Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Much Ado About Magic

Much Ado About Magic Shanna Swendson

Hi All. This is the fifth book in the Katie Chandler series, so there are some spoilers for the other books. 'Tis the nature of the beast.

The first four books in this series were published by Random House. Swendson wrote the 5th book for her Japanese publisher, but it never came out here in the States until she decided to just go ahead and self-publish it. (And I am SO GLAD she did!) I asked my library to buy it, and they did, and if the holds list is anything to go by, I'm not the only one who was excited to read it.

Back in New York and back with Owen, Katie's also back on the job, this time as the Head of Marketing at MSI. But, the bad guys have turned up the juice not only with their marketing (and actual stores!) but they have a more sinister plot in mind. They're creating mischief and bad spells and also selling amulets to "protect" magical beings from them. The MSI crew is up against a lot, and no matter what they do, they're playing right into the hands of a plot that's been brewing for a long, long time and will end with Owen in jail.

Another great addition to the series. I really like how we see more of the Spellworks plot and how much higher it goes, and why it's happening at all. There are a lot more magical world politics, which is something I always enjoy. Owen's always been this super-powerful orphan mystery, and his backstory gets fully explained, which is nice. I also like the other side of Gloria that we finally get to see. AND! I almost forgot, now that Katie's the Head of Marketing, she gets her own assistant. I love Perdita. She's not a great assistant, but still useful. PLUS, she knows what magic can really do-- she's been working on perfecting all of Starbucks's seasonal beverages so she can have one (or zap one for Katie) anytime of year. Now there's a power I can get behind!

Book Provided by... my local library

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

So, I finally read this. FINALLY.

Good lord people. I know you said it was good, but HOLY MOLY it's amazing. I was worried because I knew some stuff going into it. Like, I didn't know any plot twists, but I knew that there were a lot of them. I knew the narrator wasn't totally reliable. I was worried that knowing this would somehow lessen the impact when I came across them in the narrative.


Queenie is a British spy, caught behind enemy lines after her plane crashes into German-occupied France. She's in prison, regularly interrogated by the Gestapo. She is a coward and has caved. If she tells them everything she knows, she can survive a little while longer. If she tells them everything, hopefully she will only face the firing squad instead of being sent to Ravensbruck to be worked to death. If she is lucky.

In addition to her guilt at collaborating, there is the guilt over the death of the pilot of the plane and Queenie's best friend. Her confession tells their story of friendship and loyalty and ultimate disaster over French skies.

The fact that Queenie is not entirely reliable should be fairly obvious-- the text of the book is her written confession (and Gestapo notes). She includes things meant to poke fun at her interrogators and get them into trouble.

It is a very hard book to talk about without just spilling EVERYTHING about it.

It is exquisitely and precisely crafted, yes. But it is also a wonderful story of friendship and adventure. Lots of talks of planes and flying (Wein herself is a pilot and it shows). Parts of it are very, very grim. I mean, it takes place in a Gestapo prison, it's going to be very, very grim.

I love that a spy book for teens can also be this literary. I love that the historical fiction doesn't seem very olden timey, while still being accurate.

This has won a million awards so far, and it deserves them, and I think its one that teens will also enjoy.

I love, love, love this book and can't wait for Wein's next, Rose Under Fire, which is about a female pilot that does end up at Ravensbruck, and comes out in September.

ARC Provided by... the publisher, at ALA

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Ghost Map

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World Steven Johnson.

When I was reading this, Dan asked me what it was about. I was only a few pages into it, so my response was a pretty basic "Cholera. London." And he immediately came back with "Oh, Broad Street Pump?" Granted, he does have a graduate degree in Modern British History, but that fact that "Cholera. London." is enough for him to know which outbreak is pretty amazing. As he explained to my shocked face "It's the outbreak where they discovered what causes it."

And it was. Not that anyone believed it for awhile, but.

In the summer of 1854, a cholera outbreak hit London. While not unheard of, this was a pretty severe one, decimating a neighborhood. When a scientist and the local clergyman teamed together to investigate the outbreak, one's knowledge of science and one's knowledge of the neighborhood and patterns of daily life led them to conclude something earth-shattering-- Cholera lives in the water, and all the cases stemmed from one pump, the Broad Street Pump.

Johnson does a wonderful job of tracing many threads of this story-- the dramatic rise of London as metropolis and the changes it was undergoing at the time, the reality of the working poor, the theories of science and disease at the time, the science of cholera, and the outbreak itself. The plot most closely follows the outbreak and investigation (which started before the outbreak ended) with the other threads woven in to help paint a complete picture.

The title refers to a map that John Snow made of the outbreak, clearly showing the deaths radiating out from one point, the pump. The Map is what helped convince the establishment that Snow's theory was correct.

Fascinating and readable.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Don't Hex with Texas

Don't Hex with Texas Shanna Swendson

This is the 4th book in the Katie Chandler series, so there will be spoilers for the earlier books.

At the end of Damsel Under Stress, Owen had a choice between saving the world and saving Katie. He chose Katie.

Katie needs to keep Owen out of danger, to keep him from having to make the same decision again, so she’s left New York and moved back home to Texas. Life is pretty boring as she works in her family’s farm supply store. No magic wars, just wars with her brothers and sisters-in law. But then her mother starts seeing weird things and Katie sees all the markers of magic brewing.

Turns out, Irdis is now recruiting people online and teaching them magic, including someone in Katie’s own backyard, and Owen’s on the case.

LOVED this one. The change of scenery works really well, and I love how much more we learn about magic and immunity and how it all works. Most of the important characters are still here, but we get some great new ones (especially Granny. I LOVE Granny.) I also really enjoyed seeing Katie on her home turf and how she reacts when her New York life and Texas life collide in a major way.

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, May 13, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Charles Dickens and the Street Children of London

As many of you know, last year I was lucky to serve on YALSA's Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults. (Sometimes ENYA for short). ENYA is a fun award, because in December they announce their shortlist and then the winner is announced as part of the Youth Media Award announcements in January. In addition, they release a long-list of nominations. In the past, this list was every book the nominated. This year, the list became vetted-- so it's not every book we looked at or nominated, but rather, after discussion, every book we felt was excellent (just not as excellent as our winner and shortlisted titles.)

Personally, I really like this change. The best way to get the committee to discuss a book was to nominate it-- but what if, after discussion, you realize that a book is seriously flawed? Then it still goes on the list! (And there is an ALA seal that long-list titles can use.) I know I was hesitant to nominate a title because I was afraid of accidentally putting an unworthy title on the list. The freedom in knowing that it could get taken off the list if it didn't hold up to group scrutiny was useful cover!

Anyway, I've been covering the long list since the list was made public this winter. This is the final title from the list...

Charles Dickens and the Street Children of London Andrea Warren

This biography of Dickens ties his life story in with the plots of his books, showing how his real-life experiences inspired his work. It especially focuses on his work with England's poor and disenfranchised, showing how he used his wealth and fame to help and draw attention to the major social issues of the day.

I think this book stands apart for a few reasons. For one, it's one of the best that I've read in fully describing what life was like for the poor of Victorian London. It does an excellent job of explaining what life was like in debtor's prison and the workhouses and why these institutions were to be avoided at all costs. One of the other reasons is that it does an excellent job of showing what a major celebrity Dickens was in his time and why his work was so important. It hink it also makes a good case for why Dickens is, and should be, read today and studied in school.

It's also heavily illustrated, using artwork from the time period to help convey the life of Dickens and the poor. Surprisingly, many of the pictures are colored-- a nice touch.

Overall a great book that will appeal to the Dickens fan sure, but will also turn many other readers into fans of Dickens.

Be sure to check out today's Nonfiction Monday roundup, over at Instantly Interruptible.

Also, as a reminder, please check out my other project, YA Reading List, where I post a themed and topical reading list every.single.day.

Book Provided by... the publisher, for award 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.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Etiquette and Espionage

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger.

In her mother's eyes, Sophronia is a failure. She's way too interested in mechanics, spying, and climbing and things just happen around her that tend to end with flying desserts landing on honored house guests. She's particularly dismayed when she discovers that a rather meddlesome honored houseguest has recommended her to attend Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Mademoiselle Geraldine's is not what one would expect-- first of all, it's a flying school, so it's harder to find. Second of all dance lessons also include lessons on how to pass messages back and forth without being noticed. Then there are the classes in fighting. And poisons. In the middle of this educational intrigue, there is real intrigue-- flying highway men are attacking the school, after something the school has, and hidden. What is it? And where? Secret late-night trips to the boiler room, mechanical dogs and more...

This is the first book in Carriger's new YA series, set in the same world as Parasol Protectorate. It's set several years earlier, but there is a bit of character overlap-- most noticeably one of Sophronia's classmates is Sidhaeg and the little boy running around helping Sophronia--you'll recognize that one, too.

This is a fun series, with fewer vampires and werewolves and more steampunk technology than Parasol Protectorate. There is no romance in this one, which on one hand-- YAY! A YA book with girls and no romance! On the other hand, BOO! Carriger writes romance so well!

I missed the paranormal politics of the first series, but enjoyed the quick adventure of this one and want to delve more into this part of this world and see how it develops.

Book Provided by... my wallet

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.