Sunday, January 29, 2012

Red Glove

by Holly Black
New York : Margaret K. McElderry Books, c2011.

Second book alert! Note that there are spoilers for White Cat, the first book in the series.

Cassel Sharpe, son of a criminal family and a con man, is back in this sequel to White Cat. His mother is now out of jail, and she and Cassel have been traveling Atlantic City looking for a rich man for his mother, an emotion worker, to use to get money. When Cassel goes back to school, he expects some relief but federal agents show up with a proposition for him.

Like the first book in the series, this story has a really interesting idea behind it, and having the first-person narration be that of a con man who's generally a good guy but who also doesn't want to betray his family, is a brilliant choice. I could really feel for Cassel and understand the way in which he's pulled in several directions as he tries to stay on the straight and narrow (sort of). The mystery aspect of the story held a lot of surprises for me, and if I probably wouldn't reread it just because it wouldn't have the same tension now that I know what happens, I will eagerly look for the next book in the series.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ginger Pye

by Eleanor Estes
San Diego : Harcourt, 2000 (orig. pub. 1951).

Jerry and Rachel Pye live in Cranbury with their parents and Gracie-the-cat, but Jerry is thinking of adding a new addition to the family: a dog. Another person wants this dog, however, and a mysterious person with a yellow hat keeps appearing.

I loved the Moffats when I was younger, so I was ready to enjoy this Newbery award-winning story by Eleanor Estes. The Moffats are referred to a couple of times, in fact, and I kind of want to go back and reread their stories now. The characters are funny - Rachel with her too-serious way of thinking everything was like a story book, Uncle Benny who is famous because he is three and the Pye's uncle. It wasn't hard for me to figure out where the story was going, but I liked the homey tone of the narration, even when it was going off on tangents. This would make a great read-aloud book.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

2 reviews in 1

Because it's not fair to just review the 2nd book in a series.

1. The Ruins of Gorlan
by John Flanagan
New York : Puffin Books, 2006, c2005.

The Ranger's Apprentice series is a young adult fantasy series that has been flying off the shelves at both my libraries, so I figured I should familiarize myself with it. In the first book, we meet Will and other orphan wards who are to become apprentices on Choosing Day. Will wants to go to Battleschool, but while he is too small for Battleschool, his particular skills make him perfect as a Ranger's Apprentice.

I could see why teenage boys would gobble up this fast-paced series. Stylistically, I was not impressed by the narrator telling more than showing, and thought that the characters could have been fleshed out. Knowing that it was a series took away some of the intensity when main characters found themselves in mortal peril. But all in all, I was game to read more. We're mostly given Will's training, but some chapters deal with Horace, a boy who did enter Battleschool, and I especially enjoyed those sections.

2. The Burning Bridge continues right where The Ruins of Gorlan left off, with King Duncan, Halt, and other advisers to the king preparing for war with Morgorath. Another Ranger, Gilan, asks that Will and a Battleschool apprentice, Horace, help make up a group of ambassadors to another country. Halt agrees, knowing that this will be a test of Will's skills and, perhaps, a way of increasing the boy's confidence. But he has no idea what it will take for both boys to come back alive.

I liked this one even better than the first. This was the first book read on my new Sony e-reader, and I thought it worked well in that format (though there were few rough patches where I had to figure out some mis-spaced words). It's an incredibly fast read, with a constantly building pace. My only real complaint this time was that I felt the ending was a bit rushed. I was, however, left with a strong desire to read the next one, and I've already put the e-book on hold.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
by Laura Hillenbrand
narrated by Edward Herrmann
[United States] : Random House, p2010.

This book has been extremely popular on the holds list at my libraries ever since it came out, and has been on my TBR list nearly as long. The audio version was instantly available at a time when I was ready for a new listen on my commute, so I nabbed it from the new shelf.

I don't want to spoil much of anything about the plot, because I came to it knowing very little and was absolutely floored by this biography of Louis Zamperini. A bare outline wouldn't do the story justice, anyways, not coming close to explaining why I found Zamperini's experiences incredibly powerful and moving. Hillenbrand writes well and has a way of making me sympathize with these people whom I've never met. The experiences of war and POWs were all the more terrifying and heartbreaking because they were true.

I may be late to the party myself, but if you still haven't read this book - do it! I'll be recommending it left and right, and wouldn't be surprised if it makes my "best books" list of 2012.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

by Laini Taylor
New York : Little, Brown, 2011.

Karou is an art student in Prague, a bit of a loner, and dealing with a persistent ex-boyfriend. She has drawn notebooks full of pictures of creatures such as Issa, part woman part snake; Twiga, who has a giraffe-long neck; and especially Brimstone, with his ram's horns, whom Karou refers to as the Wishmonger. What Karou's friends don't know is that her stories are true. The creatures call themselves chimaera, and they have raised Karou as long as she can remember.

The world building in this story is inventive, making up a unique mythology of seraphim and chimaera, all the while feeling natural to the story and its slow reveal of Karou's past. The dual tension of Karou wanting to learn where she came from and the threat to her chimaera family keep the pace fast: as you learn one, you're still anxious of the other. I thought some of the big reveals were a little easy to figure out, but Taylor's storytelling kept me wrapped around her little finger wanting to know what happens next.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories
edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2011.

In this compilation of steampunk short stories, you will find fourteen original tales by some of the hottest authors in YA and adult fantasy and science fiction. The editors write in the introduction that "The continuing reinterpretation of the steampunk idea made us ask the writers for stories that explored and expanded their own ideas of what steampunk could be" (ix). As a result, these stories push the boundaries of what you might expect from the genre, including everything from a creepy mystery to a "Clockwork Fagin."

This was the perfect collection to dip in and out of during my vacation week, because I could read one story at a time or, since one was so incredibly different from the next, read three straight in a row. I was able to read authors that I already enjoy, such as Cassandra Clare and Ysabeau Wilce, and be introduced to authors that I know want to investigate more, such as Delia Sherman and Dylan Horrocks. I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite, but looking back now the stories "Clockwork Fagin" by Cory Doctorow and "Steam Girl" by Dylan Horrocks stand out the most in my mind. I highly recommend giving this collection a try.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Seth Pomroy, His Book

by Seth Pomeroy
Northampton, Mass. : published by the Forbes Library, for the Friends of Forbes Library, 2002.

Seth Pomeroy - or Pomroy, how he signed his name - lived in Northampton, Massachusetts, and fought in the French and Indian War. The majority of this, his journal, concerns campaigns fought in 1745 and 1755, primarily in New York.

The written journal has been reproduced on the pages, alongside a line-by-line transcription by Joseph Donohue. I tried to read what I could of Seth's script, but it was not always able to make it out unless I read and compared it to the transcription. It was a slow start for me, but I took it along with me on vacation and managed to get some reading time where I could really get into the flow of the writing and get used to the rhythm and look of the old-fashioned text and style.

Though not particularly poetic or polished writing, this is nonetheless a glimpse into the life of a regular colonist living in the 1700s, made all the more fascinating for me, personally, because the author was a distant cousin of mine.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


by Anne Ursu
illustrated by Erin McGuire
New York, N.Y. : Walden Pond Press, c2011.

Hazel and Jack are best friends, and have wild imaginations. Hazel can't imagine life without Jack - he gives her a place in the world. Other people - such as her mother and her teachers at the new school - are telling Hazel she needs to be more grounded, but what if stories are more powerful and run deeper than most people realize?

Though meant for a younger audience, some aspects of this reminded me of The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly in that stories come true in a dark sort of way. Ursu drops in "breadcrumbs" of references that I had a fun time looking for to fairy tales and fantasy stories, both new and old. Though the narrative strays at times into too self-conscious cleverness, this was an enjoyable story that will validate those who enjoy fantasy and fairy tales, not as escapism, but as something somehow true.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Favorites of 2011

It's that time of the year again, to round up my favorite reads of the past year! To try to keep the list manageable, I am not counting rereads. Here, then, are the books that stood out to me most this year in no order whatsoever (with links to my reviews):



Children's/Young Adult

I read 150 books this year, more than last year (!) even though I have been working full-time hours all year. My lowest number of books in a month was June, with seven, not surprising since I was traveling a lot that month. The most was August with 18!

I meant to keep good statistics in 2011 to keep track of the number of children's, young adult, and adult books read, but I ran out of steam in the end. I can tell you that my ratio of library books to my own books read was abominable (something like 10/1?), and I'm going to try to rectify that this year.

My reading goal for 2012 is simply to read as many of my own books as library books. I'm keeping a simple counter on my LibraryThing 75 Book Challenge Thread that I will (hopefully) keep updated throughout the year.

What were your favorite reads of 2011?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I Knew it was Familiar...

Mama's Bank Account
by Kathryn Forbes

I picked this up from the library on a whim. A co-worker of mine had found it in the stacks and showed it to me, but as I looked at it I realized I'd read it before. Or part of it. I'm still not entirely certain, but all throughout there was a sense of familiarity as if I had read it in childhood. I'm positive that at least two of the chapters - "Mama and the Graduation Present" and "Mama and Uncle Elizabeth" - were in my elementary or middle school literature books.

Well, enough about why I picked up the book. Here's a bit about what I read:

In episodic chapters, the author draws on the experiences of her Norwegian immigrant grandmother to describe a family in San Fransisco in the early 1900s, and their steadfast Mama. I really enjoyed these heartwarming and often funny stories. Each chapter could be read nearly on its own, though time moves on, and some references are made to past chapters. The importance of family, and Mama's oft-repeated phrase, "It is good," are at the heart of this story.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

I'm currently on vacation, but I'm hoping to post a "best of" 2011. Stay tuned! While you wait, here's a question to ponder:

Have you made any reading resolutions this year?

Mine is to read more books off my own bookshelves. This is tough for me, because I work in a library every day and see new books and interesting books come through often. And it's sooo easy to put a request on a book when I'm on the reference desk anyways...

Ahem. In all seriousness, my goal this year is to read one book from my own shelves to every library book I read. Yes, a 1:1 ratio. We'll see how long I can stick to that, but mainly my goal is to start reading through the 100+ unread books I've accumulated over the years. Perhaps as I read through I can make more room for favorites on the shelves! Wish me luck!