Friday, July 29, 2011


Heartless (The Parasol Protectorate)Heartless Gail Carriger

No one's entirely sure what Alexia's about to give birth to, but the supernatural set fear it. The only solution to stop the vampires from killing it (and as it hasn't been born yet, Alexia) is for Lord Akeldama to adopt it. Meanwhile, a threat has been made against the Queen. Alexia's investigating (despite her enormous size) but the clues keep pointing to a dark time in pack history and the werewolves aren't happy about where she's headed. Meanwhile, something odd is going on with Madame Lefoux and something even odder is happening with Alexia's sister-- she's wearing knitwear.

This one started a bit slowly for me. I had a hard time getting into it, but about halfway though something turned for me and it ended up being my favorite in the series (so far). I really enjoy the backstory of Woolsey pack history and things that have only been hinted at are finally explained. There wasn't a lot of Ivy in this one, but when she was around, she had more than a few surprises up her sleeve, not just for the reader but for Alexia as well. I continue to enjoy her more and more. This one's a bit different in that we also occasionally get first person narration by a ghost. Lots of little things come together in this one to solve the mystery, and lots of twists and turns kept me on my toes. Like I said, it started a bit rough-- I was actually rather disappointed and bored (!) with it, but it drew me in and held me-- I never saw where it was going. Like I said, it's my favorite so far.

Book Provided by... my wallet

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

WIldwood Dancing

A review that originally ran in the Edge of the Forest:

Wildwood DancingWildwood Dancing Juliet Marillier

Jena and her four sisters live in a Transylvanian castle, on the edge of the Wildwood. Villagers have always told stories about the Wildwood and who lives there. Jena has seen them herself—that awful day, years ago, when the creatures in the deadwash took her cousin. She also sees them every full moon when she and her sisters joint the fairy court for their revels. But this is a hard winter. Jena’s father has taken ill and gone to the coast, leaving Jena in charge of the household and his business. Jena’s cousin, Cezar, starts taking over, slowly but surely wresting all control from Jena, leaving the family completely at his mercy.

In the Other Kingdom, Night People have come to the valley. Jena’s older sister, Tati, has fallen in love with one of them and is wasting away. Cezar is growing suspicious of the sisters’ relationship with the Wildwood and threatens to embark on a campaign to destroy it, and all who live there. Old promises are coming due, and and it’s going to take all of Jena’s strength and courage to see her family to spring.

A wonderful and complex retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Marillier has kept the feel of Transylvanian folk lore and written an excellent addition to the genre. It is sure to be enjoyed by fans of such books as Robin McKinley’s Beauty and Shannon Hale’s Goose Girl. It also includes excellent historical notes, as well as a glossary and pronunciation guide.

Updated to add: This might be my favorite fairy tale retelling ever. It's more than just Twelve Dancing Princesses, but telling you the other story involved is a massive spoiler. It's so lushly done and Mariller adds so much to the story, it's so much more than just Twelve Dancing Princesses and there is real meat to this story, especially with the power struggle between Jena and Cezar. I can't go on enough about how well done this is.

Book Provided by... Edge of the Forest, for review.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me?

Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, Book 10)Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? Louise Rennison

This is the last Georgia Nicolson book! The very last one!

The band is making it big and going off to London to be proper rock stars. Masimo wants Georgia to move with them! Yes, she's only 15, but he's a Luuuuuuuuuuuuurve God. But first she must survive another Shakespearean extravaganza.

Their production of Romeo and Juliet is hysterical. Although this is the LAST AND FINAL book in the series, it doesn't read like one. YES I like how it ended but... this is Georgia, Rennison could totally write another book starting the next day where Georgia pantses is all up. Which has happened on many, many occasions. To the point where I almost don't *trust* this ending. But I guess I must because (a) I like it (b) there will be no more fabnosity.

Oh Georgia, even though you'd have so much less drama in your life if you just chilled out a bit, I will miss you dreadfully. I love you and the mad gang dearly. I love your crazy family and your demented cat and your array of boys in the cakeshop of life. You have changed my vocabulary forever. You have made me snort all manner of liquids out my nose. You made many, many people stare at me oddly as I laughed loudly at this book flying back from London.

Speaking of, even though I had the US edition pre-ordered and everything, a few weeks before it came out I was walking through Heathrow and saw a giant display of this book and couldn't help myself. It not only entertained me wonderfully on the flight home, but I'm happy to say that the British edition still has the glossary in back. HUZZAH!

Book Provided by... my wallet

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Junie B Jones: Dumb Bunny

A book from 2007:

Junie B., First Grader: Dumb Bunny (Junie B. Jones, No. 27)Junie B., First Grader: Dumb Bunny Barbara Park

From GoodReads:

For Junie B., this year's Easter Egg Hunt at Lucille house holds extra allure. She's learned that winner of the egg fest wins a play date in Lucille's cool beyond cool heated indoor swimming pool. Before the race has even begun, though, Junie's ambitions trip over her own big rabbit feet: She's obliged to attend the event wearing an outlandish -- and incredibly awkward -- dumb bunny outfit. Sometimes the entire universe seems pitted against the world's unluckiest six-year-old! An endearing story about a truly sympathetic little girl.

What I remember: Poor Junie can only attend if she plays the Easter Bunny, but it's worth it to try to win the play date. I also remember that in this book it becomes unbelievably obvious that although Lucille and her family are richy-rich, they're really classless.

I've read a lot of Junie B, but most of it clocks in at just under 100 pages, so I haven't reviewed any of it. She exhausts me. Reading one of her books is like spending the afternoon with a hyper 6-year-old. I need a nap afterwards. That's how well Parks captures her voice and emotions. Every so often, Weekly Geeks will do a meme where you can post all of your unreviewed books and people can ask questions to help you write the review. Here are some questions I got for this book:

Chris asks:

My girl who is 5 loves Junie B. How old is she in Dumb Bunny?

She's in first grade, so 6?

Julie asks:

Junie B. Jones is written for kids who are just starting to get into reading, say, kindergarten or first grade. Does it bug you that the author makes deliberate grammar mistakes?

NO. The author writes in an authentic voice. There aren't grammar mistakes in the narrative, just when Junie B. or other kids are talking or writing. We demand authentic dialogue and voice from books written of older readers, why don't we hold books for younger readers to the same standard? I also think it's important for beginning readers to find books they can relate to. Do you know many kindergarteners or first graders who speak perfectly all the time? Kids need to see themselves and their peers reflected in books-- it's what's going to keep them reading.

Interestingly enough, Lucille's father also has horrible grammar.

Puss ReBoots asks:

I enjoy the Junie B Jones series. How does the Cracked Egg hold up against the others in the series?

It's a strong addition to the series. I especially loved seeing how money doesn't buy class or manners. Lucille's family really is a trip.

Sherrie asks:

I have never read a Junie B. Jones book. Would you recommend these books for an adult reader?

Eh. Not really. This is one that appeals a lot to kids, and a lot of older kids who read it when they were younger continue to read the series, but it's not one that has a lot to offer the adult reader.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Monday, July 25, 2011

My Forever Friends

Friends for Keeps: My Forever FriendsMy Forever Friends Julie Bowe

I'm a big fan of the middle grade Friends for Keeps series. It's realistic and although I love my feisty MG heroines (Ramona, Clementine, Allie Finkle) I love Ida's quietness. She's an observer but still has a lot of friends and energy. If that makes sense. I also like that the series deals with small problems instead of big drama, but they're the small problems that we all have in 4th grade as we try to navigate friendships.

This one has slightly bigger drama, but it's still drama that most of us went through at one point or another. Jenna and Brooke used to be best friends, but now they're in a huge fight. No one knows what happened (but them) but everyone's dealing with the fallout. Things come to a head when Brooke decides to not go along with one of Jenna's plans for all the girls and demands that everyone else follow her. What happens is a split and now everyone is fighting, at least they are when they're talking to each other--including Stacey (who went with Brooke) and Ida (who stayed with Jenna.)

It's a strong addition to the series that looks at changing friendships and allegiances and how that doesn't have to spell absolute doom.

One touch I really enjoyed was how no one was looking forward to the trip to the Laura Ingalls Wilder cabin. That's the type of thing that book characters are really excited to see, but even Ida thinks it's going to be boring, especially because it's just a replica, not the real cabin. It's almost children's literature sacrilege, but dude, it's true! It's a teeny tiny cabin in the woods. There's not a lot to see! Little touches like these make me think that Bowe probably took that same field trip in elementary school.

Book Provided by... the author, for review consideration

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz

The Life and Opinions of Amy FinawitzThe Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz Laura Toffler-Corrie

When her best friend Callie moves from Manhattan to Kansas for the year, the only friends Amy has left are two girls she finds horrendously boring. After being given the diary of a nineteenth century Jewish immigrant for a school project, Amy teams up with her elderly neighbor Miss Sophia and her Hassidic Jewish nephew, Beryl, to explore New York and solve a mystery found within the diary’s pages.

Told entirely in email written by Amy to her best friend, as well as short plays that Amy uses to illustrate her points, the reader sees how Amy masks her loneliness in extreme humor and sarcasm. Through initially forced to work with them, Amy comes to enjoy her time with Miss Sophia and Beryl as they explore such corners of the city as Houdini’s grave on Halloween, the Tenement Museum, and the Coney Island. Amy's incredibly self-centered and is a bit annoying, but you understand *why* she feels that way. If you're at home missing your best friend and counting down the days until she moves back, you're not exactly going to be happy to hear that she's made a bunch of new friends and is thinking of staying where she is. And yes, you shouldn't care what other people think, but it's hard to stand up for the weird kid when you don't entirely understand why he's so different in the name of religion, even though you are also Jewish.

In addition to the great story of evolving friendship and self-discovery, I really liked the tour of New York and the mystery. It focuses on a unknown period of Jewish history in the US. (I'd want to talk more about it, because I think people need to know about it, but at the same time it's a major a spoiler alert. SO JUST READ IT, ok?)

ARC Provided by... publisher at ALA

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Gamma Glamma

Who else really misses The Edge of the Forest?

Seems it has gone away, I'm reposting the reviews that were originally published over there. Now, what I'm posting is what I submitted, but the beauty of having an editor is that things got changed. But I don't have a record of how the review originally appeared, so you're just getting my final draft.

Gamma GlammaGamma Glamma Kim Flores

Luz Santos is a scientific genius, but she only tries to use her skills for good—like creating a shampoo that will make your hair grow (ok, that backfired and she had to give herself a haircut between periods) or cupcake frosting that will make everyone happy and agreeable (ok, it also gave them some serious gas.)

Her freshman year at Gamma High (Dallas’s ultimate magnet school) is going pretty well until she’s forced to enter the science fair. Normally, being asked to do such a project would be Luz’s dream, but the regional competition is the same day as Homecoming, and there’s no way she would be back in time for the dance. Her only solution is to come up with a project that’s so insane, there’s no way it would win. Project Gamma Glamma would take three regular students and use science (jelly beans that make you tan, bubble gum that helps your conversational skills, and specially formulated perfume) as well as more conventional make-overs to boost their popularity. Results would be based on homecoming court elections. Dr. Hamrock, however, finds the idea intriguing and Luz is stuck. To make matters worse, a reality show is recording the homecoming election process and Luz, as well as her subjects, are caught in the middle.

What Luz never counted on was whether or not her friends ever wanted to be popular. She also never counted on the fact that if she catapults her friends into the social stratosphere, that means she’s eating lunch all alone.

Gamma Glamma is laugh-out-loud hilarious and it’s refreshing to see a Latina leading character in a story where ethnicity isn’t a plot point. It’s also great to see a super-smart science queen be cool and not the uber-dork. Luz has friends, style, and a brain and knows how to put all three together. Flores has a good ear for high school drama and reality show flair, as well as crazy technology that we can only dream of. She also reminds us to take a deep look on the consequences of what we do—even if experiments do what they were supposed to, that doesn’t make them successful.

Book Provided by... the author, for review consideration

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Crooked Rib

Old Reviews! I have a backlog of about 100 reviews to write. Books don't always get reviewed right away for various reasons. Even books I really liked. And then it's been so long it's hard to write the review, because I can't remember them well. So, we're going to take a Good Reads summary and I'll say what I remember and call it a day.

A book from 2007:

From a Crooked RibFrom a Crooked Rib Nuruddin Farah

From GoodReads:

Written with complete conviction from a woman’s point of view, Nuruddin Farah’s spare, shocking first novel savagely attacks the traditional values of his people yet is also a haunting celebration of the unbroken human spirit. Ebla, an orphan of eighteen, runs away from her nomadic encampment in rural Somalia when she discovers that her grandfather has promised her in marriage to an older man. But even after her escape to Mogadishu, she finds herself as powerless and dependent on men as she was out in the bush. As she is propelled through servitude, marriage, poverty, and violence, Ebla has to fight to retain her identity in a world where women are “sold like cattle."

What I remember: This was a hard book to read. Elba's entire life is lived at the mercy of the men in her life. Every time she gets out of one bad situation, she's taken advantage of by another man. At the same time, I loved the language and structure. I also really loved the contrast between country life in a nomadic tribe and city life in Mogadishu. I will also note that this book takes place around the time of Somali independence, so it's not a portrait of modern-day life in the country. There were some themes hinted at, mainly by the men in the city, that dealt with the changing political landscape.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Withering Tights

Withering Tights (Misadventures of Tallulah Casey)Withering Tights Louise Rennison

YAY! Louise Rennison has a new series! YAY!

Tallulah is Georgia's cousin (Georgia's mentioned, as is some of her advice on boys, but she doesn't really play a role in the book) and is off to performing arts summer camp. Only, when she gets there, she discovers that small town Yorkshire is not what she expected. Everyone else is boarding at the school, but Tallulah has to do a home stay with an overly nice family obsessed with owls. There are grotty boys who play in angry bands and interesting boys at the boys reform school down the road. But Tallulah's big worry is that she wants to be accepted into the year-round program, but, unlike her friends, she's not that talented and isn't sure what to do...

Tallulah is a little less mad than Georgia, but just as funny. I like that some of her problems are real, and not entirely her own invention, unlike her cousin. But, if you thought Georgia's rehersals and performances of Shakespeare (MacUseless anyone?) were hilarious, wait until you see what Tallulah does as Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. To top it all off, this is a novel that very much plays with the conventions of British novels set in the rural England-- complete with references to Cold Comfort Farm. Seriously. The grotty boys are named Ruben, Seth and Cain.

Cannot wait for more.

ARC Provided by... publisher at ALA midwinter

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Saturday, July 09, 2011

Weekly Geeks

I haven't participated in a Weekly Geeks Meme in a long time (too long!)

This week's question asks:

What book/novel would you suggest for someone like me, someone interested in learning about your state, city and/or country? What book do you think is perfect for presenting the history and culture of your place of residence in the most perfect and interesting way?

My problem is that most novels that take place in DC are political thrillers. Exciting, yes, but not the most accurate portrayal of life in the area. I mean, I've lived here for 6 years and I've never stopped a spy plot, blown anything up, or brought down a corrupt politician. My day-to-day life experiences that tend not to happen elsewhere involve being late to work because I'm caught behind someone's motorcade. Or seeing random politicians and talking heads while walking down the street. Even more common are being pissed off by clueless tourists or having my plans messed up because protests are closing down streets I want to drive on.

But I have lived other places.

For a great look into life in urban China, check out Peter Hessler's Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China or Michael Meyer's The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed.

When I lived in Manchester, I lived in a largely Pakistani neighborhood. Coupled with current events at the time made me think a lot about the changing notions of British identity in the UK today. I think White Teeth by Zadie Smith captures these issues really well. Although it's historical fiction, Small Island by Andrea Levy explores these same issues even better.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Heist Society

Heist SocietyHeist Society Ally Carter

Every time Kat thinks she gets out, they pull her back in. Her family's business isn't the mob, but art thievery. She thought she had pulled the perfect con, getting into an elite boarding school and out of the life. But then her friend Hale frames her for the perfect prank and gets her kicked out, because they need her for one last job.

A major art collection has been stolen and the owner wants it back. The only suspect is Kat's father and the owner won't stop at anything to get it back. Only problem is that Kat's father was doing a different job when the collection was stolen-- he didn't do it. The only way to keep her father alive is to find out who did steal the art and steal it back. But, it's a lot easier to walk out on your family than it is to walk back into it. Kat needs a crew, but who will listen to her now?

Fans of Carter's Gallagher Girl series will recognize and enjoy her blend of adventure, highly unlikely elite skills, and sexual tension. Kat's ragtag team of teen thieves hopscotch around Europe as they try to unravel the mystery of who really did steal the paintings and how they're going to get them back. It's a fun adventure and I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, Uncommon Criminals.

ARC Provided by... a friend

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Heather Wells

Heather Wells Mysteries Meg Cabot

I thought I'd review all three books with one review. The books in question are Size 12 Is Not Fat, Size 14 Is Not Fat Either, and Big Boned.

Basic backstory-- Heather Wells was a mid-list teen idol who was engaged to Jordan, one of the biggest teen stars (whose father also happened to own the record label.) When Heather wanted to start recording and singing her own music, the label and her fiance dropped her. Her mother then took all of her money and moved to Argentina. Heather is now living with Cooper, rent-free (well, she has to do the filing for his PI business). Cooper is the black sheep of his family and Jordan's older brother. Heather totally has the hots for him. She's also working as the assistant dorm-director to a private dorm of New York College because she will be able to take free classes so she can earn her college degree. She's also no longer teen pop-star thin. She's a size 12.

Size 12 Is Not Fat: A Heather Wells MysteryIn Size 12 is Not Fat the dorm has a problem with elevator surfing (where guys break into the elevator shaft and ride the elevators and jump to other elevators...) When a student shows up dead at the bottom of the shaft, everyone rights it off as an elevator surfing accident. Except... Heather knows her students. Girls like the deceased don't elevator surf (in fact girls in general don't elevator surf.) More and more students are dying in "accidental" ways. Heather smells something fishy and if no one else is going to try to discover what's going on, she will.

Size 14 Is Not Fat Either (Heather Wells Mysteries)In Size 14 Is Not Fat Either, Christmas (and winter in general) has caused Heather to go up a size. Then a cheerleader's head shows up boiled in a pot in the cafeteria. A little digging shows that Lindsey wasn't as nice as she seemed and the frat boys she hung around with are also some of campus's biggest dealers and might have something even more sinister going on... To top it all off, Heather's dad is out of jail and moving in to the brownstone...

Big Boned (Heather Wells Mysteries)Big Boned finds Heather with a new boss, who (of course) ends up with a bullet through his head. The main suspect is the leader of the gradute students union, who is protesting for grad student rights (and health insurance.) He's also Heather's assistant's boyfriend and very into nonviolent protest. Heather's looking into other possibilities and uncovering all sorts of ickiness along the way. Not to mention her new boyfriend who wants her to do things like... go running.

The good: This has Cabot's trademark charm and humor. I love the secondary characters in this one, especially Magda (the cafeteria lady) and Reggie (the neighborhood drug dealer who keeps an eye out for Heather, both for information to help her solve crimes and to make sure that she gets home safely.) Cabot also writes a good mystery-- it has just enough suspense and the she keeps you guessing on who the rampaging murderer is.

The annoying: If I lived Heather's lifestyle, I would be a size 22, not a size 12. She eats crap (all those Oreos!) and does things like take baths because standing up to take a shower is too taxing. SERIOUSLY? She's very into proclaiming that the average American woman is a size 12, but that wouldn't be true if the average American woman had Heather's diet and activity level. And it's annoying because it paints people who are slightly overweight as fat and lazy, which is annoying but not annoying enough to keep me from loving the series.

The plot points that stretch across the books are wrapped up in Big Boned. As that came out in 2007, most readers assumed the series would be a trilogy but Cabot has said on her blog that a fourth Heather Wells mystery will be out in 2012. YAY! I'm excited.

Book Provided by... bookmooch, my local library, my wallet

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Monday, July 04, 2011


Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate)Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate) Gail Carigger

This is the third installment of the Parasol Protectorate series. The second one ended on rather a large cliffhanger. Seriously, do NOT read this review if you intend to read the series but haven't yet. If you haven't read book 3 yet, proceed, if you haven't read book 2 yet, ABORT!

So, Alexia has found herself in a family way and Lord Maccon says there is no way it can be his, due to his supernatural status (ah, werewolves).  The Queen won't deal with such immorality and has dismissed Alexia from the shadow council. Her family is suitably scandalized. Lord Akeldama has very quickly left town (without even saying goodbye!) and it's clear that the rest of vampire society is trying to kill Alexia.

There's only one thing to do-- go to Italy and get to the bottom of all of this. So Alexia is off to the heart of Italy, where they despise all things supernatural (and, it turns out, preteranatural as well) but, they do manage to introduce Alexia to the glories of pesto. (Of course, it turns out that pesto is a vampire AND werewolf deterant, because vampires don't like garlic and werewolves are allergic to basil. WHO KNEW?!)

Lord Maccon is dealing with all of this by drinking himself silly leaving poor Lyall to try to keep the pack together, keep BUR together, find/rescue Alexia, and figure out WHAT exactly is going on with the vampires.

I do love this series. I love the world and the characters and the wittiness. Alexia is great with the dead-pan one-liners. It strikes the right balance between serious and zany (I mean, really-- ticking ladybugs?) As this one involved travel outside of England, we got to see how different countries react to supernaturals and different cultural attitudes on vampires, werewolves, and the Order of the Octopus.

Overall, and excellent addition to the series.

Book Provided by... my wallet

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Friday, July 01, 2011

The Jumbee

The JumbeeThe Jumbee Pamela Keyes

After her father dies of cancer, Esti and her mother move down to her father's house on the island of Cariba. Esti's father was a renowned Shakespearean actor and Esti has long feared having her own career in his shadow. Cariba's high school has an excellent theater program that Esti hopes will launch her in her own right. In the theater she is coached by someone she cannot see and no one else can hear. Most inhabitants of Cariba say the theater is haunted. Is Esti's acting coach really the Jumbee everyone is talking about?

This is an excellent retelling of Phantom of the Opera with a liberal dose of Shakespeare. I loved the modern high school setting. I also really liked the West Indies setting-- Keyes has lived in the Caribbean and captures the physical beauty of the islands as well the culture well. I liked the insight into things like how one scares away evil spirits or enters another's home but also the tensions on the island with its slave and sugar plantation past as well as tension between island natives and wealthy interlopers from the US. Keyes strikes the right balance of tragic and creepy with Alan's character. Because it's a retelling, I knew how it was going to end, but Keyes keeps the suspense up so well and had me si invested in the characters that I kept turning the pages faster and faster to see how it would play out.

Book Provided by... my local library

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