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.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tuesday, April 5, 2011: New Releases

Big Tuesday for kids books this week. As ever, synopses come from the back of the book.

We All Fall Down: Living with AddictionWe All Fall Down: Living with Addiction by Nic Sheff
(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 15+)

In his bestselling memoir Tweak, Nic Sheff shared a heartbreakingly honest account of his days as a crystal meth addict. In this powerful and engrossing follow-up, Sheff writes candidly about stints at in-patient rehabilitation facilities, devastating relapses with alcohol and drugs, and hard-won realizations about what it means to be a young person living with addiction.

City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments, #4)City of Fallen Angels (Mortal Instruments #4) by Cassandra Clare
(Margaret K. McElderry, 14+)

Who will be tempted by darkness? Who will fall in love, and who will find their relationship torn apart? And who will betray everything they ever believed in?

Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge.

In the heart-pounding fourth installment of the Mortal Instruments series, the stakes are higher than ever.

Where She Went (If I Stay, #2)Where She Went (If I Stay #2) by Gayle Forman
(Dutton Juvenile, 14+)

It's been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future-and each other.

Told from Adam's point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

Plague (Gone, #4)Plague (Gone #4) by Michael Grant
(Katherine Tegen Books, 13+)
It's been eight months since all the adults disappeared. Gone.
They've survived hunger. They've survived lies. But the stakes keep rising, and the dystopian horror keeps building. Yet despite the simmering unrest left behind by so many battles, power struggles, and angry divides, there is a momentary calm in Perdido Beach.

But enemies in the FAYZ don't just fade away, and in the quiet, deadly things are stirring, mutating, and finding their way free. The Darkness has found its way into the mind of its Nemesis at last and is controlling it through a haze of delirium and confusion. A highly contagious, fatal illness spreads at an alarming rate. Sinister, predatory insects terrorize Perdido Beach. And Sam, Astrid, Diana, and Caine are plagued by a growing doubt that they'll escape—or even survive—life in the FAYZ. With so much turmoil surrounding them, what desperate choices will they make when it comes to saving themselves and those they love?

The Ghoul Next Door (Monster High, #2)The Ghoul Next Door (Monster High #2) by Lisi Harrison
(Poppy, 10+)

Cleopatra de Nile

- New pet snake
- Has Deuce--the hottest guy in school--all warapped up
- Herve Leger bandage dress, strappy gold platforms

Cleo was the queen bee of the RADs, the normies, and everyone in between at Merston High. But now it's "Frankie this" and "Melody that" . . . these new girls sure know how to get her lashes in a tangle. When Cleo lands a golden Teen Vogue photo op for her friends, everything seems to be back on track . . . until they bail to be in some film . . . Frankie and Melody's film! Can't a royal get some loyal?

Frankie Stein

Frankie lost her head over Brett once and vows never to do it again. Not that she has a choice: Bekka is clinging to her guy like plastic wrap. But when Brett comes up with a plan that could help the RADs live free, sparks fly, and Bekka will stop at nothing to put out the flames . . . even if it means destroying the entire monster community.

Melody Carver

The clock is tick-tick-ticking. Melody has a serious deadline to save her boyfriend, Jackson, from being exposed by the vengeance-seeking Bekka. But Cleo is making it royally difficult for the normie while threatening her acceptance into the RADs' exclusive group . . . a group that Melody suspects she has more in common with than she ever thought.

Fitting in is out.

The 39 Clues: Vespers RisingThe 39 Clues: Vespers Rising by Rick Riordan
(Scholastic Press, 9-12)

The Cahills thought they were the most powerful family the world had ever known. They thought they were the only ones who knew about Gideon Cahill and his Clues. The Cahills were wrong.

Powerful enemies — the Vespers — have been waiting in the shadows. Now it’s their time to rise and the world will never be the same. In Vespers Rising, a brand new 39 Clues novel, bestselling authors Rick Riordan, Peter Lerangis, Gordon Korman and Jude Watson take on the hidden history of the Cahills and the Vespers, and the last, terrible legacy Grace Cahill leaves for Amy and Dan.

The Emerald Atlas (Books of Beginning)The Emerald Atlas (Books of Beginning #1) by John Stephens
(Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9-12)

Kate, Michael, and Emma have been in one orphanage after another for the last ten years, passed along like lost baggage.

Yet these unwanted children are more remarkable than they could possibly imagine. Ripped from their parents as babies, they are being protected from a horrible evil of devastating power, an evil they know nothing about.

Until now.

Before long, Kate, Michael, and Emma are on a journey to dangerous and secret corners of the world...a journey of allies and enemies, of magic and mayhem.  And—if an ancient prophesy is correct—what they do can change history, and it is up to them to set things right.

The Emerald Atlas brims with humor and action as it charts Kate, Michael, and Emma's extraordinary adventures through an unforgettable, enchanted world.

The Sign of the Moon (Warriors: Omen of the Stars #4)The Sign of the Moon (Warriors: Omen of the Stars #4) by Erin Hunter
(HarperCollins, 9-12)

The end of the stars draws near.
Three must become four to battle
the darkness that lasts forever. . . .

The dark forces that have driven a rift between the four warrior Clans are growing stronger. Jayfeather, Lionblaze, and Dovepaw now know that unless they can unravel the true meaning behind the prophecy that binds them, the warrior code could be destroyed forever.

While Lionblaze remains focused on protecting ThunderClan from another deadly battle, Jayfeather receives a desperate plea for help from the Tribe of Rushing Water. He must travel to the mountains in search of answers that link the Clans to the Tribe in ways no cat could have imagined. But with the summons comes an ominous warning that suggests the power of the stars may not be enough to save the Clans.

Power Play (Kingdom Keepers, #4)Power Play (Kingdom Keepers #4) by Ridley Pearson
(Hyperion Books for Children, 9-12)

For the five teens who modeled as Disney Hologram Imaging hosts, life is beginning to settle down when an intriguing video arrives to Philby's computer at school. It's a call for action: the Overtakers, a group of Disney villains, seem to be plotting to attempt a rescue of two of their leaders, both of whom the Disney Imagineers have hidden away somewhere following a violent encounter in Epcot. A staged attack by new Overtakers at Downtown Disney, startles the group.

One of their own, Charlene, is acting strange of late. Has she tired of her role as a Kingdom Keeper or is there something more sinister at play? When caught sneaking into Epcot as her DHI, acting strictly against the group's rules, Finn and Philby take action.

Has the "impossible" occurred? Have the Overtakers created their own holograms? Have they found a way to "jump" from the Virtual Maintenance Network onto the Internet, and if so, what does that mean for the safety of the parks, and the spread and reach of the Overtakers? Are they recruiting an army from outside the parks?

A dark cloud in the Kingdom Keeper era is unfolding, and with dissention in their own ranks, it's unclear if there's any chance of escape.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Why every teenage girl should read Jane Eyre.

This week, I'm rereading my all-time favorite book, Jane Eyre. I've read it more times than any other book: I first picked it up when I was ten, was actually able to read it at twelve and have generally reread it about once every two years since then.

I took it up this time after seeing the new movie in theatres, and then, dissatisfied with the adaptation aspects, also watched the 1944 Orson Welles/Joan Fontaine version (an even worse adaptation, if a solid movie) and the 1983 BBC miniseries starring Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke (far and away the closest to the novel in many ways and Dalton is a surprising win for my favorite Rochester).

Jane EyreJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book for so many reasons. One of the things that most disappointed me about the new film was its departure from the classic and wonderful dialogue. But what I've really realized during this latest rereading is part of what I love best of all is that huge boring bit when she goes off and lives with the Riverses.

Yes, it's arguably the least exciting or interesting part of the story. (And, as my roommate will be sure to tell you, it's completely implausible that they should turn out to be her cousins.) But it's really, very important to her life and it's what differentiates it from other classic love stories of this or any other era. Jane is a singular heroine, in that she leaves Rochester, no matter how unwilling she may be, goes off and becomes an independent, happy person all on her own. She refuses to compromise her own morals in order to stay with him, because she knows whatever happiness she finds will be as the expense of her own self-respect. So, even though she loves him, can't bear the thought of leaving and has no place to go, she goes anyway. When she returns to him, it's because she loves him, but she doesn't need him to complete her, or any other bullshit like that. Strange Dickensian twist of fate it may be, but on her own she has found family and fortune. However, I think even prior to that, she again found a purpose in the world, and when St. John proposes to her, she refuses him too cause she doesn't feel that way about him and she doesn't need a man.

Yeah, there's some feminist lady-empowering stuff in here, but my real point is, man, do I wish more women had this sort of sensibility, so they're not staying with guys they love even though there's some other large impediment to their own self-worth, or they're not just dating guys just to be with someone. Because that is the worst. And as I always say about exes, is that they're your ex for a reason, and unless that reason is resolved (say like his crazy attic wife dies so he's no longer trying to be a bigamist), you shouldn't get back together with them.

Obviously this post is a lot of me imparting my principles on the world, but I really think this book likely shaped these principles, which I feel are some of the best that I have. At no point in the story does Jane degrade herself for any man, and I think that's something that's all too common with women. Also, Jane? Not a looker. This is not like she was going to have offers pouring in. She was just cool with being by herself, rather than settling for something less than what she deserved.

That's it, I guess. Make your teenagers read Jane Eyre. (Look, you can even buy it in a Twilight-esque edition!)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

This week in children's book news.

Five Children and ItJacqueline Wilson to update Five Children & It

Why is this necessary? It's been many years since I've read this book (and honestly I have a much better remembrance of the BBC adaptation), but there's no way you're going to convince me that remaking a book is going to make it any better. And does it need to be? But seriously, I get upset by all the movie remakes they continue to churn out, and the lack of originality that's plaguing Hollywood. Don't bring that over to children's literature.

Also, man, is Nesbit having a rough week or what? E. Nesbit's classic The Railway Children accused of 'plagiarism'

And in other unnecessary news: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flies again

Let's write a sequel to a book by Ian Fleming with a movie written by Roald Dahl. Man, this guy has balls. Also he puts himself in the same category as Russel T Davies and Steven Moffat. And he's so modest, too. No, thank you.

Hunger Games: Suzanne Collins talks Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss

Meh, okay. I was really pulling for Kaya Scodelario, who's best known for playing Effy Stonem on Skins and would have been a pretty bitchin' Katniss in my opinion. Also, the girl looks amazing with dirt on her face and sticks in her hair. And while they're both gorgeous, Jennifer Lawrence is a little too conventionally pretty for the Katniss in my mind. However, I have yet to see Winter's Bone and once they dye her hair and make her up, I'm sure she'll be more Katniss-friendly. She is a bit old, but that's nothing new in Hollywood. (However, my other pick? For them to wait four years and cast Kiernan Shipka. With the self-cut Sally Draper hair? Yeah.) Anyway, Suzanne Collins approves and that's what really matters, right? I'm withholding judgment.

Knut: How One Little Polar Bear Captivated The WorldCuddly Catastrophe: Knut the Polar Bear dies

:( We have this book all over the store, and damn, was that bear super cute. It's really just super sad, cause he was still a little cuddly baby. I'm gonna go squish a stuffed polar bear next time I go into work. Also :(

Sex? Violence? An author tests the boundaries of YA fiction.

Aric Davis has written an interesting blog post on the difference content-wise between writing for adults and writing for teens. Just an interesting read, and I like that he understands the morbid side of kids. Think I'll have to pick up Nickel Plated.

The surprising story behind Elizabeth Berkley's new book, Ask Elizabeth

It's funny cause the first thing I thought when I saw that Elizabeth Berkley had a book for teens out was that I don't think teens nowadays would know who she is. And maybe they don't, maybe they've never seen reruns of Saved By the Bell or sneakily caught an late-night showing of Showgirls on VH1 where they're all covered by blatantly painted-on bras. But I forgot that Berkley has been doing this for years, keeping herself relevant long since Jessie Spano went off the air, talking with girls about their problems and worries. I'm really intrigued by this actually, I'll definitely have to look into it, see if it's worth the hype.

Paolini's final Inheritance Cycle title revealed

Oh my god, does anyone care? I know people really dug Eragon when it first came out (including my mom and my brother), but I never heard a positive word about the other two. The movie was a ridiculous flop and Brisingr straight up had a Doctor Who reference in it. (Really, it said so in his almost as poorly written author's note that the Doctor and Rose were chilling with them... around a fire? I don't recall the circumstances.) So anyway, if you were wondering, the final book in the Inheritance Cycle? It's called Inheritance. Couldn't have guessed that one.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011: New Releases

I have a couple of reviews forthcoming, I swear. In the meanwhile, I bring you the second installment in my Tuesday releases posts. (All synopses from the back of the book.)

Wither (Chemical Garden, #1)Wither (Chemical Garden Trilogy #1) by Lauren DeStefano
(Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 14+)

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.

Scorpia Rising (Alex Rider, #9)Scorpia Rising (Alex Rider #9) by Anthony Horowitz
(Philomel, 10+)

Scorpia has dogged Alex Rider for most of his life. They killed his parents, they did their best to con Alex into turning traitor, and they just keep coming back with more power. Now the world's most dangerous terrorist organization is playing with fire in the world's most combustible land: the Middle East. No one knows Scorpia like Alex. And no one knows how best to get to Alex like Scorpia. Until now.

The chases have never been more intense, the fights more treacherous, or the risks so perilous to mankind. And this time, Alex won't get away.

Best of the Best: A Baseball Great NovelBest of the Best: A Baseball Great Novel by Tim Green
(HarperCollins, 9-12)

Josh is still flying high from his team's tournament win at Coopers­town when his parents start talking about a divorce. Now his dad is challenging him to play the best of the best at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. But does he just want to get Josh out of the way? Two things are sure: His father's new girlfriend, Diane, is looking to change things, and Josh is determined to get her and her terrible son out of his life.

With the help of Benji and Jaden, Josh races to get the facts that can keep his family together—but it's ever harder to concentrate on the game and make the winning plays that will lead his team to victory.

In his compelling style, Tim Green delivers great sports action and more—a fast-paced adventure about friendship, the power of becoming a team, and finding a way to get what you need when you can't have what you want.

Ladybug Girl and the Bug SquadLadybug Girl and the Bug Squad by David Soman & Jacky Davis
(Dial, 4-8)

Lulu is so excited for the Bug Squad to come over for a playdate, and she has all kinds of things planned for them to do-right down to eating cupcakes. The cupcakes are special because each one has a candle that Lulu thinks everyone should blow out at exactly the same time.

But when things don't go just the way Lulu planned, feelings are hurt and apologies are necessary. Sounds like a job for Ladybug Girl, who knows how to be brave and say she's sorry, even when it isn't easy.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011: New Releases

So if you don't already know, Tuesday is new book day. Actually it's also new music and new DVDs day too, but for our purposes, new book day. So here are the new and notable children's books that have been released today (and their back-of-the-book synopses):

Midnight (The Vampire Diaries: The Return, #3)Midnight (The Vampire Diaries: The Return #3) by L.J. Smith
(HarperTeen, 14+)

The devil you know. . .

With the help of charming and devious Damon, Elena rescued her vampire love, Stefan, from the depths of the Dark Dimension. But neither brother returned unscathed.

Stefan is weak from his long imprisonment and needs more blood than Elena alone can give him, while a strange magic has turned Damon into a human. Savage and desperate, Damon will do anything to become a vampire again—even travel back to hell. But what will happen when he accidentally takes Bonnie with him?

Stefan and Elena hurry to rescue their innocent friend from the Dark Dimension, leaving Matt and Meredith to save their hometown from the dangerous spirits that have taken hold of Fell's Church. One by one, children are succumbing to demonic designs. But Matt and Meredith soon discover that the source of the evil is darker—and closer—than they ever could have imagined. . . .

SteelSteel by Carrie Vaughn
(HarperTeen, 12+)

Sixteen-year-old Jill has fought in dozens of fencing tournaments, but she has never held a sharpened blade. When she finds a corroded sword piece on a Caribbean beach, she is instantly intrigued and pockets it as her own personal treasure.

The broken tip holds secrets, though, and it transports Jill through time to the deck of a pirate ship. Stranded in the past and surrounded by strangers, she is forced to sign on as crew. But a pirate's life is bloody and brief, and as Jill learns about the dark magic that brought her there, she forms a desperate scheme to get home—one that risks everything in a duel to the death with a villainous pirate captain.

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully FamousHow They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg & Kevin O'Malley
(Walker Books for Young Readers, 10-14)

Over the course of history men and women have lived and died. In fact, getting sick and dying can be a big, ugly mess-especially before the modern medical care that we all enjoy today. How They Croaked relays all the gory details of how nineteen world figures gave up the ghost. For example:

It is believed that Henry VIII's remains exploded within his coffin while lying in state. Doctors "treated" George Washington by draining almost 80 ounces of blood before he finally kicked the bucket. Right before Beethoven wrote his last notes, doctors drilled a hole in his stomach without any pain medication. Readers will be interested well past the final curtain, and feel lucky to live in a world with painkillers, X-rays, soap, and 911.

A World Without Heroes (Beyonders, #1)A World Without Heroes (Beyonders #1) by Brandon Mull
(Aladdin, 9-12)

Jason Walker has often wished his life could be a bit less predictable--until a routine day at the zoo ends with Jason suddenly transporting from the hippo tank to a place unlike anything he's ever seen. In the past, the people of Lyrian welcomed visitors from the Beyond, but attitudes have changed since the wizard emperor Maldor rose to power. The brave resistors who opposed the emperor have been bought off or broken, leaving a realm where fear and suspicion prevail.

In his search for a way home, Jason meets Rachel, who was also mysteriously drawn to Lyrian from our world. With the help of a few scattered rebels, Jason and Rachel become entangled in a quest to piece together the word of power that can destroy the emperor, and learn that their best hope to find a way home will be to save this world without heroes.

Shimmer (Riley Bloom, #2)Shimmer (Riley Bloom #2) by Alyson Noel
(Square Fish, 9-12)

Having solved the matter of the Radiant Boy, Riley, Buttercup, and Bodhi are enjoying a well-deserved vacation. When Riley comes across a vicious black dog, against Bodhi’s advice, she decides to cross him over. While following the dog, she runs into a young ghost named Rebecca. Despite Rebecca’s sweet appearance, Riley soon learns she’s not at all what she seems. As the daughter of a former plantation owner, she is furious about being murdered during a slave revolt in 1733. Mired in her own anger, Rebecca is lashing out by keeping the ghosts who died along with her trapped in their worst memories. Can Riley help Rebecca forgive and forget without losing herself to her own nightmarish memories?

Fancy Nancy: Marvelous Mother's Day BrunchFancy Nancy's Marvelous Mother's Day Brunch by Jane O'Connor & Robin Preiss Glasser (illustrator)
(HarperFestival, 4-8)

Nancy plans the perfect Mother's Day in this fancy new lift-the-flap book!

Nancy pulls out all the stops to give her mom the best Mother's Day celebration of all time—but will everything go according to plan? This book includes thirteen flaps that open to reveal hidden surprises that will delight all Fancy Nancy fans!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pink Stories for Girls That You'll Want to Read.

Continuing on from my last post, I feel I best counter with some pink girly picture books that are actually worth the price of admission.

Fancy NancyFancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor & Robin Preiss Glasser (illustrator)
(HarperCollins, 4-8)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yeah, that's right, I said Fancy Nancy. Say what you will about overexposure or commercialism or the buckets of money I'm sure Jane O'Connor is making, where books like Pinkalicious or Princess Penelope falter due to the sheer obnoxiousness of the main character, Nancy Clancy is sweet, genuine little girl with loving relationships and a penchant for the finer things in life. And the large fancy words she loves to use are always explained so the kids learn from the context. (Which also puts it over Princess Penelope where I feel kids probably don't know the word 'reveled', or my problematic reading of Tony Baloney.)

Nancy wishes her life and family were fancier, but instead of being obnoxious, petulant or bratty, she and her family dress up together for special dinners and tea.

I haven't read all of the Fancy Nancy books yet (and there are a lot), but my favorite part of the series is Nancy's relationship with her little sister, who is straight adorable. My particular favorite examples of this are Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas and Fancy Nancy's Fabulous Fashion Boutique. In Splendiferous Christmas, we see Nancy trotting around in a pretty spectacular pair of leg warmers the entire book long, which she then gives to her little sister at the end. In Fabulous Fashion Boutique, the Clancys have a yard sale the week before Nancy's little sister JoJo's birthday. When Nancy sells a necklace that JoJo really wanted instead of giving it to her for her birthday, she realizes her mistake and buys it back instead of saving her money for the fancy fan she wanted. JoJo is thrilled and their parents reward Nancy by buying her the fan. Nancy and JoJo are just the sweetest and it's a nice message about doing good things and good things will come back to you.

Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous ChristmasFancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas by Jane O'Connor & Robin Preiss Glasser (illustrator)
(HarperCollins, 4-8)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fancy Nancy's Fabulous Fashion BoutiqueFancy Nancy's Fabulous Fashion Boutique by Jane O'Connor & Robin Preiss Glasser (illustrator)
(HarperCollins, 4-8)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shoe-La-La!Shoe-La-La! by Karen Beaumont & LeUyen Pham (illustrator)
(Scholastic, 4-8)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is, straight up, a SUPER cute book. Four diverse little girls, Emily, Ashley, Kaitlyn and Claire, go shoe shopping. Yeah, it's a pretty simple plot. But it has a lovely rhyming structure of all the different and wacky shoes they try on. And it's full of gorgeous drawings by LeUyen Pham, who also illustrated Julianne Moore's Freckleface Strawberry.

There's really not too much else to say. This one I wouldn't say even just relegates to girly girls, since they aren't just looking at fancy shoes, but all sorts of fun and wild shoes. A great read aloud with gorgeous pictures and four fabulous little girls.

Alice The FairyAlice the Fairy by David Shannon
(Blue Sky Press, 4-8)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'll admit it, at first I was a little put off by David Shannon's illustrations, both in this and his No, David! series. They're kind of creepy, with lopsided arms and big spaces between the teeth and other adults I've spoken to have said the same. However, I've never heard a kid say anything of the sort, they just love his books. So I gave Shannon a chance.

Alice's story is telling you all about how she's a Temporary Fairy and all the things that means she can do (and some things that only Permanent Fairies can do). Frankly, Alice the Fairy is what Princess Penelope is trying to be. Alice is more precocious than bratty, even when she's trouble, there's some sense of remorse, or at least that she knows she's done something wrong, instead of Penelope's indignance. Plus frankly it's just cute (using her fairy magic, she turns her dad's cookies into hers). Alice is a little girl with flaws and humor and she's even a little self-effacing which really works for the story. Really cute and wonderful.

So those are my pink little girl stories I really like. Still need a princess story to replace that Penelope, though.