Friday, February 28, 2014

This Wicked Game review

This Wicked Game
by Michelle Zink
Dial Books
November 2013

Seventeen year-old Claire Kincaid resents working in her family's voodoo supply shop. Claire has always eschewed her heritage - she's a descendent of Marie Leveau, a famed voodoo priestess in New Orleans. Claire finally turns to magic for answers once a series of break-ins threaten her friends, all firstborn children of prominent voodoo families. The action takes place weeks before the Priestesses Ball, an exclusive prom-like gathering. 

This post-Katrina mystery uncovers family secrets that have been festering for a generation. Fearing their parents disapproval, Claire wants to keep her relationship with Xander, the son of prominent Guild leaders, secret. Together they arrange a series of break-ins of their own to discover what the mysterious woman purchasing dangerous magical items from their voodoo shops and exiled Guild member "Crazy Eddie" have been hiding. Using information obtained while in a dream state, and aided by some incredibly lucky coincidences Claire ends up fighting off a ring of black magic users who want to use her charmed blood for evil. Teens looking for mystery with a hint of paranormal will enjoy Zink's fast-paced, undemanding story.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
This review originally appeared in School Library Journal.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top 10 Book Club Books

This week's topic from The Broke and Bookish is rewind - pick a past topic that you may have missed.

I thought I'd talk about my Top 10 Book Club Books. I'm lucky to belong to the best book club ever: The Not So YA Book Club, for readers who are adults, but still enjoy reading YA. It's hosted at one of my favorite book stores, Little Shop of Stories.

All the books listed below were certainly conversation starters.

Shadow and Bone - Leigh Bardugo
     Everyone in my book club swooned for this Russian-esque fantasy! Are you Team Darkling or Team Mal?

The Diviners - Libba Bray
     I really thought that this would feel a little more similar to A Great and Terrible Beauty and the scary parts were just on the edge of too scary for me (I am a big scaredy cat) but everyone "positutely" loved this supernatural thriller.

Just One Day - Gayle Foreman
     This contemporary gave us a lot to talk about! Lots of interesting characters and situations in this novel. Allyson spends one romantic day with Willem that changes her priorities in life. Also, her mother is crazy! Very good read.

Seraphina - Rachel Hartman
     Here is a book that I love, love, loved. Socially awkward shape-changing dragons? I am so there! I don't think anyone else in book club enjoyed it the way I did though.

Parallel - Lauren Miller
     Here is another of my favorite sort of book: Abby finds that her life has been split by some kind of time phenomenon and her present is changing wildly, based on new and different decisions of her past self. The author came to visit us and it was so great getting to ask her in person about the mechanics of how 

The Infinite Moment of Us - Lauren Myracle
     We were pretty split on this one. A lot of us didn't read it. This was so much like an updated, modern Forever by Judy Blume. I found the crazy friend a little hard to believe. But all the awkwardness of first love! All of the feelings! Those were great.

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone - Kat Rosenfield
     Another contemporary that had us split down the middle. I'm generally not a murder mystery fan. The relationships in this book are intense. The flashbacks made me think of a much less surreal version of Twin Peaks.

Out of the Easy - Ruta Sepetys
     Here is a book that I never, ever would have picked up on my own, and I absolutely loved it! Crime family, New Orleans, historical fiction - I would love to see this made into a movie.

The Raven Boys - Maggie Stiefvater
     I love Maggie Stiefvater, and even I was not prepared for how great this book was and how much we all loved it. I was totally surprised and shocked by several twists and turns in the book, but the other members of my book club say they saw it coming a mile away.

Ordinary Beauty - Laura Weiss
     Ahhhh! One of our more controversial picks. It's just so unrelentingly dramatic and sad! The mother in this story is just so horrible. One misfortune piled on top of another for our poor heroine. To top off all the drama, the gal who picked this book for our club, didn't even read it! For shame! She should get 20 lashes with a wet noodle for sticking us with this crazy read.

Are you in a book club? What are you reading?

Friday, February 21, 2014

United We Spy review

United We Spy
by Ally Carter
September 2013

High school senior Cammie Morgan has survived incredible adventures alongside her best friends Bex and Liz at Gallagher Academy, a top-secret boarding school for girl spies. Now, she and her friends should be able to relax and enjoy being recruited by top government agencies such as the FBI, CIA, NSA and MI6. The signature light hearted and fast paced narration features a large cast of characters, but very little exposition. Readers are strongly advised to start with the first book in the series,  I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You.

In this final installment of the series, Cammie is bent on uncovering a secret cabal of villains known as the Circle of Cavan. Using stolen plans from super-genius Liz, the Circle of Cavan are hoping to start WW III and it's up to the jet-setting Gallagher Girls to stop it. Cammie engages in a daring global game of cat and mouse, traveling to Rome, Marseille and a hidden government compound in the Arctic, juggling conflicts with her mother and her boyfriend Zach along the way. Gallagher Girl fans will enjoy the touching graduation scene which brings the series to a satisfying close. With plenty of girl power, I'd recommend Gallagher Girls books for fans of Ally Carter's Heist Society or Kirsten Miller's Kiki Strike books.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
This review originally appeared in School Library Journal.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Top 10 Reasons I Love Being a Blogger

Top Ten Tuesdays is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is: Top Ten Reasons I Love Being a Blogger.

Here are (in no particular order) my top ten reasons:

Connecting with other bloggers at book festivals or library conferences - always fun!

Having my blog running for several years - it's so great to go back and read old posts. It's like an archive of what I was reading/thinking about at that time.

The feeling of accomplishment - It's definitely a labor of love, but it is very satisfying to finish up a blog post and hit "publish."

Reading other blogger's blogs, and adding to my ever growing Mt. TBR.

I love reading people's comments and keeping the conversation going.

Writing reviews helps me cement my thoughts about a particular book. It is so helpful when I'm doing reader's advisory.

Posting a monthly tally of books that I've read helps keep me on track with my reading goals.

As a bookseller, and then a librarian, I was no stranger to ARCs before I started my blog, but I do think being a blogger has opened some great opportunities for me to snag free books before they're published - it's like peeking into the future, when you get to read an Advance Reader's Copy and just know that this is going to be a hit that everyone is going to be talking about soon.

I love putting a variety of things on the blog: book reviews, book trailers, news from the library world, library program and craft ideas, whatever!

This blog is something that is completely mine. In this economy, I might lose my library job, or have to move across the country in order to stay employed, but as long as I keep paying my web-hosting fees, nobody can stop me from keeping my blog up to date.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Thirteenth Child review

Thirteenth Child
by Patricia C. Wrede
April 2009

First line: "Everybody knows that a seventh son is lucky."

Set in an alternate historical, magical America, young Eff is an unlucky thirteenth child. Her twin brother Lan, on the other hand, is the seventh son of a seventh son - destined for greatness. She and most of her immediate family move away from Helvan Shores for a fresh start on the magical frontier after her extended family refuse to stop harassing her for her supposed bad luck.

I had heard a lot about the controversy surrounding Wrede's alternative history frontier fantasy before I read it, so I settled down to read this book with some trepidation, even though I dearly love Patricia Wrede. Because her new Frontier Magic series takes place in an alternate American history, one where the United States never had a Native American population, many readers and critics were troubled. It seems deeply insensitive to eradicate a group of people who have already been through so much. And yet, reading the book, didn't feel as overwhelmingly uncomfortable as I would have thought. It was unclear to me, reading Wrede's book, if slavery had ever existed in her alternate history. While Aphrikan people (and their magic) seem to be a rare minority, no further backstory is given.

I liked the idea of frontierspeople struggling to hold their own against magical creatures; mammoths, dragons, enchanted beetles. Magic, in this world, is commonplace and everyday. The Wild West twang to the characters speech added depth to the story.

Eff's continual low self-esteem became a bit wearing as the story went on. She is just as worried at age eighteen about inadvertently causing bad luck to befall her family and loved ones as she was at age five, when her maliciously bad-tempered extended family go so far as to outright suggest that her parents do away with her. Some of the terms like Mammoth River (for the Mississippi) or Columbia (for America) being thrown together with place names such as Philadelphia threw me a bit. I wish that this had been set in a completely new world altogether, like Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword.

I was fascinated with the Rationalists, Puritan-like settlers who eschew magic entirely. I was really rooting for them, especially after seeing how callously many of the magicians in the story treated Eff. Eff's older sister Rennie elopes with one of the Rationalists and her encampment is one of the only ones resistant to a particularly nasty strain of magical locust-like mirror bugs. So, I was disappointed when Eff finally has the chance to visit them and Rennie breaks down, admitting that life without magic is very, very hard - so much so, that she's resorted to sneaking in a spell or two to make her hardscrabble life a bit easier.

On the whole, I enjoyed this book, and I'll definitely put it in the hands of young fantasy readers who enjoyed Wrede's Sorcery and Cecilia series, or the Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. I'm curious too, how this book would fare as book club material for mature readers, considering there are so many different themes at play to provide fodder for discussion.

Compare to:
Sorcery and Cecilia - Patricia C. Wrede
The Amulet of Samarkand - Jonathan Stroud
Dust Girl - Sarah Zettel

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Top 10 Books to Make You Swoon

This week's Top 10 Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is:
 Top Ten Books to Make You Swoon

Looking over my list of favorite books made me realize, I'm much more of a fan of books that don't make you blush! But each of these has a touch of romance or more that I found pretty swoonworthy.

The Future of Us - Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler
     Ah, this might be an odd pick, since there's not that much kissy-kissy action, but I loved how the characters see little glimpses of their future lives that slowly, slowly, make them realize they'd be perfect for each other.

     Hannah feels she must pick between the dance career she's sacrificed for, or easy-going musician Jacob.

     Okay, it's a love triangle, but it's still so swoonworthy. Clara is "destined" to meet with a guy from her visions, but along the way... she meets someone else.

The Infinite Moment of Us - Lauren Myracle
   There are plenty of awkward and fumbling moments in this tender story of first love.

     Okay, this is probably another unusual pick - but I liked this sci-fi story about a boy from a heavily matriarchal society, who must suddenly fend for himself, all the while wishing that some nice woman would marry him and relieve him of the responsibility of managing his own life.

     Everyone knows that this book is worth swooning for.

Across the Universe - Beth Revis
    Elder and Amy, 4eva!

Shiver - Maggie Stiefvater
      This series is so romantic!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
     This book is unbearably good!

Witch Eyes - Scott Tracey
     A teen mage (who happens to be gay) discovers the guy he's crushing on is part of a rival mage's family.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Read in January 2014

Last month I read the following the books:

1. Days of Blood and Starlight - Laini Taylor
2. Wintergirls - Laurie Halse Anderson
3. The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch
4. Written in the Stars - Lois Duncan

Picture credit: Girl Reading by Window by unknown

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Top 10 Books to Make You Cry

This week's Top 10 Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is:
 Top Ten Books to Make You Cry.

Get out your Kleenex. Here are my top tearjerkers.

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling
You know saying goodbye to Dumbledore always destroys me!

2. Kira Kira - Cynthia Kadohata
A younger sister copes with her sister's brave battle with cancer.

3. Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson
A book with a dead kid in it. That's always gonna make me cry.

4. The Higher Power of Lucky - Susan Patron
A wonderful book, about a plucky girl coping with the loss of her mother.

5. Marley and Me - John Grogan
I'm not a dog person, but this book is so heartbreaking!

6. Charlotte's Web - E.B. White
"It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both." I defy anyone not to cry at that line!

7. Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
Ah, one of the saddest books I've ever read, about a mentally challenged man who gains everything, and then loses it all.

8. Edward's Eyes - Patricia MacLachlan
Sweet and super sad! Another dead kid book.

I'm racking my brain to think of two more... I don't know! Eight weepy books is enough, don't you think? What are your top tearjerkers?


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