Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday - Bitterblue

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

On Savvy Book Reviews, I'll be showcasing books that we'll be adding soon to the library!

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm #3)
by Kristin Cashore
Publication Date: May 1, 2012

From Goodreads:
Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: Rapunzel's Revenge

Rapunzel's Revenge  *****
by Shannon Hale, Nathan Hale, and Dean Hale

From Goodreads:
Once upon a time, in a land you only think you know, lived a little girl and her mother . . . or the woman she thought was her mother.

Every day, when the little girl played in her pretty garden, she grew more curious about what lay on the other side of the garden wall . . . a rather enormous garden wall.

And every year, as she grew older, things seemed weirder and weirder, until the day she finally climbed to the top of the wall and looked over into the mines and desert beyond.

Newbery Honor-winning author Shannon Hale teams up with husband Dean Hale and brilliant artist Nathan Hale (no relation) to bring readers a swashbuckling and hilarious twist on the classic story as you’ve never seen it before. Watch as Rapunzel and her amazing hair team up with Jack (of beanstalk fame) to gallop around the wild and western landscape, changing lives, righting wrongs, and bringing joy to every soul they encounter.

From me:
Rapunzel's Revenge is a graphic retelling of the Rapunzel story that takes place in the Wild West and sneaks in other fairy tale characters. Rapunzel is on a mission to rescue her mother and defeat the evil witch and she uses her long braids as weapons to right wrongs and conquer foes. It was a light read with good illustrations - the artistic style matches the tone of the story.

This story was shelved in the YA section of the library, but I think it could possibly fit the J Fic or Tween section a bit better. It was fun, but didn't have a lot of depth.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: Twilight Volume 2

by Stephenie Meyer, Young Kim (Art/Adaptation)

This volume picks up where the last one left off - volume 1 and volume 2 combine to make up the full story of Twilight.

I'm not sure what to add that I didn't cover in my review of volume 1. This part of the story has fewer cheesy lines and a little more action, but it's still a stripped version of the story.

If you want the full Twilight story, go for the original book. If you loved the book, you'll probably love the graphic novel, too. One nice thing about the graphic novel is that, compared to the movie, it keeps closer to the original story and includes some scenes that were cut from the movie. While the illustrations are really good, I wouldn't recommend the graphic novel to someone who hadn't already read the book - it's really more of a supplemental piece than a stand-alone novel.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: Twilight Volume 1

by Stephenie Meyer
illustrated by Young Kim

One problem with creating a movie based on a book with extraordinarily beautiful and occasionally sparkly vampires (not to mention the uber-tall and muscled wolf-people) is that you have to cast those parts with real people. While the actors and actresses in the Twilight movie are very attractive, they still look like real people...with bad make-up jobs (as someone who is naturally uber-pale, I thought the face make-up used in that movie was laughable). I think the graphic novel does much better with this. To me, like the combination of imagination and the written word, the artistry of this graphic novel created the author’s world better than the movie. Young Kim also made choices that enhanced the story, like the use of color or photographic elements (the La Push beach or the wolf in Bella’s dream).

I only had two issues with the graphic novel. Despite the fact that I really loved the artistry in this book – I thought Young Kim’s illustrations were beautiful – I thought some of the characters looked a little too similar to one another; sometimes it was hard to tell them apart. The other issue is that, while I think the graphic novel did an excellent job of making sure that all of the major scenes were included, without the meat of the text, what was left behind felt a little light or weak. And to stay with the food analogy, without that meat, sometimes it felt like all that was left was cheese. That’s why I think this graphic novel does much better as an “enhancement” to the original book, rather than a stand-alone graphic novel.

Audio Book Review: The Red Pyramid

The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles #1)   *****
by Rick Riordan  
Audio CD, unabridged, read by Kevin R. Free and Katherine Kellgren

From Goodreads:
Since their mother's death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them —Set— has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe - a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.

From me:
The Kane Chronicles are a new series by the author of the Percy Jackson books. And by new, I mean different - this book is a couple of years old now, but the series is not connected to the Percy books (at least to my knowledge). Where the Olympians series focuses on figures from Greek mythology, the Kane titles feature the Egyptian gods. One of my favorite parts of this book was how Riordan made history interesting.

Riordan did an excellent job of creating a world that was exciting and fun. It really lends itself to the audio format, as the main characters switch back and forth with the narration as though they're making a recording for future listeners (that, and Kevin R. Price and Katherine Kellgren did an amazing job voicing the narration). The reader/listener is drawn in by the adventure and mystery, but the story is also kept light by the teasing asides between Sadie and Carter as they're narrating. I like how Riordan kept this good-versus-evil, save-the-world tale more fun than scary. The reader also gets drawn into the story as though they may be one of the children with the "blood of the pharaohs."

A great read for the prescribed age-group of grades 4-9, but I got a real kick out of it, too!

Book Review: Leviathan

Leviathan  *****
by Scott Westerfeld
illustrations by Keith Thompson

From Goodreads:
Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

From me:
While Leviathan may be hard to categorize, it's a great example of a different type of science fiction - one that doesn't meet anyone's definition. Westerfeld's creation is strange and wondrous while being filled with war and danger. Deryn, the middy hiding her gender, doesn't let her deception hinder her (or her storyline); she takes risks with her get-it-done attitude, but she does so intelligently, making her one of the best crewmen on the Leviathan. Alek is a prince who has been looked down on most of his life, makes many blunders, and has little confidence, and yet he proves to be both skilled and able with a heart for people. These outside-the-box characters fit excellently with an outside-the-box story.

Book Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

by E. Lockhart

From Goodreads:
Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father’s “bunny rabbit.”
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Laundau-Banks.
No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer.
Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society.
Not when her ex boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew’s lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

This is the story of how she got that way.

From Me:
I loved this book! It was clever and fun, and the characters, though few could relate to their wealth and boarding school experiences, were relatable. Most of the story centered around the awkwardness of growing up, young love, and wanting to fit in, allowing the reader to say "this story is about a girl [or boy] like me."

I think Frankie, despite her poor choices in boyfriends, is someone to look up to. She saw everyone following the status quo and she didn't like it, so she did something about it. I can see Frankie breaking all kinds of glass ceilings in her future.

I also loved the descriptions of the panopticon and the neglected positives. I love words and word play so I really enjoyed the neglected positive sections; I'd never heard of the panopticon idea, but it makes complete sense and feels very 1984/Big Brother. But my favorite part is how Frankie takes on the all-male secret society, and with it, she takes on old conventions and perceived gender roles. Frankie rocks!

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

by Ransom Riggs

"I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was."

From Goodreads:
A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

From Me:
One thing I really loved about this book was the awesome photos. The author took crazy old photos he had collected and created characters from them. I love that. Seriously. It was such a cool idea and I loved looking at the photos whilst reading (and skipping ahead to just look at them); they were creepy and eerie, sometimes wackadoo, and just plain wonderful. If you come across this at the book store or library, even if you're not interested in the story, at least give it a skim for the photographs.

Want more? Check out this awesome book trailer. No, I didn't make it - this is a professional production, and it's fantastic!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday - Silence

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Silence (The Queen of the Dead #1)

Are there any new books coming out that you can't wait to get your hands on? Let me know in the comments! (Psst, this is a great way to let me know what you want in our collection!)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Book Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1)   *****
by Suzanne Collins

"May the odds be ever in your favor."

I know I'm late to the Hunger Games. It's shameful, really, a YA librarian not reading this book until now. But I did have a good reason. I hate, hate, dystopian novels. I have since I was forced to read 1984 and A Brave New World in high school. I prefer my books to be funny and light or action packed or...well, anything other than depressing. If there has to be death, I prefer it to happen to the really bad guys. And it can never be an animal - if the author kills the family dog or the faithful horse or some other four-legged or winged creature (I'm looking at you Rowling), I'm done. So a book where kids have to kill other kids to survive, I'm not interested.

That being said, I'm a teen librarian and it really is important that I read these things. So I did.

First of all, this is a really well written and thought-out book. The characters, even those you meet only briefly, are fully realized. There is a lot of build up to the main event, but it's important to the development of the plot and gives insight into the workings of Panem. And I'm betting (as I haven't read Catching Fire or Mocking Jay yet), that insight will be important in the next two installments.

Despite my feelings about the dystopian genre, this really was a good book. I can't fully give it five stars because it's not my cup of tea, not because of the quality of the book. Certain parts made me cry like a little girl, and I hate it when books do that - even though if a book can make you feel that strongly, it's a sign that the book is doing it's job, and doing it well. It's been 24 hours since I finished the book, and I still can't shake it. My brain won't turn off and I keep going over scenes in my head. More signs of a book doing it's job. I really need to find out what happens next in the series, but I don't think my brain, or my heart, can take it just yet.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Please allow me to introduce myself...

Dear Readers,

Hi! I'm Rachel and I'm the Teen Librarian at Mooresville Public Library (christened Savvy by the MPL staff, hence the blog name). The purpose of this blog is to provide a place for the MPL teens to discover new books and showcase their reviews and, hopefully someday, book trailers. And mixed in to all of this will be my own reviews plus reading prompts to find out what everyone is reading.

So I wish you welcome and hope you hang around for a while!


Book Review: Tales of Death and Dementia

by Edgar Allan Poe, Gris Grimly (Illustrator)

Tales of Death and Dementia is a collection of four of Poe's stories involving some form of madness, which is brilliantly illustrated by Gris Grimly (that has got to be a pen name!). The four stories included in this book are The Tell-Tale Heart (the most familiar of the the stories), The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether, The Oblong Box, and The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.

Each of the stories include Poe's well-known darkness, and he certainly seemed to have a good handle on the nature of madness. Each story is a little creepy, particularly The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, while others are pretty funny, like The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether. In any case, Gris Grimly does an excellent job of capturing the story in pictures. He is particularly talented when drawing crazy-eyes. Seriously.

This book offered a fun, new way to read Poe. The stories are short, but fully realized; the illustrations are awesome; and the book is quick to read through. I'd recommend it to anyone, especially those who are fans of Poe or into graphic novels.

Book Review: The Monstrumologist

by Rick Yancey

“He knew the truth. Yes, my dear child, he would undoubtedly tell a terrified toddler tremulously seeking succor, monsters are real. I happen to have one hanging in my basement.

Sometime during the mid-to-late 1800s in the north-eastern US, we meet Will Henry, a 12-year-old who recently lost his parents in a fire. His father's former boss, Dr. Warthrop, took Will Henry in and made Will his assistant. But Dr. Warthrop isn't your typical doctor; he's a Monstrumologist. Monsters are real and Dr. Warthrop hunts and studies them.

The story opens on a grave robber knocking on the doctor's door. It turns out he found more than he bargained for in the grave of a recently deceased young woman. He found not one body, but two, and brings them both to the doctor. The unexpected body is headless, with a huge mouth in its torso, eyes near its shoulders, arms so long they practically skim the ground and end with barbed claws. It's an Anthropophagi, a monster that feeds on humans (preferably the living variety).

Thus begins the story of Will Henry and Dr. Warthrop as they try to find the rest of the monster's 'herd' (for lack of a better word), discover how they made it to America (they're not native to North America), and try to stop the Antropophagi before they kill again. It also begins one of the grossest stories I've ever read. This story is a cross between a monster-hunt and a forensic/medical drama - at least in the descriptions of bodies and patients and wounds and puss and other grody things.

While the story wasn't fast-paced, it was solid and still had plenty to interest the reader (if they have the stomach for it). While Will Henry is a 12-year-old during this book, that doesn't limit the story to the middle grade/tween ages - I'd totally recommend it to the older teen/YA age. Actually, it's probably more suited to that age group; it may be a bit too gruesome for the younger end of that age-group, so act accordingly. Keep in mind - The Monstrumologist is classified as a horror novel.

I'd recommend this book to junior high and high school students (and adults) who enjoy forensic TV shows; monster, zombie, and horror novels and movies; and have a strong stomach. Seriously - don't read this book when eating; you'll regret it.