Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Review: The Summer I Learned to Fly

The Summer I Learned to Fly
by Dana Reinhardt

Book Description:
Drew's a bit of a loner. She has a pet rat, her dead dad's Book of Lists, an encyclopedic knowledge of cheese from working at her mom's cheese shop, and a crush on Nick, the surf bum who works behind the counter. It's the summer before eighth grade and Drew's days seem like business as usual, until one night after closing time, when she meets a strange boy in the alley named Emmett Crane. Who he is, why he's there, where the cut on his cheek came from, and his bottomless knowledge of rats are all mysteries Drew will untangle as they are drawn closer together, and Drew enters into the first true friendship, and adventure, of her life.

This was a cute, easy read. I thought that Drew was very easy to relate to as a main character. Though I couldn't quite pick out when the book was set, timewise, the themes of relating to your parents, trying to grow up, having your first crushes, and wanting independence are the same no matter when you live.

I loved how devoted Drew was to her pet rat, Hum, though I could not imagine carrying a pet rat around with me everywhere. I'm amazed that she never got caught with him somewhere he shouldn't be! I thought it was really cute how she bonded with Emmett through his knowledge of pet rats.

I thought that Drew's reactions to Emmett were very cute and felt true to life, though when she finds out more about him, I felt that some of her impulsive actions were a little unrealistic. It was more that this book seemed to follow the sweet emotional side of Drew's relationships and her remembrances of growing up much more realistically than making sure that the actions of the book were thoroughly possible.  

Monday, January 30, 2012

If You Like: Magical Realism

If You Like… is a feature highlighting blogger recommendations for books, authors, TV shows, movies, and music based on the things you already know and love. This week’s post includes recommendations for stories featuring magical realism.

Magical Realism is what stories are referred to as when they take place in our world but contain elements of magic or the fantastic in them. Not truly fantasy, but close... if you like this type of story, check out our recommendations here!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone has a sequel!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone
by Laini Taylor

Have you read Daughter of Smoke and Bone yet? It is a dark fantasy that came out last year and was nominated one of the best teen books of 2011 by just about EVERYONE!

Book Description:
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
If you haven't read it yet, you should!! And if you have...you'll be stoked to know that Laini Taylor just announced the title of the sequel coming out in Fall 2012!

Happy Reading! 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review: I'll Be There

I'll Be There
by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Book Description:

Sam Border wishes he could escape. Raised by an unstable father, he's spent his life moving from place to place. But he could never abandon his little brother, Riddle.

Riddle Border doesn't talk much. Instead, he draws pictures of the insides of things and waits for the day when the outsides of things will make sense. He worships his older brother. But how can they leave when there's nowhere to go? Then everything changes. Because Sam meets Emily.

Emily Bell believes in destiny. She sings for her church choir, though she doesn't have a particularly good voice. Nothing, she feels, is mere coincidence. And she's singing at the moment she first sees Sam.

Everyone whose path you cross in life has the power to change you--sometimes in small ways, and sometimes in ways greater than you could have ever known. 

This novel reads beautifully. It is touching and compelling. I think that almost every reader would find something here to love.

While Sam and Emily find each other, the romance is only a fraction of this book. There are great examples of familial relationships and there is also the perfect example of a horribly dysfunctional family.

There is danger, there is excitement, there are secrets, betrayals, and hidden agendas.

There is beautiful music, art, and cooking.

There are facets and hidden nooks in this book that make it wonderful and it reads very quickly. I would highly recommend this book to anyone.

Review: Dead is Not an Option

Dead is Not an Option
by Marlene Perez
Dead Is series, book five 

Book Description:
It’s springtime of senior year, and psychic sleuth Daisy Giordano is preparing to say goodbye to Nightshade High. But no college acceptance letters have arrived yet, and she’s beginning to worry about where she’ll end up come fall—and if it will be anywhere near her boyfriend, Ryan. But that’s not the only uncertainty Daisy’s dealing with. There’s a vamps-versus-shifters war going on in Nightshade, and things are so tense that there is talk of canceling the prom. The conflict is carrying over to the Giordano home, since Rose and Daisy are both dating werewolves and Poppy’s new boyfriend is a vampire.

Can the paranormal community in Nightshade finally find peace?
And will Daisy and her friends survive graduation?

You know that feeling you get when you pick up a book and you have no doubts that you will love it...that you will lose yourself in it? That feeling when you meet an old friend. The feeling when you anticipate laughing out loud...

Yup. For me, this series is exactly THAT. I love these books. I love Daisy, the main character, and her friends and family. I love the paranormal elements - psychics, werewolves, vampires, and more! I love the mysteries, danger, excitement...

Okay, okay. I'll stop gushing. Let me just say, that I sincerely hope this is not the final book in the series. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Next Manga Mania Meeting!

Hey Guys!

Don't forget to join us here at the West Springfield Public Library for the first meeting of our brand-new anime/manga club,

Show off your awesome artistic skills, talk with others about
your favorite mangas and graphic novels,
and grab a quick snack with friends!
For grades 6-12
WEDNESDAY, JAN 25TH at 3:30 p.m.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Meeting YA Authors Lauren DeStefano and Beth Revis!

This past Wednesday night, January 18th, I was lucky enough to go straight down after work to RJ Julia's independent bookstore in Madison, CT to meet YA authors, Lauren DeStefano and Beth Revis.  :)

If you do not know anything about these authors, Lauren DeStefano (pictured on the left) wrote the dystopian novel, Wither, and Beth Revis (on the right) is the author of the science fiction novel, Across the Universe.  Each of these books is the start of a trilogy and so the two authors teamed up to promote their second books.  A Million Suns by Beth Revis actually came out last week, so I was able to buy a copy and have it signed, but Lauren DeStefano's book, Fever, doesn't come out until February 21st, so I got a signed copy of Wither instead. (For more information about each of the books, click on the title and it will take you to the book's page on Amazon.)

It was super interesting to go to this particular author event, because Lauren and Beth didn't each talk about their own book and then answer questions.  They let the audience ask any question they wanted and then they both answered (and sometimes argued, lol!) and bounced a lot off of each other. 

We ended up talking about how science fiction is becoming a larger trend in YA, how people are interested in reading about characters that live in broken societies (like Wither or The Hunger Games) because we are afraid of what our own government might do in the future, Lauren's really cute shoes and their matching hair feathers, writing in general, and the pressures of publishing a second book.  It was a really fun and interesting time! I felt so lucky to be able to go. Meeting authors is one of my favorite things to do whenever I get the chance. :)

For more information about Beth Revis, you can check out her website, here: http://www.bethrevis.com/

For more information about Lauren DeStefano, you can check out her website, here: http://laurendestefano.com/

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: Salt

by Maurice Gee
The Salt Trilogy, book one

Book Description:
When his father Tarl is captured and enslaved to work in Deep Salt, Hari vows to rescue him. This is a forbidding task: no one returns from Deep Salt. But Hari was born and raised in Blood Burrow. He's tough and smart—and he has a secret gift: he can communicate with animals.

The beautiful Pearl, born into the privileged world of the ruling class known as Company, has learned forbidden things from her mysteriously gifted maid Tealeaf. Now her father has promised her in marriage to the powerful and ambitious Ottmar. But Pearl will never submit to a subordinate life, so she and Tealeaf must flee.

When their paths cross, Hari and Pearl realize that together they must discover the secrets of Deep Salt. Their long journey through the badlands becomes far more than a quest to save Tarl—their world is on the brink of unspeakable terror.

I wanted so much to like this book. When I had read the description, I had thought it was a stellar premise. When I finally got a chance to read it, though, I just could not connect. The first few chapters were great. The idea that the characters could talk to one another and animals with their minds was fascinating. The idea of the corrupt government and Pearl's escape from a loveless marriage sounded intriguing...

Somewhere close to halfway through the book, though, I lost all interest. The characters were good, but I didn't find enough explanation in the world building. I had no idea where the Company came from or why they were taking over. I didn't understand what the radioactive "salt" really was... I just kept coming up with more and more, "Huh?" moments and I was frustrated enough that I almost put the book down several times.

I really wish that this book had given more extensive historical context to its dystopian setting. As Gee is from New Zealand, I have a feeling that native readers in that part of the world would draw a deeper context, but for me, it was just vague in a lot of ways. I didn't really feel, either, as if there was enough resolution in this book, and I know it's the first in a trilogy, but I don't want to have to say, oh that must be addressed in book two...

Overall, I was sadly disappointed.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Book Trailer - Tempest by Julie Cross

The Tempest
by Julie Cross

Publication date: Jan 17, 2012

The year is 2009. Nineteen-year-old Jackson Meyer is a normal guy… he’s in college, has a girlfriend… and he can travel back through time. But it’s not like the movies – nothing changes in the present after his jumps– it’s just harmless fun.

That is… until the day strangers burst in on Jackson and his girlfriend, Holly, and during a struggle with Jackson, Holly is fatally shot. In his panic, Jackson jumps back two years to 2007, but this is not like his previous time jumps. Now he’s stuck in 2007 and can’t get back to the future. Desperate to somehow return to 2009 to save Holly but unable to return to his rightful year, Jackson settles into 2007 and learns what he can about his abilities.

But it’s not long before the people who shot Holly in 2009 come looking for Jackson in the past, and these “Enemies of Time” will stop at nothing to recruit this powerful young time-traveler. Recruit… or kill him.

Ooooh! I love a good time travel adventure. Doesn't this sound good? What do you guys think?

Review: Steampunk!

Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories
ed by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant

Book Description:
Imagine an altrnate universe where romance and technology reign. Where tinkerers and dreamers craft and re-craft a world of automatons, clockworks, calculating machines, and other marvels that never were. Where scientists and schoolgirls, fair folk and Romans, intergalactic bandits, utopian revolutionaries, and intrepid orphans solve crimes, escape from monstrous predicaments, consult oracles, and hover over volcanoes in steam-powered airships. Here, fourteen masters of speculative fiction, including two graphic storytellers, embrace the genre's established themes and refashion them in surprising ways and settings as diverse as Appalachia, Ancient Rome, future Australia, and alternate California. Visionaries Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant have invited all-new explorations and expansions, taking a genre already rich, strange, and inventive in the extreme and challenging contributors to remake it from the ground up. The result is an anthology that defies the genre even as it defines it.

I adore steampunk. It's old, it's new, it's mechanical and magical, full of adventure and romance. It is a brilliant sub-genre. Traditionally steampunk means that the book is set in London, while Victoria was Queen, and unlike real life, steam power became the predominant power source.  So lots of flying machines, steam-powered vehicles, and cool gadgets!

That being said, I loved the concept of this anthology. It's like...steampunk twisted. These are tales that all have strong steampunk elements, yet push beyond what we think of as steampunk to become even more. Not a one is set in Victorian London, either!

My favorites from this anthology were Libba Bray's story about girl thieves who use a device to stop time so that they can rob trains, Kelly Link's tale of a girl who is bound to serve fairies and is only somewhat mollified by their mechanized trinket gifts, and Dylan Horrock's story about a girl from another world, trying to find herself in a flatter version of her own life. Each of these tales literally *sparkled* at me from off of the pages. *grins* The other tales were really well done, as well.

Reading this book felt like traveling the world in a dirigible with dashing young lads and lasses hanging off of the anchor ropes... *whoops, just had a Scott Westerfeld moment there, lol.* Anyway, though I didn't read it all in one go, each tale was enthralling in it's own way.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Review: First Kill

First Kill
by Heather Brewer
The Slayer Chronicles, book one

Book Description:
Joss McMillan’s perfect life crashes down the night he witnesses his sister’s murder — at the hands of a vampire. He then finds out his family’s secret heritage: They are part of the Slayer Society, a group whose mission is to rid the world of vampires. Joss is their new recruit. As Joss trains, bent on seeking revenge for his sister, he discovers powers that could make him the youngest, strongest Slayer in history. But there is a traitor in the Society, one whose identity would shake Joss to the core . . . if the traitor doesn’t kill him first.

I have to admit that I have not yet read The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series. I have always wanted to check out Heather Brewer's writing style, though, since the Vlad Tod books are so popular now, and this gave me the perfect place to start.

I very much enjoyed the story about Joss becoming a vampire slayer. I found the Slayer Society and their rules to be fascinating, and I hope to find out more about the larger Slayer population in book two. Knowing that Joss' uncle, Abraham, was being so tough on him because he was hesitant to have Joss become a Slayer, made things a little easier to read when the training became brutal.

I felt was somewhat jarring was Joss' tone, at times. For a thirteen year old, he had some very sophisticated inner monologues. His contemplations felt overly mature at times, but then again, he was supposed to be an avid reader and kind of nerdy, so I suppose that fit... For me, he waivered between 13 and 20 in tone, but that may not at all bother other readers. I wonder if Vladimir Tod is the same?

I will be very curious to see if as this series continues it intersects with The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod.

Review: Anna Dressed in Blood

Anna Dressed in Blood
by Kendare Blake

Book Description:
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life.

Suprisingly enough, though horror is not usually my thing, I really enjoyed this book. I'm a huge fan of the TV show, Supernatural, and this book really reminded me of that... creepy, cool ghost hunter vibe.

I loved the way that Cas and his mom and he would travel round, working together, taking care of the supernatural. I thought the athame, inherited from his dad was a really cool relic. The way it ties in later is pretty creepy, too. It was really interesting to then see how Anna differed from the ghosts that Cas usually dealt with...Cas is normally one cool cucumber, but he's met his match in Anna.

I will warn you that this book has some graphically gory scenes. There were spots that I read kind of quickly for fear of lingering and leaving images lodged in my brain that might induce nightmares...but it was really well written and compelling. I had to know what happened to Cas and Anna.

I am super excited to read book two, Girl of Nightmares, as soon as it comes out!
*This was my selection for the January Meeting of our book club, Flippin' Pages. We did horror books this month! Next meeting is Feb. 14th and we'll be talking about our favorite "break-up" books.*

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Announcing "The Serpent's Shadow!" The Kane Chronicles book three.

The Serpent's Shadow
by Rick Riordan
The Kane Chronicles, book three

Publication date: May 1, 2012

Rick Riordan announced the cover and title of the final book in The Kane Chronicles yesterday!

The tagline: Carter and Sadie Kane: humanity's last hope!

I'm definitely excited to see how it all ends! Have you read the first two books?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Review: The Pledge

The Pledge
by Kimberly Derting

Book Description:
In the violent country of Ludania, the language you speak determines what class you are, and there are harsh punishments if you forget your place—looking a member of a higher class in the eye can result in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina (Charlie for short) can understand all languages, a dangerous ability she’s been hiding her whole life. Her only place of release is the drug-filled underground club scene, where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. There, she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy who speaks a language she’s never heard, and her secret is almost exposed. Through a series of violent upheavals, it becomes clear that Charlie herself is the key to forcing out the oppressive power structure of her kingdom…

I devoured this book.

I loved the concept of having a social structure based around the understanding of language. It was a really novel concept for a dystopian society. I loved, too, that you slowly discovered the available magic in their society... so intriguing for future books in the series!

I found Charlie to be a great main character. She was defiantly strong in her own ways, even as she was ignorant of what may be her capabilities. I loved, loved, loved her relationship with her younger sister and I really look forward to reading more about them both.

I was also thoroughly pleased that many of the other characters in the story were fleshed out. There were many facets to all of the people surrounding Charlie. Things just kept getting more and more interesting.

This book deserves my first GOLD STAR of 2012!

Review: A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls
by Patrick Ness
*based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd*

Book Description:
At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting-- he's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It's ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth.

I really loved this book. The story is really good. Conor is dealing with the fact that his mother is slowly dying from cancer, and in his grief he accidentally calls an ancient monster.

The illustrations in the book perfectly match the darkness of the tale. It's really cool to see the monster and Conor's anger on the page.

This book was dark and haunting, sad and thrilling, dangerous and loving. It is really well done and worth checking out... just keeps some tissues near by...you may need them!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Next Flippin' Pages Meeting!

Hey Guys!

Don't forget to join us here at the West Springfield Public Library for the first meeting our our brand-new book club, FLIPPIN' PAGES!!

If you're in grades 6-12, join us for a snack and tell us all about your favorite HORROR books!

TUESDAY, JANUARY 10th at 3:30 p.m.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Review: Last Breath

Last Breath
by Rachel Caine
Morganville Vampires, book eleven

Book Description:
With her boss preoccupied researching the Founder Houses in Morganville, student Claire Danvers is left to her own devices when she learns that three vampires have vanished without a trace. She soon discovers that the last person seen with one of the missing vampires is someone new to town-a mysterious individual named Magnus. After an uneasy encounter with Morganville's latest resident, Claire is certain Magnus isn't merely human. But is he a vampire-or something else entirely?

I never, ever fail to rip through the books in this series. Caine just keeps the suspense, danger, and romance coming... <3

This particular addition to the series ripped my heart right out in one spot, and thankfully sewed it back together just pages later. *sigh* It is unbelievable what Caine can do to her characters!

I loved the addition of new mythology in this book. I don't want to ruin the surprise, but let's just say that vampires are no longer the only thing that the humans have to worry about in Morganville...

I cannot wait for Black Dawn, which will be coming out in May!

Review: The Watch That Ends the Night

The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic
by Allan Wolf

Book Description:
Arrogance and innocence, hubris and hope--twenty-four haunting voices of the Titanic tragedy, as well as the iceberg itself, are evoked in a stunning tour de force.Millionaire John Jacob Astor hopes to bring home his pregnant teen bride with a minimum of media scandal. A beautiful Lebanese refugee, on her way to family in Florida, discovers the first stirrings of love. And an ancient iceberg glides south, anticipating its fateful encounter. The voices in this remarkable re-creation of the Titanic disaster span classes and stations, from Margaret ("the unsinkable Molly") Brown to the captain who went down with his ship; from the lookout and wireless men to a young boy in search of dragons and a gambler in search of marks. Slipping in telegraphs, undertaker's reports, and other records, poet Allan Wolf offers a breathtaking, intimate glimpse at the lives behind the tragedy, told with clear-eyed compassion and astounding emotional power.

This is a haunting and beautiful piece of historical fiction. The way that Wolf pieced together historical information about the Titanic is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. The inclusion of actual telegraphs, testimonies from survivors, and reports from the coroners make it all so very hauntingly real. Wolf made it feel seamless when he'd transition from the real historical information to the fiction that he created.

The poetry format also worked really well. Especially for voices like the iceberg. It felt ancient and unfeeling. Chilling. I also want to add that the audio version of this book is phenomenal. The actors that alternate the parts do fantastic accents and ply each part with just the perfect amounts of emotion. SOOOO good.

Even if you're not a huge non-fiction type reader (like me, I usually avoid anything like non-fiction at all costs!), this historical fiction will suck you right in and you will find yourself internalizing tons of facts that you never knew about the Titanic.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Miss Jessica's Favorite Books in 2011

Happy New Year!!!
Before we officially dive into 2012, I just wanted to mention some of my favorite books of this past year in case you need a good read!

So, without further ado, and in order only by alphabetizing the title (not reflective of one being chosen over another), here is my BEST OF 2011 list:

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
YA Romance/Realistic Fiction - Her debut novel blew so many people away! Perkins is the only author with not only two books on my list, but they are her *only* two books! Phenomenal. Anyway, the Parisian setting, the swoon-worthy boy, the realistic emotional journey... this book is a winner.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
YA Realistic Fiction/Satire - So, so ridiculously funny! This book is the perfect satire of everything our society has become known for, plus it has reality TV pirates, exploding makeup, and girls who learn that they can kick butt. Awesome.

Clarity by Kim Harrington
YA Mystery - Fast paced and compelling. Fern's psychic perspective was so fascinating. I couldn't put this one down...so looking forward to Perception!

Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton
YA Dystopia - The Setting. OMG, the setting. Lush, creepy New Orleans. Creepy characters, creepy society, creepy setting, I COULD NOT put this book down. Literally. One sitting - done.

Divergent by Veronica Roth
YA Dystopia - This, this is the next best dystopia after The Hunger Games. I can't wait for the follow up, to see what Tris does next. Excellent.

Everfound by Neal Shusterman
YA Dystopia - The finale of a phenomenally done trilogy. Shusterman manages to raise so many fantastic moral questions and totally sucks readers into his characters' (after)lives.

Hourglass by Myra McEntire
YA Science Fiction- Time travel romance. Need I say more? This one had me sighing as I read. (Though more for the secondary guy character... don't tell!)

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
YA Romance/Realistic Fiction - Perkins' sophomore novel proves that she is a master at romance. I liked this one even better than the first. The characters are phenomenal and unique!

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
YA Historical Fiction - The companion to The Wednesday Wars, Schmidt does an even better job here! Doug is a character that will pull at your heartstrings, and you will cheer him on the whole way through.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
YA Historical Fiction - The biggest tearjerker on my list this year. A phenomenal blend of information about the French Revolution and the angst and grief of a girl who has lost her little brother. Wow.

Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
YA Science Fiction - A zombie book that is full of heart. The frontier setting made for a great "western" feel. The characters were phenomenally well drawn. This was another book that proves the zombie genre is not so much about the zombie attacks as it is the survivors.

The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
YA Science Fiction - The ultimate in questioning what humans would be willing to do to survive. Suspenseful, compelling, heartbreaking...I was on the edge of my seat right until the very end.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
YA Fantasy - This book reminded me so strongly of my all time favorite book, Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce. It has a strong, flawed heroine. It has a wonderfully well developed new fantasy world. It has an intriguing new religion. I'm thoroughly looking forward to book two!

What were your favorite books in 2011??