Oct 29, 2011

Book Review: After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

After the Golden Age 
by Carrie Vaughn
9780765325556, $24.99, Tor Fantasy

Are you as surprised as I was to see this on my reading list? Okay, probably not, but this was definitely one of those "judged a book by its cover" reads and I'm three-quarters glad that I did. Why only 3/4ths? Because the book was great for that long. Then she somehow lost it right at the end - don't you just hate that? BUT, because the first 3/4ths of the book was still really compelling, I'm going to blog it and recommend it anyway.

Celia West is the daughter of superheros. Captain Olympiad and Spark are actually Dad and Mom - beyond-wealthy socialites with a conscience who formed the crime-fighting team, the Olympiads. Unfortunately for Celia, she's superpower-less. Celia is a forensic accountant, and as sexy as that job sounds, she has actually been placed as an assistant to the DA on the case against the Destructor, the Olympiads' #1 nemesis. Why? Because after all the destruction The Destructor has managed to cause, he's actually going to be put away for something like tax fraud. Ain't that always the way?

Estranged from her family, Celia is nonetheless still acting in her role as "Bait Girl," meaning she continues to be kidnapped as part of a new rash of high-profile crimes hitting Commerce City. She's not scared - why should she be? This has happened so many times before - but it IS annoying to have to keep being rescued by your parents and their friends. Especially when she's done so much to distance herself from them, from her rebellious teenage self, and from her sealed juvie record which is about to be leaked and make the biggest, darkest secret from her past very public knowledge.

When, once again, Celia's thrust back into the limelight, all she wants to do is squirrel away in her apartment, maybe consider buying a new identity, and moving to another city. But in her work for this big "Trial of the Century," she's actually been making some progress. So who cares if she's been fired? If she could just get her dad to let her into the Olympiads' computer system, she just may be able to follow the paper trail that could lead them all to who is actually behind the new crime spree, the mayor's build-up to martial law, and quite possibly the secret behind even her parents' superpowers.

It is just at the moment that Celia is coming back to herself as her own proud, not powerless character, that the book takes a dark turn with the plot. Death, destruction, and a really fast wrap-up make me want to ask this author for a rewrite of the last 30 pages. As I said before, though, worth reading for the quick pace of writing, the humor, the brief characterizations, and overall, just a nice break from everything else I've been reading out there.

Oct 28, 2011

Friday Round-Up

Each week I round-up all the (mostly book-related) articles/blog posts/book reviews/websites/videos that entertained me during the week. Enjoy!

Let's just get this out of the way, shall we? Ira Glass Sex Tape (Spoof) 


Occupy library in London via Publishing Perspectives

Better late than never: The 2011 National Book Award Finalists were announced (with a little bit of YA controversy).

Thank you to 100 Scope Notes for bringing this to my attention:
  • "Youth librarian Lucas Maxwell at the Tantallon Public Library in Nova Scotia, Canada came up with a good idea to celebrate the 10th birthday of his branch. I’ll let him tell it:
To celebrate our 10th birthday this month I wrote to a bunch of
authors, asking them to write a letter back, addressed to the youth of
this area outlining the benefits of reading and libraries in general."
  • Check them out here.

A short but sweet article about Icelandic author Sjón from Publishing Perspectives.

I kinda agree with MTV on this one: "Six Horrible Books to See On Your New Girlfriend's Bookshelf"

Books About Poverty

Girl With a Dragon Tattoo-inspired clothing line by H&M. Um...I'm glad y'all were inspired and all...but didn't this look already happen back-in-the-day? You know, "grunge"? 'Cause I'm pretty sure I remember that...can't be the only one.


The Books They Gave Me, a blog detailing the books you've received from your lover(s).
I surprised myself by realizing there was only one who gave me books that I still cherish. Thanks, St.

Bookseller I'd Like to F*** is a column written by Lacey Dunham. In particular, I'm a fan of her "10 Myths About Bookselling". Among many many others.

BookLamp.org is for books what Pandora is for music. Almost. It's close. It's getting there. And I did add 3 new books to my TBR list before I decided to take a break. So it does work.

Children's Books

Top 10 Pulse-Racing Adventure Books thanks to The Guardian.

Also in The Guardian: "Reading with Kids"


Mourir Aupres de Toi (To Die By Your Side) filmed in Shakespeare & Co., the famous Parisian bookstore.

Mourir Auprès de Toi (To Die by Your Side) by Spike Jonze from Léonard Cohen on Vimeo.


I gush about Penguin Books and their designs so much, you'd think I was getting a commission. (I'm not, but hey Penguin, I'm open to the idea.) They've created a new series of books called "Great Foods" that explores the past 400 years of good food writing. That's right: 400 years. Think they didn't make good food back then? Think they couldn't write well about good food back then? Think again.


New meaning to "don't judge a book by its cover".

Oct 27, 2011

Book Review: Miss Timmins' School for Girls by Nayana Currimbhoy

Miss Timmins' School for Girls
by Nayana Currimbhoy
9780061997747, $14.99, HarperCollins

I don't know what made me pick this book up. I don't remember if I saw it advertised somewhere online, or if someone recommended it on Goodreads, or if I just saw it on the new books shelf, but for whatever reason I checked it out of the library and am so glad I did.

This is Nayana Currimbhoy's first novel. Her writing can only be described as lovely, and I look forward to reading more of her work. I'm not a fan of overt similes - X was like Y - and Ms. Currimbhoy is a master of the subtly evocative metaphor.

Told in three parts, Miss Timmins' School for Girls is first and foremost the story of Charulata Apte, a Brahmin Indian girl called Charu for short. At the age of 21 in 1974, Charu makes her first venture out into the world by taking a teaching position at boarding school in Panchgani, one still run "like an outpost of the British Empire". Class structure is very much at play, and shy, timid, only-child Charu is slowly, almost delicately, drawn out of herself when she unwillingly befriends Miss Moira Prince, a prickly, insubordinate, unexpectedly charming White teacher. Through Pin, as Charu calls her, Charu is introduced to the charms of the 70s - the Mystery Man known as Merch (a friend of Pin's), and with him, the music, the drugs, the politics, the independence. Touched by new ideas, new feelings, new experiences, Charu nonetheless feels safe inside her Panchgani/Timmins' School bubble, where the outside world never really intrudes.

Until a murder occurs. Until her mother is hospitalized.

Suddenly the perspective changes, and the story continues from the perspective of Nandita, one of Charu's top students, and Nandita's friends, who had snuck away to the place known as table-top on the night of the murder. With Macbeth and Gothic romances and contemporary detective novels as their guides, Nandita, Akhila, Ramona, and Shoba attempt to put together the pieces of that night. Miss Nelson, the school principal, was seen on table-top. So was Charu. So was Merch. So were some boys from another local school, Mr. Blind Irani, and enough people so that it seemed like half the school and town were out that night, the night there was a full moon and the rain stopped in the middle of the monsoon season. False accusations, false arrests, family connections and secrets and revelations, for a brief moment Timmins' School and all of Panchgani are national news in a huge game of who-dunnit.

Perspective changes again and it is now several years later. Charu has gone to Bombay, to become a teacher there. No longer provincial, living with her father and her child, life has moved on in so many ways, but she has never forgotten. A chance meeting with an old student brings it all rushing back, all the same feelings of first love, second love, guilt, confusion, frustration - and under it all, still a lingering question about what really happened the night of the murder. A trip back to Panchgani is needed to once-and-for-all discover the truth about that night up at table-top and how those events formed who Charu came to be.

The publisher's marketing calls this book "ultimately, a coming-of-age tale set against the turbulence of the 1970s as it played out in one small corner of India," but it's so much more than that. Reading this book was almost like traveling to India, with words and phrases and actions and castes and socio-cultural elements sprinkled throughout the prose. Though there is a glossary in the back of the book, I preferred not to use it, instead immersing myself in this place I had never been, letting the unfamiliar words wash over me while I sympathized with the budding womanhood of Charu's experiences. A true sensory pleasure.

Oct 26, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff

Waiting on Wednesday (WoW) is a weekly meme hosted by
My first, second, and eighth WoW posts were about my guilty pleasure reading - romantic (often paranormal) paperback/mass market novels. My third, fourth, and eighth WoW posts were YA (young adult) titles. My fifth and sixth WoW posts were about adult literary fiction. My middle grade WoW post is here. And now, featuring another YA:
9781595143396, $17.99, Razorbill (Penguin)

I recently reviewed Brenna Yovanoff's first YA book, The Replacements, mostly in preparation for this book. No, you don't have to read one before the other, they have nothing to do with each other, but I read about The Space Between, saw that it wasn't out yet, and decided to read The Replacements because it was out and I wanted to test her writing and now I'm even more excited for The Space Between. In particular, I enjoy the way Yovanoff explores the sibling relationship, which she also does in her second book.
Here's the publisher's pitch for The Space Between:

Everything is made of steel, even the flowers. How can you love anything in a place like this?

Daphne is the half-demon, half-fallen angel daughter of Lucifer and Lilith. Life for her is an endless expanse of time, until her brother Obie is kidnapped - and Daphne realizes she may be partially responsible. Determined to find him, Daphne travels from her home in Pandemonium to the vast streets of Earth, where everything is colder and more terrifying. With the help of the human boy she believes was the last person to see her brother alive, Daphne glimpses into his dreams, discovering clues to Obie's whereabouts. As she delves deeper into her demonic powers, she must navigate the jealousies and alliances of the violent archangels who stand in her way. But she also discovers, unexpectedly, what it means to love and be human in a world where human is the hardest thing to be.

This second novel by rising star Brenna Yovanoff is a story of identity, discovery, and a troubled love between two people struggling to find their place both in our world and theirs.

Oct 25, 2011

Top Ten Books to Read During Halloween

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 Ten Books to Read During Halloween 

1. Darling Jim by Christian Moerk

I know I've talked about this book before, but it still holds place as the best kind of creepy yet not gory, spine-tingling but not nightmare-inducing, gothic yet contemporary, fantastical yet set-in-reality novel I've ever read. My review of it is here. I may just have to reread it myself.

2. Edgar Allen Poe


3. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Perfect for both adults and children who want a bit of creepy, a lot of mystery, and the touch of reality to make it all the more shiver-inducing. The photographs that inspired this book are real pictures, though the story Ransom Riggs has concocted to explain them is a beautiful, dark fantasy. Read my review of it here.

4. The Lady in the Water by M. Night Shyamalan

Really wish this was a longer novel for adults, though I do love its picture book format. Check out the movie as well.

5. For kids (and adults): Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark: Collected From American Folklore by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell

These stories scared the pants off me as a kid. Granted, I was a sensitive child, but to this day, as much as I love fireplaces, I'm still a little creeped out by an empty one and keep expecting a severed head to roll out from it.

6. For teens: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

This one because it's so gruesome! The teens are really being tortured, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It's the first book in a trilogy, and though The Scorch Trials (I recently reviewed it here) tones it down somewhat, there's still this penetrating fear that not everything ends up well in the end. That's what really makes it creepy, to me. When things get too scary, I like to disconnect a little and think, Everything's going to be alright in the end, because it's a book, and more than that, it's a YA book, but people keep on dying, they keep on getting hurt, that eventually I start thinking, Maybe it really won't be alright, and that's when the fear really sets in. Read my short review of it here.

7. For kids: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

By contrast, one of the things I love most about this book is that it doesn't have a pervasive fear, even though it deals with some pretty creepy topics. The main character, Nobody (Bod for short), has no fear himself, so there isn't this impending sense of doom with every page. Great for a sensitive kid who still wants to read something a little spooky. Read my review of it here.

8. Hocus Pocus (movie)

I know, I know, I'm supposed to be suggesting books, but really this movie starring Bette Midler, a young Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy is such a children's classic that I had to mention it.

9. & 10. I'm leaving these blank for you - suggestions?

Oct 24, 2011

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs
9781594744761, $17.99, Quirk Books

Jacob's grandfather used to tell him tales of a magical place. An island with a beautiful home where children with strange abilities lived, safe from harm, forever. As Jacob gets older he begins to question his grandfather's stories - a girl who could float? A boy who had bees inside of him? What were the children "safe" from?

His parents told Jacob these were stories his grandfather made up to help explain away his childhood experiences during WWII. But how, then, to explain the photographs his grandfather showed him? They were old, yellowed and faded with age, way before digital photography was invented. Creepy scenes of children - an invisible boy, just a body with clothes and no head; a girl with two reflections instead of one; pictures that looked like circus acts but weren't. Jacob gets angry, thinking his grandfather is lying to him, and they never speak of the stories again.

Until Jacob is 16. And his grandfather calls him, scared, looking for his guns, swearing "it" is after him. Then his grandfather gets killed, and Jacob finds him, and Jacob sees the terror in the shadows in the woods. That's when Jacob begins to believe.

Suffering from a nervous breakdown following his grandfather's death, Jacob has screaming nightmares, is often afraid to leave the house, and begins seeing a psychiatrist. Thinking that confronting his fears might help him, Jacob and his father travel to the island where Jacob's grandfather was sent as a child during the war. Remote and isolated doesn't even begin to describe the place, but Jacob is fixated on finding the house from his grandfather's memories, and possibly a woman called Miss Peregrine, one letter from whom was found among Jacob's grandfather's things.

Piecing together stories from local townspeople, Jacob is told the house was bombed, and everyone in it perished, except for one young man (Jacob's grandfather) who left the day after the bombing. But if they all died, how had Jacob's grandfather received a letter from a woman who lived there 15 years later?

When Jacob finally finds the house, it has clearly been abandoned for a very long time. With more questions than answers, Jacob gathers his courage to explore inside. He finds a trunk containing photographs like the ones his grandfather used to show him. Going through them carefully, Jacob suddenly hears a noise. "Abe?" asks a girl's voice. Abe was his grandfather. "Abe?"

And so, Jacob finds the children. And finds the answers. And comes face-to-face with the scary and awful and magical truth. By the end of this first book in what is clearly a series, Jacob must come to a life-changing decision: does he belong in the world of the children, forever?

Oct 22, 2011

Book Review: The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

The Scorch Trials
by James Dashner
9780385738767, $9.99, Delacorte Press (Random House)

This is the second book in the Maze Runner trilogy. You can read my review of Book 1, titled The Maze Runner, here.

They thought the battle was over when they left the maze, but it soon becomes clear they've only moved on to stage 2 of these twisted games, designed to test the Gladers beyond their already stretched limits. Thomas wakes up on the morning after their "rescue" to find Teresa gone, a new boy in her place, and the Gladers in a panic as Cranks try to break into their enclosure. 

Cranks are zombie-like creatures that have been infected with a disease the Gladers later find out has infected the world. The new boy, Aris, says he's from Group B - a group of all girls, except for him. Oh, and Aris can speak in Thomas's mind, just like Teresa. Slowly Thomas and the Gladers piece together that there are two groups out there, and they're both competing for the same prize: The Gladers are told they've all been infected by the disease, but if they make it from point A to point B in the allotted amount of time, they will be given a cure. 

Sounds simple enough until they're plunged into total blackness where they can't see the deathly beheading orbs, then shocked by the almost constant sunlight battering down on them as they struggle to run across a desert, all with dwindling food and water resources. Lightning and rain storm burns them while they run toward a city - toward friend or foe, they're not sure, but they know they need to get out of the killing rain. In the city they meet Brenda and Jorge who promise to lead them safely through the Crank-infested city in exchange for the antidote, but first the group gets separated and both factions have to battle their way toward their destination point.

Less gruesome than The Maze Runner though still deadly, The Scorch Trials, puts Thomas, and all the characters, through a more bitter emotional journey, complete with deception, betrayal, and dreams/flashbacks Thomas has to a strange time and place that almost make it seem like he might have had a hand in creating all of this torture. But for what greater purpose? Who can he trust? And as before, he has to wonder what Teresa means when she mind-speaks to him, "WICKED is good."

Oct 21, 2011

Friday Round-Up

Each week I round-up all the (mostly book-related) articles/blog posts/book reviews/websites/videos that entertained me during the week. Really video-heavy this week for some reason. Hope you've got headphones. Enjoy!

Children's Books

The Casual Optimist featured this delightful video by animator James Curran, which is an unofficial trailer for the upcoming Steven Speilberg movie, The Adventures of Tintin.

The Adventures of Tintin from James Curran on Vimeo.


Design*Sponge featured a DIY book bookend project. I'm not sure I'd spraypaint them black, but I like the idea overall.


The Daily Good featured two book-related projects that caught my eye:
  1. The "Kindness Cab" Hands Out Free Rides and Free Books
  2. Big Class Takes a Big Step Towards Literacy
    1. Here's a link to Big Class.

First, John Cusak as Edgar Allen Poe? Yes please! Watch the trailer for The Raven.

Next, Johnny Depp will produce a live-action biopic of Dr. Seuss. Oh happy day! I can't be the only one who loves that Johnny Depp loves to be involved with children's films - Finding Neverland, Alice in Wonderland, Willy Wonka, etc. Read all about it here.

My parents happen to live in New Jersey (still not quite sure why). Pretty damn close to where Stephanie Plum works as a bail bondsman. And yes, I'm talking about the character created by Janet Evanovich. Maybe that's why I find these books so hilarious - I can imagine my mother driving around these streets (and trust me, she'd probably be one of the ones carrying a gun in her handbag). One For The Money, based on the first book in the series by the same name, is coming out in January.


A Kickstarter project where a man in Germany has used keyboard keys to literally write out all the days in the year. It makes a beautiful print!


Random House, Inc. created an It Gets Better video.

Oct 20, 2011

Follow Friday

This week's Follow Friday (hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) features Book Savvy Babe and The Bursting Bookshelf.

The question is: What superhero is your alter ego?

This is a hard question for me to answer because I didn't grow up following comics and superheros. Jacqueline Carey's Phedre no Deluanay from her first Kushiel series is definitely a superhero in my book, and she actually is writing a series of books about a character known as Santa Olivia who is like a superhero to the town where she lives. So...basically Jacqueline Carey's strong, kick-ass female characters are my alter-egos.

If you don't know them, I highly recommend you check them out. The character, setting, and plot complexity is intense without being overwhelming; there's unbelievable (in a good way) action and adventure; and love does conquer all but almost never in ways you imagine.

Book Review: Habibi by Craig Thompson

by Craig Thompson
9780375424144, $35, Pantheon (Random House)
Age appropriate: Adult graphic novel, 16+ (nudity, sexual content, violence)

Absolutely incredible. Beautiful calligraphy, detailed illustrations, intense historical fiction - I read something describing Craig Thompson's work as a "triumph" and I completely agree.

Habibi is a combination of historical fiction, religious fiction, and graphic novel. Told in a non-linear fashion, the stories of Dodola and Zam are brilliantly woven together with myths and tales from Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, enhancing the stories of the characters and giving a contemporary context for religious history. Not a book intended to proselytize or convert, the center of the story revolves around the lives of these two characters, from childhood to adult, as they suffer atrocities, betrayal, happiness, and hope.

Dodola was sold into marriage to a scribe at the age of eight. Though she learned to read and write, she was also expected to perform wifely duties she was really too young to handle. One day, her husband is killed and she is sold into slavery, where she meets Zam, a little black boy in the slave market whom no one claims. Claiming him as her own, when Dodola escapes, she takes Zam with her. They find an old boat in the middle of a sea of sand and spend several years there. Dodola does what she must to get food from passing caravans, with Zam in charge of finding water. It is when Zam is old enough to feel the first stirrings of sexuality, old enough to challenge authority, and old enough to satisfy his own curiosity, that the two are thrust back into danger: Dodola is captured for the sultan's harem, while Zam wanders the streets of the nearby town, destitute. Years pass before the two are reunited, again needing to make a daring escape together. Both have changed so much, have had so much happen to them individually, it takes time to heal and trust each other, and most importantly themselves, again.

Habibi explores mysticism, spiritualism, and a brutal honesty about slave life, what people will do out of necessity, and the power of love in all its forms.

Thank you to Symposium Books in Providence, RI, for letting me sit in your store and read this cover-to-cover one rainy afternoon. I promise that wasn't my intention, but I got so caught up in the story, I honestly couldn't put it down.

Oct 19, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Rivals (The Mockingbirds #2) by Daisy Whitney

Waiting on Wednesday (WoW) is a weekly meme hosted by
My first and second  and eighth WoW posts were about my guilty pleasure reading - romantic (often paranormal) paperback/mass market novels. My third and fourth WoW posts were YA (young adult) titles. My fifth and sixth WoW posts were about adult literary fiction. My middle grade WoW post is here. And now, featuring another YA:
The Rivals (The Mockingbirds, Book 2)
9780316090575, $17.99, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Hachette)

Read my book review of Book 1, The Mockingbirds, here.
Not sure how I feel about the new cover for this series, but I'm still excited to read Book 2!
Publisher's description: 
When Alex Patrick was assaulted by another student last year, her elite boarding school wouldn't do anything about it. This year Alex is head of the Mockingbirds, a secret society of students who police and protect the student body. While she desperately wants to live up to the legacy that's been given to her, she's now dealing with a case unlike any the Mockingbirds have seen before.

It isn't rape. It isn't bullying. It isn't hate speech. A far-reaching prescription drug ring has sprung up, and students are using the drugs to cheat. But how do you try a case with no obvious victim? Especially when the facts don't add up, and each new clue drives a wedge between Alex and the people she loves most: her friends, her boyfriend, and her fellow Mockingbirds.

As Alex unravels the layers of deceit within the school, the administration, and even the student body the Mockingbirds protect, her struggle to navigate the murky waters of vigilante justice may reveal more about herself than she ever expected.

Oct 18, 2011

Book Review: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

by Brian Selznick
9780545027842, $29.99, Scholastic
Age appropriate: Read-together: 4+, Read alone: 8+

I had the pleasure of attending the NEIBA trade show NECBA children's author dinner last Wednesday (Oct. 12, 2011), where Brian Selznick explained what he was trying to do in his newest book, Wonderstruck. As you may remember, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, his previous middle grade novel, won the Caldecott Award, for a novel told in both pictures and text - you could not read one without the other, for together, they made the complete story. In Wonderstruck, Mr. Selznick wanted to stick with that format but play with the intent, so that instead of the film still-like images enhancing the same story, they tell a different person's story than that of the text. Ben Wilson's story in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota in 1977 is told via text, while Rose's story from Hoboken, New Jersey in 1927 is told through images. The stories build up suspense for each other until one fateful moment, 3/4 of the way through the book, they collide beautifully.

This structure is particularly brilliant because the main characters in Wonderstruck are partially or fully deaf, and in Rose's story, in 1927, the movie world is about to be completely changed with the invention of "talking pictures". Whereas before, deaf and hearing people could enjoy films together, talking pictures changes all that. I love the underlying film stories in both Mr. Selznick's works, and the themes of independence vs. family, adventure vs. security, past meeting present.

Ben's mother has recently died, and he's having a tough time adjusting to life with his aunt, uncle, and 2 cousins, even though their house is right next door to his old house on Gunflint Lake. One night, Ben sneaks into his own house and decides to search through his mother's things for any message she might have left him. When Ben finds a locket, a book, and a postcard that might give him clues as to who his father is, he decides to try contacting him. Using a phone. In the middle of a storm. When lightening strikes.

Rose is a little deaf girl living in a large house in New Jersey, overlooking Manhattan. Lonely, unable to communicate via either sign language or lip reading, she runs away to find her mother in the city.

Their stories collide when Ben also runs away to find his father in the city. Ben ends up at the American Museum of Natural History, where he makes a friend in Jamie, whose father works at the museum and from whom Jamie has swiped some keys. The boys explore the museum, E.L. Konigsburg-style (if you don't know what I'm referring to, check out Newbery Medal-winning From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler), and Ben ends up sleeping in an old Cabinet of Wonders-turned-storage room. After a few dead ends during the hunt for his father, Ben meets Rose, now much older, who tells him her own story while explaining to Ben who his father is, where Ben comes from, and that though his mother died, Ben is not without family and friends in the world. Masterfully woven together, Wonderstruck lives up to the promise of greatness from every Brian Selznick work.

Oh, and one last thing - be prepared to have the line "Ground control to Major Tom" drift through your head for days after reading this.

Oct 17, 2011

Book Review: The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

The Replacement
by Brenna Yovanoff
97818595143372, $17.99, Razorbill (Penguin)
Age appropriate: 14+ (some sexual content, macabre scenes)

Every seven years in the town of Gentry, a child is taken and replaced with a look-alike that is not quite...human. The replacement child usually dies, leaving the family to grieve twice: once for the missing child and once for the replacement. The town doesn't speak of it, but they know this sacrifice is necessary to ensure their town's prosperity. Only not all the "replacements" die. And lately, not all has been going so well for the town. So who, or what, is upsetting the balance? And is it worth it?

When Tate's baby sister goes missing, she turns to the only person she can think of who might be able to help her - Mackie, a 16-year-old "replacement". Mackie knows what he is. How could he not, when he can't enter his preacher father's church or step on consecrated ground or be near blood or anything else that has iron in it? Yet his entire life, his mother, father, and sister Emma have done everything they could to help him keep his head down, appear normal, and blend in, for fear of the townspeople's attention, which could lead to another lynching, like it did to poor Kellan Caury years ago. With this story hanging over his head, Mackie is disinclined to pay any attention to the one person who is throwing the truth in his face.

But Mackie hasn't been feeling so well, himself. Getting sicker by the day for no apparent reason, he eventually comes face-to-face with the people/creatures of Mayhem, the city below Gentry, made up of dead replacements. They have the potions that can keep Mackie from dying, but he has to help them in return. Soon Mackie must face a choice: continue to help the people of Mayhem, a place and people that are beginning to feel familiar and like home, or rescue Tate's sister, currently being kept as a living doll for the ruler of Mayhem, but who is scheduled to be sacrificed on All Soul's Eve. Pulled in both directions, all Mackie wants to do is stay alive, stay well, play his bass, and explore all the feelings that come along with being a living teenage boy. Mackie must find the strength within himself to do the right thing for him, his family, Tate, her sister, the people of Mayhem, and the people of Gentry. No pressure.

Oct 16, 2011

Book Review: The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette
by Jeanne Birdsall
9780375858512, $16.99, Knopf (Random House)
Age appropriate: Read-aloud 4+, read-alone 8+

This third book in the Penderwicks series picks up right where book two, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, leaves off. Mr. Penderwick, his new wife, and baby Ben are in England for the honeymoon. Rosalind is taking her first vacation away from the family, going to the New Jersey shore with her best friend. That leaves Skye as OAP (oldest available Penderwick) in charge of Jane, Batty, Hound, and Jeffrey as they head to Maine with Aunt Claire.

Maine, while magical with its cottage next to the beach complete with sleeping porch, woods with moose, and some new potential friends, is also fraught with complications when Aunt Claire sprains her ankle, Jane decides to conduct Love Surveys as part of her research for her next Sabrina Starr book, and Batty takes an interest in music. Everyone knows Penderwicks are not musical, but with the support of Jeffrey and the next door neighbor musician, Alec, Batty is receiving lots of encouragement. No one is encouraging Jane in her survey, but that's not stopping her, especially when there's an intriguing, skateboarding new boy named Dominic in the neighborhood. Has Jane become the next Penderwick to fall in love?

Meanwhile, Skye is trying to avoid Rosalind's calls so Rosalind can have a worry-free vacation, but that means Skye is worrying overtime. Convinced Batty is about to blow up or drown or both, Skye becomes increasingly paranoid and insists Batty wear an orange life jacket at all times. A mini-coup might be necessary, but when Jeffrey's step-father Dexter shows up to yank Jeffrey back home, everyone knows who to turn to in a crisis. Skye steps up as OAP, sister, and friend, standing firm, offering support, and defending the honor of those she loves. With that much love in a family to give, it's no surprise the Penderwick family leaves Point Mouette with a few more honorary Penderwicks than when they arrived.

A true treasure of an adventure, Jeanne Birdsall is just beginning to hit her stride as a writer; I can hardly wait for adventures four and five.

Oct 15, 2011


I was lucky enough to attend the New England Independent Booksellers Association trade show in Providence, RI this week. Actually, I'm still here for the weekend, exploring the city as I've never been here before and it's absolutely fantastic and don't be surprised if I suddenly announce I'm moving here. But all that aside, it was so great to see so many old friends, meet new people, and explore NEIBA from the other side of the table - as part of publishing, rather than bookselling.

Truth be told, I attended on Wednesday as myself, a book blogger for Wildly Read, and that was such a treat. Literally. The luncheon and dinner were pretty delish. The Awards Luncheon was honoring the recipients of the 2011 New England Book Awards and the President's Award. Categories & honorees are as follows:

Fiction:  Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
Non-fiction: Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Children's: The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall
President's Award: Howard Frank Mosher

Everyone gave a speech, told many heartfelt and hilarious stories, and we all received copies of these books. My favorite quote came from Jeanne Birdsall who talked about writing for children stories that encouraged or showcased a "belief in optimism". I'm lucky in that I've known Jeanne Birdsall from my children's bookseller days at The Odyssey Bookshop, so she was kind enough to spend some time chatting with me afterward and personalize my copy. That's three of the five books in the series out and each one has made me laugh, cry, hope, dream, and fall in love with the Penderwicks family just a little bit more. Review to follow. Also an exciting tidbit - I was rereading Penderwicks in a coffee shop window seat in Providence and a newspaper photographer came by, took my picture, asked me my name and what I was reading, and I ended up in the local Providence paper. I'll try to scan a copy in sometime.

The NECBA (New England Children's Booksellers Association) Children's Author and Illustrator Dinner featured Ally Condie, author of Crossed, Loren Long, author & illustrator of Otis and the Tornado, and Brian Selznick, creator of Wonderstruck. Each author also gave a little speech and we were treated to pictures of Loren Long and his two sons meeting President Obama, and watched the trailer for Hugo (which you can watch here), the movie based on Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Ally Condie spoke meaningfully about how "it's hard sometimes to not fix things for people," while Brian Selznick talked about how he "was writing about a minority [people who are deaf] that I was not a part of."

Thursday featured educational sessions; I went to two in the morning: Marketing Print and E-Books In-and-Out of Your Store and Integrating Social Media into Your Store's Activities. I picked up some advice for that store I want to open some day and also came away with a few tidbits for how publishers might provide more content, resources, etc. for booksellers. The bottom line, as I saw it, was that social media is necessary, an online presence is a must, but traditional methods cannot be forgotten either. In the words of Josh Christie of Sherman's Books, "Social Media doesn't not sell books." Most importantly: you get what you pay for, or as Josh Cook of Porter Square Books put it, "Talent has a lot of return on investment." In other words, having a staff member dedicated to online presence building, digital content development, and sales floor book displays will pay off in the long run.

Thursday night was the First Look at the Show & Author Cocktail Reception where Beacon Press was proud to show off Kate Whouley, author of Remembering the Music, Forgetting the Words. After the authors signed books, booksellers cased the publisher tables, and I tried to get as many people as possible to bring me food from the cocktail part of the floor, Ms. Emily Crowe, Store Manager at the Odyssey Bookshop and blogger at As the Crowe Flies (And Reads!), worked her magic and was able to get me invited to the Algonquin author dinner with Hillary Jordan, author of When She Woke, and Martha Southgate, author of The Taste of Salt. Let me tell you, you get to know booksellers, publishers, and authors pretty quickly when the drinks are free and everyone goes around the table telling embarrassing stories and stories about their first concert experience by way of introduction. A HUGE thank you to both Emily & Algonquin for a delightful evening.

Friday was the real trade show floor day, where Tom Hallock, Associate Publisher and Director of Sales & Marketing at Beacon Press, and I took turns standing at our press's table, telling booksellers and other publishers about our books, giving away copies, catching up with old friends, and networking with new ones. I also have to thank my foodie insider, John, at the Rhode Island Convention Center, who never steered me wrong once in the food department, and who was responsible for my delectable lunch of handmade Korean beef dumplings with sesame sweet potato fries and a cream puff from Mama Kim's Korean food truck.

If you're a blogger, librarian, bookseller, or publisher considering whether or not these tradeshows are worth it, from my humble opinion as both former bookseller, current blogger, and current publishing industry participant, YES. Firstly, the amount of books you get for free practically pays for your tickets/travel alone. I'll be going home with three tote bags and one full box of books - and a huge thank you to Tom for driving those back to Boston for me rather than making me schlep them on the Commuter Rail. Then there's the networking, finding out best and worst practices from others in your industry, as well as meeting with the publishers to see new titles you may not have paid attention to while flipping through the catalogues and during rep appointments. With most publishers going to an online ordering format rather than paper catalogues, I believe tradeshows are one of the best ways to connect with the books themselves, and to get your own face out there rather than just a blogger title or bookstore name. There's my unsolicited two cents, and now I'm going to grab my camera (no, it's not yet digital) and explore the rest of Providence.

Oct 7, 2011

Friday Round-Up

Each week I round-up all the (mostly book-related) articles/blog posts/book reviews/websites/videos that entertained me during the week. Enjoy!


No, I did not go to Smith College. I went to Mount Holyoke College. Yes, we're rivals. No, I do not care in the slightest about that. What do I care about? Smith College's new Book Studies Concentration. Why oh why did they not have this 10 years ago when I was looking into colleges? This might almost be reason enough to move back to Western MA so that class auditing can commence. Either way, super jealous, and very excited, about this program.

Book Design

LOVE these new covers for eight hardcover poetry books reissued by Faber & Faber. My favorite, of course, is William Blake.

Children's Books

The lost stories of Dr. Seuss (not to be all dramatic) are being published in The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories.

Flavorwire story of the week: "Ten Famous Children's Authors Who Also Wrote Books for Adults"

Check out this article: "Beyond Sparkly Vampires: YA for Lit Snobs".


Anonymous is a new movie about to be released about William Shakespeare, the premise being he did not exist, or at least, not in the way we think we know him. Looks very dramatic, lushly shot, a visual and auditory feast for the senses. Or maybe it just has very good trailers. Watch one on the official movie website. Watch another here.


I shudder at the mere thought of Comic Sans. Here's a rebuttal: "I'm Comic Sans, Asshole" by Mike Lacher on McSweeney's (obviously watch for foul language).


BookRiff™ "lets you create, buy & sell digital & printed books packed with remixed content from the world's top creators." Loving this idea. This Canadian-based company launches soon. Read about it here.

Just discovered Book Riot, a multi-writer book blog that Ms. Emily Crowe over at As the Crowe Flies (and Reads!) turned me on to.

The Nervous Breakdown is a literary book forum website of sorts. Check them out for reviews on fiction, non-fiction, arts, music, etc.

Modern Romance is a blog written by a sixteen-year-old boy, with book reviews and interviews and I'm so impressed I had to share it.

Faber & Faber is a UK publisher I'm currently enamored with (they're the ones publishing the Romantics poetry series I mention above), especially their "Faber Finds" section. Check them out for books you've probably never heard of but should consider reading.

Oct 6, 2011

Uncovered Cover Art

This is a first for me. My redesigned cover for A Girl of the Limberlost (with MUCH thanks to Sandy Littell for her help in the design!) has been featured on Uncovered Cover Art, as part of the Girl Effect Campaign.

Uncovered Cover Art

Thank you so much to Heidi for featuring it as cover # 1! Check it out, leave a comment, let me know what you think.