Friday, January 28, 2011


Hand, Elizabeth. Illyria. New York: Viking, 2010. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

Shirley Jackson Award Finalist (Novella, 2007)
World Fantasy Award (Novella, 2008)

No one had ever heard of DNA back then, not in my family anyway, and our grasp of genetics was practically nonexistent. But, because our fathers were identical twins, their children had all been told -- warned -- that we were closer than the other cousins.
"More like stepchildren," said Aunt Dita.
"Half-brothers and -sisters," my mother corrected her.
"Kissing cousins," said Aunt Roz. That would be the cue for everyone to cast a cold eye upon Rogan and me.
p. 8-9

Illyria feels like it's set in some make-believe world where eccentric aunts never age, miniature theatres come to life, every house has a ghost light, and where Maddy's childhood crush on her cousin Rogan can turn into a not-so-secret love affair. But it's not. Maddy and Rogan's story takes place in a cul-de-sac in a town outside New York City populated by the descendants of a once well-known actress. But that doesn't keep any of the above from being true. Hand just makes it all seem surreal.

In this not quite a fantasy world, the ick factor of Maddy and Rogan's relationship is missing. There is disapproval from the family and their classmates make fun of them, but their romance is just another (doomed) romance. And it is doomed, right from the beginning, and not just because they're cousins. There is something off about Rogan, something that sets him apart from everyone else, and it's what attracts Maddy to him. It haunts the entire story in the beautiful way that it haunts Maddy. It stays with you.

I know I'm not doing this book justice, but that's hard to do with my overwhelming book crush! Seriously, everything about this book is lyrical, magical, gorgeous. But just in case you're interested, here are a few more reviews from:

Liz @ A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Jenny @ Forever Young Adult
Tasha @ Kids Lit (Menasha Public Library)

Book source: Philly Free Library

Links to may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program. If you buy something through this link, I may receive a referral fee.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

ALA Youth Media Awards

Starting with my review of Hereville yesterday, I'm going to try to read and review all of the Youth Media Award winners and honor books that I can get my hands on. I have enough titles currently in my apartment to last me another couple of weeks including the informational book award winner, Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing, and the I-know-it's-awesome-already Will Grayson Will Grayson.

I also have a fair amount on hold at the library, but those might not get read and reviewed for quite a while as everyone seems to be in line for the same winners.

And, of course, I've already reviewed the Schneider Family Book Award winner, Five Flavors of Dumb.

Congratulations to all the winner and honor books!

Links to may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program. If you buy something through this link, I may receive a referral fee.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hereville - for Tween Tuesday

Tween Tuesday was started over at Green Bean Teen Queen as away to highlight awesome books for the 9-12 yr olds or Tweens. This week's book is:

Deutsch, Barry. Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword. New York: Amulet Books, 2010. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

Sydney Taylor Book Award for Older Readers (2011)

Mirka is what some may call a willful child. She skips classes, doesn't care about her reputation, and is quickly learning her step-mother's art of turning any argument in her favor, regardless of logic. She also wants to be a dragon-slaying hero. With a new witch living in the woods surrounding Hereville, it looks like her dreams may come true.

I'm not a big graphic novel reader; I can usually live with or without them. When you spend a whole book just reading the text and having to remind yourself to pay attention to the pictures, it takes some of the fun out of the experience. That was not the case here. Deutsch's illustrations and text compliment each other beautifully, speeding things up in suspenseful moments and slowing things down when Mirka is doing the same. Part of this may be due to the subdued colors (most of the book is in shades of tan, with nighttime scenes in blues and purples) which allow the text and images to blend well together. But I think the real reason I was able to get into this in a way that rarely happens for me with graphic novels is that it's based on a comic, and you can tell. Deutsch makes the text part of the picture (check out page 8 in this preview of the book). It's not all POWs like in a superhero comic, but it's all still integrated, making it very easy to read.

Mirka lives with her father, step-mother, brother and 7(!) sisters in Hereville, an insular Orthodox Jewish community. Throughout the book there are some things about Orthodox life that are explained to the reader, such as the importance of the Shabbos and the differences between rebel, pious, and popular Orthodox girls. Yiddish words used in the text are also defined in footnotes on each applicable page. Still, for the most part, Deutsch forgoes the explanations of or about the Orthodox faith or lifestyle and instead shows them in action through Mirka. For example, she never hits the older boys who are bullying her brother with her hands, but with sticks and rocks (it's warranted and not violent). Later one warns her that the rules forbidding unmarried people of the opposite sex to touch each other will not save her from retribution (p68).

But rather than being a book all about an Orthodox Jewish girl, Hereville is primarily a book about a young girl who wants to slay dragons and meets a witch. Mirka's encounters with the witch (and her pig and the troll) are satisfyingly creepy without being too scary, and Mirka's over the top bravery and rash judgement fail her a couple of times. She has fights with her siblings, she sticks up for her little brother, she bonds with her step-mother. Mirka is just a normal girl with some adventurous dreams and aspirations.

Just for extra fun, here is my favorite page as shown in the original web comic. It perfectly showcases the art of the argument that Mirka is soaking up from her step-mother. :)

Book source: This was a wonderful Christmas present!

Links to may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program. If you buy something through this link, I may receive a referral fee.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Princess of Las Pulgas

McKenzie, C. Lee. The Princess of Las Pulgas. Lodi, NJ: Westside Books, 2010. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

After the death of her father, Carlie's mom has to sell the beach-front home that Carlie and her brother grew up in and move the family to low-income Las Pulgas, literally The Fleas. Carlie is unwilling to fit in with the kids at her new high school, embarrassed to let her old friends see her new reduced circumstances, and unable to hold a real conversation with her mom or her brother. Even her cat runs away leaving Carlie completely alone. The only thing she has left are the memories of her father's advice in her head.

Poor Carlie. After watching her father slowly die of cancer, a move across town might seem trivial; upsetting, but trivial. Fights with her mom, not getting asked out, rude neighbors, or a "pushy" English teacher (in the Tina Fey Mean Girls way) might also seem trivial. But all together? Carlie is helplessly watching her life fall apart around her.

Carlie's main problem with her new life in Las Pulgas is all the "poor people," as she sees them. Almost everything she dislikes about the people around her can be attributed to, in Carlie's mind, the fact that they are poor, or at least more poor and classless than the people she new in Channing. Even though Carlie and her family are in Las Pulgas because of financial problems, she doesn't see anything that she could have in common with her new neighbors and classmates. She puts on a tough front, but it's pretty obvious (to everyone) that she's just scared. McKenzie portrayed this beautifully. Even though we see the whole thing from Carlie's point of view, we can see (though Carlie cannot) that the people she interacts with in Las Pulgas can see that she's just trying to make it through without ever trying to fit in. She holds herself apart both because she feels she's better than those around her and also because the kids at her high school terrify her, something they pick up on all too easily. Eventually she makes a couple friends, but there is no Big Lesson about class consciousness. ::sigh of relief::

And through all of this growing and learning on Carlie's part, there are play rehearsals. The junior class is putting on Othello, and Carlie has been cast, against her will, as Desdemona. Opposite smokin' hot Juan. And Juan, very sweetly, refuses to take Carlie's crap. He calls her out on her assumptions about her classmates and about him. He drives her nuts (in good and bad ways), but he also protects her from some of her other, scarier, problems at Las Pulgas High.

For a while, this pile-up of problems distracts Carlie from the pain of losing her father. It's not as though she forgets about him or even stops being sad. She's just dealing with all of this other things first. But her father's advice keeps sounding in her head telling her to be strong, something she doesn't know if she can do anymore. When she finally faces her feelings about her father (with the help the scene in which Desdemona must say goodbye to her father), it is so real. Spoiler: And I love that she is mad at him for dying at the same time that she feels guilty for wanting him to die in order to end his pain. Anger towards a deceased love one, simply because they're gone, is something that is not shown all that often, though it is somewhat normal. Carlie doesn't rage against God, she rages against her father in the course of her grief.

The Princess of Las Pulgas is an honest look at how Carlie deals with huge upheavals in her life, both a huge change of lifestyle and the death of her father. It still manages to be a suspenseful, romantic, and uplifting read.

The Princess of Las Pulgas is available for purchase now!

Book source: ARC provided by the publisher.

Links to may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program. If you buy something through this link, I may receive a referral fee.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Girl Who Could Fly for Tween Tuesday

Tween Tuesday was started over at Green Bean Teen Queen as away to highlight awesome books for the 9-12 yr olds or Tweens. This week's book is:

Forester, Victoria. The Girl Who Could Fly. New York: Square Fish - Feiwel and Friends, 2010. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

"I'm a flier," she whispered and felt a strong sense of relief and pride. It felt so natural to be in a sky full of clouds and have birds flying past. Like a homecoming. She also noticed that flying up high made all of the things she left behind on the ground seem not as important. They were so small, after all, and the sky was so big.
p. 24
But things on the ground have a way of catching up with Piper McCloud. Eventually her special talents land Piper a spot in the prestigious, yet unheard of, I.N.S.A.N.E.. And even though Piper is exceptional and anything but normal, she goes to the Institute of Normalcy, Stability, And NonExceptionality in the hope that she'll finally have a place where she can be a flier and still fit in.

If you can't tell from the above quote, The Girl Who Could Fly is a beautifully written book about an introspective girl. Except that this introspective girl also has a bit of a temper, an inability to lie convincingly, and the bad habit of sticking up for what is right even when it has the potential to ruin her. I loved reading this book. Piper's adventures at I.N.S.A.N.E. were both the normal kinds of things a young girl who has never been allowed to attend school might have (if you've never seen a bully, how do you react to a mega-bully in a mixed-age classroom?) and the kinds of things that you'd expect to happen at a school for kids with superhero abilities.

Before things go south at I.N.S.A.N.E., Piper is the poster child for doing what she's told and standing up to bullies, or kids who like to electrocute littler kids, just as an example. Having grown up on a farm with only her parents for company, Piper is in many ways older than her 10 years. This might be a problem for some readers, especially when Piper waxes poetic about how they should all have goals in life and take the hard road as long as it's the right one. But Piper is just so genuine that I couldn't manage to be bothered by it. Her conviction (some might call it stubbornness at times) comes through the page, and it's easy to see how the other kids can go along with her, even when they think she's a little odd.

Unlike similar books, TGWCF has some more fantasy to it. Each of the kids at I.N.S.A.N.E. has some kind of special ability, each of which is important to the story and important to their plans. Other than their abilities (and little bits of backstory), many of the other kids are pretty one-dimensional. Still, Piper manages to make friends, and those friends are fully realized characters. This book definitely has a lot of precocious kid elements to it, especially when the kids all start working together. I think it will be a good fit for fans of the Lemony Snicket books or The Kneebone Boy.

Book source: I bought it.

Links to may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program. If you buy something through this link, I may receive a referral fee.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Prepare to be Shocked 2011

I partially participated in this challenge last year, and I think that the thought of admitting to every single book I purchased really did slow down by book buying sprees. This year I'm going to try to be brave and admit to how much money I'm spending on books as well. Thank goodness the girlfriend rarely reads my blog...

Again, for my own piece of mind, I'm keeping track of how many of the books I buy I actually manage to read within the year. The green (linked) titles have been read and reviewed here. The purple titles have been read but will not be reviewed.
  1. The Rapture of Canaan by Shery Reynolds - $3.99
  2. Consequences by Penelope Lively - $3.99
  3. Mrs. Astor Regrets by Meryl Gordon - $3.99
  4. American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee by Karen Abbott - $16.99
  5. The Collected Stories of Benedict Kiely by Benedict Kiely - $12.99
  6. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith - $5 (1st edition!!!)
  7. By These Ten Bones by Clare B. Dunkle - $5.39
  8. Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper - $8.06
  9. So Shelly by Ty Roth - $13.13
  10. Arcadia Falls: A Novel by Carol Goodman - $12.00
  11. Watermark: A Novel of the Middle Ages by Vanitha Sankaran - $12.00
  12. What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James & Jack the Ripper by Paula Marantz Cohen - $8.99
  13. A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse and translated by Alison Anderson - $9.00
  14. Snakewoman of Little Egypt: A Novel by Robert Hellenga - $15.00
  15. 13 Rue Therese: A Novel by Elena Mauli Shapiro - $14.39
  16. Other Girls: A Novel by Diane Ayres - $10.50
  17. The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney - $7.96
  18. Plain Kate by Erin Bow - $12.59
  19. The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher - $11.89
  20. Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton - $11.89
  21. Reckless by Cornelia Funke - $13.99
  22. Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld - $13.29
  23. An Apple Harvest: Recipes and Orchard Lore by Frank Browning & Sharon Silva - $11.89
  24. Stocking Up: The Third Edition of the Classic Preserving Guide by Carol Hupping and the Staff of the Rodale Food Center - $15.40
  25. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen - $1.80
  26. Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans - $10
  27. Dark Water by Laura McNeal - $10
  28. 32 Candles: A Novel by Ernessa T. Carter - $10
  29. Pegasus by Robin McKinley - $10
  30. Ice Princess: A Novel by Camilla Lackberg - $10
  31. Beyond the Pale by Elana Dykewoman - $4
  32. The Girl Who Cicumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente - $15.29
  33. Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin - $8.09
  34. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray $17.09
  35. Hero: A Novel by Perry Moore $8.09
  36. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green $8.09
  37. Extras by Scott Westerfeld $6.99
  38. Huntress by Malinda Lo $12.59
  39. The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts $5.99
  40. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs $16.91
  41. When the Stars Go Blue: A Novel by Caridad Ferrer $7.49
  42. Dangerous Angels: The Weetzie Bat Books (!) by Francesca Lia Block $7.49
  43. Siren by Tricia Rayburn $6.74
  44. For the Relief of Unbearable Urges: Stories by Nathan Englander $10.50
  45. Dismantled: A Novel by Jennifer McMahon $10.49
  46. Don't Breathe a Word: A Novel by Jennifer McMahon $11.24
  47. Five Quarters of the Orange: A Novel by Joanne Harris $10.49
  48. The Borrower: A Novel by Rebecca Makkai $18.17
  49. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin $6.74
  50. The Glass Room: A Novel by Simon Mawer $10.46
  51. Anthropology of an American Girl: A Novel by Hilary Thayer Hamann $11.20
  52. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters $11.20
  53. Brave New Knits by Julie Turjoman $17.24
  54. Girl in Motion by Miriam Wenger-Landis $8.57
  55. Bunheads by Sophie Flack $10.21
  56. Beautiful Days by Anna Godbersen $10.21
  57. Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe $11.14
  58. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, inspired by Siobhan Dowd $15.29
  59. The Enchanted Castle and Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit $8.95
  60. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux $6.95
  61. A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin $5.79
  62. Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl $12.99 
  63. You Are My Only by Beth Kephart $16.99

63 books
$665.78 - oops

    100+ Book Challenge

    This is another challenge that I think I'll probably be able to long as I keep track of the books I don't manage to review.

    1. Rebels of Ireland by Edward Rutherfurd
    2. The Lady's Slipper by Deborah Swift
    3. Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus
    4. Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing by Ann Angel
    5. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
    6. Hush by Eishes Chayil
    7. Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
    8. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
    9. Nothing by Janne Teller
    10. Between Shades of Gray by Ruth Sepetys
    11. I Am J by Cris Beam
    12. The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson
    13. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
    14. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi  
    15. Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd
    16. Ireland by Frank Delaney
    17. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S.King
    18. "Scribbling Women": True Tales from Astonishing Lives by Marthe Jocelyn
    19. Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson
    20. The Lost Saint by Bree Despain
    21. Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
    22. Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson
    23. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
    24. Open Wounds by Joe Lunievicz 
    25. The Boy from Ilysies by Pearl North
    26. Under the Green Hill  by Laura Sullivan
    27. Spinning Out by Dave Stahler, Jr. 
    28. Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie by Maggie Stiefvater
    29. The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
    30. Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses by Richard Arum (depressing)
    31. The Twisted Thread by Charlotte Bacon
    32. Deathless by Catherynne Valente
    33. Madapple by Christina Meldrum
    34. Dead Rules by Randy Russell
    35. Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray 
    36. Chime by Franny Billingsley 
    37. Threads and Flames by Esther Friesner 
    38. The Things We Cherished by Pam Jenoff
    39. Making Girls into Women: American Women's Writing and the Rise of Lesbian Identity by Kathryn R. Kent
    40. The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time by David L. Ulin 
    41. Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher 
    42. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
    43. The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry edited by Francisco Aragon
    44. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
    45. Rotters by Daniel Kraus
    46. Dark Parties by Sara Grant
    47. Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore 
    48. Who Will Run the Frog Hospital by Lorrie Moore
    49. Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen
    50. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
    51. Brigid of Kildare by Heather Terrell
    52. All Good Children by Catherine Austen
    53. Foundling by D.M. Cornish
    54. Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact by A.J. Hartley
    55. Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
    56. South of Broad by Pat Conroy
    57. Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

    Local Library Challenge 2011

    I'm so glad someone has stepped up to host this challenge, as it is one that I (usually) manage to finish with flying colors! This year I'm, again, aiming for 50 books - Jumbo Size. :)

    1.  Illyria by Elizabeth Hand
    2. Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
    3. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
    4. Nothing by Janne Teller
    5. The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson
    6. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
    7. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi  
    8. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S.King 
    9. Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson (hilariously wonderful autobiography)
    10. The Lost Saint by Bree Despain
    11. Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
    12. The Boy from Ilysies by Pearl North 
    13. Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie by Maggie Stiefvater 
    14. Deathless by Catherynne Valente
    15. Madapple by Christina Meldrum
    16. Chime by Franny Billingsley 
    17. Threads and Flames by Esther Friesner
    18. Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher 
    19. Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore 

    Happy New Year

    I know I'm a little late, but I have a good reason! Upon returning to work after Christmas break, I was pulled into the boss's office and given a (possibly temporary, but still awesome) promotion! I'm now working full-time, which is a huge relief and will keep me from needing a second part-time gig. But I'm also dealing with a kind of steep learning curve in a few areas, in addition to plain not knowing where things are or what I'm supposed to be doing. It's been an exciting but kind of stressful first week back.

    Still, I'm sorry to have neglected things here (and during the comment challenge to boot!). I'll be back to regularly blogging (and hopefully commenting!) with this week's Tween Tuesday post.

    Thanks for sticking around, and I hope your year's are starting on an upswing as well!