Monday, December 31, 2012

Sorry Mayans, we are still here!

Here we are, the last day of 2012, and what a year it has been. This past year has been trying in new and unexpected ways. It has also given us some of the best YA literature that I have ever had the privilege of reading, reviewing or even just adding to my massively growing "to-read" pile.

One of the greatest gifts I received this year was our wonderful Melissa, who is in charge of collection development, deciding to start sending me and Lisa, our Children's Librarian, all the children's and YA ARCs that she receives from Baker and Taylor through out the year. It was been so much fun to read and review several of the titles that have landed on my desk. Unfortunately, I couldn't read them all, but I will do better in 2013! But, 16 for the second half of 2012 isn't a shabby start.

My 17th and last review for the year, unfortunately won't be ready until after the new year. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken was published on the 18th of December. It is amazing and I didn't want it to be left out completely before the new year. Having a somewhat unplanned surgery on the 14th has really thrown a wrench into my month. I know that I never really post personal information on here, but I wanted to go ahead and share. Each surgery that I have had (5 in the last 2 years), seems to take me longer for my vision to recover enough for me to read a book. But, 2012 is over and I am looking to a new year filled with health, happiness, amazing journeys and YA books:)

So to end 2012 I thought I would share my top 12 reads this year. They are in no particular order and not all of them were reviewed here, but here they are my top 12 of 2012!

1: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

2: Safekeeping by Karen Hesse

3: The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater

4: Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield

5: Envy & Betrayal, the Empty Coffin Series, by Gregg Olsen

6: The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

7: Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride

8: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

9: Mark of Athena, the Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan

10: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

11: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein


12: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Happy 2013 everyone!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

I Funny

I Funny: A Middle School Story
by James Patterson
and Chris Grabenstein

Publication Date: December 10, 2012

Ages 8-12

ARC copy used for review.

Personal Ranking 3.5 out of 5

"Have you ever done something extremely stupid
like, oh, I don't know,
try to make a room filled with total
strangers laugh until their sides hurt?"

Jamie Grimm just wants to be the Planet’s Funniest Kid Comic! Unlike other kids who think that they are funny, Jamie actually is. Even as the new kid in school, he has found a group of friends he can be himself around and who see him for who he is. Which, considering that he is in a wheelchair, is more important than it may seem. But even with the world’s best friends; the real question is does he have the confidence to enter the contest, get up on that stage and actually compete? But Jamie’s road to stand-up comedy has been a hard one. It is only when he stops running that he is able to give the funniest performance of his life. Through it all, Jamie learns that hope is a persistent thing and that laughter truly is the best medicine.

I’m not even sure where to begin this review. I have read a few books over the past year about kids with different disabilities. Bluefish by Pat Schmatz and Out of My Head by Sharon M. Draper have been my two favorites. But while those two titles are about the characters overcoming their disabilities, it is such an important thing to include main characters like Jamie in a story where his disability isn’t the basis of the plot. The story is about his dream to become a stand-up comic, not his path to adapt to a new life in a new school and a wheelchair.

Jamie has learned the hard way that laughter truly is the best medicine. But that is the beautiful thing about a story like this, even though it could have been horribly tragic and focused solely on Jamie’s suffering; Jamie chose to laugh instead of cry. Now, we get to laugh with him. I don’t want to spoil it, well maybe all of it, but I think chapters 66 and 67 are my absolute favorite. Jamie’s family was killed in a car crash that only he survived, but it left him paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair. You can’t run, or roll (as Jamie might put it), from your past. Good or bad, your past is part of what has made you who you are. But my ultimate favorite quote is this “You ever hear this old expression: When the world says ‘Give up,’ hope whispers ‘Try it one more time’?”

The trademark short chapters keep the pace moving and Jamie's humor keeps us rolling! This is a great book for boys and girls alike, and a wonderful message about not giving up on your dreams. The illustrations just make it even better. Will I Funny become a series? I hope so, because he is, funny.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Cleopatra Ascending

Cleopatra Ascending
by Maureen Lipinski
Shadow's Edge Series, book 2

Publication Date: January 8, 2013

Teen, Ages 12+

ARC copy used for review.

Personal Ranking 3 out of 5

Rhea has grown up surrounded by magic. The third youngest of four sisters; who all just happen to be gifted. One is a witch, one a shaman, and the baby sister is a muse. Rhea is the only one without a gift. Unless you count just happening to be the reincarnated Egyptian Queen Cleopatra. Even though she knows she is special and an important part of her family, she has always just felt a little bit like an outsider. Until her 16th birthday, when her past becomes a part of her future. Having at first what she thinks are dreams, her visions of Cleopatra's past start telling a different version of history, and then a secret society founded by Marc Anthony shows up on her doorstep to protect her. Rhea must travel with them to Egypt, learn the queen's history and magic and hopefully prevent the evil Octavians from accessing the magic that only she can protect.

I am a huge fan of mythology. All kinds, Roman, Greek and especially Egyptian. It is one of the many reason why Rick Riordan is quickly becoming one of my new favorite authors. So when I saw the cover of this ARC I knew I just had to read it. You really shouldn't judge a book by its cover; however, this cover and title grabbed me.
 It was a quick read, and sometimes I found myself wishing for a little more detail. Sometimes the plot and characters seemed a little underdeveloped. In fact, I was probably 100 pages in before I even realized that this may be part of a series. Since I was reading it while flying home from vacation I kept going, and didn't start to read the first book, Shadow's Edge, until about a week after that. One thing I did appreciate was that Cleopatra Ascending was told from Rhea's point of view and about her story as the reincarnated Cleopatra, since the first book was told by Leah who is a Creatuir Shaman, I didn't feel like I was really missing anything even though I read the second book first. Rhea sounded like just a spoiled brat. The nice thing was by having her tell her own story, she was able to develop just a little bit more. But, it is hard when you really are a reincarnated queen.

Shadow's Edge, wrapped up nicely but I enjoyed having Leah as the narrator. So even though I want more of Rhea's story, it would be nice to have Leah back. But, with the way that Cleopatra Ascending ends, I hope that she continues the story in a hopeful future third book. It just seemed like there was more to Rhea's future then was told. I also have to wonder, if the future books will also include the other two sisters as possible narrators. This is one powerful, if not quirky family, and you want to see what else will be thrown their way.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Love and other perishable items

Love and Other Perishable Items by Lauren Buzo
Publication Date: December 11, 2012

Teen, Ages  14+

ARC copy used for review.

Personal Ranking 3 out of 5

Love is awkward.
Fifteen old Amelia has just started her first job at a grocery store jokingly referred to by her cute co-worker as the Land of Dreams. The longer she works with Chris the quicker she realizes that her feelings for him are starting to become more than "just a crush." He seems to enjoy talking with her and joking with her at work. The more time they spend  together, the more it seems like they really are becoming friends; and maybe more than that. So whats the problem? Chris is a 21 year old university student, just working at the store while he completes his last year of college. Amelia knows it could never happen, but that doesn't stop her from experiencing a year of firsts that will change her life.

While this story was predominately told from Amelia's point of view, the closer she and Chris become, the more her narrative is interspersed with his journal entries. She is at an all girls school, and is new to the world of boys. She is unsure of herself and has all the normal angst of a fifteen year old. Her rocky relationship with her dad doesn't help; and even though she can't imagine why her mom is married to him, she can't picture her life without him. Unlike her best friend's dad, who seems to be perfect. Amelia lacks a really solid male roll model in her life.
Chris seemed to me to be a typical, lost 21 year-old boy. Not sure of what he is supposed to be becoming, recovering from his first heartbreak, and trying to heal himself with any girl he can get his hands on. What attracts him to Amelia is that she seems more mature and not as whiny as the stereotypical girl, even those who are his own age. She is refreshing in a way he is drawn to, even if she is only 15. But when you are that young, age is a huge factor, even if you still manage to become friends. The story leaves you wondering where they will be in four years, or even eight years when she is graduating college herself. Sometimes you meet the right person at the wrong time, no matter how old you are.
One thing that is especially fun with this story is that it is set in Australia. I was lucky to spend 3 weeks between New Zealand and the east coast of Australia in 2002, and I absolutely loved every minute of it. Except for maybe the 14 hour plane ride there. So the dialect didn't phase me at all, but shouldn't be a problem for those who haven't been. I could see parents getting upset about the alcohol and party lifestyle depicted in the story, but it is important to remember that the drinking age is lower over there. Amelia does attend her first party, and as a result experiences her first hangover.
Over all, Love made me laugh, and I found myself wanting them to find a common ground. The story leaves you wondering where they will be in four years, or even eight years when she is graduating college herself. Sometimes you meet the right person at the wrong time, no matter how old you are.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Sacred by Elana K. Arnold

Publication Date: November 13, 2012

Teen, Ages 12+

ARC copy used for review.

Personal Ranking 3 out of 5

Scarlet has spent her whole life on Catalina, a small island with an even smaller population. After her brother dies unexpectedly, Scarlet's family falls so deep into their grief that it seems like they may never find their way out of it. Getting thinner and feeling more isolated, the only thing that brings her any joy is when she is riding her horse. But, one day, when a mysterious boy appears in her path her world begins to change. First by befriending Will, and then falling for him, Scarlet begins to allow herself to begin healing. But Will has a secret, and Scarlet feels that it will unravel them and herself along with it.

What is so beautiful about Sacred is that all of the main characters are so damaged, but each one manages to begin to find peace. Some by self discovery, others by shock, but all paths lead to acceptance. After the sudden death of her brother, Scarlet feels alone and then the further abandonment by her parents as they struggle with and lose themselves to their grief. Then Scarlet meets Will, a damaged boy with a tragic past and secrets of his own. It is only by letting Scarlet in that Will is able to open up to the new possibilities and finally embrace his unique gift.Scarlet has never felt a connection to anyone like the one she feels for Will. When she realizes that healing is a choice that she has to make in order to begin, she lets Will's love for her and his father's teachings guide her path.

Religion doesn't often play such a huge role in a story like this, but it is as much a part of Will's life as it becomes a path for Scarlet's healing. Will has a gift, and as he learns to accept it instead of view it as a curse, he realizes that he has a unique opportunity to help others. Splendor, the sequel is due out next summer, and I can't wait to see how Scarlet and Will grow and mature as they embrace life, and each other.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

VLA: Day 2

Friday, 8:00-8:45am                   
My Year in Jail… providing library services to incarcerated teens by Wini Ashooh, CRRL
What I took away from this workshop: This was probably one of my favorite presentations. It inspires me to see if this is kind of partnership is possible anywhere in the City of Richmond.

Friday, 11:30 am-12:15 pm       
Pinterest: Sharing your Library with the Community by Michelle Chrzanowski, Newport News Public Library
What I took away from this workshop: I haven’t joined Pinterest yet, but my library does have its own page and I was curious for different ways we could use it. I am inspired to create my own account. I can link to my blog posts with my reviews and programs, What are you reading? create book lists, etc. It’s smart to use WorldCat to link to books instead of my local library.  

Friday, 2:15-3:00pm                   Presented Intellectual Freedom and Kids with Lisa Crisman
What I took away from this workshop: I learned a lot from doing this presentation. Especially notes and ideas for if there is a next time. There is always room for improvement:)

Friday, 3:15-4:00pm                  
Managing Library Social Media with HootSuite: a Case Study by Jennifer Nardine, VA Tech
What I took away from this workshop: HootSuite is a great tool to provide regular posts on Facebook, Twitter, etc (they have several Apps to use with many other Social Media sites). It is important to manage a social media presence and even more important to provide daily posts, but not over posts. Especially for managing an online presence, HootSuite looks like it will be a life saver. I am excited to start using it and to learn more about ways to maximize my usage. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

VLA: Day 1

I had such a great time at my very first Virginia Library Association conference!

If you click HERE you can access the archives for the session notes, so all I have decided to post is the sessions I attended, some useful links and what I took away from them.

Thursday, 1:15-2:00pm
Anime for the Rest of Us by Jes Fessler and Katie Walton, Chesapeake Public Library
-Links to useful resources:
What I took away from this workshop: I am not sure that RPL would have the man power necessary to do a mini Anime Con (or a mini Con of any kind) like they do in Chesapeake, but it would be interesting to see if we had the interest. I would like to start by doing an Anime movie film fest at my library during the summer.

Thursday, 2:15-3:00pm             
Writing Effective Cover Letters for Library Positions by Susan Vandale, Hollins University
-Links to useful resources: à has great, successful example cover letters for library positions --> Virginia Tech’s Career Center

Vincent, Clement. “The rejection letter I wish I could send.” Chronicle of Higher Education.

What I took away from this workshop: Even though this workshop will provide me great tips for any future jobs that I apply for, that isn’t why I took it.  Every day it seems like I am helping patrons with resumes and cover letters. We talked A LOT about resumes in the College of Business at JMU and we created new ones almost every class during my last three semesters. I took advantage of our career center with the mock interviews and resume critique services they provided. But, not once, do I ever remember talking about, creating, or even thinking about a Cover Letter. Now I feel like I have a basic foundation for both myself and to use when assisting patrons with their job searches.

Thursday, 4:00-4:45pm             
Tween Reader’s Advisory by Capital Choice by Bridget Harvey & Rebecca Purdy, CRRL

The 30 featured titles for Tweens (ages 10-14) from Capital Choices.
Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Bluefish by
Pat Schmatz
Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition
by Karen Blumenthal
Breaking Stalin’s Nose
by Eugene Yelchin
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Marrin
George Bellows: Painter with a Punch! by Robert Burleigh
Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson
How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanha Lai
Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine

Lost & Found
by Shaun Tan
Okay for Now
by Gary Schmidt
One Year in Coal Harbor
by Polly Horvath
Silhouetted by the Blue by Traci L. Jones
by Lois Lowry
Splendors and Glooms
by Laura Amy Schlitz
The Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World
by Sy  

Ten Miles Past Normal
by Frances O’Roark Dowell
Titanic: Voices from the Disaster
by Deborah Hopkinson
A Web of Air
by Philip Reeve
by R.J. Palacio

What I took away from this workshop: Even though I am a YA Librarian and I feel really confident with Reader’s Advisory, I think that Tween (10-14) is more of a gray area. I am excited to feel prepared with solid recommendations, especially when I have read a few of them. Also thought the Q&A was wonderful, especially the tip about what to do when parents are concerned about their children reading specific books. Listening to the audio book with the child sounds like a great solution, that way parents can address concerns in a timely manner and answer questions.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Intellectual Freedom and Kids

lntellectual Freedom and Kids
VLA Annual Conference
Friday, October 26, 2012

Presented by:

Lisa Crisman
MSLS, Catholic University, 1995
Children's Librarian, North Avenue Branch
Richmond Public Library

Amanda Giannini
MLIS, Florida State University, 2010
Young Adult Librarian, North Avenue Branch
Richmond Public Library

* What is the role of the Librarian in protecting the rights of children while respecting the rights of their parents and guardians?

* What role do "community standards" play?

* Youth Services staff everyday face issues regarding internet access, collection development, program choices and more.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

In a Glass Grimmly

In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz
Publication Date: September 27, 2012

Childrens'/Tween, Ages 10+

ARC copy used for review.

Personal Ranking 3.5 out of 5


"Step lively, dear reader...
happily ever after isn't cutting it anymore."
We all know the familiar tale of Jack and Jill and their journey up the hill. We have been told about the Emperor and his new clothes.  But there is so much more to the stories. First the frog, whose name is Frog, loses a leg to a spoiled princess. Then Jill runs away from home and rescues Frog on her way to meet up with Jack. Journey with the trio as they grow beanstalks, escape giants, meet mermaids and outwit goblins, all during a quest to find the Seeing Glass. In a Glass Grimmly weaves together familiar fairy tales with original work to make a new tale that is not for the faint of heart. Enter the fairy tale world with Jack and Jill and Frog, if you dare.

It is rare for me to review children's books, but when this ARC crossed my desk, I just knew that I had too. I am a fan of fractured fairy tales and other ways of looking at the familiar in a new way or seeing the other side of the story. Of course, the first thing I did was check out the first book, A Tale Dark and Grimm. I loved them both. What is fun about Adam Gidwitz is his narrative of the stories. He has taken traditional stories, and tried to go back to the true tale, all the while weaving together tales that we are familiar with to tell a new cohesive story. In a Glass Grimmly he has intertwined the Frog Prince, the Emperor’s New Clothes and Jack and the Beanstalk; and that is just the beginning. A Tale Dark and Grimm was based on the Brothers Grimm. For In a Glass Grimmly he has branched out to include the works of Hans Christian Anderson, Mother Goose and Christina Rossetti, just to name a few.

Even those these are tales, there is still a great lesson for us all to learn. This time, Jack and Jill are on a quest to find the Seeing Glass. When they run into the three ravens, the ravens try to convince them that they are not confused, but in fact are con-fused. They leave them with three pieces of wisdom. First "when you do what you want, not what you wish," second "when you no longer seek your reflection in other's eyes," and lastly "when you see yourselves face to face," these three lessons will get them what they seek. At first Jack and Jill are even more con-fused and continue on their quest, but then when it is all over they finally figure out what the ravens meant. Only by finally coming to peace with themselves and seeing themselves for who they truly are will they find happiness.

Since In a Glass Grimmly is a companion to A Tale Dark and Grimm, it doesn't matter in what order you read them. But read them both. Meet Jack & Jill and Hansel & Gretel. Gidwitz is a wonderful storyteller, who often made me laugh  even when talking us to Hell with the devil himself. I can only anticipate what story Gidwitz will tell us next.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys, Book 1 of The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
Publication Date: September 18, 2012

Young Adult, Ages 13+

ARC copy used for review.

Personal Ranking 4 out of 5



"This is a story about becoming a man"
Blue Sargent has grown up among the world of the supernatural. Her mother, her mother's friends and housemates are all psychics. But not Blue. She functions as sort of an energy enhancer, making other's talents stronger and more certain. The only other certain thing in her life, as foretold when she was a young girl, Blue will kill her first love. But Blue, has no interest in boys, especially the ones from the exclusive prep school in town. "The raven boys," as she calls them. But, then on St. Mark's Eve she sees her first spirit, a young boy who calls himself Gansey. Then, almost by fate, she meets Gansey and his friends, Adam, Noah and Ronan. Even though her mother has expressly forbidden Blue to have anything to do with him, she finds herself unable to stay away from the group. Caught up in their dangerous quest, Blue begins to question her previous notions and gets is exposed to supernatural things she never thought possible.

First let me just go on record and state that I do like Maggie Stiefvater. I love the Werewolves of Mercy Falls (I just finally got my hands on The Scorpio Races the same day this ARC landed on my desk) and I really enjoy listening to her speak in person. Good storytellers are just that, whether they put pen to paper or just say it out loud. But this story just blew me away. I read so much and watch so much, that sometimes you can just figure out what is going to happen. That did not happen with The Raven Boys, at all. I don't even really want to say to much for fear of spoiling one of the incredible plot twists. Just know that I loved it! 
I wanted to finish it last night, but against my better judgement I let my husband talk me into coming to bed. Well, an hour later after tossing and turning, I gave up and took the book back downstairs with me. I couldn't put it down! I am so glad that there is more to follow, but now its time to put patience to the test and wait for the next one.
If you love the supernatural and all those things that just can't be explained and are tired of the vampire/zombie craze, introduce yourself to Maggie Steifvater. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Other Normals

The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini

Expected Publication Date: September 25, 2012

Young Adult, Ages 13+

ARC copy used for review.

Personal Ranking 3.5 out of 5



"This is a story about becoming a man"
Perry Eckert is just like any other fifteen year-old boy. Well, one whose parents are divorced and now dating their divorce attorneys and a brother who is in desperate need of rehab. Perry has found an escape from reality in the form of the role-playing game, Creatures & Caverns. In fact, if C&C is all Perry ever does again it would be just fine with him. Convinced his parents aren't paying attention, he starts skipping classes to play with a boy named Sam, a friend from a neighboring school. But, his parents concerned about his recent behavior and his lack of social skills decide to ship him off to summer camp at Camp Washiska Lake. But Perry is in for more than just the dull summer he bargained for when he stumbles into the world of the Other Normals. Turns out the world of C&C actually exists, and with the princess captured, Perry is in a unique position to help rescue her! But first, he has to face his real life and learn how to connect with other people. Only then can he help the Other Normals save their world.

What a fun adventure! Overall, I just really enjoyed this fun ride. I have spent a lot of time with teenage boys during my life, and have even observed them playing games like the one Creatures and Caverns was inspired from. Even if they aren't into role-playing games, this is a great book for boys of all ages who like a little bit of fantasy mixed in with their reality. Which is good, because the reality keeps changing in Perry's actual world as a result of his Other World adventures. It is hard enough to be a teenager as it is, but when you feel like you don't fit into to your world it is easy to become obsessed with with another. Then to find out that your "dreamland" actually exists? Its like Christmas! to Perry discovering the world of the Other Normals is the best thing that has ever happened to him. This is a world were he knows what to do and how to act. For the first time in his life he feels brave and confident. Its not hard to be the hero here. He also starts to fall for Ada, which makes it that much harder for him to complete his mission back at home.

It is not hard for me to see this book becoming a movie, in fact I hope it does. Even though octopus/human hybrids are not new, I loved the description of the way they moved around on land and would love to see it on a big movie screen. It also doesn't hurt that they are some of the bad guys.

But now that there is unrest and a possible revolution brewing in the world of the Other Normals, will there be a sequel? I hope so!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Safekeeping by Karen Hesse

Expected Publication Date: September 18, 2012

Young Adult, Ages 12+

ARC copy used for review.

Personal Ranking 4 out of 5


"This is madness. This is the United States.
This doesn't happen here. But, it IS happening."

Radley Parker-Hughes is in Haiti helping at an orphanage after the earthquake when the President of the United States is assassinated and the American People's Party takes over. Radley sets out for home and her parents, but the United States she lands in is unrecognizable. Landing in New Hampshire, Radley's parents aren't there to pick up her, but she doesn't have the proper documentation to cross state lines into Vermont. So Radley decides to walk all the way home. But after days on the road when she finally arrives at her house, her parents are no where to be found. Feeling unsafe and afraid, she does the only thing she can think of and sets out for the safety of Canada, wanting nothing more than the safety of her parents and their love.

What an amazing story! I sat and read this on my lunch break yesterday, the 11th anniversary of 9/11. Connecting the two together made for an incredibly powerful reading experience, and one that I was just not prepared for. The United States that Radley comes home to could have so easily happened, and after 9/11 so many Americans were afraid that it would. I believe that it still easily could. Radley shows so much strength of character at the age of 17, even though she is in shock for most of the story. How many of us would give up high school to spend months down in another country in poverty?

What was truly incredible about the story and the way it was written, was actually the very thing that annoyed me so much in the beginning. At times the story and narration seem so disjointed and jumpy, with little connection between points and pages. About 25 pages in I was really starting to get disappointed, but I kept trucking and the deeper I got the more frustrated I became. But, then like that silly "light bulb" moment, it suddenly became clear. We live in a world today of constant contact and communication, there is actually an overabundance of information available constantly at our fingertips. So how isolated would you feel if it was all suddenly gone? No phones, no internet, no news and no one you feel you can trust. The writing made me feel as disconnected as Radley was. By the end, I wanted her to be reunited with her parents as much as she did. You don't know whats going on because there are no phones, no internet. Radley is cut off from the world, and very alone.

Interspersed throughout the story are photographs taken by the author. They are beautiful, but often not relevant to the story at all. I'm not sure what her intention was, maybe to give us a sample of what Radley's mother's pictures were like. Radley brought a few with her on her journey to have a small part of home with her and to bring her comfort. As we went through the book, it felt like we were looking at mom's pictures with her. The only thing that truly disappointed me, was the layout of some of them. Any yearbooker can tell you not to place eyes, heads, limbs etc in the gutter of the book. Its like riding a roller coaster, they must remain inside the margins at all times to avoid ruining a stunning photo.

I would use this story for a teen book club in a heartbeat, and even though it isn't historical or true, I also wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to an American History teacher. Four years ago when I was a yearbook professional, there was an AP US History teacher who was married to one of my literary magazine advisers. Every year her husband would let his each of his classes vote to decide what topics they would study for the last nine weeks of the school year. That spring in 2008, they chose 9/11 because they were too young when it happened to remember or understand the true magnitude of that day. They didn't understand "the fuss," as they put it. But they wanted to learn, so that's what they studied. That is a story that has always stuck with me. I was a sophomore at JMU, I can tell you everything about that day. But, these kids, were only 10 or 11, they don't understand. Its too big for them, and probably the same for all those who will come after them. Safekeeping is truly a book written for their generation. It is written in such a way, that even though the story has nothing to do with 9/11, it captures the emotion and the reality of the world you know changing suddenly overnight.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Kissing Shakespeare

Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle

Expected Publication Date: August 14, 2012

Young Adult, Ages 14+

ARC copy used for review.

Personal Ranking 3 out of 5

"What if Shakespeare never became the Shakespeare?"

Miranda has spent her whole life immersed in Shakespearean theatre. Both of her parents are famous Shakespearean actors, and it is her dream to follow in their footsteps. Now cast in her schools production of The Taming of the Shrew as Katherine (one of her mother's most famous roles), she refuses to connect with the character to spurn her mother, and feels like she bombs opening night. Caught up in her pity party, she gets swept away by Stephen Langford, an exchange student from England. Only, Stephen needs her help in ways Miranda never dreamed possible. Waking up in sixteenth century England, Stephen and Miranda set out on a quest to save Shakespeare from throwing away his destiny. Miranda takes on the role of a lifetime by assuming the identity of Stephen's sister, Olivia. Only by becoming Olivia, does Miranda find herself, and love where she never thought possible.

Earlier in the year I read a bunch of Shakespeare inspired titles. [my Shakespeare, Remixed post] The twist with Kissing Shakespeare is that instead of retelling a classic tale in a modern way or writing from the point of view of a minor character, she took new characters and introduced them to Shakespeare himself! Imagine a world where Shakespeare doesn't exist? His influence still haunts us today, but what if it never was? That is the reality that Stephen Langford has set out to make sure never happens. He recruits Miranda's help because of her "worldly" experience. But, Miranda isn't as worldly as he thinks, in fact, she is still a virgin. She has spent her life trying to gain her parents acceptance, but as a daughter and as an actress. So when Stephen whisks her away to sixteenth century England, she fights him at first until she realizes, without Shakespeare she might not even exist! So, he turns her into his sister and sets "Olivia" on the path to seduce Shakespeare and persuade him from becoming a Jesuit priest. But the more she becomes Olivia and the closer she gets to Shakespeare, the more she figures out who "Katherine" is and who Miranda truly is. 

I was truly enchanted with Kissing Shakespeare. I thought the plot was well paced and sad when it ended. Sometimes you just want the happily ever after and true love to prevail! I look forward to Pamela Mingles next book.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Death by Chocolate

Being a YA Librarian can definitely have its perks, and this summer I have had no shortage of incredible moments and programs. RPL had a tasty summer following the Reading is So Delicious theme. Even though, our program was over on August 4th, I just couldn't resist doing one more delectable event.

Welcome to the Death by Chocolate Party!

I wanted to have multiple kinds and ended up deciding on a white, a milk, two darks and then two flavored chocolates. I bought one large bar of each. To prepare them for the party I cut them each in half and then used those squares. One square was left whole and the rest were cut into tasting sized pieces.

Each attendee was able to use the square to smell the chocolate before they tasted a separate piece. We started the tasting with the 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate (Valor Chocolates), then moved down to the 51% Cocoa Dark Chocolate (Perugina). Now it was time for the milk chocolate and after looking around the store I learned that most milk chocolates are 31% Cocoa. For variety, I chose the Godiva bar. Then it was the White Chocolate (also Perugina), which contains vanilla flavor and cocoa butter.

Then it was time for the two flavored chocolates. There were so many different flavors in the store to chose from, but everyone loved the two that I did pick. Because it was creamier, and more like the milk chocolate, the next one sampled was the Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cabernet Matinee. Everyone tasted the fruit, but only one boy guessed correctly that it was blackberry. As in the name, it also contains the flavor of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The last one (and my personal favorite) was a 50% Dark Chocolate with Pear and Almonds (Heidi Grand'Or).

It was a great program, and everyone was able to taste the differences between the bars and note the texture as the level of cocoa decreased. We all learned something today. Of the 10 attendees, I took an informal poll and the Cabernet Matinee was the favorite with a three way second place tie for the 70% dark, milk and white chocolate.

I am so thankful for having a store like For the Love of Chocolate close by! I could have spent hours in there picking out different kinds of chocolate to taste. It was hard enough to decide on the 6 bars that I did. Maybe next time I will be brave enough to get the Chili flavored one.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Here Lies Bridget

Here Lies Bridget by Paige Harbison

Publication Date: 1-18-2011

Young Adult, Ages 13+

ISBN-13: 978-1-373-21028-2 used for review.
Personal Ranking 3/3.5 out of 5

"What do you do when the five people you meet
in limbo all want you to go to hell?"

Bridget Duke has it all; a famous father, loyal followers and the rule of the school. Then the new girl threatens to destroy the balance of her power. The whole school seems caught in Anna’s spell, which seems to zap all of Bridget’s control. Now that everything seems to be going wrong for Bridget, and being expelled from school seems like an all too possible reality, in a desperate moment she ditches school and ends up crashing her car into a tree. But could this situation possible get any worse? If waking up dead wasn’t bad enough, Bridget wakes up to face the five people she has hurt that mean the most to her. But will her last chance at redemption be enough?

It has been a while since I’ve written a review of an already published book. But about halfway through reading here lies Bridget, I knew that I had to. As soon as I saw the title on the Richmond Public Schools High School summer reading list, I was curious. Then a few weeks later when I was creating the “What do I read?” chart, I knew that I would have to read it!

Bridget is the queen bee that every school has and everyone hates. Kinda like Regina George in Mean Girls, she is completely aware of her power and rules by fear of both the teachers and fellow students. As you get to know Bridget in the days leading up to her death, you realize that she has lost her true friends, her boyfriend and has caused untold amounts of trauma to those around her. While you don’t find yourself wishing she would die, you do want her to learn from her mistakes and make things right. In the end, I do believe that she got what she deserved. She learned a valuable lesson that many teenagers today would greatly benefit from. Your actions have consequences, even indirectly. All too often, this lesson is learned the hard way, just like how Bridget learned it in the end.

This is one of those books that you wish every bully and queen bee would read. I would love to use it as a teen book club selection. Over the past few years I have been lucky enough to participate in some really great book discussions at some of our neighborhood high schools. Based on all the themes in this book, I would love to hear what they would have to say about Bridget, her actions and the resulting punishment.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Infinity Ring

The Infinity Ring: a Mutiny in Time by James Dashner

Expected Publication Date: August 28, 2012

Childrens'/Tween, Ages 8-12

ARC copy used for review.

Personal Ranking 3 out of 5

"History is broken...."

Best friends Dak Smyth and Sera  Froste could each be considered a genius in their own right, even though they are still only in the 5th grade. Dak loves history, and cheese, but mostly history. His parents are research scientists, and Sera shares their love of science and quantum physics. So when Dak's parents go out of town and Sera figures out how to get their new invention to work, it causes consequences the likes of which they could never have imagined. Now with his parents missing, Dak and Sera have been recruited by a mysterious group called the Hystorians to go back in time and fix history. Before its too late.

Yes, I am a huge fan of The 39 Clues, and was actually reading Book 3 of the Cahills vs. Vespers when this ARC arrived on my desk. So I was very excited, but a little hesitant to jump on board a new series that was so similar. To give it a fair chance I put it aside, actually read some published books and tried to get Dan and Amy Cahill out of my head. Now here we are, and 24 hours after I started, its finished and I loved it!

The overall concept for this series is that Aristotle predicted that one day time travel was going to be possible, and that there were "breaks" in history. Or rather, things that happened, that were never supposed to. The Hystorians know that the world in which they have grown up in seems off, but its the only life they know. Yet they believe Aristotle and his plan to fix time when it becomes possible. When the book starts, Dak and Sera attend Benedict Arnold Middle School and are on a school field trip to the Smithsonian Museum in the nation's capital of Philadelphia.

America was discovered by the famous Amancio brothers, but the story often leaves out the tale of their heroic mutiny over the cruel Christopher Columbus.  So, when Dak's parents get lost in time and Dak and Sera are recruited by the Hystorians they are told that they will just be providing the transportation to teams that have been training for these opportunities for years. But when the SQ raids the facility, Dak and Sera escape with Riq, a sixteen year old language expert, and their only option is to begin fixing the breaks in time themselves. So when the first break tells them to go to Palos de la Frontera, Spain on August 3, 1492 they know that they have to do something with the voyage to America. But are they supposed to help the Amancio brothers or rescue Christopher Columbus? All they know is that they have to get on that boat!

One thing that is a common theme for me is my love of "altered" history. The ability authors have to take the reality that we know, tweek a few things, and show us one of the many "what if" realities is really fun and impressive to me. Even though they call it "broken history" in the Infinity Ring, seeing how they put it back together is what is going to keep me glued to this new series. Thankfully, they included the publication schedule in the back of the ARC, so here are the dates to keep a look out for. Book 1: 8/28/12, Book 2: 11/6/12, Book 3: 2/5/13, Book 4: 6/4/13, Book 5: 9/3/13, Book 6: 12/3/13, and Book 7: 3/4/14. So just like The 39 Clues, keep an eye on the Infinity Ring website. Right now its just an except of the first book, but once it goes live it will include the online component of the games. Thankfully, Scholastic seems to know what it is doing in using all avenues to keep children engaged in reading!