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