Thursday, May 23, 2013

Heist Society by Ally Carter

Katarina Bishop comes from a family of skilled art thieves. She's been participating in heists of famous artwork since she was a child, but now she wants out. She wants to go to school like a normal person, have friends like normal people, and not have to watch her back. But she gets dragged into her old life all over again when her father is framed for a theft he actually had nothing to do with. If she doesn't find out who really stole the artwork, a very bad man is going to retaliate in a very bad way. In order to keep her father safe, Kat sets forth a scheme for the heist of the century. But she is just a teenager, and it's easy for things to spiral out of control.

Teens at my library have been recommending this one to me for ages. I had been putting it off because I'm not a huge fan of books where the main character is a thief. Or an assassin. Not that I haven't enjoyed books in which the main character doesn't share my moral compass - but it can be tricky to pull that off in a way that makes me care enough to keep reading.  Happily that was not an issue with this book. I found Kat's predicament made for a page-turning story, and the characters surrounding her added to the fun - particularly the developing (if slightly mysterious) relationship between Kat and Hale. In fact, I may have enjoyed this one even more than the Gallagher Academy series books that I've read. This first book ends in a satisfying way but does leave a lot of questions unanswered, and I look forward to continuing with the series.

Books in the Heist Society series:
1. Heist Society
2. Uncommon Criminals
3. Perfect Scoundrels

Heist Society  (#1 in the Heist Society series) by Ally Carter (Disney/Hyperion, 2010)

Also by Ally Carter:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

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
2. Rumors
3. Envy
4. Splendor

The Luxe (#1 in the Luxe series) by Anna Godbersen (HarperCollins, 2007)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Bigfoot Boy: Into the Woods (graphic novel)

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: 
Alison Dare

Also by Faith Erin Hicks: 
Friends with Boys
The War at Ellsmere
Zombies Calling

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

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

Gender swap book covers


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

The Phantom Tollbooth

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

Succubus Dreams

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