Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Waiting on A Million Suns

Is it time to start thinking about 2012 releases already? I guess so! It's right around the corner, I can't believe it's nearly December. I can't wait for A Million Suns by Beth Revis. Let's face it, we're all waiting for this one, right? The cover is amazing. I loved Across the Universe so much - it really whisked me away to another world. That's what I look for in a truly great book. Bonus! A Million Suns is coming out right around my birthday. *hint, hint* family and friends!

A Million Suns
by Beth Revis
January 2012

Godspeed was fueled by lies. Now it is ruled by chaos.
It's been three months since Amy was unplugged. The life she always knew is over. And everywhere she looks, she sees the walls of the spaceship Godspeed. But there may just be hope: Elder has assumed leadership of the ship. He's finally free to enact his vision - no more Phydus, no more lies.
But when Elder discovers shocking news about the ship, he and Amy race to discover the truth behind life on Godspeed. They must work together to unlock a puzzle that was set in motion hundreds of years earlier, unable to fight the romance that's growing between them and the chaos that threatens to tear them apart.
In book two of the Across the Universe trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Beth Revis mesmerizes us again with a brilliantly crafted mystery filled with action, suspense, romance, and deep philosophical questions. And this time it all builds to one mind-bending conclusion: They have to get off this ship.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Peeled review

by Joan Bauer
Putnam Juvenile
May 2008

Sixteen year-old Hildy Biddle dreams of being a stellar journalist. She's the star writer for her high school newspaper in the small, sleepy farming town of Banesville, NY. I must admit I very nearly put this book in my "Did Not Finish" pile in the first few pages. The book opens with a prolonged description of the Apple Valley Pageant Queen vomiting due to food poisoning. That, plus the fast-paced, noir-inspired, witty banter that Hildy uses initially felt a bit forced - like she was trying too hard to sound like Sam Spade. But, I stuck with it, and things picked up from there.

Hildy reminded me a lot of Veronica Mars... bold, inquisitive and skeptical, and fairly down on the whole idea of dating. She lives with her mom and cousin and grandparents, since the recent death of her father, also a reporter.

The local paper, The Bee, starts printing more and more outrageous stories, claiming there's a ghost haunting the old Ludlow place, creating fear and panic in the town. With the help of her experienced newsman mentor Baker Polton, she sleuths out the clues that lead to the real reason behind the hauntings. When the school shuts down the school paper, The Core, she and her friends start a rebel sheet called The Peel.

Ignoring for the moment, that this is basically the same plot of every episode Scooby-Doo, ever:

"You mean the editor of The Bee faked all the ghost sightings to lower property values in town so he could build a new development?"
"And we would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!"

This was a fast-paced enjoyable read. I can't imagine living in a world where newspapers are as important as they are to Hildy - she and her friends briefly mention the idea of creating a blog to disseminate school news, but quickly veto the idea, because it might not get out to enough people.

This is a solid pick for younger teens, and the perfect book for YA readers looking for non-fantasy realistic fiction without too much emphasis on romance. I'd actually recommend this as a great introduction to Joan Bauer. If readers like this, they'll love the much-stronger Hope Was Here.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Harry Potter pencils

This is cool! Here's a shop on etsy, where the seller creates Harry Potter pencils. The only quibble I have is that you can't really choose what quotes you'll get. (Although they try to take requests.) There's lots of others there too, Hunger Games pencils, Percy Jackson, Pride and Prejudice, Shakespeare. Neat!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Divergent review

by Veronica Roth
May 2011

Sixteen year-old Beatrice Prior is on the verge of her choosing ceremony. Raised by the strict Abnegation sect, a group so selfless they don't even allow themselves to look in mirrors, she's always wondered about what life might be like amongst one of the other factions: Candor, Dauntless, Amity or Erudite. Each faction lives in a separate part of the city and each has a dress code: Abnegation in grey, Candor in black and white, Dauntless wears black, Amity is yellow and Erudite favors blue. After undergoing testing, teens are assigned a sect, although they can make a different choice if they want. Most choose the same faction as the family they were raised in. Much to her surprise, Beatrice tests show that she is Divergent - not a clear pick for any of the factions. She's cautioned to keep this information a secret. She chooses Dauntless, a group that focuses on bravery. Her brother chooses Erudite, focused on knowledge.

Most of the book deals with formerly shy, hardworking Beatrice, who re-styles herself "Tris" once she joins Dauntless, and her struggles to keep up with the daredevil hazing of her new group. I liked Tris enormously, and I liked the way she was able to surprise everyone who underestimated her.

I was very curious about how the world came to be set up in this way... why five factions, and why were they dedicated to those particular qualities? We never really find out. I also wondered what purpose Dauntless really serves - why does a city need a group of tattooed adrenaline junkies? Tris ends up being in a perfect position to learn some family secrets, and other secrets that impact the whole city.

This is a thrilling book and how could it not be, with Tris spending most of it acclimating to her new life in Dauntless by riding ziplines off of abandoned buildings, jumping onto moving trains, undergoing combat training, and fighting another one of her fears - her fear of intimacy means she suppresses her crush on one of the Dauntless leaders, known as Four. Things between Tris and Four develop very slowly - most of the emphasis is on where the action is: Tris's training at the Dauntless headquarters and unravelling a conspiracy by the city's leaders in Erudite. Divergent should be an automatic go-to for readers who enjoyed the brave female warriors in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Alison Goodman's Eon: Dragoneye Reborn or Kristin Cashore's Graceling. The story ends with a bit of cliffhanger as  Tris makes her escape from a war zone to one of the other factions. I'm already looking forward to the next book in the series, Insurgent.

I purchased this book.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Breaking Dawn review

Breaking Dawn
by Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
August 2008

Meyer wraps everything up very neatly in the fourth and final installment of the very popular Twilight series. It's obvious that Bella represents a kind of wish-fulfillment for her, as by the end of the book she gets everything she wants without having any consequences at all. Neither Bella nor her love interest, vampire Edward Cullen, seem terribly well-rounded. Bella half-heartedly goes through with the wedding that Edward insists upon, and during their honeymoon in a remote tropical island, finds that she's miraculously become pregnant with Edward's child.

Bella is the perfect martyr, willing to sacrifice any and all of her needs for others. Edward is a prat, still pouting that he can't read her mind, and therefore notoriously dumb about communicating in a healthy way with his fiance. Bella enlists the aid of barren Rose in order to protect her during her abnormally fast supernatural pregnancy. Not having much time to consider things, and as a child of a bitter divorce, it's clear Bella's never thought much about baby names, she quickly settles on "Renesmee" as the name for her daughter. Everyone shortens this to "Nessie" much to her chagrin. Werewolf Jacob wastes no time imprinting on Nessie, something which I saw as a very odd compromise to get him a love interest deeply connected to Bella in some way. Nessie clearly suffers from SORAS (Soap-Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome) as her half-vampire heritage causes her to nearly instantly age into an adorable pre-schooler.

A showdown with the vampire lords ensures the Cullens future safety, as they make their case for their "vegetarian" existance, and the existance of their half-vampire child. Bella flexes her own superpowers, adapting to her vampire existence with ease and near-perfect control, not the ravening bloodlust that she'd feared. Bella's utter disdain for her "clumsy" human years reminded me very much of Lestat in Anne Rice's The Tale of the Body Thief.

These characters are so arresting, and the world that Meyer creates so believable, it's frustrating to see them take a turn that one wouldn't have wished... I was rooting for a better ending for Jacob of course, and wishing that Bella would grow a spine! Still, for all the quibbles I had with plot of the book, it was still extremely entertaining and a quick read despite it's hefty page-count.

On the whole, this is an very enjoyable series, and one that I'd recommend even if it wasn't a super-hot bestseller.

I purchased this book.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Hades review

Hades: Lord of the Dead
by George O'Connor
First Second
January 2012

Deliciously spooky, this adds a modern touch to the stories that the Greeks told about the Underworld. Riveting! After an informative introduction to the territories of the underworld including the River Styx, Erebus (kind of like Hell's waiting room), and Tartaros (where the evil are punished) the story jumps right to the Persephone myth, also known as Kore. I loved her transformation into a Goth princess when she begins to warm up to the idea of ruling the underworld.

When angry Demeter has finally sussed out who is ultimately responsible for the disappearance of her daughter, the looks on the faces of Zeus' entourage are priceless, "Oh Zeus... what did you do now?" a mildly annoyed Hera says. Flirty Hermes is also a hoot, when he questions Hekate, Demeter's sidekick, who intones her story to him, he replies, "I like you, you're nutty." One vital change from the original story was the use of Persephone's pomegranate seeds. While there are always several versions to most of the Greek myths - usually that Persephone is tricked into eating the seeds trapping her in the Underworld for part of the year, or famished, she finally gives in and eats just a bit before she is rescued, in this version, Persophone does NOT actually eat any of the seeds - but she tells her mother that she did so that she can return to the god Hades, whom she has grown to care for.

The book is appended with an author's note, footnotes on several historical details included in the artwork, a call sheet for several of the gods featured in the story and a bibliography featuring recent and/or notable sources for additional information on mythology. This is a great series. Percy Jackson fans will eagerly devour these appealing graphic novels inspired by the Greek gods.

I received a free copy from the publisher.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Imagine my surprise when I opened my e-mail and found this lovely artwork by Will Hillenbrand. I loved his Mother Goose Picture Riddles. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Waiting on Shattered Souls

Okay, this story does not sound that unique... I can think of about a dozen books right off the top of my head with a very similar plot. But that doesn't matter, because I could read this story a hundred times and never get bored. Young person develops paranormal powers. Adventures ensue. I'm sold.

Shattered Souls
by Mary Lindsay
Philomel Penguin
December 2011

Lenzi hears voices and has visions - gravestones, floods, a boy with steel gray eyes. Her boyfriend, Zak, can't help, and everything keeps getting louder and more intense. Then Lenzi meets Alden, the boy from her dreams, who reveals that she's a reincarnated Speaker - someone who can talk to and help lost souls - and that he has been her Protector for centuries.

Now Lenzi must choose between her life with Zak and the life she is destined to lead with Alden. But time is running out: a malevolent spirit is out to destroy Lenzi, and he will kill her if she doesn't make a decision soon.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cover Trend: Purple Dress

I started putting together a Cover Trend post noting which covers feature pretty dresses. But these days, that is like... all of them. So, let's focus a moment on Beautiful Purple Dresses which seem to be a Thing for 2012.
Jessica Rules the Dark Side
by Beth Fantaskey
Harcourt Children's Books
January 2012

The sequel to Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. At first glance her dress looks nearly black, but it's definitely dark purple.

Darkness Falls
by Cate Tiernan
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
January 2012

Sequel to Immortal Beloved.

A Breath of Eyre
by Eve Marie Monte
April 2012

Emma Townsend magically travels to the world of Jane Eyre.

by Josephine Angelini
May 2012

The sequel to Starcrossed, a re-telling of the Helen of Troy story.

by Kathleen Peacock
Harper Collins Children's Books
May 2012

A werewolf, paranormal, love-triangle, murder mystery story.

by Kiersten White
July 2012

The third and highly anticipated final book in the Paranormalcy trilogy.

The Demon Catchers of Milan
by Kat Beyer
Egmont USA
August 2012

About an American teenager whose life is changed when she learns she’s a member of an ancient Italian family of demon hunters.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Curtains review

Curtains! A High School Musical Mystery
by Michael Dahl, illustrated by Tiffany Prothero
Stone Arch Books

No relation to the Disney franchise, this short novel seems tailored for classroom use and includes a hearty supply of back matter. New kid Kyle must prove his innocence when several near-miss "accidents" endanger the performers in the school play. His friend Mindy finds inspiration for her detective skills in the works of Agatha Christie, the "Queen of Crime." The book is genuinely suspenseful, and readers will be surprised when the culprit's identity is revealed. Short chapters with short declarative sentences and full-page black-and-white illustrations done in blocky pen and ink make this book a quick read. An acceptable choice, particularly for reluctant readers. Fans of the tv show Glee might enjoy this dramatic, easy to read lo-hi read.

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

Sunday, November 20, 2011

In My Mailbox 16

It always seems like no matter how carefully I plan it, my library holds always come in at once.
Here's the stack of them, lots of great backlist titles: The Sweetheart of Prosper County, Old Magic, Intertwined, Oh My Gods, Jennifer Government and Fool's Girl.

Plus, I got this book for review: The Not Quite Perfect Boyfriend by Lili Wilkinson.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tale of Two Mice review

The Tale of Two Mice
by Ruth Brown
December 2008

Tension builds as a feline predator, often hiding in plain sight, stalks two mice. Children will appreciate the efforts of cautious Billy, who repeatedly attempts to alert his older sibling, Bo, of their imminent danger. Happily, the mice make a narrow escape even as the ever-oblivious Bo cautions Billy, "If you ever see a cat, you must tell me AT ONCE." Muted watercolors in various hues of brown and blue depict the world of a gloomy old manor full of spooky surprises. Lift-the-flaps offer plenty of opportunity to explore these detail-laden pages. Brown plays with scale, sometimes showing the entire cat hidden in a corner; on other pages, readers see just a hint of an oversize tail, or a large gleaming eye from behind a cabinet door. The spare prose and large pictures make this good for sharing.

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

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bloomswell Diaries review

The Bloomswell Diaries
by Louis L. Buitendag
Kane Miller
March 2011

This is a fast-paced action/chase/adventure written with plenty of of boy appeal. There's a bit of mystery as Benjamin Bloomswell is left with his uncle while his parents are on a business trip. Soon, he's shocked to discover that his parents are being reported dead in the newspapers. As he makes his escape from an orphanage in order to reunite with his sister, he's forced to stowaway on a ship headed from New York to Europe.

The story
didn't feel as steampunkish as I expected. Except for the rarely seen mechanical clockwork men there aren't very many sci-fi'ish touches. Benjamin hides inside one when he's smuggling himself across international borders. This is a solidly middle-grade level read - there's not even a hint of romance, and the main part of the story focuses on the mystery of what's happened to Benjamin's parents. There's an almost dreamlike sense behind the chase scenes, as Benjamin escapes from one pursuer, only to have to stay one step ahead of another generic bad guy.

While this is an American-published book, it has the feeling of having been translated - it feels just a touch alien, which is not at all a bad thing. 
Fans of Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events, or The Incorrigible Children of Aston Place by Maryrose Wood, who are looking for more stories of plucky, determined orphans fighting against conspiracies and impossible odds will enjoy The Bloomswell Diaries.

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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Oz T-shirt

Add this to my list of tee-shirts I wish I owned. It's from Out of Print. Looks cozy, eh?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Waiting on Shattered Dreams

It looks like the cover has been changed on this one... I think I may have liked the original cover slightly better. But still! I am interested to tackle this book.

Shattered Dreams
by Ellie James
St. Martin's Griffin
December 2011

Sixteen year-old
Trinity Monsour wants nothing more than to live a normal life. But that isn’t as easy as it seems. Trinity is different. She is special. She sees visions, and for those she’s seen, it’s already too late.

Trinity arrives
on her aunt’s doorstep in New Orleans with virtually no knowledge of her mysterious heritage. She begins settling into life at a new school and even starts making friends. But all too quickly her dreams accelerate; twisted, terrifying visions of a girl locked in a dark room. And when the head cheerleader, Jessica, goes missing, Trinity knows she has no choice but to step forward with what she’s seen.

But people believe that Trinity has information about Jessica’s disappearance not because of a dream, but because she is involved. She is kind-of dating Jessica’s ex-boyfriend, Chase, and Jessica did pull a nasty prank on Trinity. Revenge seems like the likeliest scenario.

Nothing prepares
Trinity for the dark odyssey that ensues while searching for Jessica, including the surprising romance she finds with Chase, or the shocking truths she learns, not just about the girl who has gone missing, but the past that has been hidden from her.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Free Astronomy Programs

We had an amazing free program at our library last week. The Atlanta Astronomy Club sent volunteers to give a talk about the moon, and then another talk about comets and asteroids. Art Zorka, who was the main presenter, has a very laid back style and was able to put complex astronomy in terms that even the youngest audience members could understand. He brought a collection of rocks - some of them meteors, some of them ordinary rocks you might find in your yard and had everyone try to guess which was which. We had a great crowd and the speakers were terrific. They're affiliated with NASA's Night Sky Network; I've been lucky to be able to set up programs like this in several states, and I don't think I've ever really been disappointed. 

In Texas, I had author Jane Ann Peddicord come and read from her book Night Wonders. She asked for volunteers from the audience to demonstrate the motion of the planets around the sun, using hula-hoops. Brilliantly, she had the kids in the audience "twinkle" by waving their hands. When I was visiting friends in Baltimore, I had the chance to go to an astronomy program where the presenters brought a giant tarp printed with a photo of the sun and invited children to hop up and down as if they were sunspots. They also brought a telescope with specially darkened lenses so you could look directly at the sun. When I was in Los Angeles, I had a group bring in multiple telescopes to compare and contrast what each one does, as well as a felt board story illustrating the phases of the moon. Don't overlook this great opportunity for a free program at your library: if you're interested in having some local, amateur astronomers give a presentation go to Night Sky Network's website and check out your local chapter.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sunday, November 13, 2011

In My Mailbox 15

Hurray! I got approved for 3 Netgalley titles this week. Here they are:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Mephisto Covenant review

The Mephisto Covenant
by Trinity Faegen
Egmont USA
September 2011

This book, hands-down, wins the award for Worst Book I Have Ever Read. It seems to have all the ingredients for success: teen paranormal romance, gorgeous cover, mysterious debut author. I was surprised and disappointed by how quickly the story went downhill. The mythology is actually fairly well-thought out, and perhaps the strongest part of the book. Eryx, an evil demon, is attempting to overthrow Lucifer by collecting enough followers to challenge his ruling in Hell. Eryx has started a secret society called The Ravens, recruiting in high schools around the country, to further his plans.

Seventeen year-old Sasha's life is turned upside down when her mother Katya must return to Russia after the murder of her father. Sasha, in the meantime, is sent to live with her Uncle Tim, Aunt Melanie and cousins Brett and Chris in Colorado to finish out the school year while her mother gets settled in Russia. It's soon obvious that Brett and Melanie are deeply involved with the local Ravens group. Sasha meets gorgeous Jax and learns that she is Anabo - a direct descendent of Eve imbued with powers of good, and Jax is a Mephisto, a rare son of Hell tasked with punishing evil-doers in order to gain redemption.

Parts of this story read a bit like Laurell K. Hamilton Jr. - a younger, cleaner version of Hamilton's Anita Blake series, or Sherilynn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series.

First and foremost, my major problem with the book was the male hero, Jax. He's irresistibly drawn to Sasha, and quickly turns into a completely creepy Stalky McStalkerson. Just a few examples of things he does that would put Twilight's Edward to shame: turns himself invisible and watches Sasha sleep, punches a guy for daring to talk to her, erases her memory of their first meeting so that he can have a "do over" after he's had the chance to re-con more information about her, kisses her and then decides things are moving too fast so he attempts to erase her memory again (but fails) - but not before selfishly grabbing a few extra smooches before he tries to brainwipe her, logs into her Facebook account and reads all her messages. Another move he makes that I'm sure many women would find romantic, but I find utterly gross; after Sasha's dysfunctional aunt Melanie destroys all of her clothes, he teleports her to San Francisco where he purchases a sexier, cooler wardrobe for Sasha. He even pops in to her dressing room, uninvited, prompting harsh words from nearly-nude Sasha.

I hated the trope of thousand year old man-whore being redeemed by underage virgin. Jax has gotten around the block a time or two, because after all, "a man has needs" but innocent, naive Sasha is his destiny, so he'll clean up his act for her.

What I found hardest to swallow was that much later, Sasha gets an opportunity to spy in Jax's closet, and is incredibly impressed by an ancient wooden box he's saved with keepsakes of his mother from Ancient Greece. He's angry that she's been snooping, and she actually feels incredibly guilty about it. Wha-aaat? Why??? After his complete lack of boundaries (and Sasha's occasional annoyance at his intrusiveness) why on earth would she feel even the slightest bit guilty?

Unfortunately, there are several info-dumps in the book that are repeated when one character has learned something, but another hasn't, so we readers have to hear the whole thing again - I'm sorry, Nanowrimers, but you know the sort of thing I'm talking about - cheap ways to up a word count without moving the story forward.

Most of the characterizations are quite flat. Sasha is good and sweet and a bit Mary-Sue'ish and boring. Aunt Melanie is hell-on-wheels evil and batshit crazy. Sasha's cousin Brett is moustache-twirlingly villainous, murdering a girl and getting away with it, spreading rumors at school that Sasha is a whore and generally being a bully and a big dumb jock. Jax's brothers are hopeless around women and only minimally fleshed out with personalities or interests of their own.

There was simply too much going on throughout the story - I could have done without the whole subplot about Sasha's schoolfriend Amanda having a crush on Brett and when she finally decides to take the oath to Eryx, Brett forces her to strip nude and is threatening her with hot-pokers, but despite all that she still likes him.

Things come to a head when Sasha melodramatically learns that she was illegally adopted from Russia (as was her cousin Chris) and Brett decides decides that now that they aren't "really" cousins, now would be a perfect time for raping - Sasha's dog Boo comes to her defense, and heartless Brett kills the animal by throwing him into a wall, at which point Melanie and newly-evil uncle Tim bitch her out for sneaking a dog into the house in the first place and demand that Sasha sleep in the uninviting basement. After this whole horrifying episode, the dog is never thought about or mentioned again.

I was only surprised that Sasha agrees to stay with her aunt and uncle for so long. Being threatened, denied food, having her clothes and computer destroyed, her dog killed and  jewelry stolen, why does she stay? When she visits Jax in his awesome extra-dimensional hilltop palace, filled with servants and every imaginable luxury, you have to wonder why she wants to leave. There is a lot of talk about free will - Sasha has to decide to give up her pure Anabo status if she wants to redeem Jax, but it has to be her choice. By the end, it honestly doesn't feel like much of a choice. Pretty much every single family relationship or friendship has been lost to her - of course she chooses Jax, she doesn't have anyone else! Even her mother Katya takes an oath to Eryx and sells her out.

Much is made of the fact that once Sasha decides to have sex with Jax, the process of her turning from Anabo saint to Mephisto warrior will be irreversible, and she'll be trackable to Eryx and his bloodthirsty minions. When they finally do the deed the pages feel ripped straight from a romance novel, tacky and too explicit for a YA novel.

I'm loathe to say this, but with the emphasis on "choice" this story would have read better to me if there had been a love-triangle, with an alternative to Jax for Sasha to actually get to choose from. Dial back Jax's completely inappropriate and borderline abusive stalking behaviors by a factor of a hundred, and I might actually start to approve of their romance a little.

Don't pick up this book, unless you enjoy the schadenfreude of reading something that is so horrible, it's actually kind of amazing.

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

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Busy Beaver review

The Busy Beaver
by Nicholas Oldland
Kids Can Press
August 2011

A great message about being responsible for the environment and being a good friend is delivered in a humorous and completely non-didactic way in this charmer of a picture book. Beaver's been so busy chopping down trees and leaving projects half-finished, he hardly notices when he destroys a birds nest, accidentally gnaws on Moose's leg and even drops a tree on himself. Forced to do some introspection during his hospital stay, he realizes that he has to make amends. Embarking on a "serious rehabilitation program," Beaver studies up on dam-building, practices saying, "I'm sorry," in the mirror and does yoga and physical therapy until he's ready to return to the forest. The other animals are terrified at first, until they see that he has truly changed his ways.

Some of my favorite moments in the book are the aggrieved expressions on Moose's face when his leg is being chewed by thoughtless Beaver, the family of homeless birds tramping by with bindle sticks after their tree has been felled, and Beaver's overly-zealous plans now that he's turned over a new leaf which include taking a college course in dam-building, or starting a rockband. Exhausted by his good efforts, he decides to take a nap instead.

Digitally-created illustrations look a little like cut-paper collage and contain mostly crisp lines and brightly-hued blue, green and earth tones. From the same author of Big Bear Hug and Making the Moose Out of Life, The Busy Beaver is a welcome addition to Oldland's series about living well. Even though it felt slightly long, this book was a real hit for my older storytime group who enjoyed every bit of Beaver's wacky antics. I'll recommend this for kids aged 4-8.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Borrowers movie

The Secret World of Arrietty, based on The Borrowers novels by Mary Norton is due to be released next spring. Here's the official trailer.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Waiting on Legend

It feels like I've been waiting for this book forever. The release date is finally drawing close... November 29, but it's still not here yet. Legend sounds like just the thing for Hunger Games fans.

by Marie Lu
Putnam Juvenile
November 2011

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Keep Calm Harry Potter

This is possibly, the best variation on "Keep Calm and Carry On" that I've seen yet. Harry Potter inspired, of course. It's put out by Witty Tees - I found it on RedBubble.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Inquisitor's Apprentice review

The Inquisitor's Apprentice
by Chris Moriarty
Harcourt Children's Books
October 2011

13 year-old Sacha Kessler is a nice Jewish boy growing up in a Jewish slum of Lower East Side New York in the 1800's. Old World magic clashes with American technology and is "technically" outlawed, although most housewives are all too happy to turn a blind eye to the occasional spell that might make their household chores a little easier. Sacha has a super-rare ability to see magic (it is invisible to most) and as such, gains a high-prestige job with the Inquisitors, New York's anti-magic squad run by brilliant, laconic detective Maximilian Wolf.

This is clearly a parallel world to our own, with the wealthy Astor family renamed "Astral", "Morgaunt" instead of J.P. Morgan, "Pentacle Shirtwaist Factory," instead of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and so on. I loved the "lie detector test" - conducted by bored clerical assistants who perfunctorily use their magic ability to determine the truthfulness of statements from petty criminals in downtown lock-up. The whole world seems well thought out, with robber barons hoping to stamp magic out for their own gain. Sacha's large, poor, but loving family who live crammed in a tiny tenement apartment seem especially well fleshed out. The book felt like Sydney Taylor's All-of-a-Kind-Family meets Sam Spade with a dash of magic thrown in.

Plenty of real historical figures including Thomas Edison and Houdini make important cameos in this book. Sacha is embarrassed by his family's low means, and is caught in a web of lies - it takes pushy fellow apprentice Lily Astral and Wolf's patience to finally bring Sacha out of his shell. What he hasn't been able to admit to them is that he is being stalked by a dybbuk - a malevolent spirit who appears as his doppelganger and hopes to slowly rob his life from him.

Readers who enjoy historical fantasy, especially books like Patricia Wrede's Frontier Magic series will enjoy this fast-paced, magical detective story. There are enough loose ends to leave plenty of room for a sequel, or even a series.

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

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Little White Duck feltboard

Here's my latest feltboard, it's all the pieces I need for Little White Duck.

For the first time ever, I cheated, and taped the words to the song to the back of my feltboard. I'm kind of glad I did, because I always forget exactly how this one goes.

There's a little white duck, sitting in the water
A little white duck, doing what he oughter
He took a bite of a lily pad
Flapped his wings and he said "I'm glad
I'm a little white duck sitting in the water
Quack, Quack, Quack."

There's a little green frog swimming in the water
A little green frog, doing what he oughter
He jumped right off of the lily pad
That the little duck bit and he said "I'm glad
I'm a little green frog swimming in the water
Glug, Glug, Glug."

There's a little black bug floating on the water
A little black bug doing what he oughter
He tickled the frog on the lily pad
That the little duck bit and he said, "I'm glad
I'm a little black bug floating in the water
Bzz, Bzzz, Bzzz."

There's a little red snake playing in the water
A little red snake doing what he oughter
He frightened the duck and the frog so bad
He ate the bug and he said, "I'm glad
I'm a little red snake playing in the water
Hiss, Hisss, Hisss."

Now there's nobody left sitting in the water
Nobody left doing what they oughter
There's nothing left but the lily pad
The duck and the frog ran away, I'm sad
"Cause there's nobody left sitting in the water,
Boo! Hoo, Hoo...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Alice in Wonderland review

Alice in Wonderland 
adapted by Martin Powell, illustrated by Daniel Perez
Stone Arch Books
August 2009

I enjoyed this fast read-through of Alice in Wonderland. Translated into graphic novel form, the undeniably trippy, dream-like nature of the original book comes through much, much stronger in this version. Alice races through one utterly bizarre scene after another, lending a particularly surreal feeling to this reinterpretation of the classic. As fast as she falls down the rabbit hole, grows and shrinks and meets the evil Red Queen and Chesire Cat, there are other equally odd occurrences taken from the original novel that I had forgotten about, such as the abandoned baby that inexplicably turns into a pig. While the adaptation remains very true to the original, the speeded-up narrative and largely visual presentation definitely up the ante, turning what is already a very strange and dream-like book into something altogether hallucinogenic.

The book
is appended with some background information on the inspiration for several of the characters - for example, cheese-makers of Chesire County, England apparently were famous for using cat-shaped molds, and of course, the tradition of Mad Hatters comes from the true story of many  Victorian-era hatters who suffered from lead poisoning and dementia in their line of work.

I hesitate to reco
mmend such an abbreviated version of the classic to young readers who may not return to the longer, original work if they feel that they've read it already, but at this point, Alice in Wonderland is such a cultural touchstone, you can't go wrong with this easily-accessible version.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Books poster

This is so true, isn't it?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wonderstruck review

by Brian Selznick
September 2011

Selznick returns to the style that he pioneered in The Invention of Hugo Cabret in this sweeping tale that spans two generations, alternating between the late 1920's and 1970's. Rose's story, in 1927 is told through pictures. Ben's story, set in 1977 is told (mostly) in words. Selznick draws together several disparate elements here - things you wouldn't normally think about in one sitting: the beginnings of modern cinema, Deaf culture, spending overnight in the American Museum of Natural History, wolf conservation. It's a lot to shoehorn into one book and it feels like an interesting peek inside Selznick's brain to see how he carefully hinges all these things together.

This book will probably be compared (unfairly) with The Invention of Hugo Cabret, if only because there is absolutely nothing else quite like it. The appealing black and white sketches and easy flow of the text make this a lightning fast read, despite being a heavy doorstop of a book. A few of the coincidences in the book seemed a little too much to be believed, but the way everything works like clockwork makes for a very satisfying piece of fiction. Ultimately, everything is revealed to the reader as decades-long family secrets finally come out and Rose (now an old woman) and Ben are finally united.

This would make an interesting choice for a middle-school book club, with plenty of issues to discuss.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Waiting on Shatter Me

This sounds so intriguing. I'm not a huge X-Men fan (not as big as some) but the storyline makes me think a little of Rogue from the X-Men. Should be very interesting!

Shatter Me
by Tahereh Mafi
November 2011

Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Anna and the French Kiss review

Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins
December 2010

I put off reading this book for so long because I was a little bit afraid that it couldn't possibly live up to the hype. But it does! It really does! This is a completely swoonworthy book. I knew the main character, Anna, a senior in high school is from Atlanta, and I had imagined that more of the book would take place in the South. That's not the case - her parents ship her off right away to a boarding school in Paris. I was prepared to immediately hate Anna for being a whiny brat about having such an awesome opportunity. That was the problem that I saw with Falling in Love with English Boys, by Melissa Jensen about a girl who has to spend a summer in London. Gee, wouldn't you love to have these girls "problems?" Happily, Anna did not seem too bratty to me. Her father is basically clueless - a less functional version of the real-life Nicholas Sparks, the famous author of badly-written, bestselling melodramatic romances.

When Anna gets to Paris, she's not on vacation - so she doesn't spend a lot of time jetting around, seeing the sights. Mostly, she's trying to get settled in her new dorm, meet friends, and figure out enough French to handle the basics, like ordering food in the cafeteria. She meets Etienne St. Clair, a total dreamboat, but of course, he has a girlfriend, and half the school is crushing on him anyway, so she knows she doesn't stand a chance. They do end up becoming good friends though, and spend the year getting to know each other, developing various in-jokes and so on. I was about 
¾ of the way through the book, and Anna hasn't even kissed anyone yet. I was beginning to get worried - maybe the titular kiss would be on the last page? Fortunately, St. Clair soon realizes that his relationship with his former girlfriend just isn't working out, and Anna 'fesses up and admits her sort-of boyfriend back home isn't in the picture either. After they become a couple, Anna helps St. Clair confront his father who has been cruelly keeping him away from his cancer-ridden mother. It sounds more melodramatic than it plays out, and while I don't think high school romances often work out, I could totally picture Anna and St. Clair moving to Berkeley together, getting married and living happily ever after. I hate to say that this is a "When Harry Met Sally" story, since I think that reference will be lost on a lot of younger people, but it is a really good comparison. They're really sweet together, completely right for each other and have a really solid foundation because they were platonic friends for so long before the rest of their relationship developed.

I purchased this book.


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