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:
The Serpentine Library:
Books Beside My Bed:

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:
Night Owl Teen:
Read My Mind:
Hopeless Bibliophile:

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:
One Book at a Time:
Books with Bite:
Aleeza Reads and Writes:

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:
The Bookscape Report:
Frenzy of Noise:
365 Days of Reading:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Review: 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:
Bookaholics Anonymous:
Birth of a New Witch:
The Sparkle Project:

Monday, July 11, 2011


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:
21 Pages:
Tales of the Ravenous Reader:

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:
Reclusive Bibliophile:
Bri Meets Books:

Monday, July 04, 2011


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

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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!