Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How to Catch a Mouse review

How to Catch a Mouse
by Philippa Leathers
Candlewick Press
April 2015

Observant readers will enjoy spotting the mouse hidden in nearly every pencil and watercolor illustration, as Clemmie the cat confidently smirks at her supposed mouse-hunting prowess. Clemmie researches tell-tale signs of a mouse from a book, but is led astray by ordinary household items such as a long pink tail that turns out to be the ribbon of a hat and so on. Gradually, the mouse assembles a costume which hides all distinctive mousy features. 

Clemmie's bushy-tailed fear at finally uncovering a real live mouse is very amusing. Two can play at that game, when Clemmie works on her own art of disguise to finally chase the mouse around. Yellow endpapers feature cat and mouse tracks.

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

Friday, April 24, 2015

Cover Trend: Maps

Here's a trend I've noticed lately - maps on the cover.

No Place to Fall - Jaye Robin Brown
     Good girl Amber has to choose between art school and her family.

Paper Towns - John Green
     A classic manic pixie dreamgirl adventure story.

Royally Lost - Angie Stanton
     A boring family vacation in Europe turns exciting with a hint of romance.

Last Stop This Town - David H. Steinberg
     One last exciting night in New York, before high school seniors move on.

Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave - Jen White
     Abandoned children try to travel home. It's like a modern version of Cynthia Voigt's Homecoming.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

If We Kiss review

If We Kiss
by Rachel Vail
Harper Collins
May 2005

First line: "Kevin Lazarus stopped in front of me in the hall, turned around, and asked me if I was ready for the bio quiz."

Fourteen year old freshman Charlotte (who goes by the nickname Charlie) is harboring a crush on Kevin Lazarus -- and things in her life go disastrously wrong after a quick, unromantic kiss between them. First, Kevin doesn't seem to return her feelings, leaving her hanging after he dragged her out to the schoolyard for a little make-out session. Then, Charlie's best friend Tess starts dating Kevin. Charlie ends up being pressured into going out with unexciting George. And to add final humiliation to it all, Charlie's divorced mother starts dating Kevin's father, meaning that Kevin is fated to become her step-brother. 

Vail does a superb job of capturing the awkward, self-concious voice of early teenhood. For all of her pondering about kissing, Charlie is very young for her age. She throws a party and one of her classmates comments that it feels like a seventh-grade party. That feels about right. The subject matter - forbidden romance between step-siblings - could go very dark indeed, but the overall tone is light, even when Charlie stews over her feelings. Charlie is very pragmatic about her situation, she's not deep or passionate. Charlie's friend Tess, even though she's supposedly more "mature" and experienced than Charlie comes off as oddly childlike as well. At one point, during a sleepover, Tess decides to wash her face and holds her hair back by wearing a pair of used undies on her head. Very strange.

I truly expected something more dramatic such as Charlie deciding to run away from home, or for her to make plans to move in with her father. I thought she might have a huge blowout fight with her mother, and demand an end to the horrible situation she's been put in. This is, after all, the kind of untenable situation that could drive a mother and daughter apart for the rest of their lives. Instead, Charlie kind of quietly bears up under the strain. She doesn't confront her mother until the very end of the book, and even then, doesn't admit that she and Kevin have kissed. She and her mother have a tiff and her mother simply feels that Charlie objects to her dating again. Not that it really matters, but I felt that Charlie very much had the prior claim. She and Kevin kiss before anyone else gets involved. Charlie seems much sharper and bitchier when she has an eventual falling out with Tess.

The story ends on a fairly anticlimactic note with a storybook wedding between Charlie's mom and Kevin's dad, as Charlie realizes that she likes ho-hum George after all.

Compare to:
Forbidden - Tabitha Suzima
Lucky - Rachel Vail
Everything I Was - Corinne Demas

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Girls for Breakfast review

Girls for Breakfast
by David Yoo
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
May 2005

First line: "I'm standing on top of the water tower behind my house, thinking about my death and the inevitable bronze statue the graduating class will erect in my memory."

Graduating senior Nick Park is dead certain his lack of success with girls is because he is the only Korean-American in his small white bread town in Connecticut. While this story isn't quite a bildungsroman, surprisingly there are many, many flashbacks to Nick's childhood, as he  reflects on where he could have possibly gone wrong. Starting in third grade, Nick finds himself an outcast when he accidentally kills the class gerbil. His fresh-off-the-boat parents are a deep embarrassment to him and he desperately longs to not be Korean. At school, his white peers commit micro-aggressions on a daily basis - confusing him for Chinese,  assuming that he must be a martial arts master, making thoughtless racist comments without even really thinking about it.

Crass, sex-obsessed, opinionated, dramatic, and self-deprecatingly funny, Nick's story will have appeal for guy readers. His continual social flubs are painful to read and he ends up in a downward spiral. Feeling horribly self-conscious and unpopular, he makes one poor decision after another and tries too hard to win people over, causing him to behave in the most awkward fashion possible, only further cementing his status as an unlikeable loser with his classmates. Even when he finally does make some friends in high school, he is still terrified of losing them, and suspicious of their motivations. When he snags a white girlfriend, he's certain that she'll cheat on him. The only thing that could have made Nick's situation more pitiable is if he had been a Korean adoptee, with truly zero access to other Korean-Americans. As it is, even though he rejects his family, his parents force him to join the Korean youth group at his church, and eventually he does begin to reconcile his cognitive dissonance with his heritage. Hopefully, things will start looking up for Nick, when he gets a fresh start as he heads off to college.

Compare to:
Trouble - Gary D. Schmidt
Bitter Melon - Cara Chow
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie
The Other Normals - Ned Vizzini

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Top 10 Quotes

This week's topic from The Broke and Bookish is Top 10 Inspiring Quotes. Most of these are library related... but I have a few quotes from some of my favorite books as well.

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
― Jorge Luis Borges

“You see, I don't belive that libraries should be drab places where people sit in silence, that has been the main reason for our policy of employing wild animals as librarians.”
― Graham Chapman

“The world is quiet here.”
― Lemony Snicket

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

“In a library we are surrounded by many hundreds of dear friends imprisoned by an enchanter in paper and leathern boxes.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man”
― T.S. Eliot

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

“Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”
― E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

“Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.”
― Groucho Marx

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! -- When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Friday, April 10, 2015

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side review

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side
by Beth Fantaskey
February 2009

First line: "The first time I saw him, a heavy, gray fog clung to the cornfields, tails of mists slithering between the dying stalks."

Seventeen year old high school student Jessica is shocked to learn that she's actually adopted, and is descended from vampires.  The sardonic, haughty and hilarious vampire, Lucius Vladescu really makes this book stand-out.  Because of their noble bloodlines and a tremendous financial inheritance, Lucius and Jessica have been promised in marriage (unbeknownst to Jessica) since birth.  Since Jessica's been raised as an all-American girl, naturally she finds the idea of an arranged marriage very distasteful.  To try and change her mind, Lucius registers as an exchange student at her school and takes up residence in her parent's barn.  As the story unfolds we begin to see another side of Lucius.  Frequently beaten by his harsh uncle during his Dickensian childhood, he begins to relax a bit and enjoy what he sees as a decadent suburban lifestyle.  I found the idea that Jessica's adopted parents would keep her entire adoption a secret for all these years very difficult to credit, and was a little surprised to see her parents continually trying to push the two teens together.

In Fantaskey's world, female vampires only develop their full powers after being bitten by a male.  Male vampires develop their powers (and limitations) naturally as they age.  Something about this inequality of the sexes bothered me.  Not a very feminist take, I guess.  Another thing which worried me was the callous disregard Lucius has for Jessica's name.  He constantly calls her "Anastasia," the name her birth parents would have chosen for her, which seemed a bit pompous, overbearing and creepy to me.  Then again, that sort of behavior does seem par for the course for most male vampires. 

Jessica finally decides to embrace her destiny and goes to Romania where she meets a few of the key players of the vampire world before finally allowing Lucius to bite her.  You can practically hear the music swell, fade to black, and "they lived happily ever after."  It was anticlimactic, to say the least.  Still, this was a light, fun read, and when he isn't being infuriating, the Lucius character adds a lot of humor to the story.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Read in March 2015

This month I read the following books:

1. If We Kiss - Rachel Vail

picture credit: detail from Madame de Pompadour by Francois Boucher

Friday, April 3, 2015

Cover Trend: Eggs

Here are some YA titles with eggs on the cover!

Scrambled Eggs at Midnight - Brad Barkley
     Two teens constantly on the move find romance amidst the turmoil of their unstable parents.

The Other Half of Me - Emily Franklin
     A teen girl searches for her sperm donor father.

Twerp - Mark Goldblatt
     A teen bully is offered redemption when his high school English teacher offers him a writing assignment about his life.

Thumped - Megan McCafferty
     The sequel to Bumped.

Bumped - Megan McCafferty
     A high-energy, funny, dystopian novel about a future where teen girls sell their bodies to older infertile couples.

Eggs - Jerry Spinelli
     Two kids deal with the loss of their parents.


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