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 Other kids makes comments about her old clothing but Louise does not care because she loves her out-of-date and old fashioned clothing.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