Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is Great Book Club Picks. Last summer, I did a series of blog posts about how to run a tween book group (Part 1, part 2, part 3), so I was eager to jump on this topic and recommend more book club friendly titles.

1. The Fault in our Stars, by John Green
The book everyone's buzzing about right now, and for very good reason-- this is one of those perfect YA books that would impress a book club filled with adults.

2. Little Princes, by Conor Grennan
Kind of the opposite of the above-- a book marketed to an adult audience with a great deal of teen appeal. (See my review of the Little Princes audiobook.)

3. Across the Universe, by Beth Revis
Its cross-genre appeal and dual narration with both a male and a female narrator make this a good book club choice. So often, especially with YA book clubs, it's hard to find a book that will please the guys and the girls. This one should solve that problem! (See my review of Across the Universe and its excellent sequel, A Million Suns.)

4. Scored, by Lauren McLaughlin
With its fascinating commentary on standardized testing and morality, I think this book would generate thoughtful discussion in a book club setting. It's a genuinely fun and engaging read with a lot of substance behind it-- a book club dream come true! (Stay tuned for an Authors are ROCKSTARS! interview with Lauren McLaughlin.)

5. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
Teens will be drawn into this book by the intense subject matter about suicide and placing blame, and those same elements will give book club members a lot to talk about. The characters in this one are interestingly flawed, making room for some good debate.

6. The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin
A quirky book with a crowd-pleasing mystery and a large ensemble cast, I think a book club would have fun delving into the various characters' motivations. Especially those of Mr. Westing himself! I would love to hear other readers' interpretations of his character.

7. Warp Speed, by Lisa Yee
With themes of feeling out of place, bullying, and friendship, this is a book that will speak to most any reader. Any of Lisa Yee's books would be a great choice for a book club.

8. Okay For Now, by Gary D. Schmidt
Almost universally enjoyed by anyone who reads it, this book has a lot of material for discussion. I was fascinated by the conversation about whether it's meant to be realistic or not at School Library Journal's Heavy Medal blog, and would love to that type of exploration play out at a book club setting. (See my review. I'm still mourning the fact that this one didn't get a Newbery nod!)

9. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart
This is perhaps my ultimate book club pick! The plot is intriguing, the boarding school pranks are entertaining, and there's SO much to discuss regarding feminism and Frankie's motivations.

10. Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick
There are so many themes to discuss here-- disability, loss, the historical details, as well as the way the text and images interact. Anyone who's read it has a lot to say. (See my review.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Book Review: Incarnate, by Jodi Meadows

Meadows, Jodi. Incarnate. 384 p. Katherine Tegen. 2012. Hardcover $17.99. ISBN 9780062060754.

With its gorgeous cover and intriguing premise, this was my first pick for the 2012 Debut Author Challenge hosted by the Story Siren.

Incarnate is set in a world where everyone's soul is reincarnated over and over-- until one soul disappears forever, and later, Ana is born. Her soul is new, and nobody knows what to make of her. Raised on the fringes of society by an unloving mother, she is determined to discover the truth of her existence. As she begins her search for information, she is aided by a young man named Sam, and must learn to trust the first person who has ever shown her kindness.

This book is filled with truly lovely writing that drew me into the story and kept me reading, even though I felt mixed about several elements. Brisk pacing moves things along nicely, yet the plot is slightly unfocused. Ana's mission to find out more about herself is set alongside the development of her romance with Sam. The two aspects of the story don't always seem to mesh, and even compete for importance at times.

As far as characterization goes, I enjoyed the practical and patient Sam, but found myself frustrated by Ana's constant angst, even as I empathized with her difficulties and doubts in navigating a society where she's the ultimate outsider.

The worldbuilding in this book is inventive. But with fantasy elements such as dragons intermingled with mundane contemporary items like backpacks and handheld electronic devices, I felt like I never quite had a grasp on the setting. Is an an alternate universe? Our world in another era? I couldn't get my head around it, and the uncertainty nagged at me. That said, I think the need for a strictly defined setting may very well be a personal quirk of mine! I can see other readers really getting into this world-- it's unique, mysterious, and there's an intensely vivid segment toward the end of the book that takes place in a surreal location that stands out as particularly memorable.

Ultimately, even though this was an uneven read for me, I can see its appeal for readers who love fantasy and are looking for something a little different. I predict that this book will circulate often in my library.

Incarnate comes out tomorrow, January 31st, in bookstores everywhere. ARC for review received from Katherine Tegen, an imprint of HarperCollins, via NetGalley.

Friday, January 27, 2012

SoCal Book Events + An Awesome Giveaway

Have you checked out the latest over at Authors are ROCKSTARS!, the podcast I co-host with Michelle of Never Gonna Grow Up Reviews?

2012 is off to an awesome start. We kicked off January by featuring interviews with Shatter Me author Tahereh Mafi, Nightshade series author Andrea Cremer, and Gene Yang, author of the new Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novel, The Promise.

Next month is going to be amazing, too! Michelle and I are super excited about a couple of upcoming events for Southern California book lovers. We'll be covering the first-ever Passion & Prose conference with a special Road Trip edition of the podcast.

 And you should join us there!

Presented by Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, together with Adventures by the Book, the conference takes place Saturday, February 25, 2012, from 9:00am to 3:30pm at the Westin Long Beach, 333 East Ocean Blvd, Long Beach, CA  90802. Attendance is limited to the first 450 readers who register.

Passion & Prose is a ticketed event that includes speed dating  (an interactive author activity) and lunch with one author at each table. The day also features a Young Adult author panel, three keynote speakers, multiple book buying and signing opportunities, free goodie bags to all participants, and an opportunity drawing to benefit WriteGirl, a non-profit organization that promotes creativity and self-expression through writing to empower girls.

Does that sound amazing, or what?

Michelle and I are pleased to offer something special for Authors are ROCKSTARS! listeners. We are giving away one FREE PASS to Passion & Prose! That's a $125 value and an awesome experience you'll never forget. So if you're in the Southern California area, make sure you head over to our blog for your chance to win. And even if you don't win the free pass, we still have something for you-- when you register for Passion & Prose, simply enter referral code ROCKSTAR at checkout to receive $25 off the price of admission!

Also, from January 1-February 14, Passion & Prose is offering a special discounted Mother-Daughter registration promotion ($200 per couple). Edit 2/9/12: Due to changes to the Passion & Prose event structure, they are no longer able to offer any discounts on admission.

Princess Diaries author Meg Cabot is one of the keynote speakers, and you definitely don't want to miss her-- I helped host a library visit with her a couple years ago, and she's just as fabulous and funny as you would imagine. Love her!

Me (pregnant with baby #2 at the time) with Meg Cabot (tall and gorgeous!)

The YA panel at Passion & Prose will feature Andrea Cremer, Sarah Wilson EtienneMarie Lu, Beth Revis, and Jessica Spotswood, and is sponsored by Penguin Young Adult as part of the Breathless Reads tour.

Check the full tour schedule to see if there's a stop in your area:
We hope to see you in Montrose or Long Beach next month! As always, if you have questions for any of these fabulous authors, comment here or on the Authors are ROCKSTARS! blog, and we'll be happy to ask on your behalf. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Book Review: A Ball for Daisy, by Chris Raschka

Raschka, Chris. A Ball for Daisy. 32 p. Schwartz and Wade. 2011. Hardcover $16.99. ISBN 9780375858611. 

As a teen services librarian, I have to admit I was less tuned into the potential Caldecott contenders than Newbery or Printz, so I didn't register an immediate reaction when A Ball for Daisy was announced as the 2012 Caldecott Medal winner. I knew Chris Raschka's work, but hadn't read his latest.

So when I pulled it off the library shelf, and thought, "A wordless picture book about a dog and her ball? Okay, looks adorable, but..." I have to admit, on first glance, I wondered what made this book stand out above the rest. I was skeptical-- would it have substance?

And then I read it, and I found the substance.

The plot is straightforward: Daisy the dog loves her ball beyond all else... until the day another dog accidentally pops it. But this deceptively simple story grows deeper with each re-reading.

It's a story of a dog and her ball, yes, but it's also a story of loss, acceptance, and healing.

Raschka's thoughtful use of color and bold, unrestrained brush strokes convey a vivid spectrum of emotions, from pure joy to confusion and grief. There is genuine heartbreak in the sequence of drawings where Daisy puzzles through the loss of her beloved ball and finally realizes that it's gone.

According to this NPR article,
The story was inspired by Raschka's son, who had a beloved ball that was destroyed by a dog. "[It happened] when he was 4 ... and it was such a devastation for him," Raschka says. "It's kind of ... the first time he experienced something he loved ending, and that he couldn't get that back."
Raschka depicts so clearly the pain of that first, incomprehensible, irrevocable loss. Happily, Daisy's story is resolved in the end as she learns to love anew, and the reader is left with a sense of satisfaction and relief. And ultimately, it's such a relatable story. Who among us hasn't lost something?

I tested this as a read-aloud with my three-year-old, and it was a big hit with him. We talked about how Daisy felt about her ball, how she felt when she lost her ball, and so on. Not only did my son like the cute doggy and her ball, but reading this book together and supplying our own words for the story presented a valuable opportunity for discussing emotions and identifying how body language can transmit certain feelings.

Reading this book with my son, I felt like hugging him a little tighter. As his mother, I want to spare him the sadness of losing something he loves, but I know can't. It will happen eventually. And when it does, I can take heart from Daisy's story-- how she learns to move on and embrace the next good thing in her life.

I highly recommend A Ball for Daisy. I could read it again and again. Good choice, Caldecott Committee.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Downton Abbey Readalikes

Welcome to my new obsession: Downton Abbey!

Actually, I'm late to the party on this one. You probably know all about Downton Abbey and are wondering if I've been living under a rock! But just in case you've been under that rock with me, Downton Abbey is a British TV series set before and during World War I. 

The story follows the lives of an aristocratic family and their household servants as they weather tumultuous times along with a great deal of scheming and scandal. There are gorgeous costumes, an opulent manor, and the MOST AMAZING one-liners delivered by Dame Maggie Smith. Visit the official Downton Abbey website to learn more.

The show premiered on British television in the Fall of 2010. The first season is available on Blu-ray or Netflix instant, and the second season is currently airing on PBS in the US. My husband and I (and just about everyone we know) are hooked

And, of course, part of being a librarian means that when I get hooked on something, I immediately think: now, what kind of books go with this?

YA Lit for Downton Abbey Fans

The Watch that Ends the Night
, by Allan Wolf

The events of Downton Abbey are set in motion by the sinking of the Titanic, and this novel in verse explores the famous tragedy from multiple perspectives, from first class to third class, including the fictionalized perspectives of real historical figures, and even gives a voice to the iceberg.

Downton fans will enjoy the exploration of social stratification and a forbidden romance.

The Luxe, by Anna Godbersen

This four-volume series, touted as Gossip Girl for the Gilded Age, takes place a decade or so before Downton Abbey and is set in New York rather than England, but the fast-moving plot features the same types of class issues, romantic entanglements, desperate scheming, stunning fashion, and the occasional scandal. Well, okay-- in this series, it's more than the occasional scandal...

Not quite as refined as Downton, but a very fun page-turner nonetheless.

I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith

Fast forward a few decades beyond Downton Abbey to meet a pair of sisters competing for marriage prospects for both romance and financial gain.

Downton fans will revel in the English countryside setting, the opposing perspectives and goals of the two sisters, and the alluring presence of a castle (though it's a fairly decrepit one in this case). A lovely and romantic read.

Sisters of Glass
, by Stephanie Hemphill

Now take your time machine back a few hundred years to 15th century Venice, and you have another pair of sisters at odds with each other over the topic of marriage.

Once again, one sister must marry for money and status in order to secure the entire family's prospects. The author deftly illustrates how very little agency young women had before modern times, and how much depended on a good marriage-- familiar themes for Downton viewers.

Children's Lit for Downton Abbey Fans

The Betsy-Tacy series, by Maud Hart Lovelace

This wholesome picture of life in turn-of-the-century Minnesota has decidedly less scandal than Downton, but the Edwardian fashion descriptions are divine. Merry Widow hats! Hobble skirts! Any fan of Lady Mary's wardrobe will appreciate Betsy's taste in clothes, too.

Begin with Heaven to Betsy, in which Betsy goes to high school. The highlight of this series for Downton fans may be Betsy's fabulous pre-war European tour in 1914 in Betsy and the Great World.

Charlotte Sometimes
, by Penelope Farmer

One of my all-time favorites, this eerie little book- part speculative fiction, part historical fiction- has a World War I era setting that may interest Downton Abbey fans.

A young English girl, Charlotte, goes to boarding school during the 1960s and slips back in time to 1918, mysteriously changing places with a girl there named Clare. It's a philosophical exploration of identity, and the details of life in 1918, with the war's ever-present effects on day-to-day living, are fascinating.

Rilla of Ingleside
, by L.M. Montgomery 

The final volume of Montgomery's famous Anne of Green Gables series chronicles the coming-of-age of Anne's youngest daughter on the Canadian home front during World War I. The theme of war changing all aspects of life and society will resonate with Downton Abbey viewers, as Rilla starts out as a fairly frivolous, sheltered young girl and grows into a strong, capable woman.

I think she'd get along well with Lady Sybil.

Want More?

I'm not the only one with the idea to come up with a list of Downton Abbey readalikes-- Whitney at Youth Services Corner did a fantastic round-up of books for Downton Abbey fans last week.

Articles from the New York Times and the Daily Mail:

If You're Mad for 'Downton,' Publishers Have Reading List

U.S. publishers rush out books about Edwardian and wartime Britain to cash in on American success of Downton Abbey.

Also of interest, your source for all things Edwardian can be found at Edwardian Promenade.

Now get dressed in your finest finery, make yourself a pot of tea (or ring for the maid to bring it), and enjoy!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book Review: Martha Doesn't Say Sorry, by Samantha Berger & Bruce Whatley

Berger, Samantha & Whatley, Bruce. Martha Doesn't Say Sorry! 48 p. Little, Brown. 2009. Hardcover $15.99. ISBN 9780316066822.

If you have a three year old, you NEED this book. Believe me, I know.

It tells the story of a spirited young otter named Martha who, as you can guess from the title, is kind of a pain in the rear. She stirs up all kinds of trouble and then has a little trouble with apologies.


But, of course, she does learn the beauty of a nice, clear "I'm sorry" in the end. Whew!

Now, why is it that kids love watching other kids do something bad and get in trouble for it? Toddler schadenfreude, I tell you. Our little guy picked out this book all on his own, and he finds Martha's naughtiness hilarious. He totally gets that she's doing bad things, and he delights in commenting disapprovingly on her behavior. ("Marfa not say sorry.")

The story may seem didactic to an adult, but it's wonderfully simple and straight to the point, reinforcing the importance of an apology at just the perfect level for a small child's understanding. The illustrations add a layer of levity to the text that children and adults will both enjoy.

The book's title is repeated quite a few times in the narrative, making for a fun-filled interactive reading experience. When you read it aloud, trail off with "Martha doesn't say..." and let your little one fill in with an exuberant "SORRY!" This works well for enhancing the participatory elements of a preschool storytime, too.

I love it-- Martha Doesn't Say Sorry! is a crowd-pleaser that teaches an important lesson.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise, Part 1, by Gene Luen Yang & Gurihiru

Yang, Gene Luen & Gurihiru. Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise, Part 1. 80 p. Dark Horse. 2012. Paperback $10.99. ISBN 9781595828118.

After my enthusiastic review of Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Lost Adventures, you can guess I'm a fan of this franchise, right? In case you're new to it, believe the hype. With solid storytelling, incredible worldbuilding, an epic good versus evil plot, and characters you'll grow to love, it's an animated series you don't want to miss.

This graphic novel, written by Printz-award winning author Gene Luen Yang and illustrated by Japanese illustration team Gurihiru, picks up right where the original series leaves off, and retains the feel of the show exquisitely. To be honest, I was quite giddy to read this! It was like catching up with a long-lost friend.

The writing has pretty much everything a fan could hope for: fast-paced action, laugh-out-loud one-liners, and demonstration of true bonds between the characters. The dialogue leaps off the page as if spoken by the original voice actors. There's a little bit of aww-inducing romance that I found absolutely adorable-- but since the relationships in this series are a hotly debated issue, I'll point out that those who don't care for the romance will be mollified as one character freaks out every time the others display affection for each other, to hilarious effect.

Almost all of the characters we know and love all get a chance to shine here-- although I wouldn't mind seeing more of Uncle Iroh in subsequent volumes! And with two more parts to this story, I'm confident we'll get our Iroh fix.

The art is outstanding, with rich colors and lively facial expressions. And the backdrops! Some of the panels simply made me pause to admire their gorgeousness-- a Fire Nation colony in the Earth Kingdom struck me as particularly spectacular.

I can't recommend this volume highly enough to Avatar fans. If you liked the show, you'll definitely want to read this.

Avatar: The Last Airbender -  The Promise, Part 1 comes out on January 25th. ARC for review provided by Dark Horse Books via NetGalley.

And!! We're interviewing Gene Luen Yang on the Authors are ROCKSTARS! podcast this Friday, January 20. If you have any questions for Gene, please comment here and we'll do our best to ask them on your behalf!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Book Review: The Dead of Winter, by Chris Priestley

Priestley, Chris. The Dead of Winter. 224 p. Bloomsbury USA. 2012. Hardcover $16.99. ISBN 9781599907451.

This engaging, atmospheric gothic novel is the perfect antidote to the 80-degee weather we've been having here in Southern California lately. I mean, it's JANUARY. I'd like to feel the cold!

Well, despite the unseasonable temperatures, reading The Dead of Winter made me want to wrap myself in a heavy blanket and sit in front of a roaring fire to keep warm. It's deliciously chilling!

The plot neatly comprises nearly all the familiar Victorian gothic tropes: an orphan, a gloomy old manor with a tortured owner; a helpful and loyal servant; a tragic ghost. Oh, and moors. In short, it's pretty awesome.

This book reads like an homage to classic gothic novels, and could be a great introduction to Poe or the Bronte sisters. Occasional SAT words encourage vocabulary building, but short sentences and a fairly straightforward plot make the old-fashioned writing style very approachable for a young reader.

The ambiguous ending works well with the tone of the novel, and the overall effect is genuinely creepy, but not exactly scary-- a solid pick for a middle schooler who likes ghost stories. 

The Dead of Winter was published in the UK in 2010, and will hit US bookstore shelves on January 31. ARC for review provided by Bloomsbury USA via NetGalley.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Adventures in Butterbeer

You guys know Jimmy Wong, right? He's this total YouTube sensation with a ton of awesome music videos. I've been a fan ever since he made that hilarious and super catchy song about Alexandra Wallace. (Remember her? Asians on cell phones in the library? Yeah, her.)

Well, Jimmy Wong has a new venture: Feast of Fiction, a video series that aims to recreate recipes from games, books, and so on. One of his first videos will be of particular interest to librarians and kidlit fans: three versions of BUTTERBEER!

Like most youth services librarians, I harbor a certain amount of love for the Harry Potter books. In fact (um, should I admit this?), I have a Gryffindor costume I bought for a Harry Potter party I hosted at the library to celebrate the Deathly Hallows release. I trot it out every so often on Halloween.

So of course I had to try the butterbeer!

I love heavy whipping cream, so I had the most fun making the butterbeer foam. I cut the recommended sugar by half, and it was perfect for me. Depending on your sweet tooth, you might want to proceed cautiously with the sugar and add in more to taste as you go. The plentiful amount of vanilla gives it a nice kick. The recipe as stated in the video makes a very generous amount of foam, so if it's just you and a friend, you can adjust the recipe accordingly.

Of course, I didn't mind having extra, because it's DELICIOUS.

Now, onto the results of the recipes...

The cold version is super simple to make. The foam is what really takes this drink to a whole new level of awesome. I've made butterbeer before (as a refreshment for the aforementioned library Harry Potter party), but I never thought of adding whipped cream foam. Genius!

The blended version allows for copious amounts of that oh-so-good foam, and would be a refreshing treat on a hot summer afternoon.

The hot version is the ultimate comfort beverage on a chilly evening. It's mild and quite sweet. Since this is a hot drink, the whipped cream foam sinks in as it melts, making the end result all the more delectable. As suggested in the video, rum would indeed be a nice addition to this recipe for the adults among us!

Having tried all three recipes, I'm with Jimmy-- the hot version is my personal favorite. The blended version is excellent for those who like frappuccino type drinks. But the simple cold version impresses me the most as the drink I picture from the Harry Potter books, both in taste and appearance. Perfection!

Thank you to Jimmy Wong and friends for these "magical" recipes. Cheers!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Book Review: Across the Universe Series, by Beth Revis

Revis, Beth. Across the Universe. 398 p. Razorbill. 2011. Hardcover $17.99. ISBN 9781595143976.

Revis, Beth. A Million Suns. 400 p. Razorbill. 2012. Hardcover $17.99. ISBN 9781595143983.

Across the Universe begins with an agonizing decision as seventeen-year-old Amy must choose whether to stay on Earth or be cryogenically frozen for 300 years alongside her parents, who are instrumental in a space mission to a new planet. She decides to go with her parents-- but is awoken 50 years too early. Somebody on the spaceship is unplugging the frozen people and leaving them for dead, and she has to solve the mystery before her parents fall victim to the murderer.

I'm honestly not much of a sci-fi reader, yet Across the Universe kept me turning the pages with its layered characters and riveting plot twists. The narrative is well paced, blending mystery and suspense with moments of human reflection, (justified!) angst, and even some romance as Amy forges a tentative relationship with the ship's future leader, Elder. The story is told through the dual narration of these two characters, and the constant shifting between their perspectives works to keep driving the plot forward.

I truly felt immersed in this book. Reading about characters cooped up on a spaceship made me crave the outdoors. I had to go out for a walk and get some fresh air, and had a new appreciation for the ability to breathe fresh air and see the sky! Revis creates and sustains a remarkably claustrophobic atmosphere with the spaceship setting, and the result is unforgettable.

A Million Suns does exactly what a sequel should do: it has more of what we experienced in the first volume, but ups the stakes, reveals more complications, and delves deeper into the characters and their relationships. It answers questions from Across the Universe while raising new ones, and leaves the reader eager for the final book in the trilogy. There were some truly awesome "OMG!" moments in this one. Just when you think it can't get any worse for these characters, Revis drops another bomb. I couldn't put it down!

I recommend these books to sci-fi fans and non-fans alike. This series has something to appeal to almost every reader. Don't miss it!

Across the Universe was published in last year, and A Million Suns comes out from Razorbill/Penguin tomorrow, January 10.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Challenge Accepted!

In keeping with my New Year's resolution of being a more interactive blogger, I'm signing myself up for a few reading challenges.

The Debut Author Challenge, hosted by The Story Siren, looks like just my cup of tea. I love reading debut authors! A quick count tells me I read and reviewed nearly 20 books by debut authors last year, so I'm thinking I can probably manage the official goal of the challenge, which is to read and review at least 12 middle grade or young adult novels this year.

The first debut novel I'm reading this year is Incarnate, by Jodi Meadows. Thanks, HarperCollins and NetGalley!

Eye-catching cover, right? I'm only about 25 pages in, but the story is intriguing so far. I'm really liking it.

I'm also going to try the Newbery Book Challenge, hosted by Mr. Schu and Colby Sharp. This challege encourages participants to read every single Newbery book... ambitious, right?? But the challenge very kindly allows for modifications and above all, NO STRESS.

So I'm going to take Mr. Schu's advice and simply commit myself to reading one Newbery winner from each decade this year. I have way too much going on to read all the Newberys, and to be honest, that's not a particular goal of mine. But I am curious about some of the older Newbery winners, and I'm sure I can find at least one winner per decade that I'll enjoy.

I haven't decided yet what I'm going to read from the 1920s, but my selection from the 1930s will be Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, by Dorothy P. Lathrop.

When I was a kid, my mom told me it was a really good story, and I completely blew off her suggestion because I was the kind of reader who needed to discover books on my own. (Also, maybe because I was being kind of a brat.) I'm sorry, Mom. I'm going to read Hitty, and I bet you're right about this book!

How about the rest of you? Are you excited about any particular reading challenges this year? Any tips? Recommendations?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Book Review: Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi

Rossi, Veronica. Under the Never Sky. 400 p. HarperCollins. 2012. Hardcover $17.99. ISBN 9780062072030.

It took me a little while to get into this book, but once I did, I was seriously hooked!

A unique blend of dystopian sci-fi, fantasy, and adventure, Under the Never Sky tells the story of Aria, a girl from a rigid pod-based society whose residents use virtual reality to escape the monotony of their closed-in life. When she's banished to the outside world after an incident, she is rescued by the rugged Outsider, Perry. Though the two can't stand each other, they have to learn to work together to achieve a common goal.

This book strikes me as a great title to introduce science fiction to a non-sci-fi reader. Despite the dystopian setting, most of the action takes place in the more primitive outside world. With battles against warring tribes, fierce wolves, and unpredictable bursts of deadly weather, the bulk of the narrative is a riveting survival story as Aria and Perry undertake their journey through one dangerous situation after another. 

Worldbuilding is somewhat vague, but I didn't mind the lack of specifics one bit. I didn't feel like I needed to know exactly what had happened to this world to make it such a harsh place-- I could glean enough from context. 

Rossi's concept of a dualistic society is inventive, with those living in the pods being completely dependent on their technology, and those left on the outside having developed supernatural powers to help them survive the elements. The contrasts between these two factions of society set up a perfectly compelling conflict between the two main characters as they learn to overcome their differences.

Indeed, the romance between Aria and Perry is well-crafted and quite swoon-worthy-- definitely one of the highlights of the narrative for me. These characters harbor true disdain for each other initially, and the gradual development of their relationship is believable, with genuine chemistry. I couldn't get enough of these two!

First in a trilogy, this fast-paced story is sure to please those who read across a variety of genres.

Under the Never Sky hits bookstore shelves today. ARC for review provided by HarperCollins via NetGalley.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Resolutions: Bookish Goals

Happy 2012! As a librarian and book blogger, I resolve to… 

Read more sequels

Because part of my job as a librarian is personally recommending books to all different types of readers, I feel obligated to read as widely as possible. Sequels don't add to the variety of my reading, so they languish on my to-read shelf. But I think I'm missing out! I used to LOVE getting really hooked on series. I'm going to reclaim that pleasure this year, if only just a little. After all, reading a series can strengthen my reader's advisory in that I can authoritatively state whether the quality is maintained after the first book, right? Right!

Be a more interactive blogger

I love the great wide world of book blogs. I want to comment on your blog. I want to connect with you. But alas, in juggling my time and energy between family life and professional responsibilities, I fall behind on blogs. Even if I just comment on one blog a day in 2012, it'll be an improvement.

Apply for a YALSA selection committee 

As I've mentioned before, I'm the current chair of the YALSA Local Arrangements Committee for the 2012 ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim, and loving it. I am energized by the opportunity to serve YALSA and connect with fantastic colleagues in the library field, and I'm so excited about Annual. (Will YOU be there? Tell me!) When I wrap up my responsibilities for the Local Arrangements Committee, I'm eager to apply for the chance to serve on a selection committee. I find the YALSA selection lists so helpful in developing my library's collection; I want to take part in forming those lists.

What are your bookish goals for the new year?
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