Monday, December 31, 2012

Introducing Tucson Festival of Books Author Guadalupe Garcia McCall

A new voice in Mexican American teen fiction, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, will be visiting Tucson in March as a featured author at the Tucson Festival of Books.  Pick up her award winning novel, Under the Mesquite, and feel like you are stepping lightly yet deeply into the world of a Texas border town teen. This story, told in verse, flows easily and sweetly and still manages to tell a difficult and poignant story. We begin when Lupita is just 14 and entering high school in Eagle Pass, Texas, her family's home since she was just a little girl fresh from Mexico. Lupita notices that things don't seem quite right with her mother and soon her fears are confirmed when she finds out that her mother has cancer. Despite the burden of helping to care for her seven younger siblings, Lupita manages to take on the challenges and fun of her high school's drama team.  We get to know the tenderness she feels toward her mother as they both watch tear-jerking telenovelas. This story may bring on the reader's tears as well as we follow Lupita through the four years of high school and the ups and downs of her family's struggle with cancer. In the end, it is a story about the blessings of family.  Author Guadalupe Garcia McCall has said that she likes to write about the complexities and magic of growing up.  Look for her at the Festival to catch her appearances and find out about another novel she has on the way.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

This Year's Favorites

Every year a few special titles really stand out in my mind.  To reach favorite status a book must really grab me both with the plot and the characters, often resulting in some late nights.  Here are a few of the titles that really sucked me into their world.

Contemporary Romance:
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Time-Traveling Fashionista

Book CoverMiddle school is the perfect time for a departure from the usual. Louise loves fashion especially vintage clothing. While her friend looks for all the latest fashions in Macy's, she searches in the used clothing and vintages shops. Other kids makes comments about her old clothing but Louise does not care because she loves her out-of-date and old fashioned clothing. She is familiar with all the top designers and is always looking for that special piece. She is especially pleased but apprehensive when she recieves a personal invitation to a vintage sale.  The Time-Traveling Fashionista begins her adventure. Is it possible for Louise to change the course of history?

This is Bianca Turetsky's first novel which has great illustrations by Sandra Suy. The followup is titled The Time-Traveling Fashionista at the Palace of Marie Antoinette.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Age-Old Question: Book or Movie?

Movie adaptations of popular books have always been a Hollywood trend, and this holiday season is no exception. Here are a few titles of wildly popular books that you'll get to watch on the big screen:

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo is a classic story about love, justice, and salvation set in 19th century France. It follows Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who struggles to avoid recapture by the policeman Javert while taking care of the young Collette, the daughter of ill-fated prostitue Fantine.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy follows the titular Anna, a beautiful woman trapped in an unhappy marriage to Aleksei, a man twenty years her senior. Anna's fateful decision to relentlessly pursue an affair with Count Vronksy results in tragedy and heartbreak for nearly everyone she knows.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Waiting for the World to End: Armageddon Summer

We're running out of time, if the world's going to end in 2012, as a few people are insisting. In this book, meet two ordinary teenagers like you, who both have parents who share a belief that the world's going to end, and drag them off to a remote mountain to greet the end of the world with their cult. I won't tell you if the world ends or not, but either way, you'll be in suspense about how Armageddon Summer ends!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Age of Miracles

Between the fiscal cliff and the Mayan Apocalypse, we are hearing a lot about "end of the world"scenarios these days.  But in most cases, the emphasis seems to be on the dramatic event itself, leaving unanswered the question, "OK, what then?"  What might/would/could/should happen after these events.  What if, by some miracle or fluke or twist of fate, some people actually survive?  What kind of life (or existence) might they expect?  Would I be able to make it under such circumstances?  Would I even want to try?

Perhaps these questions are not new to you.  Maybe you too have found yourself discussing these kinds of topics around the table after Thanksgiving [family gatherings can be a kind of mini-apocalypse, after all, so this may be fitting].  If you, like me, have been subjected to detailed descriptions of your relatives' aspirations to post-apocalyptic heroics, and found them more than a little hubris, you will find Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles a refreshing alternative.

Walker's novel does feature a natural disaster, and some of her main characters are at times heroic.  But it is not really about the disaster, nor is it an epic of human triumph.  Quite the opposite, really.  The natural disaster, an in-explicable slowing of the earth's rotation, is never explained.  And all of humanity's best efforts to try to overcome the effects of "the slowing" prove to be failures.

Instead, Walker's book is a story of "after" - of the lingering, gradual effects of the natural disaster, and the efforts of ordinary people to adapt to these effects, or to carry on with "normal" life despite them.  And in their attempts, and their failures, we find a reflection of ourselves that is believable enough to make this story disturbing.  And, it might give you something to talk about at family dinners over the holidays.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Next in "I love you, please don't eat me" genre...

Did you know "Frankenstein" was written on a dare? A bunch of teenaged friends (who happened to end up being famous writers) a couple hundred years ago sat around talking about reanimating dead corpses late one night. They finally dared each other to write their own scary story and "Frankenstein" was born. How is this relevant to my book review? Because that story kept popping into my mind as I was reading "Warm Bodies" by Isaac Marion.  It's one of those interesting and off-the-wall books that seems like the original idea was some how related to a random late-night discussion among friends. Are zombies really mindless & shambling? Or do they think and feel? Can they be cured? Can you date one without losing your head?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Seventeen-year-old Ruby has always been just fine on her own, thanks. She and her mom don't need help from anybody. Then Ruby's mom disappears, and Ruby is sent to live with her much older sister and brother-in-law. In the course of her senior year of high school, Ruby learns that asking for help doesn't mean admitting weakness. Instead, it's the beginning of strength.

Ruby, of course, is the center of Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen. With her shields firmly in place and her clear vulnerability underneath, she's immediately recognizable. Dessen also populates the novel with rich secondary characters. From Cora, the sister who once abandoned her, to Nate, the boy next door who seems to have the perfect life, nobody's what they seem on the surface, maybe not even Ruby.

- Maureen K.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Black Butler

The Victorian gothic manga, Black Butler by Yana Toboso, features a too perfect butler and his charge, the Earl of Phantomhive, a twelve-year-old boy who is the head of a very successful toy and candy business.  But both of these characters are something more, with deadly secrets and dark pasts.  Together, they host dinner parties and solve mysteries. 

The artwork is elegant and the reveal moments are both dramatic and gorgeous.  I am, quite frankly, in love.  There is murder, black magic, inept minor characters, cross-dressing, kidnapping, betrayal, kick@$$ fight scenes, and the most wonderful costumes.  What more could a fangirl ask for?  Oh yes - multiple volumes so my new favorite addiction can be drawn out just a bit longer. 

~ Book Ninja

Friday, November 30, 2012

All Things Necromancer

How could I resist a book with the title, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer?!  Really, how could anyone?  In fact, I loved this book so much that I thought I had already blogged about it but NO--I checked and despite some gaps in my blog technology skills, it appears that I didn't!  So now I can lure you into reading it AND the sequel, Necromancing the Stone, both by Lish McBride.  Do I believe there is such a thing as necromancy?  No.  But these are the funniest books about teens I have read in a long time, and McBride does a fantastic job of giving the fantasy lover something unique, interesting, and hilarious (meaning she doesn't take herself as seriously as most fantasy writers)! 

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Graphic World

When I read Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, I renewed my enthusiasm for graphic stories, born years ago with Superman and Lois Lane comic books. Persepolis told a story that managed to be intimately personal and wide world political at the same time. I picked up A Game for Swallows by Zeina Abirached because the artistic style and Middle East setting reminded me a lot of Persepolis. The drawings are black and white, spare and bold, but always capturing the essential details to tell the story. The novel, based on the author's memories, tells the story of a small group of dwellers in a single apartment building in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war in the 1980s. There is only one room in the apartment building that is safe from the destructive shelling that has turned the city into a crumbling war zone. Two children are left by their parents for a short period of time and in that time the residents of the building slowly filter in to the protection of the room and to be with the children. We get to know their stories and how the war has changed their lives so dramatically. Although you could call this a historical graphic novel, the focus is not on how and why the war happened. Rather this is a personal story. Read it for the masterful clear line graphics and simple story and you will find yourself feeling affection and hope for all the characters.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Alien Tension

I love the tension in love hate relationships that turn to romance.  It's even more fun when you add in aliens like in Jennifer Armentrout's Obsidian.  Alien Daemon is obnoxious for a reason, he is protecting his family and his species, by not getting to know the cute next door neighbor, Katy.  Katy of course just thinks he's obnoxious.  Then he saves her life.   Unfortunately that puts an alien mark on her.  Now he feels obligated to protect her until the mark wears off.  This gives them plenty of time to trade barbs and get to know each other.  But this is not just a romance.  There is plenty of action too.  There is a second alien species, who would like nothing more than to kill all of Daemon's kind and steal their powers.  Now Katy is in the middle and learns up close and personal just how deadly this undercover war is.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Silver Bowl

To keep silver looking shiny and beautiful you must polish it vigorously and in this story something magical happens when this is done.  The Silver Bowl by Diane Stanley has adventure, magic, treachery, and a bit of romance. 
In her seven years of life Molly has had no guidance; she is crude and harsh with no evidence of manners.  Everything she knows she has learned from the streets.  Only now that she is old enough does her father notice her and quickly sends her to the castle to labor for the King.  Her mother is unstable and kept behind locked doors.  Molly sees her before her father takes her away and it is then that her mother realizes that Molly has visions.  Like many mothers she gives her daughter advice but also a special silver chain to aid her in times of need. 
At the castle Molly befriends donkey boy who teaches her about expected behavior in the castle.  She must never look any of the royalty directly in the eye but instead look down.  He explains that servants are as "common as lice and just as interesting".  Changes are coming for Molly when she improves her position and is put in charge of polishing the king's precious ceremonial bowl. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Defying the Gods

Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst begins on the morning of sixteen-year-old Liyana's last day on Earth. She has been chosen to be the goddess Bayla's vessel, and come evening she will dance until the goddess has taken over her body--and she has died.

Liyana has always accepted the fate that was shown to her during her dreamwalk, but when the time comes for her to dance, Bayla does not come. Liyana is deemed unworthy and left to die in the desert. She resigns herself to her dishonorable fate--until Korbyn walks out of the desert. He is the trickster god of the Raven Clan, and he brings with him the grave news that five clans have had their deities stolen, and he needs Liyana's help to rescue them.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Teen-Approved eBook

Okay, yeah, I admit that sometimes it's hard to find a good teen eBook that doesn't have a ton of holds on it already. Here's one that shows up under the regular fiction eBooks that I bet you'll love, though: When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde. It's based on a short story called "The Man Who Found You in the Woods." Listen to a podcast of that story here. (If you don't want to read it on your computer, phone, tablet, or eReader, we also have some of her other books in the regular print format, including the one that inspired the movie Pay It Forward.)

I've done this special event for teens called Story Talk a few times now, first with our teen volunteers, and then with some inmates at the Juvenile Detention Center. It's kind of like a short story book club: we read a story out loud and then discuss it. This story has been one of the favorites both times: it starts with something straight out of the headlines: a man finds a newborn baby abandoned in the woods in the dead of winter.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Veronica's Closet, or The Lizard King

Two things I can't live without: pop culture references that make me realize my ancient-ness & AWESOME fashion. Exhibit A: this post about books with wicked amazing fashion sense. Better is wicked amazing fashion sense via thrift stores and a sewing machine, which is something the main character in Erica S. Perl's Vintage Veronica has become expert at.

Friendless misfit Veronica loves vintage clothing so when she manages to snag a job at the local vintage/thrift store it's like heaven. Even better is that she gets to be a picker, so she sees all the awesome vintage stuff first along with being on the top floor so she doesn't have to talk to anyone. Ever. Then she starts meeting some of the other employees: the chill hippy on the Dollar-a-Pound floor, the rebellious sales girls on the vintage floor, and the pale awkward guy they call "Nail." Unfortunately, not all her new friends get along and when salesgirls Zoey and Ginger convince Veronica to spy on "Nail" (aka Lenny) it quickly changes into something else entirely. Relationships (and outfits!) begin, end, and change as Veronica gets to know all her co-workers better and faces the challenges of trusting people.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Moby Dick meets steampunk

Do any of the following terms/concepts appeal to you:

Steam punk


De-constructing myths

rodents of unusual size

If so, you will enjoy China Mieville's Railsea.  Actually, you will probably enjoy it even if none of these terms appeal to you.

Mieville takes Herman Mellville's classic Moby Dick and transforms it into a philosophical steam punk dystopian adventure.  And it's a quick read to boot.

Railsea is the story of Sham ap Soorap, an inept doctor's assistant on the moletrain Medes.  The Medes transverses a ruined landscape on a seemingly endless network or rails, hunting giant moles and pursuing her captain's arch nemesis, a pale mole named Mocker Jack.  Sham's curiosity about the debris of past civilizations that litters his landscape, a chance discovery of an unusual photograph, and his dissatisfaction with the life of a mole hunter lead to a life-changing encounter with the Shoakes, an unusual family determined to find the End of the Line - a way out of the sea of rails that was their world.

Which is where the philosophical aspect of the book comes in.  Like all good literature, Mieville's book provides the reader with the opportunity to interact with important ideas.  As his characters wrestle with the big questions of the meaning of life, the validity of myths, the nature of reality and the question of identity, he gives us, his readers, a chance to see our world, our reality, from a slightly different perspective, as we recognize ourselves in the various characters. 

But don't get me wrong; just because it is thought provoking, Meiville's work is nothing if not an adventure story.  From encounters with mutant rodents, man-eating ants, and tortoises the size of houses to pitch battles with alien contraptions, all set against the backdrop that is part giant train set, part steam punk nightmare, this book will grab you like a giant, ravenous mole rat and hang on to you 'till you reach the very end, begging for more.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Magic Cardboard!

In Doug NenNapel's newest graphic novel Cardboard, Cam's broke dad gives him a cardboad box for his birthday, which would be awful except it turns out to be, well, magic cardboard.  Now, everything they make out of cardboard comes to life!  And then the neighborhood bully steals the cardboard and makes monsters.  Lots and lots of monsters.  Which of course leads to an epic showdown between good and evil.  Or something like that. 

I've long been a fan of Doug TenNapel's wacky brand of comics, which feature an off-beat sense of humor, odd characters, hijinks, ethical quandaries, and the occasional "Ewww!" moment.  Cardboard did not disappoint.  Some of the creations in the book were pretty awesome, so the next time I get a cardboard box, I'm going to make a few mini-monsters of my own.  And then be very, very glad when they don't come to life. 

~Book Ninja

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

16 and Not Pregnant - Yet

Melody is having a bad time of it lately. Her friends tease her, her parents are disappointed, and her teachers are concerned. Why? She's already sixteen years old, and she still hasn't gotten pregnant. Twisted high school pact? Sort of. Reality TV? Kind of. Alternate universe? Bingo. Welcome to the weird world of Bumped by Megan McCafferty.

In Melody's version of the future, a virus has destroyed the fertility of everyone over the age of 20. For the human race to survive, then, it all depends on the teenagers.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Killing Fields Revisited

It wasn't easy for me to read Never Fall Down, not because of a complicated plot or language, but because of the horrifying and true story it tells. It is the story of Arn Chorn-Pond told in his words by the author Patricia McCormick.  When Arn is ten years old, the Khmer Rouge takes over Cambodia forcing him and his family as well as all the residents of his town, to march to camps in the country. They are separated by gender and age into different camps and work the rice fields for 16 hours a day, with little or no food.  Many children fall ill with malaria and die.  Arn and the others live the constant fear that someone will accuse them of disloyalty to the regime or laziness and they will be killed.  He knows that groups of adults are regularly killed in a mango grove nearby.  It is a living hell.  When he is recruited to play music with others to mask the cries of those being killed, he knows that it will be a way to further his chances of survival.  In a genocidal regime in which 1/3 to  1/2 of the population was killed, Arn survived and escaped after five years of torment.  His natural street smarts, his talent with music, and his inner strength were the keys to his survival from the brutality of a depraved government.  If you have read Night by Elie Wiesel and felt the power of that story, then this will be another story for you to read.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Three quarters dead, 100 percent CREEPY

It's almost Halloween so that means I get to talk about a pretty chilling ghost story I just read called Three Quarters Dead.  Although the author Richard Peck writes about all kinds of things, his other supernatural stories--Ghosts I Have BeenAre You in the House Alone? and The Ghost Belonged to Me--are also fast and frightening reads.  Despite having a Gossip Girl cover, it is so much more than a novel about popularity, peer pressure, and the desire to be part of a powerful clique, although these issues set up the supernatural part beautifully! 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Native American in Paris

 "It's 1888 and Paris is a city drunk on its own beauty . . . "

This is the setting for Black Elk in Paris. Its a time in history when the Eiffel Tower was revealed and some were not impressed.  Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show from America is performing and with the show is a medicine man, Black Elk.   He is left in Paris and can only think of going back home.  He is desperately homesick.  Readers will relate with this feeling when leaving home for the first time.  It could be a deep sadness or even come with physical symptoms.  While spending this time in Paris, Black Elk meets Tic-Toc, a doctor and the family he cares for.  One of the daughters, Madou, is fascinated with the medicine man and tired of the conventions and limitations of the time.

Horsley writes this historical fiction about an actual Native American character that did in fact go with Buffalo Bill to Paris.  If you would like to know more about the man and his life check out Black Elk Lives by Esther Black Elk DeSersa.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bachelor Style Dystopia

The Selection by Kiera Cass sounded a lot like an episode of The Bachelor, so I was a little hesitant to pick it up as I have never been a fan of the show.  However, I have been on a dystopia reading spree so I thought I would give it a chance, and I am so glad I did.  It's more of a bloodless dystopia as the major oppression is a fairly strict caste system, that grew out of the remains of the United States.

Sixteen year old America is chosen to be on The Selection, a contest where the Prince will chose the woman he wants to marry.  Unlike every other girl America doesn't want to be there, because she is already in love with someone else.  As she gets to know the Prince, she realizes that he is actually a decent guy and she begins to enjoy her time at the Palace.  She also begins to realize that there are many more problems facing their country than the general population knows about.  These problems give hints of exciting things to come in the sequel, which will be out early next year.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Yay, October!

It's that time of year again--the perfect opportunity to read stories that will make you scared to be alone in your house. And what better way to send shivers up your spine than with that quintessential creature-feature, zombies? The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan serves up the perfect blend of suspense, terror, and gore to make you wish you still had that nightlight.

Mary lives in a small village in the middle of the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Through all hours of the day and night, she and the other villagers are plagued by the incessant moans of the Unconsecrated--undead humans longing for warm flesh. The only thing that separates the living and the dead is a chainlink fence, and when Mary's mother reaches through it to be bitten by her Unconsecrated husband on the other side, lives are torn apart in a way no one imagined.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Just Another Story About a Girl and Her Dragons

Menolly doesn't just love to play music -- she's really good at it. But on her world, only men are allowed to be musicians. Menolly's not good at things that are "women's work," but she's way better at playing the harp than most men. She hardly ever got to play, and at the beginning of the book, even that was taken away from her and she was forbidden from ever playing music again. Ever. I don't know about you, but I wasn't at all surprised when she ran away. I was surprised at what she found, though...Dragons!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

What would your super power be?

One of the awesome things about super hero comics and movies (or I guess really movies based on the comics) recently is how much thought goes into the super hero as a character. Before it used to be a bunch of hokey tag lines with some POW! and BAM! bubbles. Now super heros are people. In some cases, they're kind of a hot mess. (I'm looking at you "Watchmen.") Even if they aren't a full blown walking catastrophe they're still complicated, with secrets and broken families and popularity issues. Perry Moore's "Hero" takes a look at one budding super hero, Thom Creed, who might be approaching hot mess territory. His mother ran off on him and his father. His dad used to be a super hero before a tragedy that resulted in his disfigurement, expulsion from the super hero league, and a lot of deaths. Now Thom has started having weird seizures which may or may not be related to the fact that he can now miraculously heal things. And that's just the tip of the secrets iceberg. When he catches the eye of the local super hereos, he ends up starting on a journey that will reveal his secrets along with the secrets of all those around him. He could end destroying the world... or saving it.  

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Reading left and right

In about five weeks, we will choose a president and thus determine the overall direction we as a nation will take in the coming four years.  This is always a significant decision because it has with real consequences, both for all of us and for the many, many people around the globe who have no say but are nonetheless affected by the outcome.  Even so, one might suggest that this election is all-the-more important because we find ourselves at such a pivotal time in our history as a nation.  I do not have to tell you that we are facing serious challenges: unemployment, climate change, violent extremism, personal and national debt. Well-intentioned and intelligent people have different answers to address these and many other challenges. Because the stakes are so high, some of these disagreements can become quite heated. 

Most likely, you know people who hold vastly differing convictions on various issues.  These perspectives may be reflected in some of the books they read, and the books they may recommend to you.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Demons, Exorcists, and Manga, Oh My!

What would you do if you found out your dad was Satan?  In the manga Blue Exorcist by Kazue Kato, when Rin Okumura finds out dear old dad is the Ultimate Evil, Rin swears to destroy him.  And so a half-demon secretly enters an academy for exorcists to train up to fight and defeat Satan. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Flip for Flappers

Did reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald leave you yearning for a little more time  in the world of the Jazz Age--decadent parties, liberated ladies and handsome millionaires?  Look no further than the Flappers series by Jillian Larkin.  I leaped into the third novel in the series--Diva and enjoyed every page in the same way I would enjoy a lavish dessert.  No deep messages here, but plenty of action and bold characters.You'll get to know the three principal heroines, Clara Knowles, a columnist for the social rag the Manhattanite, Lorraine Dyer, a socially disgraced, but nonetheless spunky student at Barnard College, and Gloria Carmody, a talented and romantic singer.  All three young women have been friends but have lost touch due to romances gone array and unfortunate lapses in judgment.  The author gives us detailed descriptions of the designer dresses the women wear.  In fact, I googled flapper fashions while reading to get a sense of the style.  The Flapper series is a colorful and detailed snapshot of the era.  If the roaring 20's continues to draw you in and you want something meatier, dive into another classic F. Scott Fitzgerald,  This Side of Paradise. This book is described as the first to capture the Jazz Age and it captures it well.  And to further develop your interest, two new novels set in the 1920s have also recently burst into the scene: Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin which approaches the era with a lesbian theme and The Diviners, by Libba Bray which injects the 1920s setting with a touch of the occult. Historical fiction has never been more entertaining.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Making a Prince

Commit treason or die.  That is the choice Sage faces in The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen.  He is one of four orphans that a nobleman named Conner buys.  Conner pits the boys against each other in a series of deadly games.  He plans to use the winner to impersonate a prince who has been missing for years.   The winning boy will ultimately become a puppet king, but the losers are lose ends that will need eliminating. 

This book had a gripping combination of action and intrigue.  There are plots within plots and all sorts of devious twists.  Sage is smart and snarky and that makes a great narrating voice.  I can't say too much more without giving it away, but this one is definitely worth reading.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Michael Crichton is a very creative author as he writes about science and medicine in great detail. You may be familiar with Jurassic Park, probably his most famous book and the movie by the same name.  His book Timeline includes time travel and adventure during the middle ages which he writes about vividly.  He gives a new spin on time travel or at least different from what I imagined and his portrayal of the Middle Ages is more violent than I had ever envisioned.  But it is a great story that grabs you from the beginning and keeps you engaged.  This whole adventure starts out in northern Arizona. 
Unlike Crichton's Jurassic Park DO NOT bother with the movie - it is not even close!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Ender's Game: Earth is Losing...

After decades of battle against insect-like aliens, we still haven't found a general who can defeat them.We're running out of soldiers, we're running out of spaceships, and we're running out of hope. But maybe, with the right training, one special boy can be molded into a hero.

Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card, tells the story of Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, who's only six when he's recruited to Battle School to learn strategies to defeat the aliens. I'm excited to see the movie adaptation next year, but you should definitely read it first, so why not now, before the hype starts and you hear spoilers?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Winter's Tale

When Grace was eleven, she was attacked by a pack of wolves. They dragged her into the snowy forest of Mercy Falls, Minnesota, and she would surely have died if not for the intervention of one particular wolf. For the six years since she has been obsessed with him, following every movement of his pack as they roam the woods near her home.

Sam has been a werewolf for most of his life. However, it isn't the moon that dictates his form, but the temperature--in winter he's a wolf, in summer he's a boy, and he's been in love with Grace ever since he rescued her that cold day years before. But how can he ever tell her, especially when he only has one year left before he becomes a wolf permanently?

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater is a haunting, lyrical story that takes star-crossed lovers to an entirely new level--one where the lines that separate good from evil are constantly blurring, and humans can be just as cruel as the monsters they fear.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Crafty like a fox!

There are few feelings like the feeling of having made something awesome (or even not so awesome) with your own two hands. You've just created this thing. You create! You're a creator! Mwaaaaahahahahaha!!! (Those in the psychology field call this a God complex; those of us in the art field call it a healthy sense of self-worth.) Thankfully you too can experience this wonderful feeling no matter what kind of creation you're into with the help of your wonderful public library! We've got everything from cupcakes, kawaii awesomeness, and even something for a budding Tony Stark.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Book Thief

If you were to ask me, "what is the best book you have read in the past, say, month or so" (and trust me, as a librarian, I love to read, so I read a lot of books) I would, without question or hesitation, say that the best book I have read in the past month or so - maybe one of the best books I have ever read is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

It is a story set in Nazi Germany during World War II.

It includes scenes from the concentration camps and air raids.

It is sympathetically narrated by Death.

It is absolutely hillarious in places.

No, seriously. 

A sample, just to prove it:


You are going to die.

I am, in all truthfullness attempting to be cheerful about this whole topic, though most people find themselves hindered in believing me, no matter my protestations.  Please, trust me.  I most definitely can be cheerful.  I can be amiable.  Agreeable.  Affable.  And that's only the A's.  Just don't ask me to be nice.  Nice has nothing to do with me."

A co-worker of mine put this on hold for me.  I did not ask her to do so.  I had no idea what to expect from this book, but it truly won me over on the first page.  The only part I did not like about it was that I read through it too quickly and it was over too soon. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mongolian Manga - or - Surprise! Your Spouse Is Nothing Like You Expected!

What I love about manga is the research put into many of the stories.  Kaoru Mori has had a long love of historic Central Asia and it really comes through in A Bride's Story.  Amir is twenty years old and she has just entered an arranged marriage with Karluk, who is twelve years old.  Both of them are surprised by the age difference.  As the newlyweds slowly adjust to life together, their day to day lives are illustrated in gorgeous detail. 

Karluk's family features prominently in the story, since Amir has left her nomadic tribe to live with them.  They range from grandparents to young children and all of them are well-developed characters that you come to care about.  Amir's tribe has several cultural differences from Karluk's town-dwelling family and she must adapt and learn as she encounters new situations.  The artwork is absolutely amazing, with delicate accuracy and evocative lines.  The woodcarvings, carpets, and jewelry are all portrayed in breathtaking detail, giving you a true sense of what life was like in 19th century Central Asia.  I can't tell you much more about the story without giving away parts of the plot, but I will say that the chapter with the woodcarver is my absolute favorite.  I love the interaction between the little boy and the old man. 

Consider yourself warned: there is a page of mild nudity - apparently the best way to keep warm in a yurt is to sleep naked.  Yeah, I didn't know that either.  Educational nudity, who'd have thought? 

~ Book Ninja

Monday, August 20, 2012

You Wish

Ever wished on your birthday candles? What if all your birthday wishes came true . . . all at once?

That's what's happening to Kayla after her sixteenth birthday, in Mandy Hubbard's hilarious You Wish. She's got a room full of gumballs, a pony of her own, even a life-size Ken doll. Unfortunately, those are all things that she wanted when she was way younger.

She doesn't know what to do with these crazy wish-products (although her sudden ability to speak Italian is pretty cool), but she's got an even bigger problem. Kayla's most recent birthday wish was to get a kiss from gorgeous, funny, cool Ben. This would be perfectly fine, except that Ben is now her best friend's boyfriend. And the one thing Kayla's never wished for is to lose her best friend forever.

For a funny and light-hearted look at how much everyone changes as they grow, try this book.

Friday, August 17, 2012

My father's a serial killer, how about yours?!

What would it be like to be raised by a serial killer?  Not a question I ask myself very often but one that must have come up to Barry Lyga, the author of "I Hunt Killers" (I guess after he explored all his questions about superheroes and goth girls, Lyga moved on!).  Jasper "Jazz" Dent lives in the small town of Lobo's Nod, trying to have a normal life after his father was convicted of one hundred and twenty three murders about four years ago.  He is dealing pretty well with school, his girlfriend Connie, his wise-cracking hemophiliac friend Howie, and his crazy-but-harmless grandmother--until dead bodies minus a few fingers start showing up.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

In Paris and In Love

Ready for romance in Paris, not only in the springtime, but for an entire school year?  Anna is from Atlanta and her life is utterly normal.  She works at a multiplex theater concession stand, has a crush on a cute musician and loves to hang out with her best friend.  Her very ordinary world is turned upside down when her Dad decides she needs to go to a boarding school in  Paris for her senior year to become more "cultured".  Having attended my last two years of high school in Madrid, I eagerly snatched up this book to see if there were any parallels with my experience.  Well, first of all, the title, Anna and the French Kiss, clued me in that the main character had a different experience from mine.  I had crushes, but they never progressed to a mutual feeling.  Anna, however, meets a very handsome fellow student who is a charming combination of nationalities, British, French and American.  Their friendship deepens as he familiarizes her with the wonders of Paris and she hopes that she will  be able to call him her "boyfriend".  I could connect my own experience with  Anna's growing appreciation of this very wonderful foreign city. She learns the names of her favorite delicious French pastries, she and her friends hang out at the Pantheon and other famous Parisian sites and in general she begins to find obscure and charming places that bring the city alive.  Read this story for a satisfying romance and armchair trip to the City of Light.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What Happened to Goodbye?

Do you ever wish you could be somebody else?  Start over with a new identity?  In What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen, McLean gets that chance when her parents go through a really messy divorce.  She chooses to live with her dad who moves around a lot.  She takes the opportunity to be someone different in each new place.  In one place she is the cheerleader, in the next place she’s the goth girl and so on.  The problem is along the way she has lost who she really is.  In this newest town, she spontaneously uses her real name when she meets her next door neighbor Dave.  She realizes that she kinda wants to figure out who McLean is now.  She will get lots of help along the way from the quirky friends she makes.  

Sunday, August 5, 2012

How a dog thinks

Find out what this dog is thinking.  Cracker! : the best dog in Vietnam  by Cynthia Kadohata takes place during the Vietnam War.  It is told from a dog's point of view as well as from his owners. During this time numerous dogs were put into service and this is the story about one of the many special dogs.  Seventeen year old Rick Hanski is ready to “ lick the world” and plans to do it with his assigned partner, Cracker. They must trust each as if their lives depend upon it.  The story is based on true facts and Kadohata did her research well.  Here is a positive story that reveals much about our country, the young men, and the time in which it took place.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Anna, the (Not So Friendly) Ghost

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake is not your average boy-meets-girl story—the boy, Cas, is a seventeen year old ghost hunter, and the girl, Anna, is a vicious spirit who murders anyone who enters her house. Sounds scary, right? But beneath the horror-story shell is a beautiful, sad, and moving tale about the struggle of choosing between one's obligations and desires.
 Theseus Cassio Lowood, nicknamed Cas, inherited a knife called the athame when his ghost hunter father was gruesomely murdered by a mysterious spirit. With the athame, Cas kills ghosts that are still wandering the earth, even though he isn't quite sure exactly what kind of afterlife he's sending them to.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Teen Volunteer Dystopia Picks

Here at Flowing Wells Library, our summer teen volunteers kept busy with an art project based on their favorite dystopian novels and short stories.

The Giver by Lois Lowry was a striking visual choice for the collage. Black and white with poignant bursts of color illustrate a tale of a boy who learns there is much more to life than he has been led to believe. If you like this classic, check out its sequels, too!

Read on for the rest of their picks...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Somewhere Between Homer and Brad Pitt

One of the best things about working in a library is something I would like to call "the serendipity factor."  Serendipity is a kind of happy good luck, something good that happens that you were not expecting, planning, or looking for.  Like falling in love or finding a $20 bill on the edge of the sidewalk.

In the library world, this happy good luck manifests itself as a random book that happens to be returned when I happen to be on desk and able to take notice.  Well, if you are a bit of a nerd who likes to read (like me) you consider it a piece of good luck to find a book that looks interesting, sign it out just 'cause (hey, it doesn't cost anything), and then discover a story that is so compelling that you are unable to put it down.

One of the most recent instances of this kind of happy luck was discovering Ransom by David Malouf.  It is based on one of the oldest narrative traditions in the Western world: the story of the Trojan War.  In ancient times (really, really ancient times) one's primary means of entertainment (in a world without movies, television, the Internet, or even books for that matter) would have been provided by traveling storytellers who would relate tales such as those that eventually were put down in written form as The Iliad and The Odyssey.  Malouf takes Homer's epic stories and slows the pace way down, concentrating on a small but significant portion of the story: the shared grief of Achilles and Priam.  The effect is much like blowing up a photograph to concentrate on a particular detail or freezing a frame of a film.  The blurred characters who before were lost in a wider narrative suddenly are brought down to a more human, more individual level.  Malouf manages to take myth and transform it into a kind of reality with which one can identify.  It is the difference between reading a history of World War II and sitting with your grandfather and listening to his stories - the overarching narrative is the same, but the scope is more intimate, the details more vivid, the story more personal. 

Of course, you do not have to work at a library to experience this kind of serendipity.  Just ask any of us who are fortunate enough to work for the library, and we would be more than happy to share our latest lucky finds with you (and to hear about yours). 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Middle School Mayhem

I read so many books that sometimes it's really hard to think about what to write about for this blog; other times, the universe just seems to pull out a topic and advertise it in neon lights. With arrows. And a fog horn. I was talking with a middle school teacher the other day and she was saying how there are so few good books for middle school students. My library is also currently working on a program called Middle School Mayhem. So obviously my post needs to be some of my TOP middle school reads. Without further ado, my fave middle school reads:

Friday, July 20, 2012

So Weird, So Good.

I was looking for books by Shaun Tan, but instead stumbled across Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link, which features some of Tan's illustrations.  I was all set to put it back on the shelf and then I noticed the blurb by Garth Nix.  If a book is recommended by Garth Nix, I'll try it.

This collection of short stories actually lived up to its blurbs (so very few books do, you know).  The stories were strange and weird and wonderful and haunting and eerie.  Some of them were funny, some of them were terrifying, and some of them were lovely in their oddness.  It felt at times as if I had wandered into a Surrealist illustration of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, which was a strange but not altogether unpleasant sensation.  My personal favorite story was "The Constable of Abal," but I liked them all, even when they gave me the chills.  And the TV show in "Magic for Beginners" must be made.  I want to watch magic-wielding, dueling librarians!

If you enjoy weird, then you should try Pretty Monsters.  The writing is most excellent and the imagery and ideas are fantastic.  And the weirdness is perfect.

~ Book Ninja

Monday, July 16, 2012

Advice to my Younger Self

Wouldn't it be great if you could warn your younger self against some of the really dumb choices you've made? In Gimme a Call, by Sarah Mlynowski, one girl gets that chance.

When high school senior Devi Banks drops her phone in the fountain at the mall, suddenly she finds that it will only call to one number--her freshman self. The first thing she does is to warn Younger Devi not to date Bryan, the boy who's just cruelly broken Older Devi's heart. She follows that up with all the things she wishes she'd done so she won't end up where she is--friendless, loveless, and about to go to a really bad college.

But Younger Devi doesn't understand why she has to study harder, join a million clubs, give weird advice to her friends, and most of all, ignore sweet and cool Bryan who really seems to like her. As she follows a  torrent of confusing advice from her older self, both girls find their lives changing around them. But are these lives the ones they really want?

Funny and a little brain-bending, this is a book for anybody who's ever believed that teenagers don't have regrets, and anybody who knows differently.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bunheads aka Ballerinas

Ever wonder what it would be like to be a young dancer in a prestigious New York ballet company?  Meet Hannah who at 19 is on the verge of making a breakthrough as a lead dancer. She looks forward to finally calling herself a ballerina, not merely a dancer.  Since she was 10 years old, Hannah has worked hard and competitively to carve out a career in ballet.  She loves the camaraderie in the dressing room with her company friends and nothing can compare with the thrill of performance, whether it be the hundredth time she's danced as a snowflake in the Nutcracker or has just debuted a pas de deux in a new ballet.  Despite the glamour of her world, Hannah feels that the life of a dancer insulates her from the rest of the world.  When she meets Jacob, a handsome singer she discovers a bigger excitement, that of  the bustling city around her.  More importantly, is the feeling inside her, could it be love?  In the end, is it possible to balance this drive to become a successful dancer with the desire to combine her life with another?  Read Bunheads by Sophie Flack and step into Hannah's world.

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's summertime and the reading is easy...and kinda sleazy

I have no problem admitting this--when the temperature reached 84 degrees inside my house, I put down the William Faulkner book I was dutifully trying to reread for the sake of my brain and reached for my latest fluff pick, Vixen by Jillian Larkin.  This book puts "historical fiction" in the camp of hot summer read!  The time is 1923, Chicago, land of flappers and mobsters, lavish parties and serious segregation, complete with flasks of whiskey in your garter and guns in your trunk.  Each chapter tells the story through alternating viewpoints of three young women; there's Gloria, the naive heiress engaged to the most sought after guy in the city, her jealous friend Lorraine, whose goal is to become the fiercest flapper around, and  "country cousin" Clara, who covers up a past more shocking than anyone could imagine.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Where Legends Are Born

In Legend by Marie Lu, the United States has split apart and the majority of it is now the Republic. Day is the Republic's most wanted criminal.  June is a military prodigy, living in the wealthiest circles. When June's brother is killed, Day becomes the prime suspect.  June wants revenge, so she puts her genius level skills to use to catch him.  What they discover is just how far the Republic is willing to go to hide its secrets.  

This was a fun read because each character starts out with very strong beliefs about their world.  As their perspectives change, they have to evaluate and adapt.  This really made the characters stand out.  As for story, there is action, betrayal, daring escapes, and a hint of romance to round it out.  This combination made for a great read.