Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Raft by S. A. Bodeen

Robbie lives on the isolated island of Midway.  As she returns unexpectedly from Honolulu to Midway on a small cargo plane, the plane hits a storm and goes down over the Pacific Ocean.  Now Robbie and Max, the copilot, and floating in the open water in a raft.  No one knows Robbie was on the flight.  Is anyone looking for her?

So at first I thought this book kind of sucked.  It wasn't making any sense.  The characters were acting all weird.  But then, with a dramatic reveal, it actually turned out quite cool.

Spoilers ahead.  There's no way around them.

Princess Academy: Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale

It's been two years since Miri was sent to the Princess Academy in Mount Eskel.  Two years since her best friend Britta was chosen to marry the prince and left for the capital city, Asland, and two years since Miri helped her community to be rightfully paid for the linder stone they mine.  Now Miri and the other academy girls have been invited to the capital.  Miri is excited for the chance to study at the Queen's Castle university, but while there Miri learns that things are not always black and white, and when revolution begins to brew, Miri struggles to figure out what she believes.

I had not read the first Princess Academy book, which was a Newbery honor book.  I know it's always been very popular with the middle school girls at my school, as have almost all of Shannon Hale's books.  I didn't find it an issue reading this one without reading the first.  Certainly if you've read the first one, you'll have all the background and won't be confused by what "linder speak" is and so on.  Everything gets explained, so it isn't a must, but this is definitely a sequel and not a companion.

I really enjoyed it.  Miri was a complex and thought provoking character.  Her struggles are what most girls are going to go through: trying to figure out who you are exactly apart from your family, and what are the things that are important to you.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Intentions by Deborah Heiligman

Rachel's parents are fighting more and more.  Her best friend Alexis is acting like a different person, and the person she admires most, her temple's rabbi, has just let her down in a monumental way.  Rachel struggles to make sense of it all, but before she can make it through she has a long way to fall.

I didn't love it.  There wasn't anything in particular that turned me off.  It was a good story.  The characters were fine.  It moved along.  It was just fine all around I guess.  Nothing jumped out at me or pulled me in, but then nothing was a turn off.

Intentions explored how it can be dangerous and destructive to view other people as perfect.  It looked at what happens when someone you looked up to lets you down.  This was happening in two different ways, which Rachel doesn't realize at first.  First is the realization that the rabbi, who Rachel has always greatly admired, cheats on his wife.  Rachel is horrified and doesn't know who to talk to about this.  She doesn't feel like she can tell her parents, and her Alexis, her one close friend, is acting so strangely.  We realize that just as the rabbi let Rachel down, Rachel unknowingly let Alexis down.  Alexis always saw Rachel as perfect, but Rachel wasn't there for her when Alexis' parents were going through a divorce.  Alexis gets back at Rachel is a series of really awful ways, and Rachel tags along after her like a puppy for far too long, but I understand what was being done.

Rachel's life falls apart, and she blames it all on the rabbi, which is of course not the root of the problem.  Rachel is in love with Jake, but ends up cheating on him with someone else, despite her disgust at the rabbi's cheating.  She blames it all on the rabbi and what he's done to her, but she eventually realizes she has no one to blame for the way she acts but herself.

I appreciated that not everything got fixed for Rachel.  She and Alexis didn't have a big love-fest at the end when all is forgiven (although everything does work out with Jake and her parents).

Intentions comes out August 14, 2012.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: Valkyrie Rising

"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 Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson.

Nothing ever happens in Norway. But at least Ellie knows what to expect when she visits her grandmother: a tranquil fishing village and long, slow summer days. And maybe she’ll finally get out from under the shadow of her way-too-perfect big brother, Graham, while she’s there.

What Ellie doesn’t anticipate is Graham’s infuriating best friend, Tuck, tagging along for the trip. Nor did she imagine boys going missing amid rumors of impossible kidnappings. Least of all does she expect something powerful and ancient to awaken in her and that strange whispers would urge Ellie to claim her place among mythological warriors. Instead of peace and quiet, there’s suddenly a lot for a girl from L.A. to handle on a summer sojourn in Norway! And when Graham vanishes, it’s up to Ellie—and the ever-sarcastic, if undeniably alluring Tuck—to uncover the truth about all the disappearances and thwart the nefarious plan behind them.

Deadly legends, hidden identities, and tentative romance swirl together in one girl’s unexpectedly-epic coming of age.
(Summary by Goodreads)

When I was about twelve years old I really got into mythology. Greek, Roman, Korea, or Norwegian, it didn't matter. I'm pretty excited about this spin on the Valkyries, which I think is a trend along the lines of angels, but regardless I think this looks pretty freaking awesome.

Valkyrie Rising comes out Oct. 9th.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Kizzy Ann Stamps by Jeri Watts

Kizzy Ann Stamps in nervous about school starting.  For the first time, school will be integrated and Kizzy Ann will be going to what once was the all-white school. Fitting in would be hard enough anyway, but Kizzy Ann was in an accident that left a long scar on her face.  Luckily she has her loyal border collie, Shag, who always knows how to comfort her. 

The story is told through what start out as letters Kizzy Ann writes to her new teacher, and then turn into journal entries once she gets to school and her teacher gives her a journal.  Kizzy Ann is a smart, sharp girl who sees the injustices and unfairness around her, but doesn't know how things will ever get better.

This is a middle grade book that doesn't get too deep into issues of race and segregation.  There are no screaming white people outside of Kizzy Ann's school, although she does mention that a bunch of the white teachers quit rather than teach a black student.  Kizzy Ann and her Black classmates don't need government protection to attend school.  All the white kids do not get pulled out of the class by their parents.  It's clear there are race issues, but it never gets too violent or dark.

Kizzy Ann has a changing relationship with a white boy, Frank Charles, who is also the boy who gave her her scar, although it was an accident.  Frank Charles lives near Kizzy Ann and they are in the same class.  He loves Shag, and is always trying to play with her.  Kizzy Ann doesn't know what to make of Frank Charles, who seems nice enough, but his father is actively mean.  Mr. Feagans once had Kizzy Ann publicly whipped for talking back to Frank Charles.  Mr. Feagans, however, has a dramatic change of heart after seeing Kizzy Ann help his wife while having a seizure.  Then he goes from yelling terrible things at her to helping her and Shag compete in a sheep herding competition.  I found that very unlikely and unrealistic, but I understood why it was done.  This was not a book that delved too deeply into why people acted the way they did.  It was a book about how you should always try and good things can happen, even when it seems hard.

What was more realistic was the other white children in Kizzy Anna's classes growing more and more use to her and the other Black kids over time and by the end of the year, she was even sort of friends with a few of them.  That seemed real, the changing natures of the younger generations, and the determined holdouts of the older generations.

This is also a book for dog-lovers.  Oh how Kizzy Ann loves her dog, which never left her side when she was injured.  Shag, to Kizzy Ann, is the smartest, best dog there possibly could be, and she talks about Shag a lot.  Shag helps Kizzy Ann to move ahead when she gets stuck, and it's through training Shag that Kizzy Ann is able to make new friends and take steps for change.

Kizzy Ann Stamps comes out August 14, 2012.

Monday, July 23, 2012

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Hatner

Raami is seven in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge forces everyone to leave the cities of Cambodia.  Raami, along with the hundreds of thousands forced from the cities, are put into work camps in peasant villages all over Cambodia.  With people dying all around her from starvation or from be suspected of being against the Organization, Raami struggles to survive and stay with what is left of her family.

This was pretty amazing.  It was hard to read, but beautifully done.  Vaddey Hatner chose to write a novel rather than a memoir because she was 5 years old in 1975.  She wanted to have the freedom to tell the story, but everything that happened to Raami happened to Vaddey.

My knowledge of the Khmer Rouge and what happened in Cambodia was very limited.  I knew about Pol Pot, and that millions of Cambodians died, and that was about it.  The problem with history in high school is that no one every gets past the 60s and the Vietnam War.  As we get further and further away from the 60s, we're missing out on learning about a growing chunk of history.  After I'd read the first chapter of In the Shadow of the Banyan I had to stop and go do a bit of background research so I would have a little foundation for understanding.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Ugly covers for great books.  From PW

Children's writers recommend their favorite children's books.  From The Guardian. 

Inspiring letters from famous authors to young fans.  From Flavorwire.

The bestselling books of 2012 so far.  Fifty Shades of Grey is doing very well for itself.  From PW.

Classic books get a makeover.  Honestly, they're still not super appealing looking.  From The New York Times.

What the new common core standards mean for publishers.  From PW.

20 best-selling children's books of all time.  Have you read all of them?  From HowStuffWorks.com.

Children's books are becoming more of a presence at Comi-Con.  From PW.

Miss. Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is going to be adapted as a graphic novel!  I will definitely be on the lookout for that one.  From PW.

Donald J. Sobol, author of the Encyclopedia Brown series, dies at 87.  From SLJ.

Else Homelund Minarik, author of Little Bear, dies at 91.  From SLJ.

Spoilers for all your literary classics.  From PW.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Giveaway: Prodigy by Marie Lu

A very exciting giveaway for you!  An ARC of the next book in Marie Lu's Legend series, Prodigy!

June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—June and Day must assassinate the new Elector.

It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long.

But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengence, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong?

Prodigy comes out January 29, 2013.

This giveaway is now closed.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent.

"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

In an alternate London where magical creatures are preserved in a museum, two teens find themselves caught in a web of intrigue, deception, and danger.

Vespa Nyx wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life cataloging Unnatural creatures in her father’s museum, but as she gets older, the requirement to become a lady and find a husband is looming large. Syrus Reed’s Tinker family has always served and revered the Unnaturals from afar, but when his family is captured to be refinery slaves, he finds that his fate may be bound up with Vespa’s—and with the Unnaturals.

As the danger grows, Vespa and Syrus find themselves in a tightening web of deception and intrigue. At stake may be the fate of New London—and the world.

The Unnaturalists comes out August 14, 2012.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer

The past year has become harder for twelve year old twins Alex and Connor. Their father died a year ago, and they no longer have the support they need at home. No one to talk to about Alex's inability to make friends because of her intelligence, no one to tell stories to Connor about his disheartening school performance, no one to help their mother pay bills so she must sell their house and constantly work. The twins' only bright spot is when they're grandmother unexpectedly shows up at their doorstep for their birthday, giving them a family heirloom book which turns out to be a magical portal into a land of fairytales. As Alex and Connor race around the kingdoms trying to gather the different pieces for a spell which may or may not work, they meet all of the characters of the fairytales that their father read to them in happier times, they also discover a little bit more about each other along the way.

The biggest draw for most people about this book is probably the fact that it was written by one of the actors from the show Glee. You might remember from my post about Chris Colfer that he didn't want his first book to be a biography, he wanted it to be about a story he'd grown up telling himself. I think this is admirable.

Chris Colfer takes a lot of the classics and gives them a tweak. He gives Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Goldilocks, continued stories that seem plausible, and while they still have a happily ever after the still have ongoing tribulations that the must overcome (my favorite being Red Riding Hood as a rather delusional airhead ruling as the only elected Queen). There isn't a lot of depth to Chris Colfer's world-building, but I guess that's not really why you would read it. It's mostly interesting because of the interactions the twins have with the fairytales and how the stories have continued. Chris Colfer has done a nice job of staying true to the classic tales of Grimm and Andersen and not incorporating the Disney-fication aspects of them.

Alex and Connor themselves are pretty solidly written, they both have traits that change and grow during their time in the Land of Stories. They balance each other nicely with their ideas and desires, and their more annoying personality flaws are tolerable given their circumstances. The story itself was also solid, nothing earth-shattering, but also nothing horrible. Some parts were a bit obvious, but I wouldn't go as far as to say that Chris Colfer took the easy literary way out. There are some nice little surprises but nothing off the wall.

I guess that that's the summation of this book for me. It was solid. I would recommend it to kids I know, but it probably won't be the first title to pop into my head. It's not that I wouldn't want to recommend it, just that I might not remember to recommend it. It's solid, a good jumping off point for a series, but it isn't enthralling. It's engaging but not mind-blowing. It doesn't push boundaries but it's not trite or mediocre. I'll read the next one, because I truly believe that he has a lot of potential as a writer and will develop with time. So there you go.

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer came out today

Monday, July 16, 2012

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Although there has been four decades of peace between humans and dragons, there is still a sharp divide and intense mistrust between the humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd.  Seraphina is a talented musician and the assistant to the court composer.  When a prince is killed in a suspiciously draconian way shortly before the anniversary of the treaty, tensions run high.  Seraphina is drawn into the investigation along with Prince Lucian Kiggs, but Seraphina has her own secrets to hide.

This rocked.  Awesome beginning to a series.  Fabulous world creation.  Excellent character development.  Perfect pacing.  I totally loved it.  Rachel Hartman created something completely knew out of old fantasy conventions.

In this world, dragons have the ability to take on human form.  Dragons are highly intelligent and have contributed much to the human world with inventions and mathematics.  All dragons in human forms wear bells on their shoulder to distinguish themselves, but the dragons that are scholars do not.  If they are able, they can blend in.  I say, "if they are able" because dragons are very different from humans.  They do not have souls, and they do not understand, or process, emotions.  They view things through a strictly scientific lens.  This makes it hard for them to act as convincing humans.

Spoilers ahead.  Big ones. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012


I liked The Hunger Games as much as the next person, but is this really necessary?  Mockingjay will be split into two movies.  From Time Magazine.

Which of course leads us to ask, where will they split it?  From EW.

Yay!  More middle grade and picture books coming from Neil Gaiman!  From PW.

'No Child Left Behind' whittled down by White House.  From The New York Times.

Author Elizabeth Fama has some issues with how bloggers deal with ARCs.  Thoughts? 

Children in today's books are more likely to be parentless or abandoned.  From The Guardian

Also from The Guardian, why teens in books can't swear

A couple from Flavorwire: The 20 most beautiful children's books of all times and adorable photos of kids reading.

PW's Best Books for Summer.

The issue of conferences and ARCs.  Who should the ARCs be going to?  I agree that it's an issue.  Some of the lines I saw at ALA were crazy, and I saw plenty of very rude ARC grabbing. From PW.

John Green: Why books beat iPad apps.  From USA Today.

Why girls love witches.  From The Guardian.

Huzzah!  It's nice to be supported.  ALA adopts resolution supporting school libraries.  From SLJ.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Courtship & Curses by Marissa Doyle

 It's 1815, and Sophie should be excited about her coming out to London society, but illness has made her walk with a limp, and she knows the only match she'll make for herself is one that's after her money.  Finding a husband loses its importance when Sophie realizes someone is using magic to attack the members of the War Cabinet, including her father!  It's up to Sophie to figure out who's behind it, all the while trying to keep her own magic a secret.

A delightful romp!  I thoroughly enjoyed this.  It was light and quick and pleasure to read.  Sophie and her friend Parthenope (name of a siren in Greek mythology, I knew it had to come from somewhere) were absolutely delightful, especially Parthenope who acted completely out of character for a English lady in 1815, what with her mouthing off and punching a rakish young man in the nose (he deserved it).  Parthenope was completely over the top, yet a very sweet, caring character and I loved reading her.

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

In this sequel to A Discovery of Witches, Diana and Matthew have travelled back to the Elizabethan Age in order to find someone to teach Diana about her powers and find the complete Ashmole 782. While Matthew and Diana have rather naive visions of being able to participate in the past without affecting it, as soon as the step into the past they realize that neither one of them is prepared. Matthew's former choices and secrets become a heavier burden than he foresaw, and Diana's modern day independence and historian's eye is a huge hindrance when trying to go unnoticed. As their goals become more hazy and their seemingly small choices make huge changes in the future, one thing remains certain: Diana's abilities and the Ashmole's insight to the genesis of witches, vampires, and daemons, are intrinsically bound together.

If you read my review of A Discovery of Witches, you know that I really enjoyed it: Deborah Harkness creates an amazing secondary cast and really develops a sense of place in her books. You also know I was rather put off by Diana and Matthew's relationship and how it didn't seem to have any foundation to develop. Shadow of Night does an excellent job of quelling those niggles I had about the series. As this book focuses in on their time in the Elizabethan Age, most of the book delves into their own relationship when they don't have to interact with the strong secondary cast that I love. Not to say that this book doesn't have a great cast, but I'll get to that later. At the beginning of the book Diana becomes rather frustrated by the secrets that Matthew has kept from her and his need to protect her by keeping relevant information from her. All the things that annoyed me about Matthew in the first book now annoy Diana too and shockingly they actually discuss them! Like adults! Who knew that could happen in a book with vampires in it? Yes, there is still some whitewashing done to create more depth in their relationship but it's not heavy-handed and it helps the overall storytelling. So thank you Deborah Harkness for nipping all two of my dissatisfactions in the bud.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Magician's Apprentice by Kate Banks, pictures by Peter Sis

Like his older brothers before him, Baz leaves home to become a weaver's apprentice.  His master is a cruel man, and all the apprentices suffer under him terribly.  Then Baz is sold to a magician for a sword, and his journey truly begins.

This was a quiet and beautiful story.  The language was lovely, weaving beautiful pictures with words.  While it wasn't in verse, it had a rhythmic, poetic feel to it.  Peter Sis' deceptively simple drawings fit perfectly.

This is a learning-a-lesson about life book, so if you don't like those you won't like this.  If you're willing to just let the language and the imagery wash over you, and take whatever you can out of it, you're in for a treat.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Celaena was an assassin, the best the kingdom had ever known, but then she was betrayed and sentenced to hard labor.  Now she's been removed from the salt mines to take part in a competition as the Crown Prince's champion.  Twenty-three will compete for the chance to be the king's champion - and the chance to win their freedom.  Celaena has no love for the king, but she will do whatever ever it takes to be free again.

This is Sarah J. Maas' first novel, although she has been publishing work at FictionPress.com since 2002.  She has a large online fan base.  The book was a fun and action-packed read, but it also read like a fanfic writer writing her first book.  By that I mean that it went on far longer than it needed to, there was an excessive amount of descriptive passages, a lack of character development, and the events of the books were drawn out far longer than they needed to be.  Hopefully in future books, things will be cleaner and tighter.

For example, the finally fight scene just went on and on.  It was just her getting thrown about for pages and pages.  And it wasn't like there was spectacular dialogue or exciting action sequences being described.  It just kept going.  I started skimming to get to the end.

What I felt the most was the lack of character development.  I know that there were four novellas that were released online that gave some background information on Celaena and how she ended up in the salt mines (which whenever I read I thought of the Spice Mines of Kessel), but I don't think having more background on her would have helped.  She's supposedly having a growing relationship with Dorian, the crown prince, and Chaol the captain of the guards, but we were mostly told and not shown that her feelings toward them were changing.  Especially in regards to Chaol, there wasn't any reason I could see that she would warm up to him.

Chaol pissed me off to no end.  Chaol was in charge of making sure Celaena didn't kill anyone, and he was always yanking her around by a chain, or pinching or poking her.  He was rather abusive, really.  He was so distressed by being attracted to her, it made him physically violent against her?  That's...super disturbing.  Why did she end up trusting him?  I just couldn't see it.  It made no sense.  He was nothing but rude and disrespectful of her from the very beginning.  The relationship with Dorian was better done, and we actually got to see their relationship changing and why.

Celaena has the potential to be an interesting, powerful character.  I'd like to see where Sarah J. Maas takes her, as well as where she goes with the world building.  We know very little about the world, but that there used to be magic, but the king has banished all things magic.  Doing this caused all magical creatures to disappear, and all magical books to be burned.  There were some sort of Fae people before, who seem to be powerful, and there are some people left who can call on these ancient powers, but they are very secretive about it.  It's not clear where this will go.

And may I just ask why the UK gets a way better cover than we do?
Am I right?  This cover: kick ass and powerful.  Cover above: generic pretty girl who isn't even making a fist right.

Throne of Glass comes out August 7, 2012.

Waiting on Wednesday: A World Away by Nancy Grossman

"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 summer of firsts 
Sixteen-year-old Eliza Miller has never made a phone call, never tried on a pair of jeans, never sat in a darkened theater waiting for a movie to start. She's never even talked to someone her age who isn't Amish, like her. 

A summer of good-byes 

When she leaves her close-knit family to spend the summer as a nanny in suburban Chicago, a part of her can't wait to leave behind everything she knows. She can't imagine the secrets she will uncover, the friends she will make, the surprises and temptations of a way of life so different from her own. 

A summer of impossible choice 

Every minute Eliza spends with her new friend Josh feels as good as listening to music for the first time, and she wonders whether there might be a place for her in his world. But as summer wanes, she misses the people she has left behind, and the plain life she once took for granted. Eliza will have to decide for herself where she belongs. Whichever choice she makes, she knows she will lose someone she loves.

A World Away comes out July 17, 2012.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver

Liza wakes up one more and realizes her little brother, Patrick, has been taken by the Spindlers.  Her parents think Patrick is the same as he always way, but Liza knows that his soul has been taken away.  Liza must journey under the ground and confront the Spindlers to try and win back Patrick's soul.

It fell flat.  I could definitely feel the Coraline vibe going on.  I could tell that's what the intention was.  The world of adults doesn't understand Liza.  They are disconnected from the real world and are far to worried about things like bills and where they put their glasses to see what's right in front of them or give their child the attention she deserves.

Liza travels to a scary place which she must travel through alone, with only her wits (and a large rat) to help her.  The world is frightening and grotesque, and often times violent.

Unlike Coraline, the horror just wasn't really there.  I mean it was written there, it just didn't work very well.  It wasn't horrifying, because everything felt flat and forced.  I wasn't able to feel anything in particular for Liza.  She wasn't much of a character, and she didn't really have a whole lot of growth throughout the book.  She wasn't able to articulate why she was willing to go through all this for her brother at the beginning, or at the end (I assume it was because she loved him, but she never actually verbalized that she loved him).

A giant rat that acted like a human named Mirabella helps Liza through most of her journey.  Liza is disgusted by Mirabella though most of the book, and then is shocked when Mirabella betrays her.   Somewhere along the way they became friends, I guess, but I didn't really see that moment happen.  They just suddenly wear.

It lacked a vividness and a sense of place.  Without that, the element of the grotesque and horror just doesn't come through very well, and so it wasn't a very interesting read.

If a kid I knew liked this genre came looking for a book, I would definitely point them to Coraline or The Graveyard Book first.

The Spindlers comes out October 2, 2012.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

Callie is living in Kansas during the Dust Bowl.  She and her mother run a hotel.  Her mother refuses to leave, even though almost everyone else has.  Callie's mother swears that some day, Callie's father will come back for them, so they're staying right there.  Then one day, during a terrible dust storm, Callie's mother disappears, and Callie learns who her father really is.

I'm not ruining anything but saying that Callie realizes she's half fairy.  You learn it pretty quickly.  Her father never came back because he's a fairy prince being held captive because he wants to return to his mortal wife but his family wants him to marry some princess.  As always, there are the good fairies and the bad faeries, but even the good faeries aren't all that good, and everyone speaks in riddles and it's hard to get a straight answer out of anyone. 

Callie sets off to find her mother, and she's joined by Jack, a hobo, and we later learn, a Jew, which gets you kicked out of just as many places as being Black does.

It was draggy.  There was a lot of exposition and not a lot happening.  I just wasn't that interested.  There was nothing new or exciting being done with the world of fairies.  Callie and Jack are clearly set up to have a romantic relationship somewhere down the line in the series, but they don't have very much chemistry and it just wasn't all that interesting.

Don't really have much else to say about it.  It was fine.  No need to dash out and get it.

Let's talk about the cover.  Callie's father is a black man.  Callie describes her skin as being "cream-colored" but gets darker when she's out in the sun (which she is the whole book).  There's mention of her hair being "coarse."  There's the suggestion that Callie can "pass" for white, but the longer she's on the road, the more she begins to look like her father.  She requires glamours to conceal herself and make her look like a white girl so she can get into places.  I'm not sure this cover is a great representation of Callie. Thoughts?

Prodigy by Marie Lu

Day and June are on the run from the Republic and are searching for the Patriots, the only ones who Day believes can help him get his little brother back.  The Patriots are willing to help, but for a price.  Day and June must help assassinate the new Elector of the Republic, which means June must return to the Republic where she is now an outlaw.

I was disappointed.  Possibly because I loved the first one so much and was expecting something equally fabulous and it didn't quite deliver.  I liked Legend so much because it felt fresh and new and different.  You know how trends are.  Harry Potter came out and made it big and suddenly wherever you turned there was a book about a kid realizing he was really a wizard.  Then Twilight came out and everything was about falling in love with some supernatural creature and the issues that come with that.  Then The Hunger Games came out and you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a book about how it's the future and everything sucks but one kid will rise above it.

And as I was hitting the peak of dystopia fatigue I read Legend and loved it.  Prodigy did not keep the fresh new feel.  In Prodigy, Day reluctantly joins the Patriots, who are trying to create a rebellion against the Republic.  They want Day because people see him as the symbol of revolution and the fight against the Republic.  All Day wants is to get his little brother back safe and run away with him and June to the Colonies.  He reluctantly becomes the Patriot's symbol to make this happen.  Sound familiar?  Yeah, straight up Hunger Games.  Hardly anything is different, just a reversal in gender roles. 

I continue to like and be interested in June.  She's a great character, although we didn't get to see a whole lot of change or growth in her.  Actually, there wasn't a whole lot of new information given in the book at all.  We got to learn more about how the Trails started, but we still don't know what's going on with the disease experimentation or why they saw Day as such a threat, which was one of the big questions from the first book.  We didn't get to learn anymore about June's brother or what her parent's were up to.

I did like getting to see how the rest of the world views the Republic.  Inside the Republic, they seem so all-powerful, but outside, they're just a small rogue country.  I liked that a lot.  Both Day and June were shocked to learn this.  I also liked how the Colonies were not the golden utopia Day had always pictured.  There are plenty of issues there too, which leads to Day and June's ultimate decision about whether they'll help the Patriots overthrow the Republic or not.

Marie Lu is a new author and is coming off a huge success from Legend, which I'm sure is super stressful, so hopefully she'll find her freshness again in the third one.

Prodigy comes out January 29, 2013.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Girl in the Park by Mariah Fredericks

Rain Donovan used to be best friends with Wendy, but they haven't really spoken in years.  Early one morning, Wendy's body was discovered in a park.  She'd been strangled.  Rain wants to give Wendy justice, so she quietly starts investigating herself.  Her first hunch, however, leads to the wrong person being accused.  Now Rain is short on time to figure out what really happened, and the answer might be more then she's willing to face.

At first I didn't realize this was a mystery.  I thought it was another YA realistic fiction book about a girl found murdered.  Have you noticed there are a lot of them in the past year or so?  So I was in a particular mindset when I started reading it and was not ready for the twists and turns a mystery has.

After the first person was accused, but it clearly wasn't the right person, I realized what it was.  Then I thought it was kind of a lame mystery because the actual killer was super obvious.  But well done Mariah Fredericks because she put in several good twists that kept me guessing and I didn't actually figure out who really did until close to the end.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Printz Awards

We dashed directly from The Perks of Being a Wallflower to the Printz awards and made it with seconds to spare.  Unlike the Newbery and Caldecott awards, all the Printz Honor recipients get a chance to speak.  This year there were four honor books.

First up was Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler with art by Maira Kalman.  It was like watching a stand-up comedy routine.  They played off each other so well.  It was hysterical.  After thanking people, Daniel told us that he and Maira had a song for us.  It was amazing.  Please see below.  They received a standing ovation.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Advanced Movie Screening

A few last overdue post from ALA!  After the conference was over I headed to LA and then went to Colorado and have only just returned, so I didn't get to write about the advanced movie screening of The Perks of Being a Wallflower we went to, or the Printz Awards.  That will come next.

So the evening of the 25th was quite busy.  My fabulous library director, Liz, had given me a heads up that there was going to be an advanced screening of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which does not come out until September.  We felt very special that we were in California and going to an advanced movie screening!  I'm surprised it wasn't more widely advertised.  I wouldn't have known about if Liz hadn't told me.  It was probably in Cognotes, but I never get around to reading Cognotes.

When we got to the theater (conveniently located down the street from out perfectly adequate hotel), there was of course a line, because there was a line for everything, always.  Luckily it was not a very long line, and the theater could fit 300 people so we had no problem getting in.

Waiting on Wednesday: Defiance by C.J. Redwine

"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

Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city's brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father's apprentice, Logan--the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same one who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but a fierce belief in her father's survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city's top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor's impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can't be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.
(from Goodreads)

I saw this ARC at the ALA Annual Conference, and I wanted it so badly. I waited in line for forty minutes so I could get my grubby hands on it and what did I come up with? Nothing. This unfortunately means I 'm going to be have to buy it once it comes out, but it sounds like it's totally worth it , right?

Defiance comes out Aug. 28th.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Closing Speaker: J.R. Martinez

You probably recognize J.R. Martinez's name in relation to the Dancing with the Stars television show which he won in 2011. You also might have heard of his quite remarkable life story: how he was in Iraq and drove over a landmine and 40% of his body was covered in severe burns.

J.R. was a talented motivational speaker, he's obviously got his talk down and tailors it rather well to the group he's speaking it to. He does a nice job weaving his own life experiences in with his world perspective. And he has a strong lead by talking about his experience on Dancing with the Stars, and how that influenced his life.

I am going to admit that I generally don't like motivational speakers, I find their experiences too exceptional to reach me and influence my outlook. One thing I did appreciate though was the fact that J.R. made a point that he hopes people take his words and treat them like loose change, tuck it away until you unexpectedly need it and it can surprise you and get you through the day. He put it more eloquently than that, but that was the general point. We'll see if that happens.

He also talked a lot about how everyone sets goals: long term, short term. We all make them, and life never really allows us to follow through with the original plan. It always needs to be tweaked, adjusted, or scrapped. This is where he brought in a lot of his own life experiences as examples starting from his childhood to his current life. He had wanted to be a professional football player and now he just wants to be the best motivational speaker he can be. It's pretty incredible what he experienced, how he overcame it, and how he's now able to share those experiences with others. And he's only 28! Yeesh!

Ari and I left before the Q & A, but he did a really nice job. Way to motivate the librarians J.R.

Newbery Caldecott Award Banquet

Jamie, Ari, and I were lucky enough to go to the Caldecott and Newbery Banquet that's hosted by the Association of Library Services for Children, Jamie and I went for the banquet (where we met some lovely librarians) and Arianna joined us later for the actual speeches. Sidenote: did you know that the books that are nominated for the Caldecott and Newbery are first selected by the publishers? Also that the fifteen ladies and gentlemen on the committees must keep all discussion absolutely secret? Fascinating.

In case you didn't know the Caldecott Honors went to Blackout by John Rocco, Grandpa Green by Lane Smith, and Me... Jane by Patrick McDonnell. They had a little introduction and went up for their pictures, I was quite excited to see Patrick McDonnell and Lane Smith.

Chris Raschka was the winner for this year, and spoke for about twenty minutes. He had some rather delightful anecdotes about drawing and what it takes to be an artist. His speech was quite inspiring for artists and children with the dream of becoming artists. There were some funny bits, especially when he described feeding goldfish to his pet turtle, and some charming bits, like having a sit down meal with his good friends, and overall it went rather well. I will say this though, I think there's a rather clear delineation of why artists draw/paint/create and writers write, and this was made quite clear to me as Chris Raschka spoke.

The Newbery Honors went to Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai and Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin. This was interesting because I hadn't heard of either of these books, but they both sound quite intriguing which I don't always think when hearing about the Newbery books.

Of course Jack Gantos was the winner of the Newbery, and I would just like to point out that he has a very distinctive voice. I'm pretty sure that you would never guess that Jack Gantos's voice was anything but his own. Anyway, needless to say he was hilarious and riveting. I eventually had to stop taking notes because I just wanted to soak up what he was saying. He is a brilliant and accomplished speaker, and it was an absolute pleasure to hear him speak. Bonus, did you know that Daniel Radcliffe bought the rights to Jack Gantos's memoir?
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