Sunday, September 30, 2012

Picture book mini-reviews 14

by Mies van Hout
Lemniscaat USA
April 2012

Nervous, shy, glad, shocked or astonished, all of these fish are equally arresting. Bright charcoal sketches on black backgrounds make each of the fish a real stand-out. Each page features a beautifully colored fish with just one word of emotion on the opposite side. A unique and distinctive book sure to open up great discussions about feelings.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Amelia Bedelia's First Vote
by Herman Parish, illustrated by Lynn Avril
Greenwillow Books
April 2012

The joke of the original Amelia Bedelia books - that a grown woman could be so literal-minded - loses a bit of it's punch in these picture books featuring a grade-school Amelia. Here's my favorite "knee-slapper" from the book - after running in the hall, Amelia ends up falling and going to the nurse's office. She asks the principal if she's in trouble and he replies, "What would you do if you were me?" Amelia replies, "If I were you, I would wear happier ties." More hilarity ensues as the kids vote on whether or not to have "homework-free-Wednesdays." Sure to be a popular title with an election year coming up.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Revenge of the Dinotrux
by Chris Gall
Little Brown Books for Young Readers
May 2012

In this highly anticipated sequel to Dinotrux, the dinotrux grow weary of all the screaming, banging and swinging they have to endure at the museum. They bust loose and create mayhem all over town. Look for funny little details such as the newspaper headline, "What Do They Want?" When the mayor demands the dinotrux go to school, it would appear they're just as wild as ever... until they learn to read (truck books, natch.) Soon they're roaring off again - this time to build a playground, perfect for "screaming, banging and swinging." Large full-color spreads on every page are full of action. According to the illustrator they were "created with the help of 30W synthetic motor oil, 4-bolt mains, and a competition clutch."

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tallulah's Solo
by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
Clarion Books
May 2012

Tallulah is outraged when she doesn't get a starring role in the ballet recital. In the meantime, her younger brother Beckett is awarded the part of the frog prince. "'The frog! That's not fair!' Tallulah cried. 'He got a big part even though he goofs off. I got a little part, and I work so hard!'"
The endpages feature Tallulah and Beckett trying out different ballet positions, pliés and relevés. Soft watercolor and watercolor and gouache illustrations with plenty of white space give a gentle feel to an emotionally difficult topic: sibling jealousy. Eventually Tallulah realizes how much Beckett looks up to her: he started ballet because he wants to be more like her and they make up. What a sweet book.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Long Way from You review

A Long Way from You
by Gwendolyn Heasley
Harper Teen
June 2012

A companion novel to Where I Belong, A Long Way from You deals with many coming of age themes. 17 year old Kitsy Kidd is a talented art student from the tiny town of Broken Spoke, Texas who is off to a summer of big excitement in New York City at Parsons School of Design.  It's a summer of firsts for Kitsy - first trip on an airplane, first ride on the subway or as she calls it "the underground train thing," first ever trip to an art museum, and first temptation away from her football star boyfriend Hands. Kitsy feels wracked with guilt for leaving her younger brother Kiki alone with their irresponsible and somewhat alcoholic mother, whom she calls by her first name, Amber. Her best friend from New York, Corrinne Corcoran acts as Kitsy's tour guide for the first few days, before she goes to horse camp. Pretty soon, Kitsy making her way in New York on her own, impressing her art teacher Professor Picasso just enough that he's always being hard on her. Kitsy proves you can take the girl out of Texas, but you can't take the Texas out of the girl.  An impulsive trip back to Broken Spoke to confront Amber yields a tearful promise to be a better mother, as well as some award winning photos of the beautiful Texas landscape. Readers looking for a summer beach read that affirms small-town living won't be disappointed in this one.

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Waiting on Ironskin

It's a fairy re-telling of Jane Eyre. I'm looking forward to this one.

by Tina Connolly
Tor Books
October 2012

Jane Eliot wears an iron mask.

It’s the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain—the ironskin.

When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a "delicate situation"—a child born during the Great War—Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help.

Teaching the unruly Dorie to suppress her curse is hard enough; she certainly didn’t expect to fall for the girl’s father, the enigmatic artist Edward Rochart. But her blossoming crush is stifled by her own scars, and by his parade of women. Ugly women, who enter his closed studio...and come out as beautiful as the fey.

Jane knows Rochart cannot love her, just as she knows that she must wear iron for the rest of her life. But what if neither of these things is true? Step by step Jane unlocks the secrets of her new life—and discovers just how far she will go to become whole again.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Chosen One review

The Chosen One 
by Carol Lynch Williams
St. Martin's Griffin
May 2009

First line: "If I was going to kill the Prophet," I say, not even keeping my voice low, "I'd do it in Africa."

In a story ripped right from news headlines, this novel details Kyra’s harrowing escape from an orthodox Mormon polygamous cult. Growing up home-schooled in a rural, isolated religious compound, 13 year-old Kyra doesn’t share the complete faith and unwavering fundamental Mormon principles of her father, three mothers and 20 brothers and sisters. Her slight crush on a boy about her age as well as her growing uneasiness with the Prophet’s tightening grip on their families forces her to keep secrets.

One of Kyra’s few forbidden pleasures finally provides the key to her escape. Unbeknownst to her family, she’s been sneaking out to meet the local library bookmobile and devouring verboten treasures such as Bridge to Terabithia, The Borrowers, Harry Potter and Doctor Seuss.

When the Prophet declares that she is to be placed in marriage as the seventh wife to her own 60-year-old uncle, Kyra spends the following weeks in a heightened state of panic. Her parents’ appeals to the Prophet fail to sway his decision. After Kyra receives a thorough beating, along with threats to her family, she feels she has no choice but to acquiesce to the marriage.

Initially intending just to say goodbye to Patrick the book truck driver, she ends up accepting his offer of a passage to safety. Unfortunately, the librarian is killed by the cult after a high-speed car chase. This does allow Kyra access to the book mobile however, leading to a very suspenseful escape where she has to manage to drive the vehicle herself. Featuring the high-stakes drama of a nightmarish trap that Kyra must manage to wriggle free of, this might be easy to recommend to dystopian fans.

Compare to:
Matched - Allie Condie
Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind - Suzanne Fisher Staples
Catherine Called Birdy - Karen Cushman
Thunder Over Kandahar - Sharon McKay

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

Friday, September 21, 2012

NPR's Top 100 YA

Here's the list that NPR came up with recently - their listeners' take on the Top 100 YA novels of all time. I'm highlighting in green all those I've read, and highlighting in blue those that I started but couldn't or didn't finish. There are plenty of series on this list that I've read the first book or two, but haven't finished all of them. Looking at the list, I can see that I've read most of them, and that I need to get serious and start reading more Sarah Dessen and John Green!

1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling

2. The Hunger Games (series), by Suzanne Collins

3. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

4. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

5. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

6. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

7. The Lord of the Rings (series), by J.R.R. Tolkien

8. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

9. Looking for Alaska, by John Green

10. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

11. The Giver (series), by Lois Lowry

12. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (series), by Douglas Adams

13. The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton

14. Anne of Green Gables (series), by Lucy Maud Montgomery

15. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman

16. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

17. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

18. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

19. Divergent (series), by Veronica Roth

20. Paper Towns, by John Green

21. The Mortal Instruments (series), by Cassandra Clare

22. An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green

23. Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes

24. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher

25. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon

26. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

27. Twilight (series), by Stephenie Meyer

28. Uglies (series), by Scott Westerfeld

29. The Infernal Devices (series), by Cassandra Clare

30. Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt

31. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

32. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (series), by Anne Brashares

33. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London

34. Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green, David Levithan

35. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous

36. Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones

37. Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli

38. A Separate Peace, by John Knowles

39. Vampire Academy (series), by Richelle Mead

40. Abhorsen Trilogy / Old Kingdom Trilogy (series), by Garth Nix

41. Dune, by Frank Herbert

42. Discworld / Tiffany Aching (series), by Terry Pratchett

43. My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult

44. The Dark is Rising (series), by Susan Cooper

45. Graceling (series), Kristin Cashore

46. Forever..., by Judy Blume

47. Earthsea (series), by Ursula K. Le Guin

48. Inheritance Cycle (series), by Christopher Paolini

49. The Princess Diaries (series), by Meg Cabot

50. The Song of the Lioness (series), by Tamora Pierce

51. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

52. Delirium (series), by Lauren Oliver

53. Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins

54. Hush, Hush Saga (series), by Stephanie Perkins

55. 13 Little Blue Envelopes, by Maureen Johnson

56. It's Kind of a Funny Story, by Ned Vizzini

57. The Gemma Doyle Trilogy (series), by Libba Bray

58. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

59. The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros

60. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

61. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier

62. Just Listen, by Sarah Dessen

63. A Ring of Endless Light, by Madeleine L'Engle

64. The Truth About Forever, by Sarah Dessen

65. The Bartimaeus Trilogy (series), by Jonathan Stroud

66. Bloodlines (series), by Richelle Mead

67. Fallen (series), by Lauren Kate

68. House of Night (series), by P.C. Cast, Kristin Cast

69. I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith

70. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, by Rachel Cohn, David Levithan

71. Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver

72. Unwind, by Neal Shusterman

73. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle

74. The Maze Runner Trilogy (series), by James Dashner

75. If I Stay, by Gayle Forman

76. The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley

77. Crank (series), by Ellen Hopkins

78. Matched (series), by Allie Condie

79. Gallagher Girls (series), by Ally Carter

80. The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale

81. Daughter of the Lioness / Tricksters (series), by Tamora Pierce

82. I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak

83. The Immortals (series), by Tamora Pierce

84. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (series), by Patricia C. Wrede

85. Chaos Walking (series), by Patrick Ness

86. Circle of Magic (series), by Tamora Pierce

87. Daughter of Smoke & Bone, by Laini Taylor

88. Feed, by M.T. Anderson

89. Weetzie Bat (series), by Francesca Lia Block

90. Along for the Ride, by Sarah Dessen

91. Confessions of Georgia Nicolson (series), by Louise Rennison

92. Leviathan (series), by Scott Westerfeld

93. The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer

94. The Chronicles of Chrestomanci (series), by Diana Wynne Jones

95. The Lullaby, by Sarah Dessen

96. Gone (series), by Michael Grant

97. The Shiver Trilogy (series), by Maggie Stiefvater

98. The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley

99. Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson

100. Betsy-Tacy Books (series), by Maud Hart Lovelace

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Waiting on Breathe

Dystopian... with a bit of a twist on the love triangle, it sounds like.

by Sarah Crossan
October 2012

Inhale. Exhale.
Breathe . . .
The world is dead.
The survivors live under the protection of Breathe, the corporation that found a way to manufacture oxygen-rich air.

has been stealing for a long time. She's a little jittery, but not terrified. All she knows is that she's never been caught before. If she's careful, it'll be easy. If she's careful.

should be worried about Alina and a bit afraid for himself, too, but even though this is dangerous, it's also the most interesting thing to happen to him in ages. It isn't every day that the girl of your dreams asks you to rescue her.

wants to tell him that none of this is fair; they'd planned a trip together, the two of them, and she'd hoped he'd discover her out here, not another girl.

And as they walk into the Outlands with two days' worth of oxygen in their tanks, everything they believe will be shattered. Will they be able to make it back? Will they want to?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

On Stage Review

On Stage: Theatre Games and Activities for Kids
by Lisa Bany-Winters
Chicago Review Press
September 2012

This updated edition of the drama club classic offers a good blend of practical and fun information and includes 30 new games and scripts. The encouraging tone is perfect for novice thespians. Theater vocabulary and other basics are thoroughly covered. 

Popular improv games such as “Yes And...,” “Mirrors,” and “Party Quirks” make up the bulk of the book. Attractive sidebars in the shape of movie slates feature informational text. “Play It Again, Sam” sidebars feature multiple variations for further inspiration. Black-and-white cartoon illustrations show cheerful children participating in the exercises. The final two chapters give a cursory treatment to puppetry, mask-making, and backstage skills. This book is a boon for educators, theater directors, camp counselors, and students looking for theater warm-ups, circle games, improv prompts, short scripted skits, and other activities.

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

Friday, September 14, 2012

McAllen TX Library

I first heard about the plans for McAllen Public Library in Texas to convert an enormous abandoned Wal-Mart into their new main library back in 2008. I was highly skeptical at the time, mainly because I pictured the bland cheerlessness of your average Wal-Mart, simply stocked with yard after yard of books, instead of cheap, imported clothes. And yet, I know one of the main things that patrons ask for is space. Space, and lots of it! Space for meeting rooms, conference rooms, space for private study rooms and/or study carrells, space for children's areas, space for teens, public reading rooms, dedicated space for Friends' groups and more. People really want to use their libraries as a hang-out. If Wal-Mart could deliver in any area, it would certainly be square footage. I'm amazed and pleased at what a little decoration can do - fresh paint, new fixtures, a beautiful water feature, many green upgrades -- you'd never guess that this beautiful library used to be a mega-store! Lovely!

More info, including plenty of photo sets on the McAllen Public Library website.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Waiting on Incarnation

What can I say... I kind of have a steampunk obsession lately. This just sounds so good!

by Emma Cornwall
Gallery Books
September 2012

In the steampunk world of Victorian London, a beautiful vampire seeks out the author of Dracula–to set the record straight . . . If one is to believe Bram Stoker’s legendary vampire tale, Lucy Weston is Dracula’s most wanton creation, a sexual creature of the night who preys on innocent boys. But the real-life Lucy is nothing like her fictional counterpart—and she demands to know why the Victorian author deliberately lied. With Stoker’s reluctant help, she’s determined to track down the very fiend who transformed her—from the sensual underworld where humans vie to become vampires, to a hidden cell beneath a temple to madness, and finally into the glittering Crystal Palace where death reigns supreme.

Haunted by fragmentary memories of her lost life and love, Lucy must battle her thirst for blood as she struggles to stop a catastrophic war that will doom vampires and humans alike. Ultimately, she must make a choice that illuminates for her—and for us—what it means to be human.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Soul Thief review

Soul Thief
by Jana Oliver
St. Martin's Press
August 2011

First line: The Grounds Zero coffeeshop in Atlanta made the most amazing hot chocolate in Atlanta, maybe even the whole world.

17 year-old demon trapper and hot chocolate aficionado Riley Blackthorne is trying to pull herself together after surviving a massive unholy attack which has wiped out a good deal of the demon-trappers in Atlanta. She's still an apprentice trying to prove herself and the stakes are higher than ever. Her father has been killed and reanimated as a zombie-like servant, there's a criminal cover-up with useless holy water on the market, her financial woes are worse than ever and naturally, her love life is a mess. In order to save her boyfriend Simon's life, Riley makes a deal with Heaven - she'll owe them a favor, a big one, in exchange for his health back. Beck, her father's former apprentice still has a crush on her, even if he won't admit it to himself.

To be honest, it doesn't feel like the plot moves terribly quickly. Riley spends a lot of time searching for her father, and is still trying to rally the crusty old salts who run the Trappers Guild to get together and do something about the ineffective holy water. Beck makes a somewhat ill-advised decision to start dating a snaky reporter, Justine. Simon isn't too grateful or loving towards Riley, which pushes her right into the arms of Ori, a supernaturally hot rogue demon hunter (or so he claims.)

I really enjoy a book that has a very firm sense of place. The first book in this series, The Demon Trapper's Daughter, captivated me, and I loved reading a dystopian version of the city featuring so many familiar landmarks. I'd have to compare this to Lauren Oliver's Delirium, even though the plot is quite different, it's also a post-Peak Oil world, where cars are a rarity. If you like the first book, this one is definitely worth taking a look at.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares review

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares
by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Knopf Books for Young Readers
October 2010

First line: "Imagine this: You're in your favorite bookstore scanning the shelves."

In alternating chapters, readers hear the story of two misfit, bookish teens who make a connection in Manhattan over Christmas-time. Ignore the fact that this would never, ever happen. It's just too unlikely, and there are too many weird coincidences and clever riddles solved in the nick of time for this to ever really come to pass. Once you suspend your disbelief, though, the book reads like some fun Alternate Reality Game or geo-caching adventure, where the protagonists leave obscure literary clues for each other around the city in a game of cat and mouse. There's something unbearably romantic, but also lonely about the way they connect with each other.

Dash didn't feel like the stereotypical red-blooded American male. He felt like a nebbish Woody Allen character. Towards the end of the book, he ends up locked in the basement of The Strand bookstore with Lily... and his first thoughts are about how exciting it is to be alone with the object of his affections: The complete multi-volume edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. There was a playful, intellectual connection between Dash and Lily, and a sense of madcap, Manhattan adventure. But there wasn't any real passion or spark between the two. If I had to guess, I'd assume that even if he doesn't know it yet, once Dash heads off to college, he'll probably come out of the closet, and find himself a nice boyfriend.

This wasn't quite as thrilling as Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist for me, but it was still an enjoyable read.

Compare to:

Jenna & Jonah's Fauxmance - Emily Franklin & Brendan Halpin
Amy & Roger's Epic Detour - Morgan Matson
Pretty Bad Things - C.J. Skuse

I borrowed this book from the library.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Read in August

This month I read the following books:

1 Forbidden - Tabitha Suzuma

2 Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom - Brendan Halpin
3 Angel Fire - L.A. Weatherly
4 Balthazar - Claudia Gray
5 More Short and Sweet Skits for Student Actors - Maggie Scriven
6 Audition Monologues for Young Women - Gerald Lee Ratcliff
7 Amulet #1: The Stonekeeper - Kazu Kibuishi
Amulet #2: The Cloud Searchers - Kazu Kibuishi
Amulet #3: The Stonekeeper's Curse - Kazu Kibuishi

Picture credit: Woman Reading, National Media Museum


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