May 31, 2010

What Type Are You

Wondering what type you are? Font type, that is? Check out this great website to find out.

I'm either:

Cooper Black Italic


Pistilli Roman

Yes, I did it twice. You probably will too.

Book Review: Matched

by Ally Condie
9780525423645, $17.99, Dutton Books (Penguin), Pub. Date: November 2010 

Matched was fascinating. It had a slow start, but kept me intrigued, and gathered momentum until I was reading at full gallop toward the end of the first book of what is obviously a new series.

Cassia Maria Reyes lives in the Society: a perfect futuristic society created out of the ashes of a society much like ours today. Food is prepared in individually-specific packages, jobs are carefully assigned to those for whom they would best suit, and at 17-years-old, Matches are selected for romantic partnership. During Cassia's Match Banquet, she is unexpectedly Matched with someone she already knows - her best friend, Xander. Highly unusual, yet not unwelcome, Cassia is pleased to be Matched with someone she feels so comfortable with.

Even though she already knows everything about him, a few days after the banquet, Cassia puts the information data stick given to her into the home computer to learn all about Xander. After she scrolls through all of his information, another screen pops up. This screen holds a second match for Cassia. It is also a boy she knows. A boy named Ky.

The Officials have caught the mistake and they attempt to do damage control. Cassia can tell no one. The faulty data stick is destroyed. But that glance at a second face has Cassia imagining a different life than the one she is living every day. She feels a connection to Ky now, and though Ky has no idea she saw his face, he seems to feel a connection for her too.

In a perfectly controlled Society, emotions such as love are not allowed to enter into any equation, as they rarely determine what is best for anybody. But Cassia has something inside her, a feeling, a spirit, an emotion, of independence, of rebellion, of fighting for her right to choose her Match for love. But the Society sees all. It knows all. And it orchestrates all. How can one 17-year-old girl take on the whole Society and win?

Cassia's story is well-told, with layers carefully built upon each other. By the end of the book, my interest in these characters was complete. The beginning only seemed sluggish because I didn't understand why all the elements were important to mention, but Condie does a great job of picking up those snippets and tying them together at the end. I'm excited to read more of Cassia & Ky's story.

May 30, 2010

Librarians Do Lady Gaga

This is not an adult book review, but it's definitely worth a post.

Thanks to Boing Boing (and a FB friend's post) for introducing me to this video of "students and faculty from the University of Washington's Information School perform[ing] a Lady Gaga remix."

Book Review: Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord

Touch Blue 
by Cynthia Lord
9780545035316, Scholastic, $16.99, Pub Date: August 2010 

This book is a departure from my usual reading fare. It was a conscious choice - I've been reading so much fantasy lately, I wanted something with a little touch of reality.

Touch Blue is a quick, quiet, and utterly delightful middle grade novel perfect for a New England summer read. Tess Brooks and her family live year-round on an island off the coast of Maine. Her father is a fisherman, her mother, a school teacher. Their way of life is threatened when the state of Maine decrees there are too few children to continue operating the island school. The island families decide to become foster parents, simultaneously giving good homes to children in need and adding enough children to the island to (hopefully) keep the school open.

The storyline follows Tess and her family as they welcome 13-year-old, trumpet-playing Aaron. Tess and her younger sister are so excited to have a friend (possibly an older brother?), and can't understand it when Aaron doesn't return their enthusiasm. Aaron's been bounced around from home-to-home, and still has some secret, contact with his mother. Can this city born-and-bred skittish boy accept the warmth, humor, and lifestyle of the island folks?

What I loved most about this book is that while it can certainly be used as an "issue" novel - as in, hand it to a child as a gentle introduction to what being a foster child can be like - Cynthia Lord has crafted a touching slice-of-life tale of love, family, and lobstering in Maine.

May 28, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

It's my first Book Blogger Hop for my new blog. Hosted by Crazy-for-Books, I've participated before with Afterthoughts... (my children's book review blog) but this is Afterthoughts for Adults' inaugural hop. Thanks to all those stopping by!

Hello, in particular, to everyone who was just at BEA! This is my BEA post on Afterthoughts...

Here are some great new blogs I discovered today:

BEA: BookExpo America

This blog is becoming a bit more "the life and times of a person involved in the children's book industry" than a straight forward review blog. I hope all you followers out there find this equally read-worthy.

So, BEA. BookExpo America. That's where I've been since Tuesday, when I was picked up at 5:30 a.m. by Andrew Laties, author of Rebel Bookseller, and Manager of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art Bookstore. Fellow MFA graduate and Assistant Manager of the Carle Bookstore, Eliza Brown, came too.

What is BEA, you might ask? In a nutshell, BookExpo America is an annual conference for people related to the book industry. Booksellers, both indie and corporate, publishers, editors, agents, librarians, teachers, published authors & illustrators, unpublished authors & illustrators, and some really die hard fans of the book industry all come together to talk industry buzz, pick up advanced copies (called galleys or ARCs - advanced reading copies), network, discuss new ideas, attend informational sessions and panels, etcetera etcetera etcetera. The American Booksellers Association hosts a Day of Education for booksellers. The Association of Booksellers for Children hosts several ticketed events. The exhibit floor hosts hundreds of publishers all showcasing their work, handing out tote bags and galleys, and holding author signings people wait hours in line for.

Though there are roughly 5-100 things you could be doing at any given time while at BEA, here is the general schedule of events that interested me:


Serving the “Tween” Reader: Issues & Best Practices
No reader is harder to serve than the "tween," ages 9 – 12. This is the cusp of adolescence, with a wide range of developmental needs, reading levels, and social issues to navigate. Join a panel of experts as we discuss the definition of "tween" and examine key issues, including how to navigate content, how to interface with parents and teachers, how to shelve books for this market, what role outside services like Common Sense Media are playing in this category, and more. Presented in conjunction with the Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC). Moderated by Kristen McLean, Executive Director, ABC.

IndieBound Workshop
The Local First movement isn't an abstract concept—it lives in your community. Explore ideas for utilizing the energy of IndieBound to create events, sales opportunities, and awareness together with your indie business neighbors. Presented by Meg Smith, ABA Membership and Marketing Officer, and Paige Poe, ABA Marketing Manager.

The Nuts & Bolts of Children’s Bookselling: Roundtable Discussions
Join in roundtable discussions about the day-to-day operational issues that children's booksellers rarely get a chance to discuss in a conference environment, but which can make a big difference in their experience as booksellers. Topics will include title selection and shelving, creative display ideas, events, the mechanics of receiving and returns, managing co-op, community networking and partnerships, and more. Each table will focus on a single topic, and seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Bring your questions, ideas, and problems. Participants will learn from each other and emerge with fresh ideas and best practices to take back to their stores. Presented in conjunction with the Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC). Moderated by Elizabeth Bluemle & Josie Leavitt from Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, Vermont.

The ABC Not-a-Dinner and (Mostly) Silent Auction 2010
An annual evening with children's booksellers involving great art, wonderful speakers, and a celebration of Being Independent!

MC: Michael Buckley, NYTimes bestselling author of The Sisters Grimm series (Abrams).
Keynote speaker: David Weisner, Caldecott Award-winning author of Flotsam (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Disney Book Group Mo Willems & Jon J. Muth Art Reception
A reception featuring original art from their new book City Dog, Country Frog, words by Mo Willems, pictures by Jon J. Muth.

Check out this GREAT REVIEW on the IndieNext list!

Emerging Leaders Council BEA Party @ WORD 
For young independent booksellers and the people lucky enough to be their plus ones.


Children's Book and Author Breakfast 
Presented in cooperation with the Children's Booksellers and Publishers Committee [the American Booksellers Association (ABA), Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC), and the Children's Book Council (CBC)], this opening-day breakfast will feature:
The Celebration of Bookselling Luncheon
This event is always a highlight for ABA member booksellers. Enjoy lunch with award-winning authors and experience the best awards show in the industry.

Guess what author/illustrator was seated at my table...Jon J. Muth! I don't know if that was the biggest coincidence ever or what, but when I sat down and he introduced himself to me, my response was, "Oh, hello! I'm you're IndieNext quote." What a surprise & a pleasure!

Speed Dating with Children's Authors
Get to know children's book creators up close and personal! Each bookseller will get quick get-to-know-you chats with up-and-coming children's authors and illustrators, moving from table to table to meet them all. After the Speed Dating, enjoy larger discussions with those you piqued your interest!

Participating "dates" include: Heather Brewer, Bryan Collier, Eirean Corrigan, Beth Fantaskey, Adam Gidwitz, Charlie Higson, Lauren Kate, Sean Kenney, Jonathan Maberry, Carolyn MacCullough, Matt McElligott, Kate Millford, Daniel Nayeri, Mitali Perkins, Diana Peterfreund, Matthew Reinhart, Karen Gray Ruelle, Bob Seha, Nadja Spiegelman & Trade Loeffler, Jonathan Stroud, Iza Trapani, & Maryrose Wood.

BEA Young Adult Editors' Buzz
Young Adult Editors tell us about their hottest picks for the upcoming season.

Candlewick Booksellers & Authors Dinner 
I was honored to dine with Bonny Becker, Elizabeth Bluemle, Victoria Bond, John Cusick, James Howe, Megan McDonald, Tanya Simon, Daniel Nayeri, David Ezra Stein, Roger Sutton, & Rosemary Wells. Much thanks to Elise Supovitz, Director of Field Sales, for including me in this evening!


Tea With Children's Authors 
This great new program gives librarians and booksellers a chance to chat with some of the industry's brightest stars in a more relaxed and casual environment. Each author will join a table of book enthusiasts for refreshments and an open-ended conversation about the author's life and work. Each table will be moderated by an ABC bookseller. 

Authors scheduled to appear: Laure Halse Anderson, Jan Brett, Peter Brown, Doreen Cronin, Jennifer Donnelly, Russell Freedman, Cornelia Funke, Geoffry Hayes, Gordon Korman, Megan McDonald, Brandon Mull, Richard Peck, Sara Pennypacker & Marla Frazee, Rick Riordan, Peter Sis, & Carmen Agra Deedy.
So, you can well imagine how busy I've been over the past few days! A big shout-out to Margaret Raymo, Editorial Director at Houghton Mifflin's children's imprint, who I kept running into at various events; to Noa Wheeler, Associate Editor at Henry Holt, who I literally almost ran into on the show floor; and to Holly Ruck, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt sales rep extraordinaire, and my kind, generous host for the last three days! If you're part of the book industry, I highly recommend signing up for BEA 2011, May 24th - 26th.

Book Review: On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl's Guide to Personal Finance by Manisha Thakor & Sharon Kedar

This post was originally published here in May 2008. It has been edited from its original version.
by Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar  
9781598691245, Adams Media Corporation, $12.95

On My Own Two Feet is knock-your-socks, stockings, or stiletto high heels -off enjoyable! This book is amazing for what it accomplishes without making you feel like a complete moron for not knowing it in the first place, and building you up so you believe you can actually be financially savvy. I realize I may be one of the only people in the world who thinks learning about financial planning is fun, but this book makes everything having to do with money so easy to understand, it's actually not scary! That's probably one of the best ways to recommend this book. Everything is dealt with so matter-of-factly, there's no chance to be scared. Things you sort of knew about, things you sort of heard about, and things that haven't yet crossed your mind are all addressed in a comprehensive, yet not overloading, fashion. The first part of the book is all the basic stuff - budget, what you should be saving for, and how to go about doing that. The second part of the books delves a little deeper into things like investments. A very good introduction for any woman 18-118.

May 25, 2010

Book Review: Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey

Naamah's Kiss 
by Jacqueline Carey 
Hardcover: 9780446198035, $26.99, Grand Central Publishing (Hachette)
Paperback: 9780446198042, $7.99, Grand Central Publishing (Hachette)

Naamah's Kiss is the first book in the third trilogy in the fantasy world created by Jacqueline Carey. The first trilogy followed the as yet unsurpassed story involving Phedre and Joscelin, Terre d'Ange, Kushiel's blessing/curse, and the fate of the world. The books in the first trilogy are Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's Chosen, and Kushiel's Avatar. The second trilogy followed Phedre and Joscelin as their lives intertwined with the fate of the nation and the fate of Imriel de la Courcel, son of D'Angeline royalty and the nation's most famous traitor. This series is comprised of Kushiel's Scion, Kushiel's Justice, and Kushiel's Mercy. The third trilogy follows the story of Moirin, a descendant of Alban/D'Angeline royal lines. Only the first two books of this trilogy are out: Naamah's Kiss and Naamah's Curse.

Naamah's Kiss is a softer read than the previous trilogies. I'm sorry, but nothing has come close to touching the political intrigue with fascinating historical and religious references and wrestlings combined with the compelling (and at times heartwrenching) love story. Not to mention, let's be honest, Jacqueline Carey knows how to write a smokin' sex scene. In Naamah's Kiss, we lose a lot of (my personal favorite) the interesting bits - the politics, the way Carey alludes to our own knowledge of world history and religions morphed into the world she has created, and the sacrifices made in the name of honor, duty, and most importantly, love. There is a certain passion missing in Naamah's Kiss, despite the very evident passionate love scenes. Or maybe it's not missing, entirely, maybe it's just quieter, and as I'm used to this bold, reckless style, it's hard to switch gears and properly appreciate the quiet dedication of a softer personality, a softer love.
Whatever the reason, I was a bit disappointed at what I saw as the lack of additional interesting story elements to pad out a so-so twisting plot. The part of the book that held my attention the most was actually the beginning, when we learn of Moirin - the main character - and her childhood spent with her mother, living in a cave, learning the wild ways of the Maghuin Dhonn, the oldest tribe in Alba. Descended of Alban/D'Angeline royalty, half Maghuin Dhonn, half D'Angeline by birth, Moirin's secluded upbringing has allowed her to grow independent, wise, free-thinking, yet naive in the ways of the rest of the world. This naivete, while originally charming, quickly irritated me when she failed to have a backbone at certain points in the story. I'm sure it's not often that a reader asks for more plot complications, but there were a few elements in the story that seemed far too pat for me to believe; knowing Carey's writing as I do, she is capable of more.

The second half of the novel, when Moirin (who left Alba for Terre d'Ange,
at which point the plot and her personality had the consistency of a wet blanket) leaves Terre d'Ange for Ch'in, is where I was expecting to find that fascinating filler of information on this new culture, but was left a little disappointed. The high point of the second half of the novel was not actually the love story between Moirin and Bao - which, btw, I called the moment his character was introduced, and I'm not saying that in a complimentary way - but instead was the 3-way relationship between the Princess, the dragon imprisoned within her, and Moirin - the only person to whom the dragon would listen. Carey does write a good adventure story from this point on, but the tentative, lukewarm, barely blossoming feelings between Moirin and Bao paled in comparison to the begrudging respect, agonizing courtship, and eventual passionate love between Phedre and Joscelin (who you can't help but compare them to).

This book did end well, and I look forward to reading more about Moirin's trek into the land of the Tartars, following the other half of her heart and soul. Perhaps she'll find a little more plot, my favorite - cultural, religious, and historical elements, and some backbone there.

May 23, 2010

Times, They Are a'Changin'

Exciting news!

1. I am moving to Boston for the summer to be the Children's Editorial Intern for Houghton Mifflin's children's imprint, working with Margaret Raymo, the Editorial Director. This is such an exciting opportunity, and everyone has great things to say about living in Boston, especially in the summer. As this is an internship, I'm still looking for a more permanent job in children's publishing for the future.

2. Moving to Boston means Monday is my last day as the Odyssey Bookshop's Children's Department Manager. Marika McCoola will be replacing me there. Marika is a great artist, knows loads about children's books, and is going to be a great addition to the Odyssey staff. Check out her book reviews and artwork on her website, her review blog, and her exhibition blog.

For those wondering, yes, I will still be reviewing books and children's lit-related topics on this blog. Don't forget to check out my adult book reviews on my newest blog Afterthoughts for Adults.

Book Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soullessby Gail Carriger
9780316056632, $7.99, Orbit (Hachette)
The subtitle says it all, really: A Novel of Vampires, Werewolves, and Parasols. I thought, No, not really, this can't possibly be as witty and engaging as I want it to be. But then I began reading, and to my great surprise and eternal delight, it was!
Alexia Tarabotti is a spinster and a lady, drinking tea and chaperoning balls in London during the time of Queen Victoria's reign. She also happens to be a preternatural, or soulless being, one of the very few lucky individuals who can take away the power of a supernatural being (such as a vampire or werewolf) simply by her touch. When she accidentally kills a vampire (well, he was trying to drink her blood at the time), she is forced to contend with Lord Maccon, the werewolf leader of both the local pack and the local national office of supernatural investigations. Alexia and Lord Maccon find each other argumentative, frustrating, irritating, and secretly appealing as they are forced to work together to uncover who has been making rove werewolves and vampires disappear. Fans of Jane Austen-ish writing and fantasy forces will love this wicked, and wickedly funny, romp through London, supernatural-style.

Book Two: Changeless9780316074148, $7.99, Orbit (Hachette)

Book Three:
9780316074155, $7.99, Orbit (Hachette), Pub. Date: September 2010

May 22, 2010

Book Review: Darling Jim by Christian Moerk

Darling Jim
by Christian Moerk
Hardcover: 9780805089479, $25, Henry Holt (Macmillan)
Paperback: 9780805092080, $15, Henry Holt (Macmillan)

I read the first 100 pages of this novel holding my breath and barely blinking. Here is what I discovered: 1) I should never begin a new book at work because then I will read it even when I'm not supposed to and not get any work done, and 2) Christian Moerk is a new voice to be reckoned with. Boy, oh boy, did I get the creeps! Spine tingling, goosebumps, morbid fascination with whatever twisted secret will be revealed next - the whole nine yards.

In a sleepy little village in Ireland, a postman discovers the bodies of three dead women. Two were discovered right away - a bloody fight to the death that resulted in them both leaving this world. The third woman was discovered later, hidden behind a wall. Death and murder, by their very nature is a pretty creepy business, but there's already a twist. All three women were related: the two young girls are the nieces of the older woman, and it looks like the older woman held them captive, slowly starving and poisoning them to death. Even later it is discovered that another person was also held captive in the house, but apparently managed to escape. No one knows why this gruesome episode took place.

No one, that is, until a different postman discovers a package in the post office, sent by one of the dead girls! He steals the package and opens it to find a diary, kept while the girl was held prisoner in her aunt's house. As he reads her diary, she begins to tell him a tale of sisterly love and devotion, an aunt's unstable mind, and a traveling bard named Jim who ensnares women far and wide.

His life already out of control (fired from his job, evicted from his apartment), the postman sets off on a quest to the village the girls are from, to find out what led them all to their pitiful end. The diary haunts him, her story haunts him - so honest, so lacking in self-pity or remorse. And what of the third person held in that house? Who was it and where are they now?

Almost a Sidney Sheldon-like psychological creepiness, you won't be jumping at bumps in the night, but you'll definitely feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. The plot development is absolutely wonderful, the prose is crisp and clear, and the characters are ones that will stay with you long after the book has ended. Everything about this book was a sinister pleasure.

May 20, 2010

Book Review: Stay by Nicola Griffith

Spoiler alert - if you haven't read the first Aud Torvigen book - The Blue Place, my review is here - don't read this review. I ruin the ending of The Blue Place for you.

Stay by Nicola Griffith

Paperback: 9781400032303, $12.95, Vintage Books (Knopf, Random House)

Stay was not quite the same masterpiece as the first book in this series - in my exulted opinion. While Aud is still an intriguing character, I was not turning the pages as fast as I did in the first Aud Torvigen novel (and not just because of my work load). Her all-consuming grief over Julia's death is understandable and well-written, but does not make for a captivating read. If you're looking for the sexy, kick-ass Aud of The Blue Place, you won't find her here. Clearly Aud is multidimensional, but having that confident, attractive, self-knowing character was one of the major appeals for me; Julia's death has ripped Aud apart and she doesn't know how to put herself back together. She attempts to do so throughout the novel, with varying degrees of success.

A secondary character in the first novel- Dornan, one of Aud's good friends - comes to her for help. His often-wayward fiance has gone missing and he wants Aud to find her. Aud reluctantly takes the case, but when she finds Tammy, it's really just the beginning. Tammy was essentially kidnapped by a sociopath who not only kidnaps people, degrades them to the extent that they have no self-confidence left, and video tapes their sexual escapades as part of blackmailing them, he also has a 9-year-old girl being raised to be his perfect future wife (think brainwashing, illegal Mexican immigrant, Bible-belt foster parents, the whole nine yards).

The plot has almost a Bourne-series feel to it (the book series about Jason Bourne, made into a blockbuster movie trilogy staring Matt Damon), and the convoluted plot almost begs for some fast-paced action, which we sadly do not get at quite the pace it asks for. The story itself takes place over the course of a few weeks, but Aud's inner monologue makes it feel as if the plot is going on for much longer.

What Griffith does well in Stay is enhancing Aud's newly-formed deliberations over how situations are not always black and white, right and wrong. Griffith also gives us more enticing details of Aud's wood fascination - Aud rebuilding a cabin in the woods is almost as much of a sexual exercise as it is therapy. (Or maybe that's just me - I find brains and capability sexy in a woman, and Aud's knowledge of wood types, hand tools, and how to build a cabin in the woods really does it for me. Especially since she adds things like plumbing and a claw-foot tub.)

While I was pleased with the way the plot-line was resolved, I'm definitely looking forward to reading the third (and so far, last one published) book in this series. I'm hoping the sexy, kick-ass Aud Torvigen I fell in love with in the first book will be back in full style. As soon as I've finished Always, I'll let you know. For an excerpt of Always, click here. For an excerpt from Stay, click here.

May 17, 2010

Book Review: Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M.M. Blume

Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters
Paperback: 9780440421108, Yearling (Random House), $6.50
Hardcover: 9780375835230, Knopf (Random House), $15.95

This post was originally published here in May 2008. It has been edited from its original version.

A quick little review for you of a fantastic book I just plucked off the shelf. Another one of those "read a book for its cover" moments that paid off handsomely.

This was a fabulous read! I was pleasantly surprised to find the content reflected both the title and the cover art. This book reminds me of A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, except, you know, shorter, updated, and the storyline is a different. 

Cornelia is the only child of two famous pianists. She's never met her father, and her mother is always off traveling to some foreign part of the world giving piano concerts (hence the orphan-like existence of Sara Crewe). People, especially adults, often relate to Cornelia only as this famous woman's daughter, not as Cornelia herself. As a result, Cornelia spends a lot of her time alone reading books, especially dictionaries, coming up with longer and longer words to use to get people (especially her well-intentioned but nosy housekeeper, Madame Desjardins) to stop talking to her. When a new neighbor moves in across the hall, this famous Somerset sister opens up new worlds of adventure and imagination for Cornelia, with the unexpected improvement of Cornelia's happiness along the way. 

A must-read for anyone who loved A Little Princess or The Penderwicks series. Simple, beautiful descriptive language, and the bonus of funny stories within the story make this a delightful summer read. This could be read aloud to anyone age 6 and up, probably a read-alone for anyone age 8/9 and up.

May 16, 2010

Book Review: The Blue Place by Nicola Griffith

The Blue Place by Nicola Griffith
Paperback: 9780380790883, Harper, $13.99

This post was originally published here in February 2009. It has been edited from its original version.

Though published over 10 years ago, this is one of those "new to me" books that I have to tell everyone about. Especially considering how hot Scandinavian thrillers are at the moment, Nicola Griffith's Aud Torvigen is not a character to miss.

When I call this book a "thriller," I don't mean it in the Steven King, make you pee your pants with fright in the middle of the night, sort of way. It's an adventure thriller: a symphony where you have a beautiful melody and harmony and you're floating along on trills of music until all of a sudden it crescendos and the cymbals crash and the drums boom and you've got yourself a little rock 'n roll thrown in there.

Aud Torvigen is hot, sexy, and in control. A 6-foot, ice blonde Norwegian-American, Aud grew up in Norway, and now makes her home in Atlanta, GA. After leaving the elite "Red Dogs" special police force at the age of 29, Aud now works for herself, taking on jobs that pique her interest, since she no longer needs them to pay the bills.

After running, literally, into a strange woman on a dark road in the middle of the night, only to have a house blow up a block away a few minutes after that, Aud gets tangled in a mess of a private investigation involving a highly-placed politican, international money laundering, art forgeries, and one Julia Lyons-Bennet, who is at once more than and also exactly what she seems. When the investigation turns deadly, Aud and Julia escape to Norway where an unexpected betrayal will bring their trip to an abrupt end. Though Aud solves the investigation, Julia has helped her learn it's no longer about that thrill you only get when you're in the Blue Place. Though the end is very sad, it will make you glad there are 2 other books out there about Aud for you to read.

Called a "new wave crime-writer" and an author of "literary noir," Nicola Griffith's writing is a sensory delight. Like Aud herself, Griffith's words are precise and exacting, yet slow and senuous enough to have all of your senses enjoying the experience. You can feel the moist humidity of Atlanta and the icy breath of Norwegian fjords, the bump of rock 'n roll and the glide of skin against skin. Her writing has won her the Tiptree Award, the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and six Lambda Literary Awards. It is easy to understand why. Pick up The Blue Place - for an excerpt, click here. You won't be able to put Nicola Griffith or Aud Torvigen down.

When you look for more Aud reading, check out Stay (excerpt) (9781400032303, $12.95) and Always (excerpt) (9781594482946, $15).
When you look for more Nicola Griffith, check out her website and/or her blog.

May 15, 2010

Fall 2010 Picturebook Highlights: Candlewick Press

Ready for another long post? Introducing Candlewick's Fall line for the Fall 2010 Picturebook Highlights round-up!

Disclaimer before we begin: I have not seen these books with my own two eyes. As I'll soon be leaving the Odyssey Bookshop to pursue a career elsewhere in the children's book industry (more on that in a later post), I've been going through catalogues but haven't been able to get my hands on the actual books. So, these books have been chosen based on my knowledge of the author and/or illustrator's previous work, the catalogue description, and my own personal taste.

Grandma's Gloves
by Cecil Castellucci, illustrated by Julia Denos
9780763631680, $15.99, Pub. Date: August 2010

These charming illustrations showcase the talent of first-time illustrator Julia Denos. More than an "issue book", this picturebook tells the story of a little girl and her grandmother who bond over growing plants and gardening. When her grandmother dies, the little girl is sad until she remembers all the gardening skills her grandmother has taught her. The illustrations capture the love and vivacity of their relationship, as green growing things jump off the page at the reader.

Snook Alone
by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering
9780763626679, $16.99, Pub. Date: September 2010

Though not technically a picturebook, this book is intended for a picturebook-age audience of ages 4-7. The combination of acclaimed poet Marilyn Nelson and award-winning illustrator Timothy Basil Ering (who illustrated Kate DiCamillo's A Tale of Despereaux, among others) is sure to produce a hit. A quiet tale, this story is about a monk named Abba Jacob and his rat terrier, Snook. They live on an island together, but when the two are separated in a storm, the tale becomes Snook's journey finding his way back to his friend.

There's Going to Be a Baby
by John Burningham, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
9780763649074, $16.99, Pub. Date: October 2010

For the first time EVER, husband-and-wife team up for a darling picturebook. John Burningham's witty take on a timeless story of an older sibling's uncertainty over a new family member is perfectly matched by Helen Oxenbury's "freshly enchanting and wonderfully nostalgic" illustrations.

Tiny Little Fly
by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Kevin Waldron
9780763646813, $15.99, Pub. Date: October 2010

I can already tell this is going to be a storytime favorite. Michael Rosen's (British Children's Laureate) simple text creates the sound affects for the animals trying to catch the fly. Tramp, crush, tramp - swat, swoop, snatch - roll, squash, roll: so many sounds and animals to act out with each reading! The tiny little fly lands here and there, while Kevin Waldron helps us imagine a fly's-eye-view of each animal the fly passes.

Fantasy: A Artist's Realm
by Ben Boos
9780763640569, $19.99, Pub. Date: October 2010 

Okay, I'm slipping this in here with the picturebooks. It is definitely an illustrated book, but for the older reader, 7 or 8 and up, all the way through to adults. Ben Boos has created a whole new world (stop singing the Aladdin song, right. now.) with this illustrated fantasy. Welcome to New Perigord, a land full of elves, dwarves, minotaurs, hobgoblins, and much more; scary and mystical, the detail of this land will leave you breathless and inspired to dream up a world of your own.

by Jeannie Baker
9780763648480, $18.99, Pub. Date: November 2010

Having written a paper on Jeannie Baker, I was thrilled to see a new book of hers in the Candlewick catalogue - and what a book it is! The title, Mirror, refers to the dual stories told side-by-side, one of a little boy in Sydney, Australia, one of a little boy in Morocco. The two different cultures are pictured in brilliant collage illustrations on opposite pages so the reader can examine each boy's day, and compare it to their own.

Book Review: Nice to Come Home To by Rebecca Flowers

Nice to Come Home To
9781594483561, Riverhead Books (Penguin Putnam), $15

This post was originally published here in May 2008. It has been edited from the original version.
Keeping up with all the great new children's books out there hasn't left me much spare time to sit down with something more appropriate for my own age and reading level. I admit it was the cover of this book that made me pick it up, and when I actually read it (4 weeks later) I was glad I did.

As the title may give away, this is a novel about finding love (that someone it's "nice to come home to"), but it's also a novel about finding yourself. What I liked best about this book, and I mean this in a complimentary way, is that the novel doesn't take itself too seriously while exploring that vein. I admit to being a deep thinker; I tend to apply everything - books, movies, music - to feelings and situations in my own life (often way overdoing it!), and it was really nice to read something that spoke to me without taking me too deep.

The main plot involves Prudence Whistler - Pru for short. She's in her mid-to-late 30s, has just lost her job, and is about to lose her boyfriend. Unexpectedly, she sees herself reflected in a stranger - a woman full of children, husband, and her place in life as mother/caregiver - and Pru is catapulted into uncertainty about where her own life is taking her without any of those things. Prudence Whistler is a woman of lists and plans. The plot unfolds as Pru struggles to find what it is she is really meant to be doing, really wants to do, and how any sort of romantic entanglement fits into all of that.

A sub-plot involving her younger sister, Patsy's, romantic life only serves to underscore the things Pru is finding out about life, love, and herself. The subplot was well-done, adding some familial substance to the character of Pru, forwarding the plot just enough, without overwhelming Pru herself.

Even though I began this post by saying I'm glad things didn't get too hot and heavy into a discussion of topics such as life philosophy and the feminist female psyche (or as I put it earlier, "deep"), I admit to being a bit disappointed by how things worked out so well for everyone in the end. I won't write a spoiler, but I will say everything ends up as it should. Though on the surface Pru suffers - lost job, boyfriend, spoiled second romance, struggling career options - I really didn't feel Prudence taking enough charge of her own life. She went with the flow a bit too much for me, the universe threw a few too many good coincidences her way, and when she finally did stick up for her emotional well-being, the moment quickly became anti-climatic (which may have been the point, but really only served to take the wind out of my reading sails). As a list maker and planner myself, I didn't see enough determination, enough drive, enough (yes, I'll admit to it) ambition from her regarding her own life. Things sort of happened, she dealt with them, accepted them or didn't accept them, but there was something lackluster in her character, some missing spark or spirit that kept me from getting 100% behind her and fully celebrating for her at the end. Real life just isn't that pat of a story.

What held the book for me was the solid writing. I consistently went back for more. Rebecca Flowers has a way of putting together a sentence that gets to the heart of the matter and makes you want to know what's coming next (even if it the event itself is slightly predictable). Overall, a good, light read, well-written and meaningful, without the headache of too many unanswerable life questions. A great summer beach read.

May 14, 2010

Book Review: Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love by Lara Vapnyar

Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love 
by Lara Vapnyar
9780307279880, Knopf (Random House), $14

This post was originally published here in July 2008. It has been edited from its original version.

I picked up this book expecting it to be good, and was thrilled when I wasn't disappointed. Do you ever have those hunches? When you look at a book, totally judging it by its cover, and think, yeah, I bet I'm really going to enjoy reading that. This was one of those books for me. 

Let me also tell you that I'm a rather recent, but passionate, short story/essay lover. Who knew? Seriously, this is an adult-life discovery. I think we should start encouraging more children/teens/young adults to read short stories. Though I wasn't this way as a child, so many children get overwhelmed by the size of a large book, tiny words, pages and pages of text. If they knew they only had to sit down and read one short story, they may sit and read two in one sitting. Maybe soon they would be reading a whole book, just for that sense of accomplishment that comes when you've turned the final page.

Lara Vapnyar writes about food as if it's there on the page in front of you for you to taste. She writes about love the same way. The fact that she is able to combine the mostly inner monologue of people's musings on life and love, while making your stomach growl for the hot borscht with sour cream someone in the story has just made, is a brilliant way of inviting other senses to partake in this primarily visual experience. 

Her stories reflect the food in them: if the food is unsatisfying in the tale, you may be left with a longing sensation for a little more of the tale to come along. If the food has been completely filling and satisfying, the story wraps up with a warm, contented closure. At the end, just as with a fabulous meal, I was sad it was over, and simultaneously relieved the self control was taken out of my hands or else I would have gorged myself a little too much.

If you like her writing, or short stories/essays in general, you should also check out her other works:

There Are Jews in My Houseby Lara Vapnyar
9781400033898, Knopf (Random House), $12

Memoirs of a Muse by Lara Vapnyar
9781400077007, Vintage (Random House), $13.95

RePost: The "Good Guys" of YA Literature

This is a "repost", similar to a "retweet" on Twitter (follow me @rebf). Emily's Reading Room had an inspiring post recognizing the "good guys" of young adult fiction, as opposed to those moody, smoldering, dangerous "bad boys" everyone seems to fall for.

Some of Emily's top favorites included Gilbert Blythe from L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, Laurie from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, and Peeta from Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games.

Obviously this made me question who my own top "good guys" of YA lit are, and these are a few names I came up with:

1. Philip Ammon from Gene Stratton-Porter's A Girl of the Limberlost, one of my top 5, all-time, desert island, favorite books. He's engaged to Edith, but he tries so hard to be a good guy and do the right thing to be worthy of loving Elnora. And of course, if I'm thinking of Philip, I have to put in Freckles, the title character from GSP's Freckles, and the Harvester, the title character from GSP's The Harvester. Really, all of her men are worthy "good guys".

2. Bookish Mac over fast and lose Charlie in Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins and A Rose in Bloom finally wins Rose's much-deserved love. And yes, I have a soft spot, in part, due to his bookish nature.

3. T. C. Keller from My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kruger. He loves baseball, has a great relationship with his dad, recites a standing address at the high school talent show to impress the girl, and he's cute to boot.

4. Poor Arthur Dent in A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. He didn't know what hit him when his planet was blown up, and he's dragged back and forth between one end of the universe to the other. What a relief when he finds a love interest. He deserves it after being such a good sport.

Who are your favorite good guys?

May 13, 2010

Book Review: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Hardcover: 9780316042673, Hachette, $17.99
Lena Duchannes is forever the new girl in town, jumping from place to place to conceal her power and the curse on her family. Ethan Wate is forever a townie, determined to leave yet fated to always be a part of Gatlin, South Carolina. 

Lena longs for normalcy, friends, a chance to go to the prom, and an answer as to how to control her powers. Ethan longs for something different than the bleached, tanned, vapid cheerleaders and dead-end feeling he has for this town. 

Seeing each other in dreams weeks before actually meeting, when they finally are face to face, it's the showdown of the century as history repeats itself, when once again a Wate and a Duchannes fall in love and are determined to beat the odds keeping them apart.

Lots of supernatural stuff meets high school stuff in this book - stuff being the catch-all term for magic, witches, telepathy, vampires, dogs who see all, secret libraries, full-moon ceremonies, voodoo, cheerleaders with attitude, nosy neighbors, best friends with crappy cars, and the Daughters of the American Revolution. 

Pretty funny, witty internal monologues and external dialogues keep this chunky book from getting too long, and the tension built up during the countdown to Lena's birthday is sure to keep you reading to the exciting conclusion on the final page.

May 12, 2010

Ode to the Long-necked Herbivore

A lot of giraffe-themed books have been popping up lately. Thanks to Laura at Tampa Bookworm for a giraffe book recommendation that sparked this post.

I admit I have a soft spot for giraffes. Polar bears, giraffes, and lobsters are my top three favorite non-domesticated animals. Okay, add elephant in there. My four top favorite non-domesticated animals. Maybe I'll post sometime in the future about books for the others, but today it's all giraffes, all the time.

Laura recommended The Giraffe Who Was Afraid of Heights by David Ufer, illustrated by Kirsten Carlson (9781934359051, Sylvan Dell Publishing, $8.95). I haven't read it yet, but I always appreciate the recommendation.

In my recent Spring 2010 Picturebook Highlights: Marshall Cavendish post, I mentioned A Giraffe Goes to Paris by Mary Tavener Holmes and John Harris, illustrated by Jon Cannell (9780761455950, $17.99)

When Lulu Went to the Zoo
by Andy Ellis
9780761354994, Andersen Press USA, $16.95
Though not primarily about a giraffe, this book does feature a giraffe on the cover. This is a sweet book about a little girl who doesn't like seeing the caged animals, so she frees them and takes them all home to live with her, with some funny results.

by Anke de Vries & Charlotte Dematons
9781590787496, Boyds Mill Press, $16.95
Raf is short for Giraffe, Ben's favorite stuffed toy. Sort of like the traveling gnome from the Travelocity commercials, when Ben loses Raf, Raf starts sending Ben postcards from his travels with the people who found him. But the real question is, will Raf make it back to Ben in time for Ben's birthday?

Giraffes Can't Dance
by Giles Andreae & Guy Parker-Rees
9780439287197, Scholastic, $16.99
Gerald is my favorite name for a giraffe, and this book is about a Gerald. The animals make fun of Gerald's awkward dancing at a jungle party. Gerald mopes away in shame, but a special friend helps Gerald see there's a type of music out there for everyone to dance to.

Last but not least, don't miss out on the finger puppet book Little Giraffe by Klaartje van der Put (9780811867870, Chronicle, $6.99) and the Melissa & Doug, large, stuffed giraffe ($99.99).

May 10, 2010

Book Review: The Penderwicks/The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy
by Jeanne Birdsall
Hardcover: 9780375831430, Knopf (Random House), $15.95
Paperback: 9780440420477, Yearling (Random House), $6.99
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street
by Jeanne Birdsall
Hardcover: 9780375840906, Knopf (Random House), $15.99
Paperback: 9780440422037, Yearling (Random House), $7.99

This post was originally published here in May 2008. This post has been edited from its original version.

Are you all ready for two fantastic reads? The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall is the most fun new series to hit the shelves! Get ready for some gushing praise because I love these books! The two tales center around the Penderwicks family made up of a father, 4 daughters, and a loveable, laughable dog. There's nothing better for a summer read than a series set right in New England!

Winner of the National Book Award, the first book, The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, takes place in Arundel, Maine, where the Penderwicks go on their summer vacation. Their normal vacation spot is booked, so they end up renting a small cottage on the property of a large house. Before you know it, the four sisters are up to their noses in adventures, involving, at times, yes, two rabbits, the boy next door (friend or foe?), a bull, the gardner, the cook, and much much more. It's an unforgettable summer for the entire family, and it's sure to be an unforgettable read for you!

The second book, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, takes place back home on Gardam Street. It's fall - school time - and also time for a visit from the girls' favorite aunt. Soon the whole house is in an uproar when their favorite aunt suggests the unthinkable: the girls' widowed father should start dating again! Everyone, Dad included, is horrified at this suggestion, and the girls soon hatch the Save-Daddy Plan. Hilarious incidents insue as the girls try to set their father up on one bad date after another. Handled with tact and sensitivity for such a touchy subject, everyone's heart ends up in the right hands by the end of this book.

Jeanne Birdsall calls Northampton, MA her home. She has visited the Odyssey Bookshop on many occasions. Look for signed copies and keep an eye out for book #3 coming in 2011!

May 8, 2010

Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows & Mary Anne Shaffer

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Annie Barrows & Mary Anne Shaffer
Hardcover: 9780385340991, Dial (Random House), $22
Paperback: 9780385341004, Dial (Random House), $14 

This post was originally published here in August 2008. It has been edited from its original version.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Doesn't that make you want to take a big bite out of the book itself? What is this society? What's Potato Peel Pie? Who is in it, how did it get started - so many questions come to mind when you read such a deliciously convoluted title.

The book is an epistolary novel (thank you to Emily Crowe for supplying me with that word), which means it is told entirely in the form of letters. I love this form of novel; it feels so much more intimate. You're not just getting this tale, you're reading the thoughts and feelings behind the actions. People feel so much freer and more able to put down on paper (in the form of letters) what they can't, or won't, verbally describe. If all the letters don't actually describe the scenario, then they serve to tantalize you with glimpses of the plot and tease you into reading more.

The letters are all to, from, or about Ms. Juliet Ashton, the central character in this novel. She is a writer by trade, so her letters are wonderfully descriptive, yet always leave you wanting to read more. She receives a letter from a man on the island of Guernsey. He had purchased a book written by Charles Lamb, which had been previously owned by Ms. Ashton. He writes to say he enjoyed this first taste of Charles Lamb and wonders if she would be able to help him in procuring more works of similar literary quality and merit. 

Ms. Ashton beings writing with Mr. Dawsey Adams (the man who wrote her), and is thus introduced to the society he is apart of - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The current year being 1946, people are still recovering and rebuilding their lives from the devastation of World War II. This society was begun during the German occupation of the Channel Islands, of which Guernsey is a part. Soon Juliet is corresponding with many of the members of this society, slowly uncovering the stories of German wartime occupation - the love, loss, friendship, and courage that occurred on this isolated island during the war - and getting a first-hand look at what that means in her own life.

No part of this book disappoints. I wanted to rush through it to see how and what happens, but I wanted it to never end. Also, it's a very sweet and sad story about how the book came to be. Mary Ann Shaffer was writing this novel when she unexpectedly passed away. Her niece, Annie Barrows, a famous children's author (she wrote the Ivy & Bean books), finished the novel for her. It became a success, because how could it not, but is so bittersweet due to the loss of its original author. 

Fans of The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, and/or Letters from an Age of Reason by Nora Hague will love this book as well. This is the perfect summer read.