July 6, 2015

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

by Ransom Riggs
First sentence: "I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen."
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There's a few swear words and general creepiness. It's in the Teen section (grades 9+) because that's where adults want to find it, but I wouldn't be adverse to giving it to a 7th or 8th grader.

I read this one by request of one of my fellow booksellers; she'd picked it for her summer teen book group and couldn't make a session. So, I'm filling in.

I know the rest of the world has read this already, so I'll spare much of the plot. I'll just say that Jacob has grown up on his grandfather's stories of the boarding school he stayed at in England during World War II. They weren't normal stories, and the other children weren't normal children. But Jacob thought that's all they were: stories. That is, until his grandfather ends up dead in his garden, Jacob feels like he's slowly going insane. So, he heads off to this island off the coast of Wales (or some place sufficiently secluded and broody and English-y) to find out the truth for himself.

Yes, the format was clever. Riggs intersperses (real) creepy, weird, old photographs and it's quite unique how he incorporates the pictures. But, that's all it was: clever. I never got past the whole "I'm supposed to be loving this?" feeling. Maybe it's too much hype. Or maybe it was his writing. Or maybe it was just the mood I've been in, but this one fell flat.

On the other hand, that might make for more interesting discussion at the book group....

July 5, 2015

First Sunday Daughter Reviews

I know kids are supposed to be reading in the summer. And we even signed them up for the summer reading program, and I put it on their list of chores every morning. But these girls here at home are not readers this summer.

I don't know what I can do about that. Change the wifi password every day? Rewards? (The library program isn't helping this year.) I lead by example: I read for a good hour or so every evening (when they're not bugging me). But the lure of the tablets and the TV and the computer is just too strong around here (and it doesn't help that I'm gone for 7 hours three days a week).

M did text me that she read and really loved this:

And K and Hubby are about halfway through reading this (which K complains is often boring, but is still sticking with it):
But that's about all that's being read.

How do you manage summer reading so that it actually gets done?

July 3, 2015

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate

by Jaqueline Kelly
First sentence: "To my great astonishment, I saw my first snowfall on New Year's Day of 1900."
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy snagged off the ARC shelves at my place of employment.
Content: It's a bit old-fashioned and there are a lot of scientific words, but if you've got that sort of 9 year old reader, it'd be perfect for them. It's in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the library.
Others in the series: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

I was super excited to find out that my favorite scientific Texan was back in a second installment. I really adored Calpurnia the first time around, and was very excited to spend more time with her. It's 1900, and Calpurnia is doing her best to keep up with her scientific studies with her grandpa. It's hard, especially with pressure from both her parents to be more ladylike. Calpurnia would much rather be tromping around the forests and swamps near their central Texas home, collecting specimens. Or studying the stars and weather.

Then a hurricane hits Galveston (a fact which sent me to Google to find out if it was real. It was.), and Calpurnia's life changes. In to town blows an older cousin (who is, understandably, distraught) and a veterinarian. All of a sudden, Calpurnia has found a calling. The problem? She has to fight to let people even consider the idea of her wanting to be a vet.

Much like the first one, the charm in this is in the narration. Calpurnia is such a delight to spend a book with. This time, I felt her frustration and pain at being a second-class citizen, in her school, in her house, around the town. It seems that everyone, except grandpa, decided already that girls can't do anything non-girly, and it was a wall Calpurnia kept banging up against. I admired her perseverance in breaking down barriers.

Also, like the first one, I thoroughly enjoyed all the science and the little historical details that Kelly uses to make Texas in 1900 come alive.


June 30, 2015

June 2015 Wrap Up

Ah, summer! I love you. (I really do.) Swimming, flowers growing, ice cream and watermelon, never having to worry about being cold...

And less time to read, but that's really okay.

My favorite for the month? Interestingly enough, it's an adult book. That so very rarely happens.

As for the rest:

Graphic Novel
Dragons Beware!
Avengers: Rage of Ultron
The Viscount Who Loved Me
The Truth Comission
The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak

The Heart of Betrayal
The Wrath and the Dawn
Deadly Design

Bone Gap
The Darkest Part of the Forest
Kissing in America

Middle Grade
The Marvels
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer

As You Wish (audio book)
Enchanted Air

What was your favorite this month?

June 29, 2015

The Heart of Betrayal

by Mary E. Pearson
First sentence: "
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy snagged off the ARC shelves at my place of employment.
Release date: July 7, 2015
Others in the series: The Kiss of Deception
Content: There's violence, and a hint at sex (but none actual). It's kind of slow moving, and complex, but it should be find for the younger end of the age range. It's in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

Spoilers for The Kiss of Deception. You've been warned.

Lia is a prisoner in the "barbaric" country of Venda, having been kidnapped by Kaden, the assassin, and dragged there as a prize for the Komizar, Vendan's ruler. Venda doesn't take prisoners; their reputation for violence is well-deserved. But because Kaden has a thing for Lia, so he made an exception.

Lia regrets that now.

It doesn't help that Rafe -- the prince Lia was initially supposed to marry and whom she fell in love with when they were both pretending to be commoners -- is also a prisoner in Venda, masquerading as an inept emissary. They have to keep it under wraps that they know each other (let alone that they care for each other), or they are both dead.

And that's just the beginning.

It's a twisty, turn-y maze of lies, double crossing, manipulation, maneuvering, and deception, and I loved every minute. Even the love triangle, which could have been trite, worked to Pearson's advantage. Kaden and Rafe play off each other, and I truly didn't care, really, which one Lia "ended" up with. (Honestly: the woman is her own woman, and doesn't need either of them. You go girl!) There was complexities to the relationships that Lia had with both of them, and even though Pearson wrote that Rafe was Lia's True Love, I never felt that that relationship defined her.

But what intrigued me most was Lia's role in Venda, how she plays against the Komizar, trying to outsmart him, using his weaknesses (of which there are few) to her advantage. The Komizar is the primary villain, but Pearson gives him layers; he's not simply an Evil Dictator Overlord (though there is some of that). Additionally, there was an element of prophecy to the book that could have been oppressive and lame, but I felt Pearson even worked that to her advantage. And Pearson is still ruthless: killing people right and left.

Of course, this ended on a cliff-hanger, and I have to WAIT until the next one comes out. Which is always the most difficult part.