Friday, December 30, 2011

Start at the beginning...

Steampunk and post-apocalyptic books may have only just starting getting popular but I think Alan Moore proved that heroines with shaved heads are awesome a long time ago. Thankfully Philip Reeve is rocking all three elements with "Fever Crumb,"the prequal to his Mortal Engines Quartet. If you aren't familiar with that series it is basically a post-apocalyptic steampunk rollercoaster of adventure awesomeness. After almost total destruction of the world from nuclear war, cities roll around on giant machines to escape the natural disasters that ensue. While rolling around the cities eat each other. Seriously. Big cities devour tiny cities, bigger cities devour big cites, and so on and so on. At the same time the cities are fighting a rebel group looking to get cities to finally stay put.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Alien Invasion!

OK, so we all know the standard, typical alien invasion storyline:
1) Technologically advanced aliens launch a full-scale invasion upon an unsuspecting earth
2) Earthlings briefly unite in a valiant, but ultimately futile attempt to resist the invation
3) aliens dominate the earth - all hope is lost
4) some inexplicable disaster befalls the aliens,
who die/retreat/both
5)earthlings unite for a time, then revert to our old ways until the next alien invation forces us to repeat the whole process

H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds is a classic example of this storyline, though I am sure there are a myriad of movies, games, books, etc. that follow the same basic plot.

If you are bored with the standard line, or would just find a bit of a variation on this theme somewhat refreshing, I highly recommend Lewis and Clarke. Not that Lewis and Clarke. Rather Perelanda, book one in the space trilogy by C.S. Lewis (best known for his Chronicles of Narnia series) and Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke, who, among other things, was responsible for a 1945 article that led to the invention of satillite technology. Each author turns the typical alien invasion story on its head.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ooku: the Inner Chambers

What would happen if most of the men died in feudal Japan and women now ran the country? Ooku: the Inner Chambers by Fumi Yoshinaga explores this idea, with most of the focus on the palace and its male harem. Yes, male harem. As titillating as that sounds, this is a deftly woven tale of politics, intrigue, and love with some amazing art. Ok, maybe it's a little titillating too.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Walking Dead, at Your Library

No question about it, zombies are hot right now. Here are a few notable zombie books I've read recently.

Ever since the first teenager walked the earth, adults have been the enemy. Now it's even more literally true, when a strange virus has turned everyone over sixteen into mindless cannibal monsters, leaving kids and young teenagers to fend for themselves in an increasingly desperate fight. It's not for the faint of stomach, but for those that like their zombie movies both gory and thought-provoking, The Enemy and its sequel, The Dead, by Charlie Higson are a sure bet.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

When I was growing up in the Detroit area in the early 1960's there was a young girl at my school who had just moved from Cuba and was very homesick for her country. Back then, I didn't realize that she was one of many Cuban children whose parents arranged for them to go to the United States to avoid being indocrinated by the new revolutionary government. Reading The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez took me back to that time and revealed to me just how difficult it must have been to leave everything you've known in your life to start over in a dramatically different world. Fourteen year old Lucia and her little brother Frankie live in a balmy sea side town in Cuba. She has all the normal interests and concerns of a teenage girl such as the upcoming dance, what to wear and whether her crush will be there. Life begins to change in Cuba, though, with the new government and the arrests and disappearance of friends. Lucia and her brother leave as part of "Operation Pedro Pan" and find themselves living on a farm in Nebraska. This is a book about a difficult time in history but written with warmth and humor, painting a vivid picture of what it is like to come to America as a refugee.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Young Adult to Adult and back again...

I was one of those kids who was always in the wrong section of the library. At eight, you are not supposed to be asking for a book on botany from the adult reference librarian, and at twelve, you get strange looks browsing Stephen King in adult fiction! I guess that is why I find the line between adult and young adult books very fluid--who's to say what appeals to people of any age?

Here are two recent adult books that I recommend for teens; the first is for lovers of suspense and mystery and the second is a most unusual blend of science fiction and fantasy. The Lock Artist, by Steve Hamilton, is the story of Michael, an 18 year old lock-picking whiz kid with a crazy past and a criminally certain future. The chapters alternate between glimpses of a bizarre childhood trauma and his present-day life as an increasingly skilled criminal "boxman", one of many slang terms you learn for a safecracker! Toss in a decent romance and plenty of unforeseen plot turns and you have a great read for any age. Among Others by Jo Walton is the story of Morwenna, a 15 year old lonely, disabled student in an English boarding school (but this is NOT a girl version of HP). Like the first pick, this author weaves together the past and the present, revealing dark memories of Mori's childhood with present day journal entries of great sci-fi and fantasy books that sustain her. Her journey includes new friends and old enemies, but I won't give away the details of the final confrontation with her ambitious, black magic obsessed mother. You will have to go there yourself!


Monday, December 5, 2011

Life in a Hoopskirt

When I saw this title, Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell by Crickett Rumley, I had a feeling this book would make me laugh.  It certainly did.  Jane is more goth than Southern belle and yet somehow she finds herself picked to participate in the Magnolia Maid Pageant.  The successful pageant girls will represent Bienville for one year, by appearing at various events in the Southern belle outfit, aka the dress with the really big hoopskirt.  Jane has one goal, escape before she's seen in public wearing that dress!  Jane's sarcastic comments, and the crazy situations she gets into are hysterical.  If you want a good laugh, this book has plenty.

Monday, November 28, 2011

When One Book Isn't Enough

Believe it or not, every single one of the favorite teen books in this year's Summer Reading Program was part of a series. This is a great time to be a fan of YA series -- there are so many excellent ones coming out, and the library has a great selection! So if you're going to be bored over winter break, or forced to head off on a holiday trip, why not grab a series or three to keep you entertained?

If you loved Harry Potter, give Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain a try! Think Harry Potter's life started out rough? Imagine if he'd been a lowly Assistant Pig-Keeper, who got all muddled up in magic, battles, royalty, and epic quests! Start with The Book of Three.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Project Costume Designer

Now that zombie season has officially ended I can actually start reading books that don't give me dreams involving being trapped in libraries & eating brains. Interestingly enough, I suddenly discovered I had started reading the girliest books possible: ones where fashion is practically it's own seperate character. I'm chalking this up to some sort of mild post-zombie apocalypse shock. The cool thing about these three books -- "Freak Show," "Lola and the Boy Next Door," and "Hollywood Nobody" -- is that the fashion isn't some magazine's idea of what'll be cool next year. Instead, it's all about declaring yourself awesome and wearing whatever makes you happiest, even if it's a mermaid outfit complete with Cheerio suction cups on your face.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Welcome to the Future

Let me begin with a little nugget of personal biography:

I spent some of my formative years among people who took prophecies about the end times and all that very seriously.

So when I say that Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is a prophetic book, I do not mean that it necessarily provides an alarmingly spot on prediction of some future apocalypse (though, in a way, it does). Being prophetic is not so much a matter of accurately predicting future events. After all, neither the use of fire brigades to burn books nor the nuclear war that seemed so immanent when the book was published in 1951 has actually come to pass. Rather, Bradbury's book is prophetic because it does what real prophets have always done: provide a bluntly honest picture of difficult truths we would prefer to ignore.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Saturn Apartments

Science fiction writers don't seem to be very optimistic. I'm not judging, I'm just saying. The future is always more of the same human mistakes, just with spacesuits. And yet we keep reading it. It must be because mistakes are more interesting than perfection. (There, I've just handed you the perfect excuse the next time you mess up on something.) In Saturn Apartments , Hisae Iwaoko has written a science fiction manga filled with characters that could live next door to you, living with the same small joys and problems as we do now.

Reading Across the Pond

Lately, I've been reading a lot of books that were originally published in other countries. These are always interesting because the slang, the traditions, the geography, and the history are all different. Here are a few I really enjoy.

Raider's Ransom by Emily Diamand
This book takes place in a post-apocalyptic future, when the oceans have risen, drowning most of the United Kingdom and hurtling humanity back into a more medieval society where only hints and scraps of high technology remain. It follows Lilly, on a quest to rescue the daughter of the prime minister from the Viking-like Raiders, and Zeph, the son and heir to the Raiders' leader. Exciting, fast-paced, and a little haunting when you recognize pieces of our world in the wreck of theirs.

The Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series
This ten-book series for teen girls is screamingly funny, and will destroy any notions you ever had that the Brits lack a sense of humor. Georgia Nicolson is fifteen, and therefore impulsive, irreverent, often snarky, and terminally confused about who she is and what she wants.

Lost and Found by Shaun Tan
This collection of three Australian short stories are odd, eerie, and thought-provoking, and when paired with Tan's brain-bending collage-style illustrations, makes this a book you won't forget in a hurry.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Go Where No One Else Has Gone

Can you imagine yourself being cryogenically frozen? Neither could I until I read Across the Universe by Beth Revis. At the very beginning this book grabs your attention with vivid details of the whole process of being frozen. I read the introductory chapter online and then waited anxiously for the book to be published. The main characters parents are being frozen for an expedition across the universe that will take 300 years! Her choice is to stay on Earth with family and friends or accompany her parents on the journey while frozen. Timing is everything for this expedition! Without giving too much away this story has a society in which its inhabitants are emotionless and strictly obedient to their leader with the added complications of time and space travel.

Nice thing is, a sequel titled A Million Suns is due out January 12, 2012! Yeh!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Life Underwater

Imagine that the seas rose and covered most of the land on Earth and a few of the brave chose to settle in underwater farms and you have the setting for Dark Life by Kat Falls.  Ty was the first baby born in an underwater community, so he is used to life under the sea.  Unfortunately, life is getting more challenging; outlaws have been attacking more frequently, the government is withholding their supplies, and there is a stranded topsider girl that needs his help.  Of course there are all the other day to day things that could kill him like sharks and giant squids.  This book was a fantastically fun read, so take a deep breath and dive into this one.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Are You Going to Scarborough Fair...

I'll admit it. I frequently judge a book by its cover. In the case of Impossible by Nancy Werlin, the premise of the book combined with the cover was too irresistible a combination.
On her seventeenth birthday, Lucy discovers that she, like countless generations of women before her, is under an ancient curse placed by an elfin king. Now pregnant (part of the curse), she has until the baby is born to complete three impossible tasks. If she succeeds? She frees herself and her baby from the curse. If she fails? She descends into madness and the curse is passed to her unborn daughter.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

If you like the Decemberists, you'll love this book

From the inside flap (yes, I know, that's cheating): Colin Meloy once wrote in a letter to Ray Bradbury that he "considered himself an author too." He was ten. Prior to writing Wildwood, his first novel, Meloy channeled his creative energy into writing weird songs for the Portland-based rock group the Decemberists.

For those of you who are familiar with the band, all I need to say to convince you to read Wildwood is that it is written by Colin Meloy and if you like the band, you will love the book.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Life on the Refrigerator Door

Imagine this. You're Claire, an only child who's not a child, almost an adult, almost able to take care of yourself. Not that you have a choice about taking care of yourself, anyway. Your dad's not in the picture, and your mom's a big-shot doctor.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Love in the Time of Flesh Eating Monsters

I dislike romances. And when I say dislike, I mean I'd rather have rabid hamsters gnaw at my eyeballs than read a sappy and/or tragic love story. That being said, zombies and mutated flesh craving monsters pretty much make everything better. They even got me reading romances.

The funny thing about Carrie Ryan is that I read a really good short story of hers in the Zombies VS Unicorns anthology before reading The Forest of Hands & Teeth. The romantic plotline? Mary has loved Travis for years but Travis' brother Harry is in love with her, so Travis picks Mary's BFF Cass to marry despite the fact that he too is in love with Mary. Oh yeah, and Cass is in love with Harry. Got that? Now add in their village suddenly being overrun by the zombie hordes that have surrounded them for generations. The four teens take off with Mary's brother and sister-in-law to start a new life... unfortunately for some that will mean a new life as a resurrected cannabalistic corpse.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder

I have a confession to make: I was a high school nerd. So when Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern was recommended to me by several other library staff, I picked it up and thought I'd check out a couple of chapters. I started reading at the dinner table just before bedtime and wound up staying up into the wee hours of the morning to finish the book. It was so engrossing, I never even moved despite losing circulation in my legs at one point.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Princeton and Faeries

In Enchanted Ivy, college entrance is even more daunting than average.  Lily desperately wants to attend Princeton, her grandfather's alma mater.  Then a secretive group of alumni offer her automatic entrance to Princeton if she can find the Ivy Key.  It turns out that Princeton has a door to the magical world of Faerie and the Ivy Key will let people travel between worlds.  Lily quickly learns that many magical beings are not very friendly, so it's good that there are two boys who are willing to help protect her.  Unfortunately they might each have their own agenda too. 

This story was a little slow to start, but turned into a lot of fun.  There was magic, mystery, and a little romance.  You know there is more going on than Lily is aware of, but it's hard to figure it out.  The storyline was creative, the characters were well developed, and the result was an enchanting read. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Banned Books Week... continued

It's banned books week, and I love looking to see which books have hit the top ten banned lists of the year, as well as what authors have been challenged. You can find a lot of that information on the ALA website.

This year, I was surprised to learn that Cinderella has been among the banned. One of my favorite Cinderella stories is Ash by Malinda Lo. Ash is our Cinderella, and she grows up intrigued by the fairy realm and the handsome prince who is cursed to love her. But fate has other plans for Ash, in the form of the King's huntress...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Some thoughts on censorship

In honor of Banned Books Week, I would like to offer some thoughts on censorship.

Censorship is, of course, the act of censoring. And to censor means "to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable" (Merriam-Webster). (In the Roman republic, the censors kept a count of those who met birth and property requirements to enter the Senate; the basic idea is still roughly the same - taking a measure of, for example, a book to see if it meets certain qualifications, whether these be moral or literary).

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica

Since I started working with the library I have helped with our annual sci-fi/fantasy teen art contest and workshops every year. My first year helping I had the pleasure of booking James A. Owen as a guest speaker. The coolest thing about him: he started self-publishing, selling, and promoting his own comics when he was a teenager. The second coolest thing about him: he's a total book geek, something you'll discover when you read this series, which is sort of like "Lord of the Rings" for the book geek.

The Chronicles revolve around the Imaginarium Geographica, an atlas of imagined lands, and the caretakers who keep the atlas safe. Jack, John, and Charles are brought together by the murder of one of the previous caretakers, which is exactly when they find out that they themselves are the new caretakers.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cold and Furry!

DNA = dieofcute!
Ann Halam's Siberia doesn't just have the usual things I like in a YA novel: a grim, post-apocalyptic setting, a boarding school, a plucky, rebellious heroine, and a heroic journey through the snow (c'mon, I'm a Tucsonan, I need some vicarious cold). It also has an added bonus: cute fictional creatures!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Polly and the Pirates

If you like comics and manga, you should check out Polly and the Pirates. Yeah, I know - ninjas aren't supposed to like pirates. But I have a soft spot for pirates, especially pirate chicks who kick... body parts. And prim and proper Polly is in for a shock when she discovers that her mother was one of those pirate chicks.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Welcome to the Future. It Stinks.

Awhile back, the New York Times ran an article about the "new" trend in YA fiction, novels set in a grim and terrible near future, otherwise known as dystopias. I'm sure they're good at any number of things, but the Times is a little late to the game on this one. In the past few years, dystopian fiction for teens has grown from a few books into darn near its own subgenre. Here, have a few of my favorites.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver - Ever had a bad breakup and wished you could just remove all those awful feelings forever? In Lena's world, they have. Everyone over 18 has been surgically relieved of their ability to love, and doesn't that make life just peachy? Strangely enough, no. (Psst! The library owns it in e-book format as well!)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Troubled Waters

Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn

Zoe's father was an advisor to the king, but he fell out of favor and was exiled from court. Zoe has lived with him in a small village for years. After a long illness, her father passes away. A few days later a man from the capital arrives. He says the king has chosen Zoe to be his fifth wife. Lost in grief, Zoe goes with the man. Once they arrive in the capital, Zoe runs away. She starts living along the river's edge where a community of squatters camp. Slowly she begins to recover from her grief. As she adapts to her new circumstances she begins to learn that her father kept many secrets from her. As she uncovers the truth, she will gain a place in society and discover her own unique powers.

One of the things I love about Sharon Shinn is how fully developed her worlds and characters are. Troubled Waters is no exception. The culture is rich and vibrant, the characters are complex, and the story is fascinating. The political intrigue is masterfully done. There are layers and layers of secrets and motivations that kept me engrossed. All in all, another fantastic story by Sharon Shinn.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mystery, Mayhem, and Dragons

I love books with dragons, so the cover of Obert Skye's Pillage just reached out and grabbed me. The dragons weren't as prominent as the cover lead me to believe, but it was a fun read anyway. When Beck Phillip's mother dies he is sent to live with an uncle he has never met. When he arrives he discovers a crumbling mansion, grumpy caretakers, and an uncle that never comes down from the attic. He is strongly warned to stay out of the back yard, supposedly because it's so overgrown that it's dangerous. Beck has never been very good at following orders, so he goes exploring. The secrets he discovers will change his life forever.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Here There be Adventure!

Often what makes or breaks a book is the main character. Some characters are placeholders, put there for things to happen to. But some leap off the page in three dimensions, tearing through the story, knocking other characters on their rear, and staying with you long after you turn the last page. One of my favorite examples of this is the Bloody Jack series by L.A. Meyer, well worth reading for history buffs, sailor wannabes, and anybody who likes a ripping good yarn.

Bloody Jack starts out the first book as Mary Faber, a clever urchin from the streets of 1804 London who sees the chance to better herself. So what if that chance takes the form of pretending to be a boy named Jack aboard one of His Majesty's naval warships? She's not going to let a little thing like gender stand in her way.

Over the eight books in the series, she gets in all manner of trouble, including piracy, kidnapping, sailing down the Mississippi, treasure hunting, all the while remaining faithful (well, mostly) to her beloved Jaimy, a fellow sailor on her first ship.

Jacky is a delight and a pain both. She's impulsive, often thoughtless, even more often stubborn. But she's also warm-hearted, generous, clever, and daring, and she will steal your heart.

Then hold it for ransom.

--Maureen K.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Time Traveling Incident

The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum

Abby's life is going according to plan, she's dating the boy next door, she plans to be college roommates with her best friend, and her parents are throwing the same bowling birthday party for her that they always do. If life lacks a little adventure or spontaneity, well at least she knows what to expect from life. Then Dante joins their school. He's a foreign exchange student from Italy. Abby finds herself fighting a growing attraction to him. The more she gets to know him, the more mysteries she discovers. For one, time literally stops when she is around him. Then he disappears for days at a time. Who is Dante and what is he hiding?

This story is a little slow to get started, but it's worth it. It has a little bit of everything mystery, romance, time travel, and lots of surprises. There are lots of Italian phrases sprinkled through the story to give it an unique feel.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Skeleton Creek

I've read silly, funny, puzzling, police procedural and spooky mysteries. But I'm highlighting this mystery because of the way it employs mixed media.

Skeleton Creek, by Patrick Carman, is Ryan's journal. Ryan was in a mysterious accident at the dredge (a mysterious place), and shattered his leg, rendering him housebound. His best friend, Sarah, is still out and about, and while Ryan loves to write, Sarah loves to film. As you hit markers in the text, Ryan will send you to a website:, where Sarah posts the videos she makes around town. Don't worry, you can't do much with this website unless you also have the passwords, which are sprinkled through the text.

While Ryan does write like a high school boy, the videos are deliciously creepy and the pacing is just right. Don't read (or watch) this at night!

Please tell us what your favorite mystery is!

~ That One Girl

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Brothers Torres, by Coert Voorhees

In The Brothers Torres, by Coert Voorhees, fourteen-year-old Francisco Towers has always idolized his big brother. But lately, Steve is going farther and farther trying to fit into the dangerous gang culture in their small New Mexico town. Now, it's time for Frankie to make his own decision about where he stands.

This is a powerful story about a boy caught between not just one rock and a hard place, but several. Frankie is caught between white and Latino, between idealism and hard economic realities, between his brother's example and his own definition of himself.

- Maureen K.