Monday, January 28, 2013

Tucson Festival of Books Author Spotlight: Janette Rallison

Janette Rallison's books often make me laugh out loud, so I was excited to find out she will be attending the Tucson Festival of Books this March.  I was looking at the bios in her books to try and see what little tidbits I wanted to mention, when I discovered that they are each different.  For example, in It's a Mall World, her bio talks about things she learned as a mall connoisseur.  In Just One Wish she mentions how she wished for a pony that has never arrived.  The facts that stay the same are that she lives in Arizona with her husband and children.  Now that I know how amusing her bios are I will be looking forward to reading them as well, but if you are interested in checking out something a little more substantial, like her books, I recommend My Fair Godmother and it's sequel My Unfair Godmother.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Fall From Grace

Have you ever started a book and realized it is just not what you expected?  This is after looking it over and reading the inside cover.  Well this book threw me for a loop!  And it makes me wonder if that is how the character Sawyer felt in Fall From Grace by Charles Benoit. 

Sawyer has other people planning his life like his parents and girlfriend, but he is thinking about what he wants to do or be.  Then he meets Grace and all of a suddent he has plans.  Some of these plans are getting a little crazy. 

This story unfolds quickly and the ending comes out of nowhere!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tucson Festival of Books Teen Author Spotlight: Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater is a YA author who specializes in paranormal and urban fantasy. She has a gift for lyrical prose, and her books are always rich with atmosphere. Luckily for us Tucsonans, Ms. Stiefvater is going to be attending the Tucson Festival of Books! If you've never heard of her or are a die-hard fan looking for more of her work, there are a lot of good choices.

Ms. Stiefvater's first book was Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception. In it, Dierdre Monaghan is a painfully shy musical prodigy. She is also a cloverhand--a human who can see faeries. She and her best friend James are about to become embroiled in an ancient faerie war; there are two faerie assassins on their way to kill Dierdre before her music captures the Fae's attention. The story continues in the sequel, Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie, and involves Nuala, a deadly faerie muse.

The Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy is set in the icy winter of Minnesota. In Shiver, Grace has always been obsessed with the wolves that live in the forest behind her home. What she doesn't know, however, is that the wolves are actually werewolves, who turn human in the summer and wolf in the winter. One of the wolves, Sam, has loved Grace from afar for years, and a threat to the pack brings the two together. The story of Grace and Sam continues in Linger and is concluded in Forever.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Bored with Teen Books? Try These!

If you normally stick with the teen shelves at the library, you might be surprised to learn that a lot of teens have favorite books from the adult or children's sections, too. Here are some that teens tell me they've loved, and that I might've snuck as a teen, myself:
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Yeah, teens usually say they're checking them out for a little brother or sister, but, busted! They're fun for any age. All the illustrations make them a really fast read, and a new book or movie seems to come out every couple of months, so you won't be bored.
  • Jurassic Park (remember that movie about the dinosaur theme park that seemed like such a great idea, until they started eating people?) is a great mix of action, suspense, and science. And as a friend of mine put it, "Everything I know about chaos theory, I learned from Jurassic Park." Michael Crichton wrote some other books that are still popular, too, like The Andromeda Strain

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Good, the Bad, and the Really Weird

You have most likely heard about something called "the good old days."  This is a time somewhere in the past (round about the Second World War) in which life was supposedly simpler, kids were better behaved, and the American dream (or other national variation thereof) seemed more attainable.  This all sounds really nice, and many people bemoan the loss of this time of national innocence, or want to cram our "deviant" society back in time, back into this mold. 

There is just one problem with this notion: the "good old days" are a myth.  Like all myths, this may contain a grain of truth (some things have really changed), but simply does not match reality.  To confirm this, one need only read a story set in this time, written by someone who actually lived through itBless Me,Ultima  is such a story, though it is not exactly a gritty portrait like you get in The Grapes of Wrath.  Rather (in keeping with the idea of "myth") it may be compared with the kind of story we find in The Odyssey: part family drama, part supernatural thriller, part adventure story, all set against the backdrop of "the good old days." 

Antonio Marez's life would seem to embody the best notions of this age: he is raised in a devout, loving family, steeped in religious and cultural traditions that lend stability and a sense of safety to his life.  As his story of growing up in a small New Mexican community progresses however, external pressures such as war and disease, and internal pressures created by family expectations and doubt shake Antonio's safe, secure world to its foundations.  War leads to a rift in his community and family.  The resulting conflicts precipitate a crisis of faith, as alternate mythologies (magical fish and witchcraft) seem to succeed where his Catholic tradition fails.   Actually, every source of authority seems to fail - law enforcement officers ignore murder, teachers are powerless in the face of bullies, family members drift away, and religious traditions seem to remain eerily silent in the face of natural and supernatural evil.  Not that anyone would have much to say; some of the things that occur in the book defy any explanation.

So, if you are looking for a story that draws you in and leaves you with more questions than answers, a book you will be thinking about and talking about and wondering about for a long time, a book that has been banned because it looks at some cherished myths with a questioning eye, this might just be the one.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tucson Festival of Books Author: Heather Brewer

Halloween passed and I was finally finished reading all the zombie/vampire/evil creatures of the night books I had checked out. I had just vowed to take a break from the supernatural/horror genre when Off the Shelf was commissioned to spotlight some of the authors that will be here for the Tucson Festival of Books. One of the few names I recognized was Heather Brewer, an author known for her vampire books and spectacular orchid colored hair. "The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod" is a series I've been meaning to read for a while and after I read that she has a coffin couch, I was that much more excited about reading it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Look Out: Big Magic!

I adore Jasper Fforde, and not just because he has a redundant F in his name, although that is pretty wonderful.  Happily enough, he's written yet another witty romp through social commentary and literary conventions, but this time for teens.  The Last Dragonslayer is, in a word, fantastic

Jennifer Strange is fifteen years old and runs Kazam Mystical Arts Management, an employment agency for magicians.  Tempermental magicians whose powers are fading as the whole world slowly loses magic.  But when the whispers of of Big Magic start and a prediction of the last dragon dying is delivered, she suddenly has more problems than just tempermental magicians and forms to fill out in triplicate.  How can she save herself, her new trainee foundling, the Kazam agency, and the dragon while dealing with scheming magicians, crafty kings, and hordes of people waiting for the dragon to drop dead so they can claim his land?  And most importantly, who is the last dragonslayer and where is he?

P.S. - Also, there's a Quarkbeast.  Quarkbeasts are awesome.

~ Book Ninja

Monday, January 7, 2013

Tucson Festival of Books Author Spotlight: Margaret Peterson Haddix

With the current craze for dystopias, we often forget that the genre has existed for decades already. I remember one dystopic series that blew my younger mind, and that was Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix and its sequels.

In a world where population control has limited families to two children only, twelve-year-old Luke's very existence is unthinkable, forbidden, because he already has two older brothers. Unable to attend school or have friends, Luke can at least go outside because his parents' farm is hidden and remote. Then a new housing development goes up, and that small freedom is denied. Stuck in his attic bedroom all day, Luke can hardly believe his eyes when he sees somebody else in one of the new houses, somebody he's never seen before.

Another third child?

Meeting Jen opens his eyes to a world of "shadow children," who are fighting for their right to exist. But the government is fighting back, just as hard. This addictive series is filled with adventure, danger, and sacrifice.

We're incredibly lucky that Margaret Peterson Haddix will be at the Tucson Festival of Books, March 9-10 on the University of Arizona campus. Besides the Shadow Children series, she's written many others, including one of the popular 39 Clues series. Her latest, Caught, is part of a time-travel adventure series. Don't miss her in March!