Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mini Reviews

I've been reading up a storm, but don't seem to have the time or brain power to write up full reviews for all of these books. So mini reviews! Short and sweet.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
I really liked it. I enjoyed Bitterblue finding her footing in the world, even if this wasn't the most inventive of the three books. I enjoyed her romance, the court intrigue, the secret (or as it turns out not so secret) ventures into her city. What I could have done without was the crew from beyond the mountains coming to visit. It felt rushed and unnecessary. Sure they discovered the world, but for my tastes it would have been better to end on a different note. Like maybe they show up on the last page or something, but we're not privy to what happens next. For how long it took Bitterblue to figure everything out, this last part felt rushed and crammed in. Regardless, I read it very quickly and enjoyed it quite a bit.
[Purchased  Book]

The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
Another one I had been dying to get my hands on. It was fantastic, but perhaps not as fantastic as Shipbreaker. And I only think that because I didn't connect to the characters quite as much as I did with those in Shipbreaker. That's not to say I didn't like them. Mahlia was pretty fantastic. I thought it was awesome to have a disabled main character and have her be capable, smart, and kick ass. We need more of that. I also loved having Tool as a main character, but I still didn't learn as much about him as I wanted to. I mean he is so crafty and such a rich character I wanted to get into his mind and really dig around. I am pretty much amazed at Bacigalupi's writing. It is stellar. I thought he did a fantastic job showing how useless violence is and how it can spiral downwards out of control until even children are forced to fight and no one even knows what they're fighting for anymore - only that they can't imagine any other way of life.
[Library Copy]

Double by Jenny Valentine
This was probably my least favorite of the three, which disappointed me because I've loved all her previous books. The ending was just too far fetched. And there was too much of "I'm a fake, they're going to find me out, oh no!" Without enough character development to back it up. And that ending. Mmmm. Did not work for me. I won't spoil it for you, but meh.
[ARC found on 4th floor]

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny - Detectives Extraordinaire! by Mrs. Bunny

Last week, Flavorwire published 10 of the Weirdest Children's Book Authors of All Time. It's a fun list and a nice reminder that there are some wickedly fun and interesting children's authors out there. I'd like to add to that list with the deliciously unusual Polly Horvath.

Her latest book is Mr and Mrs. Bunny-Detectives Extraordinaire! by Mrs. Bunny (translated from the Rabbit by Polly Horvath) and illustrated by Sophie Blackall.

Let's just take a moment and reflect on the wonderful genius of pairing Horvath with Blackall. Perfection.

Mysteries have been the buzz around our house lately. My husband and I shared Sherlock fever this past month.* It didn't escaped my 8 year old who read and loved this collection as well as this series which surprised me by being by Jennifer Holm! (thanks to our children's librarian Michelle for the recommendation on that series)

Like most of Horvath's novels, I know she isn't everyone's cup o tea. There's quite a bit of nonsense so readers without that sense of play and patience will likely not finish it. I easily put it down quite a bit myself. Examples? Okay, how about... Madeline's hippy irresponsible parents who insist on being called Mildred and Flo, Prince Charles coming to Madeline's school to present end-of-the-year awards, Craigslist, Google, Smart cars, The Olde Spaghetti Factory, knitting with used dental floss, Big Macs, Glade PlugIns, rabbits eating stir fry and mac & cheese, and a hundred other non sequiturs. Yes, yes, but get on with the mystery!

Like Madeline, I felt frustrated that she can't find her kidnapped parents. Stick with it, though, because it all turns out wonderful in the end.

Critics love this book. I would like to hear about children. My son  narrowed his eyes at it and passed. He was also reading Order of the Phoenix at this time so it's hard to compete with that. Perhaps as a read aloud? I wonder at the book's broader possibilities with a narrator to help with the humor. Hm...

*Watch all 3 episodes for free on PBS until 6/19!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Kickstarter and YA Movies-to-Be

Bookshelves of Doom alerted me to two YA book-to-movie fundraisers on Kickstarter. I wanted to repost them here because Keturah and Lord Death is one of my favorite books.

And here's the one for Fat Kid Rules the World.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

Good morning, sunshine! How great is this cover? I want that shirt. Plus, it yells, "Summer Read!" "School's Almost Out!" "Road trip!" In fact The Disenchantments just made The Horn Book's list of summer reading recommendations.

I first heard of this title from the (excellent) book site Slatebreakers. I was drawn to it by a couple of points: One, it is narrated by a feminist-leaning 18 year old boy and Two, all the Riot Grrrl references. It reminded me once again how bummed I am that I missed Kathleen Hanna when she came to Jacksonville last year. Also, Carrie Brownstein has popped up all over entertainment news lately with her comedy show Portlandia and her new band Wild Flag. Pretty good timing for this book as LaCour's characters worship her.

While the main plot involves a fantasy summer road trip and longtime friends Colby and Bev and Bev's secret decision to ditch Colby and go to college, it was the end of the book revelations about love, trust, commitment, and freedom that struck my emotional nerve. I may be over-sentimental because it's my wedding anniversary, but dang, it warmed my spirits. Now where is my Wild Flag album...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sunshine State Young Reader's Award 2012-2013

In Texas we have the Blubonnet and Lone Star lists. In Florida we have the Sunshine State Young Reader's Award Program.

The new lists were recently announced:

From the SSYRA page:
The Sunshine State Young Reader's Award Program is a statewide reading motivation program for students in grades 3-8. The program, cosponsored by the School Library Media Services Office of the Department of Education and the Florida Association for Media in Education (FAME), began in 1983.

The purpose of the SSYRA Program is to encourage students to read independently for personal satisfaction, based on interest rather than reading level.

Sunshine State books are selected for their wide appeal, literary value, varied genres, curriculum connections, and/or multicultural representation. Students are encouraged to read books that are above, on, and below their tested reading level in order to improve their reading fluency.
Here are the book requirements:
  • Be Fiction
  • Have an author who lives in North America.
  • Be appropriate for students from all around the state of Florida in grades 3 to 5 and/or 6 to 8.
  • Have a Copyright Date of 2009 or Later.
Students (grades 3-8) vote on a favorite title. There are two lists, one for elementary and one for middle. This school year the winner for both lists was Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper.

Friday, May 11, 2012

How to Rock Braces and Glasses by Meg Haston

If live with a tween or serve them in your library, maybe you have heard of the new Nick show "How to Rock".  Did you know that the show is based on a book? How to Rock Braces and Glasses by Meg Haston came out last fall. But the best surprise? Meg Haston is from Jacksonville. Hooray for the home team!

Kacey Simon may only be in 7th grade, but she is the most popular girl in school. She even has her own broadcast on the school's TV channel called "Simon Says". Much like Dear Abby, she reads advice letters on air and offers her honest opinion. Unfortunately Kacey's enthusiasm for being a journalist and bringing the truth, no matter how brutal, generally makes her version of advice really mean. When another student confesses to Kacey that she's her biggest fan and asks for her autograph, Kacey signs and then says, "Simon Says: Try Smiling with your mouth closed. It will totally accentuate your pouty lips, instead of your metal mouth." Wasn't she helpful? Kacey's a real giver.

Karma strikes Kacey physically and emotionally. When she neglects to use eye drops for her new (unnecessary) violet contact lenses a double eye infection forces her to wear a pair of chunky glasses that magnify her eyes. It's only for a few weeks, but Kacey refuses to wear them and then suffers a spectacular accident (involving her super hot 8th grade crush, natch) that requires braces as a fix. Realistic treatment aside, it's great tween drama. Braces and glasses plus lots of lisping and spitting (uploaded to YouTube, obvs) on top of her mean girl status suddenly make Kacey an easy target to overturn as the #1 girl in school.

The unlikely ally in her quest to regain her throne is an old childhood friend whom she tossed aside in 5th grade as she sought popularity. Paige, perpetually running for class president, makes a deal to help Kacey get her friends back if Kacey will help her win the election. At first I thought it was far fetched, but Paige is a great character and she works well as a foil to Kacey's ego without being sappy. Oh yeah, and there's a cute, good guy guitarist to add to the swoon factor.

There are scenes at a cupcake cafe, lots of fashion talk, minimal adult intervention, and kids in a band. It is very easy to see why this was turned into a show.

This is the first in a series so many things are unresolved. Kacey doesn't fully atone for her awful behavior from earlier so I'm sure that will be part of the next novels. She also may not be wearing glasses after this book so the message of you can be cool while wearing glasses dissolves almost to the sentiment of "thank god that's over". Readers with glasses may feel jilted - an accessory to show just how bad it was for Kacey.

It's fine as a stand alone title but fans will look forward to the next installment later this year. I'm already crossing my fingers that we get another fantastic Carolyn Sewell cover.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

I had read several very good reviews of this title in various professional review journals and I must say the book did not disappoint. This book is set in present time or perhaps a bit in the future. Something, however, has happened to the rotation of the earth. It is steadily slowing making the 24 hour day a thing of the past, daylight and nighttime are no longer dependable, and the birds are dropping dead out of the sky.

Our narrator is an indeterminate age looking back on her 11 year old self as she lives through this change in the earth. As a reader, I felt comforted by that. That she grew older. That she must have survived. The truth of that actually remains to be seen, but it was a comforting thought nonetheless. As I said, Julia is 11 and she is a mature one at that. She is also crushingly lonely for a variety of reasons. I don't think I've been so touched by a character in quite some time. I loved Julia, I felt her pain like it was my own. She was so real I couldn't help but ache for her. She is worried about the future of the earth, but she is just as worried about her grandfather, her parent's marriage, and the boy she wishes would notice her.

The story is masterfully written. It is not a shrill end of the world tale, but the tale of a girl and her family and how they are affected by a life and earth altering event. We learn about what happens to the world and what happens to the people in it as they struggle to hold onto normalcy. What would a world look like if the rotation slowed? The days stretch, the nights stretch, it is light when it should be dark and vice versa. People begin to get sick, the magnetic field is affected, radiation begins to be released, crops begin to fail. And all through this people attempt to survive.

It is a beautiful story and I can't recommend it enough.

Book Source = ARC from 4th floor

Monday, May 7, 2012

Froi of the Exiles - stars aligned version

Patti reviewed this book as an ARC back in February. At the time I thought I probably would not read it. Don't get me wrong, I loved Finnikin of the Rock, but an almost 600 page YA fantasy? When would I have the time?

Flash back two weeks ago when I was at our local library for our  storytime day. I left the children's area for my once in a while trip over to adult fiction. On display in the teen area sat Froi of the Exiles. See how he looks at you on that cover? Come hither, reader? I grabbed it thinking maybe I could give it a go, tucked it into my library bag, and went off to find something by Jennifer Weiner. (It was my first by her even though Sarah Dessen raves about her constantly. I read Then Came You.)

And lo, last Sunday night it happened. The stars aligned! I am sick with a cold (ugh), but have a husband with a couple flexible days between semesters (yes!). I can be sick and spend time resting in bed and not chasing after kids? Well then. C'mere, Froi.

Three days later I finished that excellent bad boy in-between hacking coughs and snot. Thank you, illness! I didn't think it was as violent as Finnikin. Marchetta doesn't tip toe around the horrors of war or royal life, but I wasn't as horrified as I was with the first. Froi is an easy character to love, though he may be a little too perfect with honoring his bonds and all, but what we learn about his his origin makes for some darn compelling storytelling.

I don't want to forget tough and conflicted Lucien of the Monts who shares a good deal (maybe 1/3?) of this story and who seems to not get much mention in reviews. The novel switches back between Lucien dealing with Charyn refugees in Lumatere and Froi in Charyn out to assassinate the king. The point where these two stories overlap came as a great surprise. I honestly didn't miss reading more about Finnikin & the Queen. They're married and parents and happy. Super.

Another Lumatere Chronicles book follows this one and with that bombshell epilogue I want to read it Right Now. But will the next one follow the trend and *gasp* be 200 pages more than Froi? Yeah, okay. I'm going to read it anyway.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Bringing Baby Home

When I found out my husband and I were expecting our second child, my first thoughts went to how to prepare my 4 year old about the baby. Dude gets a lot (a lot!) of attention and we knew this was going to be a huge, life-changing event for him.

My son, being the observant guy he is noticed right away my stomach was growing and helpfully told me I was getting a stomach like Grandpa (Meaning it was really big. Ha! Honesty!). We read a lot of books on siblings and new babies, but the following are three of my favorites.

What's Inside Your Tummy, Mommy? by Abby Cocovini
An excellent book that is perfect for pre-schoolers so that they get a basic understanding of how a baby grows, what it is doing in there, and how it finally is born. My son was fascinated by it and I could tell it blew his mind that he had been like that once too.

One Special Day by Lola M. Schaefer. ill by Jessica Meserve
I picked this one up on a whim a couple of days before my due date. I couldn't have made a better choice. It begins by showing a boy with his grandmother waving goodbye to his parents who are driving off in a car. Then it chronicles all the various things this boy is. He is brave, he is wild, he is tall, he is funny, noisy, etc. But when his parents finally bring the baby home, for the first time ever he is a brother. It was sweet and timely and my son loved it because it was exactly what was going on in his life. The illustrations are beautiful and bright and the animals are completely endearing. The endpapers are also fabulous. The front shows the boy on his own, the back with his sibling having all sorts of fun together. I can't recommend this one enough.

Edwin Speaks Up by April Stevens. ill by Sophie Blackall
We've been reading this one post-baby. My son loves how Edwin is sort of speaking sort of doing baby-talk. He loves to point out exactly what Edwin is trying to tell his mother. And those ferrets! Does Sophie Blackall illustrate anything that isn't spectacular? I loved the soft colors, the retro feel, the ding-dang adorable ferrets (that I think are completely nasty in real life).

There are, of course, tons of books that deal with the emotions a new siblings bring, but these truly stood above of all the others.

Book Source = Library Copies