Saturday, December 29, 2012

Book Review: Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures (Castor Chronicles #1)
By Kami Cross & Margaret Stohl
Four Stars
“So why did I think about her every second? Why was I so much happier the minute I saw her? I felt like maybe I knew the answer, but how could I be sure? I didn't know, and I didn't have any way to find out.

Guys don't talk about stuff like that. We just lie under the pile of bricks.”

Beautiful Creatures is lovely gothic romance, the kind that keeps you wondering what is going on with beautifully eerie elements, a historic mystery, and a heavy dose of magic. The story follows Ethan Wate, a teenage boy from a small southern town called Gatlin. It's the kind of place you never leave and anything new is suspicious. Ethan has wanted to get out for years, and now that his mom has died and his dad has been lost to grief, he's more ready to leave Gatlin than ever.

Then Lena Duchannes came to town.

Lena has come to live with family, a family that is not welcome in town due to their strange ways, and Lena isn't welcomed, either. Strange things begin to happen around Lena, and the Mean Girls go on the attack. Ethan, though, is mesmerized by Lena, and doesn't care what the small-minded bullies say. As they grow closer together, solving the mystery of Lena's family and her 16th birthday becomes increasingly urgent, because that's the day that everything will change.

Beautiful Creatures is a book you'll want to burrow into. The story is intriguing and I had to fight the urge to flip to the end to see what happens (or read the description of the next book in the series). It was unique in that it was a romance written from the male point of view - the story was Ethan's and you read it through his eyes. This is the first book in a series of at least four (#4 came out within the last few months) and will be coming to a theater near you this February. I can't wait to see how this Southern Gothic looks on the big screen. I hope it does this lovely book justice. The book is always better, but it's a crime when the movie utterly fails the book. (But Emma Thompson is in this movie, and that woman can do no wrong, so I'm not worried.)

Want more? Check out the book trailer:

Not enough? How about the movie trailer:

Manga Review: Library Wars

Library Wars: Love & War Volume 1
By Kiiro Yumi
Three Stars

Goodreads Description:
In the near future, the federal government creates a committee to rid society of books it deems unsuitable. The libraries vow to protect their collections, and with the help of local governments, form a military group to defend themselves--the Library Forces!

Iku Kasahara has dreamed of joining the Library Defense Force ever since one of its soldiers stepped in to protect her favorite book from being confiscated in a bookstore when she was younger. But now that she's finally a recruit, she's finding her dream job to be a bit of a nightmare. Especially since her hard-hearted drill instructor seems to have it in for her!

My Review:
I think it's kind of obvious why I wanted to read this book. I am a librarian afterall. I've only ventured as far as the first volume, so I can't fully review the series, but I did enjoy my first taste of the story and I intend to keep reading it.

The background for the story, what causes the action, is worth thinking about. It's happened before, and in some parts of the world, it's happening now: books are being banned, confiscated, and the powers-that-be are deeming what is and is not appropriate for people to read. Libraries already stand for the Freedom to Read and Intellectual Freedom, but the idea that libraries become a defense force is pretty cool. The story itself is pretty cute, very rom-com, if you can be rom-com in what feels like a police state. But any story that has boot camp, weapons training, and teaches the Dewey Decimal System is pretty awesome. There were a few moments where the text was a bit confusing, but I think that was more of a translation issue that anything. Other than that, though, it was a fun read. Recommended.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Booklist: Dreams

I'm hoping this is the first of many booklists to come to the Savvy Reader blog. I've been working hard on my booklists for months now, it's just a matter of finding the time to post them!

This is a booklist I created for Summer Reading 2012. These books are specific to my library, so there may be more - add a comment if you have any to add!

Sleepless, by Byn Balog
Tattoo (Tattoo #1), by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
White Cat (Curse Workers #1), by Holly Black
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll (Classic)
Dark Secrets: Legacy of Lies (Dark Secrets #1), by Elizabeth Chandler
Deadline, by Chris Crutcher
The Blue Girl, by Charles DeLint
Your Dreams and What They mean: How to understand the secret language of sleep, by Nerys Dee (Non Fiction)
The Dream Workbook: The practical guide to understanding your dreams and making them work for you, by Joe Friedman (Non Fiction)
The Sandman Series, Neil Gaiman (Graphic Novel Series)
Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles #1), Kami Garcia
Orphan of the Sun, by Harvey Gill
Mysteries, Legends, and Unexplained Phenomena: Dreams and Astral Travel, by Rosemary Ellen Guiley (Non Fiction)
Everybody Sees the Ants, A.S. King
Dreamhunter (The Dreamhunter Duet #1), Elizabeth Knox
Wake (Dream Catcher #1), by Lisa McMann
10,000 Dreams Interpreted: A dictionary of dreams, by Gustavus Hindman Miller (Non Fiction)
Nightmare, Joan Lowery Nixon
Dreamland (Riley Bloom #3), by Alyson Noel (Tween)
Sleep and Dreaming, by Marvin Rosen (Non Fiction)
As I Wake, by Elizabeth Scott
Sleeper Code (The Sleeper Conspiracy #1), Tom Sniegoski
Blue is for Nightmares (Blue is for Nightmares #1), by Laurie Stolarz
Dreams and Sleep, by Trudi Strain Trueit (Non Fiction)
Witch Dreams, by Vivian Vande Velde
Prophecy of the Sisters (Prophecy of the Sisters #1), by Michelle Zink
Zolar's Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Dreams, by Zolar (Non Fiction)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Guest Review: Let it Snow

Let it Snow
By: John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson
Guest Reviewer: Alicia Scully
Four Stars

“Christmas is never over,unless you want it to be... Christmas is a state of mind.”

This book gives three different stories from three different authors which all somehow interlock and all take place around Christmas. In the first, Jubilee is stranded without family or friends in a strange town due to a snowstorm. When she meets kind and thoughtful Stuart, she begins to question how good of friends she has and she also starts to seriously think about her current romantic relationship. Next, Tobin and his friends go on a wild adventure through the storm to get to a Waffle House in the hopes of making out with the team of cheerleaders stranded there. Over the course of the journey though, Tobin begins to think about what (and who) he really wants. Lastly, Addie is recovering from a broken heart after cheating on her boyfriend and, consequently, the love of her life. Will he ever forgive her? Addie must look at herself critically to see that she was in the wrong before there can be any hope of a reunion.

What a fun book! Each author brought something original to the book and they each found cute ways to comment on the others' stories. (For instance, Myracle states in her's that the characters in Green's story are witty to the point of intimidation, or something along those lines.) I have never read anything by either Myracle or Johnson, but I will definitely consider it now. The first two stories were hilarious--I laughed out loud in public to the point of people staring at me. The last story was not my favorite, mainly because the girl is so totally not me that it was difficult to relate to her or feel bad for her. Her story grew on me by the end and it was unexpected to have it from her POV since we had seen cameos of her cheated-on boyfriend in the other two stories. I will say that Myracle does indeed capture whiny, teenage girl angst like no other, but it kind of changed the tone and pace of the book. I may have enjoyed this especially because I just watched Love Actually the night before, and in a way, this would be the more teenager-esque version. I had some worries about the romance in the first story as I was going along because of the shortness of the tale, but it was brilliant and very well done. Basically, go read this book!

Meg-A-Rae Episode 18: A Very Special Crossover Episode

Meg and I got so excited about our Crossover episode that we got a wee bit long-winded. So this episode is broken up into three parts to making your viewing easier! In Part One, we discuss spring programming and we have a lot of really fun things going on next semester! In Part Two, I talk about awesome books written for adults, but would be totally awesome for teens, too. In Part Three, Meg talks about fantastic teen novels that adults should also read! Meg and I both read teen and adult books, so we kept talking and talking and talking about some of our favorites. Enjoy!

Part 1 - New Programs!
 Part 2 - Rae on Adult Books for Teens
Part 3 - Meg on Teen Books for Adults
Watch for our next Very Special Episode where we talk about new books in 2013!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Book Review: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
By Lewis Carroll
Four Stars

I have one word for this book: Wackadoo. This book was an interesting mix of post-spicy-dinner dream craziness and something an adult is forced to come up with on the spot for a child begging for a story. I really enjoyed it, though. The characters were characters, my favorites being the Tweedles and the clumsy knight. Alice was the grounding force of the story - she was always polite and often aggravated, and though she easily accepted the strangeness and kept hold of her creativity and imagination, she never lost her rationality.

Oddly enough, I felt as though I connected with this story because my dreams are very much like the dreamscape of Wonderland and the Looking Glass World. My dreams always have a plot and, despite their craziness, I'm always convinced that they make sense. I'd recommend this to any adult who has somehow missed it over the years and has a sense of whimsy. It'd also be a great read for any teen who's feeling overwhelmed by assigned readings and needs to see that not all classics are stodgy. And I also think it'd make a great read-aloud-to-a-child book (just beware, interesting questions could be posed whilst reading, like "Mommy, what's a hookah?").

Classics can be magical, too!

Guest Manga Review: Kamisama Kiss

Kamisama Kiss Volumes 1-11
By Julietta Suzuki
Guest Reviewer: Crystal Bandel
Four Stars

Nanami Momozono is a normal Japanese teenage girl, with the major problem that her deadbeat father has finally skipped town to avoid his gambling debts and has left her homeless as a result. While wandering around town, she encounters a local god, who transfers his powers to her so she can live in his shrine. When Nanami arrives at the shrine, she faces two problems: one, the shrine’s caretaker, a fox demon named Tomoe, doesn’t like her at all; and two, she’s a human with no knowledge of how to be a god or run a shrine. Over the course of the series, Nanami of course slowly becomes a better god and wins over Tomoe. The problem, though, is that Nanami also falls in love with Tomoe, and humans are forbidden to love demons. What will she do?

Kamisama Kiss follows a lot of the standard elements for a girls’ manga series, from the optimistic, hardworking female lead to her mean-on-the-outside-but-nice-and-kinda-gooey-on-the-inside love interest. Fortunately, this series mostly avoids the big shoujo manga pitfall of love triangles and instead focuses on Nanami’s growth as a god and her feelings for Tomoe. The series does require some knowledge of how the Japanese religion of Shintoism works, but the endnotes cover a lot of the basics, so don’t let that scare you away. More importantly, the series is both hilarious and emotionally touching, which I hadn’t expected when I started it. The humor is offbeat and immediately engrossing, so much so that I read the entire first volume as soon as I started it and rushed to get the rest of the series. I appreciate how much it deals with Nanami’s past and her parents’ faults, as well as the complicated problems of the spirit world. The biggest difficulty for readers may be how very much older Tomoe is than Nanami, but the series mostly treats that as inconsequential in the face of love. I was able to get over it, and I suspect many teens might, but it’ll vary by reader. Essentially, Kamisama Kiss is a fun diversion of a series that brightens up my day every time I read it, even if it doesn’t do anything radically new. If you’re looking for a fun manga series for girls with some Japanese mysticism, it’s a good way to go.   

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Book Review: The Last Dragonslayer

The Last Dragonslayer (The Chronicles of Kazam #1)
By Jasper Fforde
18,000,000 Stars

“The Kingdom of Hereford was unique in the Ununited Kingdoms for having driving tests based on maturity, not age, much to the chagrin of a lot of males, some of whom were still failing to make the grade at thirty-two.”
There are no words for how much I absolutely adore this book! I want to carry it around with me everywhere, hugging it to my chest, whilst skipping and singing.

Lemur Doing a Hop
This book made me as happy as this guy jumping around with a lemur.

But seriously, if you're a fan of cleverness, wit, and general awesomeness, then this is the book for you. Jennifer Strange is 15 and runs Kazam, an employment agency for wizards in the Kingdom of Hereford. Magic, though, doesn't have the umph it used to; it's dwindling, and some fear it may be disappearing forever. Magic carpets are used to deliver pizza. Wizards are hired to rewire houses. But Jennifer is having a hard time getting these jobs for the agency; she keeps getting underbid by non-magic plumbers and electricians.

Suddenly, though, magic starts to grow again. The wizards are able to accomplish feats of magic that they haven't been able to do in decades. And anyone who has ever had any kind of premonition suddenly starts to see the same thing: The Last Dragonslayer will come and slay the last dragon.

I don't want to give too much away, but I'm telling you, I haven't read a book that made me giggle this much or provided me with such a general feeling of happiness the way this book did. I lurved it! The writing is fun, the characters (like the wizards Moobin and Full Price - who has a brother called Half Price) are wonderfully and creatively rendered, and the plot feels completely new - I've never read anything like it!

Jasper Fforde is one of my all-time favorite authors, and I'm thrilled he's written a new series for teens! If my gushing about the uber-amazingness of this book hasn't convinced you to run, not walk, to your local library or bookstore to get your hands on this book, then maybe the official book trailer will:

You're welcome :)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Meg-A-Rae Episode 17: A Very Special Gifty Episode

Christmastime is here! That means we're all running around and looking for gifts for the important people in our lives. Meg-A-Rae says: gift them a book! There's something for everyone! We talk about a slew of books that would make great gifts, including books that will be coming soon to a theater near you, awesome boxed sets, and titles for fans of The Hunger Games!

Next Week: A Very Special Cross-Over Episode, where Meg talks about great YA books for adults, and I talk about great Adult books for teens!

Guest Review: Fullmetal Alchemist

Fullmetal Alchemist (Volumes 1-27)
By Hiromu Arakawa
Guest Reviewer: Crystal Bandel
Five Stars

Edward Elric has an arm and leg made of metal prosthetics, called “automail,” while his younger brother Alphonse lives as a soul bonded to a suit of armor. The Elric brothers are alchemists, scientists in the world of Amestris who can transmute objects from one form to another using the power of the tectonic plates. As boys, they attempted to bring their mother back to life using alchemy; as a result, Ed lost his arm and leg, and Al lost his entire body. Since this incident, Ed has become a State Alchemist, and they’ve been looking for the Philosopher’s Stone, a substance that increases alchemical abilities, which they hope can help them regain their original bodies.

As they look for clues to getting their bodies back, Ed and Al encounter many, many people and lots of obstacles. As a State Alchemist, Ed has to report to the military, so we get to meet a large number of people in the military, including other State Alchemists. Amestris’s recent past involves the slaughter of the Ishvalan people on their eastern border, and this comes back to haunt Ed and Al, along with other members of the military. Finally, there are the mysterious homunculi who follow “Father” and get in the way of Ed and Al finding the Philosopher’s Stone, though they also call the brothers “human sacrifices.” What does it all mean?!

Fullmetal Alchemist may seem complicated and heavily plot-driven (which it is), but the series excels at being reader friendly and explaining every development so that it makes sense. Given my inability to follow politics, this is a big deal for me. The various political maneuverings and plot developments kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire series, and it was torture reading it while it was being serialized. I’m so glad that it’s finished now, since it can be re-read without having to wait agonizing months for more! Another feat of the author’s excellence is how much I love the characters in this series—I can’t think of anyone I genuinely dislike in this series, and it has a HUGE cast, including many villains. Nearly every main and secondary character sees a good deal of development in this series, and there are even enough strong relationships to keep the fangirl in me squealing. Really, Fullmetal Alchemist is a shining example of manga at its best, as it has excellent plot, character development, and art all in the same series. I can only hope that the author’s next series is as great and gets a release in the U.S. soon.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Meg-A-Rae Episode 16: A Very Special Super Spy Episode

On this week's episode of Meg-A-Rae, Meg and I discuss espionage and even try our hand at the trade! Meg, of course, talks about Ian Fleming's Bond series, plus a couple of books about the Bond movies (I'm keeping the one with Daniel Craig on the cover!). I discuss the awesome Gallagher Girl series by Ally Carter, a story about an all-girl spy school.

Be sure to check out our next installment: A Very VERY Special Victorian Christmas Episode!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Meg-A-Rae Episode 15: A Very VERY Special Thanksgiving Episode - Books We're Thankful For

In honor of one of our favorite holidays (and our favorite food: pie), Meg and I have compiled a list of the books we're thankful for. They are many and varied. Once you've checked out our video, see the blog post below for all of the books I talked about and see Meg's blog for her favorites!

First, I'm thankful for Michelle Sagara's Chronicles of Elantra series. She is my second favorite fantasy author and this is my second favorite fantasy series EVER. She's created a fully realized world and a heroine that you want to stand up and cheer for! Though it's an adult book, it's a great teen crossover read, too. She's also written a very cool YA book, the first in a new series, called Silence.

Which leads me to my #1 all time favorite fantasy author and series of all time: J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Tolkien is the master of his craft and, in my opinion, the father of all fantasy. He is magic, and I can't wait to see the new Hobbit movies. Thus, I'm also thankful for Peter Jackson.

I'm thankful for adult author Sarah Addison Allen for her beautifully written magical realism books.

I'm extremely thankful to any author who DOESN'T kill the loveable dog, horse, owl, or other sweet beastie just for something silly like plot progression or character growth. I'm looking at you J.K.

I'm thankful for Ally Carter and her super-fun Gallagher Girls novels. The series is about a secret school for girls who learn to be spies. To find out what I really think, check out my review of book 4: Only the Good Spy Young.

I'm thankful for Sarah Rees Brennan and Gina Damico for ruining my life with their amazing books. These books are full of humor, snark, and heartbreak. They are mustache-twirling authors who like to cause their reader's pain - and I loved every second of it! These books hurt so good!

I'm incredibly thankful for Jasper Fforde and his amazeballs Thursday Next series and for entering the YA genre with The Last Dragonslayer. I finished that book in two days and it was SPECTACULAR! No one writes like Mr. Fforde! His books are incredibly clever, witty, magical, and fantastical! I heart every well-chosen word!

Finally, I'm thankful for Gail Carriger - she's one of my all-time favorite authors, a Master of Steampunk and creator of the amazing adult series The Parasol Protectorate. I'm beyond excited that she's starting the new Finishing School series for YA and that Etiquette and Espionage, the first book in the series, comes out this February! I need it in my hands NOW!

Hope you all have a very happy Thanksgiving and may you eat your weight in pumpkin pie!

Book Review: Unspoken

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy #1)
By Sarah Rees Brennan

“A leather jacket,” Kami said as he shrugged into it. “Aren’t you trying a little too hard to play into certain bad boy clich├ęs?”
“Nah”, said Jared. “You’re thinking of black leather. Black leather’s for bad boys. It’s all in the color. You wouldn’t think I was a bad boy if I was wearing a pink leather jacket.”
“That’s true,” Kami said. “What I would think of you, I do not know. So what does brown leather mean, then?”
“I’m going for manly,” Jared said. “Maybe a little rugged.”
“It’s bits of dead cow; don’t ask it to perform miracles.”
Kami is a teenager living in a small English village called Sorry-in-the-Vale (the English really know how to name their villages...just sayin'). The village is a little quirky, as most small towns are, but Kami is sure it has any number of secrets, and as an enterprising young journalist she's determined to sniff them all out. Kami knows about secrets: she's had a special friend since she was a baby, one who is only a voice in Kami's head. When she was little, everyone thought he was just her imaginary friend. As she got older, she learned to keep his continued existence to herself. But she was closer to the voice than anyone else in the world, and she wouldn't give him up for all the psychologists in the world.

When the Lynburns come back to the village, the secrets begin to come to light. Kami finds herself in the middle of the greatest secret of all - one from which she may not live to tell.

Unspoken is an AMAZING novel! It starts out full of witty banter and quick dialogue. The characters are fun and lovable. Kami's BFF is one of the most gorgeous girls in school who pretty much hates everyone, but loves naps. Along the way, Kami befriends Holly, a girl who's popular with the boys, but not so much with the girls. Jared and Ash are the Lynburn cousins coming home to Sorry-in-the-Vale for the first time. Though they are strikingly similar in looks, Jared is clearly the bad boy to Ash's angel. As the book goes on, it fully embraces the gothic mystery and the tone turns from light and upbeat to dark and mysterious. And in the midst of all this, Kami's mysterious voice turns out to belong to a real boy, and this awakens all kinds of pain and confusion for the two of them.
This book has it all and I loved every moment of it. I turned the last page stricken that it was going to take way too long until the next book was published - I want it in my hands NOW! I can't recommend this book highly enough. Seriously, I just want to hug it and carry it around with me everywhere!

If you'd like a little taste of the book's awesomeness, check out Sarah Rees Brennan's book trailer:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Review: Cast in Shadow

Cast in Shadow (Chronicles of Elantra #1)
By Michelle Sagara

A story where words are not only mightier than the sword, but they are also capable of blowing up a building.

At the onset of puberty, Elianne discovers words like tattoos forming on her arms and legs. Then all hell breaks loose - children are being murdered and found with these same marks in the fief of Nightshade - her home - a rough, lawless, wrong-side-of-the-river place. Seven years after she escaped from Nightshade and found a home in the grand city of Elantra, Elianne, now called Kaylin Neya, finds that history is repeating itself.

This fantasy story, the first in the Chronicles of Elantra series, takes place in a beautifully described world with strange races and many problems. Kaylin is a Hawk, one of the three branches of service in the Halls of Law, in which she is part of the police force for the city. She is sent back into the heart of Nightshade to investigate the resurgence of these murders with former friend and current enemy, Severn. With the help of a Dragon lord and the Lord of Nightshade (a Barrani, an immortal, elf-like race, who are as arrogant and cold as they are beautiful), Kaylin must learn about the ancient language that makes up the marks on her body and the powers they give her in order to fight the evil that's searching for her.

While much of this story is made up of the fantastic, at its heart is the trauma of Kaylin's youth and how she struggles to overcome it. She is forced to face the past before she can move on to the present concerns. This story envelops the reader in its fantasy world, but what I found most compelling is Sagara's depiction of words and names and the power they can hold. In this place that power is tangible; it can both save a life and bring down walls (both figuratively and literally).

This book is generally considered an adult title, but it has excellent YA cross-over potential. Kaylin is probably about 20 in this story. Her abilities and training make her more capable than her age would suggest, yet her past and attitude tend to make her act younger than her age. This book would be accessible and appropriate for teens who have a love for fantasy. I highly recommend it!

Book Review: Scorch

Scorch (Croak #2)
By Gina Damico

"Hi, I'm Driggs."
"Damn, boy. You're even cuter up close." Cordy looked him up and down hungrily. "Got any dead brothers in here?"
Lex made a face. "Cordy, ew."
"Doesn't hurt to ask!" She peered at Driggs. "Now tell me, what are your intentions with my sister?"
Driggs became flustered. "Um, I don't know. To love her...and, uh...honor...protect..."
Lex went red. "Driggs, shut up."
"Awkward." Cordy beamed. "Love it."
"We have to go," Driggs said in an unnecessarily loud voice.

A couple of months ago, I reviewed the first book in this awesome series, Croak. After fighting Miss Michelle for the sequel (she got to read it first), I finally got my chance at it! Before I review the book, though, I'd like to send a little note to the author:

Dear Ms. Damico,

What are you trying to do to me? You break my heart into little tiny pieces in Croak, tape it up so I think I'm ok, and then you STOMP on it in Scorch! You know, there's only so much damage you can do to my poor heart before it's too mangled to repair. You're doing this on purpose, aren't you? You're a very mean woman.

When's the next book coming out?

Sincerely, a devoted reader (to my own detriment),

I'm going to attempt to write this review as spoiler free as possible. Scorch picks up a few months after Croak left off, and Lex is finally back in the town of Croak. The surprise baddy is now on the run and most everyone blames Lex, particularly the nasty Norwood and his hellish wife, Heloise. These two are right up there on the hate-scale as Professor Umbridge of the Harry Potter books, and I hated that character more than I hated Voldemort. She tries to get back to normal, but the Sadistic-Spouses make that impossible. Lex and her friends end up on the run from both the town and the surprise baddy. Things go from bad to worse until Gina Damico ripped my heart out again. Some puzzles are solved, but the ending leaves you dying for more (See what I did there? It's a story about grim reapers, and it leaves you dying for more?). Apparently I'm a glutton for punishment, because despite the repeated cardio-vascular annihilation, I love this story and I love these characters - I guess that's why it hurts so good! Seriously though, this book is awesome, and you'll be doing yourself a disservice if you don't read it.

Ha! Another book where it's completely appropriate to use this GIF!

UPDATE: I'm excited to say that Ms. Damico responded to my Tweet about this blog entry and she says the following:

Thank you! And in response to your letter: Mwahaha! *twirls mustache, swishes cape*
I knew it. I knew she was an evil mastermind. She also said that the next book is scheduled to be released in Fall 2013! Thanks for the info, Gina!

Meg-A-Rae Episode 14: A Very Special Comedy Episode

What do you do when you have wax lips? Make a comedy episode! Bad puns & book reviews make up this week's installment of Meg-A-Rae! Meg discusses the hilarity of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series and I discuss the mirth created from Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicholson!

Join us for our next installment: A Very VERY Special Thank Turkey Day Episode!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Book Review: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer (Necromancer #1)
By Lish McBride

“So, you're telling me the zoo commissioned you to make a zombie panda in order to avoid a potential international incident.” 
Before I start this review, I'd like to comment on two things. First, I adore the title of this book. It is both amazing and nostalgic, and may manage to replace Phoebe's "Hold Me Closer, Tony Danza" that I always think of when I hear the song. I heart it. Lots. Also loving the title of the sequel: Necromancing the Stone. I loved that movie! Dear Lish: you rock book titles! You are my hero of book titling!

Second, I was shocked by the vast quantity and variety of results when I did an image search for "zombie panda." Internet, you are cray-cray.

Hold Me Closer is the story of Sam, a college drop-out, who is currently working at a fast-food joint. Like Cassel in White Cat, Sam has never really felt like he fit in anywhere. It turns out that there's a good reason for that. Sam is a Necromancer, but his powers have been stifled.

Everything changes when he accidentally damages a creepy dude's car. Said creepy dude, Douglas, realizes what Sam is, and demands to make Sam his apprentice. And by demand, I mean sending a brute to beat him up. When that didn't work, he then beheads Sam's friend, reanimates the head, and leaves it on Sam's doorstep. When that still doesn't work, he just kidnaps Sam. So yeah, that works.

Douglas likes power, a lot, and he thinks Sam is a fairly weak Necromancer, so he's not a threat. That keeps Sam alive - as long as he's useful - but good ol' Doug is still pretty sure he's going to kill Sam eventually and he (Doug) is ok with that.

This is a fantastic book! Mucho love to this series (also a Rosie nominee!). If you couldn't tell, I love me some snark, and Sam and his friends are full of the stuff. There's a lot of action, a bit of torture, magic politics, and some zombies, but it doesn't come across as overly-dark. Even when things are at their worst for Sam and his friends, the book is chock full of fun! Well, I think it's fun. I wonder what that says about me... Anyway, I highly recommend it to fans of paranormal, snark, and urban fantasy, and frankly, anyone who's a fan of awesome.

Books on Film: Movie Trailer - City of Bones

I love it when books are turned into movies - especially the ones with fantasy elements. It's so cool to see the fantastic rendered on film!

The Mortal Instrument series (and it's spinoff) was written by Cassandra Clare. The first book, City of Bones, will be coming to theaters this August! First things first: check out this description from Goodreads:

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder -- much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing -- not even a smear of blood -- to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . .

Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare's ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.

And now, the movie trailer!

'The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones': Trailer 1
(Sorry I couldn't embed the video - insert sad face - but this link will take you to the MTV page with the exclusive trailer!)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book Review: White Cat

White Cat (Curse Workers #1)
By Holly Black
“Pet the cat dude," says Sam. "She brought you a present. She wants you to tell her how badass she is."

"You are a tiny tiny killing machine." Daneca coos.

"What's she doing?" I ask.

"Purring!" says Daneca. She sounds delighted. "Good kitty. Who's an amazing killing machine? That's right. You are! You are a brutal brutal tiny lion! Yes, you are.”

In Cassel's world, some people can do magic and some people can't, but everyone knows it exists. But the majority of the non-magic users fear people who do magic, so magic is outlawed. Therefore, the magic users tend to band together in organized magic groups, and since magic is outlawed, these groups participate in organized crime. In other words, a magic mafia.

That's right - a magic mafia!

So Cassel's family are all magic practitioners and are connected to a major crime family. Cassel, though, (if I may steal a term from Harry Potter) is a squib - the only non-magic person in a magic family of con artists. His mother is in prison, his brother is interning at a law firm trying to get her out, and his other brother is an enforcer for the mafia don's heir apparent. Cassel's grandfather does the dirtiest work of all - his touch can bring death.

In this world, all magic is used through the power of touch; everyone wears gloves to keep from getting "cursed." But for every magic touch the magic wielder uses, he or she get's a whiplash-type effect. So if you are a memory worker, you lose your own memories. If you can kill someone with a touch, a part of your body dies (Cassel's grandfather is missing many fingers). So magic wielding isn't all fun and games, but Cassel still feels like the black sheep in the family because he doesn't have a gift.

To make matters worse, he killed his best friend.

The story follows Cassel as he tries to make a normal life for himself, but is finding that hard to do with his last memory of his best friend, his confusion about why he killed her, and other major family issues. And considering the fact that his best friend is the Don's only child and Cassel's family is keeping the secret that Cassel killed her, the issues are vast and troublesome. The story has a lot of twists and turns, but it is an engaging urban fantasy mystery. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes an edgier read with a supernatural twist!

I first mentioned this book in our Meg-A-Rae Very Special Magical Episode. Check it out!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Guest Reviewer: Perks of Being a Wallflower

Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Stephen Chbosky
Guest Reviewer: Alicia Scully

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be.” 

In honor of the upcoming movie, please enjoy Alicia's review of Perks:

Told through letters to an anonymous reader, Charlie describes his life and his experiences. Opens with the start of his freshman year in high school and proceeds to the following summer. Many stereotypical high school events and experiences—including classes, dances, and football games—all seen through the observational perspective of Charlie. His English teacher plays a vital role and mentors him during the book—the book list that Charlie reads is full of similar characters and situations that he is facing. Lots of identity issues are addressed as well as touchy topics like sex, abuse, and substance use. The text is filled with Charlie’s easily identifiable voice, and he calls to the reader as he discovers his place and his function in his various social systems. Has a strong parental presence—a comfortable difference between other adolescent literature. An intense and wonderful read.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Teen Programming - Creative Writing

In today's Teen Home School Group, we did a fun little creative writing activity inspired by an In Our Write Minds blog post on Writing Warm-Ups. The idea is that each person receives a sheet of paper with a five-word phrase on it:

Five Word Phrase Prompts (you can make your own, too!):
  • Once upon a time there . . .
  • The mystery began when the . . .
  • In a kingdom far away . . .
  • Once, long ago, a tiny . . .
  • Last week, while digging in . . .
  • Today was far from normal! 
Then each teen would write another five-word phrase, then pass it on to the next teen, who would write a five-word phrase and so on and so on. There were ten of us (including myself), and we passed the papers around so that each paper would go around the circle twice, and the person who started the paper would also finish it (so they would write on their paper three times, while only writing twice on everyone elses). This, oddly enough, took up the full hour of our program, leaving just enough time to read the completed stories at the end. Here is one example:
Once, long ago, a tiny light appeared in the sky. Only one person saw it. She was Majesty, a princess. She loved to dance to rock music in pajamas while eating purple pancakes. She was a weird person, she said and then she said, "I love to eat pickles and I love to read." The light saw Majesty and decided to visit her. It shot from the sky and bolted down to greet her. It gave her a present; it was a donkey who could slow down time! He made it 1975 and then 2050 in New York City. He polished his favorite shoes. He wore them out that night. The light and Majesty traveled to forever and were happy there. The End.
All the stories were equally wackadoodle, but I can't help but be pleased that mine had a touch of the timey wimey! My Whovian reading of this makes the Light the Doctor, the Donkey the TARDIS, and the Princess the Companion.

I'd like to travel to forever with the Doctor.

This was a really fun program and extremely easy to do. I grabbed some printer paper, some clip boards, and a pile of pens, and off we went! Easy peasy, lemon squeezey!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Meg-A-Rae Episode 13: A Very VERY Special Halloween Episode

In this episode of Meg-A-Rae, Meg and I discuss Halloween! This is the fifth and final episode in our Spooktastic October Series - all month long we talk about ghosts, the paranormal, magic, and anything we consider scary!

Here we talk about Scary Stuff, wear fantastic hats, and find out that Rae's idea of "scary" is a little different! Meg reviews The Stand by Stephen King (I wonder if she had to put the book in the freezer...). Rae reviews a particularly scary story: The Twilight Saga, namely Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer. Hey, romance is scary, too! Be sure to stick around till after the credits where something...funny...happens!

Be sure to join us again next week when we don't review something scary! Yay November!

Meg-A-Rae Episode 12: A Very Special Ghostly Episode

In this episode of Meg-A-Rae, Meg and I discuss October and all things Spooktacular! This is the fourth episode in our Spooktastic October Series - all month long we'll be talking about ghosts, the paranormal, magic, and anything we consider scary!

Here we talk about Ghosts and find out that Rae has been possessed and likes pancakes! Meg reviews Haunting Obsession by R.J. Sullivan (a local author!), about a man who's obsessed with an old movie star, a la Marilyn Monroe, and ends up being haunted by her! She also reviews Ghost Hunters, a non-fiction history of ghost hunting by Deborah Blum. Then Rae reviews The Graveyard Book by the brilliant Neil Gaiman (you can find my full review here).

Be sure to check out Episode 13 - the final episode in our Spooktastic October series! It seems appropriate that the Halloween episode takes place in the 13th episode...makes you wonder...

Monday, October 22, 2012

It's Monday: What are you Reading?

It's Monday: What are you reading? is a weekly meme from Book Journey.

I've finally got back into the reading zone. For a long while, I just wasn't in the mood. I blame school, even though I've been finished with my Masters program for over a year. Still, I've been reading a ton lately and it's been great! So many fantastic new discoveries!

For more reviews, plus a lot of awesome, check out my blog posts with our Meg-A-Rae vlog episodes! The Adult Programming Librarian and I discuss various genres and other things we geek out on (like tea and Doctor Who), then we review some amazing Adult, Teen, and Tween titles!

What I'm reading now:
I just started Sarah Rees Brennan's Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy #1) this weekend. So far, so awesome! It's kind of a present day Gothic. Kami lives in a small village in England called Sorry-in-the-Vale, where the Lynburn's estate towers menacingly over the town. The Lynburns have just returned after 17 years in America, and Kami, a budding journalist, wants the deets. And the fact that everyone in the town is acting all mysteriously silent on the issue just makes her even more curious. Add to that the fact that everyone thinks she's kinda weird because she's had an "imaginary friend" talk to her as long as she can remember...and then she meets him in real life - create some added excitement in her life. That, and someone's trying to kill her. I'm not terribly far into the book, but I can already tell that I'm going to love it!

What I've recently finished:
Sooooo, while I've been reading up a storm, I haven't really had the same drive to write my book reviews. I'm catching up, though, so here are the books that I've recently finished, both the one's I've reviewed in this blog and the one's I haven't had a chance to review quite yet!

A Spy in the House (A Mary Quinn Mystery #1), by Y.S. Lee - Four Stars!
Team Human, by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan (of the previously mentioned Unspoken) - Four Stars!
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1), by Laini Taylor - Four Stars for the audio book!
Hourglass (Hourglass #1), by Myra McEntire - Four Stars, and I can't wait to read the sequel!
Rot & Ruin (Benny Imura #1), by Jonathan Maberry - Four would have been Five, but I don't like zombie or post-apocalyptic novels. That being said, it was really well written and definitely worth reading, whether it's your preferred genre or not!
Croak (Croak #1), by Gina Damico - Five Stars! Soooo good!

Here are the books that I've finished and have yet to review:
Scorch (Croak #2), by Gina Damico - Gina will break your heart to pieces, then immediately glue them back together so you think you're ok...until she does it again. I need book #3. NOW!
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer (Necromancer #1), by Lish McBride - this book is just as great as it's title! Can't wait to get my hands on Necromancing the Stone (I loved that movie...)
White Cat (Curse Workers #1), by Holly Black - two words: Magic Mafia.

Yeahhhh...there seems to be a bit of a paranormal theme going on with my reading lately. What can I say, I love it!

What I'm going to read next:
Oh boy. I don't know. I never know until I see it in front of me and have to have it. Books that are calling my name and may be next on the list include Timepiece (Hourglass #2), Necromancing the Stone (Necromancer #2), Mothership (Ever-Expanding Universe #1)and The Last Dragon Slayer (The Last Dragonslayer #1).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Meg-A-Rae #11: A Very Special Magical Episode

In this episode of Meg-A-Rae, Meg and I discuss October and all things Spooktacular! This is the third episode in our Spooktastic October Series - all month long we'll be talking about ghosts, the paranormal, magic, and anything we consider scary!

Here we talk about Magic and find out that Meg has some real skills! Meg works her magic and then reviews Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke (which I've also read and reviewed here) the story of two men that bring magic back to Britain during the Napoleonic Wars. She also talks about the ultimate magical series, your favorite and mine: Harry Potter! I discuss two books: Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, the story of two girls in Regency England who find themselves mixed up in a magical mystery (how's that for alliteration?!?). I then talk about White Cat (Curse Workers #1), by Holly Black, about a teen and a magic mafia!

Seriously, though, why didn't Meg get a letter to Hogwarts? She's a natural!

Stay tuned for next week's episode all about ghosts! I wonder if the ghost from the Paranormal Episode will make another appearance...

Meg-A-Rae #10: A Very Special Mystery Episode

In this episode of Meg-A-Rae, Meg and I discuss October and all things Spooktacular! This is the second episode in our Spooktastic October Series - all month long we'll be talking about ghosts, the paranormal, magic, and anything we consider scary!

Here we talk about Mysteries and live one of our own! What's that maid doing to my tea?!? Meg talks about our Mega-Awesome Mystery Dinner that will be happening this weekend! Woohoo! Then we talk about mysteries: I review Storm Front (Dresden Files #1), by Jim Butcher, an adult mystery series about private detective and magic wielder Harry Dresden as he tries to solve a missing person's case and a mysterious murder. I then review A Spy in the House (The Agency #1), by Y.S. Lee, about a girl who becomes a spy in 1800s England. Meg reviews Real Murders (Aurora Teagarden #1), by Charlaine Harris. Harris is the author of the Sookie Stackhouse series (aka True Blood), but this series doesn't have any vampires or werewolves, but there are librarians and plenty of MURDER!!!

Annnnnnd thennnn - shenanigans.

Don't worry, guys, I'm ok! For proof, you'll see me hale and hearty in our next episode: A Very Special Magical Episode! (Spoiler Alert: Meg is MAGICAL!!!)

Book Review: A Spy in the House

A Spy in the House: A Mary Quinn Mystery (The Agency #1)  ****
by Y.S. Lee

She spun about. "What is it?"
"Stay out of wardrobes!"

This book opens with Mary Lang on trial for theft. It's the mid-1800's England, and despite her young age and fairly minor crime, Mary is sentenced to hang. Instead of meeting that fate, though, she is rescued by a woman who runs a school for girls. This school provides an education for girls who wouldn't receive it otherwise, girls with no money and no hopes for a good future. They teach the girls skills that they'll need to provide for themselves in a world that treats women like property. Mary accepts this woman's offer to attend the school, and we jump several years into the future where she's now 17, has changed her last name to Quinn, and teaches at the school. However, she doesn't feel fulfilled by this role, she wants more, and the woman who saved her has a new offer. And this is where our story really begins.

Mary becomes a spy for The Agency, a sort of private-detective, under-cover operation run by women and employing women. Mary is hired as a lady's companion in the house of a suspected smuggler. She is supposed to keep an eye on things and make herself available to the real agent who has already been installed in the household, but of course, Mary can't keep from investigating. In the process, she meets a young man who's also investigating the family, and they decide to work together.

A Spy in the House is a great title for anyone who is looking for a historical mystery. I recently had a teen ask me that very question - this title would have been a perfect fit. However, we didn't have it in our collection at the time; I borrowed this from my local library system to test it out and see if my library should get it. And we did! We now have all three books in the series in our collection!

I really enjoyed this book; it was a great palate cleanser for the heart-break of The Hunger Games, and I sped through it. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series: The Body at the Tower.

Meg-A-Rae #9: A Very Special Paranormal Episode

In this episode of Meg-A-Rae, Meg and I discuss October and all things Spooktacular! This is the first episode in our Spooktastic October Series - all month long we'll be talking about ghosts, the paranormal, magic, and anything we consider scary!

Meg reviews Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, by Mary Roach, a non-fiction book that scientifically and hilariously looks into the science of death and what happens after (dun dun dunnnnnn!). I review Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs, a story about a teen who finds out the scary and fantastical stories his grandfather used to tell him may actually be real (for my blog review and the official book trailer, check out my post here!)

And check out our next episode: A Very Special Mystery Episode (in honor of our Mystery Dinner program). Beware, there are shenanigans and a shifty maid!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Book Review: Team Human

Team Human
By Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan
“Also, vampires don't eat food. You never get to eat chocolate again. Ever. I'd rather die.”
Mel lives in New Whitby, a town founded by vampires. But Mel isn't a vampire, doesn't know any vampires, and has no desire to change either. And then a vampire comes to her school, dressed in a ridiculous astronaut-type suit to keep off the sun, and her BFF promptly falls in love with him. And once Cathy makes up her mind about something, she's not going to change it...not that Mel won't fight tooth and nail to break them up.

Mel is a great character - she loves her friends and will do anything for them. She believes she's the caretaker of their little group and is determined to set all things to rights (not considering that she may, in fact, be in the wrong). She's snarky and strong, and in the end, supports her friends and realizes that she can't make choices for them.

I really enjoyed this book. It's got mystery, snark, relationship issues, and great friendships. I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Banned Books Week - Meg-A-Rae Style: Read the FORBIDDEN

It's Banned Books Week and we're celebrating in style! My coworker and friend, the MEGA-fantastic Miss Meg, and I have been working hard for this week and we have a lot to offer our patrons!

With the help of some of our friends and teens, we've wrapped about 50 books that have been banned, censored, and challenged over the years. Inside each book is a card explaining why the book was challenged and a bookmark proclaiming "Join the Banned!" We finished the whole shebang off with caution tape. When you come to the library, make sure to grab one of these books - you won't know what's inside until you leave the library, but it's a fun surprise - like Christmas!

The Teen/Tween/Youth books are wrapped in red.

Notice the FORBIDDEN in the background.
We firmly believe in everyones Freedom To Read, as well as Intellectual Freedom, which is why we think Banned Books Week is so important! Find out more about MPL's Banned Books Week in our MEGA-awesome Meg-A-Rae Episode! One of the books I talk about is John Green's Looking for Alaska: you can find my full review here.

Then watch our hi-larious dramatic reading of the first two books in Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicolson series:

Please ignore my facial expressions in both of these video screenshots. They are...unfortunate.
Make sure to stop by and celebrate with us this week and read the FORBIDDEN! If you'd like more information about Banned Books Week and books that have been banned or censored, check out the American Library Associations page on Banned Books Week! (The PDF links at the bottom will take you to the banned and censored books from 2004-2011.) Or come to the Teen Room (the YAZ) at the library and take a look at our booklist binder for these titles!