Sunday, December 30, 2012

Read in December

This month I read the following books:

1 Chime - Franny Billingsley

2 Witch Eyes - Scott Tracey
3 Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone - Kat Rosenfield
4 Spark - Amy Kathleen Ryan
5 Incarnate - Jodi Meadows
6 Pandemonium - Lauren Oliver
7 Better Nate Than Ever - Tim Federle
8 Poison Study - Maria V. Snyder
9 The Magicians - Lev Grossman
10 How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You - Matthew Inman
11 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot
12 It's the Little Things - Lena Williams
13 The Other Normals - Ned Vizzini

Picture credit: The New Novel by Winslow Homer

Friday, December 28, 2012

Picture books mini-review 24

Laundry Day
by Maurie J. Manning
Clarion Books
April 2012

This picture book is in a graphic novel format for very young readers. In a turn of the last century New York tenement, a Jewish boy tries to find the owner of a red scarf in his diverse neighborhood. There's a nearly wordless flow to the story, as he makes his way through alleys and across rooftops with agile grace and greets neighbors from Poland, Ireland, and Jamaica, among other places. The book is appended with a set of vocabulary words from many cultures.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Good News, Bad News
by Jeff Mack
Chronicle Books
July 3012

Compare this funny title to the classic Fortunately, Unfortunately by Remy Charlip. It's mostly wordless - kids will have to puzzle out the "good" news and "bad" news as it happens in the cartoon-like pictures. Rabbit and Mouse go on a picnic... but it rains... but they have an umbrella, etc. etc. Funny and clever.

I borrowed this book from the library.
Zayde Comes to Live
by Sheri Cooper Sinykin, illustrated by Kristina Swarner
Peachtree Publishers
October 2012

Stunning, sad and wonderful. Zayde comes to live at their house... but the unspoken truth is that it won't be for long. He's very ill - and this is a book about preparing a child for the idea that our elders won't be with us forever. The grandfather in the story is pictured with oxygen tubes in his nose. A moving story. I cried!

I borrowed this book from the library.
The Lonely Book
by Kate Bernheimer, illustrated by Chris Saban
Schwartz & Wade
April 2012

The life cycle of a library book! From much sought after "new" status, to regular old shelfer, to hidden gem... to forgotten, beat-up old book, this storybook gets a second chance at the library booksale, to go home with a little girl who cherishes the book, even though it's worn-out and dusty, with the final page ripped out. Watercolor and colored pencil illustrations have a softly smudged gentle quality.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Waiting on Level 2

I guess I'm on a sci-fi kick lately. This looks great.

Level 2
by Lenore Appelhans
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
January 2013

In this gripping exploration of a futuristic afterlife, a teen discovers that death is just the beginning.Since her untimely death the day before her eighteenth birthday, Felicia Ward has been trapped in Level 2, a stark white afterlife located between our world and the next. Along with her fellow drones, Felicia passes the endless hours reliving memories of her time on Earth and mourning what she’s lost—family, friends, and Neil, the boy she loved.

Then a girl in a neighboring chamber is found dead, and nobody but Felicia recalls that she existed in the first place. When Julian—a dangerously charming guy Felicia knew in life—comes to offer Felicia a way out, Felicia learns the truth: If she joins the rebellion to overthrow the Morati, the angel guardians of Level 2, she can be with Neil again.

Suspended between Heaven and Earth, Felicia finds herself at the center of an age-old struggle between good and evil. As memories from her life come back to haunt her, and as the Morati hunt her down, Felicia will discover it’s not just her own redemption at stake… but the salvation of all mankind.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Eyes Have It

Couldn't help but notice... a number of cover designs that employ an eye on the spine of the book, staring out at the reader.

Here's the list:

Zero - Tom Leeven
Extras - Scott Westerfeld
Breaking Up is Really, Really Hard to Do: A Dating Game Novel - Natalie Standiford
Bound - Donna Jo Napoli
The Tension of Opposites - Kristina McBride
Last Sacrifice - Richelle Mead
Ask Me No Questions - Marina Tamar Budhos
Dawn - Kevin Brooks
Candor - Pam Bachorz

Friday, December 21, 2012

Picture books mini-reviews 23

Fox and Crow Are Not Friends
by Melissa Wiley, illustrated by Sebastien Braun
Random House Books for Young Readers
August 2012

What starts out as an Aesop's fable inspired story goes in a different direction, in this beginning reader collection of funny short stories about the enmity between Fox and Crow. Longer sentences, with simple vocabulary and a "chapter" organization make this book perfect for kids who aren't quite ready for chapter books yet. As Fox and Crow squabble over cheese (their favorite snack) readers will be surprised and pleased to see them both get their much deserved comeuppance from Mama Bear.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
by Jane Cabrera
Holiday House
August 2012

Just beautiful! Cabrera extends the traditional song into many new verses. The pictures are colorful and appealing. There's a hint of gold foil on the cover, which I know always catches children's attention. End pages include a silhouetted forest of animals and sheet music for the song. I have not felt quite confident enough to sing this one in storytime - I think for the right group, especially babies or smaller size groups this would go over very well indeed. The pace of the song would seem to demand a slow and gentle reading, just right for very young children.

I borrowed this book from the library.

What Can a Crane Pick Up?
by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Mike Lowery
Knopf Books for Young Readers
September 2012

Cute! This book was a hit at storytime. It's a wonderful truck book at a rarely looked at kind of truck, with a good sense of humor. Things get wacky when the cranes lift... other cranes! Or boxes of underwear! Plus, there's a super ending, with a crane that might pick up you, and you, and YOU!

I borrowed this book from the library.

Oh, No!
by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann
Schwartz & Wade
September 2012

What a great book! I read this with one year olds, and they enjoyed the repeating phrases - and finding the hidden tiger on every page! A storytime success.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Waiting on Shades of Earth

I love this series so much. Can't wait to find out how it ends.

Shades of Earth
by Beth Revis
January 2013

Amy and Elder have finally left the oppressive walls of the spaceshipGodspeed behind. They're ready to start life afresh--to build a home--on Centauri-Earth, the planet that Amy has traveled 25 trillion miles across the universe to experience. But this new Earth isn't the paradise that Amy had been hoping for. Amy and Elder must race to uncover who--or what--else is out there if they are to have any hope of saving their struggling colony and building a future together. But as each new discovery brings more danger, Amy and Elder will have to look inward to the very fabric of what makes them human on this, their most harrowing journey yet. Because if the colony collapses? Then everything they have sacrificed--friends, family, life on Earth--will have been meaningless.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Chance Fortune and the Outlaws review

Chance Fortune and the Outlaws 
by Shane Berryhill
July 2006

First line: Joshua Brent Blevins had wanted to be a superhero for as long as he could remember.

14 year-old Joshua isn't about to let the small fact that he doesn't happen to have any superpowers stop him.  Rejected from the superhero academy, his mentor, Captain Force, forges him a new identity, "Chance Fortune" whose (difficult to prove, and subtle) power is "good luck."

Once he's at school, "Chance" spends a lot of time hoping desperately not to get caught.  Even as a "superhero" he's classed among those with lesser abilities.  He attempts to make up for this by suiting up with as many high-tech gadgets as allowed.  I loved the scenes where Chance first gets to school and gets to pick out his superhero outfit which was a cross between meeting with a fashion consultant and weapons expert.

The students at Burlington Academy for the Superhuman spend a good deal of time in mock battles preparing themselves for their lives of crimefighting.  Chance is soon teamed with Psy-Chick, Gothika, Iron Maiden and Private Justice who find themselves squaring off against the school champions led by Superion, a real bully.  I was reminded a lot of the Harry Potter "purebloods vs. mudbloods" conflict. 

This was a fun campy read.  Some of the battle sequences got a bit long, I thought, but on the whole, I very much enjoyed it.  It ends on a huge cliffhanger, a certain set-up for more in the series.

Compare to:
Sidekicks - Jack D. Ferraiolo
Rise of the Heroes - Andy Briggs
The Rise of Renegade X - Chelsea Campbell

I borrowed this book from the library

Friday, December 14, 2012

Picture books mini-reviews 22

Tell Me About Your Day Today
by Mem Fox, illustrated by Lauren Stringer
Beach Lane Books
September 2012

Hurrah! A bedtime picture book from Mem Fox. This one starts out, "There once was a boy who loved bedtime." Ha! Way to hoodwink 'em! When the boy settles in to bed, he shares stories with his stuffed animals. "The who, the what, the why, and the way... the whole thing... turned out okay." Marvelously soothing repetition creates a calming effect. In a roundabout way, we learn of the boy's adventure jumping in the rain, repairing his stuffed bunny's damaged fluffy tail, and a picnic under a blanket fort in his living room. Acrylic illustrations feature lots of dark blues and oranges. The endpages include the same sun pattern from the boy's favorite blanket. Add this to your repertoire of goodnight stories... it'll have kids nodding off in no time.

I borrowed this book from the library.

My Brave Year of Firsts: Tries, Sighs and High Fives
by Jamie Lee Curtis, illustrated by Laura Cornell
September 2012

Funny, messy, exuberant and sometimes a little gross, this picture book details many "firsts" of a first grade girl: first day at school, first new friends, first horse-riding lesson, first library card. I didn't love this book as much as Curtis' earlier efforts, but it still makes a nice addition to any "first day of school" collection.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Bailey at the Museum
by Harry Bliss
Scholastic Press
September 2012

Bailey the dog is excited to head out to the Natural Science museum on a school field trip. He's a bit naughty (goes to chew on a dinosaur bone!) but pulls himself together by the end of the story and saves the day by sniffing out the rest of the group when they get lost. The thing that struck me the most about this book was that all the characters loved to read! All the kids are reading graphic novels and comic books on the bus ride. Even the museum guard whips out a book about how to guard things during his lunch break. Easy to read with large illustrations and clear speech bubbles, this is a nice selection for kids who aren't quite ready for graphic novels yet.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Stephen and the Beetle
by Jorge Elias Lujan, illustrated by Chia Carrer, translated by Elisa Amado
Groundwood Books
August 2012

A thought-provoking take on an everyday event. A little boy notices a beetle, and is just about to squash it, when he decides to slow down and watch where the beetle is going instead. What a great way to open a discussion about mindfulness of nature and the creatures in it. The foreign language translation works beautifully - the text flows very well. Collage illustrations featuring acrylic, ink, pencil, oil pastel set a somewhat serious tone. This is a contender for the Batchelder award for sure.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Waiting on Revolution 19

I'm in the mood for something science-fictiony. This could fill the bill!

Revolution 19
by Gregg Rosenblum
January 2013

Twenty years ago, the robots designed to fight our wars abandoned the battlefields. Then they turned their weapons on us.

Only a few escaped the robot revolution of 2071. Kevin, Nick, and Cass are lucky —they live with their parents in a secret human community in the woods. Then their village is detected and wiped out. Hopeful that other survivors have been captured by bots, the teens risk everything to save the only people they have left in the world—by infiltrating a city controlled by their greatest enemies.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Goddess Interrupted review

Goddess Interrupted
by Aimee Carter
Harlequin Teen
March 2012

First line: "Calliope trudged through the sunny field as she ignored the babble of the redhead trailing behind her."

Kate Winters' adventures as the newest member of the immortal group of Greek Gods continues in this sequel to The Goddess Test.

Things heat up pretty quickly when Cronus, the Titan father of the original six Gods of the Council has reawakened. His daughter Hera/Calliope is eager to take advantage of his ancient evil powers to finally overthrow Kate once and for all.

One thing that really satisfied me about this book was that finally, the seemingly random renamings of the Greek Gods were explained. Why on earth was Hera called Calliope? And why did Zeus choose to call himself Walter, of all things? Answers were finally forthcoming in a way that at least seemed to make some kind of sense to me.

Henry a.k.a. Hades unfortunately remains as much as a cold fish as ever! If he was passionately interested in Kate... but just too shy, or perhaps too burnt out to try to love again, that I could totally buy. But, poor Kate moons after him, and he doesn't seem to return her feelings. I just want to slap Kate and say, "Girl! Sometimes he's just not into you!"

Okay, I admit it. I'm solidly Team James. What's not to like? Charming, funny, Kate's best friend, James a.k.a. Hermes is perfect for Kate! My main disappointment with the book is that it seems to be discouraging girls to regard the loyal best friend as a romantic choice, and instead encourages girls to throw themselves at the cold, distant, emotionally unavailable, Edward Cullenesque "bad boy." Ugh.

I enjoyed this book, even though I was on the fence about whether or not to continue reading the series after reading the first book which was only ho-hum to me. I wanted to like this series, I really did. And I feel that I've been more than fair - I've really tried to give this series a shot and stuck with it through the second book. But, I don't think I can keep up with it.

Compare to:
Underworld - Meg Cabot
Starcrossed - Josephine Angelini
Fury - Elizabeth Miles
Sweet Venom - Terra Lynn Childs

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

Friday, December 7, 2012

Picture books mini-review 21

Olivia and the Fairy Princesses
by Ian Falconer
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
August 2012

Olivia, that ever sassy pig, returns in this latest installment of the popular series. Olivia, as always, marches to the beat of her own drummer. While other girls are enamored of pink, bejeweled princesses, Olivia is ready to question everything they stand for. ""Why is it always a pink princess? Why not an Indian princess or a princess from Thailand or an African princess or a princess from China?" she cries. "I'm trying to develop a more stark, modern style," she says. As a child of the 70's, this kind of anti-girly-girl feminist message is like mother's milk to me. Melodramatic, endearing Olivia finally declares, "I want to be queen." Pink stars decorate the endpages.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Cecil the Pet Glacier
by Matthea Harvey, illustrated by Giselle Potter
Schwartz & Wade
August 2012

Bizarre, fascinating and strange. This book is about a girl who is so desperate for a pet, she ends up saddled with a mini-glacier. This is so decidedly odd, I wondered if this was a foreign translation! Nope. It's American. Ruby Small likes to think of herself as an aggressively normal kid.It's not her fault that her father is a topiary artist, and her mother is a tiara designer. Relatively flat watercolor illustrations depict a straight-faced family amidst some pretty zany ideas with tongue-in-cheek humor. When Cecil the Glacier appears to imprint on a reluctant Ruby, her first words are, "Oh, no... Please no." I loved the way Ruby's father calls her by the pet name "hedgeling." Poor little Cecil has a lot of personality for a bob of ice. He's devastated when Ruby is picked on at school, "Cecil shed a tear... from the area where his eyes would have been if he'd had eyes, which he didn't." Ruby comes around after Cecil saves one of her three dolls, all named Jennifer. The story ends with a promise of Ruby starting to embrace her inner weirdness.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Annie and Snowball and the Grandmother Night
by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Sucie Stevenson
Simon Spotlight
September 2012

A sweet little beginning reader about a warm and happy family relationship. I always get a little nervous reading books for young children about grandparents - will the grandmother pass away? No, thank goodness! This is a just a light-hearted, enjoyable recounting of all the fun things that Annie does on a weekend visit with her grandmother: baking cookies, watching a movie, telling bedtime stories.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Ten Tiny Toes
by Todd Tarpley, illustrated by Marc Brown
Little Brown Books for Young Readers
September 2012

Sweet and cozy, this is a wonderful celebration of adorably scrumptious babies. A diverse group of families share one thing in common: a deep and abiding connection to their children. Cut paper, gouache and colored pencil illustrations reminded me a little of Brian Karas. End papers show baby footprints walking across the page. Lovely!

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Waiting on Prophecy

Demon slayers? Lady warriors? Cryptic prophecies? Count me in!

by Ellen Oh
January 2013

Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope...

Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.

Intrigue and mystery, ancient lore and action-packed fantasy come together in this heart-stopping first book in a trilogy.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Read in November

This month I read the following books:

1 Mystic City - Theo Lawrence

2 50 Shades of Grey - E.L. James
3 So You Wanna Be a Superstar: The Ultimate Audition Guide - Ted Michael
4 The Raven Boys - Maggie Stiefvater
5 Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading - Nina Sankovitch
6 The Third Wheel - Jeff Kinney
7 The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory
8 The Fox Inheritance - Mary Pearson
9 Amulet #4: The Last Council - Kazu Kibuishi
10 The List - Siobhan Vivian

Picture credit: The Missal by John William Waterhouse

Friday, November 30, 2012

Picture books mini-reviews 20

Rocket Writes a Story
by Tad Hills
Schwartz & Wade
July 2012

I thought this was a cute little story about writer's block, the revision process, and how a sweet puppy eventually befriends an owl.

This book might be a little lengthy for the preschool set, but could be just right for those kindergartners or even 1st graders who are starting to unravel the mystery of putting words together in a written story for the first time.

A nice follow-up to Rocket Learns to Read.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Back to Front and Upside Down
by Claire Alexander
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
September 2012

In this sweet little story, classroom animals get over their fear of asking for help when they're not sure of their letters. This book seems like perfect encouragement for struggling new readers. I thought this might be a dyslexia book (and it could be read that way I suppose) but any child who's ever gotten frustrated with learning to write should enjoy this one. I don't know if I'd read this with children who already enjoy reading though - why plant ideas that reading and writing are hard if you don't have to?

I borrowed this book from the library.

Kel Gilligan's Daredevil Stunt Show
by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Dan Santat
Harry N. Abrams
September 2012

Kel Gilligan daringly, shockingly, amazingly tackles what many kids might find impossible: eating broccoli, using the potty, taking a bath, not interrupting his mother on the phone, and almost manages getting to bed as well. Astonishing! The illustrations in this book were made with "Adobe Photoshop and with 100% fearlessness." Dan Santat's slightly squared off illustrations are expressive with lots of boy appeal. There are fun little details like crayon scribbles on the walls of the family's home, and pictures of Kel wearing a T-shirt that says, "I (Heart) Danger." Funny, funny stuff.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Return of the Library Dragon
by Carmen Agra Deedy
Peachtree Publishers
September 2012

This was fun, I guess. It's an ode to how wonderful books and libraries are. (I loved the endpages with plenty of pro-library quotes.) As expected, the new librarian reassures the retiring library dragon that she'll care for the books, and won't get rid of all paper books in favor of technology. I was sad to see the anti-computer message. Cybrary? I don't think we use that term, except for a brief while at the turn of the century. It's not an either/or dichotomy with e-books and paper books. You can have both! I don't think that fully came across. You know what sticks in my craw about this book - it makes you feel bad. Like even if you are a book lover, you don't love them enough. Who needs that kind of guilt trip?

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Waiting on Catherine

Yay! I loved Jane by April Lindner. I can't wait for this one, I really can't!

by April Lindner
January 2013

A forbidden romance. A modern mystery. Wuthering Heights as you've never seen it before. 

 Catherine is tired of struggling musicians befriending her just so they can get a gig at her Dad's famous Manhattan club, The Underground. Then she meets mysterious Hence, an unbelievably passionate and talented musician on the brink of success. As their relationship grows, both are swept away in a fiery romance. But when their love is tested by a cruel whim of fate, will pride keep them apart? 

Chelsea has always believed that her mom died of a sudden illness, until she finds a letter her dad has kept from her for years -- a letter from her mom, Catherine, who didn't die: She disappeared. Driven by unanswered questions, Chelsea sets out to look for her -- starting with the return address on the letter: The Underground. Told in two voices, twenty years apart, Catherine interweaves a timeless forbidden romance with a compelling modern mystery.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Think books

This is really neat. Really makes you think, eh?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Picture books mini-reviews 19

Dixie and the School Trip
by Grace Gilman, illustrated by Sarah McConnell
June 2012

What is it with adorable, rambunctious dogs lately? Seems like everywhere you turn, there's another series for kids featuring a hapless canine. Dixie the Dog keeps Carl, Biscuit and Marley in good company. In this installment, Dixie the Dog sneaks aboard for a school trip to the dinosaur museum and creates chaos by leaving bones everywhere. Hilarity ensues.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Pony Scouts: The Trail Ride
by Catherine Hapka, illustrated by Anne Kennedy
June 2012

Naughty pony scouts sneak out for a trail ride by themselves! Annie knows it's not the right thing to do, but goes along anyway. Fortunately, when the girls become lost, she remembers to let the ponies take the lead.

Just the thing for pony-crazed readers. This delivers a serious message with a gentle touch.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Animals in the Outhouse
by Anya Frolich, illustrated by Gergley Kiss
Sky Pony Press
June 2012

This is a funny book on an unusual topic featuring quirky toilet humor. An overambitious forest ranger puts an outhouse in the forest for the animals to use. Professor Grunter the boar feels a bit uncertain about this new device, so he decides he'll just tell everyone he's already used it... and then see how it goes for everyone else. One after another, each animal unsuccessfully tries, while not admitting it to the others. "Professor Gunter was the last in line. Fortunately, everyone else had left by now. In fact, most of them left rather in a hurry - heading for their favorite pooping spots in the forest, no doubt."

I loved the end-papers. What a great bonus. The opening pages show the forest ranger driving off with his blue outhouse. The back of the book features a map of the forest with all the animals in their habitats. This book was translated from the original German.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Jonathan and Martha
by Petr Horacek
Phaidon Press
April 2012
Here's a cute and funny story about two worms who learn to share... and end up falling in love.
The textured collage is reminiscent of Eric Carle, up to and including some die-cut and fold-over pages. This was a hit at storytime! I highly recommend this gem.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Waiting on Falling Kingdoms

Oh man. I am a sucker for high fantasy. Count me in on this one.

Falling Kingdoms
by Morgan Rhodes
December 2012

In a land where magic has been forgotten but peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest is simmering. Three kingdoms grapple for power--brutally transforming their subjects' lives in the process. Amidst betrayals, bargains, and battles, four young people find their fates forever intertwined:

Cleo: A princess raised in luxury must embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of a magic long thought extinct.

Jonas: Enraged at injustice, a rebel lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country impoverished--and finds himself the leader of a people's revolution centuries in the making.

Lucia: A girl adopted at birth into a royal family discovers the truth about her past--and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.

Magnus: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, a firstborn son begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword...

The only outcome that's certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Crave review

by Melissa Darnell
October 2011

First line: The last day I was fully human started out like any other April Monday in East Texas.

Savannah Colbert is a total outcast in her small Texas town. Her grandmother is a stereotypical "iron fist in a velvet glove" Southern lady, and her mother is mentally and emotionally checked out as she focuses on her work at home business. Savannah's town seems full of secrets. Rumor has it that the influential and wealthy members of town are all part of a "Clann" with magical abilities: including her longtime childhood crush, Tristan.

I was a bit confused by the emotional highs and lows of the main character: she hates her dance classes, because she's so clumsy, even as she longs to impress her distant and aloof divorced father. But then, she loves dance, because it's her passion and the only thing she feels like she's good at. That part kind of didn't flow for me.

Savannah struggles with her mysterious physical symptoms and fears about what will happen as she struggles to integrate her vampire and magical heritage. Naturally, her new powers bring perfect physical coordination (which she must hide, lest she be discovered) and irresistible charm for most human males. In the meantime, Tristan works on mastering his magical powers, and his worries of letting his family down with his forbidden romance.

This book clocks in at a lengthy 416 pages, but despite the relatively slow moving plot, it still moved quickly for me, because of the intense relationship between Savannah and Tristan. I'll put this in the hands of paranormal romance fans who are sick of triangles.

Compare to:
Blue Bloods - Melissa de la Cruz
The Mephisto Covenant - Trinity Fagan
Misfit - Jon Skovan

Beautiful Creatures - Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

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

Friday, November 16, 2012

Picture books mini-reviews 18

I'm Not Tired Yet!
by Marianne Richmond
March 2012

This one didn't sparkle for me. The story features painterly acrylic and canvas illustrations. Ralphie thinks of every excuse possible not to go to bed - there's a bug on the rug, there's a monster behind the closet shelves, a mosquito buzzing in his ear, etc. His mom solves the problem by giving him a different animal themed snuggle - a fish kiss, a gorilla hug, a polar bear cuddle, etc. Usually a rhyming story will really enchant me, but this effort felt a bit forced. Still, children may appreciate the large-scale of the illustrations and the funny prank Ralphie plays in the end. I did really like the polka-dot endpapers.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Carl and the Sick Puppy
by Alexandra Day
Square Fish
June 2012

 Very simple sentences, and a thin plot are suited to the earliest of readers. As you can probably guess, as is typical in many goofy dog early readers, Carl gets in over his head taking care of a bossy sick puppy, but at the end of the day, all turns out well. Intelligent, but not too anthropomorphized animals make for a pleasant story. This just won't compare to the sublime original, but Day's illustrations of loveable Rottweiler Carl are as lovely as ever.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Beach Feet
by Kiyomi Konagaya, illustrated by Saito Masamitsu, translated by Yuki Kaneko
Enchanted Lion Books
May 2012

This Japanese import features loose pastels as a boy enjoys his day at the beach. Child-like wonder at the ocean comes across very clearly in this delightful translation. Artistically, there are several interesting changes in perspective. The most unique page is when readers get a view from the boy's sandy toes looking upwards.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Iris Wall, Cracker Cowgirl
by Carol Matthews Rey, Eldon Lux
Pelican Publishing Company
February 2012

Here is a title that should be of interest for Florida historians. The book features rough-textured watercolors and lengthy prose on a true-life cowgirl.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Waiting on Undeadly

This sounds like a zombified version of The House of Night series. Could be good!

by Michele Vail
Harlequin Teen
November 2012

The day I turned 16, my boyfriend-to-be died. I brought him back to life. Then things got a little weird...

Molly Bartolucci wants to blend in, date hottie Rick and keep her zombie-raising abilities on the down-low. Then the god Anubis chooses her to become a reaper-and she accidentally undoes the work of another reaper, Rath. Within days, she’s shipped off to the Nekyia Academy, an elite school that trains the best necromancers in the world. And her personal reaping tutor? Rath. Who seems to hate her guts.

Rath will be watching closely to be sure she completes her first assignment-reaping Rick, the boy who should have died. The boy she still wants to be with. To make matters worse, students at the academy start turning up catatonic, and accusations fly-against Molly. The only way out of this mess? To go through hell. Literally.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Trouble review

by Gary D. Schmidt
Clarion Books
April 2008

First line: Henry Smith's father told him that if you build your house far away enough from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you.

 The story contained a lot of very lyrical, writerly language. Beautiful descriptions of the sea, of grief, of the dog, of the mountain (Katahdin) of so many things.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. The protagonist, Henry, from an upper crust New England family, is struggling to come to terms with things after his life falls apart. Franklin, his athletic older brother that he's idolized, is in a horrendous car accident when Cambodian Chay Chouan hits him with his truck. At first, Franklin is in a coma and has lost his arm, but eventually he succumbs to his injuries and passes away. Henry rescues a black dog and together, he and the dog work on healing themselves. As the small town of Blythebury-by-the-Sea erupts in racial tension over the incident, Henry decides to leave town. He plans to hike the summit of Mt. Katahdin in Maine, something his brother always wanted to do, accompanied by his private school classmate, Sanborn. They hitchhike and are picked up by - of all people - Chay, who is also headed out of town. Henry struggles with his grief and anger, but as he gradually realizes that Chay has been in love with his sister Louisa, he manages to forgive Chay for the accident. After a cathartic run-in with some racist Vietnam vets, a hike up Katahdin, the steady devotion of Black Dog and a reunion with his concerned parents, Henry is finally able to achieve some peace.

In many ways, because of the use of allegory, foreshadowing and other literary devices, as well as the heavily all-male perspective, this story reminded me very much of of many of the classics studied in high school such as A Separate Piece, The Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird.

I had the feeling that this would be a "boy and dog" book the moment Black Dog came on the scene, but that didn't seem to completely be the case. The other characters, especially Sanborn, end up surprising us with a lot to contribute as well. Schmidt "shines a light" on any potential problems by having the characters bring everything right out in the open. The kids at school tease Henry for giving his dog the most ridiculously obvious name, "Black Dog" and he defends it. Within a few minutes, the name which sounded so silly seems the most natural and perfect name ever. All the plot points wind up tightly, but Schmidt writes skillfully enough to prevent it from seeming too unbelievable. It's a clockwork kind of book. Everything is neccessary. Black Dog turns out to be (of course) Chay's dog, who is now Henry's dog and an important element in healing the grief that troubles them both.

Compare to:
A Separate Piece - John Knowles
Frenchtown Summer - Robert Cormier
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Picture books mini-reviews 17

Can I Just Take a Nap?
by Ron Rauss, illustrated by Rob Shepperson
Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman
June 2012

With so many little boys named Aiden (or some variant thereof) these days, the name of the main character, Aiden, is sure to be one of the best loved features of this book.
Other than that, this is a slim offering. Aiden McDoodle is desperate for a nap - but everywhere he looks, even the library, is too noisy. Pen and ink and watercolor illustrations are colorful and packed with lots of funny little details. Could be a good bedtime story choice. If you say it enough, maybe they'll believe it!

I borrowed this book from the library.

My Dad
by Steve Smallman, illustrated by Sean Julian
Good Books
June 2012

Sweet and cozy, this celebrates the admiration a little bear has for his dad. Pleasantly rhyming text and large scale pictures make this book a natural for storytime. There's even room for a gentle fart joke or two. Good for Father's Day, or anytime of year.

I borrowed this book from the library.
Pearl and Wagner: Five Days Till Summer
by Kate McMullan
May 2012

Pearl and Wagner are beside themselves with nervousness and excitement. It's almost summer! But... it's been such a great year with their teacher Ms. Star. Moving on to Ms. Bean next year sounds scary. Especially when there's a rumor going around that Ms. Bean is mean! Here's a very relatable topic for many youngsters presented in a reassuring way. Ink and watercolor illustrations by Alley depict a diverse crowd of anthropomorphized animals. This book is just right for kids who aren't quite ready for longer chapter books yet.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Happy Like Soccer
by Maribeth Boelts
May 2012

Sierra is sad that her aunt (who is her sole guardian) can't make it to her Saturday soccer games. It's apparent that they live in a bad neighborhood and scrape to get by. After some finagling, her aunt arranges to switch her workday and makes it to the game. After some more finagling, Sierra manages to get another game switched to a Monday in a lot closer to her house. The book features attractive ink and watercolor illustrations. A good choice for diverse communities, who may relate to the story, especially in these tight times. Pair this with A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams to spark some interesting conversations.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Waiting on Ashes of Twilight

I can never get enough of dystopian. This one sounds intriguing.

Ashes of Twilight
by Kassy Taylor
St. Martin's Griffin
November 2012

Wren MacAvoy works as a coal miner for a domed city that was constructed in the mid-nineteenth century to protect the royal blood line of England when astronomers spotted a comet on a collision course with Earth. Humanity would be saved by the most groundbreaking technology of the time. But after nearly 200 years of life beneath the dome, society has become complacent and the coal is running out.  Plus there are those who wonder, is there life outside the dome or is the world still consumed by fire? When one of Wren's friends escapes the confines of the dome, he is burned alive and put on display as a warning to those seeking to disrupt the dome’s way of life. But Alex’s final words are haunting. “The sky is blue.”  What happens next is a whirlwind of adventure, romance, conspiracy and the struggle to stay alive in a world where nothing is as it seems. Wren unwittingly becomes a catalyst for a revolution that destroys the dome and the only way to survive might be to embrace what the entire society has feared their entire existence.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Emerald Atlas review

The Emerald Atlas
by John Stephens
Random House Children's Books
April 2011

This book has a well-deserved reputation as an instant children's classic, and it's easy to see why. The three children, shuffled from orphanage to orphanage finally come under the care of the mysterious Mr. Pym. There are quite a number of comparisons one could make: Harry Potter, The Series of Unfortunate Events, Narnia, Lord of the Rings. So many of the same elements are here, but recombined in a really fresh and wonderful way.

Kate, Michael and Emma's adventure begins when their parents take off, so that they are effectively orphans. This is true in nearly any middle-grade novel. With the adults out of the picture, Kate takes the lead with their small family. Michael is the typical quiet, dreamy middle-child. He has a fascination with dwarves, which plays out in an incredibly satisfying fashion. I loved the dwarves. They were so perfectly Tolkienish - slightly grumpy, fond of breakfast at all hours, proud of their glorious beards.

I also really enjoyed the deliciously timey-wimey elements of the story. The legendary Emerald Atlas that falls into the children's possession allows them to time-travel. They travel forward and back, planting key pieces of information in the past for their future companions to give to them at crucial moments creating multiple mind-bending paradoxes. I gave up on trying to track who they were meeting when, and how exactly that played into the timeline (and alternate timelines). Just enjoy the ride, and check out the sequel, The Fire Chronicle, just released this month.

I purchased a copy of this book.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Read in October

This month I read the following books:

1 Supernaturally - Kiersten White

2 The Willoughbys - Lois Lowry
3 Mad Love - Suzanne Selfors
4 Centauriad #1: Daughter of the Centaurs - Kate Klimo
5 Legacy - Cayla Kluber
6 Seraphina - Rachel Hartman
7 Lies Beneath - Anne Greenwood Brown
8 Beta - Rachel Cohn
9 The Diviners - Libba Bray
10 Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite - Barry Deutsch

Picture credit: Lady with tablet and stylus from Pompeii, artist unknown


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