Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Been a long time...

And a great many changes have occurred in my life since my last post (after which I succumbed to George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series and it's been all grown-up books since then).

So in my real life, I've started a second (or possibly third) attempt at college in the hopes to one day have a real person job, preferably in the book industry. I've also quit my job at the Scholastic store and started interning at Critics and Writers, a website that compiles book reviews sort of in the style of Rotten Tomatoes. If you haven't been, please go check it out! There will be an interview I conducted with Haley Tanner making an appearance there later this week!
As far as the internets go, you can now also find me on Pinterest and VYou, as well as the usual haunts: Twitter, Tumblr, Goodreads.

Hopefully I should have some new reviews up very soon!

Friday, June 17, 2011

I have to admit, I'm still confused by the title.

Airhead (Airhead, #1)Airhead (Airhead #1) by Meg Cabot
(Point, 12-14)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If there ever was a time not to judge a book by it's cover, this is it. Or by it's title.

After reading my first Cabot, Abandon, I took a gander at the other options we had in stock, which entirely consists of this series or Princess Diaries. Reading the back, I discovered Airhead to not at all be what I thought it was. Furthermore, I'd just recently watched Drop Dead Diva, the Lifetime show where an aspiring model dies and ends up in the body of an overweight lawyer.

Airhead is, basically, the opposite. Tomboy, outcast and geek, Emerson Watts is killed by a falling flatscreen television and wakes up in the body of supermodel, Nikki Howard, thanks to the technology of a BRAIN TRANSPLANT.

You know, I don't even like the synopsis on the back of this book. It makes it sound like being Nikki (haha, title of the next book) is going to make all of Em's wildest dreams come true, when actually it puts a serious crimp in her plans, like ever hanging out with her best friend ever again, let alone having him fall in love with her.

I like Em and maybe her most endearing and equally annoying quality is how prejudiced she is against all the mainstream "cool kid" stuff and how becoming Nikki makes her have to rethink some of that, but not all of it. Things like people harping on her beauty regimen gets a bit tiresome, but, despite it being fluff, Cabot has managed to pleasantly surprise me, yet again.

While I definitely enjoyed these books, some parts, while realistic, seem like a little bit of the wrong message to be sending to teenage girls. As an adult, I appreciate the realism, but I feel like teenagers should still be under the impression that boys will like them for who they are, and they shouldn't have to pretend to be helpless to get a man. Or being pretty is helpful in life, but there's a legitimacy to be a tomboy or an outcast, especially when you're sixteen, which I feel kind of gets pushed to the wayside as Em embraces her new life as Nikki. At least the bitchy high schooler gets hers in the end.

Hmm, I'm gonna have to go reread Jane Eyre after this.

Also, Em/Nikki is a total kissing slut, which, I was told by a twelve-year-old in the store, is a common theme in Meg Cabot's books. I mean, I'm all for getting kissed by boys, but really? Every time it happens, even if she doesn't like the boy she goes all woobly in the knees? Not buying it, sorry.

But overall, I enjoyed the series. It's a little far-fetched that most of the vapid celebrities in Em's new life turn out to have hearts of gold, but I'll go with it. Christopher is great in his turns as hero and super-villain. And I like that when Em does stupid things, she at least has the good sense to turn around and smack herself in the head over doing something so stupid. The conspiracy plot got a little confusing in the middle (when you find out what Nikki overheard, you're like, "Really? That's it?") but pulls itself together in the end to be pretty brutal. Things have to wrap up pretty fast, but at least we don't end up with a ten years later epilogue. Hurray!

So, all in all, it was pure fluff, but I liked it.

Being Nikki (Airhead, #2)Being Nikki (Airhead #2) by Meg Cabot
(Point, 12-14)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Runaway (Airhead, #3)Runaway (Airhead #3) by Meg Cabot
(Point, 12-14)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Friday, May 27, 2011

By the way, it does exist!


thanks to Melinda (@Marlinder) for the photo
I love Dav Pilkey for many things. Captain Underpants, the Dumb Bunnies, Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot, etc. The sheer fact that he realizes kids love dumb humor and he's going to write it in a brilliant way. What I don't love about Dav Pilkey is his insistence on promoting his next book in the series... which won't be out for ten years.

It sounds like I'm kidding, but I'm not. Literally The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby came out in 2002. For those of you counting, that's nine years ago. The average kid reading Captain Underpants is probably seven. Which means that kids who read Super Diaper Baby when it came out, came to the last page and read "Coming Soon! Super Diaper Baby 2!" are now sixteen. And probably don't care any more. Well, maybe. It is pretty awesome. But the point is, for years, working in a bookstore, I've constantly had kids coming in asking for Super Diaper Baby 2, assuming it's out because the back of the book said "soon" and that was ages ago.

Well, small children of the world, "soon" is finally here. Super Diaper Baby 2: The Invasion of the Potty Snatchers hits shelves June 28th, and to prove it, we've taken a picture of the advanced reader's copy we nabbed at the store. So yes, we have it. Yes, it's awesome. No, you can't have it until June 28th. But you WILL have it. Empty promises have finally be fulfilled!

And to Dav Pilkey, either write faster or don't make promises you don't intend to keep. PS we're still waiting on Captain Underpants 9.

I can't stand it.

It's not often that I actually give up on a book. I actually just went through and made a shelf on Goodreads of books I've given up on. It numbers 3: Angels & Demons by Dan Brown, Street Gang by Michael Davis (a huge disappointment, considering how obsessed I am with Sesame Street) and now:

Crescendo (Hush, Hush, #2)Crescendo (Hush, Hush #2) by Becca Fitzpatrick
(Simon & Schuster Children's, 14+)
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I'll start by saying the reason I gave up on Angels & Demons and Street Gang was because of the writing, which is not the case here. Angels & Demons is the worst drivel I've ever read ("Robert Langdon went here", "Robert Langdon said this", "Robert Langdon got on a plane", etc.) and Street Gang was so obsessed with the intricate details of everyone's life that was involved in the creation of Sesame Street that it was impossible to enjoy. Crescendo and I, on the other hand, had a content problem.

I read Hush, Hush about a year ago, and it was... okay. At the time, I gave it three stars, but I'm knocking it down to two now, because frankly I can hardly remember jack about that book. So it couldn't have been that good. It must've just run right in and out of my brain. So I remember wanting to read the sequel, but at this point I couldn't tell you why. But we finally got it in at work, so I decided to pick it up, regardless. I mean, I wasn't going to go back and reread Hush, Hush.

I quite literally got maybe a 100 pages into Crescendo before dropping it. I don't know what sort of hormonal imbalance Nora Grey is rocking, but it's not appealing or attractive. The book starts with her and Patch (her fallen angel boyfriend, the "Edward" of the piece, if you will) at some fireworks display or something (I'm not entirely sure, I don't think it was all that important). Nora goes off to get snacks or something and runs into her arch-nemesis Marcie, who, after Nora picks a fight with her, uncouthly reminds her that her dad is dead. Except you can tell that Marcie just lacks some social etiquette and in her mind is just speaking the truth. It's like Cordelia (from Buffy/Angel), only not funny. So Nora runs off to cry for twenty minutes.

Once she brings herself to reunite with Patch, they spend a good long time macking on each other and promising to be together always. They seal this promise with the exchange of meaningful jewelery. Then Nora busts out with the l-word, but Patch is distracted by some perceived evil off in the woods and leaves. The next day at school, Marcie reveals that Patch was outside her house during the night. Well, Nora is pissed. She demands an explanation from Patch, who basically says it's none of her business. And now she's in danger, so he won't say he loves her, or something. So she breaks up with him. Even thought she was just promising to spend eternity with him, blahblahblah.

That's it. I'm sorry, I can't take anymore. I put it down in favor of some comic book reading, fully intending to pick it up again, but I got Libba Bray's Beauty Queens last night (signed!) and frankly, I have better things to do with my time.

Hush, Hush (Hush, Hush, #1)Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
(Simon & Schuster Children's, 14+)
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

What I will say for this book though? When it first came out, it had the coolest dump I think I'd ever seen, which the falling angel all popping out and stuff. (For the non-booksellers out there, a dump is a cardboard display the publishers send with new books. You've all seen them. They're horrible to put together and often really ugly, but this one was nice.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

You know what really gets my goat?

(Subtitled "An angry letter to HarperCollins on the subject of the Chronicles of Narnia.")

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #2)The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
(HarperCollins, 8+)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once upon a time, when I was seven or so, I read the Chronicles of Narnia. I remember having to make a diorama, which was awful since my art skills were much the same as they are now, but somehow I suffered through and drew Susan and Lucy and Aslan and the big broken slab of stone. I remember writing my one-page paper on a typewriter, of all things. And I remember reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe first, because that was the first book.

I continued the series and blew through them fairly quickly. And I'll admit to you now, my favorite is The Horse and His Boy, which is unusual, I suppose. At the time, of course, I didn't understand any of the Christian allegories, having being raised completely without religion in my life at all. Which also meant, I really didn't get The Last Battle. I'm still really not sure what was going on there. But up until that point, I loved the gorgeous portal fantasy of it all, still one of my favorite genres. There's nothing like that first discovery of Lucy pushing through the coats to find a winter wonderland and a singular lamppost in the woods.

The Magician's Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia, #1)The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
(HarperCollins, 8+)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

However, this is no longer how children are introduced to Narnia and it really grinds my gears. I don't know the specifics of who made the decision, although I've heard it was Lewis' estate, but they've since been renumbered into a chronological order, so The Magician's Nephew, a prequel previously numbered book six, is now the first volume. It just doesn't make any sense, and despite HarperCollins' claims on the copyright page that this is in compliance with CS Lewis' intentions, I can't imagine he really felt that way. And I'm sorry, but if he did, he was wrong.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is fully meant to be the first book in the series. There's a magic and a wonder to discovering Narnia with the Pevensie siblings, seeing it for the first time as they do. It's clearly an introduction to the fantasy world. Reading The Magician's Nephew first would be akin to reading The Wizard of Oz second to another Oz novel or Through the Looking Glass before Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. You lose the brilliance of discovery if you've already found what they're finding in that moment they step into a new world. Reading Narnia out of order takes it one step further, however, since a lot of questions raised by The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are later answered in The Magician's Nephew since the title character, Digory Kirke, turns out to be the mysterious professor the Pevensie children are sent to live with, and the origin of the wardrobe is explained.

As a bookseller, it really pisses me off the most. I feel like hordes of children are reading these books in the wrong order and it just means that they're missing out. So whenever I sell these books, I make sure they know which order to read them in. I had a little girl come up to me the other day and try to buy The Magician's Nephew, and I stopped and asked her if she'd read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe yet and had to send her home with that one first and a hand-written list of the original order. HarperCollins, why do you cause me so many problems?

Some interesting further reading on the subject: What Would Lewis Do? Have they really based this entire renumbering based on some pandering letter he wrote to an eleven-year-old?

And for the record, it goes:

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Prince Caspian (Chronicles of Narnia, #4)Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
(HarperCollins, 8+)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia, #5)The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
(HarperCollins, 8+)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Silver Chair (Chronicles of Narnia, #6)The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
(HarperCollins, 8+)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Horse and His Boy (Chronicles of Narnia, #3)The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
(HarperCollins, 8+)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Magician's Nephew

The Last Battle (Chronicles of Narnia, #7)The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
(HarperCollins, 8+)
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011: New Releases

I haven't posted in a minute, shame on me. So to get back into the groove I bring you this week's new releases, a couple of which I am very excited for (a new Gail Carson Levine is always something to sing about). As always, all summaries come from the back of the book, and I take no credit for them.

What Happened to GoodbyeWhat Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
(Viking Children's, 12+)

Since her parents' bitter divorce, Mclean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move - four towns in two years. Estranged from her mother and her mother's new family, Mclean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, Mclean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself - whoever that is. Perhaps her neighbor Dave, an academic superstar trying to be just a regular guy, can help her find out.

Ruby RedRuby Red by Kerstin Gier
(Henry Holt and Co., 12+)

Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era! Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon, the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette (The Penderwicks, #3)The Penderwicks at Point Mouette (Penderwicks #3) by Jeanne Birdsall
(Knopf Books for Young Readers, 8-12)

When summer comes around, it's off to the beach for Rosalind . . . and off to Maine with Aunt Claire for the rest of the Penderwick girls, as well as their old friend, Jeffrey.

That leaves Skye as OAP (oldest available Penderwick)—a terrifying notion for all, but for Skye especially. Things look good as they settle into their cozy cottage, with a rocky shore, enthusiastic seagulls, a just-right corner store, and a charming next-door neighbor.  But can Skye hold it together long enough to figure out Rosalind's directions about not letting Batty explode?  Will Jane's Love Survey come to a tragic conclusion after she meets the alluring Dominic? Is Batty—contrary to all accepted wisdom—the only Penderwick capable of carrying a tune?  And will Jeffrey be able to keep peace between the girls . . . these girls who are his second, and most heartfelt, family?

It's a rollicking ride as the Penderwicks continue their unforgettable adventures in a story filled with laughs and joyful tears!

A Tale of Two CastlesA Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine
(HarperCollins, 8-12)

Newly arrived in the town of Two Castles, Elodie unexpectedly becomes the assistant to a brilliant dragon named Meenore, and together they solve mysteries. Their most important case concerns the town’s shape-shifting ogre, Count Jonty Um: Someone is plotting against him. Elodie must disguise herself to discover the source of the threat amid a cast of characters that includes a greedy king, a giddy princess, and a handsome cat trainer.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Storytime 4/12/11.

Slightly belated, but here it is. Thankfully a fair amount of the three and four set showed up, so it wasn't all babies. Hurray!

The GruffaloThe Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler (illustrator)
(Puffin, 4+)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How had I missed The Gruffalo? I think maybe it was just one of those things that got a little over-hyped for me, but we'd just got it back in stock at work, so I picked it up for storytime. And it's brilliant.

A little mouse walking through the woods keeps running into different predators (fox, owl, snake) all of whom he scares away with threats of the fictional Gruffalo (whose favorite food is the animal in question). It's an unpleasant surprise when he runs into the Gruffalo who turns out to be real and exactly as he described, except his favorite food is mouse. However, the little mouse handles himself with aplomb, convincing the Gruffalo that he's the baddest cat in the woods by having him follow along to see the predators run away from him. And of course, the mouse's favorite food is Gruffalo.

Smart and funny, it's a brilliant read aloud because the rhyme scheme is so good and natural. It has a nice repetition without getting boring and there's still some room for interaction with the kids over it. I can't recommend it highly enough for storytime.

Break for ABC's. And kids actually sang along. Huzzah!

I Am Invited to a Party! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)I Am Invited to a Party! by Mo Willems
(Hyperion Book CH, 4-8)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I honestly think this is my favorite Elephant & Piggie book (which is saying a lot). It's certainly the one I recommend the most, although that's partially cause it's the one we always have in stock.

Piggie gets invited to a party and she's never been to one before. Thankfully, Gerald knows parties. But what if it's a costume party? Or a pool party? Or a fancy pool costume party? THEY MUST BE READY!

Cute, fun and witty. Also, Elephant & Piggie books are my favorite recommendation for early readers. The text is simple and often repetitive, but the plot will still keep them engaged. I mean, it keeps me engaged.

Slipped some Itsy Bitsy Spider in here. One boy was particularly excited about it.

Llama Llama Mad at MamaLlama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney
(Viking Juvenile, 3+)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

SO cute. Mama drags Llama Llama to run errands at the Shop-O-Rama, when all he really wants to do is play. As we can imagine, this does not make Llama Llama a happy camper. But my favorite thing about this book (aside from the amazing rhyming scheme) is how Mama Llama handles his inevitable tantrum. Llama Llama throws a fit (and a good portion of the shopping cart) but Mama just coolly calms him down by saying how she doesn't like shopping either but she's just happy to spend time with him. How ridiculously sweet is that? And b) can all parents learn to function this way? I have worked in retail for much too long and have seen far too many parents throwing a bigger fit than their children or treating them abominably. Mama Llama wins at life.

I also like it better than Llama Llama Red Pajama, which mostly just sees Baby Llama being whiny and Mama being busy. The shopping experience was just a little more relatable as to why he was so unhappy. This book also gets props for being my favorite counter-recommendation to the creepiness that is Mad at Mommy.

Also really cute? The teenaged girl who was forcing her mom to sit through her reading it today. The mom then tells me her daughters are fifteen and sixteen and love to buy picture books. Clearly girls after my own heart.

And in the in between we did the Hokey Pokey. The best part? The four Asian moms who would chime in "Hokey Pokey!" in between the verses.

OtisOtis by Loren Long
(Philomel, 3-5)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh, I want to love Otis. The illustrations are the most super gorgeous and Otis and his little calf are too cute, but it's just kind of boring. That might be a little harsher than I mean, but there's too much text for not enough plot. And frankly, that "puff puff puttedy-chuff" business was just hard to read. It might work better in a single child bedtime story situation, but unfortunately for storytime, it just fell a bit flat. It does nicely fall in the vein of Mike Mulligan & His Steam Shovel, but it's trying a little too hard. A little bit.

Definitely this would rank as one of my favorite storytimes. Otis is going to lose out in the future, but the other three I would pick up again anytime.