Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Beautiful Elizabeth Holland lives in Manhattan 1899, and her world is a whirlwind of parties, visits to the dressmakers, and visiting other wealthy socialite friends. She has a secret, though, one that could ruin her future and her family's social status. The book opens with Elizabeth's funeral, and then backtracks through the events that led to that moment, the twists and turns of fate, hidden intentions, secret love, jealousies and vindictiveness.
I've been meaning to read this book since I saw it on the shelves at my library, and it sure has taken me a while to get to it! It was certainly a gripping read, a sort of Pretty Little Liars meets Downton Abbey, which should appeal to fans of both. I found the plot to be rather predictable, but the characters are interesting enough, and the setting was a nice change from the usual, that I was able to relax and enjoy the ride.
The characters are engaging but never stray too far from the character type they represent, and this lack of complexity leaves me on the fence as far as continuing the series - although I doubt teen readers will share my qualms. I think they will enjoy reading about this time period - some historical novels can be a tough sell to that crowd. The novel wraps up in a satisfying conclusion but does leave enough loose ends for subsequent books to explore.
Books in the Luxe series:
1. The Luxe
The Luxe (#1 in the Luxe series) by Anna Godbersen (HarperCollins, 2007)
Monday, May 20, 2013
This fun graphic novel is about a boy named Rufus who goes to stay with his grandmother, who lives near a vast forest. He's a city boy, and he finds the woods fascinating - even though he doesn't know much about the outdoors - as Penny, a girl his age who lives next door to his grandmother, doesn't hesitate to point out. Penny is rather prickly - her big sister mentions to Rufus that Penny's spirit guide is a skunk - if you get too close too soon, look out! But skunks also need friends, so Rufus gives it a go.
When he's in the woods he discovers a necklace with a wooden figurine on it, and when he reads aloud the words that are carved into it, he turns into - Bigfoot! And so the adventures begin...
This one should have huge kid appeal, and I expect it won't spend much time sitting on the shelf at my library. It's straightforward and fairly simple, with engaging illustrations and the delightful humor I've come to expect from Torres and Hicks. This first volume appears to introduce the main characters and set up the background and the conflicts that will be explored in future installments. It's fun, silly and exciting, a definite must-read for young (and older!) graphic novel fans.
Into the Woods (#1 in the Bigfoot Boy series) by J. Torres and Faith Erin Hicks (Kids Can Press, 2012)
Also by J. Torres:
Also by Faith Erin Hicks:
Friends with Boys
The War at Ellsmere
Saturday, May 18, 2013
It took me a while to get to this sequel of last October's favorite Halloween read. I kind of wanted to wait till next October, but I couldn't hold out that long. I kept wondering about Cas and Anna and what happened after Anna Dressed in Blood ended.
This book picks up a few months after the concluding events of the first book - so spoiler alert! If you are interested in an intense and refreshingly different ghost story, please check out my review of the first book and read no further.
Cas becomes increasingly convinced that when Anna disappeared after saving his life, she did not cross over into whatever peaceful place is waiting for her. He keeps seeing her everywhere - when he is out killing ghosts, when he is asleep - and she is suffering. He can't stop thinking about her. When the distraction of Anna nearly gets him killed, he knows he has to do something fast, so he ends up leaving for England in search of the information he desperately needs to save Anna. What he discovers there is nothing he could ever have imagined...
Another great ghost story, with the same surprising twists and turns I loved in the first book. Girl of Nightmares is a definite thrill ride, but there is substance and depth as well. This is the kind of story that is a gripping page turner, but also contains an emotional resonance that will linger with you long after you close the book.
Books in the Anna series:
1. Anna Dressed in Blood
2. Girl of Nightmares
Girl of Nightmares (#2 in the Anna series) by Kendare Blake (Tor Teen, 2012)
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
As a librarian (and parent), I find it incredibly frustrating when I can't sell a book to a reader who appears otherwise interested in it but is embarrassed by theover. There are plenty of boys out there who are fine with reading a book with a female protagonist (Hunger Games, anyone?) but are turned off by a girly cover and the connotations it brings with it. This situation applies to girls and "boy" covers as well. Girls may not be embarrassed by the covers, but they can certainly find them unappealing.
Maureen Johnson addressed this issue in a tweet to her readers, issuing a challenge to imagine how the marketers at publishing companies would present books if their authors were of the opposite sex. Check out this link to read more about it, and be sure to watch the slideshow. It made me laugh and also want to cry!
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Nineteen-year-old Dodger is a young man who's grown up on the streets of London, a clever street urchin who makes a living finding items of value in the sewers and through other slightly disreputable means. But when on a horrifically stormy night he finds a young woman desperately trying to escape her captors by flinging herself from a coach, he rushes in to help her without thinking twice. It soon becomes apparent that Dodger's unique brand of street smarts, determination and fast thinking are ideally suited to keeping the young woman safe, and so he becomes involved in a mystery that will take him to some very interesting places indeed.
I always let out a cheer when Terry Pratchett publishes a new book. He's one of my absolute favorite authors, and as much as I adore the Discworld novels, it is fun to see him try his hand at something new. His Dodger is a beloved scoundrel whom I quickly came to care about very much. I enjoyed the historical setting, and the way the story weaves its way around historical personages like Dickens and Disraeli. This is a novel with teens as the intended audience, but it is one that adults are sure to enjoy as well, full of Pratchett's unique mix of humor, adventure, vivid language, memorable characters, and a gripping story. Stephen Briggs' narration is brilliant, as always. Highly recommended.
Dodger by Terry Pratchett; narrated by Stephen Briggs (Harper Audio, 2012)
Thursday, May 2, 2013
I was lucky enough to be able to participate in this year's World Book Night, which took place on April 23 (Shakespeare's birthday). Check the link for more detailed information, but basically it's a night when people all over the world, thanks to the generosity of writers and publishers, give away free books. Cool, huh? When you sign up, you get to choose your top three picks of books to give away, and as a children's librarian (and lover of kids' books in general), I of course chose my favorites from the among the children's books on the list. I was delighted to get my first pick: The Phantom Tollbooth. I have very fond memories of reading and rereading this one as a child, so I thought I'd give it another go to refresh my memory.
The book starts out like this:
There was once a boy named Milo who didn't know what to do with himself — not just sometimes, but always.
When he was in school he longed to be out, and when he was out he longed to be in. On the way he thought about coming home, and coming home he thought about going. Wherever he was he wished he were somewhere else, and when he got there he wondered why he’d bothered. Nothing really interested him — least of all the things that should have.
“It seems to me that almost everything is a waste of time,” he remarked one day as he walked dejectedly home from school. “I can’t see the point in learning to solve useless problems, or subtracting turnips from turnips, or knowing where Ethiopia is or how to spell February.” And, since no one bothered to explain otherwise, he regarded the process of seeking knowledge as the greatest waste of time of all.
Milo comes home from school one day to find a large toy tollbooth in his room. He has no idea where it came from, but he drives his little toy car through it and finds himself in another world. He meets a literal) watchdog named Tock, and together the two of them have all kinds of adventures. Along the way, Milo learns some important lessons, which at times (rereading it as an adult) border on the preachy side, but when I was a kid I didn't mind it one bit.
It was fun to revisit the land of The Phantom Tollbooth, and to relive the joy and wonder I'd felt as I turned its pages when I was a child. It holds up remarkably well and hardly seemed dated at all, considering it was written over fifty years ago. The illustrations brought back some fond memories as well. I was especially glad I'd chosen this title to give away for World Book Night when the parents' faces lit up, and they'd exclaim to their children that that book had been one of their favorites. I'm glad it's still around!
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster (Random House, 1961)
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Georgina Kincaid, succubus and book store manager, returns in this third volume of the series. She is still seeing Seth, but not being able to have a true romantic relationship (she would drain years from his life, perhaps even killing him) is taking its toll on them. To add to her stress, something seems to be draining her of power every time she falls asleep.
While this isn't my favorite supernatural mystery series, I keep coming back to it. I like Georgina, and her first-person narration keeps me reading. She's feisty and has interesting supernatural powers, and while she is strong and confident, she has her weak spots as well. I found myself losing a little patience with her in this book, though - she usually has more of a plan, and here she just kind of bumbled around until she stumbled across the answer. Still, I enjoy the characters, and there is always something interesting (and usually life threatening) going on wherever Georgina is. Some big changes take place in this installment, so I'll be curious to see what direction things take in the next book.
Books in the Georgina Kincaid series:
1. Succubus Blues
2. Succubus on Top (aka Succubus Nights)
3. Succubus Dreams
4. Succubus Heat
5. Succubus Shadows
6. Succubus Revealed
Succubus Dreams (#3 in the Georgia Kincaid series) by Richelle Mead
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
I've been a fan of the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series ever since I stumbled across the first one, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, in the shelves of my local library. And when I gave the audio books a try a few books ago in the series, I enjoyed Jenny Sterlin's narration so much that I have been exclusively listening to them ever since.
The premise of this eleventh book in the series is that Mary finds herself under cover with a film crew, who are filming a pirate movie on location in Portugal and Morocco. She must babysit a bevy of young actresses, all the while trying to find out what is really going on behind the scenes at the film company.I started this one with high expectations, but I have to say, I barely made it through. The tension was nonexistent, and the story meandered all over the place. Holmes wasn't present for much of the book, and there was such a large cast of characters it was nearly impossible to begin to care what happened to any of them. If I weren't such a fan of the series, I probably would have given up.
I'm not sure what happened here. Mary was rather whiny and feeling sorry for herself through most of the book, and the other characters were not very likable. Once Holmes became involved it was easier going, but I really missed the character-revealing interactions and conversations that are typical of the other books in this series. Don't get me wrong - it did have its moments, I'm glad I read it, and I certainly intend to continue with the series. This one just wasn't my favorite.
Books in the Mary Russell series:
1. The Beekeeper's Apprentice
2. A Monstrous Regiment of Women
3. A Letter of Mary
4. The Moor
5. O Jerusalem
6. Justice Hall
7. The Game
8. Locked Rooms
9. The Language of Bees
10. The God of the Hive
11. Pirate King
12. Garment of Shadows
Pirate King (#11 in the Mary Russell series) by Laurie R. King; narrated by Jenny Sterlin (Random House, 2011)
Monday, April 29, 2013
Bud has just moved to New Mexico with his father, who is working at a radio telescope lab out in the desert. When it comes time for Bud to go to school, he stands outside in a sudden deluge, and when the bus pulls up, he hops right on. Only it turns out he isn't on the school bus after all - he's on a space bus, with a bunch of aliens all headed to Cosmos Academy - on the other side of the galaxy.
He makes friends with one of the kids on the space bus, and is dismayed to learn that Earthlings are the most feared and dreaded species in the entire galaxy, and because of that, Earth is a strictly off-limits planet. It was a fluke, a total accident, that the space bus even showed up there in the first place. How will he ever be able to get back home, if no space ships ever go to Earth? And what if one of the teachers discovers that he's an Earthling?
This is a funny and clever science fiction tale that will have readers turning the pages as fast as they can. It is action packed, funny, and full of adventure, but it also spends some time developing the characters into people that readers will come to care about. The full-color illustrations work perfectly with the text, and I can't wait to see what Mark Fearing will come up with next.
Earthling! by Mark Fearing (Chronicle Books 2012)
Friday, April 26, 2013
I'd heard good things about this series, so I thought the audio book might be a good way to explore it, particularly when I saw that Lorelei King, who reads the Stephanie Plum series, narrates this one, too.
The premise was promising: Charley Davidson is a grim reaper, which means that she helps those who have died but have, for some reason, decided to remain behind, move on into the next phase of their existence, whatever that may be. Her ability to speak with the recently dead has made her of invaluable assistance to her uncle, who's a cop, and she consults with him from time to time.
What I liked: The premise wasn't the typical one, so that was refreshing. Aspects of Charley's previous life were woven into the present story through flashbacks, so that the current mystery of the murders her uncle is trying to solve alternates with the more personal mystery of Charley's past, and her current situation as a reaper.
What I didn't like so much: There was too much description (I might have skimmed over it had I been reading the actual book, but it was excruciating to listen through), in particular too much lovingly detailed prose about every hot guy (and there were a lot of them) that Charley was lusting after. I prefer my paranormal mysteries to be more about the characters and the mystery than the romantic element. Romance is fine, but I personally don't usually want it to be the point of the book. Rather than a paranormal mystery with a romantic element, this one reads like a romance with paranormal trappings. Not my thing, really. Also it annoys me when a character can instantly prove her credibility (i.e. her supernatural abilities) but chooses not to, and then goes on and on (and on) about how annoying it is when people don't believe her (particularly hot guys).
Still, it was an interesting story, and while I personally don't feel the need to continue with the series, I think it would appeal to those who enjoy romance as a central part of their paranormal fare.