Friday, May 29, 2015

Read in May 2015

This past month I read the following books:

1. Hello, I Love You - Katie M. Stout

picture credit: Parte de carte-Alics Nastase Buciuta

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Top 10 Beach Reads

This week's topic from The Broke and Bookish is Top 10 Beach Reads. Here are my picks:

Of Poseidon - Anna Banks
What's summer without a mermaid story? This one is actually kind of terrible (the boyfriend is an alpha male stalker, which I hate) but that's what makes reading this one fun. It's a guilty pleasure.

Formerly Shark Girl - 
A little heavier than what I'd normally recommend for a summer read, a girl continues to cope with everything life throws at her after losing her arm in a freak shark attack.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants - Ann Brashares
Each of the girls in this story goes on an adventure either away or at home while borrowing the magical pair of jeans that somehow fits them all. Because the book is divided into four parts, it makes for an especially fast and fun read.

Lies Beneath - 
Another mermaid story. This one features a merman, a lake and a murder mystery.

How to Be Popular - Meg Cabot
Cabot always delivers light and easy to read fare, but this is especially fluffy and fun about a girl who uses an outdated manners book to try to become popular using advice from the past.

The Truth About Forever - Sarah Dessen
A sensitive story about a teen's summer as she works her butt off at a catering company, makes new friends and discovers that maybe her boyfriend isn't worth waiting around for.

We Were Liars - E. Lockhart
A lot heavier than what I'd normally recommend for a summer read, but I loved this story about an upper class girl and her rebellious cousins summer on a private island, with an unbelievably shocking twist at the end.

Meant to Be - Lauren Merrill
A fun school trip to Paris! Plus, a lot boy crazy.

Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins
Another fun trip to France! And a bit boy crazy.

Lost Voices - Sarah Porter
Another mermaid story with a "Lost Girls" kind of feel. Abused girls get a fresh lease on life as angry mermaids.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Millie's Chickens review

Millie's Chickens
by Brenda Williams, illustrated by Valeria Cis
Barefoot Books
May 2015

This sweet British import features rhyming text slightly reminiscent of The House that Jack Built. Appealing illustrations use loose acrylics with saturated color. Millie's idyllic backyard is filled with plants, a slide, a clothesline and happily pecking chickens. One of Millie's hens, Silkie, gets lost, but is quickly found with a clutch of eggs, and Millie is kept contentedly busy looking after the chickens and their new baby chicks. 

Endpapers display an assortment of heritage breed chickens on a soft blue background. The book is appended with a colorful illustrated glossary and informative text on keeping chickens, chicken anatomy, parts of an egg and the life cycle of chickens, as well as suggestions of different cooking methods for eggs.

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Top 10 Reasons I Love Blogging

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is a rewind week - pick your own topic. Here are 10 reasons I love blogging.

It's a great way to keep track of what I've read. Listing what I've read each month and doing a year-end review of what I've been reading is enormously helpful to me. I can go back and re-read a review to refresh my memory, or look at the list of what I've read and think about if I want to change what I'm reading in the upcoming year (more middle-grade, or more sports fiction, for example)

It's opened some great doors for me professionally. Because of my blog, I've been interviewed as a children's literature expert on CNN, had the opportunity to meet and hang out with New York Times bestselling authors and serve on book award committees. I'm also certain that it's been helpful in job interviews, as a kind of portfolio of work that I've done, especially in creating displays or hosting programs.

My blog has been a great way to meet people - other bloggers and librarians, especially at conferences. I enjoy challenging myself to try new things - reading other people's blogs is frequently an inspiration for me to try a new program or add a new book to my to be read list. And of course, I've had the opportunity to read Advance Review Copies and show off some terrific book hauls.

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Drowned Maiden's Hair review

A Drowned Maiden's Hair
by Laura Amy Schlitz
Candlewick Press
January 2006

It's the early 1900's and poor Maud Flynn believes it's her lucky day when she's finally rescued from the Barbary Asylum orphanage she's been living at by three spinster ladies. She quickly realizes, however, that the elderly Hawthorne sisters only wish to use her as a confederate in their fake seances to cheat wealthy bereaved patrons. Maud is desperately lonely and sad. Her only real friend is Anna, also known as "Muffet," the deaf kitchen help. 

The aunts are busy prepping Maud for their grandest heist yet, as well-to-do Mrs. Lambert will pay any price in her attempt to communicate with her drowned daughter Caroline. Maud's job is to hide inside a tiny cabinet and provide ghostly sound effects. Desperate for approval from anyone, love-starved Maud reluctantly goes along with the Hawthornes' scheme. The somber mood of the book is heavily influenced by the setting, a crumbling seaside resort. This story provides a fascinating look at spiritualism and charlatan mediums, a huge fad of the era. Luckily, there is a happy ending for Maud when Mrs. Lambert finally rescues her from the orphanage after her "aunts" abandon her in a fire. I highly recommend this riveting read.

Compare to:
Alchemy and Meggy Swann - Karen Cushman
Penny from Heaven - Jennifer L. Holm
Coraline - Neil Gaiman
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase - Joan Aiken

I borrowed this book from the library

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Salt and Storm review

Salt & Storm
by Kendall Kulper
Little Brown Books for Young Readers
September 2014

First line: "Despite my mother's best efforts, I never forgot the day my grandmother taught me to tie the winds."

Sixteen year old Avery Roe is descended from a long line of witches who offer powerful charms and protection to the sea-faring folk of Prince Island. Mysteriously, her mother eschews the tradition, preferring to live in town with her wealthy husband. Avery's grandmother is exhausted and nearing the end of her powers, but is waiting for her granddaughter to escape her mother's control and finally take the reins. During the late Victorian period, whaling is still a way of life for the islanders, but the worlds is changing fast, and magic in general seems to be on the wane. Avery is eager to tap into her magical heritage, but is stymied by remaining under her mother's thumb. She is able to interpret dreams, and sometimes has a flash of weather magic, but most spells remain beyond her ability. All she knows is that it is rumored that her family's magic is powered by pain. She tries cutting herself, which doesn't seem to help.

When she dreams of a whale being caught and slaughtered, she's certain that it prophecies her own murder. Desperate to gain access to her magic, she ends up enlisting the help of Tane, a tattooed South Sea islander with his own magical abilities. Tane sounds like a dreamboat - tan, handsome, and sexy. The two of them start an intense, secret romance.

The secret to the power of the witches of Prince Island was not hard to guess. It is only surprising that Avery takes so long to suss it out. Spoilers ahead: the witch's magical powers are powered by pain - specifically, the pain of losing a loved one. For generations, the women of the island have had a passionate love affair gone wrong, which ended in the heartbreaking loss of the man in her life, and a pregnancy with a girl child to carry on the tradition. Avery's mother thinks she will outwit the "curse" by deliberately getting pregnant with another man's child, and later settling down with her true love. She avoids explaining the ins and outs of how the magic works, in hopes of sparing Avery from becoming the next witch, which of course, completely backfires. The sudden death of Avery's love interest was disappointing. It seems that in a convoluted way, Avery's mother has found a way of breaking "the curse" of their family, which is just well, since witch's seafaring charms hold less and less value in an increasingly industrialized world. Even though Avery's mother is the "villain" of the story, readers will come to understand why her own tortured history and her love for her daughter causes her to behave the way she does.

Compare to:
A Great and Terrible Beauty - Libba Bray
A Drowned Maiden's Hair - Laura Amy Schlitz
House of Ivy & Sorrow - Natalie Whipple
The Vespertine - Saundra Mitchell

I purchased a copy of this book.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Darklight review

by Lesley Livingston
December 2009

"The old man lay crumpled on the flagstones in front of a Park Avenue brownstone, his lifeblood oozing from five small holes in his neatly buttoned tweed vest like sap from a maple tree tapped in spring."

This sequel to Wondrous Strange picks up with struggling New York teen actress Kelley Winslow coping with her newly discovered fairy heritage. Her relationship with changeling member of the Janus Guard, Sonny Flannery, is on hold as he seeks out the supernatural Hunters who are linked to dangerous Queen Mabh. Kelley is working on a production of Romeo and Juliet, and there are a few parallels to her relationship with Sonny, who is aligned with a competing clan of fairy folk. While Sonny is away he grows increasingly jealous of fellow Janus Guard Fennrys, whom he'd specifically asked to watch over Kelley while he was gone.

While Shakespeare aficionados will see a lot of allegory in this story, a knowledge of the classics isn't necessary. Any reader of YA fantasy will find lots here to enjoy: magic, action, romance. This sequel has many Romeo and Juliet references, and because it's so closely tied to the previous book, plenty of references to characters and events from A Midsummer Night's Dream as well. The creepiest addition were the leprechauns, who unlike the diminutive fun-loving tricksters of legend, tend to be compulsive drinkers (even slurping spilled booze out of the mud, if necessary) and prone to violence. They are described as exceptionally lanky, wearing distinctive boots, mean-looking and evil-tempered. Definitely not the sort you'd want to run into in a dark alley.

By the end of the story, Kelley discovers she has the rarest of all gifts among fairies... she is able to lie. Most of the fey get around this with careful use of language. Kelley and Sonny each feel that they are endangering each other, and therefore "must" protect each other by staying apart. Readers may find Kelley's immaturity trying at times, but failure to communicate between lead characters is a common trope in plenty of YA novels. The lack of communication between Kelley and Sonny leads to their apparent break-up by the end of the novel.

Compare to:
Lament - Maggie Stiefvater
Wicked Lovely - Melissa Marr
City of Bones - Cassandra Clare
The Iron King - Julie Kagawa

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Read in April 2015

This month I read the following books:

1. The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two  - William Sears
2. The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep: Simple Solutions for Kids from Birth to 5 Years - Harvey Karp
3. The Darkest Part of the Forest - Holly Black

picture credit: Maid Reading in the Library by Edouard John Mentha


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