Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Review: All These Things I've Done

All These Things I've Done
Gabrielle Zevin
2011; Farrar, Straus & Giroux; ISBN 978-0-374-30210-8 (hardcover)

Summary:  In 2083, chocolate and caffeine are illegal, water is rationed, and Anya Balanchine is trying to hold her family together.  Her grandmother is dying, her older brother Leo is mentally disabled due to a childhood accident, and Anya has two years before she turns eighteen and can be legal guardian to her little sister Natty.  To make matters worse, her family is well-known as chocolate smugglers, yet Anya is beginning to fall for Win, the assistant DA's son.  All Anya wants is to stay out of the family business, yet it seems that she's destined for it.  Will she choose to be a bystander or a participant?

Set in a realistic future, All These Things I've Done is a character-driven novel, one that is different from other YA novels.  It's not as plot-focused as you'd expect from Gabrielle Zevin, the author of the intriguing Elsewhere and Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac.  Some things don't work in this novel, like Anya's occasional asides to the reader and a few contrived coincidences.  What does work is the character study of Anya.  With her tough-as-nails exterior, Anya tries to conceal her fears and worries.  Her relationship with Win gives her a momentary respite, but Anya is too practical to let romance interfere with her duty to protect her family.  Fans who liked Wither will like All These Things I've Done even more.

Other Reviews
Mostly Reading YA:  http://mostlyreadingya.blogspot.com/2011/09/review-all-these-things-ive-done.html
Letters Inside Out: http://www.lettersinsideout.net/posts/review-all-these-things-ive-done-by-gabrielle-zevin/
The Reading Housewives of Indiana:  http://www.thereadinghousewives.com/2011/09/review-all-these-things-ive-done-by.html
Miss Print:  http://missprint.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/all-these-things-ive-done-a-chick-lit-wednesday-review/

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Review: The Rites & Wrongs of Janice Wills

The Rites & Wrongs of Janice Wills
Joanna Pearson
2011; Scholastic; ISBN 978-0-545-19773-1 (hardcover)

Summary:  In the small town of Melva, North Carolina, Janice Wills knows what group she belongs to: Socially Unimportant Intelligent Girl.  As a budding anthropologist, Janice has made it her goal to have her research on Melva's adolescents published in Current Anthropology before she graduates from high school.  She's the kind of girl to take notes and remain detached in order to observe everything; she's not the kind of girl who'd enter Melva's Miss Livermush Pageant, in spite of her mother's encouragement.  Yet slowly, Janice begins to see the flaws in her research methods.  She's not clever and smart and observant--she's mean and closed-off and scared.  With the help of old friends and new challenges, Janice looks at her world with a new set of eyes.

A coming-of-age story with a different slant, The Rites & Wrongs of Janice Wills combines a realistic protagonist with some engaging thoughts on teenage culture.  Janice has a lot of growing to do over the course of the novel, and her growth comes believably, with a few missteps along the way.  The focus of the novel is Janice's development, set against the backdrop of her small town.  A quick read that includes a dash of romance and some good friendship issues, this first novel occasionally descends into stereotypes and cliches.  Yet there's still an engaging sweetness to this novel, like taking a few bites of pecan pie.  The Rites & Wrongs of Janice Wills will be enjoyed by fans of novels like The Sweetheart of Prosper County.

Other Reviews
Christina Reads YA:  http://christinareadsya.blogspot.com/2011/06/book-review-rites-and-wrongs-of-janice.html
Dear Author: http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/overall-c-reviews/c-plus-reviews/review-the-rites-and-wrongs-of-janice-wills-by-joanna-pearson/
Letters Inside Out: http://www.lettersinsideout.net/posts/review-the-rites-and-wrongs-of-janice-wills-by-joanna-pearson/
I Like These Books: http://www.ilikethesebooks.com/2011/08/rites-and-wrongs-of-janice-wills-by.html

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door

Lola and the Boy Next Door
Stephanie Perkins
2011; Dutton (Penguin); ISBN 978-0-525-42328-7

Summary:  Lola's life couldn't be better.  She lives in the fantastic Castro District of San Francisco, she loves her parents Nathan and Andy, she's always got a unique costume to wear, and best of all is her boyfriend Max.  The only fly in the ointment is that Max is five years older than Lola, and her parents don't like him.  At least, that's the only problem until the Bell twins move back into their house next door to Lola's.  Calliope Bell is just self-centered, focused on her figure skating career.  But her brother Cricket . . . he's the boy that Lola loved once.  Now that he's back, Lola finds that perhaps her feelings haven't changed.  But what about Max?  And does Cricket actually like her?  Lola will have to search her soul to discover whether her costumes hide or reflect her true self.

Another insightful romance from Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss, one that mixes Lola's journey of discovery with an epic teenage romance.  Although the novel is a bit slow to start, with some muddled interplay between the present and the past, it picks up speed when Cricket returns to Lola's life.  Cricket is perhaps the perfect teenage boy: sweet, smart, and totally in love with Lola.  The reader can't help rooting for Lola and Cricket to figure things out, although it takes some time.  Lola begins the novel lying to her parents about Max and refusing to see that Max is too old for her.  Slowly, she realizes that he's not the boy for her, a process that helps her learn how to be honest to herself and others.  This maturing process is handled well, leading to a satisfying ending not just for Lola, but for Cricket and Lola, too.  Fans of Perkins' first novel will be happy to see Anna and St. Clair as supporting characters in this one.  Lola's gay parents--one of whom is biologically her uncle--are not there for shock value or controversy, but to reflect the novel's setting and to give Lola two happy, caring parents.  Fans of Anna and the French Kiss will keep Lola and the Boy Next Door circulating.

Other Reviews
A Million Words: http://ggpreviews.blogspot.com/2011/06/review-of-lola-and-boy-next-door.html
Write Meg: http://writemeg.com/2011/08/01/book-review-lola-and-the-boy-next-door-by-stephanie-perkins/
The Readventurer:  http://www.thereadventurer.com/1/post/2011/8/book-review-lola-and-the-boy-next-door-by-stephanie-perkins.html
Bibliopunkk:  http://www.bibliopunkk.net/2011/07/review-lola-and-boy-next-door.html
 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Laini Taylor
2011; Little, Brown; ISBN 978-0-316-13402-6 (hardcover)

Summary: Karou is a very unique young woman.  She has blue hair, speaks multiple languages, and has vivid tattoos on the palms of her hands.  For the other students at her Prague art school, they're used to Karou's mysterious life, with her unusual sketchbooks full of fantasy creatures.  The truth is stranger than fiction: the creatures in Karou's art are real, and they are the ones who raised her.  What Karou doesn't know is that there is a civil war between seraphs and chimaera, between angels and monsters--a war of which she's in the middle.  The seraphs are lead by Akiva, a beautiful warrior angel.  There seems to be some kind of connection between Akiva and Karou . . . one that changes both of them.

With rich atmospheric details and memorable characters, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is an unusual fantasy. While the story loses steam at the three-quarters mark after a major plot revelation, there is much to like in this novel.  The setting of Prague is vividly portrayed, infusing a sense of history into the story.  Karou is a fascinating yet believable protagonist, grounding the fantasy even as she performs amazing acts.  Laini Taylor's talents for word and description is obvious in Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  Pass this novel to fans of Holly Black.

Other Reviews
Good Books and Good Wine:  http://www.goodbooksandgoodwine.com/2011/07/daughter-of-smoke-and-bone-by-laini-taylor-book-review.html
Bookanista:  http://scott-tracey.com/2011/08/11/bookanista-review-the-daughter-of-smoke-and-bone-by-laini-taylor/
Reading Rants:  http://www.readingrants.org/2011/05/15/daughter-of-smoke-and-bone-by-laini-taylor/
The Allure of Books:  http://theallureofbooks.com/2011/08/review-the-daughter-of-smoke-and-bone-by-laini-taylor.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=review-the-daughter-of-smoke-and-bone-by-laini-taylor

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review: Blood Wounds

Blood Wounds
Susan Beth Pfeffer
2011; Harcourt; ISBN 978-0-547-49638-2 (hardcover)

Summary:  In Willa's blended family, there's Willa and her mom Terri, and Jack, Terri's second husband.  Most of the time, Jack's two daughters from his first marriage, Brooke and Alyssa, live with them.  Jack's ex-wife, Val, is rich and gives Brooke and Alyssa anything they could want, from horses and tennis coaches to trips to Europe.  Willa, by contrast, can't even have the voice lessons she wants since her mother can't pay for them.  To cope with the pressure of feeling unloved and unvalued, Willa cuts herself in secret, spilling her own blood.  But then Willa's estranged father commits an unspeakable act towards his new family.  In grappling with this horrible legacy, Willa tries to learn more about her parents' past.  Her new knowledge leads her to confront the assumptions and unspoken tensions that lie at the heart of her family relationships.  Willa discovers that Tolstoy had it wrong: every family, whether happy or unhappy, is different.

Never shying away from uncomfortable topics, Susan Beth Pfeffer explores the complex world of modern family dynamics in Blood Wounds.  When her father kills his wife and three daughters, it sets Willa on a journey to learn who she is within her different families.  Her father's acts are only the trigger for the story, belying the summary printed on the ARC I read; the heart of the novel is Willa's relationships and how they affect her.  Willa is difficult to like, but she is easy to understand, with the coil of tension growing ever-tighter until she finally breaks free of the role she thinks she has to play.  The character interactions are messy and complicated and real, heightened by direct prose and brisk pacing.  By the close of the novel, years of resentment and unhappiness are finally revealed, and Willa can create her own place within her family.  Pair Blood Wounds with novels like A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt.

Other Reviews
Practically Paradise: http://blog.schoollibraryjournal.com/practicallyparadise/2011/07/17/blood-wounds-by-susan-beth-pfeiffer/
One Book at a Time: http://onebooktime.blogspot.com/2011/07/review-blood-wounds-by-susan-beth.html
Squeaky Books: http://www.squeakybooks.com/2011/06/blood-wounds-susan-beth-pfeffer.html
Bibliosaurus Text:  http://www.bibliosaurustext.com/?p=870

Monday, August 15, 2011

Review: A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls
Patrick Ness, inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd
2011; Candlewick; ISBN 978-0-7636-5559-4 (hardcover)

Summary:  Late one night, Conor sees a nearby yew tree transform itself into a monster.  It's huge, with scratchy bark and pointy leaves.  But Conor's not afraid of the monster, because he's been expecting a much worse one.  His mother has cancer, and she seems to be sicker as each day passes.  Everyone at school knows about his mum's illness, making him invisible--except to his old friend Lily and Harry the bully.  So Conor's not that scared of the monster, and the monster sees that.  The monster has come because Conor called for him, and he will tell Conor four stories.  Then, Conor will have to tell the monster his own story, a story that's true.  Finding the truth will be a struggle for Conor, though.

Examining issues of love, loss and truth, A Monster Calls is a collaboration between Patrick Ness and the late Siobhan Dowd.  Taking the characters and premise created by Dowd, Ness has crafted a moving, honest story about a boy learning the first lessons of manhood.  The monster is capricious, logical and cold, contrasted with Conor's emotional, passionate nature.  As Conor hears the monster's stories and watches his mother's condition deteriorate, the tension slowly increases to the heartbreaking yet hopeful conclusion.  The story is made even richer by vivid black and white illustrations by Jim Kay.  It's a shame that Siobhan Dowd could not write this story, but how fortunate we are that Patrick Ness was willing to take on this task and create a fitting memorial in A Monster Calls.

Other Reviews
Bart's Bookshelf:  http://www.bartsbookshelf.co.uk/2011/05/16/review-a-monster-calls-by-patrick-ness-from-an-idea-by-siobhan-dowd/
Phoebe North:  http://www.phoebenorth.com/2011/07/07/review-a-monster-calls-by-patrick-ness/
Chicklish:  http://keris.typepad.com/chicklet/2011/04/review-a-monster-calls-by-patrick-ness.html

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review: Shut Out

Shut Out
Kody Keplinger
2011; Poppy (Little, Brown); ISBN 978-0-316-17556-2 (hardcover)

Summary:  For ten years, the football and soccer players at Hamilton High have been locked in a tense rivalry.  It's been getting worse--people are getting hurt now.  Lissa, the girlfriend of quarterback Randy, is sick of being left behind and coming second to the battle.  Then she gets an inspired idea: the girlfriends will hold a sex strike until the rivalry is over.  If the guys aren't getting any, they're bound to bury the hatchet.  It all seems to be going to plan . . . but Lissa didn't count on falling for Cash, who is Mr. Unattainable and the leader of the guys.  Lissa will have to figure out if the strike is about sex, the rivalry, or her desire to control everything to prevent getting hurt.

Once again mining the intersection of teenage love and sex, Kody Keplinger has crafted an opinionated, thought-provoking follow-up to her debut novel The D.U.F.F.  Like in the ancient Greek play Lysistrata, Lissa choose to end a war by withholding physical affection.  This makes sense to Lissa, a secret romantic with a powerful need for control.  These two elements of her personality clash throughout the novel, and it's thanks to people like Cash, her father and brother, and her friends that Lissa is able to balance the two sides of nature.  Through it all, the dialogue snaps with truth and the characters act like realistic teens.  Pass Shut Out along to fans of Carolyn Mackler or anyone looking for an insightful look into teen relationships.

Other Reviews
What's on the Bookshelf: http://whatsonthebookshelf-jen.blogspot.com/2011/08/review-shut-out-by-kody-keplinger.html
Parenthetical:  http://www.parenthetical.net/2011/05/30/review-shut-out-kody-keplinger-sept-2011/
Janicu's Book Review:  http://janicu.wordpress.com/2011/07/15/shut-out-by-kody-keplinger/
Good Choice Reading:  http://www.goodchoicereading.com/2011/06/review-shut-out-by-kody-keplinger.html

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Review: The Name of the Star

The Name of the Star (Shades of London, Book One)
Maureen Johnson
2011; Putnam (Penguin); ISBN 978-0-399-25660-8 (hardcover)

Summary:  Rory Deveaux arrives in London, immediately feeling shell-shocked by how different England is from Louisiana.  It's cold and rainy, with strange words and celebrities she's never heard of.  But soon, strange murders star occurring, on the anniversaries of murders linked to Jack the Ripper.  Rippermania grips London--but Rory knows there's more going on than meets the eye.  She's the only one to have seen the murderer, and the knowledge changes Rory's life.  Because it's not a copycat killing woman like over a hundred years ago . . . it's a ghost.

The first novel in a new series, The Name of the Star is a dark, atmospheric tale of what lies beyond death.  For such a modern city, blanketed with CCTV and cell phones, London is well aware of its history.  Into this new world is thrust Rory, who slowly comes into her unusual ability to see ghosts.  The details are revealed carefully, leading up to the surprising cliffhanger ending.  Rory meets the challenges thrown at her with realistic reactions of curiosity and fear.  Similar in feel to Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, The Name of the Star is an intriguing departure for Maureen Johnson.  Her talent for characterization shines through in this historical-tinged thriller.

Other Reviews
Dark Readers:  http://www.dark-readers.com/2011/06/book-reviewthe-name-of-star-by-maureen.html
Diary of a Book Addict:  http://bookaddictdiary.blogspot.com/2011/07/book-review-name-of-star-by-maureen.html
I Eat Words:  http://www.ieatwords.net/2011/08/name-of-star-by-maureen-johnson.html

Friday, August 05, 2011

Friday Fun: Interesting Reading

A few links to articles that I came across this week on the blogosphere!

How Young Adult Fiction Came of Age
Excerpt:  I am familiar enough with the basics: that YA is not to the written word as PG is to film. That it is publishing's closest thing to a safe bet in years. That it has seen explosive growth as a result. To wit: 3,000 young adult novels were published in 1997. Twelve years later, that figure hit 30,000 titles--an increase of a full order of magnitude. In 2009, total sales exceeded $3 billion, which is roughly all the money. 

YA Books are Booming--but not That Much
Excerpt:  Before I tell you what the correct figures are, how I think Mr. Grady got those numbers wrong, and why that matters, I do want to say that the article as a whole is a solid piece of work. Unlike the infamous Wall Street Journal article that complained about YA literature being too dark (I won't link to it, but you can find it if you search), Mr. Grady clearly likes YA books, and develops some good points: that adults are reading YA, for various reasons; that "New Adult" is what some in publishing hope to establish as a next step after YA; and that the commercial/literary divide may be shrinking.

"She's Not a Strong Reader"
Excerpt:  She resisted help at first. But after two failed attempts to get the book she wanted, she finally let me help her. I got her a wonderful stack of Libba Bray and Sarah Dessen and left her alone, only to have her mother announce to me, “She’s not a strong reader.” As if that explained why her daughter was taking her time to choose the right book.

Where Children Sleep (from the New York Times)
Excerpt:  As he considered how to represent needy children around the world, he wanted to avoid the common devices: pleading eyes, toothless smiles. When he visualized his own childhood, he realized that his bedroom said a lot about what sort of life he led. So he set out to find others.


Your Mom Reads More YA Than You
Excerpt: What struck me about the WSJ debate was not whether or not YA veers into a damaging darkness; rather, it was the allegation that mothers are unaware of, or disapprove of, the current YA offerings.  It was striking to me because, in my own experience promoting a YA novel, mothers have been some of the most ardent and vocal harbingers of what’s new and what’s next in the genre.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Review: Small Town Sinners

Small Town Sinners
Melissa Walker
2011; Bloomsbury; ISBN 978-1-59990-527-3 (hardcover)

Summary:  Lacey Anne Byer is a good girl.  She listens to her parents, does well in school, and is a strong supporter of her church.  In fact, Lacey can't wait to audition for a part in Hell House, her church's haunted house of sin.  But then, things start changing for Lacey.  Ty, a childhood friend who's returned to town, encourages her to question what she's been told in church as he stirs romantic feelings in her.  Her best friend's older sister gets pregnant out of wedlock.  Another friend is bullied by a schoolmate, one who doesn't get punished for his actions.  Lacey can't talk to her parents about all these new questions she has.  Instead, she will be on her own to find the answers that make sense to her.

A thought-provoking look at an evangelical coming-of-age, Small Town Sinners is also a very clean novel.  Lacey and her friends Starla Joy and Dean seem very innocent, their interactions from another time.  It might feel dated and out-of-place, yet as the reader sees how conservative and prescribed Lacey's world is, this innocence makes more sense.  Ty and Lacey's conversations about faith and sin may lean towards the didactic, yet Melissa Walker manages to keep the focus on Lacey's journey.  For readers who are curious about their own beliefs or anyone looking for insight into a different way of life, Small Town Sinners is a great choice.

Other Reviews
YA Librarian Tales:  http://yalibrariantales.blogspot.com/2011/07/review-small-town-sinners-by-melissa.html
Presenting Lenore: http://presentinglenore.blogspot.com/2011/07/book-review-small-town-sinners-by.html
Addicted 2 Novels: http://addicted2novels.blogspot.com/2011/07/blog-tourreview-small-town-sinners.html
I Read Banned Books: http://jenbigheart.blogspot.com/2011/07/review-small-town-sinners-by-melissa.html

Monday, August 01, 2011

Giveaway Winners!

Congratulations to the winners of my birthday giveaway!  Bridget won the book pack, and  donnas won the ARC pack.  Thanks to everyone for participating.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Fun: Giveaways Reminder!

You have until midnight on Sunday, July 31 to enter the giveaway I'm running.  If you haven't entered, make sure to leave a comment on the giveaways post!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Review: The Girl is Murder

The Girl is Murder
Kathryn Miller Haines
2011; Roaring Brook; ISBN 978-1-59643-609-1 (hardcover)

Summary:  World War II is less than a year old, but it's already exacted many casualties.  Iris's dad came home after losing his leg at Pearl Harbor, but not before Iris's mother killed herself under mysterious circumstances.  Grieving, full of questions, and now broke, Iris and her dad move to the Lower East Side.  Going to public school and worrying about money is a big change for Iris.  She wants to help her dad with his private detective work, but he won't let her.  When he hits a stumbling block on a missing person case--a case that involves a boy Iris knows--she decides to help out anyway.  Soon, the former private schoolgirl is living large, swinging at the Savoy and staying out late.  But she'll find that cracking cases exposes the dark side of people.

Filled with period slang and insightful observations, The Girl is Murder is a winning novel.  While the mystery plot feels a bit muddled, with too-slow pacing and out-of-place misdirection, the rest of the novel shines.  The historical setting is drawn with restraint, using slang and a few details, like products and news of the day, to set the scene.  This lets the reader fully embrace Irish and her problems.  Supporting characters like Pearl, Suze and Pop are fully-drawn,with their own motivations and back stories.  Fans of Strings Attached by Judy Blundell and Veronica Mars will agree that The Girl is Murder is swell.

Other Reviews
Bookshelves of Doom:  http://www.kirkusreviews.com/blog/young-adult/bookshelves-doom-joy-girl-sleuth/
Figment: http://blog.figment.com/2011/07/22/the-girl-is-murder-by-kathryn-miller-haines/
The Serpentine Library:  http://www.theserpentinelibrary.com/2011/01/waiting-on-wednesday-girl-is-murder.html
Books Beside My Bed:  http://www.booksbesidemybed.com/2011/02/waiting-on-wednesday-girl-is-murder_23.html

Monday, July 25, 2011

Review: Subway Girl

Subway Girl
P.J. Converse
2011; HarperTeen; ISBN 978-0-06-157514-3 (hardcover)

Summary: In Hong Kong, Simon and Amy are lost in translation in different ways.  Simon keeps flunking his English exams, which means he won't graduate from high school.  Amy, recently arrived from San Francisco, can't speak Chinese.  When Simon sees Amy on the subway, she seems cool, gorgeous, special.  After he works up the courage to speak to her, they slowly become friends.  Amy helps Simon improve his English.  Simon is there for Amy when she gets pregnant with her ex-boyfriend's baby.  As they begin to speak the same language  the distance between their backgrounds becomes smaller.

With sensitive insight, Subway Girl explores the interaction of different cultures.  The reader sees Simon's frustration and confusion over learning English, gaining appreciation for how hard it is for non-English speakers in a world where English is the lingua franca.  Amy's journey is more subtle, showing a young woman trying to navigate a strange place--her own mind and soul.  Written by debut novelist P.J. Converse, Subway Girl stays small and focused on Simon and Amy.  It's a quick read that would be enjoyed by readers curious about other parts of the world.

Other Reviews
Novel Novice: http://novelnovice.com/2011/04/06/book-review-subway-girl-by-p-j-converse/
Night Owl Teen: http://www.nightowlteen.com/nor/Reviews/Mrs-Brooks-reviews-Subway-Girl-by-P-J-Converse.aspx
Read My Mind:  http://aliseonlife.blogspot.com/2010/12/advance-review-subway-girl-by-pj.html
Hopeless Bibliophile: http://www.thehopelessbibliophile.com/2011/01/arc-review-subway-girl-by-pj-converse.html

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Fun: Cover in Common

So I was walking around in the workroom at my library, and I saw this book on a pile of weeded books.



And I immediately thought, hey, I've seen that picture before! 


What interests me the most that beyond just flipping the image, the cover designer also seemed to have Photoshopped in some wear on the jeans.  Look at the white patches on the back of the thighs.  Interesting!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review: The Lost Crown

The Lost Crown
Sarah Miller
2011; Atheneum (Simon & Schuster); ISBN 978-1-4169-8340-8 (hardcover)

Summary:  They are sheltered young woman in the midst of turbulent times.  The four daughters of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia have little knowledge of the world outside their palace.  Anastasia is the mischievous and clever youngest daughter, Maria just wants to get married and have lots of babies.  Tatiana is the "Governess" and solves problems, and oldest one Olga is both shy and observant.  It's 1916, and World War I is going badly for Russia.  When revolution upends society, the tsar and his family are caught in the middle.  The four sisters rely on each other to survive captivity, but there are some things that even sisters can't help each other with.

The Lost Crown vividly portrays the uncertainty that existed during the Russian Revolution.  Like a horror movie, the tension slowly builds.  While the four sisters attempt to rise above the indignities of their imprisonment, struggling with fear and boredom, the reader wonders if they realize that the noose is tightening.  Each sister's voice is well-drawn, allowing their different personalities to shine through.  Taking a well-known historical event and creating suspense is a remarkable accomplishment, and Sarah Miller has achieved it.  Readers who enjoy family stories will be drawn to this novel based on a real-life historical tragedy.

Other Reviews
Mint Tea and A Good Book: http://mintteaandagoodbook.blogspot.com/2011/06/review-lost-crown-by-sarah-miller.html
One Book at a Time:  http://onebooktime.blogspot.com/2011/06/review-lost-crown-by-sarah-miller.html
Books with Bite:  http://www.bookswithbite.net/2011/06/review-lost-crown.html
Aleeza Reads and Writes:  http://aleezarauf.blogspot.com/2011/07/book-review-lost-crown-by-sarah-miller.html

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Fun: Books Into Movies

With the news that the Gossip Girl producers are tackling a movie adaptation of The Luxe, it got me thinking about books being turned into movies.  I'm very excited about The Luxe being a movie, but I can't help wondering how the movie will compare to the book.  Will the Elizabeth/Will romance be pumped up?  Will Lina be as sulky and scheming as she is in the book?  And just who would play Penelope and Diana and Henry? 

Here's a list of some recent YA books that were turned into movies.  What did you think of these?

Soul Surfer, based on Bethany Hamilton's memoir (movie info)
Beastly, based on the novel by Alex Flinn (movie info)
It's Kind of a Funny Story, from Ned Vizzini's novel (movie info)
Flipped, adapted from the novel by Wendelin Van Draanen (movie info)
The Lightning Thief, from the bestseller by Rick Riordan (movie info)
Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, based on Louise Rennison's novel (movie info)

I've only seen Flipped, so clearly I need to catch up on my movies!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review: Memento Nora

Memento Nora
Angie Smibert
2011; Marshall Cavendish; ISBN 978-0-7614-5829-6 (hardcover)

Summary: In the future, terrorists strike frequently by bombing cars and shopping malls, rich people live behind the gates in secure compounds, and thanks to TFC--Therapeutic Forgetting Clinics--you don't have to remember traumatic events.  Nora James lives the good life, shopping with her mom and working on the yearbook with her girls.  Then she witnesses a bombing and takes her first visit to a TFC.  There, she meets a boy named Micah who encourages her to not forget.  With Micah's friend Winter, the three of them work together on a comic strip, one that reminds others of what they're forgetting.  Yet these actions will lead to unexpected consequences for Nora and her friends.

For fans of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series comes a novel that mines similar territory.  Set in a future not so different from the present, Memento Nora explores a world where anything unpleasant can be forgotten.  But when trauma can be anything from a terrorist attack to continued abuse from a loved one, the good intentions behind such memory loss can become part of a larger, darker plan.  TFCs are shown to work hand-in-hand with companies that create the terrorist attacks.  Nora slowly moves from being a pampered princess to a rebel, inspired by her desire to protect her mother from further abuse by Nora's father.  While Memento Nora does not have the richness of Uglies, its simplistic plot is elevated by its realistic ending and likable characters.  For middle-school readers, Memento Nora will be an enjoyable introduction to dystopian concepts, and many of those readers will be excited about The Forgetting Time, the sequel that will be published in 2012.

Other Reviews
A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy:  http://blog.schoollibraryjournal.com/teacozy/2011/05/19/review-memento-nora/
The Bookscape Report:  http://thebookscapereport.blogspot.com/2011/07/review-memento-nora.html
Frenzy of Noise:  http://www.frenzyofnoise.net/2011/07/book-review-memento-nora-guest-review.html
365 Days of Reading:  http://365daysofreading.com/post/4308754682/memento-nora

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Review: Wrapped

Wrapped
Jennifer Bradbury
2011; Atheneum (S&S); ISBN 978-1-4169-9007-9 (hardcover)

Summary:  Her entrance into society signals the end of Agnes's freedom.  She will have to hide her intelligence and catch a husband--one whose wealth and status matter more than his personality.  Lord Showalter is the perfect suitor according to her mother; Agnes hopes she will learn to care for him.  At a mummy-unwrapping party at Lord Showalter's estate, Agnes discovers a jackal's head amongst the wrappings.  This discovery sets Agnes on a new path.  With Caedmon, a scholar at the British Musuem, the two will attempt to stop a French plot that would make Napoleon and his armies virtually unbeatable.  Will Agnes and Caedmon save Great Britain?  And will Agnes be paired with a man she doesn't love instead of the one she does?

There's something for everyone in Wrapped: an interesting historical setting, a dynamic heroine, and an engaging plot, full of adventure and with a dash of romance.  Agnes is intelligent and impulsive, longing to travel and explore yet still searching for the place she belongs.  The story moves along at a clip, mixing personal struggles with a mystery to unravel.  The meshing of Regency England with the Egyptology craze is an unusual pairing, and the perfect setting for a character like Agnes.  Readers will enjoy uncovering all the layers in Wrapped.

Other Reviews
I Swim for Oceans: http://www.iswimforoceans.com/2011/05/wrapped-review.html
Bookaholics Anonymous: http://reviewdiaries.blogspot.com/2011/06/review-wrapped-by-jennifer-bradbury.html
Birth of a New Witch:  http://witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/review-wrapped-by-jennifer-bradbury/
The Sparkle Project:  http://sparkle-project.blogspot.com/2011/05/review-wrapped-by-jennifer-bradbury.html

Monday, July 11, 2011

Giveaways!

Today is my birthday!

And since it's better to give than receive, I'm offering up two different sets of books as prizes.

Book Pack
Exile by Anne Osterlund
Countess Nobody by Lynn Kele Bonasia
The Healing Spell by Kimberley Griffiths Little
Truth & Dare: 20 Tales of Heartbreak and Happiness ed. by Liz Miles


ARC Pack
Entwined by Heather Dixon (published April 2011)
Divergent by Veronica Roth (published May 2011)
Displacement by Thalia Chaltas (published June 2011)
Putting Makeup on Dead People by Jen Violi (published July 2011)
The Other Countess by Eve Edwards (published July 2011)


Interested in winning?  Leave a comment with your name and contact info, and two random winners will be drawn.  Winners will be announced on Monday, August 1; you have until midnight on July 31 to enter.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Friday Fun: Making Time for Reading

For this Friday, enjoy these links to interesting articles!


Hooray for YA: Teen Novels for Readers of All Ages
Excerpt:  A good novel doesn't just transcend the boundaries of its target market — it knows nothing about target markets. Young readers have always reached above their reading level to get to meatier stories, and lately we've seen adult readers reaching into the world of teen fiction in search of the same thing — no-holds-barred storytelling.


Take a Look, It's In a Book, and On the Street, And In a Park . . . 
Excerpt:  The theme to LeVar Burton's iconic PBS children's show is, for children of the '80s (or anyone who raised them), like a war cry; it breaks the ice at parties, brings strangers together. If you ever walk by a group of tipsy youths belting the theme song after midnight, you can bet that they will all believe themselves best friends afterwards. Reading Rainbow is our Cheers.


How to survive the age of distraction
Excerpt:  I think most of us have this sense today, if we are honest. If you read a book with your laptop thrumming on the other side of the room, it can be like trying to read in the middle of a party, where everyone is shouting to each other. To read, you need to slow down. You need mental silence except for the words. That's getting harder to find.

Who Says YA is Dark?
Excerpt:  Next week we'll take a highly scientific look at 2010's YA covers and see if the darkness really is too visible. Because as Laurel Snyder points out, "dark" can mean many things, and I'm a fan of being literal to the point of sarcasm. 

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Review: Strings Attached

Strings Attached
Judy Blundell
2011; Scholastic; ISBN 978-0-545-22126-9 (hardcover)

Summary: All Kit wants is to perform on Broadway.  She's a great dancer, a talented singer, and has some potential as an actress.  After she breaks up with her volatile boyfriend Billy--a breakup that leads Billy to the Army--Kit flees Providence for New York.  Catching a break isn't easy, and when Kits gets an unbelievable offer, she takes it.  Billy's father, the powerful lawyer Nate Benedict, sets Kit up in an apartment, gives her clothes, helps her get a job in a nightclub.  All she has to do is perform a few favors, like writing to Billy.  Kit grows uneasy, especially after a violent murder and a train accident leads Kit to uncover the secret relationship between her family and Billy's.

Showing the same talent for capturing mid-twentieth century America as in her first book, Judy Blundell has created a more accessible novel in Strings Attached.  Shifts in time and place, from 1950 New York to 1930s Rhode Island, heighten the mystery that slowly develops.  Kit is equal parts spunk and naivete, a young woman beginning to find her own footing.  Her relationships with Billy and her family--her father, her aunt Delia, and her brother and sister--are well-drawn, advancing the lot as well as providing shading to each character.  Strings Attached will be warmly received by fans of What I Saw and How I Lied and Ten Cents a Dance.

Other Reviews
The Reading Zone: http://thereadingzone.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/strings-attached-by-judy-blundell/
21 Pages: http://21pages.muggle-born.net/2011/03/24/review-strings-attached-by-judy-blundell/
YA or STFU: http://gslis.simmons.edu/blogs/yaorstfu/2011/06/02/strings-attached-by-judy-blundell/
Tales of the Ravenous Reader:  http://www.lushbudgetproduction.com/2011/03/review-strings-attached-by-judy.html

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Review: Putting Makeup on Dead People

Putting Makeup on Dead People
Jen Violi
2011; Hyperion; ISBN 978-1-4231-3481-7 (hardcover)

Summary:  The death of her father four years earlier has stopped Donna in her tracks.  She's just passing time, watching her mother do the same while her older brother and younger sister have moved on.  Now that Donna is graduating from high school, things are changing.  Her dynamic new friend Liz opens Donna's eyes to strange experiences.  There's a guy that Donna dates and a guy that's just a friend.  The biggest change of all is Donna's decision to forgo the University of Dayton and become a mortician.  As she studies mortuary science and works at a funeral home, Donna begins to learn how to let go.  But when it seems that Donna's mother is doing the same, it slows down her progress.

The difficult process of grieving is handled delicately in this complex novel.  Donna's voice is smart, guarded and hesitant, slowly gaining confidence in herself as she realizes that she can be the amazing person she wants to be.  An interesting aspect of Donna and her family is their strong Catholic faith, which lends an additional richness to Donna's attempts to find closure.  Not only does Donna begin to move on from her father's death, she slowly begins to create a new relationship with her mother, transitioning from child to adult.  This debut novel will find fans among those who enjoyed Better Than Running at Night by Hilary Frank.

Other Reviews
YA Book Nerd:  http://yabooknerd.blogspot.com/2011/03/review-putting-makeup-on-dead-people.html
Reclusive Bibliophile:  http://www.reclusivebibliophile.com/review-putting-makeup-on-dead-people
Bri Meets Books:  http://brimeetsbooks.com/?p=3007

Monday, July 04, 2011

ALA ARC Haul

2011 Printz Committee and Winners
Back Row: Gillian Engberg, Jamie Watson, Brenna Shanks, Erin Downey Howerton, Jan Chapman, Melissa Rabey, Jan Sarratt, Eva Volin, Sophie Brookover
Seated: Marcus Sedgwick, Lucy Christopher, Janne Teller, Paolo Bacigalupi, A.S. King



Middle-Grade
Guys Read: Thriller edited by Jon Scieszka (September 2011, Walden Pond/HarperCollins)
Wildwood by Colin Meloy; illustrations by Carson Ellis (September 2011, Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins)
Wonder Struck by Brian Selznick (September 2011, Scholastic)

Pie by Sarah Weeks (October 2011, Scholastic)
Flyaway by Lucy Christopher (October 2011, Scholastic)
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu (October 2011, Walden Pond/HarperCollins)
Seriously, Norman by Chris Raschka (October 2011, Scholastic)
Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George (October 2011, Bloomsbury)

YA
Forgotten by Cat Patrick (June 2011, Little, Brown)

Blood on the Moon by Jennifer Knight (August 2011, Running Press/Perseus)

Bronxwood by Coe Booth (September 2011, Push/Scholastic)
The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch (September 2011, Scholastic)
Supernaturally by Kiersten White (September 2011, HarperTeen)
The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle (September 2011, HarperTeen)
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (September 2011, Greenwillow/HarperCollins)
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins (September 2011, Dutton/Penguin)
Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer (September 2011, Harcourt)
Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (September 2011, Little, Brown)
Wisdom's Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (September 2011, Houghton Mifflin)
The Shattering by Karen Healey (September 2011, Little, Brown)
Pregnant Pause by Han Nolan (September 2011, Harcourt)
Shut Out by Kody Keplinger (September 2011, Poppy/Little, Brown)

The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic by Allan Wolf (October 2011, Candlewick)
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (October 2011, Scholastic)
The Traitor's Smile by Patricia Elliott (October 2011, Holiday House)
Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs (October 2011, Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins)

Poison Diaries: Nightshade by Maryrose Wood with the Duchess of Northumberland (November 2011, Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins)
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (November 2011, HarperTeen)

Jessica Rules the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey (January 2012, Harcourt)
Thou Shalt Not Road Trip by Antony John (April 2012, Dial/Penguin)

Nonfiction
Drawing From Memory by Allen Say (September 2011, Scholastic)
Rebel in a Dress Adventurers by Sylvia Branzel; illustrated by Melissa Sweet (October 2011, Running Press/Perseus)

Elementary
Toys Come Home: Being the Early Experiences of an Intelligent Stingray, A Brave Buffalo, and a Brand-New Someone Called Plastic by Emily Jenkins; illustrated by Paul Zelinsky (September 2011, Schwartz & Wade/Random House)

Adult
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (August 2011, Ballantine/Random House)
Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman (August 2011, Harper Perennial)
The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore (September 2011, Black Cat/Grove)
Practical Jean by Trevor Cole (October 2011, Harper Perennial)

Non-ARCs
The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure
This Book is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson
My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
The Healing Spell by Kimberley Griffiths Little
The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross
Truth & Dare: 20 Tales of Hearbreak and Happiness

Autographed Copies
Nothing by Janne Teller
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick

Friday, July 01, 2011

Friday Fun: Diversify Your Summer Reading!

Feeling like you're stuck in a rut with your reading?  I certainly feel that way.  That's why I'm going to participate in the Diversify Your Summer Reading Challenge!

What is it?  It's a contest to encourage people to read outside their comfort zones.  There are separate contests for libraries and for readers/book bloggers.  It's easy and fun, and you could win some cool prizes! 

Look for my entry into the challenge later this summer.  Happy reading!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thoughts: Post-ALA

Back from another ALA, one that had a nostalgic feeling for me.  There's a lot of reasons for that: there was the celebrating for the 2011 Printz, which came with moments I had been waiting for since May of 2009, when I was elected to the 2011 Printz committee.  There's also knowing that this ALA marks a transition for me.  I'm not on any committees right now, and my plans for the next year are to serve on a process committee, which are primarily virtual right now.  But after getting to serve on the Printz, I think it's time to give back to YALSA by being on a less-"glamorous" process committee.

But what was this conference like, you're wondering?

--I got a chance to attend some great programs, giving me some ideas for improving teen services at my library.  In addition, many of these ideas can be expanded to other areas, which is great.  For example, Renee McGrath at Nassau Library showed off a mobile website that looks like an app--something I've already shown to people here at my library.  And I definitely want to start using QR codes on my program publicity and to promote the library's online resources. 

--I am a bit concerned with YALSA's insistence on being all things Apple.  I can understand that Apple's products have a very high cool factor--teens want iDevices.  However, they're not the only option.  And in cases where there are legitimate alternatives, I think that we should have balance by hearing about all the options.  Given that Android is gobbling up a larger and larger market share with each month, it just seems short-sighted to focus only on today's hot product and not tomorrow's, too.

--Another matter for concern was Penguin's ARC distribution methods.  Instead of having ARCs available throughout the conference, they only gave out ARCs during very short windows--in most cases, one hour.  These were usually timed with when an author was signing.  But there's two problems with this: in many cases, I don't really want a signed ARC; I just want the ARC.  Beyond that, though, is the fact that anyone who had committments they couldn't break--committee meetings, meals, etc.--then you were out of luck.  Given that many people come to ALA to do work, not just to get ARCs, this seems like a real disservice to me.  Add in the fact that I can count on three fingers the number of times a publisher has sent me an ARC after the conference when they ran out, and I really hope that this idea is seen as the bad PR that it is.  I know it's not a right to get ARCs, but I don't understand why Penguin would make it harder for themselves in this way.  I don't think it's a coincidence that three boxes of Crossed ARCs went missing during the conference.

--In happier topics, the Printz reception was amazing.  All the speeches were just funny and touching and thoughtful, in different ways.  Lucy Christopher talked about how Stolen came from her experiences as an immigrant to Australia.  A.S. (Amy) King gave a moving speech about how her mother's illness when Amy was fifteen, inspired Please Ignore Vera Dietz.  Marcus Sedgwick made a funny, extemparaneous talk about how his research factored into Revolver.  Janne Teller gave three speeches in one to discuss how Nothing came to be published, and how writing for young adults taught her more than she ever thought.  And Paolo Bacigalupi made a call-to-arms, saying that the world he created in Ship Breaker is what we are creating now, and that it was up to us and to teenagers to prevent that from happening. 

--I couldn't help but be incredibly proud of the Printz committee for the hard work that went into these selections.  Two of our members couldn't be with us in New Orleans, which saddened us all.  Yet we had a glorious celebration of just how good young adult literature is, and I feel very honored to have been a part of this.  Being on the Printz committee is a highlight of not just my career, but of my personal life as well.

Those of you who went to ALA, I hope you had a good time as well!  And here's hoping we'll see each other again at another conference.  If you're interested to know what ARCs I managed to pick up, check in next week to see my ARC haul post.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

ALA Time!

On Friday, I'll be on my way to the ALA Annual Conference, held this year in New Orleans.  It's bound to be a fun time--I'm particularly looking forward to this conference for a couple of reasons.  It's the first time in several years that I'm not serving on a committee during Annual, which means I'll get to attend programs.  What's on my schedule?  I'm glad you asked!  I'm planning to attend the following:

--Download This! (PLA)
--Teens Reading Digitally (YALSA)
--Teen Services Mashup (YALSA)
--Moving Up the Career Ladder (YALSA)
--Using Mobile Devices to Serve Teens (YALSA)
--Membership Meeting/President's Program (YALSA)
--Printz Reception (YALSA)

Thanks to my service on the 2011 Printz Committee, I've been invited out for several meals, which is always a treat.  I'm looking forward to good food, good programs, and good times with my friends and colleagues.

This will probably be the last ALA I go to for a while.  Sadly, I have rarely received any support to attend ALA from MPOW, and unfortunately, something's gotta give, as the song says.  So I'm taking a break from conferences at least for the 2012 calendar year.  After that, who knows what the future holds?

If you're attending Annual, I hope to see you there!  The blog will be on hiatus until next week.  I'll be back then with talk about the programs I attended and the ARCs I managed to snag.  Until then, happy reading!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Fun: Poll Time!


As part of my efforts to make librarian by day better, I hope you'll fill out a three-question poll.  If you have any clarifications or recommendations, feel free to leave a comment here.  Thanks so much!

Update, 7/2/2011: The poll is now closed.  Thank you for your feedback!  Feel free to leave a comment on this post if you have any suggestions.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review: Divergent

Divergent
Veronica Roth
2011; Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins); ISBN 978-0-06-202402-2 (hardcover)

Summary: In a future version of Chicago, most people are divided into five factions, each focused on a particular virtue or trait.  Beatrice Prior is nearly sixteen and a member of the Abnegation faction.  She isn't sure what faction she'll pick when it comes time to choose her home as an adult.  To her surprise, her aptitude test doesn't narrow her choice to one faction.  This marks her as a Divergent, something unusual and potentially dangerous.  Giving in to an instinct, Beatrice chooses Dauntless as her faction.  Reborn as Tris, she learns how to fight, how to conquer her fears, and how to be a friend.  She even finds romance with another Divergent member in Dauntless.  Yet when the Erudite faction attempts to overthrow Abnegation, using Dauntless as mindless muscle, Tris is able to resist.  Resistance, though, is just the first step.

A dystopian thriller that questions human nature, Divergent proves itself worthy of its initial buzz.  The comparison to The Hunger Games are inevitable, yet this novel is quite different.  Less action-focused than that trilogy, this novel focuses more on the internal drama and introspective thoughts of Tris, as well as providing a stronger romantic subplot.  Tris is a strong young woman who at first doesn't realize what strength she has.  Her struggles to realize her abilities showcases the strength of the characterization in this novel.  Thanks to simple, straightforward prose and efficient plotting, Divergent is an engaging novel from debut author Veronica Roth.

Other Reviews
The Lovely Reader:  http://thelovelyreader.blogspot.com/2011/02/divergent-review.html
Ketch Tavern: http://ketch1714.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/divergent-review/
Narratively Speaking:  http://narrativelyspeaking.blogspot.com/2011/03/divergent-review.html
Entertainment Weekly:  http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20484977,00.html

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review: The Year We Were Famous

The Year We Were Famous
Carole Estby Dagg
2011; Clarion Books; ISBN 978-0-618-99983-5 (hardcover)

Summary:  Clara Estby probably never heard the Chinese proverb that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Such wisdom could be useful to Clara, though.  Her mother, Helga, has made a bet with a New York publisher that could save the family farm.  If Helga and Clara walk the 4600 miles between Spokane and New York City in seven months, they will win ten thousand dollars.  For such a vast sum--thirty-five times the annual wages of a woman worker in 1896--Clara will overcome her shyness and her doubts to join her mother on the journey.  Through flash floods, injuries and the reveal of a family secret, Clara and Helga will persevere.

Based on a true story from Carole Estby Dagg's family, The Year We Were Famous captures turn-of-the-century America and its possibilities for women.  Clara struggles to understand the impulsive, moody nature of her mother, slowly realizing that Helga's fight for suffrage is more for Clara than for Helga.  Suffrage represents the opportunities available to Clara, a smart young woman who will not have to marry in order to survive.  The contrast between these two different women is well-described, as well as the perils of their journey.  Pair The Year We Were Famous with Hattie Big Sky: novels based on ancestors, ancestors who were strong women facing great challenges.

The story of Helga and Clara's journey also inspired a book for adults, called Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America.

Other Reviews
Damsels in Regress:  http://damselsinregress.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/book-review-the-year-we-were-famous/
Mother-Daughter Book Club:  http://motherdaughterbookclub.com/2011/04/book-review-the-year-we-were-famous-by-carole-estby-dagg/
Fourth Musketeer:  http://fourthmusketeer.blogspot.com/2011/03/book-review-year-we-were-famous-by.html

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Fun: Summer Reading Lists

I admit, I don't get very organized when it comes to my reading.  I'm a big believer in serendipity, of picking up a book and diving in.  Sometimes, this means I go through lulls, where I can't find "anything good," or I'll have seven books that I'm juggling at once.

I've become a fan of Goodreads, in order to keep track of what I want to read, and I just might this year put together a summer reading list.  Thinking on this topic sent me to Google, where I found this article:  Crowdsourcing Your Summer Reading List(s).  How often have we all seen the power of mentioning a book on a social media site?  Perhaps I should just leave the creation of my summer reading list up to everyone who reads my blog or follows my Twitter!

A few summer reading lists that I found while hunting around might also be useful to you--so take a look!

Book Group Buzz:  Stephen King's Summer Reading List
L.A. Times: The Reading Season is Heating Up
ForbesWoman:  The ForbesWoman Summer Reading List 2011

If it's children's or YA lit you're after, consider these suggestions:

Horn Book:  Summer Reading
National Endowment for the Humanities: Summertime Favorites

What are you planning to read this summer?  Anything that you think everyone should read?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Review: Sean Griswold's Head

Sean Griswold's Head
Lindsey Leavitt
2011; Bloomsbury; ISBN 978-1-59990-498-6 (hardcover)

Summary:  Payton has never had trouble focusing before.  In fact, she was too good at it.  But when her parents reveal that they've kept secret her father's diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, Payton goes off the rails.  Forced into counseling, Payton is instructed to pick a Focus Object, as a way to process her feelings.  So Payton picks Sean Griswold's head, which she's spent years staring at in her classes.  Once Payton starts focusing on Sean, though, she realizes just how much there is to him.  Now, she isn't just scared about her father's health--she's worried about Sean.  Will she let her fears ruin her life?

Mixing family and friendship drama with first love, Sean Griswold's Head has a little of everything.  Between Payton's type-A personality to Sean's laid-back attitude, Leavitt captures the sparks that fly when opposites attract.  Although Payton's falling out with best friend Jac distracts from the family and love storylines, it does show Payton's problem with pulling away when times are bad.  By the end of the novel, she's learned that it's better to have people in her life, even if she'll lose them someday.  Anyone looking for a great summer read will find one in Sean Griswold's Head.  Pass this one along to fans of E. Lockhart and Jenny Han.

Other Reviews
Reclusive Bibliophile:  http://www.reclusivebibliophile.com/review-sean-griswolds-head
Bri Meets Books:  http://brimeetsbooks.com/?p=3499
Rhapsody in Books:  http://rhapsodyinbooks.wordpress.com/2011/04/28/review-of-%E2%80%9Csean-griswold%E2%80%99s-head%E2%80%9D-by-lindsey-leavitt/
Booking Mama:  http://www.bookingmama.net/2011/03/review-sean-griswolds-head_10.html

Friday, June 03, 2011

Friday Fun: Books About Winter

The last two weeks, the Mid-Atlantic has been sweltering--nothing like going right from winter to summer!  This makes me think longingly of cold temperatures, of curling up under a blanket while the snow falls outside.  So, if you're like me and want to cool off, check out some of these books that deal with Mother Nature's colder (and crueler) side.

Blizzard's Wake by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Trapped by Michael Northrup (read my review)

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

How do you beat the heat?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Review: Entwined

Entwined 
Heather Dixon
2011; Greenwillow Books; ISBN 978-0-06-200103-0 (hardcover)

Summary:  For the twelve princesses of D'Earthe, the death of their mother is a tragedy.  Their firm, distant father, lost in his grief, immediately sets off for war.  This leaves Azalea, the oldest princess, in charge of her sisters.  She thinks that dancing, the activity that their mother loved so much, is the best way to honor her memory.  The princesses are strictly forbidden to dance, however.  So when they discover a secret passage to a magical dancing pavilion overseen by the mysterious Keeper, the girls leap at the opportunity.  Yet the Keeper is not what he appears to be, and Azalea soon realizes that she will have to save her sisters and herself.  In a world of magic and Swearing on Silver, Azalea will discover the deepest magic of all.

This meaty retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses is a moving look at grief and love.  The princesses slowly learn to live with their mother's loss, finding new strength within themselves and unexpected support from their father, who works to redeem his past mistakes.  With twelve princesses, it would be easy to lose track of who is who, but Dixon cleverly characterizes the girls, allowing for the older the princess, the more fully realizes her character.  Lush prose never becomes overwrought, although a few anachronistic, out-of-place expressions slip out from time to time.  Fairy tale retellings have always been popular, and Entwined will be warmly welcomed by those who enjoyed the contributions of Jessica Day George and Alex Flinn.

Other Reviews
Alicia Reads YA Books (video review):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU4bBQ6Sh-g
The Book Spot:  http://book-splot.blogspot.com/2011/03/entwined-heather-dixon-review.html
Good Books and Good Wine:  http://www.goodbooksandgoodwine.com/2011/05/book-review-entwined-by-heather-dixon.html
Girls in the Stacks:  http://girlsinthestacks.com/reviews/ya-novel/2011/04/review-entwined-by-heather-dixon/

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review: Ruby Red

Ruby Red
Kerstin Gier; translated by Anthea Bell
2011; Henry Holt; ISBN 978-0-8050-9252-3 (hardcover)

Summary:  For the most part, Gwen doesn't mind being ordinary.  Her cousin Charlotte is the one in the family who inherited the gene for time travel.  This means that Gwen can attend regular school classes and spend time with her best friend Lesley.  Gwen isn't all that ordinary, though--she can see and talk to ghosts.  That turns out to be just the tip of the iceberg, though, when Gwen begins to travel to the past.  Now, Gwen has to navigate through the dangerous past and the equally tense present.  It doesn't help that Gideon, the time traveler helping her adjust, is obnoxious, arrogant and gorgeous.  Gwen feels surrounded by questions, and finding the answers could be the difference between life and death.

The first book in a trilogy originally published in Germany, Ruby Red is an intriguing combination of mystery and science fiction.  Gwen quickly feels overwhelmed by her new ability, especially since she knows so many compare her to the perfect Charlotte and find Gwen wanting.  Yet with a lot of moxie, Gwen does her best to take up her new role.  Gwen is engaging and realistic, a modern Everygirl in very unusual circumstances.  Whether she's complaining about her history teacher or describing the strangeness of the past, Gwen's voice rings true, assisted by precise prose.  Characters like Gideon, Lesley, and Gwen's mom feel true to life, while other character's motives remain mysterious for the time being.  Ending on a romantic cliffhanger, readers will await impatiently for Ruby Red's followup, called Sapphire Blue.

Other Reviews
Book Addict Katie:  http://bookaddictkatie.com/2011/05/11/review-ruby-red-by-kerstin-gier/
Book Yurt:  http://bookyurt.com/scouting/book-reviews/ruby-red-by-kerstin-gier-review/
The Norwegian Book Girl:  http://norwegianbookgirl.blogspot.com/2010/11/review-ruby-red-by-kerstin-gier.html

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Fun: Tumblr Time

Tumblr can be a very addictive site.  It's a quasi-blogging platform, one that seems to fit between the brevity of Twitter, the social connections of Facebook, and the lengthy text posts of Blogger/WordPress.  It's really great if you want visuals, music, or other media types.

Today, I'm featuring two sites that I follow on Tumblr.  First, there's Comically Vintage, which features panels from old comics, usually with snarky commentary.

Then, there's Better Book Titles, where all kinds of books are retitled for comedic effect.  This is an independent site that I happen to read on Tumblr.  My recent favorites have been new titles for The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake and Anna Karenina.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Review: Beauty Queens

Beauty Queens
Libba Bray
2011; Scholastic; ISBN 978-0-439-89597-2 (hardcover)

Summary:  A plane full of teenage beauty pageant contestants crash-lands on a desert island.(1)   The chances that they'd be able to survive seem slim.(2)  But survive they do--and what's more, these girls start to question so many of the things they never doubted before.(3)   Not only will this year's Miss Teen Dream pageant be the highest-rated ever(4), it will help bring down a candidate for president(5), expose an illegal arms deal(6), and change the lives of the contestants.(7)

(1) Yes, some of the girls pass away--or rather, are sent on to compete in a higher pageant.  Including Miss Delaware, much to my chagrin as a native Delawarean.  But at least she got mentioned, unlike poor Miss Maryland.  
(2)  There is a six percent survival rate for teenage beauty queens who crash-land on a desert island.  This statistic brought to you by the U.S. Department of Unnecessary Statistics.
(3)  The Corporation is not in favor of self-reflection.  Maybe you should watch Patriot Daughters to see how a really brave girl should act.  
(4)  The Miss Teen Dream pageant, even with only thirteen contestants, saw a large ratings increase.  This was thanks in part to contestants from California and Texas being part of the Top Thirteen.  
(5) The Corporation disavows the actions of Ladybird Hope, former Miss Teen Dream and Corporation board member.  The Corporation cannot be held liable for any machinations, plots, or agreements made by Ladybird Hope.
(6) Learn more about dictator MoMo B. ChaCha's plans to destroy America, starting with taking our Elvis memorabilia, in the hard-hitting special The Republic of ChaCha: An Evil Socialist Evil!  Premiering next Thursday at 1:30pm EST, followed by a new episode of the popular daytime drama, As The B-Clean Bubbles Burst.
(7) Really, even with all the dying and the politics, the story has a happy ending.  Even for the gay and transgendered characters!  It's unknown how the author slipped that past the Corporation's censorsh--we mean, it's a daring literary choice.

The newest novel from Libba Bray is full of the same wit and social commentary as her Printz Award-winning novel Going Bovine.  In Beauty Queens, Bray takes aim at society's messages towards young women, going to an extreme that would be appreciated by Jonathan Swift.  As the characters explore the boundaries that society has placed on them, they learn that there's no reason to stay within those limits.  Readers will be caught up in each of the contestants' stories, whether it's Wild Girl Mary Lou, crusading journalist Adina, or ultimate pageant queen Taylor.  More than just a grown-up version of Toddlers & Tiaras, Beauty Queens uses black comedy to question what a girl can achieve.


Other Reviews
Reading Rants:  http://www.readingrants.org/2011/03/05/beauty-queens-by-libba-bray/
Waking Brain Cells:  http://wakingbraincells.com/2011/04/21/book-review-beauty-queens-by-libba-bray/
Letters Inside Out:  http://www.lettersinsideout.com/2011/05/review-beauty-queens-by-libba-bray-arc_11.html

Monday, May 23, 2011

Gaithersburg Book Festival

A great time was had at the second annual Gaithersburg Book Festival.  C-SPAN was there covering the event, so check out some of the videos that are available.

What did I do?  I admit, I didn't really see any of the teen/children's authors at the festival.  But the authors I saw were all excellent.

I've already got Susan Fraser King's latest novel, Queen Hereafter, on hold at the library, thanks to her great presentation on historical fiction.  Paula McLain, the author of The Paris Wife, was incredibly funny and passionate about her book.  Donna Andrews, one of my favorite authors, was witty and snarky and sounded just like Meg, the main character in her long-running series that started with Murder with Peacocks.  The tag-team pairing of Meg Waite Clayton & Caroline Leavitt was super-funny, and I'm looking forward to reading their books, particularly The Four Ms. Bradwells.  Last but not least, James L. Swanson gave a fascinating talk about how he came to write Manhunt and how Jefferson Davis is a forgotten man.

If there's a book festival near you, give it a try!  Even small events can let you discover great new authors.