Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. My choice this week:

The Fault in our Stars, by John Green
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release date: January 10, 2012

Well, OF COURSE I'm eagerly anticipating the new John Green novel! He's an amazing writer and an important voice in YA literature. I'm really into contemporary YA fiction right now- a little burned out on paranormal, I have to admit- so I'm compelled by this story of a girl who may be near the end of a long battle with terminal cancer.

I usually steer clear of "dying person" books because they can get maudlin and emotionally manipulative, but I know I can rely on John Green to stay out of Lurlene McDaniel territory. From The Fault in our Stars, I expect great dialogue, memorable characters, and a story that will make me laugh and cry.   

This book is such a big deal, there are NO ARCs. But my friend Beth over at A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust is giving away a SIGNED chapter sampler. How awesome is that?! 

I'm really looking forward to this book, both for myself and my library teens. I think we're all going to find it a really powerful read.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Librarian's night out: Breaking Dawn

I consider it my librarian duty to see movies based on YA literature, and the Twilight series is no exception. So what can I say about "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1?" (Other than, wow, that's a long title...)

Well, it was VERY FAITHFUL to the book. Ahem. Make of that what you will. But did I have fun watching? Indeed I did!

Things that were ridiculous yet somehow endearing

Jackson Rathbone had only two lines in the entire film. But he delivered the heck out of those lines! Way to make it happen, Jackson.

Bella's baby name discussion. The name Renesmee will never NOT be funny.

Edward and Bella play chess on the honeymoon! With a red and white chess set! GET IT?? Ohhh, these movies just can't stop with their ever-so-subtle shout-outs to the book covers.

Things that made me shake my head

Kristen Stewart drives me batty. Girlfriend looks like she'd rather be anywhere but acting in these Twilight movies. Cheer up, KStew! You're getting paid for this!

The hideousness of Bella's wedding dress. There's already a replica available from wedding dress designer, Alfred Angelo, but I implore the brides of America: please... when choosing a bridal style icon, think Kate Middleton, not Bella Swan.

The pacing. There's just about enough plot to fill a thimble, so scenes were dragged out with long, lingering close-ups on Bella, Bella's eyes, Edward, the honeymoon bed... you get the picture. Enough already!

IMPRINTING. It was done as tastefully as possible (I can't believe I'm saying that), but just-- auggggggh.

Things I genuinely liked

So the wedding gown wasn't my cup of tea, but the shoes were pretty fabulous! Manolo Blahnik "Swan." (See what they did there?)

The wedding speeches. Charlie, Emmett, and Jessica were hilarious. Intentionally so!

Seth! He was adorbs. Seriously. Leah was pretty awesome, too.

And the bit at the end, after the credits? The Volturi are so entertaining. Can't wait to see more of them in the next movie.

Links of note

Cleolinda's Breaking Dawn in Fifteen Minutes Perhaps her best work yet. Don't miss it! I heart Cleolinda.

'Breaking Dawn' movie causing seizures? Well, look, I know not everyone's a fan, but come on now...

'Twilight: Breaking Dawn:' Does it send the wrong message? A thought-provoking look at Twilight's take on sex, love, and childbirth, whether you agree with it or not.

And just think! There's only a year until we can look forward to seeing "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 2." Well, maybe "look forward" isn't quite the phrase I'm looking for... but, um... it's a thing that will happen.

And I will be there for sheer amusement.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Book Review: Audition, by Stasia Ward Kehoe

Audition shares the nightstand with other precious items: a picture of my husband and myself, a baby doll that reminds me of my daughter (it's hers, really, but she'll just chew on it), a baby monitor, and a tin of my current favorite hand lotion, Badger Balm.

Kehoe, Stasia Ward. Audition. 464 p. Viking Juvenile. 2011. Hardcover $17.99. ISBN 9780670013197.

Even if you think you don't like verse novels, try this one. The story of a young dancer admitted to an intense ballet academy on scholarship might change your mind.

Kehoe's knowledge of the ballet world, with all its beauty and ugliness, shines in this book. The intimate details of ballet school life and an inadvisable (but inevitable) romance make for a compelling combination.

The complex and consuming relationship between twenty-two-year-old Remington and sixteen-year-old Sara may tempt the reader to race through the pages to reach the story's conclusion. But to do that would be a disservice to Ward's writing. Her use of language is graceful, expert. You want to linger over it. She harnesses the power of the verse novel format effectively, evoking fully-realized settings, emotions, and plot turns with spare, deceptively simple lines of text.

Tension is sustained throughout the novel as Sara compares her relationship with Remington and her entire experience at the ballet school as one long, never-ending audition. She can never rest easy. She's always striving, always competing, always feeling judged. The pressure is palpable.

It's coincidental that this novel was published around the same time as Bunheads, another novel about a young ballet dancer (read my review here). Though both novels cover somewhat similar territory, the writing styles and plot elements are different enough that the books don't feel too much alike. In fact, reading one book actually enhances the experience of reading the other, especially for those unfamiliar with ballet terms.

I had the pleasure of meeting Stasia Ward Kehoe at KidLitCon 2011, and she is totally fantastic. Isn't it nice when fantastic people write fantastic books? Audition is a captivating story of self-discovery, and I am eager to recommend it at my library.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Review: Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi

Mafi, Tahereh. Shatter Me. 342 p. HarperCollins. 2011. Hardcover $17.99. ISBN 9780062085481.

In the wake of The Hunger Games, there are a lot of novels about dystopian societies popping up these days-- but with its inventive premise, heart-pounding romance, and strong writing, Shatter Me stands out from the crowd.

Juliette is incarcerated for a crime she didn’t mean to commit. She has the power to kill a person just by touching them... a power she doesn’t want. Society is in shambles, the environment has gone haywire, and a new regime called The Reestablishment is in power. And they seek to use Juliette as a weapon.

Mafi’s use of language is striking and unique, crafting vivid imagery and believable emotions. Run-on sentences and strike-through formatting in the text deftly establish Juliette’s fragile mental state at the beginning of the story, and the writing gracefully shifts to a more even-keeled style as the character gains stability and confidence, occasionally reverting to run-ons to highlight moments of intense emotion with great effect.

The plot moves at a brisk pace, and the first-person, present-tense narration adds a sense of urgency. The full truth of Juliette’s lethal mistake unfolds bit by bit, and the big reveal is horrifying-- definitely a “wow” moment. Mafi pulls no punches, that’s for sure.

Readers will root for Juliette, a sympathetic main character who really deserves something good for once in her life. Fans of the dystopian genre will eat this book up, and the romance element of the story may attract readers who think they don’t like science fiction. I can’t wait to recommend it to teens at my library.

Shatter Me hits bookstore shelves today. ARC for review was picked up at BEA by my library director and graciously shared. Also, we have an interview coming up with Tahereh Mafi for the Authors are ROCKSTARS! podcast, so stay tuned!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Audiobook Review: Turtle in Paradise, by Jennfer L. Holm

Holm, Jennifer L. Turtle in Paradise. 2010. Random House Audio. Audiobook $25.00. ISBN 9780307738301.

Slowly but surely, I'm catching up with the last round of Newbery books before the next batch is announced in January! I liked this story about a girl who is sent to live with her aunt and cousins in Key West, Florida, during the hard times of the 1930s. I didn't quite love it, but I liked it.

With its spunky main character and lighthearted tone, I would hand Turtle in Paradise to any elementary schooler with a historical fiction assignment. Despite the fact that there's a girl on the cover, boys and girl readers can enjoy this story equally-- there are plenty of hilarious boy characters.

The episodic feel of this book had me wondering where the plot was, even as far as halfway through the story. And then, after much meandering, I was a bit thrown off by the book's implausible climax, and an ending that felt abrupt to me. But if you like episodic plots, this is the book for you!

To me, it's the setting and characters that shine in this book. The character of Turtle provides some great laugh-out-loud moments with her snappy one-liners, especially involving her distaste for the saccharine child actress, Shirley Temple.

The Depression-era setting is effectively evoked through references to pop culture of the time, such as radio shows and comic strips-- which were called "the funny pages," of course. My grandma used that phrase! When did it go out of fashion, I wonder?

I listened to this book on CD, and highly recommend it in audio format. The narrator, Becca Battoe, is completely delightful. She has a soft Southern accent, which sometimes comes through even in the characters who are supposed to be Northern, but I was so charmed by it, it's easy to overlook any inconsistency. Her pacing is perfect, and (hooray!) she sounds appropriately youthful for a middle grade novel told from a first-person point of view. She suits the sassy character of Turtle perfectly, and her performance really enhanced my experience with this book.

Any young reader who likes historical fiction will find a great deal of charm in Turtle in Paradise.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Book Recommendation: A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness

Ness, Patrick and Kay, Jim. A Monster Calls. 215 p. Candlewick. 2011. Hardcover $16.99. ISBN 9781406311525.

One of the most buzzed-about books this Fall has been A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness. As soon as my library's copy came across my desk, I was compelled to read it. Inspired by an idea by author Siobhan Dowd before she passed away after a battle with cancer, it's a story about a boy whose mother is very ill. In the midst of his attempts at coping with the inevitable, he is visited by a monster, who wants to tell him three stories in exchange for one story of his.

I can't properly review A Monster Calls. It sort of left me dumbfounded. In a good way. In a good, crying-my-eyes-out kind of way.

So I'm just going to say: read it. If you're in the right place for it, that is. It's at once healing and heartwrenching, and you have to be ready for that. It could be cathartic or completely devastating.

This book is a quick read because it's so intense and hard to put aside. It's not an easy read, but a worthwhile one. The thoughtfully crafted prose is complemented by bold, messy black and white illustrations that add another dimension to an already-powerful story. It's the kind of book that stays with you a while after you turn the last page.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Book Review: Between the Sea and Sky, by Jaclyn Dolamore

Dolamore, Jaclyn. Between the Sea and Sky. 240 p. Bloomsbury. 2011. Hardcover $16.99. ISBN 9781599904344.

Ahhh, this book is just what I want out of a mermaid book. It's solid fantasy, as opposed to paranormal romance, taking place in an old-fashioned alternate-world Italy. Esmerine, a mermaid and newly appointed siren, uses her ability to form human legs when she goes above the water's surface to search for her older sister, who has gone missing. The only person she can turn to for help is Alandare, a winged boy, her childhood best friend... and perhaps more than that.

Detailed fashion descriptions, charming dialogue, and rich and imaginative worldbuilding all add up to a lovely read. Esmerine is a strong character with a lot of determination, and the gradually blossoming romance between her and Alandare is enchanting.

And a there's a bookshop!

The bookshop scenes will bring a smile to any book lover's face-- Alandare is hilariously snobbish about his customers' reading choices. In contrast, Esmerine turns out to be delightfully skillful at recommending a good read, and it's adorable.

Oh, and for anyone suffering from sequel-itis with all the trilogies out there these days, you'll be glad to note that this book stands satisfyingly alone.

We have a great interview with Jackie at Authors are ROCKSTARS!, so be sure to give it a listen, and pick up her books if you haven't already.
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