Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor.

"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 Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor.

 In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Karou must come to terms with who and what she is, and how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, mysteries and secrets, new characters and old favorites, Days of Blood and Starlight brings the richness, color and intensity of the first book to a brand new canvas.

Days of Blood and Starlight comes out November 6, 2012.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Chomp by Carl Hiassen

Wahoo has a somewhat nontraditional lifestyle, the fact that he lives in a zoo is a major factor and his father Mickey definitely tips that scales into weird. After his father gets hit on the head by a frozen iguana, it's up to Wahoo and his mother to make ends meet. This desperation leads Wahoo to accept a TV offer for Expedition Survival. They've contacted Wahoo and his father to set up scenes with tame animals in controlled environments, which should be an easy job with a big pay off.

Little does Wahoo know that the production company is going to involve more complications than first thought, mostly because of the star Derek Badger's ridiculous expectations of his own abilities. Added to the company is Tuna, a schoolmate of Wahoo's who has runaway from her abusive father. An abusive father with a gun.

I would first like to say that I listened to this on audiobook, and it's read by James Van Der Beek. That's right Dawson was reading the book, and he did a marvelous job. His portrayal of Derek Badger was fantastic, but he really made Mickey Cray become someone I wanted to get to know. It was crazy good.

I'll be honest and say that I haven't ever read any of Carl Hiaasen's books before this. First impression? He's incredibly funny, with a lovely grasp of the depth of emotions that children can latch on to. I think it's easy to make middle grade books rather shallow in the emotion department, but Hiaasen definitely touches on darker themes that are engaging and thought-provoking. I especially liked his view of Derek Badger and the corporate machine of television. Not to say that this was a complete discourse on the corruptness of media or anything like that, it just made suggestions that added to the depth and tone of the story.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz

Colin Fischer has Asperger's syndrome.  He loves math and logic and does not like people touching him and has a hard time reading people's facial expressions.  Colin has just started high school, and is without an aid for the first time.  The very first day, Colin gets his head put in a toilet by Wayne Connelly, and then Wayne Connelly gets expelled for bringing a gun to school.  Only Colin knows that the gun wasn't Wayne's.  Colin uses his powers of perception to work out what actually went on in the school cafeteria, turning him into Wayne Connelly's most unlikely ally.

I really liked how Colin's mother, father, and brother were part of the story.  We actually get to see some interaction between parents and with their children that is positive.  The parent's aren't dysfunctional or abusive.  When parents show up in YA and middle grade stuff, they are very often dysfunctional or dying, so this was lovely.  I quite liked Colin's parents, and the way they handled tricky situations in a realistic and caring way.

Colin's little brother was a typical annoying littler brother, with the added frustration of having a brother who took up a lot of attention.  Danny had some understandable frustration toward Colin, who he felt like got away with things because of his Asperger's.

Colin grows as a person over the course of the book.  He is pushed outside his comfort zone in his determination to make what happened in the cafeteria make logical sense.  Sometimes Colin was OK making changes to his regular routine, and sometimes it did not go very well.  I was glad they showed this, because people who are on the Autism spectrum can't always do something just because they want to or someone else wants them too.  Sometimes it just isn't possible, and pushing them will not help.

I didn't love the basketball scene.  It was like suddenly savant syndrome came out of nowhere.  Colin is forced to participate in gym, and is terrible at basketball due to his poor hand-eye coordination.  But the gym coach has him think about it in a mathematical way, and Colin closes his eyes, calculates, says, "Got it" and starts shooting basket after perfect basket.  I would have preferred Colin to stay a regular kid.  He doesn't really have any special abilities, it's just that he can only see things in a carefully laid out, logical way that allows him to figure out what really happened.

I think this is going to be a series.  There is a strange student at Colin's school, who Colin doesn't quite understand but thinks he's really behind everything, but it doesn't go anywhere.  It seems like there will be more books about Colin solving mysteries to come. 

Colin Fischer comes out November 1, 2012.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Perry's Killer Playlist by Joe Schreiber

Perry's life is going great.  He got him into Columbia, he has an amazing older girlfriend, and his band is going on a European tour.  But in Italy Perry meets up with Gobi, the Lithuanian exchange student who lived with his family last year who actually turned out to be an assassin.  Now Perry is once again dodging bullets and on the run as Gobi tries to fulfill her latest mission.

I didn't realize that this was a sequel to Au Revior, Crazy European Chick, which I haven't read.  I was getting annoyed that there kept being references to what happened last summer.  Why wouldn't he tell me what happened last summer?  Was this a sequel or something?  Yes, yes it was.  So reading the first book would have been helpful, although it turned out, not necessary.

This was action-packed and fast moving.  Lots of sexy girls, lots of guns, lots of explosions, lots of high-speed car chases.  It was also pretty short and simple, so I think it would make a great high-low read for reluctant high school readers.  And there's definite boy appeal.

Not a whole lot else to say really.  A fun quick read with lots of action.

Perry's Killer Playlist comes out November 6, 2012.

Friday, October 26, 2012


A majority of young readers still use libraries.  Yay!  From PW.

Lemony Snicket by the numbers.  From USA Today.

An open letter to the Dean of Sweet Valley University.  From BookRiot.

Author of The Evolution of Calpurina Tate Jacqueline Kelly  writes a squeal to The Wind in the Willows.  From The New York Times.

Oh Lord, I don't even want to think about there being a continuation of Twilight!  From The Guardian.

Did you read that story about the Norwegian lady whose Amazon account got permanently shut down and with no reasonable explanation?  It's suddenly back!  From TelaReads.

Bullying and books.  From PW.

The Book Thief gets adapted for the stage.  The New York Times.

Doubts remain about Kindle adaption in schools.  From The Digital Shift.

Is it time to let go of Holden Caulfield?  The Atlantic Wire.

Andrew Smith talks about his follow-up book to The Marbury Lens.  Have you read The Marbury Lens?  You should, just prepare to be incredibly disturbed.  From PW.

360 degree cut-out book tells a 3-D story.  From Visual News.

Laurie Halse Anderson on why Speak is still so relevant more than ten years later.  From The Atlantic Wire.

The medical problems of four famous authors.  From PW.

Daniel Handler talks about Lemony Snicket

Prettiest Doll by Gina Willner-Pardo

Olivia is pretty.  Everyone knows it, and she's been doing pageants since she was little.  Now she's 13, and her mother has put her in the Prettiest Doll competition.  But Olivia isn't feeling the same as she used to about pageants.  She starting to feel afraid that pretty is the only thing people will ever see in her, that that's even all her mother sees in her.  When Olivia gets a chance to take off with a teen runaway to Chicago, she takes it.  But Olivia realizes that going to Chicago is only partly about running away from pageants.

I'm surprised that there aren't more YA or middle grade books that revolve around the pageant world.  It's quite the hot topic, with that pageant show on TV.  I have never watched it, but the kids and parents are always on the talk shows at the gym defending their right to dress their children in outfits from Pretty Woman.

This book took an interesting look at how people perceive you for your physical appearance.  Olivia knows she's very pretty, and she likes being pretty.  She doesn't wish she wasn't.  But she does begin to worry that maybe that's all anyone will ever think about her.  She asks her mom if she would be proud of her if she didn't do pageants, and what for, and her mom couldn't answer the question.  Olivia wants to be more than just pretty, but she doesn't know how to tell her mom she doesn't want to do pageants anymore so she can have time to try other things.

Danny, the runway she meets, has a growth hormone deficiency.  He's 17 but looks more like ten.  He's run away because he doesn't want to do the growth hormone shots his mom really wants him to take.  So we have a very unlikely pairing of kids, and when Danny leaves town, Olivia takes her opportunity to free herself from her mother and pageants.  She doesn't think it out very well, just knows that her uncle lives in Chicago and she'll go to him.

I was totally horrified the way the adults in this story let a 13-year-old wander the streets of Chicago.  It's not that it was Chicago, I would be horrified that a kid was wondering around in any strange city.  So not a good idea.  But it's a story and it served its purpose.

Both Danny and Olivia realize that their running away only partly had to do with pageants or growth hormone shots.  They were both seeking out someone who'd left them, and whom they secretly thought would help make everything OK.  They realize that this is not the case, and if they want to change thing for themselves, they need to make their own decisions and stand by them.

I enjoyed the story and I liked Olivia's growth over the course of the book.

Prettiest Doll comes out November 6, 2012.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

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.
(Summary from GoodReads)

I know how I keep saying that I hate zombies, or anything really connected with the dead coming and eating brains or whatnot, but I love library themed books! So this is going to happen. Huzzah!

The Archived comes out Jan. 22, 2013.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Annie Sullivan and the Trails of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert

Annie Sullivan comes from the Perkins Institution for the Blind to work with Helen Keller, and blind and deaf girl with no way of communicating.  Helen is wild and savage, trapped in a silent dark world.  Annie, however, is no shrinking violet, and is determine to get though to Helen, despite the interference of Helen's parents.

This was excellent.  Not only was the story beautifully told, but the visual representation of Helen's world was incredibly striking.

I have never read Helen Keller's The Story of My Life, or anything about Annie Sullivan, but of course I know the story of Annie Sullivan working with Helen and finally having the breakthrough at the water pump.  I'm pretty sure I saw a movie about Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller, but I can't remember which one.  That is all to say I didn't know very much about Annie Sullivan as a person, apart from her work with Helen, and it was fascinating.

Annie had a difficult childhood, dealing with the death of her parents, younger brother, and growing up in an asylum and poorhouse.  She was also partly blind, and couldn't read until she came to Perkins and underwent several operations.  Annie had a temper!  She was not a patient person, which seems like the wrong sort of person to be a teacher, but she was actually exactly what Helen needed.

We learn about Annie's loneliness, and her close relationship with Dr. Michael Anagnos, the director of Perkins Institution.  He was the one who sent Annie to Helen, and he was very proud of both of them.  Annie got frustrated with Perkins taking much of the credit for Helen's achievements.  Annie and Dr. Anagnos had a falling out over a story Helen wrote, and allegedly plagiarized, which I had never heard about.

Annie was often frustrated while working with Helen in Alabama, and it wasn't just Helen that was causing frustration.  Annie lived in New England her whole life, and found the Southern way of doing things enraging.  Annie was not one to hold on politeness and formality.  She often became angry when she felt people were talking down to her, or didn't think she was smart.

I loved how Helen's dark world was represented.  At the beginning, when things are from Helen's point of view, everything is dark and hardly has any form.  Things continue this way, until she begins to put it together that things have a name and a use, and then her world starts to take on more defined form.  It was a wonderful, beautiful way to represent how Helen's world suddenly opened up when she learned to communicate with people.  Helen's world becomes more solid as she learns more and more.  Once she understood what Annie was trying to do, Helen wanted to know the name of everything right away.  It must have been amazing.

I highly recommend this one!

Lou! Secret Diary by Julien Neel

Another French graphic novel import, Lou is your average middle school girl.  She loves theatre (that's THEATRE, with a re), makes her own clothes, and has a huge crush on someone who she can't bring herself to talk to.  She also has an awesome best friend, and a video game loving mom who she's determine to set up with the guy across the hall.  Life is never dull for Lou!

I am confused how Lou's mother is able to pay rent.  She is always shown coming in from being out somewhere or playing video games.  She's supposedly writing a novel, but I can't image she's bringing in a whole lot of money doing that.  So I did wonder about that.  Maybe Lou's grandmother supports them.

It was cute.  Lou gets frustrated with her mom sometimes, because she's not very mom-like.  Her mom is a bit of an airhead, and sure does love her video games, but you can tell Lou wouldn't want her to really be different. 

The story is kind of episodic, but there is an underlying story under it all.  Lou has a crush on Tristan, who lives in her apartment building.  Although the two become friends, and he even teaches her to play guitar, Lou can't get up the courage to tell him she likes him.  Like, likes him likes him.  Lou's mom has a crush on Richard, the guy who lives in the apartment across the hall from them.  Lou is determined to get her mom and Richard together, and Richard clearly likes her, but Lou's mom can be a little oblivious. 

Most of the book is very light, but there are some more serious moments, like when Lou tells her best friend Mina the little she knows about her dad, or when Lou's mom sends her to a psychiatrist.  Even these moments, which could be very serious, are told in a lighthearted way, and it never really gets to deep into things.

The story ends when Richard has left for the summer and Lou's mom has been unable to tell him how she feels, and just as Lou gets up the courage to tell Tristan she likes him, he moves away without a word to her.  I assume there will be more stories about Lou, but as far as I can tell, no more have been written yet.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Freedom! by Frank Le Gall, art by Flore Balthazar and Robin Doo

Miss Annie may just be a kitten, but she's more than ready to explore the world outside her house, no matter what her owners say!  Miss Annie discovers an open window and seeks out adventure.

Originally published in France, Miss Annie has now come to America.  The first (very short) volume is split into three stories.  First we are introduced to Miss Annie, a kitten with big plans, and her owners, The Dad, The Mom, and Sarah.  Miss Annie makes lots of fun observations about her family, while protecting the house from various pens and plants.

Next Miss Annie befriends a mouse, whose name she decides is Keshia, since that's what Sarah calls her best friend, so that's what best friends must be called.

Then Miss Annie makes her dash to freedom when a window is left open.  She meets some streetwise cats who give her lots of advice, not all of which Miss Annie takes.

It was a very cute book, great for elementary kids.  There isn't a whole lot of depth to it, it's pretty straight forward, but it was certainly fun and Miss Annie gets into mischief and has adventures.

The art is drawn from Miss Annie's point of view, so we never see the faces of The Mom or The Dad or Sarah.  They just feet and petting hands to Miss Annie, so that's the only perspective there is.  Miss Annie is very expressive with her big eyes.  The panel layout is consistent throughout, two panels across, four down, all the way through.

There is another volume of Miss Annie stories, Rooftop Cat, where perhaps we find out what happens to the friendship between Miss Annie and her mouse friend.  The outdoor cats were very skeptical.

Jellaby by Kean Soo

Portia doesn't have many friends.  Or any friends.  She may be a little odd.  Portia is lonely though, and one night, she walks outside and finds a monster.  A friendly one, and he doesn't seem to be from around there.  Portia, with the assistance of possible new friend Jason, decide to take new named monster Jellaby home.  Which involves a couple of elementary school kids getting to Toronto on their own and with a monster.  Good thing it's almost Halloween.

There's a bit of mystery going on about where Portia's dad is. She has nightmares about it, and it isn't clear what happened, or if Portia's dad is still alive.  I'll be interested to see how that all comes together.  I thought the character of Jason was great.  He was much more defined then Portia was.  With just a few sentences about carrots and the desire to give Jellaby a cooler and tougher name, we can see a dorky loner kid who longs for danger and adventure.  Portia is less clear.  She's clearly very lonely, and a bit odd, but we don't know why she's like that.  I will definitely read the next one, I want to see where it goes.

At first I found the art off putting, and I couldn't figure out how old the characters were suppose to be.  Everyone's face looks like an adult, no matter how old they are.  So even though she was small, I thought Portia was a lot older.  I hadn't realized how young she was (elementary school) until the scene where she tries to play with two other kids and she's holding her pony.  And that was a good ways into the book.  Once I was situated with the characters, and I liked it more. I like Jellaby was drawn a lot, with the big eyes that make he/she seem sweet despite the pointy teeth.  I think Jellaby is just a baby too, and is as lost and alone as Portia is.

There is little color in the book, almost everything is purple and white, with black outlining.  When Portia has bad dreams, the black is much more prominent.  There are many wordless panels, which worked well despite the lack of detail in the art.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Sixty Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone

Ruth just wants to have her own space, her own experience that is unique for her. She wants to do something unusual that sets her apart, in other words she wants to be more like her best friend Jack. Jack is quirky and outgoing, his life seems like one adventure after another. Their positions seem to switch when they go to the Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago, the miniature rooms that have scale items and represent historical rooms, and they find a magical key.

The key draws Ruth and when she touches it she shrinks! All of a sudden Ruth and Jack are exploring the miniature rooms (illegally over the weekend!), making contact with people from different countries and centuries, and trying to discover who has preceded them in the rooms. As they are trying to understand the rules that allow them into the Thorne Rooms, they are also dealing with the real world problems that are popping up: Jack and his mother might have to move and a famous photographer's lost work.

Snooze. The premise is fantastic. Have you seen the Thorne Rooms? They're amazing! Why wouldn't anyone want to explore them? They're beautiful and so realistic. Unfortunately that's all it seems to have going for it. A book cannot float on a great premise and a real setting which is vividly described. And unfortunately that's what it felt like because none of the other elements were strong enough to keep it going.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Q & A with Lemony Snicket.  From PW.

This just in!  Reading is good for your brain!  From The Guardian.

Divergent takes the top spot on YALSA's Teen Top Ten.  From Chicago Sun-Times.

Why Cory Doctorow likes writing teen characters.  From The Province.

Hmm.  A grown-up Holden Caufield?  I don't know...  From The New York Times.

John Green and I agree that Ethan Frome is the worst book ever.  From The Huffington Post.

Soooo...I haven't heard of any of the National Book Award finalists.  From SLJ.

The author of Wonder talks about bullying.  From Slate.

A chat with J. K. Rowling on favorite books and authors.  From The New York Times.

Terry Pratchett talks about having a rare form of Alzheimer's.  From The Independent.  .

A discussion on YA books with overweight characters, with a focus on Skinny by Donna Cooner.  I had a negative reaction to Skinny.  You can read my review here.  From The Atlantic Wire.

How A Wrinkle in Time was made into a graphic novel.  From PW.

How book covers change over time.  I love playing "when is this book from?" based on what the cover looks like!  From The Atlantic Wire.

Should teen books have ratings?  Holy crap, no.  No they should not.  From The Telegraph.

Ahahahahahaha!  Have you seen this poster?  It's ridiculous!  Can't wait.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

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.

Sounds like it could be a bit of awesome, right? I mean rebellion, special abilities, romance? Should be delightful.

 Darkest Minds comes out Dec. 18th.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Through to You by Emily Hainsworth

Camden's girlfriend Viv was killed in a car accident, and Camden can't move on.  All he had was Viv, and without her, there's nothing.  On one of his nightly treks to the place of Viv's death, Camden meets a strange girl, Nina, from a parallel world.  In Nina's world, Viv is still very much alive.  Cam can't resist seeking Viv out, but the Viv in this world seems different.  And she's hiding something.

I liked the idea of there being different worlds based on the different choices we make, but the worlds were different in only a few ways, and it wasn't really explained or shown why those particular changes occurred.  In one world, Nina's parents are alive, and in another they're dead.  In both worlds Cam had a terrible football injury, but in one world he recovered to play again and in the other he withdrew.  In one world Viv is alive and in the other Viv is dead.  It all seemed very arbitrary.  Yeah, I know, those were the important aspects to the story, but you know how I feel about world building.  If you want to have a good sci-fie or fantasy book, you can't just do stuff, there has to be a reason.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Article 5 by Kristen Simmons

Article 1. The United States embraces the Church of America as her official religion.
Article 2. Literature and other media considered immoral are hereby banned and shall not be owned, bought, sold, or traded in any capacity.
Article 3. Whole families are to be considered one man, one woman, and child(ren).
Article 4. Traditional male and female roles shall be observed.
Article 5. Children are considered valid citizens only when conceived by a married man and wife.

It didn't always used to be like this, Ember remembers a time when people were allowed to practice their own religion and to speak their mind. Where books weren't contraband and she didn't have to worry about friendships being tested by the Moral Statutes. She remembers a time when she was in love with a boy named Chase, and life wasn't about getting by and food stamps. But when she and her mother are taken and separated because they've violated Article 5, and arrested by the one she loved the most, her world falls apart. Her one goal in life is to be reunited with her mother, but things are becoming more complicated as Chase sets her free but leads her to a different kind of freedom.

This was so complex yet so simple. The culture that Kristen Simmons created is well done, her world-building was so multi-layered. There were valid reasons behind everything, and you could see the history behind it. Nice.

The characters themselves were complex, their backstories and their the evolution of their personalities. Delightful. Ember is consistent in her focus and yet her personal growth is well plotted. Chase is fantastically enigmatic and loyally haunted. Essentially perfection.

I think what I like most about this, and why I call it a rather simple book, is the fact that while there's obviously a revolution going on around Ember and Chase, which they are rather centrally involved in. Most of the plot is about their traveling together as just a pair. They don't really know what's going on around them, they are more concerned with getting to their unknown destination and getting there alive. And yet they become a symbol of hope and rebellion, which I think is rather lovely.

Article 5 was excellent, and the sequel Breaking Point comes out Feb. 13th. Wahoo!

Happy 60th, Charlotte's Web!

Today is the 60th anniversary of the publication of the classic children's book Charlotte's Web by E.B. White.  Charlotte's Web was my favorite book all through elementary school, but I haven't reread it in a long time.  I am feeling inspired to read it again.  It's a wonderful book about loyalty and friendship and the power of the written word.

Some Book!  Charlotte's Web turns 60.  From NPR.

The story of Charlotte's Web.  From Courier-Journal.

Celebrating 60 years of Charlotte's Web.  From The New York Times.

An original review, from 1952, of Charlotte's Web.  From The New York Times.

Kate DiCamillo talks about Charlotte's Web.

From HarperCollins

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things by Kathryn Burak

Claire is in her last year of high school for the second time.  She and her father have moved to Amherst after the death of her mother and the disappearance of her best friend, Richy, a case that Claire was a suspect in.  Claire just wants to get through the year, but she can't stop wondering what happened to Richy and if she could have saved him.  After she and the student teacher in her English class, Tate, are brought together in a very strange way, Claire begins to string together clues that might help her figure out what happened to Richy.

The summary on the back of the book confused me, because it starts off with "When you mother dies and your best friend disappears that same year..." but it seemed like Claire's mother had actually died when she was much younger.  But I doubted myself because of the summary.  But I'm pretty sure now that they were in NOT in the same year at all.  It wouldn't be the first time a blurb has been misleading.

At first, I was annoyed with this book.  And I was mostly annoyed by Sam Tate, the worst student teacher ever.  This is the problem reading (or watching TV or movies) that involves your profession.  You end up shaking your head and saying things like, "That's not how it is!" and "If this really happened, you'd be fired so fast!"  I assume this is how doctors feel watching medical shows and how police people and forensic scientists feel watching Law & Order.  Sam, you do not say stuff like that to a student.  You do not make light when they insinuate they had to take time off from school.  You do not give them unsolicited advice about their personal lives.  Because you never know what someone has dealt with.  You never know (because sometimes, the school doesn't tell you) who has cancer, whose father died over the summer, whose sibling is in the hospital, whose suffering from depression.  You SUCK Sam Tate, and you need to keep your mouth shut.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Suburban Strange by Nathan Kotecki

Celia is starting her sophomore year at Suburban High School.  Celia has always tried to remain unseen, observing life from a distance with her sketchbook for company.  This year will be different, however, since she's been adopted by an interesting group of students: The Rosary.  Celia is beginning to find her confidence, but things aren't quite right at Suburban.  The day before a girls' sixteenth birthday, she has a terrible accident.  No one knows why it happens or how to avoid it.  Celia begins to notice things others don't seem to see, and it seems to involve her Chemistry lab partner and the mysterious boy at The Rosary's favorite club, Diaboliques.

It took me a little while to get into this.  At first I was like, "Is this going to be like Gossip Girl for the alternative set?" because there was a whole lot of detailed clothing description going on.  It was getting a little draggy and boring.  Luckily, as the book went on and the plot picked up, the clothes and music descriptions went to the background, which I liked a lot better.

Not that I didn't enjoy hearing about the clothes and music and the club The Rosary went to, it was just a little heavy at the beginning.  I understand that a lot of that was setting the scene and making it clear how different the kids in The Rosary were from the regular old high school kids.  It wasn't just their taste in music or their carefully selected black and gray clothes.  It also had to do with a level of confidence and how they carried themselves.

At first Celia feels like an impostor, but she grows in her own confidence.  This was a story as much about Celia coming into her own as it was about the supernatural occurrence at her high school.  At first Celia is just going through the motions, still afraid to be seen and in awe of these coolly aloof people who all seem so interesting.  Gradually Celia comes to see she has quite a bit to offer herself.  This is all going on, of course, while strange things are happening to the girls of Suburban High.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

"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 Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin.

Mara Dyer once believed she could run from her past.

She can’t.

She used to think her problems were all in her head.

They aren’t.

She couldn’t imagine that after everything she’s been through, the boy she loves would still be keeping secrets.

She’s wrong.

In this gripping sequel to The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, the truth evolves and choices prove deadly. What will become of Mara Dyer next?

The Evolution of Mara Dyer comes out October 23, 2012.

Friday, October 5, 2012


Happy end of Banned Books Week!  I hope you celebrated by reading whatever you wanted.  Lauren Myracle got to be at the top of the top ten most frequently challenged books for 2011.  In an interview with SLJ she talks about what that means.

How The Princess Bride Became the Quintessential Teen Read.  It is also my favorite book.  Tied with The Phantom Tollbooth. From The Atlantic Wire.

How A Wrinkle in Time was made into a graphic novel.  From PW.

So, that movie of The Giver...will it ever happen?  From EW.

And speaking of Lois Lowry...The Children’s Author Who Actually Listens to Children.  From The New York Times.

Writing for teens vs adults - looking at J.K. Rowling. From The Daily Beast.

Are Dewey’s Days Numbered?: Libraries Nationwide Are Ditching the Old Classification System. From SLJ.

I hope everyone is gearing up for Star Wars Reads Day, which is tomorrow, October 6.  From PW.

If you're not, this should help: together at last, Star Wars and Dr. Seuss.  From Mashable.

A group of authors in the UK is warning publishers about the decline of nonfiction.  From The Guardian.

Beginning-reader series means a new path for Kevin Henke.  From Courier Press

Maggie Stiefvater on The Raven Boys.  From The Daily Beast.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Freakling by Lana Krumwiede

"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 Freakling by Lana Krumwiede.

 In twelve-year-old Taemon’s city, everyone has a power called psi—the ability to move and manipulate objects with their minds. When Taemon loses his psi in a traumatic accident, he must hide his lack of power by any means possible. But a humiliating incident at a sports tournament exposes his disability, and Taemon is exiled to the powerless colony.

The "dud farm" is not what Taemon expected, though: people are kind and open, and they actually seem to enjoy using their hands to work and play and even comfort their children. Taemon adjusts to his new life quickly, making friends and finding unconditional acceptance.

But gradually he discovers that for all its openness, there are mysteries at the colony, too—dangerous secrets that would give unchecked power to psi wielders if discovered.

When Taemon unwittingly leaks one of these secrets, will he have the courage to repair the damage—even if it means returning to the city and facing the very people who exiled him?

Freakling comes out October 9, 2012.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Breathe by Sarah Crossan

 Trees and oceans were destroyed, and oxygen levels plummeted.  The only way to survive was to be one of the lucky ones selected to live in one of the pods, where the organization Breathe could pump air in.  Many years later, Alina is a member of the Resistance, trying to regrow trees outside the pod, but the ministry is on to her.  With the help of an unsuspecting Premium boy Quinn, and his suspicious auxiliary friend Bea, Alina escapes from the pod.  Now they're all on the run, having learned the terrible secrets behind Breathe.

I enjoyed this.  It was a good story, although things fell apart at the end a bit I thought.  It has all the elements YA readers will like: dystopian future, fighting back against those in power, and a love triangle, of sorts.  Quinn has a crush on Alina, who isn't interested, and Bea is in love with Quinn, who's oblivious.  I guess that's not a triangle at all.  It's a line of unrequited love.

I thought the world that had been created was good, although a little weak on how it got that way.  All that's mentioned is that the population exploded, and more and more trees were cut down so housing could be built, under the assumption that the oceans could handle the oxygen needs, but it couldn't and the oceans sickened or something and then people started dying.  It was a little weak and not all that clear.  I'm not sure if that's just due to not great world building, or if we're being deliberately kept in the dark.  I think it might be not great world building.

The world inside the pod is quite interesting though.  We understand that there are pods such as this all over the world, and they operate of caste systems.  The Premiums have the most money and the most access to air.  They can afford to get extra air to do things like exercise.  If a family goes over their designated air amount, they have to pay for it.  If you're not a Premium, you're either a steward, who works for the government, or an auxiliary, which is pretty sucky.  Auxiliaries are second class citizens and seemed to have very few rights.

Spoilers ahead

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Gwen's family has been waiting in anticipation for her perfect cousin Charlotte to elapse. Most of the women in Gwen's family has some sort of special ability, but it has been prophesied that a girl from their family will have the ability to elapse back in time and be the final key to the secret society that her family has been a part of for centuries. But as Gwen starts having dizzy spells, and eventually elapses several times, she is thrust into events that she is completely unprepared for (and partnered with a snooty hottie who thinks she's beneath recognition). She must decide who she trusts and if the society's ultimate goal is something she wants to be a part of.

I really enjoyed this book, as in I'm super excited for the sequel like I was excited about the Lux series by Jennifer Armentrout. Rock star. Here's thing though, it really reminds me of Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough. The idea of a girl who grows up in a relative's shadow and then discovers that not only is she extraordinary but also the penultimate power. Perhaps a bit heavy handed, but both were so well done that you can't but forgive the similar themes.

The first book is a lot of set up, there are many different plot devices that are being set up and characters to introduce. Count Saint-Germain seems super creepy, Gideon seems a bit smarmy, and I love the twist on who Lucy Montrose is and how she plays out her part. The characters are complex in Ruby Red, and you're never quite sure whose side a person is on. I'm not sure if it's because Kerstin Gier is German, but this book has a great complexity and pace that you don't see much in young adult books.

I have to apologize, Ari and I were up late last night preparing a paper for possible publication. I meant to do a better job with this, but am having a hard time completing thoughts. This was an excellent book, which I thought you should all know about. I'll come back soon and see if I can't flesh it out to tell you how awesome it was.

The sequel Sapphire Blue comes out Oct. 30.
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