Sunday, December 30, 2012

X-Men: Season One by Dennis Hopeless, art by Jamie McKelvie

Professor Charles Xavier has recruited five extraordinary teen mutants for his "high school" - a place where they will learn to fight together to protect the world from other, dangerous mutants.  Jean Gray has her doubts about Professor Xavier, and his seeming willingness to put she and her friends in harms way.  After all, they're just kids, trying to deal with major self revelations and crushes!

It's another X-Men reboot, but this time, the story is being told by Jean, which is cool.  Professor Xavier is not being portrayed as infallible, and the kids question him and struggle with his ideals, which they don't really share.  It's hard protecting people who hate you!

We have the five original X-Men - Jean, Angel, Beast, Iceman and Cyclops.  We get to see all their angsty teen interactions, which is lots of fun.  Jean at first has a crush on pretty-boy Warren (Angel), and it nothing but annoyed with Scott (Cyclops) who's super intense and does nothing but train.

Hank (Beast) and Bobby (Iceman) are best friends.  I enjoyed seeing how Beast is the smartest and most thoughtful of them all.  He's a science genius and an inventor and becomes incredibly frustrated that it's only his fighting skills that are looked for, not his intellect.  He actually leaves the X-Men for a time, much to Bobby's distress, and it's Jean who's able to bring him back.

By the end of this first volume, the X-Men are beginning to act more like a team, and they've also all emerged alive from their first serious encounter with Magneto.  They also have to struggle with the fact and Professor Xavier and Magneto are friends.  Who, like, play chess together sometimes.  That's a very difficult thing for the teenagers to accept.  Isn't Magneto evil?  Aren't they trying to defeat him?

I thought this was a great start to the series.  I love that we're seeing everything through Jean, and I really like the fact that the X-Men act like the teenagers they are, with all the usual teen problems on top of the fact that they're trying to save the world, and are clearly not ready for it.  It will be fun to see them learn to control their powers.  Especially Jean, who's already starting to see she's far more powerful than she though.

Little White Duck: A Childhood in China by Na Liu and Andres Vera Martinez

Da Qin and her little sister are growing up in China during a time of change.  Chairman Mao has just died, leading to the country opening slightly to the Western world.  La Liu remembers moments that made an impact on her life.

This is a memoir, but it does not tell the story of Na Liu's entire life.  Rather it is a series of short stories, small moments from her childhood.  While we don't learn all about Na Liu's life, we are given a clear glimpse into the life of a child in China growing up after the death of Mao.

The first story Na Liu tells is going to the funeral of Chairman Mao, and recalling how incredibly sad her parents were.  Both of Na Liu's parent's were able to make advances for themselves because of the government - her mother had polio as a child and the government paid for her care, Na Liu's father came from a farming family, but was able to pursue an education because of a government sponsorship.  It was nice to hear these stories where Communism worked the way it was intended to work.

Another story is about Na Liu and her sister learning why they must eat all their food - the starving children in China.  Na Liu's family was not wanting for food, but later, when she visits her father's family she horrified to see how other people live.

I thought Little White Duck did a good job of illustrating what was going on in China during this time.  There were struggling peasants, and there were those who only wanted to be good citizens.  Na Liu and her sister try to make sense of it all through their child's understanding, and it's hard.

The art was beautiful.  It was done in very muted colors.  There were really nice bright spots, even the red was dark.  Lots of grays and blue-greens and browns.  It reflected the military like feeling of the world Na Liu is growing up in.  There is order and everyone does their part, no one steps out of line.  The panels were also orderly and regular.  At the beginning and end of the book, there were lovely double-paged spreads of Na Liu and her sister flying over China on a crane.

A great middle-grade book for explaining about children growing up in different parts of the world and during different time periods.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Chicagoland Detective Agency: The Drained Brains Caper by Trina Robbins, illustrated by Tyker Oage

Megan Yamamura, anime lover, and writer of haiku, has just moved to Chicagoland and unfortunately for her, is now starting summer school at Stepford Preparatory Academy.  Megan knows something strange is going on on her first day: why are all the kids so...weird?  Will she be able to find out what's going on at Stepford Prep?  Or will she become one of them?

As the name of the school suggests, all the kids were being brainwashed by an evil scientist.  Megan is captured, but escapes with the help of Raf, her computer programmer friend.  The two manage to destroy the evil scientist's computer program and free all the kids.  They also find a super intelligent talking dog, which they free and take home.  The three then form the Chicagoland Detective Agency.

I've read a few graphic novels by Trina Robbins, and they're always fine.  Some better than others.  I love reading her histories of comics.  I think that is her strong point, rather than the fictional stories.

I read the first two Chicagoland stories: The Drained Brains Caper and The Maltese Mummy.  It looks like the bad guy is the same in each story.  She always escapes at the end, and will no doubt keep showing up to cause more mischief.

While neither plot nor dialogue is especially stunning, what I did like was that the fact that Megan's a girl and Raf's a boy played no part whatsoever.  Sometimes Megan needs saving, and sometimes Raf needs saving and they work together and help each other out.  They have different strengths and weakness.  So that was nice.

The art is black and white, and clearly manga influenced.  Mostly traditional panels, with a few full-paged spreads.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter


"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 Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter.

Katarina Bishop and W.W. Hale the fifth were born to lead completely different lives: Kat comes from a long, proud line of loveable criminal masterminds, while Hale is the scion of one of the most seemingly perfect dynasties in the world. If their families have one thing in common, it's that they both know how to stay under the radar while getting--or stealing--whatever they want. No matter the risk, the Bishops can always be counted on, but in Hale's family, all bets are off when money is on the line. When Hale unexpectedly inherits his grandmother's billion dollar corporation, he quickly learns that there's no place for Kat and their old heists in his new role. 

But Kat won't let him go that easily, especially after she gets tipped off that his grandmother's will might have been altered in an elaborate con to steal the company's fortune. So instead of being the heir--this time, Hale might be the mark. Forced to keep a level head as she and her crew fight for one of their own, Kat comes up with an ambitious and far-reaching plan that only the Bishop family would dare attempt. To pull it off, Kat is prepared to do the impossible, but first, she has to decide if she's willing to save her boyfriend's company if it means losing the boy.  (Summary from GoodReads)

What can I say? I loved the first one, and I haven't read the second yet but I know it's going to be delightful. Ally Carter does a rather superb job of making an engaging heist plot with intriguing and hilarious characters.

Perfect Scoundrels comes out Feb. 5th.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Who Could That Be at This Hour? by Lemony Snicket

The chance we've all been waiting for - the opportunity to learn about the elusive Lemony Snicket.  Snicket, who has had an unusual education, begins his first assignment with his chaperon.  Unfortunately, plans have changed causing Snicket to break his promise to a friend.  Now he and his chaperon are in the practically abandoned town of Stain'd-by-the-Sea trying to locate a statue, which may or may not be priceless, of the Bombinating Beast, which may or may not have been stolen from its owner.  Of course, there is much more going on than meets the eye.

Who Could That Be at This Hour didn't quite have the snap the A Series of Unfortunate Events books did.  It's very much written the same way.  Very tongue in cheek.  Use of sophisticated words which are then explained.  Adults aren't very smart and children are.  It didn't accomplish these things as well as in past books.  It felt a little forced and weighted down.

This is a beginning of a four-part "biography", so it was laying a lot of groundwork.  Many questions are left unanswered (of course), and knowing Lemony Snicket, it's entirely likely they will never be answered.  I think what made this difficult to get into is that we don't really know any of the characters.  Everyone is so shrouded in mystery, the reader doesn't really have any idea what's going on.  Sure, there's a mystery that's trying to be solved, but the mystery that's the focus of the book is clearly not "the right question."  So while this makes things mysterious and interesting, it also left me with a disconnected feeling.  I got into it more as it went along, I had a harder time at the beginning.

One thing I had a lot of fun with was the casual references that are made to books, I enjoy figuring out what ones they are.  For example, "I'm reminded of a book my father used to read me...A bunch of elves and things get into a huge war over a piece of jewelry that everybody wants but nobody can wear."  "I never liked that book...There's always a wizard who's very powerful but not very helpful."  Hehe.  The only one I wasn't familiar with is a book about a lawyer and a tap dancer.  Anyone know it?

Fans of Lemony Snicket's other books will be eager to get their hands on this one.

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Hannah has a serious problem.  She is being haunted by the ghost of her dead best friend, Lillian.  She doesn't know why she's there, or what to do.  And then someone in Hannah's quite little town begins killing girls.  Lillian pushes Hannah to find out who is behind the murders, sending Hannah far outside her comfort zone.

This was a creepy murder mystery.  Hannah is the girl who always looks happy and sweet.  In her hand-made vintage dresses and her pasted on smile, Hannah tries to convince herself that everything is fine.  Of course, everything is not fine.  Even if Lillian weren't haunting her, things wouldn't be fine.  It's never come right out and said, but Hannah seems to feel guilty about Lillian's death.  Lillian was anorexic, and slowly starved to death.  Hannah knew.  It's never gone into detail, but it seems Lillian managed to avoid treatment essentially the entire time.  Hannah knew and could have gotten her help.

Now, Lillian never leaves Hannah alone.  But it isn't the real Lillian, and having her there is not comforting, only frightening and a burden.  It becomes harder and harder for Hannah to pretend.  Then young girls start being murdered, and there's no way to act like everything is going to be just fine.  Lillian encourages her, but Hannah herself feels herself drawn toward the dead girls and begins trying to find a connection between the girls that were murdered.

Hannah is also drawn to Finny Boone, a boy with a poor reputation, and certainly not the kind of boy a girl like Hannah would be seen with.  But Finny seems to be able to see Hannah's sadness and confusion under her smiles and pretty clothes, and seems willing to take the time to find the true her.  Even with all the terribly things happening around her, Hannah is able to begin finding herself, which includes shaking off the expectations of others.

It's never made clear why exactly Lillian was able to stay, or why Hannah was able to see and communicate with ghosts.  I guess it wasn't necessary to the story.  It's just something that happened.

This is a great pick for high school students looking for something more edgy than a supernatural romance or a realistic fiction book that deals with serious issues.  In terms of the mystery, there weren't really any clues to try and figure out who the murder was yourself, it wasn't that kind of mystery.  The focus was more on Hannah trying to find herself.
 
Paper Valentine will be available January 8, 2013.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Darkness Dwellers (Kiki Strike #3) by Kristen Miller

The Irregulars are back for a final mission.  Kiki Strike is determined to state her claim on Pokrovia, and then ending the monarchy forever, all before her evil aunt and cousin can claim the throne for themselves, and who will stop at nothing to get Kiki out of the way.  Meanwhile, the other Irregulars are dealing with another mystery of their own.  One which involves proper manners and the catacombs of France.

Well.  This was a bit of a disappointment.  I loved the other Kiki Strike books.  Loved.  They were smart and sassy and well thought out and engaging and really just all-around awesome middle school reads.  It's been so long (five years) since the last one came out, I'd despaired of there being any ending to the story.  So I was all excited when I saw there was going to finally be another one.  But this just felt like Kristen Miller said "All right!  I'll write an ending to the Kiki Strike story if you'll all just leave me alone!" and then she banged it out to be done with it.  The Darkness Dwellers was only OK.   It dragged terribly in some places, and then completely skipped over the part that seems like it should have been the most important.  There were all sorts of side plots going on that seemed unnecessary and then didn't really get resolved.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Snow Whyte and the Queen of Mayhem by Melissa Lemon

 In this retelling of Snow White, we get the story from an unusual source: the magic mirror.  Not long after Princess Katiyana is born, her mother, the queen, does everything in her power to cause her death.  The king flees the kingdom with Katiyana, placing her into the safety of an uncle, before dying himself.  Katiyana grows up with no idea she is a princess, or that the queen still seeks her and wishes for her death.

The fact that in this story the evil queen in not Katiyana's stepmother, but her actual mother gives a darker feeling to everything.  The queen doesn't desire Katiyana's death because she's afraid that someone is more beautiful than she, but because she is really and truly evil.  She has a dictator-like control over her kingdom, having people killed at the least cause.  Because she is capable of magic, no one dares to oppose her.  And if someone does, the magic mirror has the ability to show exactly who is plotting.

The queen learned her magic from a wizard who she seduced, and who she then traps in the magic mirror.  The queen thought she was able to put a spell on the mirror so the wizard would never be able to escape and never be able to lie.  Only one part of that spell worked.  The wizard does not always show the queen exactly what she wants to see, and in his own time, constantly keeps an eye on Kat, and watches her grow up.

While I liked the premise of the story, I found Kat's story kind of forced.  Probably because Melissa Lemon felt like she need to make it fit into the Snow White parameters.  I think it could have been a more engaging story if it wasn't trying to be a retelling of Snow White.  Really, aside from the dwarfs, it wasn't all that much like it.  And the dwarfs were the part that felt forced, as did the spell that the wizard put on Kat that she became like ice whenever danger was near.

Kat really didn't have much of a role in the story.  She's at her uncle's, then she leaves after her uncle becomes a drunk and abusive.  She is in love with a boy who promises to come back for her, but then disappears.  She's taken in by the dwarfs and lives with them for a while, while the boy that the queen sent to kill her tries to get into her good races for his own personal gain.

There was a nice moment when Kat finally stops letting people make decisions for her and tells the boy she doesn't really like but has been tolerating because she's sad where he can shove it.

So while I liked the idea of this story a lot, I found it a little slow.  The political side of things and what was happening in the kingdoms was much more interesting, but there wasn't a lot of that.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt


"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 Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt.

 When Mallory discovers that her boyfriend, Jeremy, is cheating on her with an online girlfriend, she swears off boys. She also swears off modern technology. Inspired by a list of goals her grandmother made in 1962, Mallory decides to "go vintage" and return to a simpler time (when boyfriends couldn't cheat on you online). She sets out to complete grandma's list: run for pep club secretary, host a dinner party, sew a homecoming dress, find a steady, do something dangerous. But the list is trickier than it looks. And obviously finding a steady is out . . . no matter how good Oliver (Jeremy's cousin) smells. But with the help of her sister, she'll get it done. Somehow. (Summary by GoodReads)


In the age of the hipster, I think this sounds delightful. Especially as both Ari and I enjoy hosting tea parties, knitting, and sewing. 


Going Vintage  comes out Mar. 26, 2013.

Monday, December 17, 2012

News

At last!  You can determine what was no doubt a burning question deep inside for most of your life: Which Wakefield twin are you?  From BuzzFeed

Some seriously awesome outfits inspired by books.  I must have the first dress.  I must.  From Flavorwire.

10 songs inspired by books.  From PW.

Why don't things like this happen to me?  Historian finds unpublished Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale at the bottom of a box.  From BBC News.

Celebrities who have modeled for book covers.  From The Huffington Post.

How publishers develop, exploit and deploy their own intellectual property.  From
Publishing Trends.

Ohhhh!  The Mr. Men and Little Miss series go digital!  From The Bookseller.

Awww, illustrator proposes to girlfriend in his children's book debut.  From PW.

Readers respond to the Times recent article on the lack of Latino characters in YA books.  From The New York Times.

Really cool best of 2012 list from The Atlantic Wire. 

Some popular YA books that might really be fan fic.  From BookRiot.

Good old fashioned e-readers.  From GalleyCat.

Hurray for The Hobbit!  From SLJ.

With the new Common Core standards, English teachers worry they will have to replace fiction books with non fiction.  From The Washington Post.

2013 Morris Award finalists.  From YALSA.

Three essays on Judy Blume.  From Los Angeles Review of Books.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Broxo by Zack Giallongo

Princess Zora has left the safety of her own clan, the Granitewings, to look for the Peryton Clan, who no one has seen in years. Upon her arrival, Peryton Peak seems to be abandon.  There's no one there at all...except for Broxo, who can't, or won't, tell Zora what happened to his people.

When we first see Zora, she seems like a pretty tough girl.  She's trekking alone through the mountains, and has just scaled a considerable cliff.  She's got a sword, and from the way she's drawn she looks like a warrior.  She has strong, muscular legs and a look of grim determination.  However, it turns out Zora is not much of a warrior.  If Broxo hadn't shown up to save her, she'd be dead several times over.  Despite having a sword, Zora doesn't actually seem to know much about defending herself, so I wonder what that's about.  Why does she have a sword if she doesn't know how to use it?

So Broxo ends up doing most of the physical fighting.  He has been living alone in the wilderness for a long time, and he knows how to take care of himself and defend himself from the many dangerous there are.  Especially from the walking dead.

Zora is determined to figure out what happened to the Peryton Clan, and she knows Broxo is the key, but Broxo is as stubborn as she is.  They also have to deal with Ulith, an outcast with great power she can hardly control.  Ulith also knows far more than she is willing to say.

Zora begins to come into her own a bit as she comes up with plans for freeing the walking dead.  Broxo also learns more about his past, and takes on a great burden.

I thought this was a great start to a series, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens to Broxo and Zora next.  They were headed back to Zora's clan, but I'm sure they'll have adventures along the way.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite by Barry Deutsch


When we last saw Mirka, an 11-year old Orthodox Jewish girl, she had outsmarted a troll and won a sword.  When the troll sends a meteorite to destroy his enemy, the witch, Mirka runs to warn her, as the meteorite will destroy all of Hereville.  The witch stops the meteorite by transforming it into a girl.  Into someone who looks exactly like Mirka.  Metty (as the meteorite is called) is delighted to be part of Mirka's family, and at first Mirka thinks it's a great idea too.  Metty can go to school for her!  Do her chores!  But as Metty begins to take over more and more of Mirka's life, Mirka comes up with a plan to get rid of her.

As with How Mirka Got Her Sword, this was absolutely delightful and totally adorable as well as being smart, funny, and heartfelt.  If you read the first Hereville, you already knew that Mirka is not the most patient person.  In How Mirka Met a Meteorite, we see that even more.  She wants to be able to do thing.  Right now!  She doesn't want to have stop and think and practice.  She wants action and adventure!  Then she gets it, and not all goes as planned.  But even then, Mirka doesn't immediately learn the error of her ways.  It takes a while for her to figure out that leaping into things is not always the best way to go.

We also get to see more of the relationship between Mirka, her brother and her stepsister and stepmother.  Although Mirka and her brother Zindle still miss their mother very much, they seem to have a good relationship with Rochel, their stepsister and their stepmother who always has good advice to give (even if sometimes Mirka isn't interesting in listening).  Rochel is much calmer, logical, and patient than Mirka is, and even though she's often shaking her head over the foolish things Mirka has done, she is always has her sister's back.

I love Barry Deutsch's artistic style.  He can portray some much emotional of his character's faces, even though they're not incredibly detailed.  The art has a sense of fun.  Beutsch uses traditional comic strip format, but regularly breaks out of the panels with double paged spreads and layering.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Archived by Victoria Schwab



"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 The Archived by Victoria Schwab.

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous-it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da's death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.


The Archived comes out January 22, 2013.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

In the sequel to Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou has now taken Brimstone's place as the resurrectionist and is building an army for the Wolf, the war leader of the chimaera.  Karou feels she has to do whatever she can to avenge her people, even when she questions how the revenge is taking place.  Akiva is still a solider, whose job is to kill chimaera, but he resists, struggling with the idea that redemption might still be possible for them all.

Amazing.  Loved it.  I want more.  Right now.  So freaking good.  I admit I did a little skipping around to find out what happened.  It was one of those books that has multiple stories going on in alternating chapters and sometimes I JUST WANTED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED AND COULDN'T WAIT.  So I was forced to skip ahead.  I had no choice.  Oh it was good.

It has been a while since I read Daughter of Smoke & Bone, and realized as I started reading this one I'd forgotten a lot of stuff.  Important stuff.  Like how things were left between Karou and Akiva, and how Brimstone died.  You know, things like that.  It mostly came back as I read, but I think I'd like to read the first one again.  I'm sure I'm still forgetting things.  So if it's been a while since you've read Daughter of Smoke & Bone, you might want to give yourself a refresher.  Laini Taylor does not waste time rehashing what happened last time.  We are moving forward full steam ahead.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

News

Young Latino students don't have anyone to look up to in literature.  From The New York Times.

Amelia Bedelia turns 50!  From PW.

So freaking true.  It might be literary fiction because...

What makes a YA book a best seller?  From SLJ.

Why comics aren't dead.  From The Telegraph.

A closer look at book covers.  From The Horn Book.

St. John the Divine cathedral is named a literary landmark thanks to Madeleine L'Engle.  From SLJ.

Review of the movie adaptation of Fat Kids Rule the World.  From rogerebert.com.

7 writers who died young.  From PW.

The Hobbit world premier in pictures.  It comes out December 14.  So excited!  From The Guardian.

A choose-your-own-path version of Hamlet?  In comic form?  So there.  From SLJ.

What do teen guys enjoy reading?  From The Readventurer.

The 25 most powerful authors in Hollywood.  From The Hollywood Reporter.

'Tis the season for lists!

Goodreads best books of 2012.

Notable children's books of 2012.  From The New York Times.

Best books of 2012.  From SLJ.

Best adult books for teens 2012.  From SLJ.

The Top Ten Fiction Books from Time Magazine have some YA representatives.

25 of the most wonderful book covers of the year (according to one person).  From The Atlantic Wire.

Fourth annual awesome women in comics holiday gift list 2012.  From She Has No Head!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cat's Cradle Book 1: The Golden Twine by Jo Rioux

Suri, an orphan who tags along with a traveling caravan, longs to be a monster tamer.  Monster tamers protect Galatea from monsters slipping into the valley from the mountains.  Suri has never met a real monster, until a series of strange events cause Suri to be running from her life from a clan of caitsiths (cat-like monsters).

This was a promising beginning.  I liked Suri a lot.  She's spunky and determined, but also clearly lonely.  She doesn't really seem to know much about her family or where she came from.  Her desire to be a monster tamer seems to come from stories she knows about her birth, and how she came from the mountains where the monsters live.  Is this story true, or was she just making it up to impress the other kids?  It's unclear.

Suri has accidentally come into possession of a magical ball of golden twine the caitsiths use to make themselves appear human, and now they're after her.  Suri doesn't realize that the twine is what they want.

Suri makes some monster friends who aren't trying to kill her, and after finding that her caravan has left without her, she decides to travel on with them.  The first book ends with the caitsiths, in human disguise, put the prince on the trail of the monsters Suri is traveling with.

What will happen next!  I will be waiting to find out.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Giveaway: Delusion by Laura L. Sullivan

Win an ARC of Delusion by Laura L. Sullivan!  Giveaway ends December 19.
 
When two beautiful teenage stage magicians in World War II England meet a pair of handsome men who can do real magic, sparks fly. But is it illusion, or delusion? Opening-night jitters are nothing new for Phil and Fee Albion, who come from a long line of stage illusionists. The girls love to dazzle London audiences, but in the aftermath of the Blitz they're bundled off to the countryside, where they're safe from bombs and Nazis--and bored to pieces. Phil, always the passionate one, discovers a hidden college of real magicians led by the devastatingly handsome Arden. If only Phil can persuade these unworldly magicians to help England win the war! Daredevil that she is, she'll risk anything to give her country a fighting chance, even if it means losing her heart . . . or her life.

Delusion comes out January 8, 2012.

This giveaway is now closed.

The Culling by Steven dos Santos

Lucian Sparks lives in a world ruled by the Establishment, a cruel, dictatorial government.  Wanting to protect his four-year-old brother Cole, Lucian seeks out his childhood friend Cassius, who is now in a position of power, for help.  But when Cassius thinks Lucian has chosen rebel Digory Tycho over him, he punishes Lucian by making both Digory and Lucian recruits, who are forced to compete against each other in a series of task.  If a recruit fails, he is punished by choosing an incentive - a loved one - to be killed.  For Lucian, it would be Cole.

It's The Hunger Games!  Now with more flesh eating!  Seriously, this didn't even try to pretend it wasn't completely ripping off The Hunger Games.  Person only trying to protect a much younger sibling?  Check. Person not interested in joining the rebellion, only trying to keep said younger sibling safe?  Check.  Young people forced to compete in Gladiator-type games at the hands of cruel dystopian government?  Check.  Young people forced to form alliances to survive, only to have to break those alliances and kill each other in order to protect their loved ones?  Check.

So yeah, it was The Hunger Games, only this time with a male protagonist and a male-male romance.  I did like that aspect of it, that falling in love with another man is not strange in this world.  It was completely accepted as the norm.  The Culling was also more graphically violent.  I know, I know, The Hunger Games are all about kids killing kids, but honestly, the first two books are not especially graphically violent.  The third one much more so.  This was like the third one.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken


"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 The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken.

 When Ruby wakes up on her tenth birthday, something about her has changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government "rehabilitation camp." She might have survived the mysterious disease that's killed most of America's children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control. 

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. 


When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she's on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her--East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can't risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. 


When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.


The Darkest Minds comes out December 18, 2012.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

News

One of the most popular presents this holiday season is looking to be an ereader.  From dbw.

Remembering Madeleine L'Engle.  From PW.

Twilight is over.  Now what?  From Reuters.

Authors honored for their roles in fighting against censorship.  From SLJ.

Guillermo del Toro tells us the biggest mistake people make telling stories for children.  From i09.

Industry insiders talk about young adult blockbusters.  From PW.

Apparently the author of Mary Poppins hated the Disney movie.  This actually does not surprise me.  The book and movie are very, very different.  From TMZ.

A six-year-old donates her allowance to save her public library.  Government - take notice.  From hypervocal.

Fake last line from great books.  From PW.

5 writing tips from the awesome Laini Taylor.  From PW.

Waiting on Wednesday: Splintered by A.G. Howard


"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 Splintered by A.G. Howard.

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.
(Summary from GoodReads)

I know, I know, I keep saying it. I love a twist on a classic. This just sounds so fantastic! A.G. Howard you had me at "far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on." Am I a little put off by the love triangle? Yes, but I'll look over it for referencing the bandersnatch.

Splintered comes out Jan. 1st.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dancing in the Dark by Robyn Bavati

Ditty is a Haredi Jew, the most conservative branch of Orthodox Judaism (sometimes referred to as ultra-Orthodox).  When she and her friend Sarah sneak watching some TV, Ditty discovers the world of dance and is transfixed.  She wants to take ballet lesson more than anything, but dancing is something her family will not allow.  Against her father's and her community's wishes, Ditty secretly begins taking dance lessons.  Can Ditty dance and keep her family?  Or will she need to give one of them up?

This book made me feel uncomfortable.  Allow me to explain why.  Before the story begins, Robyn Bavati notes that she grew up in a Modern Orthodox family, not Haredi, as the community in the book is.  In fact, Ditty's cousin who is Modern Orthodox is portrayed as being liberal and wild.  Bavati also notes that "...the community portrayed in this story is not representative of the broader Jewish community..."  OK, so, I wonder about her choice to set her story in the Haredi community.  Because she felt it would a better, more dramatic story?  Why did she pick a community she didn't actually grow up in?  Why not tell her own story?

The view that Bavati shows of the Haredi community is a very harsh one.  People are portrayed as brainwashed zealots, who blindly follow their religious convictions.  Only Ditty fights against religion, finally breaking free.  I am not saying that there aren't conflicts like this in religious communities.  It is no doubt a common story.  My issue was the incredibly one-sided picture we got of that community.

I think of the incredible book Hush, by Eishes Chayil, which was about sexual abuse in the Chasidic community.  Despite the serious nature of the book, and the realness of the problem, Eishes Chayil was still able to show, in many different ways, the positive aspects of such a community.  The people were not represented as flat, one-dimensional characters.  They were full, complex people.





Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff


"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 Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff.

 The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.
(Summary from GoodReads)


I really liked The Space Between, but Arianna didn't like The Replacement. So I'm interested to see how Paper Valentine will go. That and it just sounds fantastic!

Paper Valentine will be out Jan. 8, 2013.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Delusion by Laura L. Sullivan

Phil and Fee Albion come from a long line of stage magicians and they're exceptionally good at their craft.  When the London Blitz begins, their parents join the war effort to put their skills of illusion to good use, but Phil and Fee are sent off to the country, much to Phil's frustration.  Out in the country Phil makes a shocking discovery - a school of real magicians.  If only she could convince them to use their powers to help England win the war!

So this was all working fine for me until the end, where it seriously fell apart.  We have two sisters, one who is sweet and gentle and romantic (Fee) and one who is brave and headstrong and logical (Phil).  Phil is able to discover the magician's hidden college because an ancestor of Phil and Fee's was a magician who was cast out of the college.

Fee occupies herself romanticizing about living in the country and then falling in love with one of the magicians, who immediately falls in love with her too, but tis all in vain!  For the magicians can never marry or leave the college.  For a rather vague a suspicious reason that Phil does not completely buy.

Spoilers ahead

Friday, November 16, 2012

News

The Dudes of YA.  This is amazing.  AMAZING!  I want them all to be my friends.  Especially Adam Rex.  From The Weeklings.

Want.  Want now.  I don't know what I'd make yet, but I must have this fabric. 

Way to go Tina Weber! You tell 'em! ACLU sues Davis school district over removal of a book with same-sex parents. From Deseret News.

Stop calling children's books YA.  From The Huffington Post.

YA books were boys and girls work as equal partners.  From Stellar Four.

As I'm sure you know, The Hobbit is being made in to three movies.  I am super excited to see it, but think it's silly it had to be made in three movies.  What other movies could we stretch into three?  From TechRepublic.

Yeah, you know why "the second movie needed a little filling out?"  Because the entire second half of the book consist of everyone hanging around at the Cullens' waiting for the Volturi to show up, then when they do...everyone goes home.  The end.  From GalleyCat.

Oh, by the way, the Wandering Librarians are going to see The Twilight Sage: Breaking Dawn: Part 2: Electric Boogaloo on Saturday. Get ready.

I totally want this annotated version of Brother's Grimm fairy tales.  From NPR.

How Twilight made the movie business respect girl power].  From The Wrap.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what picture book would you want with you?  From The New York Times.

Where are the male role-models in YA books? From the Los Angeles Review of Books.

I love it!  Free libraries (because there are libraries that aren't free?) pop up in people's front yards.  From statesman.com.

20 stunning book illustrations.  From Creative Blog.

Lois Lowry talks about how reader's concern for characters in The Giver turned one book into four.  From SLJ.

Who has better covers, the U.S. or the U.K.?  For me it's a mix.  From PW.

Edward Gorey's not as macabre as you think.  From Salon.

A wonderful interview with Maurice Sendak.  From Believer.

Do I love this?  Do I hate this?  I don't know!  Board books of classics.  From PW.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Host versus The City of Bones

Within the next ten months we are going to have two book to movie adaptations.

The Host as many of us know is by Stephenie Meyers, and is generally thought of as being slightly better written than Twilight. Saoirse Ronan is starring, and she's been quite a few book to movie adaptations: City of Ember, Atonement, and The Lovely Bones. I'm going to be honest and say that I never finished The Host. I got bored after the fifth chapter and stopped reading around the tenth. I've been told multiple times I need to go back and finish it, but I think I'm a bit Stephenie Meyer-ed out. I've put in my time with Twilight (we're seeing the last one on Saturday so watch for our review on that) and I'm ecstatic to be done. Thank goodness The Host is a standalone. So really, at least on my end, there's no pressure for this to be great. I like Saoirse Ronan, I think she's a very strong actress. There's rumors she should be cast as Tris from Divergent but I don't really see that happening now.




On the other hand you have Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments trilogy that features Lily Collins (who I don't think has starred in anything that has done super well, except for The Blind Side but she didn't carry that one did she?) as Clary. I loved this series. I think Cassandra Clare is a fabulous writer, and of course I'm super nervous that they've messed everything up. There's some really great actors in it though: Lena Headey, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Aiden Turner, and Jared Harris. Unfortunately all of these people are secondary characters and won't be really in it all that much. In other words we could have five years of this and it could just go from bad to worse. I'm trying to keep an open mind though, because I thought terrible things about the Hunger Games movie and that turned out quite awesome.





Which one do you think will be better?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger


"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 Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger.


It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to finishing school.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is the bane of her mother's existence. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea--and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right--but it's a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine's certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.

First in a four book YA series set 25 years before the Parasol Protectorate but in the same universe.
(summary from GoodReads)

I think you all know we love Gail Carriger, she's crazy smart and writes a delightful tale. Can't wait!

Etiquette & Espionage comes out Feb. 5, 2013!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Old favorites

Remember all those books you read before the age of 13? Have you ever had a book that you just loved? A book that you can't help but re-read decades later? I've stumbled upon a couple that I'd forgotten about, and you can't imagine my surprise at how they've stood the test of time.

Dealing with Dragon by Patricia C Wrede was written in 1990. It's a fractured fairytale, where the Princess Cimorene wants to learn anything except the proper lessons that a princess should be learning. She'd rather willingly become the servant of a dragon. Soon she's been adopted by the dragon Kazul and she's turning everything upside down. Princes and knights are sent on their way with no one to fight and wizards becoming an increasingly bigger mess to clean up after. As Cimorene and Kazul become better friends, they must unravel the wizards plot to undermine the dragons' kingdom.

It's told with such humor, and the relationship between Princess Cimorene and Kazul the dragon is fantastic. I loved the fact that this book isn't about romance, it's more about two strong females standing up for each other. You just don't see many of those. Dealing with Dragons is a part of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I'm re-reading the second book Searching for Dragons.



Juniper is the prequel to Wise Child by Monica Furlong. I didn't know when I was ten that Wise Child came first and therefore read Juniper first. Growing up a princess during medieval times, Juniper has grown accustomed to the finer things in life. That is until she becomes the apprentice to her godmother and learns the ways of the doran. While trying to become accustomed to this new way of life, she must test her budding skills when her aunt decides to take over the kingdom using dark arts.

Let me say first that the world-building in this is miraculous. It's all so natural and well done. The descriptions of the events and settings are so detailed that it just sucks you in and takes you to medieval Cornwall. Absolutely brilliant. Juniper's growth is well-paced. She doesn't become some all-knowing white witch overnight, but still struggles with her own insecurities



Matthias has lived at Redwall Abbey his whole life, but he's never quite found his place in the quiet monastic life. Matthias's self-reflection is interrupted when Cluny the Scourge sets his eye on the abbey for a headquarters. As the abbey and the town surrounding it begin to panic, Matthias puts his faith in a mythical sword hidden by the founding warrior Martin that is said will protect Redwall from any invader.

I was introduced to this book by my older cousin Jake. It blew my mind that this was so dark and violent and yet it was meant for kids. I was able to Brian Jacques speak a year before he passed away, you could see how much he respected his readers and wrote intelligently because he believed his readers were intelligent. The depth of world-building was astounding, the characters go on a complete journey, and the plot is exciting. The level of detail is incredible.

Obviously I could go on with other books that I loved, the Betsy and Tacy series, Lord of the Rings, A Wrinkle in Time, and so many others. But these were some that I felt needed to be shared. What did you love as a kid and haven't thought about for a while?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Token by Alisa Kwitney and Joelle Jones

Shira has grown up being the apple of her father's eye, connecting to women over the age of seventy, and being a social pariah everywhere else. When the bullying at her school becomes too much and her father finds a new feminine focus, Shira acts out by shoplifting and starts a romance with a Spanish boy. As Shira thinks she's discovering who she is becoming, she is also losing sight of her relationships with her family.

I really liked the artwork in this, the emotions were so beautifully portrayed in the illustrations. They were very unique and completely lept off the page. Unfortunately this was really the only thing that I really enjoyed in this book.

Perhaps more accurately I should say that I didn't love the plotlines of the book. I liked Shira, I thought she was a unique character. She had a super interesting perspective and I loved her references to 1950s movies. She had a really honest reaction to what was going on around her. I thought it was interesting how she turns to shoplifting to alleviate her stress and inner turmoil, and how this rebellion is exacerbated by her romance with a boy from Spain.

So the main character was awesome, but the secondary characters and the subplots were not super emotionally-engaging. Her father doesn't really think about why Shira is acting out. He just wants her to fix it. I think his reaction is real, but doesn't mean I have to like it. Shira's dad falls in love with his secretary, and doesn't ever really communicate where he's hoping this relationship will become or how it will affect Shira. So it really comes as a surprise to Shira and the reader when she walks in on them making out and when he decides to propose. He's the adult, he shouldn't be making Shira feel guilty for not understanding what's going on or not being completely accepting of their relationship.

Shira also is bullied at school, and that's never really addressed throughout the book. It's a main theme, and yet there's not real resolution to the problem. Sad. There didn't need to be retribution just more of an apparent conclusion for me on that plot.

So there were some excellent things, and there were some disappointing things. Overall it was okay, it could've been awesome though. Kind of a let down.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

News

Author Kate Messner launches all-star "kid lit" auction for hurricane Sandy relief effort.  Go support!  From SLJ.

What classic picture book fills you with dread?  I loved Swimmy, but I do remember being upset about Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.  From The New York Times.

Best 20 books of 2012.  The only one I know about is the graphic novel.  I am just not up on adult fiction.  From PW.

Adam Gidwitz, author of A Tale Dark and Grimm on original Brothers Grimm fairy tales.  From The Detroit News.

Hurricane Sandy: news from the publishing world.  From PW.

Umm, James Joyce wrote a picture book?  And a children's book? I can't make that makes sense in my head.  From brain pickings.

Please...I just can't.  I don't think I can keep going.  Stephenie Meyer says more Twilight books a possibility.  From EW.

The United States of YA.  A book for every state!  From Epic Reads.

The Guardian says crime is the new vampire or the YA world.  I haven't seen a whole lot of this yet.  But maybe it's coming.

In hurricane Sandy's aftermath, school librarians step up to help.  From SLJ.

What the Random House/Penguin merger means.  From MediaShift.

The cave made famous in The Island of the Blue Dolphins may have been found!  From Los Angeles Times.

Ever wonder what the most overdue books are?  In Boston it's Twilight.  From Bostoninno.

Neil Gaiman's Graveyard Book is going to be a graphic novel!  From Digital Spy.

Yup.  We book people can be kind of crazy.  From The Global Mail.

A tumblr of bookshelves hiding secret rooms!  Best thing ever!  Ever, I say!

Children's literature inspired bedrooms.  From apartment therapy.

Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris

Kate is more than ready to move beyond her high school experience and go off to college to pursue medicine. She's got everything prepared in order to look the best she can to the college recruiters. This means that she's also staying on top of her extracurriculars, like volunteering lab time with the science teacher and unfortunately helping out with the losing football team. Kate stumbles on evidence that the football coach is giving the team steroids, but it has horrifying side effects. Side effects that look very similar to what you think a zombie would be like. Now people are dying and Kate is worried that those closest to her could be infected: her brother, her best friend, and her secret crush Aaron.

This isn't going to be a long review, because the book itself isn't long. It's super fast-paced and only 208 pages. I think it took me a grand total of two hours to read this. There's not a lot of in depth descriptions of thoughts or evaluation of emotions. Obviously more plot-driven.

I think that it's a longstanding fact that I don't like horror. Zombie especially freak me out. I mean seriously, that shit could happen. So this book was kind of perfect for me. Most of the horror was  from the ambient tension of where the boys were being infected from and having to be covert about where Kate was looking for information rather than from the zombies themselves. Not that the zombies weren't scary, Carrie Harris did a great job describing the effects of the drugs. I especially liked the scene where one boy pukes up black and then seems to die. Well done, creepy without making me put the book down.

This is a series, and the sequel is called Bad Hair Day and involves werewolves. I'll be reading it, mostly because I think this is fun mind-candy. Fast read, without a lot of emotional commitment. Nice.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Ashes of Twilight by Kassy Tayler


"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 Ashes of Twilight by Kassy Tayler.

Wren MacAvoy works as a coal miner for a domed city that was constructed in the mid-nineteenth century to protect the royal blood line of England when astronomers spotted a comet on a collision course with Earth. Humanity would be saved by the most groundbreaking technology of the time. But after nearly 200 years of life beneath the dome, society has become complacent and the coal is running out.  Plus there are those who wonder, is there life outside the dome or is the world still consumed by fire? When one of Wren's friends escapes the confines of the dome, he is burned alive and put on display as a warning to those seeking to disrupt the dome’s way of life. But Alex’s final words are haunting. “The sky is blue.”  What happens next is a whirlwind of adventure, romance, conspiracy and the struggle to stay alive in a world where nothing is as it seems. Wren unwittingly becomes a catalyst for a revolution that destroys the dome and the only way to survive might be to embrace what the entire society has feared their entire existence.

Ashes of Twilight comes out November 13, 2012.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab

When Caro was eight, her 19 year-old sister joined a convent, and Caro has hardly seen her since.  But now, eight years later, Hannah is returning home.  No one knows what happened or why Hannah left the convent.  Now it feels like a stranger is living in Caro's house.  Something happened to Hannah, something that Caro has no memory of, that is still haunting Hannah today, and won't let her move on.

I didn't like this when I first started reading it, but then I ended up liking it a lot.  I wasn't enjoying it at first because I felt like the book was giving nuns a bad name.  The convent Hannah joined sounded incredibly dated.  She was part of an order that still wore a full habit, never left the convent, wasn't allowed to visit her family, couldn't even visit them without being separated by bars like she was in a prison.  She never left her convent, but spent all eight years she was there in pray.  And I thought, "What kind of nunnery is this?"  Nuns are incredibly active with community.  They are strongly focused on social justice, doing work in education, with those who are sick or living in poverty.  Sometimes, they even disobey direct orders from the Vatican, when they feel there is too much focus on issues like abortion and not enough on helping those in poverty.  Nuns are kind of kickass.

A bit further into the story, this was clarified and the difference between contemplative orders and active orders.  Active orders are the ones who are focused on social justice.  Contemplative orders are focused on prayer, and there is still a number or contemplative orders in the US, although from poking about on their websites I don't know if they would actually prohibit you from seeing your family.  But maybe.  Anyway, after we got that all straightened out and I didn't have to feel so defensive of the nuns (What?  I just think nuns are kind of cool), I was able to enjoy the story much more.
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