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.