such a well-rounded character, with an interesting backstory. And sure, Harry has been treated badly by the Dursleys his whole life, but once he gets to Hogwarts, he kind of becomes Wonder Boy, and it's good to see at least one adult prepared to give him a hard time about bending or breaking so many rules.
You know that I'm not too villainous... it's not like I'm rooting for Voldemort, after all!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Zeal of Zebras review

A Zeal of Zebras
by Woop Studios
Chronicle Books
August 2011

Reading this book makes me wish that I was the kind of hyper-focused blogger who only reviewed alphabet books. I could call myself The Amazing Abcedarian, and then, after reading A Zeal of Zebras, confidently proclaim it to be the best alphabet book in all the land, and probably one of the most superior alphabet books of all time. Each page is a fresh and original surprise as readers are treated to a collection of animals referred to by their group name, paired with some interesting information about each animal, and a gorgeous digitally created collage. While some of these group names were not unfamiliar to me: a caravan of camels, a galaxy of starfish, and of course, an unkindness of ravens, I wondered if the others were simply made up such as: an aurora of polar bears, an embarrassment of pandas, an implausibility of gnus. I found this site with a wonderful list confirming the names of several rarely used animal group names; how neat!

Woop Studios background as a graphic design firm is apparent in the crisply designed, textured collage images. Any of the pages would be frameable as art. Many have the look of old movie posters and blurred or scratchy edges indicative of handmade prints. I loved the nest of crocodiles, all meeting nose to nose, except for one, who has his tail to the rest of the group. 

My personal litmus test for any alphabet book is the treatment of the often difficult letter "X". A Zeal of Zebras offers a not-too-shabby "exaltation of larks" for X - I can't give it full-marks for the most ingenious "X" I've ever seen, but I must say, I've definitely seen worse. Pair this book with Ubiquitous by Joyce Sidman for a beautiful and innovative look at different animal species.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

White Cat review

White Cat 
by Holly Black
Margaret K. McElderry
May 2010

My only regret about this book was not reading it sooner.

17 year-old Cassel Sharpe is the black sheep of his mafia crime family. While they're mostly small-time con artists, they all have a special talent - they have the power to curse - meaning they can change your memories, kill someone, manipulate memories, or gain unusual strength by touching their target, or "mark" with their hands. Only Cassel seems to lack any special abilities. Because of the danger, it's a commonly accepted practice for everyone to wear gloves at all time. Such power doesn't come without a price, however. Curseworkers suffer from "blowback" directly related to their ability. The more the power is used, the more one suffers. Deathworkers suffer from rotting limbs, and nearly all accomplished hitmen are missing fingers, toes or maybe an ear. Emotion workers like Cassel's mom suffer from wild mood swings, and so on. For reasons that even he doesn't fully understand, Cassel is harboring an awful secret. Three years ago, in a fit of jealous rage, he murdered his long-time crush, Lila, the daughter of a powerful mob family. His older brothers Philip and Barron helped him cover it up, and have enrolled him in an exclusive private boarding school to keep him out of the way while his mother serves out a prison term for bilking lonely widowers out of their money.

Cassel is such an interesting character. He desperately wants to fit in, to be normal and liked, and yet, he's filled with so much self-loathing, he's always uncomfortable in his own skin and awkward around people. He spends half his time wishing he could cut himself free from all of his family ties and resents being drawn in to their schemes and crimes, but half the time he wishes that he would prove to be a late-bloomer and fantasizes about developing paranormal powers of his own so that he could be included with his brothers in their illicit activities. Cassel is surrounded by family who pride themselves on fooling others, and he's been taught since he was in his cradle to guard his true feelings and how to be an effective liar. Things really get rolling when Cassel sets up a small-time betting operation at his school, his mother is released from prison, he begins sleepwalking, and having intense dreams about a white cat that follows him everywhere.

There are some stunning twists and turns, and some major plot reversals at the end of the book that I never saw coming. I highly recommend this book.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Top Ten Authors I'd Like to Meet

Who are the top ten authors that you'd DIE to meet?

Wow, what a tough question. In part, this question is tough for me, because I've been lucky enough to meet so very many of my favorite authors already. Working in a bookstore, and now in libraries, plus attending book-related conferences every chance I get, the list of famous authors I've met briefly, or had dinner with, or heard speak is ridiculously long. I worked a book signing with J.K. Rowling - a total madhouse, that she handled with complete class. I hosted a book signing and accordion sing-a-long with Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket, before he was well-known, that had parents angrily storming out when they completely didn't get his awesomely twisted sense of humor. I have been delighted and charmed at book talks by Brian Jacques, Ray Bradbury, and Jeff Kinney.  That having been said, I'm sure there are more authors that I'd love the chance to hang out with.

The only other quibble I have with this question, is that honestly, authors ARE my rockstars, but I value my life pretty darn highly. I can't think of a single one that I'd literally die for. No, not even her. Not him, either. Nope. No way. Sorry. Can't have one of my kidneys, either. I'm keeping those for myself.

So, if I assume the dying question is merely a figure of
speech, who'd make the top ten? I wasn't going to go with authors who are dead - but there are a few I guess I have to mention.

Isaac Asimov! The undisputed king of science-fiction, raconteur and all-around charmer. This is the guy who invented The Laws of Robotics. He died while I was in high school and I felt like I "just missed him" - if I'd been just a bit older, or had my own car, I'm sure I could have managed to run into him at a sci-fi convention of some sort.

James Oliver Rigney, Jr., better known as Robert Jordan. Never met him! I love his Wheel of Time books so much, but at the time I was reading them, I was working putting together some author events and book signings and met some other authors of my favorite books - and sad to say, I had a few pretty negative experiences with authors who shall remain nameless. It's not always a good thing to meet your heroes. I had several opportunities to see Robert Jordan at various book events, but I always passed it up, because I loved his books so much - what if our meeting didn't go well? It would totally take the shine off of those books for me. And then, very suddenly it seemed, he was diagnosed with a rare disease, and he was gone. Darn it. Now I really wish I had met him and I'll never get the chance.

Okay, if we're talking dead authors, I'll have to throw this one in there: William Shakespeare. I actually kind of don't want to meet him. I'm picturing him, in genuine Renaissance-period wear, this filthy, flea-bitten, harried poet. I don't know why I think of Shakespeare as being an incredibly grumpy person, but I feel certain that he was. He was a genius beyond compare, he worked insanely long hours in the theatre, he was separated from his family for long periods of time so he could work in London. All of those things must add up to a foul temperament, right? Plus, as I mentioned earlier, the smell. I'm sure that would not be good. But, if time traveling was magically possible and I could meet him, I would, because I've spent so many years working onstage and backstage at Shakespearean theatres, it would be great bragging rights to meet The Bard himself.

All right, enough of that! Let's move on to living authors.
The next two are easy. Technically, I suppose you could say that I've "met" them already - if you count being within arm's reach in the same room. Last June at the American Library Association Annual Conference in New Orleans, I attended the YA Authors Coffee Klatch, an awesome event where you get to sit down for coffee and spend 10 minutes or so with a random, rotating set of authors. Every 10 minutes a bell is rung, and your author gets up and heads to a new table. Just as the event was ending, both Cassandra Clare and Cheryl Rainfield were heading towards my table. Aaargh! So close! Yet so far away.

I want to meet Cassandra Clare because I hate her books so much! I want to understand the person who wrote them a bit better. I'm sorry Team Jace, I just don't understand you. Incest isn't romantic - it's yucky!

I want to meet Cheryl Rainfield because she seems like such a survivor - a strong, amazing woman. I don't think she looks like her photo at all, but I still recognized her right away. Is that weird?

One author who I'd like to meet is Maggie Stiefvater. I loved her Wolves of Mercy Falls books. She did a local book signing recently, but I didn't find out about it until the date had already passed. I can't believe I haven't met her yet!

I would love to meet Brenna Yovanoff. I really liked The Replacement even if it was just a hair too scary for me, and I have some kind of vague idea that she has a great sense of style.

I'd love to meet Paranormalcy author Kiersten White. At least from her Twitter feed, she seems as bubbly and funny as her characters.

Wouldn't it be great to meet Stephenie Meyer? I am not a Twi-hard, by any stretch of the imagination, but I did really enjoy Twilight. Let's just pretend Breaking Dawn never happened. And I loved, loved, loved The Host. I can't believe that The Host hasn't gotten more attention - that was a great book.

I have a terrible confession to make. I do not particularly care for Neil Gaiman's books. I don't hate them, I just kind of feel "meh" about most everything of his that I've tried to read. But, I love his blog. Reading it is like reading a letter from a friend. And he seems like such an interesting person. He keeps bees! He owns a Narnia lamp out in the middle of the woods! I like his accent. Even though I'm not his superfan #1, I'd still like to meet Neil Gaiman.

Wow, that's 10 already. I'm sure I could think of more. Who would you like to meet?


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