Sunday, July 31, 2011

Darkness Falls by Cate Tiernan

Natasya has been at River's Edge, a rehabilitation farm for gods and goddesses gone bad, for two months now. Natasya wants to leave behind her over four hundred years of darkness, but she's afraid she can't. What if her darkness is just part of her, and no matter how hard she tries she can never be rid of it? She's also confused about her feelings for Reyn. Reyn's family is the reason that Natasya has no family, and her family is the reason Reyn has no family, so why do they feel so drawn to each other? When Natasya runs away from River's Edge and is back living the high life with her immortal friends, she at first thinks she made a mistake ever leaving. They're not so bad at all! But something is going on with her best friend Incy, and it could mean Natasya's life is in danger.

So much to my surprise, I really liked this! Despite the fact it was another book about gods and goddesses living amongst us and a romance where they're drawn together for seemingly no particular reason, Cate Tiernan created a really interesting world and a very endearing character voice in Natasya.

This is actually second in a series (I think it's going to be a trilogy), and the first one was called Immortal Beloved. I actually didn't feel like I missed a whole lot by coming in on the second book. I felt like this one could stand by itself quite nicely. There were some things that were left up in the air, which I assume will be fleshed out in the third book, for the most part it was fairly self-contained.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release that we're excited about. This week I'm waiting on Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey.

Lenzi hears voices. She also sees visions--gravestones, floods, a gorgeous guy with steel gray eyes. She knows she must be going crazy, just like her dad did. Her boyfriend, Zak, can't do anything to help, and the voices just keep getting louder, the visions more intense. But when Lenzi meets Alden, the boy from her dreams, everything makes sense.

Sort of.

He tells Lenzi that she's a reincarnated Speaker--someone who can talk to lost souls and help them move on--and that he has been her Protector for centuries. But instead of embracing her abilities, Lenzi struggles between her life as the girlfriend of a sexy musician and the life she is destined to lead with Alden. Yet time is running out; a malevolent spirit has been trying to destroy Lenzi for ages, and he will surely kill her if she doesn't make a decision soon.

Her choices are clear: Destiny or normalcy. Alden or Zak. Life or death.
(Summary from Amazon)

Paranormal romance? Done. Plus I really like the cover.

Shattered Souls comes out Dec. 8.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How to Rock Braces and Glasses by Meg Haston

Kacey Simon is the queen bee at Marquette Middle School.  She's pretty, popular, has lots of friends, is the star of the musical and even has her own school-wide advice show.  But then something terrible happens.  An eye infection puts her in horrible thick glasses AND she has to get braces that give her a lisp.  Her supposed friends now want nothing to do with her, and suddenly Kacey is on the bottom of the food chain.  Determined to work her way back to the top, she makes a deal with her ex-friend Paige and together they plot Kacey's comeback, which involves singing in a rock band with a guy who wears skinny jeans who she's totally not interested in at all.  Not at all.

This was really cute and I loved it.  Yes, it's another book about a popular girl who suddenly finds herself not popular and Learns An Important Lesson about who her true friends are and all that, but it was smart and funny and had a lot more depth than I was expecting.

Heist Society Movie...

So you might remember a while back that I did a review on Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter. It seems that the first book in the series, Heist Society, is being made into a movie. Drew Barrymore is directing it, and it's being listed as a thriller! Huh. Thriller was not the vibe I got off of it when I read it, but it should be a good twist on it. The same writer that wrote the screenplay for Whip It is also doing the screenplay for Heist Society.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

This is the final edition in the Leviathan trilogy. Arianna did a review of Behemoth a while ago, and here's my take on Goliath.

Alek and Deryn are headed to Russia on the Leviathan on a secret mission to rescue Dr. Tesla, the inventor that created the electric cannon that almost took the Leviathan down in Istanbul. Supposedly he has a weapon that could end the war immediately, and of course Alek feels that it is his destiny to help end the war and therefore support Dr. Tesla in his efforts. During this time Deryn is struggling with the fact that more people know she is a girl and Alek knows that she's in love with him. Relationships are becoming complicated, and even more so as Alek because more involved in politics and must sacrifice his own secrets to cover her own.

I have to say that I wasn't as pleased reading this than I was the first two books. They were fantastic and this wasn't as. I'm not saying it was bad, it just wasn't as good as the first two. There wasn't as much action and there wasn't as much drama. It was a bit staid, instead of major action there were just tiny little humps of action. Nothing huge. I mean things, I'm pretty sure, were intended to be game-changers but they didn't come off that way. They were just little hiccups of action.

On a brighter note, I really enjoyed the character development. I felt like both Alek and Deryn grew up in this book, they actually acted on their emotions as opposed to brooding which was excellent. Dr. Tesla was obnoxious but necessary. And the other ancillary characters were fine, but lets not forget that this is Alek and Deryn's story and they were fantastic.

It was a nice little wrap up to the series, the historical tie-ins were BRILLIANT, and overall a satisfying story. Just not the best out of the bunch.

This is coming out Sept. 20. Check it out.

A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

Rosalinda Fitzroy wakes up to find that she's been in stasis for 62 years.  Her family is gone.  Everyone she knows is dead, including the love of her life, Xavier.  Rose learns that while she was asleep, the Dark Times happened, which killed millions of people and the world is completely changed.  One thing that has not changed is the existence and strength of her family's interplanetary company, which she is suddenly heir to.  Rose feels lost and confused and is just trying to fit in when she discovers her life may be in danger.

I really enjoyed this.  It was kind of a dystopia novel but not really.  The world Rose wakes up in really isn't all that bad.  Things are strange and different, and things are far from perfect, but not evil.  Although there is some evil in the world, of course.  I mean, it's a world with people.  It's a science fiction book that will appeal to the kids who love to read dystopia novels because it reads and feels like one, even though I don't think it really is.

Rose is of course very confused when she first wakes up.  The world has changed so dramatically and she doesn't know anyone.  She has to learn to use new technology.  She doesn't talk like the kids her age.  She's horrified to learn about the Dark Times and what happened, knowing that the people she knew went through that.  She misses Xavier terribly, and draws his face over and over again.  Most of the kids at school think she's a freak and won't come near her.  Rose is very passive.  She doesn't know how to speak up for herself.  She can't say what she wants or needs.  If something bad happens, she keeps it quiet.  As the book goes on, it becomes clearer why she's like this.

There was a bit of mystery to it.  The big question was "How did Rose get left in stasis for 62 years?"  Why didn't anyone notice?  Why didn't anyone look for her?  Why didn't Xavier look for her?  Those questions kept me eager to read and try to piece together what the world was like.  At first it seemed like stasis was used regularly in this world, like a recreational activity.  Rose got put in stasis all the time.  Rose was around 8 when Xavier was born, but over time he caught up with her.  Then it became clear that, no, stasis wasn't what everyone in this world did, just her.  So why did Rose's parents keep putting her to sleep?  How did she get forgotten, even if the Dark Times did come shortly after?


Friday, July 22, 2011

Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Amaryllis (Amy) Goodnight knows weird, she is a Goodnight after all and the Goodnights are a family of witches. She tries desperately to keep the families secrets secret and at least try to give the appearance of eccentric normal as opposed to paranormal. This is perhaps how she finds herself farm-sitting with her 'eccentric' sister; taking care of goats, bathing dogs, chasing cows out of the yard in her underwear, and trying to solve a mystery so a ghost can pass on to the afterlife. You know normal things that won't rouse suspicion.

So this was a fun little read. A real mystery tied in with a paranormal mystery. I really enjoyed the characters and the pop culture references. As on who has gone to grad school I sat there thinking, "I totally know a jackass like him!" Fun. Some parts were a bit predictable, but I enjoyed the fact that at least the romance part didn't end neatly. They have a rather contentious relationship and it was nice that they didn't necessarily end up boyfriend/girlfriend. It wasn't a neatly wrapped present.

I'm wondering if this will be a series. Some things are still left hanging, and I kind of like that. But then again I wouldn't mind finding out more information. Great characters, well developed plot. Mind-blowing? No. Highly enjoyable? Yes.

Texas Gothic came out July 12.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fury by Elizabeth Miles

Over winter break, Emily finally acts on her feelings for Zach.  Unfortunately, he's her best friend Gabby's boyfriend.  Chase did something bad, and now a girl has tried to take her own life.  Both Emily and Chase start seeing three strange girls.  Sometimes being sorry isn't enough.

So first of all, I was really glad that this wasn't another book that made it seem cheating on people is OK if you're really meant to be together.  I hate those books.  What a lousy message to send.  It seemed like it was going that way at first.  Em is all swoony over Zach.  He really gets her.  She's sure they have something special and precious and so on.  Gabby, her best friend forever, is at first made out to seem silly and clingy and focused on unimportant things like clothes and hair, while Em is more thoughtful.  Therefore, Gabby is undeserving and Em totally has a right to hook up with her boyfriend.  It didn't say that, but I was getting that vibe.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: THE FINAL CHAPTER

Once again I'm butting in to Arianna's review in purple. Much like our previous review.

I can't believe it's over! Over! It's the end of an era! The end of a generation's fantastical focus and an industry's livelihood. Many of us grew up with Harry, and now both books and movies have reached their dramatic ends. Sob. Loud weeping. I thought the movie was pretty good, but as usual thought that if you hadn't read the books it must have been awfully confusing. I was doing a lot of filling in the holes as the movie went along.

I watched a couple of the earlier movies with my family before I went to see the final epic chapter with Alana and Anna. Harry, Ron, Hermione and company were so tiny! SO TINY AND WEE! Every time a new character game on screen I would squeal over how little they once were. Sigh. How time flies. And now Daniel Radcliffe is on Broadway taking off his clothes and singing and dancing about woodchucks and Emma Watson is a model and getting bullied at Brown and Rupert Grint is being in independent movies and Matthew Lewis, who plays Neville, turned out to be a total fox. Stone cold fox. Amazing.

To the movie! As usual, lots of spoilers ahead!

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release that we're excited about. This week I'm waiting on Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel.

Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead—or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?

The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune, and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible—until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.

But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead—and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.

In Dearly, Departed, steampunk meets romance meets walking-dead thriller, spawning a madly imaginative novel of rip-roaring adventure, spine-tingling suspense, and macabre comedy that forever redefines the concept of undying love.

Summary from GoodReads

This title was book-talked during the Random House Fall Book Buzz lunch during the ALA Conference. It sounded pretty awesome. A bit steampunk, a bit romance-y, and lots of zombies who are gentlemen. Therefore I will sit patiently and wait for it to come out Oct. 18.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Wildwood by Colin Meloy, Illustrated by Carson Ellis

Prue leads a perfectly normal life in Portland. She has her lovable hippie parents, and her little brother Mac who she takes care of during the weekends. Yep, everything's absolutely average.

That is until her brother is taken by a murder of crows into the Impassable Wilderness. That is until Prue and her friend Curtis stumble their way into the forest and then are split up; one to be taken prisoner by a coyote army and the other to be taken in by a postman. Prue realizes that everything has ties to one another, but she can't help but wonder how did saving her brother turn into a revolution and stopping a madwoman from destroying an unknown community?

First off I would like to state that Colin Meloy is the lead singer and songwriter of one of my favorite bands the Decemberists. He is CRAZY talented, and his albums are pretty epic, which makes sense once you see the size of this book. Carson Ellis is his wife and you might recognize her artwork most notably from The Mysterious Benedict Society. At least that's where I recognized it from, there and all of the Decemberists' CD covers. They are two incredibly gifted people and I was pretty excited to see what they created.

Let me point out the obvious: This book is pretty epic. It's told from two different perspectives (Prue and Curtis's), it has a large number of fully developed characters, and the arc of the plot is pretty expansive. Many of the tropes and characterizations remind me of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Except better. More complex storyline and greater depth in characters. There were some great little twists and turns, and I think it's a pretty solid novel. Nice balance of hipster mentality and timeless tale.

Here's my one niggle about the book, it's supposedly aimed at kids ages 8-12. Yes, the themes, plot arc, and characters are pretty spot on; but there's some vocabulary that seems way beyond what a 16 year old would use let alone someone half their age. Also the book tops out at 541 pages, which is daunting to say the least. This is a good read, but I don't think it's for your average reader. It's for the reader that's 10 and reading at a high school level or a parent or teacher doing a read aloud. I'm just not sure who their audience is going to be.

So go listen to a Decemberists' cd (my favorite is The Hazards of Love) and then read this book. As long as you have the vocabulary of a college student.

Wildwood comes out Aug. 30.

Starstruck by Cyn Balog

Gwendolyn "Dough" Reilly is having a serious crisis.  Her long distance boyfriend Philip Wishman is moving back to New Jersey.  She should be excited, but all Dough feels is dread.  Wish hasn't seen her since middle school, and she weighs a lot more now then she did then.  Not only that, but Wish has become absolutely gorgeous.  Dough knows that as soon as he sees her, he'll want nothing to do with her.  Much to Dough's surprise, Wish doesn't seem to notice the weight she's gained at all, and for the first time Dough's hanging out with the popular crowd.  But there's something different about Wish...

This is what I wish.  I wish this book hadn't had any kind of supernatural aspect.  It would have been just fine without it.  Better even.  I liked this book, and I felt like the stupid supernaturalness just got in the way.  Why couldn't it just be about a girl who's anxious about her weight because she's scared her boyfriend won't like it, and being insecure and then realizing he likes her anyway because she's way more than her weight?  WHY WASN'T THAT ENOUGH?  But noooooo.  We had to throw in boyfriend-making-himself-better-looking-by-manipulating-the-stars.  Whatever.

Friday, July 15, 2011

News: Harry Potter Edition

MTV had a contest to find the most loved Harry Potter character.  Guess who wins?

A slide show of all that Harry Potter has given to pop culture.

Watch the stars of Harry Potter try and talk American, part two.  Tom Felton is adorable.

Check out the no-longer-live feed from the Harry Potter premier in Trafalgar Square.

Emma Watson's speech at the Harry Potter premier.  Awwww.

Wait, what?  Didn't J.K Rowling swear she wasn't writing any more Harry Potter books?

Loyalty!  Your thing is loyalty!  Poor Hufflepuffs.

Harry Potter the video game.   Harry Potter the clothing line.  It's taking over everything!

Behind-the-scene look at the Gringotts break-in.  I loved seeing all the goblins getting their makeup done!

And something for the adult readers: Harry Potter themed drinks! The Neville Longbottom sounds fantastic.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Did you know Harry Potter 7 Part 2 is coming out this Friday?

Or do you live in a hole? We Wandering Librarians have been waiting for this movie for quite some time and with quite some anticipation (I'm almost as excited for this movie as I am for the Hobbit to come out). So of course we're going, though not on opening night. I'm visiting family and Jamie is in Paris. So if you haven't seen it by the 19th, that's when our review will be coming out.

Just to heighten the excitement, I thought that I'd share this article from MN public radio. Harry Potter's music has become pretty iconic, so we should be expecting good things.

Wildefire by Karsten Knight

Ashline Wilde is sent to boarding school after the death of a classmate and the disappearance of her sister Eve.  Ashline was the only who saw what Eve did, and she knows that no one would ever believe her.  Things are going pretty well at Ash's new school until strange things start happening, and not just to her.  A group of Blackwood students learn that they are actually gods and goddesses with incredible powers, and a war is coming.

I find I don't have very much to say about this one.  It was fine.  A little draggy.  It took an awfully long time for anything to happen, and then when it did, there wasn't a whole lot to it.  It kind of felt like this book was mostly just a set-up for the rest of the series.  Mostly, it was another book about teens realizing they're actually gods, and there wasn't anything distinguishing about it, accept for the fact that once they realize what they are, they sure to figure out how to use their powers real fast.

You might be able to tell I'm kind of tired of this genre.  It was fine, and if your kids are clamoring for more of this genre, well, here you go.

Wildefire comes out July 26.

Waiting on Wednesday: All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release that we're excited about. This week I'm waiting on All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin.

In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidently poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family. 

Gabrielle Zevin wrote Elsewhere, which was fascinating and I loved.  This sounds great as well.

All These Things I've Done will be out September 6.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Wisdom's Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Princess Wisdom of Montagne is going to marry the Duke of Farina, mostly so she could see a bit of the world.  Trudy, an orphaned tavern wench who can sense what will happen in the future, learns that her dear friend Tips, who's supposedly a solider currently stationed in Farina, is delighted with the chance to act as Wisdom's lady's maid in order to see him.  Tips has a secret he's been hiding from Trudy for years.  What begins as a simple journey to a wedding becomes much more as magic, dastardly plots and love make everything much more confusing.

I had trouble with this.  First was that it was told in eight different points of view.  There was Trudy, Wisdom, Tips, Nonna Ben (Wisdom's grandmother), the Duke of Farina's mother Wilhelmina, entries from the Imperial Encyclopedia of Lax, a play about the events that were going on, and master swordsman Felis el Gato.  It was a lot, and I had trouble connecting with any of the characters due to the constantly switching point of views.  I found myself skimming over the encyclopedia entries, which gave background about people and places.  The play felt out of place.  So I could have done with a lot less points of view and I think it would have felt less choppy.

My next problem was that aside from the point of view preventing me from connecting with any of the characters, their personalities did as well.  Trudy spent the whole book mooning over Tips and crying.  Tips came off as a total dolt.  Wisdom came off as prickly and cold.  Therefore I couldn't understand what Wisdom and Tips saw in each other, because thinking each other was pretty.  Tips at one point tells Trudy all the things he loves about Wisdom - her bravery, how she doesn't act like royalty, her kindness, etc., but aside from the bravery none of the other qualities had been shown anywhere else, not even from Wisdom or her grandmother's own points of view.

While I didn't really like this, I can definitely see middle grades girls enjoying it, especially those that have read Princess Ben.

Oh, last thing, the title.  The title was not working for me.  I wasn't surprised when I read the Q&A with the author at the end of the book that she'd had trouble coming up with a good title and someone had suggested "Wisdom's Kiss" and then she went back and rewrote some things to make sure the phrase showed up in the book.  It doesn't make any sense.  It was a tiny part of the book, and what was "Wisdom's kiss?"  I didn't understand, even in the context of the book.  It just felt awkward, and, well, forced.

Wisdom's Kiss will be available September 13.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Elisa is the youngest princess of her country and chosen to fulfill a destiny that will save her country. Unfortunately in the sixteen years of her life Elisa hasn't not accomplished anything, especially compared to her perfect older sister. Her disappointment and self-loathing lead her to eat massive amounts of food, making her self-conscious of her body. When she is married off to a mysterious and handsome king, she feels more unsure of herself as she tries to play political games and attract her handsome husband. But when she is kidnapped by supposed allies, she learns that not all is as it seems. Not only is Elisa having to rethink her views of the people surrounding her, she must also rethink her self-image. Elisa learns that she is capable, but is this enough to save those that she has come to care for from a power that stems from her own unalienable religious beliefs?

I was highly intrigued by this book before I got it at ALA. I had read a review of it on Amazon (which I'm now unable to find) expressing frustration with how the book dealt with Elisa's binging. The reviewer wrote how Elisa's character seemed to show absolute delight in how the effect of her kidnapping and subsequent trek through a desert made her lose massive amounts of weight through starvation. So I spoke to a publisher at the ALA Conference, I brought up my concerns and was assured that the eating disorder wasn't dealt with in this way. I have to admit that I was a little skeptical, won't the publishers tell you what you want to hear to get you to read the book? AND isn't the cover quite misleading? Doesn't it just scream insensitive?

Nope. I can't say that I'm 100% pleased with how the binging was dealt with, but I have to say that it was still quite sensitive. Elisa talks about how even after her ordeal in the desert she isn't thin, but she is at a healthier weight. She isn't magically reprogrammed to be healthy and beautiful. She doesn't love herself at the end of the book, but I would say that she has a healthy respect for herself and has learned that she can rise to the occasion.

It also seems that the cover has changed, which I greatly appreciate. This book isn't really about body issues, but rather dealt with the overarching theme of finding self-respect and -worth. In other words, the book doesn't make a huge deal about the eating disorder, which I think makes it that much more powerful.

OK, now that we've dealt with the heavy stuff lets get to the rest of the review.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Since his mother's been sick, Conor has had the same nightmare, but the monster that turns up outside his window isn't the one from his nightmares.  The monster will tell Conor three stories, and that the end, Conor must tell a story.  And it must be the truth.

Patrick Ness is really good at making me cry.  I have read a lot of books.  Sometimes I'll get teary, but the only time I ever really cried was over Patrick Ness' Monsters of Men.  I was sobbing for the last 30 pages or so.  Sobbing.  While this one didn't make me sob, there were definitely tears at the end.  You're good, Patrick Ness.  Really good.  He's good at creating very real, very human emotions that just touch you.

This book was inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd, author of A Swift Pure Cry and The London Eye Mystery, who died of breast cancer at 47.  In the author's note, Ness writes, "She had the characters, a premise, and a beginning.  What she didn't have, unfortunately, was time."  He didn't try to mimic her voice when writing, and her ideas gave him ideas, and he wrote this story. 

The word "cancer" is never mentioned in the story, not once.  It's clear that that's what Conor's mother is receiving treatments for.  She's lost her hair, the third day is the worst after she's had her treatments, she's very weak and tired.  Conor feels invisible at school.  Everyone knows about his mom, and everyone treats him delicately because of it.  People forgive him when he acts out, or look away from him.  Conor is angry, and he keeps having the nightmare.

Then the yew tree in his yard comes walking, and says it will tell him three stories.  Then Conor must tell the truth.  The stories the monster tells are not happy ones, and they're confusing.  They don't have a clear bad guy or good guy.  They don't have happy endings.  When the stories are done, Conor has to find the strength to tell the truth about his nightmare.

It was very powerful.  I thought it was excellent.  It's quite short too, with beautiful black and white drawings by Jim Kay.  It's amazing how much can be said in such a short amount of time when it's said well.  This is one of those books that I loved, but I'm not totally sure whom I would recommend it too. It would have to be a very particular circumstance that I would say, "I think you would really enjoy A Monster Calls."  You should read it though, because it was beautiful and true.

A Monster Calls will be available September 27.

Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham

Max "The Wolf" has woken up in a forest he doesn't know. As a super sleuth boy scout he tries to put together the pieces, and figure out why he cannot remember the last few days of his life. Adding to his confusion are the talking animals. Banderbock, the grizzled army badger; McTavish the Monster, a fearsome surly yellow animal that sometimes looks like a cat; and Walden, a black bear sheriff who kind of reminds me of the cowardly lion. They are all searching for answers and they eventually discover that the only way they'll get them is to make it to a sanctuary, specifically Wizard Swift's sanctuary. But this unknown world seems to be working against them. They must keep away from the Blue Cutters' influence, whose swords make horrible changes to personalities.

Bill Willingham is the writer of the fantastic graphic novel series Fables and Mark Buckingham who has illustrated volumes of Fables, most notably 1001 Nights of Snowfall which Arianna and I both loved. This is Bill Willingham's first non-graphic novel book, and it was fantastic! It wasn't as dark as I expected (and secretly hoped) it to be, there were some great action sequences and the characters were awesome! I'm telling you within the first few words of introduction of each you knew who they were, related to them, and yet they still managed to surprise you.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Question of Strong Female Characters

The other day, Alana pointed out an article from The New York Times entitled, A Plague of Strong Female Characters.  Writer Carnia Chocano expresses her disgust and frustration that what makes a female character strong "is female characters who are tough, cold, terse, taciturn and prone to scowling and not saying goodbye when they hang up the phone."  I understand why Chocano might feel this way.  I do think there are lots of representations, especially in movies, that for the female character to be taken seriously she has to have the opposite of what is traditionally considered female characteristics.  That is, she can't be sweet, kind, motherly, nurturing, etc.  She has to be tough as nails.  She needs to take care of business.  She needs to know martial arts and how to shoot a gun, whereas to show that a woman needs caring for, she's quite and sweet and gentle.  So I understand Chocan's annoyance and frustration.  Google "strong female character" and then look at the images.  Most of them are holding guns.

When I think of a "strong female character," however, I think of a character who is secure and comfortable in herself, whatever her personality might be. Be that a stay-at-home mother or a ninja assassin.  She doesn't have to be physically strong.  She doesn't have to have a high-powered job.  She doesn't need to be able to beat other people up.  She might be able to do all those things, but she doesn't have to for me to think of her as a strong character.  In fact, she could have all those qualities and not be a strong character.  The strength comes not from what her abilities might be, whatever they might be, but rather from how she presents herself.  We can have a quiet, sweet, nurturing character who is way tougher then any Laura Croft character.  She might get upset sometimes.  She might even cry.  Those things don't take away from her strength.

Let me throw some characters at you that I think are strong, but never pick up a gun.  Princess Eilonwy from Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain series.  Ginny Weasley from Harry Potter.  Fern from Charlotte's Web.  Sunny and Violet from A Series of Unfortunate Events.  These are all vastly different characters, but I would argue incredibly strong ones.

Chocano writes about an experience where she was taken shooting while in Florida, and ended up bursting into tears and hiding in the car and reading Jane Austen.  She wonders, "If this story were a scene in a movie, and the movie were being told from the point of view of a young woman, would you describe that protagonist as a “strong female character”? I would say no. A strong female character would have said, "I have absolutely no interest in going to a shooting range. It makes me uncomfortable. I'm going to read. I'll meet up with you later." And she would be strong because she was able to verbalize what it was she wanted and needed to do.  That's the part that makes her strong. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Rory has come from Louisiana to London for her senior year of high school.  She arrives just as "Rippermania" begins.  Murders imitating the time, place and style of Jack the Ripper have London trapped in terror and fascination.  The police can't figure out who's behind the murders, and there are no leads and no witnesses.  Except Rory.  Rory saw a man at the scene of the third murder, which took place right at her school, but no one else seemed to be able to see him.  So why could Rory?

When I first saw the cover, I thought we were actually going to be in the time period of Jack the Ripper (1888) and was looking forward to that so I was quite surprised to find myself not taken back in time, but in the present day.  So I don't think this cover makes sense at all.  At all.

I guess I would classify this as a supernatural thriller.  There's a bit of a mystery for a little, as Rory and the rest of London wonders who is committing these terrible murders.  She figures out who's behind it early on, so there isn't much of a mystery left, but the crime is far from being solved.

Spoilers ahoy!

Waiting on Wednesday: Ingenue by Jillian Larkin

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release that we're excited about. This week I'm waiting on Ingenue by Jillian Larkin.

Bobbed hair. Short skirts. Cool jazz. Dark speakeasy. Anything goes. Meet the flappers, Gloria, Clara, Lorraine . . . and the rich young boys who love and loathe them. 

This is the second book in The Flappers trilogy.  The first one, Vixen, came out last December.  I haven't read the first one yet, but I heard about the series on the Random House Book Buzz webcast (not the one at ALA where I almost got crushed to death) and it sounded like a lot of fun.

Ingenue will be out August 9.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Ben has always felt a little different from everyone else. He loves to find and keep small objects to help him remember ordinary and extraordinary experiences, he doesn't like popular music, and he can only hear out of one ear. His mother was the one that always seemed to understand, the one who filled moments of loneliness with laughter and love. But his mother passed away and now he lives with his aunt and uncle. He wants a real connection to someone, and he feels like he can't find it with the people who surround him.
Rose has grown up Deaf and resistant to the prodding of her father to learn lip-reading. She longs to be an actress like her neglectful mother. The only person who seems to reach out to her is her brother, who lives in New York City at a museum.
One night Ben's life changes drastically, he not only discovers information on his father but also loses all of his hearing. Ben deals with the situation by taking off to New York where he must navigate the city with his new hearing loss, and his life inexplicably intertwines with Rose.

This being Brian Selznick of course there are illustrations, Ben's story is told completely in words, and Rose's side is done in illustration. They are fantastic pictures, the eyes are gorgeously done and extremely compelling. The details are fantastic, essentially everything that you expect from a Caldecott Winner.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Tankborn by Karen Sandler

Kayla is a GEN - Genetically Engineered Non-human.  In the caste system, GENS are the lowest you can get.  When Kayla turns 15, like every other GEN she's Assigned to a particular job that she has been engineered for.  In Kayla's case, she has strength and she is sent to care for Zul Manel, a wealthy trueborn who seems to know more about Kayla than is possible.  Kayla's tank sister Mishalla is Assigned as a lowborn nurturer, but the children she cares for keep being taken by the Brigade in the night.  Both Kayla and Mishalla become involved in trying to solve a dangerous conspiracy, which leads to more questions than answers.

This was an interesting book in an interesting world, but it was a world that I still didn't understand by the end.  I still wasn't clear exactly what the planet was like and the universe they lived in.  I didn't have an understanding of the government and how things worked.  And those might not be the most important things, but I like to understand the world when I'm reading fantasy or science fiction.  A solid understanding of the world makes what happens in that world make more sense.  So I had a little trouble with that.

Lots of spoilers coming up.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Giveaway! Wolf Mark by Joseph Bruchac

In honor of our fabulous trip to ALA, we're going to have some ARC giveaways for you!  Our first one is Wolf Mark by Joseph Bruchac.  Some romance, some supernaturalness, some werewolves.  What more could you want?  Giveaway will be open until until midnight July 10th.

Luke King knows a lot of things. Like four different ways to disarm an enemy before the attacker can take a breath. Like every detail of every book he’s ever read. And Luke knows enough—just enough—about what his father does as a black ops infiltrator to know which questions not to ask. Like why does his family move around so much?

Luke just hopes that this time his family is settled for a while. He’ll finally be able to have a normal life. He’ll be able to ask the girl he likes to take a ride with him on his motorcycle. He’ll hang out with his friends. He’ll be invisible—just as he wants.

But when his dad goes missing, Luke realizes that life will always be different for him. Suddenly he must avoid the kidnappers looking to use him as leverage against his father, while at the same time evading the attention of the school’s mysterious elite clique of Russian hipsters, who seem much too interested in Luke’s own personal secret. Faced with multiple challenges and his emerging paranormal identity, Luke must decide who to trust as he creates his own destiny. 

This giveaway is now CLOSED.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...