Dec 22, 2010

This is a page from the book Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid by Lemony Snicket, the pseudonym for the author most known for the Series of Unfortunate Events books. I've loved this book since I first picked it up off the bargain book table, as it is sadly out-of-print. Thank you to Mattie for sending me the Dirty Pretty Things post that prompted me to post this.

Dec 15, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta

Waiting on Wednesday (WoW) is a weekly meme hosted by
My first and second WoW posts were about my guilty pleasure reading - romantic (often paranormal) paperback/mass market novels. My third WoW was my first YA mention, and today's selection will be following that new trend:

by Melina Marchetta
9780763647582, $17.99, Candlewick, Pub. Date: March 2011 
Melina Marchetta is my favorite YA author. She's Australian, a really big hit over there, and I recently gave a shout-out to her during last week's Follow Friday blog post which asked, "Do you have an under-noticed author that you think we should all know about?" She's (sadly) under-noticed in the States, despite having won the Printz award for Jellicoe Road. Her first epic fantasy novel, Finnikin of the Rock came out last year to starred reviews, and basically everything she's ever written has been well-awarded in Australia, but somehow hasn't quite hit the commercial jackpot in the U.S.
What I love, in particular, about her writing is that not only does Ms. Marchetta know how to tell a good story with action, suspense, comic relief, and love, she creates such depth of character and asks both her characters and her readers hard-to-answer coming-of-age questions, all while providing a thoroughly-imagined setting.
Though I'm also anxiously awaiting the next novel in the Finnikin of the Rock trilogy (to be published in the spring 2012), Candlewick will be publishing a new realistic fiction novel entitled The Piper's Son in March 2011. A sequel, though five years later, to the characters in Saving Francesca, this title focuses on Thomas Mackee. While all of Ms. Marchetta's books have had strong male characters that straddle the primary/secondary character line, I believe this is only her second book ever and her first realistic fiction novel to feature a male teenage protagonist. Here is what the publisher's advanced description has to say:
"The award-winning author of Finnikin of the Rock and Jellicoe Road pens a raw, compelling novel about a family's hard-won healing on the other side of trauma.

Award-winning author Melina Marchetta reopens the story of the group of friends from her acclaimed novel Saving Francesca - but five years have passed, and now it's Thomas Mackee who needs saving. After his favorite uncle was blown to bits on his way to work in a foreign city, Tom watched his family implode. He quit school and turned his back on his music and everyone that mattered, including the girl he can't forget. Shooting for oblivion, he's hit rock bottom, forced to live with his single, pregnant aunt, work at the Union pub with his former friends, and reckon with his grieving, alcoholic father. Tom's in no shape to mend what's broken. But what if no one else is either? An unflinching look at family, forgiveness, and the fierce inner workings of love and friendship, The Piper's Son redefines what it means to go home again."
WoW for real.

Dec 12, 2010

Book Review: Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld, illustrated by Keith Thompson

(Book 2 in the Leviathan trilogy)
by Scott Westerfeld, illustrated by Keith Thompson
9781416971757, $18.99, Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster)

At the end of Leviathan, book one in the Leviathan trilogy, midshipman-in-disguise female:Deryn/male:Dylan Sharp and fugitive prince-in-disguise Alek had just combined forces to escape a German attack. Using Clanker technology (engines from their fighting machine, the Stormwalker) to help propel the Darwinist airship Leviathan back into the skies, the ship is now back on its way to Constantinople so that Charles Darwin’s granddaughter can deliver her super-secret, as-yet-unhatched, new type of beastie in a peace-keeping attempt.

Yet before they can reach Constantinople, the Leviathan must contend with German aircrafts and a new super-weapon known as a Tesla cannon. The Tesla canon is a lightening generator, a weapon that harnesses the power of electricity to shoot rays at live Darwinist creations, basically causing instant death for the beasties and every living thing on board.

As Alek and Deryn continue to be thrust together, it is growing more difficult for Deryn to deny her growing crush. Alek has shared so many of his secrets with her – who he really is, what happened to his family, what would happen to him if the Germans caught him – that it seems unfair Deryn hasn’t shared any of her own secrets. But can she really trust Alek? If she risks telling him her secret, more than just exposure, she may also be risking her heart, and that may be one risk too many.

Though I'm often disappointed by the second novels in a trilogy, as they sometimes read like placeholders between the action sequences in books 1 & 3, Behemoth lived up to its potential with plenty of action, moral dilemmas, intriguing secondary plots, introducing new secondary characters, and in general sustaining one heck of a good steampunk series.

Dec 11, 2010

This image is made up of thousands of little tiny stars.
Thank you to Sandy for this.
Discovered here.
Own a copy by buying it from here.

Dec 10, 2010

Book Review: Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Lane Smith

Lulu and the Brontosaurus
by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Lane Smith
9781416999614, Simon & Schuster, $15.99

I just bought this book today, but fell in love with it to the extent that I had to blog about it immediately.

Lulu and the Brontosaurus is a picture book perfect for that in-between 5-8 year-old age group that is learning to read but still loves to be read to, can handle chapter books but still loves looking at pictures, and has a more developed but still distinctly kid sense of humor.

Lulu is an only child and used to getting her way in everything. So when she decides she wants a Brontosaurus, she doesn't care that dinosaurs don't exist anymore, she doesn't care that scientists declared a dinosaur known as a Brontosaurus never existed, and she doesn't care that her parents, for once, said no. All she cares about is getting a Brontosaurus for a pet on her birthday.

And so she goes out to find one. Through the forest, she drags her suitcase, waking all the sleeping animals with her song:
"I'm gonna, I'm gonna, I'm gonna, gonna get,
A bronto-bronto-bronto Brontosaurus for a pet."

When Lulu finally does find a Brontosaurs, not all goes according to plan, because the Brontosaurus thinks that Lulu would make a great pet for him. How's Lulu going to get out of that one? A temper tantrum, her usual shrieking, and even *gasp* saying "please" for the first time ever doesn't seem to help. Is there a solution to make both Lulu and Brontosaurus happy? Well, with three endings to choose from, you get to decide!

Short chapters, interactive text, black-and-grey illustrations that are delightful for finding the hidden forest animals, all beg for hours spent reading and rereading this book to the delight of the young and the slightly older picture book reader. A perfect storytime book for a large older audience, or just one-on-one where each picture's details can be closely examined. Definitely a keeper for years to come (and perfect for the holidays!).

Book Blogger Hop & Follow Friday

It's the end of the work week, the weekend looms,
and so do two great memes:

This week's Book Blogger Hop question:

What is the thing you like most about reading book blogs? Is it the reviews, author guest posts, articles, giveaways, or something else entirely?

It would have to be a combination of several things for me. Certainly the reviews of books, because that's the real purpose of this type of network, isn't it? To receive new book recommendations? But I also really enjoy thought-provoking articles about the state of the book industry itself, whether they're about new book awards, banned books, independent bookselling news, new bookstores opening, or anything else topical. Posts like those help me catch up if I've missed something and keep me feeling connected to this wonderful, ever-changing, enormous industry.

This week's Follow Friday question:

Do you have an under-noticed author that you think we should all know about? 

I am a total evangelist for Australian young adult author, Melina Marchetta.

Melina Marchetta? you might say. Isn't she the author that won the Printz award for her young adult novel, Jellicoe Road

Why yes, I would answer. The book that is so good that I read it at least once a year and always sob my heart out in the best way possible each time? Yes, she is. But did you know about her recent epic fantasy novel, Finnikin of the Rock

No, you might respond.

Ah, I would nod wisely. I thought not. Few seem to, despite it being published by Candlewick Press, a fantastic, Boston-based, independently-owned children's/YA-book-only press.

For my review of Jellicoe Road, click here.
For my review of Finnikin of the Rock, click here.
To find out what the Printz award is, click here.

Both of these books, though completely different in genre and scope (Jellicoe Road is realistic young adult fiction set at an Australian boarding school and Finnikin of the Rock is a sweeping young adult fantasy set in an imagined world), have a similar depth of character, context, and complete world immersion. Her writing is tight, clean, beautifully wrought, and emotionally charged. Please run to your nearest library or independent bookstore to pick up a copy of any of her four books, though Jellicoe Road and Finnikin of the Rock are my two personal favorites.

Her complete book list (clicking on the title will bring you to, the independent bookselling website):

Dec 8, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Witch & Wizard: The Gift by James Patterson & Ned Rust

 Waiting on Wednesday (WoW) is a weekly meme hosted by

My first and second WoW posts were about my guilty pleasure choices (mostly mass market paperbacks with romantic and/or paranormal themes). I'm proud to finally introduce my first Young Adult (YA) WoW post!

Shop Indie Bookstores
Witch & Wizard: The Gift
by James Patterson & Ned Rust
9780316036252, $17.99, Little, Brown (Hachette), Pub. Date: December 13, 2010

This book is the sequel to Witch & Wizard published last year, co-authored by James Patterson & Gabrielle Charbonnet. He (James Patterson) has started doing this co-authorship thing; I'm inclined to be somewhat skeptical, but I don't know much about the process, so I'm hesitant to give an uninformed opinion.

For instance, I really enjoyed book 1 in this series. Will I enjoy book 2 as much with a different co-author? Will the voices remain the same? Will the tone of the book remain the same? Will I be able to tell the difference? While I admire, to an extent, what I presume to be one of the inspirations for co-authorship - lesser-known authors gaining greater recognition within the industry by having their name attached to the big J.P. - I'm curious to know who does the bulk of the writing. Do they write chapters back and forth? Do they discuss plot and characterization together? Or does J.P. come up with an idea, the co-author writes it, and J.P. edits it before it gets published? How does it all work, really?

Either way, I'm looking forward to book 2. Here's the synopsis:

When Whit & Wisty were imprisoned by the wicked forces of the totalitarian regime known as the New Order, they were barely able to escape with their lives. Now part of a hidden community of teens like themselves, Whit and Wisty have established themselves as leaders of the Resistance, willing to sacrifice anything to save kids kidnapped and brutally imprisoned by the New Order.

But the One has other plans in store for them: He needs Wisty, for she is "The One Who Has the Gift." While trying to figure out what that means, Whit and Wisty's suspenseful adventures through Overworld and Shadowland lead to a jaw-dropping climax and conclusion: the highly-anticipated fulfillment of the heart-pounding opening prologue of book one... The Execution of the Allgoods.

Dec 7, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Places to Read

The Broke and the Bookish, a brilliant book blog, 
hosts a weekly top ten list meme.

I like this meme because I like lists. I like this meme because it reminds me of the Top 5 lists from High Fidelity (by Nick Hornby as a book, starring John Cusak as a movie). And I like this meme because it causes me to think long and hard about book-related topics. So here goes:

Top 10 Coziest Places to Read/Favorite Places to Read 

1. My first ever favorite place to read was the children's room that used to exist in the main library on the Hanover College campus in southern IN. Sadly, this room no longer exists.

2. In college, a friend of a friend's mother was an upholsterer and had a leftover chair a customer never picked up and had given it to her daughter, who was going to leave it on the side of the road at the end of one school year, and I rescued it, and carted it from home to home until I finally had to downsize a year ago. That was the most comfy, rocks gently back and forth, could sit curled up, or swing your legs over the sides, armchair EVER.

3. In mah bed.

4. In the 1970s swinging couch on my Babci's sun porch in upstate NY in the summertime when the weather is fine.

5. On a blanket outside in a park or near a river or lake somewhere.

6. On anyone else's bed.

7. When I'm traveling. (This is a bit of cheating because it's not one particular place, but I love to read on buses, planes, and trains, no matter how short or long the trip.)

8. On a white, sandy beach in the summer with the waves crashing and the gulls squawking and a big pair of sunglasses on to cut the glare.

9. On the loveseat in my current house with my feet propped up on the wooden chest in front of the wood-burning stove between the living room and the kitchen.

10. Some day, years from now, when I have my own home where my bedroom will have a window seat AND a fireplace in it and so no matter if it's summer (window seat) or winter (in front of the fire) I'll have a cozy place to read, my room will be my favoritest, coziest place.

Dec 3, 2010

Book Blogger Hop & Follow Friday

How could I almost forget? 

This week's Book Blogger Hop question:

"What very popular and hyped book in the blogosphere did you NOT enjoy and how did you feel about posting your review?"

Sadly, especially considering how much I enjoyed The History of Love, Nicole Krauss's new novel,
Great House
was a big disappointment to me. I found it difficult to relate to the narrator, the story elements I wanted to hear more about were not the ones expanded upon, and frankly, I thought the writing was a little boring. In addition to all of that, I just got the sense that the book was trying so hard to be literary, and I really dislike it when writing is aware of itself. So, I stopped reading it about half-way through. And didn't post a review because I tend to avoid posting negative reviews. This is just my own philosophy, but life's too short to continue reading a book you don't like, and there are so many books I did enjoy to blog about that I don't feel the need to blog about those I didn't.

This week's Follow Friday question:

What do you do besides reading / reviewing as a hobby?

If there's any time left over between work, reading, sleeping, eating, and working out, I craft, I photograph, I play the piano when there's one around, I'm considering learning the harmonica, I knit, I sew, I mixed-media collage, I make cards, I cook, I bake, and I'm always looking for more.

 Now then, nice to meet you all!

Dec 2, 2010

Book Review: Dust City by Robert Paul Weston

by Robert Paul Weston
9781595142962, $16.99, Razorbill (Penguin)

Dust City combines fairy tales, paranormal characters, futuristic science, and a dash of adventure and romance in this new Young Adult novel by the author of Zorgamazoo, a 2008 Booklist top ten debut title.

Henry Whelp is the son of the Big Bad Wolf. You know, the one who murdered Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother? As the son of a famous murderer, Henry is content to keep his head down and not cause any trouble at Dust City’s Home for Wayward Wolves. Unfortunately, most of the other kids at the Home are troublemakers, so that’s a little difficult. Especially in a town like Dust City, known for its black-market dealing of mind-altering fairy dust concoctions.

You see, years ago, fairies used to populate Eden, the city above Dust City. Their fairy dust would grant miracles and wishes by bringing about the fairy dust recipient’s full potential. Within minutes of inhaling the fairy dust, a painter would create a masterpiece, a musician would compose an opus, and so on. Sadly, though, the fairies all disappeared one day, leaving a population hooked on fairy dust but without a reliable source. That’s where the evil steps in. Nimbus Thaumaturgical is a company run by two brothers that found a way to create a synthetic dust substitute using leftover fairy dust mined from the hills of Eden. Some of their medicine is sold over-the-counter for relieving small headaches, healing small cuts, basically small miracles like that. What most people don’t know is that the rest of the dust is sold through Skinner, Dust City’s famed mobster, and his Water Nixie crew, on the underground (literally) black market.

When Henry’s best friend Jack escapes the Home (with the help of a few beans), and a murder takes place, Henry knows it’s time for him to leave as well. A clandestine trip to his father in prison gives Henry some new information – Henry’s father believes the fairies are still alive and have been kidnapped, forced to produce evil dust for Nimbus Thaumaturgical. Henry’s father inhaled some of the evil dust on the night he killed Red and her grandmother. If Henry can find out if the fairies do still exist, he may be able to prove his father’s innocence. AND, he may be able to work a deal with the fairies to bring back the mother who died many years ago, accidentally killed by a Nimbus Thaumaturgical truck. To do this, though, Henry will need to go deep into the underworld, become one of Skinner’s runners in the drug trade, and try to uncover the secret behind the manufactured dust. All without being found out, getting addicted to the dust himself, or ending up dead. With a sexy female wolf named Fiona by his side (who happens to be the sister of his biggest rival, Roy), how can he fail?