Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Marvels

The Marvels

Book talk: A young man survives a shipwreck in 1766 and goes on to create a dynasty of famous actors in London. Another runs away from his boarding school in 1990 to seek out his estranged and eccentric uncle who lives in an even more mysterious house. Their stories, told through pictures and words intertwine in unexpected ways that will leave you flipping pages and looking for clues about how their stories meet.

Rave: This story completely wrecked me. I was so deeply touched by the slowly unraveling story of the uncle and his mysterious house. I was drawn in by wondering how the two stories connected ,and when they finally did, I was not a pretty sight. After reading this, I made a point of visiting the museum that inspired it when I was in London last summer. Going to the museum was a unique and moving experience. This was emphasized by the museum policy against photographs or talking forcing me to experience everything in the moment in a very personal way. The way the first story was told entirely through images was gorgeous and innovative. Honestly I'm getting a bit teary just thinking of it all right now. The whole experience of this book is simply beautiful.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to fans of tear-jerkers, history, and mystery.

Topics and trends: Tear-jerkers, History, Museums, Acting, LGBTQ,

Extras: Of course Brian Selznick made an amazing book trailer, too. Why is he so talented!?



I made this image from one of my favorite quotes in the book and a picture I took in London.


Source: ARC from ALA Annual 2015

The Marvels by Brian Selznick: buy it or check it out today!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Brief Reviews Summer 2015 part 3

The Mad Scientist's DaughterThis was one of my favorite books I read last year. I'm always a sucker for stories that involve robots gaining sentience and fighting for their rights. Instead of looking at this issue from a larger societal perspective, this story approaches the issue from an extremely personal angle. The story revolves around a scientist's daughter who grows up with a very human-like robot.  At first he's just her friend and companion, but as she grows older their relationship becomes more complicated. The way their relationship evolves was completely absorbing. At times the story was absolutely heart-breaking, but I couldn't put it down. It was a thoughtful and unconventional romance with plenty of food for thought about how we treat each other and what makes us human. The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Casandra Rose Clark: buy it or check it out today!

It's Just a Jump to the LeftA fun story about die-hard Rocky Horror fans who are going through a hard time. I have met people who used a weekly Rocky ritual to get through difficulties and find a surrogate family, so it rang true to me. My only real complaint is that it was too short. I wish there had been more time to flesh out the characters and resolve the main conflict. Still I'd recommend it to fans of Libba Bray or Rocky. It's Just a Jump to the Left by Libba Bray: buy it or check it out today!




TimeBomb (Timebomb Trilogy #1) What I appreciated most about this time-travel story was the diversity of the cast and how true they each were to their own eras. All time travel stories start to fall apart if you look at the plot too closely, but I'm more than willing to suspend disbelief if the characters and story are good. That is certainly the case here. I particularly enjoyed reading about Cornwall in 1640. The characters have very different voices and perspectives, and each gets their turn to tell their story. I got a good sense of them even though I'd say the book is more plot than character focused, setting a fast and thrilling pace. I'd give this to teens looking for a time traveling adventure. TimeBomb by Scott K Andrews: buy it or check it out today!



Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1)This is a wonderfully atmospheric sci-fi horror story. I listen to it on a road trip with my sister and mother and we were all completely rapt as we strained to hear the audiobook from my phone speakers and find out what in the world would happen next. I didn't always understand what was going on, but that was where a large part of the horror came from: the feeling that understanding was just around the corner, and that was where I wanted it to stay. The characters and their psychological states are well explored and everything in the novel felt immediate. I'd give this to fans of science fiction, horror, and psychological thrillers. Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer: buy it or check it out today!




Terra I liked this book's sense of humor from the first. The dry, absurd humor and space theme made a comparison to Douglas Adams immediately come to mind. There are a lot of really funny moments in this story about the only human girl on an alien planet. As the story continued, however, it became clear that Benn's strength lies more in humor than plotting. By the end my exasperation at the plot outweighed my amusement at the humor. I'd give this to people who are just looking for a laugh. Terra by Mitch Benn: buy it or check it out today!




Awkward This comic of middle school rivalries and romance is sweet and funny. It should be easy for readers of all ages to relate to the awkwardness of middle school and the difficultly of navigating its treacherous waters. Fans of Smile will find plenty to enjoy here. This is a great pick for younger kids who want to read about middle school as the plot is pretty innocuous and the illustrations appealing.  Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Orbiting Jupiter Review

Orbiting Jupiter

Book talk: Jack lives an old-fashioned, quiet life on a farm in a small town. When he finds out his parents are fostering a teen who has been to prison and has a history of violent outbursts, he isn't sure what to think. The first sign Jack has that Joseph is more than his past is that the cows trust him. The more Jack learns about Joseph's life, the more Jack wants to help. The only thing Joseph really seems to care about is getting to meet his new-born daughter. Jack could never have anticipated the heartache and sacrifices that Joseph's path would require.

Rave: Get out your tissue boxes because just one may not last you with this novel. I fell so deeply in love with all the characters. There's so many well-meaning people trying their hardest to do good in such heart-breaking circumstances. I appreciate that there's no candy-coating or easy outs. Despite the tragic ending, this book still managed to leave me hopeful thanks to the many inspiring characters in its pages.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to fans of tear-jerkers 6th grade and up. It would be a great pick for book clubs. It would make for some excellent discussions.

Topics and trends: tear-jerkers, foster care, adoption, abuse, alcoholism, rural life, teen pregnancy

Source: ARC from ALA
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt: buy it or check it out today!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Conviction

Conviction

Book talk: Braden wants nothing more than to keep his head down and play baseball. But his entire world is turned upside-down when his father is arrested for killing a police officer. His father is a well-known christian radio personality, which makes the case a field day for the press. Braden is the key witness in his trail, and in the midst of this circus he has to decide how he will testify. Everyone takes sides, and naturally his team has his back. The nephew of the cop Braden's father is accused of killing plays baseball at a neighboring school, and when the two teams face off everyone feels that there's much more than a game at stake.

Rave: This book is unflinching in its portrayal of abuse, which makes it a difficult read at times. The family dynamic is complex and the characters are far from perfect. I'm not a baseball fan, but this book made me care about the game. Religion, politics, sexuality, sports, race: this book sounds like the recipe for an awkward and contentious dinner conversation but somehow Gilbert pulls it all together into a fantastic and compelling novel.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to fans of baseball or contemporary fiction. It's pretty intense so I'd say 8th grade and up.

Topics and Trends: baseball, LGBTQ, police, religion

Source: kobo ebook

Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Brief Reviews Summer 2015 part 2

Among Others“There are some awful things in the world, it's true, but there are also some great books.” This book is part memoir and part fantasy and all wonderful. I was completely absorbed by the setting and characters. I felt a strong kinship to the main character's love of literature. I was equally fascinated by the historical aspects of life in Wales and at an English Boarding school in the 70s and by the fairies and their magic that the narrator describes. I absolutely adored this book and I cannot recommend it enough-especially for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider and sought comfort in the pages of a book.Among Others by Jo Walton: buy it or check it out today!


The Song of Achilles I read this book while I was travelling in Italy and I was so absorbed by it that I found it difficult to put it down even with the temptations of Venice awaiting me. I've always been a fan of retellings of well-known stories but this one really goes above and beyond. The characters were so fully realized that I found myself worrying about them when I put the book down even though, of course, I already knew how their stories would end.  When that inevitable ending did arrive I was completely shattered. Whether you've read a dozen versions of the Trojan Wars or you've never heard of the face that launched a thousand ships, this book is sure to pull you in. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller: buy it or check it out today!


Cousin KateThis book is a cross between the fun, light romance that Georgette Heyer is known for and a Gothic Tale. There's a spunky but penniless heroine, first impressions that turn out to be wrong, and of course true love triumphs in the end. The Gothic aspect was uncomfortable from a modern perspective. It largely revolved around a mental illness that was portrayed in a way that shows a clear lack of understanding. I'd stick to Heyer's more traditional romantic fare. Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer: buy it or check it out today!




The Amaranth EnchantmentThis is a fun, light, fairy tale read but not in any way memorable. I remember enjoying reading it on the train, but a week after I finished it I couldn't tell you what it was about. I'm pretty behind in my reviews so at this point I would have forgotten that I read it entirely if it wasn't for Goodreads. I really should have written down my impressions sooner but the fact that I have so completely forgotten it says something in and of itself. The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry: buy it or check it out today!




The Shiralee This book is considered a classic of Australian literature and I can see why. The prose is gorgeous and it evokes a time and place so well that the outback is practically a character in the novel. The plot revolves around a tough man and his 4 year old daughter whom he takes custody of just to spite her mother. Watching him be affected by this child that he at first sees as no more than a burden is genuinely moving and there's plenty of humor provided by the juxtaposition of this spunky child with a hard man. The book had me crying more than once as it portrayed the hard life endured by these people. The only caveat I'd give is that the book is a product of its times and there's plenty of sexism and racism, especially against indigenous peoples. Still, it's unfortunately an accurate representation of the period and the main character isn't always supposed to be sympathetic. It's a moving novel and it captures its setting beautifully. The Shiralee by D'Arcy Niland: buy it or check it out today!

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (The League of Princes, #1)

Book talk: You may think you know the stories of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Rapunzel but don't believe everything a bard tells you. And what about those nameless Princes Charming? Read this book to get the low-down: the pampered, sheltered life was not enough for Cinderella. Rapunzel saved herself and her prince never lived it down. Sleeping Beauty is a spoiled brat. Snow White's prince can't be left unsupervised. Somehow this unlikely band finds themselves thrown together on a quest to save each other, defeat an evil witch, and show the world that they're more than their stories.

Rave: This book is a hilarious take on classic fairy tales. Having the various Princes Charming meet and lament over their plight at being looked over for their princesses adds a fun twist. Each have very distinct personalities and watching them interact and learn to get along is both entertaining and touching. It contains a lot of great lessons ranging from how to be a good friend to how to be true to your self. I particularly appreciate that there's male characters who are hopeless with swords and fierce female fighters and vice versa. I read this out loud to my 3rd graders and they loved it! The illustrations throughout only add to the already ample humor and had my kids cracking up all on their own.

Rant: There are a lot of characters and this can bog down the plot a bit. It takes a while just to introduce everyone and even then my kids needed clarification sometimes to keep everyone straight.

Every Book its Reader: I'd give this to students 3rd grade and up looking for a funny fractured fairy tale.

Topics and Trends: fairy tales, humorous stories,

Extras:

The author's website has a lot of great extras including a fan art gallery: http://christopherhealy.com/the-heros-guide-to-saving-your-kingdom/

There's a pretty funny book trailer that should peak students' interest:



Source: kobo ebook

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy: buy it or check it out today!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Shadow and Bone review

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, #3)

Book talk: Alina has always hidden her magic. She knew that her powers would set her apart. They'd take her away from her best friend, Mal, and the closest thing to family she had left. So she pretended to be normal, and she had everyone fooled. Until the day Mal got injured and only she could save him. Suddenly she's thrust into a world of magic and politics for which she was never prepared. With her country's fate in the balance, Alina needs to decide where her loyalties lie: with Mal and the other common soldiers, or with her fellow magic-wielders led by the mysterious Darkling.

Rave: Alina is a compelling protagonist and the choices she faces are complex and thrilling. The characters make mistakes and change and grow and people aren't always what they seem to be. The world is a fantasy one, but rooted in Russian mythology which makes for a refreshing change of pace. There's many different factions at play which make for a complicated political situation as alliances are formed and broken and corruption is discovered in various guises. So many characters want Alina to advance their own causes and watching her defy all of them to fight for herself and what she believes to be right is inspiring. An excellent series from start to finish!

Every book its reader: I'd give this to fantasy fans grades 6 and up.

Topics and Trends: Magic, Russian Mythology, Political Intrigue

Extras: You can find lots of extras over at http://www.grishaverse.com/

Source: kobo ebook

Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo: buy it or check it out today!