Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Gold Star Review: Etiquette and Espionage

Etiquette and Espionage
by Gail Carriger
Finishing School, book one

Publication date: February 5, 2013

Book Description:
It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage--in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.

Gail Carriger is awesome. I love her blend of steampunk and the paranormal. I LOVED this first book in the Finishing School series. 

The blend of proper behavior, the distinct ignoring of said proper behavior (LOL), adventure, friendships, and "mechanimals" was brilliant. There are airships, balls, poison classes, "sooties," werewolves, and of course, Bumbersnoot. Who is Bumbersnoot? Why he's the most fashionable little mechanical dachsund ever! He eats coal, produces ash, and can conceal a prototype for the proper Lady spy.

The tie-ins to Carriger's adult series had me giggling throughout. Hints dropped here, there, and everywhere. :) I don't want to give anything away, but if you've read her other series, you will find at least one or two familiar faces...

With wonderful witty word choices and frankly fashionable fetes, Etiquette and Espionage is a bang-up start to a new series that leaves me shouting, "HUZZAH!" I cannot wait to return to Finishing School!

A gold star book, indeed. And, just to whet the appetite, check out this awesome trailer that was created for the book! LOVE.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review: On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave

On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave
by Candace Fleming
Book Description:
Set in White Cemetery, an actual graveyard outside Chicago, each story takes place during a different time period from the 1860's to the present, and ends with the narrator's death. Some teens die heroically, others ironically, but all due to supernatural causes. Readers will meet walking corpses and witness demonic posession, all against the backdrop of Chicago's rich history—the Great Depression, the World's Fair, Al Capone and his fellow gangsters.
This book was interesting. I liked how it was one boy's story that interwove all the tales of the other teens' deaths. Some of the stories were far more interesting than others, but they were all fun and easy to read. I loved how each was supernatural and creepy, but not enough to induce nightmares.
Did you used to love Goosebumps, but don't quite want to jump into full scale horror? This would be a great book to check out.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Review: Navigating Early

Navigating Early
by Clare Vanderpool

Book Description:
At the end of World War II, Jack Baker, a landlocked Kansas boy, is suddenly uprooted after his mother's death and placed in a boy's boarding school in Maine. There, Jack encounters Early Auden, the strangest of boys, who reads the number pi as a story and collects clippings about the sightings of a great black bear in the nearby mountains. Newcomer Jack feels lost yet can't help being drawn to Early, who won't believe what everyone accepts to be the truth about the Great Appalachian Bear, Timber Rattlesnakes, and the legendary school hero known as The Fish, who never returned from the war. When the boys find themselves unexpectedly alone at school, they embark on a quest on the Appalachian Trail in search of the great black bear. But what they are searching for is sometimes different from what they find. They will meet truly strange characters, each of whom figures into the pi story Early weaves as they travel, while discovering things they never realized about themselves and others in their lives.

I had a hard time reading this book. It's written so that the story has different layers which come together at the end in a surprising way.  It took too long for that to happen, though, and the characters didn't really grab me right away either.  I did like how Early was portrayed having autism in a time when it wasn't was interesting to see how people interacted with him.  Eventually, I found the ending satisfying, but I don't know if I'd recommend this book to everyone. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Review: Confessions of a Murder Suspect

Confessions of a Murder Suspect
by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Book Description:
On the night Malcolm and Maud Angel are murdered, Tandy Angel knows just three things: 1) She was the last person to see her parents alive. 2) The police have no suspects besides Tandy and her three siblings. 3) She can't trust anyone--maybe not even herself. Having grown up under Malcolm and Maud's intense perfectionist demands, no child comes away undamaged. Tandy decides that she will have to clear the family name, but digging deeper into her powerful parents' affairs is a dangerous-and revealing-game. Who knows what the Angels are truly capable of? 

Okay, so I'm going to be brutally honest here. I kind of hated this book. All around. Yup.

Although I thought this was a clever premise and I went into reading with sort of high hopes, from about three chapters in I just wanted this book to be done already. Tandy is supposed to be cold and emotionless and yes, that comes across just fine. It made me not connect with her or the other characters at all and then, then... then there were the moments when she obnoxiously addressed the reader directly.

I suppose I was struggling my way through the book, hating the voice, but still persisting until the big reveal. I won't ruin it for any of you that may want to read this book, but I will tell you that I basically ranted to my husband for like 45 minutes about what a cop-out it was. What a waste of time it was for me to read the book only to find out...

So... well, there it is. I didn't like it and I won't be reading the other books in the series. I hope that you Patterson fans out there don't let me influence you, but...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Review: Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures
by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
The Caster Chronicles, book one
Book Description:
There were no surprises in Gatlin County.
We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere.
At least, that's what I thought.

Turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong.
There was a curse.
There was a girl.
And in the end, there was a grave.

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.
Okay, I have to admit it. This was one of those books that sat on my book shelf for years, literally years waiting to be read. I got this book about four years ago, when it first came out and I never took the time to read it!
Since then, I have had plenty of teens tell me how great the series is and we get requests for them at the library all the time, but it wasn't until I started seeing info for the movie that I thought to myself, "Gee, I should really finally read that."
I actually enjoyed this one. It's not my favorite series opener, but that's partly due to the fact that I'm not a real witch book reader. I love magic in stories, things like Harry Potter, but for some reason when the people are openly called witches, it just hits a switch in my brain that says, eh. Weird. Anyway, I loved the atmosphere of this book. It's Southern Gothic and yet it also manages to be modern. The flashbacks to the earlier generations and the way that Southerners hold so strongly to their heritage definitely give this effect.
I liked Lena and her awakening powers. I liked Ethan. I liked the supporting characters. I thought they were all quirky and kept my interest going throughout the whole story. I was amazed how quickly I got through this 600 page book. As I delved further into the story and had my suspicions about who was really good or bad or well... the pages just kept turning. Other than having to lug the gigantic book around, I almost forgot how long it was.
As I said, although this is not my favorite new series, I am very excited to see the movie now. There is something about this storyline that just translates to the screen, I think. I can totally see the larger than life magic and the epic good versus evil struggle making for an epic movie! I'll let you all know what I think once I've actually seen it. 
How many of you have read this? Did you love it? Hate it? Are you planning to see the movie? 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Review: Model Spy

Model Spy
by Shannon Greenland
The Specialists, book one

Book Description:
Teen genius Kelly James is in a lot of hot water. A whiz with computers, she agreed to help her college RA, David, uncover some top-secret information. After all, she doesn’t have many friends and David has always been nice to her. it doesn’t hurt that he’s supercute and irresistible, too. All she has to do is hack into the government’s main computer system. but a few hours later, her whole life changes. she is caught and taken in for questioning, only this isn’t your run-of-the-mill arrest. rather than serve a juvenile detention sentence, she accepts the option to change her name and enlist in a secret government spy agency that trains teen agents to go undercover. As if that wasn’t overwhelming enough, she discovers that David works for this agency as well! And before she even begins to understand what is going on, she’s sent on her first mission as an undercover model. And who better to partner with than David himself!
This was the "fun" book I've been dying to read lately. This book had adventure, romance, and a smart chick who also just happens to be somewhat klutzy...right up my alley, LOL!

I love the concept of a bunch of teen criminals, I mean geniuses, in different fields being recruited to form an elite squad of spies. Kelly, who has gone to college early and is generally beyond super-smart, was a fun character to follow. Sheis not only a whiz in school, but she's funny, loyal, warmhearted, and well...I kinda want to be her! I laughed my way through her adventure, turning the pages as fast as I possibly could!

...and the romance? I immediately hunted down book two in the series after finishing Model Spy because I cannot WAIT to see how the romance develops as the series goes on... *fans self* I want to see what the whole gang gets up to of course, and the spy mission in book two, Down to the Wire, recovering a stolen neurotoxin, sounds exciting, but I am so ready to jump right back into Kelly a.k.a. GiGi's life!!

Anyone on the lookout for a fun, fast-paced read with action, smarts, romance, and more, check out Model Spy. I guarantee you'll enjoy it

Monday, January 21, 2013

Review: Fake Mustache

Fake Mustache
by Tom Angleberger
Book Description:
Regular kid Lenny Flem Jr. is the only one standing between his evil-genius best friend—Casper, a master of disguise and hypnosis—and world domination. It all begins when Casper spends money from his granny on a spectacularly convincing fake mustache, the Heidelberg Handlebar #7. With it he’s able rob banks, amass a vast fortune, and run for president. Is Lenny the only one who can see through his disguise? And will he be able to stop Casper from taking over the world?
I thought this was a funny, absurd book. It's for a little bit of a younger audience (I picked it for the 4&5th grade book club meeting in January) but it can be a great choice if you're just looking for an easier read.  I liked the friendship theme...poor Lenny trying to figure out if it's okay to turn in his best friend, who's apparently turned evil...and Lenny making a new friend, a very pretty, very cool friend...
Although Lenny is a great character and the story is funny, it's really Jodie O'Rodeo who steals the whole show here. She is a fun girl who can actually DO things. She rescues Lenny a couple of times and bemoans the fact that she wasn't allowed to do real stunts on her TV show. I think she's a great role model character for this age group and can't wait to talk about her with the kids.
If you're just looking for a fun book to make you laugh, I would suggest this one...and for my librarian friends out there, I think you'll agree with me that any book that features a slew of school librarians hypnotised into breaking into a federal bank must be worth reading, LOL!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Adult Book You Might Enjoy: The Age of Miracles

The Age of Miracles
by Karen Thompson Walker

Book Description:
“It still amazes me how little we really knew. . . . Maybe everything that happened to me and my family had nothing at all to do with the slowing. It’s possible, I guess. But I doubt it. I doubt it very much.”

On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life—the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.

This was an interesting and slightly scary book. Not in the same way that an slasher horror film is scary (ie. people's heads being chopped off, etc!) but in a very realistic way. What I mean is that I could actually picture the events of this book happening. Totally and completely. Walker took a really cool post-apocalyptic concept and gave it a very real "life" through her story.

When the earth begins to slow, there are very real and evident consequences. Julia's family can see the days lengthening and her mother, especially, freaks out about what will this the beginning of the end? Then as the world continues to go on, they, like everyone else try to move on with their lives, but find that every day brings new little, almost unseen consequences of the slowing.

As Julia tries to process what's happening on a larger scale, she finds herself distracted by the things in her own neighborhood. Little slices of life that reflect what readers know is occurring around the globe. Julia's parents' marriage starts to fall apart. The boy she was afraid to talk to suddenly becomes a friend. Her best friend seems to no longer be a part of her life.

In the most realistic way, Walker reminds readers that life is not easy. Things are not just right or wrong, black or white, easy or hard. Every day, you just have to keep trying...keep facing the challenges of the day...keep moving on.

*Very similar in feel to Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life as We Knew It.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Review: Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator

Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator
by Josh Berk

Book Description:
Guy Langman can't be bothered with much. But when his friend Anoop wants Guy to join the forensics club with him in the (possibly misguided) hopes of impressing some girls, Guy thinks why not.

They certainly aren't expecting to find a real dead body on the simulated crime scene they're assigned to collect evidence from. But after some girlish, undignified screaming, the two realize it is indeed a body. Which means they have stumbled across a real, dead murder victim.

Meanwhile, Guy has been looking into the past of his father—a larger-than-life character who recently passed away. He was much older than Guy's mom, and had a whole past Guy never even knew about. Could his father's past and the dead body be linked? Does Guy want to know? He's going to need all his newfound forensics skills to find out . . .

What I really like about Josh Berk's writing is that he deals with real life "issues" and still manages to convey how funny everyday life can be... in the midst of a murder mystery and a family dealing with the grief of losing someone, I still found myself snorting as I read about Guy's daily activities.

In fact, I found myself snorting a lot as I read about Guy. I mean, this is a guy who fully admits to be incredibly lazy and loves to luxuriate in bubble baths...unless the Forensic Club barges in, that is! There were a lot of moments where Guy was just being your typical teenager. Playing video games, day dreaming about the girl he's crushing on...and then there were the moments when he was lifting fingerprints and stalking his half-brother in NYC.

Funny, poignant, and with a mystery that though it seemed to be readily apparent what was going on, ended up having some surprising twists!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Gold Star Review: Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone
by Leigh Bardugo
Book Description:
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

Startlingly intriguing, this fantasy takes place in a world that feels both familiar and completely alien. There are details that make this world feel like an out of time Russia, with very eastern styles of dress and customs, but Bardugo has also taken that baseline for the world and added so much that is unique that it couldn't possibly be truly set there.

The horrible demonic creatures that plague the people of Ravka are scary and very alien-like. I kept picturing the weird creatures from the movie Pitch Dark (*shudders*).
Ugh. So creepy and deadly...
I loved the military-esque society that Alina is part of in Ravka.  Led by those who can do magic, but mostly "regular" people.  I'm very intrigued to see what happens to Alina now that her place in society has changed so drastically.  Will she be able to survive being on the run from those she once revered?
This book left me hanging. I felt like I'd just come back from a world that I'd never imagined, but was totally real.  I wanted to dive right back in for more.  For that, a GOLD STAR!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Review: The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man's Canyon

The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man's Canyon
by S. S. Taylor/Illus. by Katherine Roy
Book Description:
Computers have failed, electricity is extinct, and the race to discover new lands is underway! Brilliant explorer Alexander West has just died under mysterious circumstances, but not before smuggling half of a strange map to his intrepid children—Kit the brain, M.K. the tinkerer, and Zander the brave. Why are so many government agents trying to steal the half-map? (And where is the other half?) It’s up to Alexander’s children—the Expeditioners—to get to the bottom of these questions, and fast.
Honestly, this was one of the best, most interesting steampunk adventures I've read yet. I think, primarily, because it wasn't *just* steampunk. This is dystopian steampunk. That means that in this world, we've gone beyond the computer age to a period where all that technology was distrusted and society withdrew back to steam power! Very, very cool conceptually.
This book has a heavy focus on family relationships, gadgets, and mapmaking/reading. Each of the West children has a different "specialty." M.K. can fix any type of machinery. Zander can almost commune with animals. Our main character, and also the middle sibling, Kit, can read maps and solve codes, having learned from their Explorer father. In this world, too, the Explorers, like Mr. West are on the hunt to map out and claim new lands. They joke about the time when we were convinced that there were only seven continents!

This book was exciting and intriguing and once I started reading, I did not want to put it down. Not only were there great descriptions of new creatures and awesome steampunk technologies, but the illustrator did an amazing job and every chapter there was at least one picture like this one of a typical Explorer's vest, full of cool gadgetry. There were full page illustrations and little ones sprinkled within the text. The book cover also comes off and on the reverse side is a full character sketch of each of the kids and the friend that eventually goes hunting for the secret cavern with them. 
This book tackled a great adventure, built an awesome and intriguing world, and also threw in a couple of great moral lessons. I cannot WAIT to read the next book in the series!!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Review: Island of Thieves

Island of Thieves
by Josh Lacey
Book Description:
"Only boring people get bored…Interesting people can always find something to be interested in." That’s what Tom Trelawney’s father says, anyway. Tom shouldn’t have been interested in playing with matches but he was...bored. Now the shed is in ashes and strange Uncle Harvey is the only one willing to have him stay while his parents vacation.

Tom soon discovers Harvey is going to South America on a treasure hunt and though nephews aren’t invited, he manages to tag along. Before it’s over he’ll drive a car, fire a gun and run for his life. Tom realizes that life may be about following the rules, but survival may be about breaking them.
This was an exciting book that seemed almost like an action movie playing in my head.  It felt very much like I was watching National Treasure where there were car chases and guys shooting guns at them and they were attempting to solve clues.  I was on the edge of my seat for the whole second half of the book! 

I'm actually kind of hoping that Lacey writes another book featuring Tom and his Uncle Harvey. I thought they worked well together and just managed to scrape through by the skins of their noses often enough that I never really was assured they'd both be okay in the end...

Love action movies? Love treasure hunts? Check this book out.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Movie Review: Brave

Disney Pixar
Rated: PG
93 minutes
Movie Description:
Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse.
I really enjoyed this movie.  I thought the storyline was interesting.  I loved the setting. I loved the characters. I LOVED the animation.
This movie was about a girl who wants to make her own destiny...and does... *after* some serious mishaps, having to break a curse, and killing off a giant evil bear that's plagued her country for years. Set in Scotland, I loved the accents, the clothes, the history, the magic, the folk tale feel of the whole movie. 
Merida was a great character - fiery, loyal, loving, but also a typical teenager who blames her mother for EVERYTHING.  Her mother and father were loving and funny and her brothers were a full-on hoot.  *I would love to see a short with just the boys getting into scrapes!* The members of the other clans were also funny and made for a great interaction with Merida's family.
Most of all, though, this movie was visually stunning.  The animation of Merida's wild red hair, her horse, the bears, and the will-o-the-wisps were all amazingly well done.  You could see individual hairs. It looked like you could reach out and touch soft fur. Wow.  Just wow. 
If you like family movies, you will probably really like this one. :)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Review: Iron Queen

The Iron Queen
by Julie Kagawa
The Iron Fey, book three
Book Description:
My name is Meghan Chase.  I thought it was over. That my time with the fey, the impossible choices I had to make, the sacrifices of those I loved, was behind me. But a storm is approaching, an army of Iron fey that will drag me back, kicking and screaming. Drag me away from the banished prince who's sworn to stand by my side. Drag me into the core of conflict so powerful, I'm not sure anyone can survive it.  This time, there will be no turning back.

I really need to catch up with this series! Every time I read one of the books, I enjoy it so much. 

*Spoiler Alert* This is book three so if you haven't read the first two...stop here!!

Anyway, Meghan thought she'd be able to return to her human life without having any issues, but when she returns home to find the Iron Fey outside her house, watching her family, she freaks.  She knows she can't go back.  She and Ash return to the Fey world and immediately become embroiled in war.  It's so bad that Summer and Winter have tentatively called a truce to fight off the Iron Fey.  No one could have expected what eventually happens, though...least of all Meghan.

Full again of danger, intrigue, secrets, and romance, this was an excellent installment in the series. I can't wait to finish Meghan's story in Iron Knight. I'm excited, too, because this fourth book is from Ash's perspective, which should be interesting...

Bonus Review:


I also just read the ebook novella, Summer's Crossing, set between the books, Iron Queen and Iron Knight. If you have an ereader, you can get it that way, or it is now part of the print book The Iron Legends, which contains the series' three novellas.
I LOVED this one mostly because it was from Puck's point of view and he is my FAVORITE character in the series.  It really breaks my heart that Meghan doesn't love him the way that he loves her, but...I guess I just have to get over it.  This novella made me giggle and had some great interactions between Puck and Ash. Worth a quick read. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Gold Star Review: The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate
Book Description:
Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.
This is a stellar book. Absolutely stellar. The concept is phenomenal. The characters, though animals, are still anthropomorphized (humanized) enough to make them evoke sympathy from readers. The storyline is perfect. The writing style fits the character and story beautifically.

Yes, I am gushing. This book deserves to be gushed over. If you have not read it yet, PICK THIS ONE UP. I guarantee that every reader will find something to love. Animals, art, love, grief, it's all here. The free form verse makes this book a breeze to read (I think it took me an hour or so) and my heart was bursting when I was done.

I cannot recommend this one enough. If it does not win at least one award this year, I think I will be shocked and somewhat appalled. Definite GOLD STAR.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What's On My Hold List?

Welcome back to
"What's on My Hold List?"
This is the January 2013 edition!
One of the most beautiful things about working at our Library is that I know what's coming out and what we'll be getting and I can put the books on hold right away!

by Andrea Cremer
Nightshade prequels, book two
by Dave Roman, illus. by John Green
by Alex Lidell
*If you click on each title, it will take you to the book on for more information. :)*
So, these are the books I'm waiting anxiously to get my hands on...
what are YOU waiting for??