Friday, June 28, 2013

The Peach Keeper: a review

By Sarah Addison Allen
http://www.sarahaddisonallen.com/ 
Info: Bantam, copyright 2011, 273 pages


It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather and once the finest home in Walls of Water, North Carolina—has stood for years as a monument to misfortune and scandal. Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite Paxton Osgood—has restored the house to its former glory, with plans to turn it into a top-flight inn. But when a skeleton is found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, long-kept secrets come to light, accompanied by a spate of strange occurrences throughout the town. Thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the passions and betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover the truths that have transcended time to touch the hearts of the living.

~Amazon Description~

The Breakdown
Willa Jackson is enjoying her quiet life.  After a childhood of wild choices, coming home and living simply, peacefully, has been a nice change.  When an old high school classmate arrives back in town and the old family estate that hold more mystery than memory is renovated, Willa's quiet, peaceful life takes an unexpected turn.

The Awesome
Magical realism is, well...magical.  Without over doing it, Addison weaves in touches of the fantastical and creates a beautiful story of growing up, moving on.  It's a gentle story of friendship and love.  With of course, and awesome sense of whimsy.

The Not So Awesome
While I absolutely loved the fantastical elements, in the end, they felt a bit unresolved.  They weren't the point.  I get that.  But it just felt like there should have been more.  Some kind of wrap up.

This was my second foray into the literary world of Sarah Addison Allen, and I fully intend on continuing through her list of published works.  The characters are endearing and relate-able, and the touches of magic are comforting for a reader who absolutely loves all things magic.  If you're looking for a feel-good, fun, romantic read, check out The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen.




Thursday, June 27, 2013

Library GrabBag: Girl Talk

Six years ago, the former director of my library sent me a newspaper article on positive programming for teen girls.  She strongly encouraged me to create a program specifically for girls that would get them into the library and talking about important issues.  Unsure on how to pull this off, I brainstormed and scoured the internet for ideas.  Would girls really talk about important issues?  What would be my overall goal/agenda?  I realized that I wasn't suited for a discussion type of group, but I could facilitate a program that would allow for young girls to have a positive experience in the library.  And Girl Talk was born.

Last Friday evening I hosted my sixth annual Girl Talk event.  In its inception, the program was a sleepover.  That lasted two years, and then I realized that I could get just as much accomplished at an after-hours event with the girls leaving at 9:30pm while maintaining my sanity.  Every program is scheduled to the minute with a variety of crafts, games, and skits that incorporate the them "Be Proud, Be Yourself."  I sneak in conversation and dialogue about self-esteem and the negative impacts of media, but I don't make it the main focus.  Instead, my hope is that each participant will come to see the library, and its librarians, as a safe zone, a welcoming environment where they can discover their own passions and interests, exactly as they are.

As an example, here was the itinerary for this year:




5-5:15 Welcome/Introduction


5:15-6 Scavenger Hunt


6-6:45 Water Gun Art


6:45-7:30 Trivia/Snacks


7:30-8:15 Nail Art


8:15-8:45 Bracelets


8:45-9:20 Sardines


9:20-9:30 Goodbye/Pickup

In the past, we've made journals, dream boards, bath soaps, scented lotion, tie-dye totes, and friendship bracelets, just to name a few.  The night is really wide open for the interests of the girls.  Each year we end with a survey to find out what they liked/didn't like, and plan accordingly for the next year.

The program quickly became one of my favorites, and I still look forward to it each June!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood : A graphic novel review

Authors: Tony Lee, Sam Hart, Artur Fujita
Info: Candlewick Press, copyright 2009, 160 pages

How did Robin of Loxley become Robin Hood? Why did he choose to fight injustice instead of robbing for his own gain? Expressive and gritty, this graphic novel whisks readers back to Crusades-era England, where the Sheriff of Nottingham rules with an iron fist, and in the haunted heart of Sherwood Forest, a defiant rogue — with the help of his men and the lovely Maid Marian — disguises himself to become an outlaw.


I’m no stranger to Robin Hood tales.  Not only am I a HUGE fan of just about every Robin Hood movie (including Robin and the Seven Hoods…yeah Frank Sinatra!), but I also wrote an in-depth college research paper on the Robin Hood ballads in historical context.  I like Robin Hood.

Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood isn’t anything new, but it’s still a fun read.  This Robin of Loxley is extremely self-assured, a ladies man, and a savior of the poor.   His past is a bit more troubled than in many tales, but it serves as a strong background for the outlaw he’ll one day become. 

I’m only giving the book 3 stars because of the artwork.  Apparently all of the characters were constantly standing in dark corners or some really wicked shadows.  They never had any eyes or facial expressions which got a little annoying.  But that being said, I still recommend it!




Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Top 10 Books I've Read So Far In 2013


Top Ten Books I've Read So Far In 2013
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

Favorites so far...hmmm..had to think a little on this one.  Not that I haven't read some great books, but have read any that have really stayed with me.  Plus...with all the reading I've been doing, 2012 and 2013 are blurring together.  After a quick review...this is what I've decided.

 




1) Under the Never Sky By Veronica Rossi (Review 1/4)

2) For Darkness Shows the Stars By Diane Peterfreund (Review 1/3)

3) Just One Day By Gayle Forman (Review 2/8)

4) Eleanor & Park By Rainbow Rowell (Review 4/18)

5) The Moon and More By Sarah Dessen (Review 4/4)

6) Enchanted By Alethea Kontis (Review 4/5)

7) Sabriel By Garth Nix (Review 5/9)

8) Cardboard By Doug TenNapel (Review 5/22)

9) Waiting By Carol Lynch Williams (Review 5/30)

10) Heist Society By Ally Carter (Review 6/17)


Monday, June 24, 2013

Rust Vol. 1 Visitor In the Field: a graphic novel review

Author: Royden Lepp
http://roydenlepp.blogspot.com/
On Goodreads
Info: Archaia Entertainment, copyright 2011, 192 pages

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): An unexpected visitor brings trouble of giant proportions.

Rust is a high-octane adventure set in the prairie lands of an unknown time. Life on the Taylor family farm was difficult enough before Jet Jones crashes into the barn, chased by a giant decommissioned war robot! Oldest son Roman Taylor struggles to keep his family’s small farm afloat as the area heals from a devastating world war. While the rest of his family may not trust the mysterious boy with the jetpack, Roman believes the secrets of Jet’s past may be the key to their survival.
 
 
Roman Taylor is trying to keep the family farm up and running, but the work is hard and too much for just one person.  One day, out in the fields, an unexpected visitor brings serious trouble to the farm, stirring up the past, and making the Taylor homestead a target for something big and bad.
 
Told primarily as a letter from Roman to his absent father, Rust is beautifully written.  The artwork is fantastic, and the storyline compelling.  As usually, very little is revealed in the first volume, but the plot gives you just enough to keep you reading.  For a great read, pick up Royden Lepp's Rust
 
 

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Silence of Our Friends: A graphic novel review

Author: Mark Long, Jim Demonakos, & Nate Powell
Info: First Second, copyright 2012, 208 pages

As the civil rights struggle heats up in Texas, two families—one white, one black—find common ground.

This semi-autobiographical tale is set in 1967 Texas, against the backdrop of the fight for civil rights. A white family from a notoriously racist neighborhood in the suburbs and a black family from its poorest ward cross Houston’s color line, overcoming humiliation, degradation, and violence to win the freedom of five black college students unjustly charged with the murder of a policeman.

The Silence of Our Friends follows events through the point of view of young Mark Long, whose father is a reporter covering the story. Semi-fictionalized, this story has its roots solidly in very real events. With art from the brilliant Nate Powell (Swallow Me Whole) bringing the tale to heart-wrenching life, The Silence of Our Friends is a new and important entry in the body of civil rights literature.


~Goodreads Description~

Another great graphic novel available in your local library.  This gem reminds me a lot of To Kill A Mockingbird.  There are obvious reasons...a town that struggles with racism, a trial that brings the conflict of civil rights to the forefront, and the coming together of two families from different sides of the track.  While Atticus Finch was a strong, proud, yet humble man, Jack Long is human.  His heart is in the right place, and his actions speak louder than words, but he's still flawed, still struggling.  The same with Larry Thompson.  He is a man of anger and frustration, but remains a main of integrity with the ability to forgive.  The front of the book says it best, "the civil rights struggle was never black and white."

The language is real.  The struggle is real.  The heart is real.  And the artwork is fantastic.  Definitely a must-read.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Bossypants: A review

Author: Tina Fey
Info: Hachette, copyright 2011, 5 disc audiobook, 5.5 hours

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): The listening experience - how best to look like a crazy person in your car.

Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.

She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon—from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.


~Goodreads Description~

The Breakdown
Tina Fey tells her story.  From maxi pads to New Year's Eve, each story is filled with her trademark sarcasm and wit.

The Awesome
The only way to truly experience this book is through audiobook format.  Read by the author, you get the full effect of her hilarious trials and tribulations, personal philosophies, and great comedic timing.  Best of all, Fey is extremely down to earth.  There's no pomp.  No circumstance.  Just a regular gal navigating a male dominated work place while learning to survive motherhood.

The Not So Awesome
The book is kind of all over the place.  While this isn't necessarily a problem, it's hard to keep track of when and where you are in the Tina Fey timeline.


I really did look like a crazy person driving around in my cars.  It's laugh out loud hilarious.  Tears streaming down my face.  Hard to see.  Bossypants is just a lot of fun.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Waiting On Wednesday

Across a Star-Swept Sea
By Diana Peterfreund
Release date: October 15, 2013

Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, Persis Blake's world is once again in the throes of rebellion.

For Persis, her public life is that of a socialite, filled with parties and ball gowns. But while she seems to be a frivolous aristocrat, inside Persis beats the heart of a spy—the same heart that is falling for the enemy, Justen Helo.

Persis's heart belongs to Justen, but before she can tell him the truth, she discovers he has a secret as well—one that could plunge their tropical paradise into another dark age. And Persis realizes she's not just risking her heart, she's risking the world she's sworn to protect.

Across a Star-Swept Sea is a romantic, science-fictional reimagining of the classic The Scarlet Pimpernel.


~Barnes & Nobel Description~

I loved For Darkness Shows the Stars, so I can't wait to see what's in store in her companion novel!  I'm really enjoying the re-imaginings of literary classics!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Top 10 books at the top of my summer TBR list

Top 10 Books at the Top of My Summer TBR List
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

A mixture of books I want to read.  Books I should have read by now.  Authors I want a second dose of.  And covers that are really cool.  That just about covers it all!  Let's see how I do!




Monday, June 17, 2013

Heist Society: a review

Author: Ally Carter
On Goodreads
http://allycarter.com/
Info: Disney-Hyperion, copyright 2010, 287 pages

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): Oceans Eleven with a bunch of teenagers. Basically.

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own—scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving “the life” for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected.

Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring Kat back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.

For Kat, there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it's a spectacularly impossible job? She's got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family's history--and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.


~Goodreads Description~

The Breakdown
Kat Bishop was enjoying her stay at a prestigious boarding school.  She was enjoying a normal life.  But when an old friend plans her expulsion, Kat once again finds herself on the outside looking in.  A mob boss is hunting down her father after some precious, expensive paintings come up missing in his mansion estate and Kat must use the skills she learned as a young girl to find the paintings are return them before time runs out.

The Awesome
I was a huge fan of the Oceans Eleven franchise, so much to my pleasure this felt like a teen versio nof that same tale.  Incidentally, that's what made it a wee bit disturbing...teenage thieves...but the characters were fun, the story had equal parts emotion and thrills, and the heist was well planned and exciting.

The Not So Awesome
Much like the Oceans Eleven movies, I wish a few more hints had been dropped throughout so that you, as the reader, could play along.  Don't tell me what you're going to do, but tell me what you're going to do.

Overall, I really enjoyed the first in this series by Ally Carter.  I can't wait to read the next two and get to know Kat, Hale, and the gang a little better.

Similar Titles: Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter, The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart

Favorite Quote: “And I didn't choose it, Kat. I chose you.”

Friday, June 14, 2013

Stargazing Dog: A graphic novel review

Author: Takashi Murakami
Info: NBM Publishing, copyright 2011, 128 pages
YALSA Great Graphic Novel Top Ten 2013

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): The story of man and man's best friend, from the perspective of the friend.

Translated from the Japanese bestseller, this story centers on Oto-san, a man who finds himself abandoned by his family and friends with nothing in his life happening the way he had planned. He embarks on a road trip to escape it all, and he soon discovers the only one he can count on completely is his faithful, recently adopted dog, who helps him see the light at the end of the tunnel. Illustrating the valuable lessons of friendship and loyalty, this is a heartwarming tale of two endearing characters and their shared adventure into the unknown.

~Goodreads Description~

The latest in a great string of graphic novels.  The description above really sums things up well.  This is the story of a man, down on his luck, and the loyal dog that stays with him until the end.  I almost didn't finish it.  There are no surprises in the book.  The first page shows the sad fate of the unlikely pair, but I kept reading, and by the end I had tears streaming down my face.  Then I was laying on the floor holding onto my dog.  Geez.  Who knew a graphic novel could illicit a hug fest?

For a genuinely touching graphic novel, check out Takashi Murakami's Stargazing Dog.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Where'd You Go, Bernadette: a review

Author: Maria Semple
On Goodreads
http://www.mariasemple.com/
Info: Little, Brown and Company, copyright 2012, 330 pages
Awards: Alex Award Nominee

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.


~Goodreads Description~ 

The Breakdown
Bee's mother is missing.  She was her mother's shining achievement.  She wouldn't just up and leave.  Would she?  So Bee goes through the evidence (a series of letters, faxes, emails, and official reports) that detail the last few weeks before her mother disappeared.  But is it too little too late?

The Awesome
Mostly told through email and correspondence, this is a super quick read.  Bee is intelligent and loving, and Bernadette is lovingly intelligent and lost.  They make a great pair.  Witty, yet surprisingly realistic, Semple does a hilarious job detailing the pressures of home ownership and the difficulties of parent-teacher organizations.

The Not So Awesome
Other than the fact that I would NEVER want to be cornered by Bernadette (or work with her...or do anything that would anger her), the book was pretty cool.  Weird.  But pretty cool.


What a strange book.  The premise was strange, the setup was strange, and the characters were strange.  But it's a good strange.  For a fun, fast-paced read with a quirky flare, pick up Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.




Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pinocchio Vampire Slayer: a graphic novel review

Author: Van Jensen & Dusty Higgins
Publisher: SLG Publishing
Info: Copyright 2009, 128 pages

A review in 10 words (or thereabouts): A re-vamped fairytale of epic proportions.  Buffy just wishes she was this awesome.  Okay...she was awesome.  But so is Pinocchio.

After seeing Geppetto die at the hands of vampires, Pinocchio swears revenge in this darkly funny graphic novel. As the vampires plot the enslavement of mankind, only a one-puppet army stands in their way. But will a wooden boy and his endless supply of stakes - courtesy of plenty of lies and his elongating nose - be enough to save the day? 
~Goodreads Description~
Best intro to a graphic novel ever.  The recap of Pinocchio's origins sets the stage for life after the blue fairy does not in fact make him a real boy.  Instead, Geppetto is attacked and killed by vampires and Pinocchio becomes a genuine Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Thank goodness he has a propensity for lying.  Ever time his nose grows he has a new, lethal stake.  Unfortunately, no one in town believes there are monsters in their midst, and who wants to believe a wooden boy?  

Hilarious.  At times the artwork was a bit difficult to discern, but the story was fun and the writing was hilarious.  i can't wait to find out what Pinocchio will do next.  There are still vampires terrorizing the countryside and now his need for revenge is even greater.

Check out Pinocchio Vampire Slayer by Van Jensen and Dusty Higgins.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Top 10 Beach Reads

Top 10 Beach Reads
(Feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish)

Perfect timing for this Top Ten Tuesday...I'm leaving for the beach tomorrow!  Vacation, here I come!  I believe that beach reads should be light and fun.  I don't want to be sitting on the beach crying at a sad book (too hot and sandy for that) or laughing too hard and sound like an idiot.  Maybe a little bit of romance, a few chuckles, and enough thrills to keep me reading and not falling asleep in the sun.  So here's ten books I think are great beach reads:




 1) 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Travel, humor, and romance...what more could you want?
 2) Impossible by Nancy Werlin
A little bit of whimsy, a little bit of intrigue, a whole lot of fun.
3)  Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Hilarious.  But not too hilarious that you'll look crazy on your beach towel.
4) Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
A soft, fun, romantic read.
5) Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
A fast-paced spy story!
6) Dream Factory by Brad Barkley
Disney.  Cause I'm that excited.
7) The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore
A gothic tale with magic and a swoon-worthy boy.
8) Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
Kind of sad, but set on the beach.
9) Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg
A quick read that will make you want to get up and dance.
10) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Because I loved this book.  And I read it while on a beach.









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