Libri Dilectio: January 2011

31 January 2011

Rebecca Caudill Nominees (2012)

I’m still working my way (yes very slowly) through the 2011 nominess for the Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award, but the next list of nominess came out today! The RCYRBA is the Illinois state young reader’s book award and the winner is selected by the kids! I’m really excited about this new list of nominees!

The Nominees for the 2012 Rebecca Caudill Award ARE…

One-Handed Catch, MJ Auch
Masterpiece, Elise Broach
All the Broken Pieces, Ann E. Burg
Wild Things, Clay Carmichael
Extra Credit, Andrew Clements
The Girl Who Threw Butterflies, Mick Cochrane
Powerless, Matthew Cody
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, Jacqueline Kelly
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Grace Lin
The Rock and the River, Kekla Magoon
Every Soul a Star, Wendy Mass*
Greetings from Nowhere, Barbara O’Connor
Heart of a Shepherd, Roseanne Parry
Woods Runner, Gary Paulsen
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg, Rodman Philbrick
The Magic Thief, Sarah Prineas
Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Mostly True Stories about Growing up Scieszka, Jon Scieszka
Peak, Roland Smith
Flygirl, Sherri L. Smith
Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld*

*= I’ve already read this one. Only two again this year! Yeesh. At least a LOT of these have been on my to read list for awhile. Maybe this year I’ll actually read all of them! One of my coworkers will have all of these read by the weekend. No, I’m not kidding. Well, better go get started reading!

30 January 2011

Series Review: The Mortal Instruments

The Mortal Instruments, Cassandra Clare
(Gr 7+)
Reviewed from audiobooks from the library
City of Bones: McElderry March 2007
City of Ashes: McElderry April 2008
City of Glass: McElderry March 2009

Clary Fray lives in Brooklyn New York with her artist mother, her best friend, and a family friend who is more like a father. She likes to read Manga and draw. All in all she is just a regular teenage girl, until the day she sees three teenagers murder what seems to be another teen – three teenagers who she shouldn’t be able to see. After that night Clary’s normal mundane world falls spectacularly to pieces; her mother is kidnapped by demons, she realizes that huge chunks of her memories are missing, and she’s brought into the world of the Shadowhunters. Shadowhunters are the children of men and angels, charged with protecting the human world from demons. As Clary is pulled deeper into the Shadowhunter world she learns more and more about herself, her family, and what it means to be brave.

I didn’t want to write too much of a summary because I’m under the impression that I am one of the last people in the world to discover this series! Everyone I know has read these books and most of them love them, like super love them, like want to marry and have little paper well bound babies with them. With practically every YA reader around singing the praises of The Mortal Instruments, I had to pick them up and try them for myself. 

I started out reading the first book in the series, City of Bones, and actually started and stopped it three times before I decided to switch to the audiobook. This is one of the first series that I’ve encountered where I’ve been interested in the story, but put off by the writing. I had trouble losing myself in the world Clare had created because the overly written style was really jarring. It’s not bad, it’s just not for me. I like simple folk tale style prose so the audiobook worked a lot better for me. Hearing the books read rather than reading them myself allowed me to lose myself in the plot and ignore the writing.

The reader for City of Bones is different than the reader for City of Ashes and City of Glass, but both women are excellent. They both have the kind of voices that you can just focus on the story. I love a good audiobook! When the reader has a quiet, soft cadence to their voice (without being too monotone, that would put me to sleep) I can pay attention to just the story without thinking about the reader. Actually, for those of you who are as into audiobooks as I am, the reader for City of Ashes and City of Glass is the same woman who read the DJ Schwenk books. She does a great teenage girl voice, realistic but not whiny.

This series is a lot of fun. I don’t think it’s my favorite, but it was entertaining. I really liked some of the characters; Luke, Simon, and Magnus were my favs. Sometimes the plot dragged a little, but that seems to be pretty standard in very long books. Yes, I figured out a lot of the plot points long before the characters did, but I didn’t mind. Overall this series is action packed, imaginative, and LOTS of fun. I already started listening to the prequel Clockwork Angel, which I’m liking, but a lot of it seems really familiar – like the Mortal Instruments again but earlier in history. I’ll stick with it though, because it’s just so entertaining! Any audiobook that makes me take the long way home deserves to be listened to all the way through.

If you are among the few who haven’t tried this series yet, I highly recommend trying them on audiobook. I think you’ll like them!

25 January 2011

The Iron Queen GIVEAWAY!

~~~~Contest Ended 1 Feb 2011~~~~

I was so excited to get my hands on a copy of this one that I accidentally bought two! Oh well, my bad memory is your gain! I have a brand new copy to give to one of you! Just fill out the form below and I’ll do the rest. I’m going to keep it to US residents only (sorry) and the contest will be open until Tuesday February 1st.

Good luck and if you want to know more about this FAB series, check out my reviews of The Iron King, The Iron Daughter, and The Iron Queen!

22 January 2011

Book Review: Plain Kate

Plain Kate, Erin Bow
(Gr 6+)
Arthur A. Levine Books, September 2010. Reviewed from library book. 

Official Synopsis:  

“Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver’s daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden talismans are so fine that some even call her “witch-blade”: a dangerous nickname in a country where witches are hunted and burned in the square.

For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate’s father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate.

Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he’ll give Kate the means to escape the angry town, and what’s more, he’ll grant her heart’s wish. It’s a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes she can’t live shadowless forever — and that Linay’s designs are darker than she ever dreamed.”

This book was recommended to me by a coworker and I am so happy she told me to read it! I’ve read a few books lately that felt overly written, bogged down with adjectives and beating me over the head with lengthy ridiculous exposition. Erin Bow’s beautiful, sparse prose was just the vacation I needed. This novel reads like a folk or fairy tale. The writing, while still incredibly expressive and vivid, is simple and unadorned. This is the way I would wish to be able to write if the author genie ever asked me.

The story itself is not full of action, it’s not particularly fast paced or exciting, but it’s wonderful. Kate lives in a world terrified of witches. These people see witchcraft in everything around them, even Kate’s beautiful carvings. Her life is so interesting because she has such incredible skill that should be celebrated and valued, but instead it’s feared. Poor Kate seemed to go from bad to worse to the absolute rock bottom and then lower. Be forewarned, this story, while beautiful and moving, is also incredibly sad. Yes, I cried…three times. But, on a happier note, there is a particularly fabulous talking cat who even the most die hard dog person won’t be able to help but love.

I think this is the perfect novel to curl up and get lost in on a particularly cold evening. Seriously, Plain Kate is now one of my absolute favorites! You won’t regret picking up a copy of this one, but don’t forget the tissues as well.

21 January 2011

Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss

Anna and the French Kiss, Stephanie Perkins
(Gr 9+)
Dutton Juvenile, December 2010. Reviewed from library book.

Anna’s father, a famous although embarrassingly sappy writer, decides that she needs to get some culture. Instead of taking her on a trip or something small, he enrolls her at a Paris boarding school. Anna is not excited to spend her senior year making new friends, trying to fit in to a new culture, and learning a whole new language when she should have been hanging out with her best friends, getting closer to a new guy, and just enjoying her senior year in Atlanta. Lucky for Anna, upon arriving in Paris, she is approached by some really nice people who turn out to be great friends. One in particular is not only a great friend, but an attractive one as well. Etienne St. Clair is perfect except for one thing, he has a girlfriend and anyway, Anna has a boyfriend, well, sort of.

This book was FABULOUS! Seriously, best book I’ve read for awhile. I instantly loved the characters, the setting, and I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next. Stephanie Perkins has written the sweetest, most believable love story I think I’ve ever read. I know lots of other people have already said this, but the relationships in this story were wonderful. No one fell in love at first sight, or harped on how attractive someone was without ever noticing their personality. I especially liked that St. Clair is described as being 3 inches shorter than Anna. As a tall girl, I appreciate relationships between tall ladies and less tall fellas (although, yes, my husband is taller than me, but not by much).

The setting for this novel was perfect. It made me feel like I really was in Paris. I have been to Paris before and it was really cool to read about so many places I’ve been, as well as places that made me think, “Oh no, how did I miss that?!” I suppose I don’t have to tell you much about how fun it is to read a love story set in Paris, but really really, it was fab.

I won’t say much more, because I know pretty much every book blog out there has been singing the praises of this one. All I have left to say is, read this with a cup of hot chocolate (or chocolate chaud) and you’ll be the happiest little bookworm around. AND, for those of you who’ve already read it, were you as in love with the little old Frenchman from the movie theater as I was?

17 January 2011

Book Review: The Iron Queen

The Iron Queen, Julie Kagawa
(Gr 9+)
Harlequin, January 25, 2011. ARC from NetGalley.

Meghan Chase thought she could go home. One year ago, on her sixteenth birthday, Meghan’s brother was stolen by the fey and taken into the land of the Nevernever. When Meghan followed to save him, she discovered that the man she’d always thought was her father was not and that she was the half fey daughter of Oberon, King of Summer. As a half summer faery princess, Meghan fought her way through the Nevernever and has had many adventures, some exciting, and some just plain terrifying. Now, on her seventeenth birthday, she’s ready to leave her fey side behind and just be a human girl again, but before she can enter her home, she’s attacked by servants of the Iron King. Her adventures aren’t over, but just beginning, and Meghan can’t go home…ever. She has to find a way to re-enter the Nevernever and save a world that neither wants nor cares about her. She’ll have the help of Ash, prince of the Winter Court and love of her life, but this just might be her most dangerous quest yet.

If you haven’t discovered the Iron Fey series yet, what are you waiting for?! They are lots of fun and will keep you turning pages until you’ve swallowed up the entire series in one gulp. The first in the series is The Iron King followed by The Iron Daughter and now The Iron Queen. They have everything I need to love a book; action, adventure, romance, a great setting, a snarky talking animal, and faeries that would sooner rip you apart than grant you a wish or take a tooth.

Meghan is a character I have really grown to love. She’s brave and smart, without stepping into the realm of the flawless hero. She still feels real to me, with faults that balance out her many charms. The same can be said of Puck and Ash, the two male leads. Each of them has a unique personality that makes them feel like real people…well faeries, but whatever. The relationships between the three of them are sweet and complicated. Yes, there’s a love triangle…get over it, but it’s the kind where either of the leading men would be good matches for our heroine and most readers will probably have a strong contender in mind for Meghan’s affections.

The Nevernever continues to be a main character all by itself. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating, I LOVE the world that Julie Kagawa has created. It’s so incredibly easy to visualize. I can slide right into this place and completely leave my cozy suburban home. If you’re the kind of reader who likes a strong setting, this series will make you salivate.

I don’t really want to say too much more since this is the third book in the series. Just, if you haven’t read any of them yet, go to the library right now and start! If you have read the other two than get excited, because The Iron Queen hits shelves January 25th!  

05 January 2011

Book Review: Delirium

Delirium, Lauren Oliver
(Gr 9+)
Review copy provided by publisher.

HarperCollins. Coming 1 February 2011.

“It has been sixty-four years since the president and the Consortium identified love as a disease, and forty-three since the scientists perfected a cure,” (ARC p. 9). Lena has always lived in a world separated into two groups; the cured and the uncured. Everyone 18 and older is cured, incapable of feeling love, but those under 18, are still susceptible to the disease “amor deliria nervosa.” Lena is only ninety-five days away from her own cure, and then she’ll be safe from love. Safe from the disease that is love, a disease that almost ruined humanity, but until then she’ll have to make it through one more summer. One last summer to spend with friends she’ll stop caring about and to experience things she’ll never wonder about after the cure. Ninety-five days until she’ll be a whole new person – the clock is ticking.

I have to start by saying that I haven’t read Lauren Oliver’s debut novel, Before I Fall, but after reading Delirium, I definitely want to. Oliver has a genuine way of writing a teenage character that is neither too worldly nor too childish. I took to Lena immediately and wanted to know everything I could about her life before the novel started and to see where the story would take her. Like most narrators in a dystopic future, Lena is not entirely on board with the status-quo. Although, to be fair, she does seem a lot more devoted to the society in which she lives than some narrators I’ve read. This makes her story even more interesting since the reader presumably doesn’t agree with her for most of the beginning, but she has her little moments of rebellion – like saying that her favorite color is gray or that she thinks Romeo and Juliet is beautiful instead of frightening. Lena is a very sympathetic narrator who’s story unfolded in a way that was believable to me.

The society created by Oliver is one that I really liked. Unlike a lot of the dystopian novels I’ve read, it’s much closer to our present day society. Granted, no one except the super wealthy drive cars, the city is fenced in both to protect it’s residents and enclose them, only certain books and music are available, and the government controls your entire life, but really, it’s basic feel was less far off than some others. This made the whole narrative more plausible to me, which sucked me in a LOT! The only negative thing I can say about it isn’t really about the book or the world Oliver has created, it’s that I read it back to back with Matched by Ally Condie. Yes, I should have realized that was a bad choice. Many of the societal characteristics between the two books are really similar, which could actually be good. If you’ve already read and loved Matched than you’ll probably also love Delirium.

Overall this was a really good book that held my interest throughout it’s considerable length. Of course, like most teen and YA novels of late, it ends on a huge cliff hanger that will make you want to pull your hair out! As far as I know, this is the first book in a trilogy, so be forewarned, there is no pretty little wrapped up ending here. You’ll be left saying, “How long until Pandemonium comes out? Not until 2012?! Oh no.”

03 January 2011

Book Review: The Thief

The Thief, Megan Whalen Turner
(Gr 6-8)
Greenwillow Books, October 1996. Reviewed from purchased copy.

Gen is the greatest thief in the world, just ask him. When he brags that he can steal the King’s seal from right under the nose of his closest advisor, he is overheard by the wrong people. He is caught and jailed, kept alone in a cell and chained to the wall. Then one day, the very advisor who he had stolen from, takes him out of prison and offers him a deal. If Gen can pull off an impossible heist, he’ll be free, if not, he’ll be dead.

I can’t believe it took me this long to read this book! It’s been out since the nineties and teenage Becky would have LOVED it! I seriously wish I could somehow send it to her. Someone needs to invent book time travel. Not time travel for people necessarily, just a way for me to send myself books that I would have loved at various ages.

Gen is the perfect character for today’s upper elementary school/junior high readers, both boys and girls will fall completely in love with his self centered, boastful, spoiled nature. Frankly, in the words of one of my brilliant co-workers, he’s just like Greg Heffley! Yes, he really does remind me of the Wimpy Kid himself. He’s the kind of character you should dislike, but you just can’t. Instead you find yourself rooting for him and finding him hilarious instead of ridiculous.

I chose this book for an upcoming bookclub for 6-8th graders and I can’t wait to see what they say about it! It’s such a unique story. Much of the narrative is like a road novel, with the characters traveling and telling each other stories. Then there are parts of fantasy and adventure that will get young readers turning pages so fast they’ll be in danger of papercuts.

Seriously, this book is pure awesome. Do yourself a favor, if you’re like me, and you made it to adulthood without meeting Gen, don’t wait any longer. You will LOVE him!

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