Thursday, May 31, 2012


We lost a great with the death of Jean Craighead George on May 15.  She was the author of Julie of the Wolves and My Side of the Mountain.  From PW.

An example of how important it is to have books that represent all sorts of people.  From NPR.

Is there a prize for being awesome?  Because this kid wins it.  From SLJ.

As if we needed another reason to love Neil Gaiman, he gives an amazing commencement speech.  From The Christian Science Monitor.

According to some of the "50 serious academic critics," no one has written anything worthwhile since Milton.  And Harry Potter is for children, not grownups.  Go on, read it, feel the rage!  From The Guardian.

I just don't see Why We Broke Up translating to a movie very well.  There's no way it will be able to keep that unique, distant voice.  From Deadline.

10 of the weirdest children's authors.  What does it say about me that I loved almost every single one of these books?  From Flavorwire.

Also from Flavorwire, 10 YA books that scarred us for life.  I would also like to add On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

"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 o

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men—thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the kings council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Assassins? Games to the death? A prince that begins to show interest? Awesome. This book kind of reminds me of Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder, which I loved. I can't wait for this!

Throne of Glass comes out Aug. 7. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Giants Beware! by Jorge Aguirre, art by Rafael Rosado

Claudette has big goals of becoming a giant slayer.  Unfortunately for her, there are no giants to slay in her very safe walled city.  Ever determined, Claudette sets out on an adventure with her friend Marie, who wants to be a princess, and her little brother Gaston, who wants to be a sword maker/pastry chef.  Their quest: find and slay the baby-foot eating giant.

I don't know if I have to words to express how much I loved this.  LOVED.  It was smart and sweet and adorable and teaches about friendship, determination, and that bravery comes in all forms, and that it always pays off to be smart.

Claudette is very bold girl.  She doesn't care that the stories that are told are scary.  She's not afraid of giants!  Gaston, on the other hand, is very timid, something he knows disappoints his father.  Marie is Claudette's unlikely best friend and her complete opposite.  Her goal in life is to be a princess, but just because she has princess dreams doesn't mean she isn't smart or brave.

The three sneak out of their  walled city, after Claudette convinces Gaston that their father will be so impressed with him, he'll teach him the sword making craft, and Marie has been told that slaying a giant means "automatic princess-ship from the princess certification board."  So off they go.  Claudette might be the brave one, but it's Gaston who gets his courage up to save Claudette and Marie from the Apple Hag, and it's Marie whose smarts get them out of a jam with the Mad River King.  When Gaston and Marie realize Claudette tricked them into coming, Claudette discovers it's hard to be brave all by herself.

And of course, the baby-foot eating giant is not what they were expecting at all.

It was so great, seeing Gaston learn to stand up for himself and for his friends, Marie showing she's more than just a pretty face, and Claudette realizing how important and valuable her friends are.

The dialogue was smart and snappy and the pacing was great.  Rafael Rosado's illustrations were bright, cute and cartoony and fit perfectly with the story.

If you're brave and true and have good friends, you'll be OK!

Ivy by Sarah Oleksyk

Ivy is an artist and growing up in a tiny Maine suburb.  Ivy wants to go to art school, but her mother wants her to do something practical and reliable, like business.  Ivy thinks she's finally met someone who really understands what she's about at an art college fair, and after a terrible fight with her mom they run away together.  But life on the road is not what she expected, and neither is her kindred spirit.

Ivy was so angry.  It was startling to see it.  She had an incredible amount of anger inside her about all sorts of things, and it kept bursting out.  She's grown up with just her mom, who doesn't seem like the most reliable person.  She's often going out on dates (and bringing men home) and leaving Ivy to take care of things like cleaning up and cooking.  She wants Ivy to go to business school close by, while Ivy wants to go to art school far, far away from Maine.  Ivy's mother is clearly afraid that Ivy will end up like her, but it doesn't help Ivy much to hear her mother tell her that she should make the same mistakes.  We know what she means, but what kid wants to hear that she was a mistake?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Finder Voice by Carla Speed McNeil

Anvard is a society split in to clans, and Rachel Grosvenor is the daughter of a Medawar father and a Llaverac mother.  Rachel has worked long and hard to be part of the contest to be admitted to the Llaverac clan.  Being accepted in to the clan will secure her family's future.  Only days before the final competition, her mother's Llaverac heirloom ring is stolen, and Rachel can't compete without it.  Now she has to find a Finder to help her get it back, and in doing so she uncovers more of Anvard then she ever wanted to.

Voice is actually the 9th volume of the Finder series, but it was especially written to be a jumping on place for people who hadn't read the whole series. Now that I've read this though, I absolutely want to go back and read it from the beginning.  The world is fascinating, as are all the clans. The Llaverac clan values beauty and drama, and everyone, males included, have female sex characteristics.  The Medawar focus in medicine and criminal justice.  There are many other clans, all with a particular focus and specific values.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson, adapted by Dan Jolley, art by Joelle Jones

A world-wide plague killed everyone under the age of 13.  There are only children left.  Lisa, her brother Todd and the other children in her Grandville neighborhood are struggling to survive.  Lisa is smarter than most.  She won't let fear get the better of her.  She knows if they're going to make it, they need to organize with the other children and figure out a way to find food and protect themselves from wandering gangs.  The first step is finding a place where they can all live but is easy to protect, and Lisa thinks she's found the perfect place.

This is the graphic novel adaptation of O.T. Nelson's 1970s novel of the same name.  I remember reading it in 7th grade.  Possible the original "there's a virus and there are only children left" YA dystopia novel?  There are so many now it's hard to keep track.  Even though it's almost 40 years old, it's still an excellent one.  No updates needed.

With only children left, there is no electricity, food production, medical help, etc.  The kids have to figure out how to care form themselves completely, starting with getting food.  Lisa is smart and determined.  She knows how to find what she and her brother need and is frustrated at the people who take things from her because they aren't smart enough to get it themselves.  She organizes the other neighborhood children, in particular to protect themselves from a local gang.  When her house is burned down, she realizes that they need to be somewhere they can fortify, and she moves her neighborhood to the local high school.

Lisa is a good leader.  She has a very difficult job that no one else really wants, although she angers people by always referring to Glenbard as "her" city.  Of course, as soon as she gets things up and running, they are attacked by gangs that want what they have.  Lisa is prepared for this, and the children fight back.

It's such an interesting psychological look at people.  Some people collapse under difficult situations, some people rise up, and some people survive by taking things from others.  The gangs that attack Glenbard don't know how to continue to run things (as we see when Lisa is shot and injured and her city is taken over).  Really, they're just as scared as everyone else, but have found a different way to deal with it.  Rather than finding people to work with, they find people to take control of.

O.T. Nelson never wrote anything else.  We don't know what happened to this world.  Did they survive and create a new civilization?  Did everyone die when they turned 13, or is the virus gone?  Was Lisa's city able to fight off the King of Chicago?  All unanswered questions, from the days when ever book was not a series and you had to imagine what happened yourself.

A great story and a fascinating look at people.

Waiting on Wednesday: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

"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 o

Generations ago, a genetic experiment gone wrong—the Reduction—decimated humanity, giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth—an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret—one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

For The Darkness Shows the Stars comes out June 12, 2012.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Girl Named Digit by Annabelle Monaghan

Farrah is a math genius, but no one knows it but her family.  She's got a perfect score on her math SATs and is already in to MIT, but Farrah doesn't let anyone else know about "Digit" and just tries to quietly fit in.  That all changes when Farrah figures out the numerical code of a group of environmental terrorist.  Now Farrah has to let Digit out as she helps the FBI figure out more coded messages and requires FBI protection from the terrorists who are after her.  Lucky for her, John is cute, young and smart...

The ARC I have of this book is called Digit She's Got Your Number.  That was not an especially good title, so I understand the desire for a change.  However, I don't think A Girl named Digit is any better.  Possibly worse.  Also, I reject this cover.  Why is there a girl jumping in the air?  Why is she telling me to shush?  And most of all, why is she wearing a tank top with a peace sign when it explicitly says in the book Digit wears a "uniform" of jeans, cowboy boots, and the same tee shirt in different colors every day?  Stupid generic-looking book covers.  Was Houghton Mifflin Harcourt concerned that if they in any way indicated it was about a smart girl who was good at math no one would ever buy it?  Although, if they had decided to go that route, it probably would have been a picture of a girl who looked exactly the same, only wearing a short plaid skirt, an oxford shirt and big over sized classes.  Because that's the only way smart is acceptable.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Laddertop by Orson Scott Card and Emily Janice Card, art by Honoel A. Ibardolaza

When the Givers came to Earth, they made a gift of four towers that stretch from Earth to space stations.  These space stations provide power for the whole world.  Then the Givers disappeared.  The towers were built in such a way that the only people who can fit to maintain them are children.  Competition to get into Laddertop Academy is intense, and of the few who are invited, even fewer will make it to space.  Robbie and her friend Azure have both been accepted to the Academy, but only one of them will make it in to space.

Here's the thing, at this point, when I have heard Orson Scott Card speak at a number of events and on panels, I have such a strong aversion to him as a person that when I read something by him that I quite like I think, "That was good.  Stupid Orson Scott Card."  I wish he would never talk again and just write us books that we will surely enjoy.  Is that too much to ask?

So the graphic novel: I quite enjoyed it (stupid Orson Scott Card).  A whole bunch of awesome girl characters that are all different from each other.  Azure has a short temper and a strong drive to succeed.  She will do whatever she has to to achieve her dreams of going in to space and she's a natural leader.  Robbie is much quieter and calmer.  There are hints of an unstable home life.  She is the hero of the story, and seems to have been chosen by the Givers for some purpose.  There's also Nine, who's super smart but not the best at making friends.  It's not totally clear what's going on with her, but she definitely knows something that she isn't telling.

This is only the first volume, so there have been many characters introduced and many things hinted at that haven't been fully explained or explored yet.  For instance, being chosen for Laddertop was looked on as such an important honor, but it seems that once the kids actually get there they're looked down on as menial workers.  There's a lot of mystery surrounding the selection process, and why the Givers didn't explain how anything worked.  It seems people have just been blindly following what the Givers told them to do for the past 25 years, and no one has ever questioned why it has to be done that way.

The art is black and white with clear manga influences.  It's all very cute, all big eyes and long eyelashes.  It's quite clear the characters we don't like, because they are lacking the wide open eyes.

I will look for the next volume.  I'd like to see where this series goes.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

Mahlia and her friend Mouse are war refugees.  Mouse saved Mahlia after the Army of God cut off one of her hands.  The two fled the Drowned Cities and have been living on the outskirts where it's safer.  But not safe.  They discover a wounded half-man, a born killer that the army is after.  They strike up a deal, they will help the half-man Tool, and in exchange, he will help them run north.  When Mouse is captured and recruited into the army, Mahlia must decide what the right thing to do is: run and save herself, or go after Mouse and face almost certain death.

So good.  So depressing.  Oh man, so depressing.  But so good.  Dystopias are depressing in general, but this hit harder than most other ones I've read.  This world seemed more feasible, more real.  Most other dystopias don't actually have a sense of possible reality for me.  But wow, did this one.  So depressed.

Friday, May 18, 2012


Harry Potter finally available on the Kindle.  From PW.

I stopped watching Glee a while ago (due to the fact it started to suck), but I totally agree that there should be a real, non-stereotypical librarian on the show.  I think it should be me.  From SLJ.

Are today's children's books about Africa still racist? From WordCrunch.

Neil Gaiman's reading habits.  From The New York Times.

Awesome.  DC is getting rid of half of their librarians.  From SLJ.

What makes a good dystopian novel?  From The Horn Book.

And on that note, why are so many highly-praised children's books so gloomy?  From The Guardian.

These are your kids on books.  I want this poster.  From GalleyCat.

Veronica Roth, author of Divergent, on feminism.  From Los Angeles Times.

OMG adorable!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Revived by Cat Patrick

When Daisy was in elementary school, she was killed in a school bus accident.  Then she was brought back to life through a secret government program using a drug called Revive.  Since then, Daisy's lived with the comforting knowledge that if anything should ever happens to her again, her guardian, Mason, an agent in the program, will bring her back with the drug.  But after Daisy moves to a new town and becomes friends with a girl with terminal cancer, Daisy begins questioning the motives of the Revive program.  And then she discovered the program has a much darker side than she ever could have imagined.

So this book has a totally misleading blurb on the back.  It says how Daisy takes risk, knowing that she can always be brought back.  I expected a book about a girl doing crazy things, like cliff diving and running in to oncoming traffic for an adrenalin rush.  It was not about that at all.  Yes, Daisy has died several times, but it mostly seems to have to do with the fact that she has a severe bee allergy and a habit of forgetting her EpiPen.  She's not exactly a crazy risk taker.

Daisy certainly has a skewed idea of death, however, because of what her experience has been.  Death is not permanent to Daisy.  She's never really thought about the people who could not be Revived from the school bus crash, only how great it was that so many of them were saved through the amazing program.

When Daisy moves to a new town (because she's died from a bee sting and brought back) she becomes close friends with Audrey, whom she later learns has terminal cancer.  She also starts dating Audrey's brother Matt.  Daisy begins to question the motivations of the program.  If there's this amazing drug, why isn't it being shared?  Why didn't the agents try to save the bus kids in other ways if Revive doesn't always work?  Why does she get to be brought back to life over and over, but Audrey can't?

There's also this whole sinister side to the Revive program Daisy discovers and is trying to figure out, but what made it more than just a "teen uncovers sinister plot" story was Daisy coming to understand what death really means.  Audrey does die, and there's nothing Daisy can do about it (Revive doesn't work with disease that destroys the body) and now she has to come to terms with what death actually means.

A riveting read that also had a very thoughtful side.

200 Followers Giveaway: A Girl Named Digit by Annabel Monaghan

We have 200 followers!  So exciting!  Because we love each and every one of you so very much we have a special giveaway for you.  If you are one of our fabulous followers, +2 entries!

Farrah "Digit" Higgins may be going to MIT in the fall, but this L.A. high school genius has left her geek self behind in another school district so she can blend in with the popular crowd at Santa Monica High and actually enjoy her senior year. But when Farrah, the daughter of a UCLA math professor, unknowingly cracks a terrorist group's number sequence, her laid-back senior year gets a lot more interesting. Soon she is personally investigating the case, on the run from terrorists, and faking her own kidnapping-- all while trying to convince a young, hot FBI agent to take her seriously. So much for blending in..

A Girl Named Digit comes out June 5.

This giveaway is now closed.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Mystic City by Theo Lawrence

"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 o

Aria Rose, youngest scion of one of Mystic City's two ruling rival families, finds herself betrothed to Thomas Foster, the son of her parents' sworn enemies. The union of the two will end the generations-long political feud—and unite all those living in the Aeries, the privileged upper reaches of the city, against the banished mystics who dwell below in the Depths. But Aria doesn't remember falling in love with Thomas; in fact, she wakes one day with huge gaps in her memory. And she can't conceive why her parents would have agreed to unite with the Fosters in the first place. Only when Aria meets Hunter, a gorgeous rebel mystic from the Depths, does she start to have glimmers of recollection—and to understand that he holds the key to unlocking her past. The choices she makes can save or doom the city—including herself.  (Summary from

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Eleven year old Gregor is trying to get by one day at a time, ever since his father disappeared two years ago it has fallen on his shoulders to help his mother take care of his two sisters and grandmother. He isn't bitter about the added responsibility, but he does take his job very seriously when looking over two year old sister Boots. This is especially true when he and Boots are pulled through the laundry grate into a mysterious world called the Underland. There are massive bugs, bats, and rats, and a curious population of people that are forced to prepare for war because of Gregor's desire to get home. Now Gregor must deal with keeping his sister safe, getting the two of them home, possibly saving his father, and being the prophesied Overlander that will save Underland from being overtaken by the vicious rats. Just a normal day in the life of an eleven year old, right?

I listened to this one audiobook, it had a rather slow start. I also got extremely annoyed by the reader. He didn't have a strong ability to stick with a voice for a character. They all ended up being either his normal voice or kind of a high pitched misty sort of voice that was supposed to represent bats, cockroaches, and almost all girls. He also didn't have a great sense of timing or inflection. It made it really difficult to get into the book and care for the characters. I even found the two year old to be obnoxious. But I'm assuming that a lot of this is more based off a dislike of the reader's interpretation of the book rather than the book itself. Or at least a majority of it.

Suzanne Collins is also the author of the Hunger Games series, you knew you recognized her name didn't you? You can totally see how this book would eventually lead her to create the world and plot of the young adult series. This is a dark book, it has a lot of serious themes that she deals rather well with given this is a middle-grade book. The action was gritty and violent, just bordering on too much for someone below the age of eleven or twelve. I loved the character of Ripred, so jaded and sarcastic. He was a much needed voice of reason, even when it was overly blunt. I also got rather attached to the cockroaches, even though the visual of six foot long cockroaches made me want to puke in my car. One thing I love about Suzanne Collins is the fact that her imagery is so vivid, you can always picture the setting clearly. At least I can. I'm always transported by her words, even when I'd rather not be like when the group of heroes is located in a nest of spiders. Gross.

Here are the detractors. I got rather annoyed by Gregor's inability to stop and think things through... but let's be honest he's an eleven year old with an abandonment complex and more responsibilities than most adults. The book was intensely slow at the beginning, Lots and lots of exposition that I didn't want at the time, and still think could've been tightened up and made more concise. But again, I have to make the excuse that she is setting up a world for a five book series so lots and lots of details are needed?

I enjoyed this for the most part. I'm hoping to read the next one soon and enjoy it more without the bad reader. We'll see how it goes. What I think is more interesting is the fact that you can see the progression from this middle-grade series to the young adult series and how Suzanne Collins has developed as a writer.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughin

Will Scarlet is a well known thief, a part of the much loved and vilified troop of thieves led by Robin of Locksley. As Will, Little John, Much, and Robin steal from the rich to give to the poor, Will Scarlet must also deal with the ongoing secrets that he lives with: he is actually a she and she has a past that is catching up to her like the hangman's noose. As she deals with a confrontation with thief catcher Guy of Gisbourne, she must also pick through the conflicting emotions she has for Robin and the attentions of Little John.


Scarlet was such an incredible, deep, layered character. She was thoughtful strong, and best of all realistic. She was not a wilting flower pretending to be a boy, Scarlet was fully committed to her ruse and was rather disgusted by the idea of skirts and flirtation. That's not to say that she isn't sympathetic to the female plight. She has a back story that unfolds beautifully and naturally, kind of like her feelings for Robin and her confusion about Little John.


News: The Maurice Sendak addition

Maurice Sendak remembered.  From PW.

Kid lit world remembers.  From SLJ.

Authors recall Maruice Sendak.  From The Washington Post.

More authors recall Maurice Sendak.  From SLJ.

Maurice Sendak on children's books.  From the Times' archive.

Kate DiCamillo on Maurice Sendak.  From CNN.

Neil Gaiman on Maurice Sendak.

William Joyce on Maurice Sendak.  From The Daily Beast.

Jules Feiffer on Maurice Sendak.  From The Hollywood Reporter

Art Spiegleman draws his time with Maurice Sendak.

Alec Baldwin on Maurice Sendak.  From The Huffington Post

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Avigon: Gods and Demons by Che Gilson, art by Jimmie Robinson

Avigon is the greatest clockwork ever made.  Her creator, Pulsifer, is the Master Clockworker of the realm, and gave her the ability to think and feel.  Avigon now begins to question herself.  Is she more than a clockwork?  Are her feelings real, or it is just that she's been created to be that way?  In order to discover who she really is, Avigon must leave her creator and venture out into the world.

This was a really cool twist on the much explored "are machines capable of human emotions" story.  Avigon is the most exceptional clockwork ever created, and because of this she has much more feeling than any other clockwork.  She lives and works for Pulsifer, as an assistant but also a guard.  Although she doesn't look it, she is a combat clockwork.  When Avigon begins to truly struggle with who she is, the only thing she can do is run away and explore it.

Pulsifer lets her go.  This has happened before with other clockworks and they always come back.  Pulsifer is confident that Avigon will come back too.  And she does come back.  Avigon has one unfortunate experience after another.  She researches clockworks at a library, where she meets a university student.  They become friends (she is so expertly crafted she doesn't look like a clockwork).  Avigon hoped that he would be able to love her even as a clockwork, but she soon realizes that is not true.

She abandons her key and allows herself to wind down and is found by an amateur clockworker who takes her in.  He knows she's a clockwork, and claims he's in love with her.  When Avigon says she does not love him back, he says it's not a problem, he can just reprogram her so she will.  Avigon begins to realize that she really had the most freedom when she was with Pulsifer.  Out in the world she is something to either be taken advantage of or looked down on.

There's a side plot going on about Pulsifer being challenged as Master Clockworker, and Avigon being sold to the empress, but mostly it was about Avigon's journey.  It was a good story, and such an interesting twist with her deciding to return to Pulsifer and being happy about it, and satisfied with her life now.

The art was very interesting.  Black and white and everything is drawn very long and thin.  It gives the world and people a strange and slightly creepy feeling.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

Avry is a healer, she absorbs others' pain and sickness into her body and they are instantly healed. But after the plague wiped out much of the population and the kingdom is in upheaval as different families constantly struggle for the political upper hand, healers are blamed and hunted. Avry survives by keeping a low profile and constantly being prepared to run. Her luck runs out when she heals a child and contracts a mild for of the plague, she is taken into government custody and sentenced to death. Her unfortunate end is waylaid by a small band of rebels led by a handsome enigmatic man. They have saved so the can take her to a prince that could join the different factions and bring the Nine Kingdoms back to their former glory. Avry must decide if she is willing to sacrifice herself for the good of the kingdom, when the man she is supposed to save is the reason her family is dead.

I really enjoyed Maria V. Snyder's Study series, they were such a great mix of high fantasy, fantastic characters, and great storytelling. Then she wrote the Glass series, set in the same 'world' as the Study series, and I wasn't thrilled. It seemed a bi flat, with only adequate storytelling, and not great characters. And then she had the Insider series which I thought was fairly terrible. With this past history, I was a little nervous when I started reading this book but man I'm glad I did.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hopeless Savages by Jen Van Meter

Zero Hopeless-Savage has quite an unusual family.  There's her mum Niki Savage, and dad, Dirk Hopeless, famous English punk rockers (now retired) her two brothers, Rat and Twitch, and her sister, Arsenal.  Dirk and Nikki might be retired, but they'll never lose their punk rock roots and they've raised their kids the same way.  No matter what happens, whether it's her parents getting kidnapped or she's dealing with problems at school, Zero knows she'll always have her family behind her.

LOVED.  So much.  I wish there were more.  Greatest Hits is the collection of all the Hopeless-Savage stories, which Van Meter wrote between 2000-2010.  Are there going to be more?  I can only hope.  There were so many awesome things about these stories.  Where to begin?

One thing I liked was how much you learned about the characters.  With each story more and more is learned about the family and we come to understand even better where these people are coming from.  We learn all about Dirk and Nikki's past.  We knew why Rat had left the family and went into *shudder* business for a while, and what brought him back.  We knew about Arsenal's history of getting kicked out of schools and how she took her fighting skills and turned them into a career.  We knew about Twitch and his lost love and how the family will always love him even though he's mod.  And most of all we know about Zero.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Calpurnia is a precocious eleven year old on the verge of seeing America come into a new century. As she watches the country grow and develop intellectually, she must try and balance this with the expectation that she will grow up to be a wife and mother. Under the tutelage of her eccentric grandfather, Calpurnia discovers that what she is seeking in life might be beyond what her family and town can give her.

This book was lovely. Sweet, slow, and humorous, each chapter was a rather delightfully packaged little vignette that made you care for the entire family more and more. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from Origin of the Species, and it helps keep the theme of evolution very prevalent throughout the book even when the chapter might not have anything to do with the science experiments that Calpurnia and her Grandaddy perform.

This was a very character driven book, which partially makes it such a wonderful book. There are so few books for this age group that are character drive and well done. Jacqueline Kelly manages to do it though. Calpurnia makes you hope and dream with her, you want her to grow up and be able to do anything that she wants to do, and yet you know there's a good chance that she won't be able to. Jacqueline Kelly does an incredible job of creating a juxtaposition between our expectations as modern readers and the realist of Calpurnia's situation. Though-provoking.

I do have one little criticism. It's not huge, but I found some of the side-stories to detract from the main story-line. For example Calpurnia's eldest brother Harry has a fling with a young woman and I thought it dragged the story down a bit. It adds nicely to the whole well-rounded character and developing relationships between the family, but slowed things down in an already slow book. I get why it's there, I just didn't really want it there.

OK, enough about the book. I want to give a shout out to the reader Natalie Ross. She was BANANAS good. She encapsulated each character perfectly in the voices she gave them. It was incredible. When you listen to a book you want it to be this kind of experience. Awesome.

So go forth. Listen to this book. You'll enjoy it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Reunited by Hillary Wiesman Graham

"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 o

Alice, Summer, and Tiernan are ex-best friends.

Back in middle school, the three girls were inseparable. They were also the number one fans of the rock band Level3.

But when the band broke up, so did their friendship. Summer ran with the popular crowd, Tiernan was a rebellious wild-child, and Alice spent high school with her nose buried in books.

Now, just as the girls are about to graduate, Level3 announces a one-time-only reunion show.

Even though the concert’s 2000 miles away, Alice buys three tickets on impulse. And as it turns out, Summer and Tiernan have their own reasons for wanting to get out of town. Good thing Alice’s graduation gift (a pea-green 1976 VW camper van known as the Pea Pod) is just the vehicle to get them there.

But on the long drive cross-country, the girls hit more than a few bumps in the road. Will their friendship get an encore or is the show really over?

Reunited comes out June 12, 2012.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Maurice Sendak, in memory

Maurice Sendak, amazing children's book author, died this morning.  He will be greatly missed.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Grim Colberty Tales with Maurice Sendak Pt. 1
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Grim Colberty Tales with Maurice Sendak Pt. 2
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Magyk by Angie Sage

The very large Heap family is just about to celebrate the birth of Septimus, the seventh son of a seventh son, when Silas, the patriarch of the Heap family, must go out into to fetch some herbs for his wife Sarah. Little does he know that tonight is the night that everything will change. His old mentor and his queen are murdered and the baby princess goes missing. The kingdom is now under the dominion of the Supreme Custodian who makes life miserable for everyone. As he returns he across a baby girl with bright violet eyes. He rescues the baby only to return home to discover that his son is dead, with quick thinking Silas and Sarah replace their son with the baby girl and name her Jenna. On Jenna's eleventh birthday it is discovered that she is the missing princess, and must be protected from the horrible Supreme Custodian and his horrifically horrible boss DomDaniel. As Jenna runs for her life, and the Heaps go into hiding, they stumble upon more mysteries as the take a lowly army underling under their wing, Boy 412. Of course, nothing is as it seems and they must figure out the secrets of the past in order to save their future.

I got this on audiobook, and I have to admit that I went into this with high hopes. I had heard nothing but positive things about Angie Sage's books and I was really looking forward to the interpretation of the reader Allan Corduner. Perhaps I should not have allowed my hopes to get so high.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Only the Ring Finger Knows by Satoru Kannagi and Hotaru Odagiri

Wataru goes to a school where a ring makes a statement about the relationship you're in. Of course matching rings worn on the left ring finger mean that you're in a committed relationship. Wataru lives in ignorant bliss, as he wears a one-of-a-kind ring and therefore can't be claimed by anyone. Or at least that's what he thinks. But then there's a mix up of rings, and suddenly Wataru can't help wondering why the most popular boy at his school Yuichi has started picking on him and why he has the exact same ring as Wataru.

If you've read any shojo manga, then you'll be pretty familiar with the tropes in this novel. Oh! I want to make sure we're clear, this is a novel that was then turned into a manga a little later on because of the popularity of the novel. When I requested this from my public library I first of all assumed that there was only the manga, and then again incorrectly assumed that the manga came first and then the novel. Whoops!

I liked this, had a nice balance of angst, tribulations, and romance. Wataru's character has some understandable reservations about the relationship, and I appreciated the fact that Yuichi isn't always a cool collected dominant. Having said that this does remind me a bit of Twilight. It can't be helped! I mean Wataru is this little darling, who always questions his worth and idolizes Yuichi. He's rather oblivious to other's feelings like Bella, and tends to freak over little bumps in the road. Yuichi is a rather cool customer, who tends to emotionally dominate the relationship and always have an answer to everything.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it just seemed to have connections.

There are a couple drawings throughout the book. They're lovely, of course there's lots of focus on hands. There's a blog called LaineyGossip that I like, and she talks about pretty hands as "tea pouring hands and poetry arms." I think that's an appropriate phrase for the boys in this book.

Overall quite adequately done.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Gotham City Sirens: Strange Fruit by Peter Calloway, Tony Bedard and Andres Guinaldo

A couple of story lines that tell of the new female team of Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy.

I like the fact that this is a very female-oriented and yet not overly sexual. You get to see three strong women who really support and care for each other really kicking ass of those who would try and hold them back. I would like to see more of that done.

Here's what I didn't like: all of the stories pivoted around their romantic relationships with men. The impetus for all the action had to do with either past love or using a woman's emotions against her. Sad. These are three strong famous super villains, they have fantastically complex back stories, and yet they can't seem to step out of the men's shadows. Why? Why can't they go off to take down someone or steal from the mob because they just want to? Does it have to be because Batman's past relationship with Catwoman makes her weak? I just wish it could've allowed for stronger female protagonists. Perhaps in the upcoming comics?

I'll read the next one, give it a chance, but I can't seem to be optimistic that it'll change all that much.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Can of Worms by Catherine Doherty

Although she does not use her real full name (the character's name is Catherine Margaret Flaherty), this is the autobiographical story of Catherine Doherty searching for her birth mother.

This was a mostly wordless graphic novel.  Catherine discovers she's adopted as a child and much later as an adult she begins the search for her birth mother.

One of the things I enjoyed about this was seeing the process Catherine went through in her search.  She began her search in the mid 90s, and it took her three years to track her birth mother down.  It involved hours or research at the library looking a microfiche and library indexes and phone books.  Now, you'd search for people on Facebook or spend some money to do a classified person search and done.

I did find the story a little confusing at some points because it was wordless.  There were some frames that I wasn't totally clear what was going on or what Catherine was thinking about.  When Catherine first contacted her birth mother, the woman denied she'd ever had a child, then a year later she contacted Catherine and they met.  At the end, there was a letter that seemed to suggest that she wasn't eager to meet again, but maybe that wasn't true.  Again, it just wasn't clear what was going on with the birth mother.

Overall though I thought it was a good story and fascinating to follow Catherine on her search.  The art was sketch like and not very detailed, which I think was part of why some frames were unclear.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Why do so many young adult books have one word titles?  From The Guardian.

Happy 60th birthday Charlotte's WebCharlotte's Web was my favorite book in elementary school.  From The New York Times.

How Harry Potter changed children's literature.  From The Horn Book.

Ten gorgeous buildings made out of books.  From Flavorwire.

Better Book Titles is awesome.  I'm am especially found of An Extremely Complex Lie Will Clearly Solve Everything for Much Ado About Nothing.

WBUR's piece on M.T. Anderson.

Stephen Colbert and Julie Andrews talk about picture books.

Killer Princesses by Gail Simone and Lea Hernandez

Faith, Charity, and Hope are three beautiful idiotic sorority girls who happen to also be vicious foul-mouthed assassins for a secret agency that promotes "Better a World Without Genius, Than a World Determined to Conflagration."

I would like to put out for all the world to see that I love Gail Simone. I think she's brilliant, she can do no wrong. Her books always have more depth to them than you expect, and are seriously twisted. I first thought that this would be her attempt to reach out to the young adult group, but I was wrong. So wrong! It's only 88 pages long, but it entertains, disturbs, and makes you think. WHO ELSE CAN DO THAT IN 88 PAGES! There is more violence and swearing packed into this than I saw in Batman: The Killing Joke. And yet it's still exceptional storytelling.

I really enjoyed Lea Hernandez's artwork, it's got a little bit of a manga-vibe to it, but it was totally appropriate for this book. She makes killing adorable.

Let make it clear that this is not for the young or faint of heart. This is pretty hardcore and don't go into it thinking that if you enjoyed Cardcaptor Sakura you're going to like this, because you will definitely not get the same thing from it. Otherwise awesome!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

French Milk by Lucy Knisley

In this graphic memoir, Lucy Knisley shares the journal she kept the winter break before she graduates from college.  She and her mother rent a Paris apartment and live there for six weeks.  Lucy sees the sights, eats lots of excellent French food, and tries to figure out the rest of her life.

This was a day-by-day journal of Lucy's six weeks in France.  At first, it was just a travel log.  Where she went, what museums she went to, the restaurants she ate at.  Lucy details pretty much everything she ate the whole trip, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so if you're a foodie you'll love this.

As her time in France goes on, Lucy begins worrying about her future.  She's about to graduate college and try to be a comic writer and illustrator.  How will she ever survive?  She has a period where she's pretty depressed and doesn't even feel like getting up.

It was a great journal of Paris and the sites and foods (I want to go to the Marche aux Puces, a flea market that's been there forever, so badly!) but it was also a great coming of age story.  I think almost anyone would be able to identify with Lucy, and the anxiety she's feeling about taking the next steps in her life.

The journal is made up of a mix of photographs taken on the trip and Lucy's art.  Lucy's drawings are not especially detailed, and they have a very friendly feel.   It's so clear when she's drawing people she cares about.  When she draws her friends or her boyfriend John, you can see in the lines how much she loves these people and how much she was missing them.  One of my favorite pictures was the the one of John sleeping after she gets back.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Treachery of Beautiful Things by Ruth Long

"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 o

A darkly compelling mix of romance, fairy tale, and suspense from a new voice in teen fiction

The trees swallowed her brother whole, and Jenny was there to see it. Now seventeen, she revisits the woods where Tom was taken, resolving to say good-bye at last. Instead, she's lured into the trees, where she finds strange and dangerous creatures who seem to consider her the threat. Among them is Jack, mercurial and magnetic, with secrets of his own. Determined to find her brother, with or without Jack's help, Jenny struggles to navigate a faerie world where stunning beauty masks some of the most treacherous evils, and she's faced with a choice between salvation or sacrifice--and not just her own.
(Summary from GoodReads)

What can I say? I'm a sucker for fairy books. I like the fact that this might be a little darker than your average faery tale, and it kind of reminds me of Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series which I loved. 

The Treachery of Beautiful Things comes out Aug. 16th.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

Sunday is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, which means she's destine for great things.  But for now, she's just the youngest in a big family, and who has to be careful of what she writes, because it often comes true.  Sunday befriends a frog, and unbeknownst to her, a kiss turns him back in a man - Rumbold, the prince of the kingdom who Sunday's family has a personal dislike of.  Rumbold is determine for Sunday to meet him as a man and have her fall in love with him, despite her family's feeling.

This was a mishmash of fairy tales, from The Frog Prince to Jack and the Beanstalk to Cinderella.  For the most part, it worked very well.  It was fun to be reading along and pick up on another element of a traditional fairy tale that had been woven in.

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