Monday, April 30, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Witches!

Witches: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem Rosalyn Schanzer

GUYS! How did this NOT get nominated for the Cybils?! It was a Sibert Honor and totally deserving. It should have been a Cybils book. As a community (myself included) we totally dropped the ball on this one. It wasn't even nominated. WTF?!

Schanzer writes a fascinating account of the Salem witch trials and does an excellent job of putting the frenzy and fear into context. It's gripping and terrifying. Schanzer managers a real sense of immediacy that really makes you feel the fear going through this town. Here's what I love-- often when they talk about the fear of Salem, it seems like everyone was afraid of being falsely accused. Schanzer shows us that many people were actually afraid of being attacked by witches, because it seems like anyone and everyone could be and was a witch.

Even though I knew the story and the people and the facts and the legends, this book broke my heart in a way nothing else about Salem ever has. Schanzer tells us the how, and gives us some possibilities for the why, but the why has been lost over the centuries.

Also, the design is amazing. Schanzer has illustrated the book with pictures done in Ampersand Scratchboard, meant to mimic 17th century woodcuts. Throughout the book, red accents and details are used to great effect.

Plus, end notes! And an author's note! My only reservation is that there isn't a lot of context given for relations with the Native Americans. This is taking place against the backdrop of the Second Indian War and "Indian" is the term used throughout. There are several raids by Native forces in the book (one of the possible explanations is post-traumatic stress as many of the initial accusers witnessed their parents and other family members murdered during raids.) Now, this isn't a major focus of the book so it didn't need to dwell, but a sentence or two saying why these raids were happening and what the war was about would have gone a long way.

Overall though, a really strong book.

Be sure to check out the Nonfiction Monday round-up over at Gathering Books!

Book Provided by... my local library

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fox and Phoenix

Fox and Phoenix Beth Bernobich

The king is dying and the princess isn't responding to her messages. The Ghost Dragon King sends Kai and Yun to the heart of the Phoenix Empire to bring the princess home from university. But there are forces that don't want Kai and Yun to reach the princess, and, once they do, forces that won't let her leave.

Magic + steampunk + court intrigue + a Chinese fantasy setting = OH YES.

The set up to this story is one that you'll love or hate, depending. Basically, it reads like a sequel, but it's not. Kai and his friends met the Princess a year ago, when they helped her find her heart's desire. It sounded like a basic fairy tale set-up, doing impossible tasks to win her hand, but her heart's desire was to study politics before taking the throne. No one got her hand, the street gang was rewarded handsomely and the princess got to go to college. Win win. But... this is the story about what happens next. The money has changed Kai and his friends. They used it to escape the streets, but their group has drifted and things have shifted and changed. For Kai, it seemed easier then.

I LOVED this. I've often wanted a story about what happens next or what about the other people caught up in some epic battle, not the hero? I like how we jumped in, between big adventures. But, I can see that some people might really hate the same thing.

I liked how it was magical steampunk. The technology felt like futuristic steampunk, but magic was what it ran on, plus standard fantasy magic. And spirit animals.

Oh yes, and China. That's always a major plus in my book. I do like China.

And the cover is awesome.

I will say it took me awhile to get into it. The first 100 pages were a bit slow, but I'll admit that might have been my mood when I read it. After that though, I had a hard time putting it down. Very fun.

UPDATE: Beth Bernobich emailed me to let me know there IS actually a prequel. It was a short story in the out-of-print anthology Magic in the Mirrorstone. Luckily for us, she put it up on Smashwords for FREE. Be sure to check it out!

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dumpling Days

Dumpling Days Grace Lin

Pacy and her family are off to Taiwan for the summer. Pacy and her sisters are NOT looking forward to it. When they get there, it's hard. Everything is new and overwhelming. They don't speak the language and can't read signs. At home, they were the only Asian family and could feel out of place. In Taiwan they look like everyone else, but still don't fit. Through it all, Pacy learns more about straddling two cultures and gains appreciation for what her parents must have gone through when they moved to the US.

I'm a big fan of all of Grace Lin's works and this is a great addition to her largely autobiographical Pacy series. The tone is light and often funny and the sprinkled in simple line drawings add a lot to the text.

But this book proves that Lin and I should be friends because she goes to Taiwan AND SHE EATS ALL THE DUMPLINGS. Pacy looooooooooooooooooooooooves dumplings and orders them at almost every meal. By doing this, she eats a lot of different kinds of dumplings. I got SO HUNGRY reading this book. Good thing Mala Tang has several dumpling options for me to choose from.

But really, I mean, last time I went to China, Dan and I had the following conversation:

Dan: What do you want to do while we're in Shanghai?
Dan: Ha ha. Seriously though, what do you want to see while we're there?
Me: Seriously. I want to see places that serve dumplings.

I ate so many dumplings on that trip. Here's a picture of me eating xiaolongbao  (soup dumplings) in Shanghai. That steamer used to be full. I did NOT share with Dan. In the book, Lin's relatives tell her that if you can eat soup dumplings without spilling, you're a true Chinese. I'm not about to claim that I'm Chinese, but I don't spill my dumplings.

So, as Pacy is obviously a girl after my own heart, of course I love her. (Now I want more dumplings...)

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Unorthodox

Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots Deborah Feldman

At the age of 23, Deborah Feldman took her toddler son and walked out of her life. She left her house, her husband, her extended family, and her community.

Starting in her childhood, Feldman tells of her life growing up in the Satmar Hasidic community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Her mother left the Hasidic community shortly after she was born. Her father has mental issues (largely undiagnosed, completely untreated.) She's raised by her grandparents, the family charity case, never having what her cousins have, always feeling unwanted and unloved.

Feldman also spends a large time questioning the world around her, sneaking library books written by forbidden authors in Yiddish or, even more scandalously, English. She slowly becomes more and more dissatisfied with the life carved out for her, her inability to forge her own path within the confines of the community. She thinks that marriage will offer her some freedom. That getting out from under the thumb of her extended family will help. But her husband's family is even more domineering. Her ingrained shame of her body (not even the furniture should see your naked body) causes extreme complications.

But it's not a misery memoir or a tawdry expose of the Hasidic community. While there is extreme hardship and unjustness, Feldman doesn't wallow. A lot of the lack of wallow is due to the pace of the book. She tends not to dwell. Feldman also has a gift for remembering the raw, stinging emotions of childhood. Many of the events lead her to realize things shouldn't be that way, but in the writing she remembers the shame and guilt of the moment. The anger and sadness come later. Also, despite the fact she left, the Satmar Hasids are still her family and her people. She recognizes that this is where she came from, it's a large part of who she is. Even after leaving, she feels defensive and offended when people badmouth Hasids or her family.

One of things I found most fascinating was her explanations of the Hasidic community. She weaves in history, explanation of belief and culture, the difference between different Hasidic communities, even the rifts in the Satmar community over Rabbinical succession. It never overwhelms the core story, and is often seamless. While it was more than enough for me to understand the book, it left me wanting to know more about the community. I also like how she shows that even in this closed community, it's still Brooklyn. 9/11 happens. And oh! when the Hipsters start moving to Williamsburg...

While this is an adult book, there is more than enough teen appeal here. The obvious pairing is with Hush (even though Feldman describes the girls from Borough Park as being "modern"). When Hush first came out, a lot of the kidlit community questioned it-- can such isolation and ignorance of the modern world really exist today? in BROOKLYN? It was hard to wrap our heads around. Feldman's book does more than validate the truth of the lifestyle described in Hush, but explains it more, and does more than point out its flaws.

Today's Nonfiction Monday round-up is over at Books 4 Learning.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Poetry Friday: Tropical Secrets

Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba Margarita Engle

Islands belong to the sea,
not the earch.

All around me
the world is blue.

Above, more blue,
like a hot, melting star.

Music is the only part
of Cuba's heated air

that feels like something
I can breathe.

Regular readers know I am a huge fan of Margarita Engle's verse novels. Each one deals with some aspect of Cuban history and is told in multiple voices. In this one, the main voice is Daniel, a Jewish teenager from Berlin, whose parents could only afford to get one person out, him. They said they'd meet him in New York, but his ship wasn't allowed to land in New York and ended up in Havanna. Paloma is a Cuban girl who helps the Quakers with the refugees. Her mother ran off to Paris with another man, her father charges huge fees and bribes for entry visas and then sometimes rejects the ship anyway. Her father has a few poems, too. The last voice is David, an old Ukranian Jew who fled to Cuba decades before.

It's the story of David trying to come to grips with life on a tropical island, his hope that he'll see his parents again, his growing knowledge that he probably won't. It's the story of Paloma coming to terms with the sins of her father. It's the story of their friendship.

It's a slight book, both in page count and also because of the verse format, but instead of leaving holes in the story, it makes it uncluttered and it never feels like there's too much going on. We just get brief glimpses into the lives of these people as they try to make sense of a world gone crazy. Engle's poetry really shines when describing Cuba-- how it feels, how it sounds, what it looks like. It helps make Daniel's initial disorientation all the more real, but we also see how he falls in love with the island.

It's also different than many of the WWII/Holocaust books out there. This is the first time I've read about the Jewish refugees in Cuba and it's not a part of the diaspora that is well covered, even in Jewish circles.

It's more personal and less sweeping than some of her other books and I recommend it.

Today's Poetry Friday round up is over at Random Noodling. Be sure to check it out!

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Faraway Island

A Faraway Island Annika Thor, translated from the Swedish by Linda Schenck

After Kristellnacht, Stephie and her sister Nellie are one of 500 Jewish children that the Swedish government allows in to live with Swedish families. They're placed on a small island off the coast in a fishing village-- a far cry from their life in Vienna with their doctor father and former opera singer mother. Even worse, they're not put with different families. Nellie soon takes to life with Auntie Alma and her three young children, but Stephie has a harder time with Aunt Marta, who seems cold and distant. Nellie is instantly popular in school, but Stephie's only friend is from the Pentacostal church she's forced to attend with Aunt Marta and the Queen Bee has a special dislike of her. But it's only for 6 months. Then her parents will get visas and they'll all live together again, this time in America.

There are a million things to love about this novel. I liked that even though Stephie struggled, she wasn't a brat. After what she had lived through in Vienna, she knows she's lucky to be there and she's very open-minded about the cultural shift. Even when she's miserable and wants to go home, she doesn't let Aunt Marta know. I'd be interested to see how children view Marta versus adult readers. Stephie thinks she's mean and doesn't like her. As an adult reader, I think Marta's just reserved and doesn't have a clear idea of how to relate to a 12-year-old girl or understand what's important to them (I think this is most evidenced in the incident with the bathing suit and the Saint Lucia dress.) I like that a lot of the treatment that Stephie and Nellie receive, especially at the hand so of the Refugee Committee isn't great, but isn't demonized. It is what it is. This could easily have been a fictional misery memoir. It's not a rosy situation, but Thor does a good job of showing the good and the bad so it ends up somewhere between. A lot of this is due to Stephie's inner strength and drive.

I was also really intrigued by the religious issue. Stephie and Nellie are (obviously) Jewish. Marta and Alma are Pentacostal and some of the more religious people on the island. No secular music, rather strict keeping of the Sabbath. Stephie's not a huge fan, but doesn't protest. Her only real complaint is the picture of Jesus in her bedroom. But early on, when the girls go to church with their foster families, the sisters find the choir music so beautiful they start crying. Marta and Alma thinks they've found Jesus and in a giant misunderstanding of practice and language, the sisters find themselves Christian by the end of the night. I found it interesting because Marta and Alma's actions aren't painted as cruel or mean, just a bit clueless. Stephie and Nellie don't protest because it seems easier to go with it and it's not like there's a temple on the island.

Besides, it's only for 6 months.

I also adored the author's note at the end. Not only did it give background to the Holocaust, growing up Jewish in Sweden, and the history of the 500 children that Sweden took in, but Thor explains some stylistic choices as well. One is that the book is in present tense (usually present tense takes a while for me to get into, but I frankly didn't notice until I read the note) because Thor "didn't want to tell Stephie's story as historical, but as a story in the here and now. Today, too, children and young people have to escape from their countries, leaving their families behind. And even today, the care we give to refugee children who arrive alone, in Sweden and other wealth nations is not what it ought to be." Her other stylistic choice was third person narration that focuses on Stephie, because she feels that first person narration is best left to actual survivors.

This is the first in a quartet of books about Stephie and Nellie. The first two are currently available in English in the US. A Faraway Island won the Batchelder award for translation in 2010. The Lily Pond was an honor this year. I'm confident we'll see the next two books come out in the next few years. I can't wait.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Grimalkin the Witch Assassin

Grimalkin the Witch Assassin Joseph Delaney

Now I am ready--ready to kill. Ready to kill them all. I have become the mother of death. She trots at my heels, hanging onto my skirt, giggling with glee, leaving wet footprints of red blood on the green grass. Can you hear her laughter? Listen for it in the cries of my victims. p 372

For the ninth book in the Last Apprentice series (not counting the companion novels) we get a change of narrator.

Tom only appears briefly in this tale, as this book follows Grimmalkin. At the end of Rage of the Fallen, Tom had sliced off the Fiend's head. Grimalkin took it to keep it safe, and so we follow her as the Fiend's allies (including a terrifying new creature) hunt her down.

Lots of adventure, lots of death, less blathering on about right and wrong and shades of gray.

A different apprentice, too, this time, Grimalkin's apprentice.

I missed Tom, the Spook, and Alice, but I loved Grimalkin's voice. I think giving her a book to carry the plot forward really helps keep the series fresh. I loved seeing how she saw the world and her job. I loved learning her backstory, but it was often woven into the narrative a bit clumsily. On the other hand, we get a lot of background information on witches, witch-lore, and witch politics without the usual info-dump by Gregory or Alice.

This is one of my favorite books in the series.

I need to reread it as a final copy though. While there was A LOT of white space and notes of art to come, only the opening pages were illustrated. I didn't realize how much Patarick Aeeasmith's work really adds to the overall feeling of this series until it was missing. It was like a giant hole in my reading experience.

Some worship dark gods, others serve the light;
but I walk alone.
I am Grimalkin
p 156

*All quotations are from the ARC and therefore are not final

ARC Provided by... the publisher, at ALA

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Stranger at Home

A Stranger At Home: A True Story Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton

I haven't read Fatty Legs: A True Story, the story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton's time at a church run residential school. A Stranger At Home is the story of what happens when she returns home to her Arctic village, Tuktoyaktuk, after two years at the school.

Only when she gets home, her mother no longer recognizes her. She no longer remembers the Inuit language, her native tongue. Her once favorite food, muktuk (made from whale blubber and skin) now makes her sick.

She has become one of "them," the outsiders who try to change the Inuit way of life, the ones who made her two years at school a horrible experience. Only her father, who also attended one of the church schools, knows what she is going through.

Slowly, Pokiak-Fenton figures out how to fit back in at home, even though she's not the same girl she was when she left it.

You don't need to read Fatty Legs to appreciate this story. The language is simple and is a good fit for younger middle grade readers. But it's still a moving story that will speak to older readers as well. There are several photographs, as well as full-color illustrations by Liz Amini-Holmes. There are also small photographs and in the margins and little facts to help understand life in Tuktoyaktuk.

It's a very good and interesting read. I want to seek out Fatty Legs so I can know more of the story.

Be sure to check out today's Nonfiction Monday round-up over at the Nonfiction Detectives.

Book Provided by... the publisher, for Cybils consideration

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday Salon: reviews that made me want to read the book

In my poking around on the internets, here are some reviews and books that caught my eye and expanded my TBR list.

The Book of the Maidservant Rebecca Barnhouse

Ok, so this wasn't a review, Booksmugglers' hadn't read it yet. They just said they wanted too. But it's based on The Book of Margery Kempe and is the story of her maidservant and what happens when Kempe abandons her and the rest of the pilgrimage group.

A teen book. Based on Margery Kempe. Oh yes.

Memento Mori Muriel Spark

A group of older characters each receive a phone call reminding them that they will die. Intertwined lives, past mistakes and regrets, and reactions to the reminder of their mortality. By Muriel Spark.

My Friend Amy says:

Dame Lettie's bore out in the most obvious way throughout the book. She was the first to receive the phone calls and she heard the voice as very sinister. She enlisted the help of the police, and then a private investigator but when they failed to come up with any answers about who was making the calls, she grew more and more frightened and paranoid. She cut off her phone service. She would hear voices in the night and go investigate. All of these things left her very vulnerable to death itself and it came in the form of an armed robbery and brutal murder. It's easy to see what Sparks was doing here...her fear of death and avoidance of the reality of it made it's arrival harsh and frightening.

If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit Brenda Ueland

It's a book about creative writing and how to be better at it.

The Debutante Ball says:

I’m struck by how simple and wise and generous and important Brenda Ueland’s teachings are. She truly believed that anyone could write, as long as they paid attention to the world and did their best to tell the truth on the page. “Everyone is talented, original, and has something important to say,” she says, and you can’t help but believe her.

Afrika Hermann

A graphic novel dealing with the aftermath of Belgium's colonial past.

Adult Books 4 Teens says:

His protagonist in this particular independently standing story is a credibly hard bitten white man who takes his responsibility for a wild animal preserve more seriously than any other aspect of his life. We see the raw savagery inflicted by poachers, the guerilla tactics employed by government agents and Ferrer himself, and the highly visual contrasts between plush, European-style offices and Ferrer’s hardscrabble homestead... [Hermann] paints an Africa of beautifully hued days and shadowy nights, the ashes of an African village, the breakage caused in the jungle as Ferrer and his unwitting partner try to run away from pursing government agents. This is realism at its politically charged best: no deus ex machina, no recovery from misunderstanding.

Fracture Megan Miranda

Girl falls through ice and (kinda) survives, but with weird powers that draw her towards the dead. This is one where it really is the review that makes me take another look at a book I would have otherwise skipped right over.

Bookshelves of Doom says:

Although the synopsis makes it sound like forty bazillion other paranormals, Fracture is different. Yes, yes, Delaney is attracted to Troy (the mysterious dude), and yes, yes, there's a push-and-pull-and-push between her, Decker, and Troy. But it's not the same-old-same-old love triangle that we've come to expect in paranormals. The dynamics are different, and it's less about lurrrve and hormones and more about power, choice, and survival.

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Poetry Friday: Under the Mesquite

Under the Mesquite Guadalupe Garcia McCall


Mami said life would change
after I turned fifteen
when I became a señorita.
But señorita means different things
to different people.

For my friends Mireya and Sarita,
who turned fifteen last summer,
señorita means wearing lipstick,
which when I put it on
is sticky and messy,
like strawberry jam on my lips.

For Mami señorita means
making me try on high-heeled shoes
two inches high
and meant to break my neck.

For Mami's sisters, my tías
Maritza and Belén, who live in Mexico,
señorita means measuring me,
turning me this way and that
as they fit me for the floral dresses
they cheerfully stitch together
on their sewing machines.
For the aunts, señorita also means
insisting I wear pantyhose,
the cruel invention that makes
my thick, trunklike thighs
into bulging sausages.

When my tías are done dressing me up
like a big Mexican Barbie doll,
I look at myself in the mirror.
Mami stands behind me
as I pull at the starched
flowered fabric and argue
with Mami's reflection.

"Why do I have to wear this stuff/
This is your style, not mine!
I like jeans and tennis shoes.
Why can't I just dress
like a normal teenager?
En los Estados Unidos girls
don't dress up like muñecas."

Señoritas don't talk back
to their mothers," Mami warns.
When my aunts aren't looking,
she gives me a tiny pinch,
like a bee sting on the inside
of my upper arm. "Señoritas know
when to be quiet and let their
elders make the decisions."

For my father, señorita means
he has to be a guard dog
when boys are around.
According to my parents,
I won't be allowed to date
until I graduate from high school.

That's fine with me.
I have better things to do
than think about boys--
like prepare for my future.
I want to be the first one in our family
to earn a college degree.

For my sisters, señorita means
having someone to worship:
it is the wonder of
seeing their oldest sister
looking like Cinderella
on her way to the ball.

But for me, señorita means
melancolía: settling into sadness.
It is the end of wild laughter.
The end of chewing bubble gum
and giggling over nothing
with my friends at the movies, our feet up
on the backs of the theater seats.

Señorita is very boring
when we go to a fancy restaurant
decorated with Christmas lights
for the upcoming Posadas.
We sit properly, Papi, Mami,
and I, quietly celebrating
my fifteenth birthday
with due etiquette because
I'm trying my best
to be a good daughter and accept
the clipping of my wings,
the taming of my heart.

Being a señorita
is not as much fun
as I'd expected it to be.
It means composure and dignity.

Señorita is a nina,
the girl I used to be,
who has lost her voice.

HEY AUTHORS AND PUBLISHERS! Did you know that you're allowed to have a book about a high school girl with NO romantic plot or subplot? Did you know you can have a book about a Mexican-American teen where immigration isn't an issue, that she can travel freely between countries (and often does?) Did you know you can have a book about a Mexican-American teen where race and racism and fitting in aren't plot points? Did you know you can do all those things and still have A REALLY GOOD BOOK?

So, if this book isn't about boys or race, what is it about?


Freshman year, Lupita's mother gets uterine cancer. Despite the fact that she's the oldest of eight, Lupita and her mother have a close relationship and it grieves her to see her vibrant and wonderful mother struggle with the disease. Following Lupita through high school and beyond, we see her and her family deal with her mother's illness. It's beautifully written and such a change of pace.

I loved the exploration of how Lupita tries to hold it together-- both herself and her family. Her relationship with her parents and her siblings and how these change, both because of age and because of the what the family is dealing with. I loved the family-- they're close while still being realistic. Siblings and parents fight, but they make up. Relationships change, but the underlying love doesn't.

The verse format allows for some wonderful imagery and metaphor, as well alluding to the fact that Lupita is a writer and writing poetry (but not the poetry we're reading) is one of the ways she tries to sort out her thoughts and feelings.

It was a Morris finalist and the Bel Pre Author winner and it's not hard to see why.

Today's Poetry Friday round up is hosted by Anastasia over at Booktalking!

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Booking Through Thursday

Today's Question is...

What book took you the longest to read, and do you feel it was the content or just the length that made it so?

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

I read it the summer before junior year of high school. It took me ALL SUMMER. Part of it is certainly the length-- my copy weighs in at nearly 900 pages. But Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix is only a few pages shorter, and that took me less than a day. A large part is content. Tolstoy has a lot of thoughts on Russia's peasants that I didn't know what to do with. And everyone had a million different names, so it was hard to keep them straight.

Now that I know more about Russia and Tolstoy's overall context and have a lot more experience with Russian literature, I'd like to pick it up again.

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight Jennifer E. Smith

Hadley hasn't seen her father in two years and isn't looking forward to seeing him now, especially as she's going to London to watch him marry some other woman. The woman he left Hadley and her mother for. A series of minor irritations and delays means that Hadley is four minutes too late to her gate, missing her flight. But while waiting for the next flight, she meets Oliver. Over the course of the wait and the flight, they bond, only to lose each other when they have to get in different lines for customs.

I really liked this book. I like that how, even though the book only takes place over the course of 24 hours, Oliver and Hadley's connection doesn't feel like insta-love. I really loved the complicated relationship between Hadley and her father. Hadley has so much anger at how and why he left. She can't, and won't forgive him for everything that happened after her parents split. As she explains it, his leaving didn't just change his relationship with Hadley's mom, or his relationship with Hadley, but also Hadley's relationship with her mom.

It's a sweet and simple story, but the characters grow a lot during the novel and even though it's a very compressed timeline their development doesn't seem rushed or forced. Something about it really reminds me of Stephanie Perkins.

Also, the author shares a first and last name with one of my BFFs from high school, so there's some automatic awesome points.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Zombies vs. Unicorns

Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

Which is better, zombies or unicorns? Black (team unicorn) and Larbalestier (team zombie) have picked their teams of all-star YA authors and are battling it out.

At it's surface, it is a strong collection of short stories about zombies or unicorns. Stand-outs include Alaya Dawn Johnson's zombie entry "Love with Tear Us Apart" about what happens when zombies love humans, Carrie Ryan's "Bougainvillea" a zombie story set in the same world as Forest of Hands and Teeth, Margo Lanagan's deeply disturbing unicorn story "A Thousand Flowers", Scott Westerfeld's "Inoculata" about teens flirting with zombie-ism the same way today's teens flirt with pot, Meg Cabot's hysterical "Princess Prettypants" about a girl who's pretty pissed off she's getting a farting unicorn instead of a car for her birthday, and Libba Bray's "Prom Night" about teenagers trying to hold it together when the adults all turned to zombies.

Despite the fact that the I have more favorite zombie stories than unicorn ones, I'm firmly TEAM UNICORN. I wasn't before I read it. Before I read it, I thought "seriously? Zombies versus Unicorns? What kind of contest is that? Zombies! Duh!" but these stories made me see unicorns in an entirely different light. Even when their farts smell like flowers and sound like windchimes and they have stupid names like Princess Prettypants, unicorns kick a lot of ass. There's also a much greater variety in types of unicorns. Zombies are... zombies. They get boring after awhile. With the exception of "Love Will Tear us Apart" we didn't meet that many zombies in the zombie stories. We met people dealing with zombies, living a life of fear in a zombie-filled world. The zombies don't have the same personality and skills that the unicorns do.


And, even though this book is mostly great stories, but favorite parts were the between the stories, when Black and Larbalestier debate the unicorn/zombie question in the story introductions. Hilarious.

ARC Provided by... publisher, at ALA

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ransom My Heart

Ransom My Heart Meg Cabot

I love Meg Cabot and I love romance novels, so I had pretty high expectations of a Meg Cabot romance novel.


Finnula's sister Mellana is with child. The father is a troubador and Mellana's spent her entire dowry on dresses, so Finnula needs to get money for a dowry, and fast. The tomboy huntress does what she is loathe to do, take a noble hostage and ransom him.

Little does she know that the noble she's captured is really the Earl of Stephensgate, returned from the Holy Land. Little does he know that she's been married before. (Minor spoiler) To his father.

And of course they fall in love with each other but there are obstacles intermixed with the sexy times.

So here's what surprised me-- Meg Cabot can write a good kiss that makes you go weak at the knees. She's done it a million times. But her sexytimes fell a little flat.

It just didn't have the same spark and wit that I've come to expect from her work. I suspect that it's because this was written at the beginning of career and never published. She's a much better writer now.

There is a tie-in with this book and Princess Diaries. In Forever Princess, Mia writes a romance novel for her senior project (and tells everyone it's a history of Genovian olive pressing so no one will want to read it. Except Michael, because he's Michael and *swoon*) Anyways, supposedly this is the romance novel that Mia wrote. But, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to fans of Princess Diaries. It's not as funny and it is a full-fledged bodice-ripping (well, it would be if Finnula would wear a dress and therefore a bodice) romance novel. It's very different, so be warned. But that wasn't my complaint. I knew what it was. It just wasn't as strong as I wanted it to be.

Book Provided by... my wallet

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Monday, April 09, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Terezin: Voices from the Holocaust

Terezin: Voices from the Holocaust Ruth Thomson

The Terezin ghetto was a holding center for Jews on their way east to Auschwitz. Terezin remains a bit of a “special case” in the historical record of concentration camps. There was a propaganda workshop here and many of the slave artists stole supplies and created an alternate visual record of their reality. These works were hidden and survived the war. Terezin was also used for a propaganda film to show the world that it was a model village where the Jews lived normal lives.

Thomson lets the residents of Terezin tell their own tale. Each page spread has a different subject, in roughly chronological order. There is a paragraph or two of introduction, then quotations from the people who were there, as well as large illustrations-- either photographs or the surviving work of the artists.

The design is crisp and clean.

The problem in the this approach is that it ends up a bit detached. The lack of overall narrative and the brief introductions don’t provide enough context and, as with many remembrances of extremely traumatic events, the quotations tend to be factual and unemotional. As such, the book doesn’t give a true sense of the scope and the horror of what happened, or what was different about Terezin.

It needed more to put these voices into context.

Today's Nonfiction Monday round up is over at Ana's NonFiction Blog. Be sure to check it out!

Book Provided by... my local library

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Sunday, April 08, 2012

Sunday Salon: reviews that made me want to read the book

Here are some reviews and books that caught my eye and made my TBR list that much longer...

New Girl Paige Harbison

A modern teen retelling of Rebecca? Go on...

Forever YA says:

I liked the main character about 80 times more than her literary predecessor.


Harbison did a pretty good job. Anyone expecting a word-for-word retelling of Rebecca (see below) will be disappointed, as she didn’t translate every last detail to this version, and put in some disturbing sexual elements that weren’t part of the original material — although I’m not saying she shouldn’t have, because they’re definitely a part of real life. It alternates between the main character and Becca’s points of view, which sometimes works, and never makes me like Becca. For the most part, it’s atmospheric and goes down like a dark and stormy (that’s one part dark rum, two parts ginger beer, and a slice of lime).

The Sister Queens Sophie Perinot

A story of sisters Eleanor(queen of England) and Marguerite (queen of France). I mean, this book had me at Eleanor of Aquitaine.

The Broke and the Bookish says:

While they were best friends, they were also each others greatest enemies. They tried to oust each other and win their battles vicariously through their husbands. Children, war, money, and power were all ways they could triumph over the other. Still, through all this, they were completely and truly devoted to each other. Almost the entire was through, I was so envious of their sisterly bonds, something I've never known.

This is an excellent slice of an extremely interesting period of time. We get the politics and social aspects of not one but two countries (always a bonus!) as well as in the the latter part of the book, Louis' crusade to the Holy Land. I felt very connected to them and their personalities were extremely opposite and varied. I enjoyed watching the sisters grow from young teenagers to mature mothers, queens, and friends. Recommended to all historical fiction lovers!

Sita's Ramayana Samhita Arni, illustrated by Moyna Chitrakar

A scroll painting as graphic novel telling the Ramayana from Sita's point of view. Oh yes.

Pink Me says:

The book's layout merits particular mention: translating the scroll transitions to pageturns has been done very skillfully. Large panels on pages with abundant white space are interspersed with busier, more action-packed pages. Panels with diagonal edges indicate movement, while round dialogue bubbles and rectilinear swatches of narration are used as compositional elements, sometimes captioning a panel, sometimes stitching two panels together.

It might be a tough sell to your average middle schooler, and it might not even be a choice for leisure reading at all. But even if this book were not created in a little-known traditional medium, even if its story were not one of the most prominent epics in South Asian culture, even if the authors had not made the unusual choice of presenting the Ramayana from Sita’s point of view–this book would be a must-purchase based on the strength of its dramatic story and arresting art, enhanced by superior design and high-quality production.

Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China Paul French

An unsolved murder mystery in China is usually enough to get me, but add in the fact that this is nonfiction? Yeah, I already have it on hold.

The China Beat says:

French reconstructs these events with sympathy and style as he elegantly recreates the world of Old Peking and explains the significance of Pamela’s death for the community around her. And while her murder may officially remain unsolved, Midnight in Peking more than satisfies French’s desire that “some sort of justice, however belated, be awarded her” (p. 251).

A Temptation of Angels Michelle Zink

So, with most of these reviews, it's not really the review that's getting me, it's the book. They're putting books on my radar that I'd likely pick up if I had run across them in the stacks or at the store, but... this one? A paranormal romance with angels? *yawn* This is one where it really is the review that's making me take a closer look.

Bookalicious says:

There are plenty of details left around the book like a trail of breadcrumbs leading you to the stunning conclusion. I loved the lore involved with the main plot and it was plain to see that Zink spent time researching and building wicked webs of friendship and deception. The side characters were fleshed out and not used to advance the plot. Holy Action, Batman! There was tons of kick ass moments where Helen and the brothers truly got to shine.

A Temptation of Angels is breathtakingly written. The boys are hot, the friends are great characters and out protagonist is torn between light and dark. Her inner struggle, her feminism, and her bad-assery make Helen one of my favorite characters this year.

If you enjoy fantasy, or have read a bunch of angel books that have sworn you off the genre- give A Temptation of Angels a go.

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Thursday, April 05, 2012



Mockingjay Suzanne Collins

Ach. I've been sitting on this review for almost 2 years, because at first I wanted to let it sink in. Then, I wanted to calm down a bit.

You guys, it's been almost 2 years. I haven't calmed down. I've just gotten more and more angry.

First off, the good stuff:

I read this in a sitting. I started reading and stayed reading until it was done. It's a gripping story.

I loved the further look into the dark side of the Capitol, the lengths they were willing to go to to keep down the population, the revelations about what really happens if you survive the Hunger Games.

I loved the fact that District 13 was no picnic either-- there are different types of bad. I liked how Katniss struggled with this.

Now the stuff that annoyed me:

Gale vs. Peeta. I feel like the "love triangle" took to much precedence in this book in way it hadn't in the first two. It was there, but seriously guys, THIS IS WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO DITHER ON ABOUT? Also, for it to be an actual love triangle, Katniss should have been a little more involved. I always thought she loved for both guys, but I never once believed that she loved either of them.

Katniss lost a lot of her agency. Every so often she stood up for or did what she thought was right, but in the end, she was a pawn of the revolution the same way the Capitol tried (and failed) to use her. While I understand that surviving two Hunger Games will break a person, she spent a lot of time staring at the wall and doing whatever everyone else told her to do. She stopped kicking ass. This may be realistic, but it made me sad.

Katniss pretty much loses contact with her mom at the end. For a book that was started when she tried to stand up for her family, this was something I didn't understand.

Now the stuff the MADE ME WANT TO SMASH:

The final battle. Now, the fact that figure head would be knocked out pretty early on and miss it? That I liked because it made it a bit more "real." The fact that, as a reader, the major climax we've waited three books for was summed up for after the fact? That's a craft flaw. And, I CANNOT BELIEVE I'M GOING TO SAY THIS, that's where Twilight is better. Because Meyer realized that she needed Bella to be out of commission for part of Breaking Dawn, so all of a sudden there were multiple narrators. And you know what? It worked. But instead, Katniss misses the battle and the reader does to. JENNIE SMASH.

And then... the epilogue. Now, I was Team Gale because the fact that Peeta was willing to die to protect a girl he "loved" but didn't really know always made me want to puke. Gale was her friend. In Catching Fire I got the Peeta/Katniss thing more, because Peeta was one of the only people in the world who could understand what Katniss was dealing with but still... I was team Gale.

I'm not (overly) upset that Katniss chose Peeta. There was nothing overly objectionable about him. He's Bingley to Gale's Darcy. Darcy's the better choice, but Bingley is lovely and easier to handle. BUT! Then, in the epilogue, we get this sentence: It took five, ten, fifteen years for me to agree. But Peeta wanted them so badly. WOW PEETA! Way to beg your way into making Katniss have kids! Way to totally respect her wishes! And because she had kids because Peeta begged for 15 years (not because she wanted them, but because he wanted them "so badly.") I lost all respect for Peeta. Every move in the entire series became suspect. And Peeta went from being Bingley to being an emotionally manipulative asshat who played Katniss and used her the same way the Capitol tried to, the same was the rebellion did. And that's how the book and series ended. With me realizing that Peeta isn't a nice guy and that Katniss is a much weaker character than she seems.

Puke puke puke.

But, to end on a happy note, The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond is a really, really, really good album.

Book provided by... my wallet

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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Grave Mercy

Grave Mercy Robin LaFevers

Ismae has a horrible scar down her back from the poison her mother drank to end the pregnancy. The fact that Ismae survived marks her as the daughter of St. Mortain. The daughter of death. It means she's feared and ridiculed in her small Breton village.

But then she's rescued and taken to a convent where she's taught to serve St. Mortain and to be his instrument. It is in this role that she finds herself thrust into court life of Brittany. The French wish to consume the duchy. The duke is dead and the duchess is 12*, and cannot be crowned, according to the French. Her hand had been promised to many men and threats are all around, including in the middle of her Privy Council.

Holy court intrigue batman! Although I figured out the true bad guy before Ismae did, it was near the end, and even though I didn't know if Ismae would be able to convince everyone else that the bad guy was, well, the bad guy.

I love the way LaFevers paints the place and time (middle ages) and I love how the 9 Saints of Brittany are actually old Gods, folded into a new religion. I love how Ismae struggles with her realizations that her convent, while not bad, is also not infallible.

I loved that there was NO LOVE TRIANGLE. Or insta-love. I loved that Ismae kicked ass without seeming like an anachronism. I liked that people liked her because she kicked ass, not in spite of it.

There is a slight paranormal tinge to it (being a daughter of death comes with some privileges) but just a little. Mostly, it's just a great historical fiction/court intrigue/adventure. Pretty damn awesome. Mostly, I loved the intrigue and mystery and just really adored Ismae.

ALSO! Yes, this is the first book in a trilogy, but it could easily stand alone. Based on the paragraph teaser for the next book (due out next spring) it looks like it's more of a companion novel instead of a straight sequel, which is a trend I can get behind.

My only wish was for an author's note, explaining what part of the politics of Brittany v France was true, and what wasn't. That may be in the final version. It's not in the eGalley that I read, so I lost of a lot of time getting lost in various wikipedia articles (being a history nerd is really fun sometimes.)

*Although I pictured her as closer to 16/17. And then it's her birthday and she turns 13 and I was like "wait, what?!"

eGalley Provided by... publisher, via NewGalley promotion

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