Friday, February 27, 2015

The Winner's Curse review

The Winner's Curse
by Marie Rutkoski
Farrar Straus Giroux
March 2014

First line: "She shouldn't have been tempted."

In a world that seems loosely based on ancient Rome and Greece, 17 year old Kestrel's father is one of the leading generals of an invading army of Valorians that has conquered their more culturally sophisticated, but less warlike neighbors the Herrani. Under pressure to either pick up a career in the military or choose an appropriate young man to marry and settle down with, Kestrel starts to rebel against her father's authority in small ways while biding for more time to sort out her own feelings on the matter.

After impulsively purchasing a handsome young slave, Kestrel begins to question more and more of her society's demands. Her interests in music and the arts, while valued by the Herrani, are considered nearly useless by the Valorians.

Kestrel's slave is called "Smith" by his captors for his blacksmithing skills, but his true name is Arin. The two of them gradually strike up a friendship (as much as possible under the circumstances) and set society's tongues to wagging when it's apparent that their friendship is deepening into something more. Arin is more than he appears at first, and readers will not be surprised to discover his connections to rebel forces.

The horrors of slavery aren't fully explored in this book. While they are bought and sold, the "slaves" in this society are mostly treated like valuable servants. The difference in their class status adds a frisson of interest to Arin and Kestrel's flirtations. This is a light fantasy romance, seasoned with a dash of dystopian rigid class roles and customs that the characters must struggle with.

Compare to:
Conspiracy of Kings - Megan Whalen Turner
Legacy - Kayla Cluver
Graceling - Kristin Cashore

I purchased a copy of this book.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Top 10 Heroines

This week's topic from The Broke and Bookish is Top 10 Favorite Heroines From Books.
Let's see!

1. Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games)
Okay, sure, Katniss is kind of emotionally clueless. Some might even say, a bit dead inside, especially after all the ordeals she goes through. But, I love that she is such a talented archer, and so protective of her family. She's one tough lady!

2. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter)
She makes being nerdy and well-read look so very awesome. She is the brightest witch of her age, and loyal to her friends.

3. Charlotte (Charlotte's Web)
Can we count her? A spider? I love Charlotte. I love how pragmatic and sensible she is, and what a great friend she is to Wilbur, a lunk of a pig who doesn't always deserve it.

4. Beatrice "Tris" Prior (Divergent)
She reminds me of Katniss in a lot of ways. She holds true to her ideals as she struggles with feeling so out of place in her segmented society. Also, she's tough as nails!

5. Katsa (Graceling)
Here's another tough fighter of a heroine. I love her journey, as she struggles with her supernatural "gift" of being such an able assassin.

6. Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice)
Here's a girl who doesn't take any sass - whether it's from Mr. Darcy or her own mother. Love her, so much.

7. Dorothy Gale (The Wizard of Oz)
Forget everything you've seen in the movie. The book is far trippier. Dorothy is one of the bravest, most determined heroines ever. Nothing fazes her. Anyone who can make allies of a talking scarecrow, a lion, a field full of mice, animate china dolls, a tin man and rulers of several magical countries is really something.

8. Cinder (Lunar Chronicles)
Forget the traditional Cinderella who sits back and waits for a Fairy Godmother and later, the Prince, to come and rescue her. This Cinder is a cyborg tinkerer who takes matters into her own hands.

9. Karou (Daughter of Smoke and Bone)
She starts out as a beleaguered art student in Prague, burdened with gathering teeth for her secret magical family... and things only get more intense from there!

10. Sabriel (Old Kingdom Trilogy)
Here's another character who is so brave, and doesn't even give herself credit for how badass she is. She ventures into the realm of death on a regular basis in order to save her country and her friends!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Bookish Links du Jour 2/22/15

Enjoy this video: Book nerd problems: Getting a book wet! This is a major emergency. Help is needed, STAT.

Experience every dystopian novel trope at once, in this delightful twitter send-up of the genre: @DystopianYA For example: "It's the night before my 17th birthday, which means in a few hours, I'll have to face the mysterious Test to determine my future."

Oh my. Here's a book written by a staunch anti-vaxxer, Melanie's Marvelous Measles by Stephanie Messenger. Amazon reviewers have provided some delightfully snarky comments, for example, "As a carpenter who specializes in itty bitty coffins I can't say enough good things about this book, my customer base has been growing at an epidemic rate!" Check out more reviews on the site.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Great Cheese Robbery review

Great Cheese Robbery
by Tim Warnes
Little Tiger Press
March 2015

This British import features anthropomorphized elephants with a subtle nod to Babar. Patrick Elephant looks up to his Daddy who isn't scared of anything, except, of course, for mice. When a cheeky mouse arrives at their doorstep and demands to inspect their household supply of cheese, Daddy Elephant is unable to stop cowering long enough to stop him. 

Before they know it, an army of hungry mice arrive to remove the rest of their food, their refrigerator and most of Patrick's toys, ostensibly for “health and safety” reasons. Fortunately, Mommy Elephant arrives just in time to save the day and restore order. Warmly hued endpapers use a repeating elephant design. 

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

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Top 10 Bookish Problems

This week's topic from The Broke and Bookish is Top 10 Bookish Problems.
Let's see!

10) Self-published authors - I have read some indie-published books that have been great. But there are so very many that aren't. So very many. And because indie authors are usually doing their own publicity and/or are new to the publishing, in my experience they can sometimes be pushy and unprofessional. As a book blogger and reviewer it makes for awkward moments all around when I get multiple e-mails from desperate self-published authors begging me to read and review books that I honestly can't find much positive to say about. Indie-authors! Don't be that guy!

9) Budget - The library I work for has (like many libraries) suffered from budget cuts, and I haven't been able to get books I'd like to have for our patrons. I do purchase books that I'm dying to read on my own, and then donate them to the library - but it's just not enough! It's tough when I know the perfect book to put in a patron's hands... and we don't have it.

8) Gift books - Friends and family will frequently think to themselves, "Ah! I bet I know what Madigan would like! A book!" So, I do get a lot of books as gifts. Which is much-appreciated and fine. The only problem here, is when gift-givers demand to know if I've read the book yet. Uh... it's in the queue! I'll get to it! Eventually. People who don't have professional obligations and piles of books waiting for review simply don't understand this.

7) E-books vs. Paper books - E-books are a wonderful space-saver. I switch back and forth between reading physical books and books on my iPhone or Nook. The problem here, is sometimes I'll read an e-book that is so great, I know I need a copy for my permanent collection, so then I have to buy it twice. Or, I read a paper book that I know I don't want to keep... and then I have to figure out what to do with it.

6) E-library books vs. E-purchased books - Purchasing e-books on my Nook is a dream. One click, and it's instantly there. Borrowing e-books from the library is a different matter. I download library books from Overdrive all the time - I'm sad that publishers don't always seem to trust or like libraries, and feel the need to put all this extra "friction" on acquiring e-books from the library. Using Overdrive is a bit like that old saying, "You never step in the same river twice." They are constantly switching up their website, or changing policies. I'm pretty computer savvy so it's not really a problem for me, but it is a hassle to have to explain the ever-changing ways of the Internet to my senior citizen patrons who ask for help at the library.

5) Space - About 5 years ago, I lost most of my books in a flood. Sadness! After that, I resolved to do better about not hoarding too many and limited myself to just one bookshelf, which worked pretty well for a while. Now, I'm afraid, I've got a couple of bookshelves, plus some built-ins and I'm starting to see piles of books on the floor. How big a space would be big enough? Hmm... that's a good question. If I think about it, I'm certain I could fill up a large space quickly. Which brings me to my next point...

4) Weeding - Well, generally this isn't a problem for me, as I like to go through and thin-out my collection of just about everything. I wouldn't say I live a spartan existence, but I do like to clear out clutter - including books. I guess my problem here is the continuous nature of weeding. I'm never really finished going through and organizing my book collection, as more books seem crop up out of nowhere. I wish I could feel like I was "done" weeding for a bit.

3) Book stumpers - This doesn't happen very often to me. But once in a blue moon, I'll remember a few points of the plot, maybe a hazy detail about the cover... and that's it. So frustrating! Even a key word or two from the title or half of an author's name would get me somewhere, but I draw a blank. Fortunately, I only run into a total stumper like this once or twice a year, but it is super frustrating when it happens.

2) Waiting for the sequel - I'm in the middle of quite a few series where the author has hit a slump. Or maybe they had something come up in their personal lives. Or who knows why - but that sequel isn't coming out soon, and so we all must wait. Get on it, authors! Write that sequel! Finish that series!

1) Too many books, not enough time! There's so many great things to read. I'm always in a constant backlog.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine's Display

Just for fun, I thought I'd put together a Valentine's Day display in my library's teen area of books featuring hearts on the cover. Here are a few to pick from:

The Future of Us - Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler
Sweet Little Lies - Lauren Conrad
This Lullaby - Sarah Design
Triple Shot Betty's In Love - Jody Gehrman
The Lipstick Laws - Amy Holder
Tangled - Carolyn Mackler
After the Kiss - Terra Elan McVoy
The Glimpse - Claire Merle
Recovery Road - Blake Nelson
Twenty Boy Summer - Sarah Ockler
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight - Jennifer E. Smith
All These Things I've Done - Gabrielle Zevin

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Spaceheadz review

by Jon Scieszka and Francesco Sedita, illustrated by Shane Prigmore
Simon & Schuster
June 2010

First line: "Michael K. knew his first day in a new school in a new city was going to be weird."

Scieszka is in rare form, with this fast-paced, humorous, science-fiction, middle-grade adventure. Newbie fifth-grader Michael K. gets stuck with the task of showing two other new kids, Bob and Jennifer, the ropes in Mrs. Halley's classroom.  He quickly realizes that they are both out-of-this world... literally, from another planet.  The only information that Jennifer, Bob and their hamster leader, Major Fluffy, have about planet Earth is from television commercials, beamed into space.  Media-savvy readers will recognize many of the catchphrases and slogans that Bob and Jennifer employ in their conversation.

The kids manage
to stay one step ahead of bumbling Agent Umber of the Anti-Alien Agency despite his phalanx of super-spy gadgets, including the Pickle Phone, a box of cereal that turns into a laptop computer and a giant taco disguise.

Some of the
best story content is featured on accompanying websites, full of Easter eggs and additional jokes and information, including This website is a brilliant send-up of many teachers' poorly designed efforts, complete with plenty of clashing colors, busy patterns, flashing extras, Comic Sans font and cheery "inspirational" quotes.  Agent Umber's somewhat official looking "government" website has most links leading to an ominous pop-up reading, "Access Denied. You do not have sufficient security clearance to view this page."  However, some careful poking around will lead to case file reports of The Fried Santa Incident, and a rather silly set of highly bureaucratic forms, including Shoe Replacement and Suit Pocket Addition Forms. 
Plenty of varying fonts throughout the book are sure to grab readers attention.

Compare to:
Fat Men from Space - Daniel Pinkwater
The Day my Butt Went Psycho - Andy Griffith
Dragonbreath - Ursula Vernon
Take the Mummy and Run: The Riot Brothers are on a Roll - Mary Amato

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

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Bookish Links du Jour 1/8/15

Hurrah - Jane Austen themed nail art.

Wow, Maggie Steifvater creates Tarot cards inspired by her Raven Cycle series.

After more than 50 years, Harper Lee is publishing a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, and controversy ensues. Was she pressured into it? She says she's "happy as hell" about the new book, Go Set a Watchman. I think it's safe to say that no one could have seen this coming - I remember my high school English teacher lauding Harper Lee as the perfect example that everyone has "at least one" book in them.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Read in January 2015

This month I read the following books:

1. Salt & Storm - Kendall Kulper
2. Charmed - Michelle Krys

picture credit: Beatrice by Marie Spartali Stillman

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Youth Media Awards 2015

The ALA Youth Media Awards have been announced!

Here are some of the winners, and I've highlighted everything that I had a prediction about or was on my radar as a potential winner in red. Too bad I wasn't in a betting pool this year! I could have cleaned up.

The Crossover - Kwame Alexander

Newbery Honor:
El Deafo - Cece Bell
Brown Girl Dreaming - Jacqueline Woodson

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend - Dan Santat

Caldecott Honor:
Nana in the City - Lauren Castillo
The Noisy Paint Box: The  Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art - Barb Rosenstock,  illustrated by Mary GrandPré
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole - Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Viva Frida - Yuyi Morales
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus - illustrated by Melissa Sweet, written by Jen Bryant
This One Summer - illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, written by Mariko Tamaki

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award:
Brown Girl Dreaming - Jacqueline Woodson

King Author Honor:
The Crossover - Kwame Alexander
How I Discovered Poetry - Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Hadley Hooper
How It Went Down - Kekla Magoon

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award:
Firebird - Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers

King Illustrator Honor:
Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker - Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson
Little Melba and Her Big Trombone - Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Frank Morrison

I’ll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson

Printz Honor:
And We Stay - Jenny Hubbard
The Carnival at Bray - Jessie Ann Foley
Grasshopper Jungle - Andrew Smith
This One Summer - Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award:
Viva Frida - Yuyi Morales

Belpré Illustrator Honor:
Little Roja Riding Hood - Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Susan Guevara
Green Is a Chile Pepper - Roseanne Greenfield Thong, illustrated by John Parra
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation - Duncan Tonatiuh

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus - Jen Bryant

Sibert Honor:
Brown Girl Dreaming - Jacqueline Woodson
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, & the Fall of Imperial Russia - Candace Fleming
Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker - Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson
Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands -  Katherine Roy
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation - Duncan Tonatiuh

Stonewall Award:
This Day in June - Gayle E. Pitman, Ph.D., illustrated by Kristyna Litten
Stonewall Honor:
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out - Susan Kuklin.
I’ll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress - Christine Baldacchio, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant


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