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!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Last Dragonslayer

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

Expected USA Publication Date: October 2, 2012

Young Adult, Ages 12+

ARC copy used for review.

Personal Ranking 4 out of 5

"Once, I was famous. My face appeared on T-shirts, badges, commemorative mugs, and posters. I made front-page news, appeared on TV, and was even a special guest on The Yogi Baird Daytime TV Show. The Daily Clam called me "the year's most influential teenager," and I was the Mollusc on Sunday's Woman of the Year. Two people tried to kill me, I was threatened with jail, had fifty-eight offers of marriage, and was outlawed by King Snodd IV. All that and more besides, and in less than a week. My name is Jennifer Strange."

For over 400 years, the unUnited Kingdoms have been living in a world underneath the terms of the Dragonpact. Almost sixteen years old, Jennifer Strange is a strong, sassy heroine who just happens to be managing Kazam, an employment agency and home for wizards. Wizards and Sorcerers are struggling to find work as magic in the world and their powers are fading. Just when she thinks she has her hands full with Mystical Arts Management and a new foundling to train, pre-cogs start seeing premonitions of the death of the last dragon.  Sometimes it seems that only her faithful Quarkbeast and Tiger Prawns, the new foundling, seem to be the only ones on her side. Jennifer must figure out how to balance the demands of her job while magic seems to be disappearing all around them, and  at the same time figure out who the Last Dragonslayer is and convince them not to kill the dragon.

 I hinted about my love of Jasper Fforde in my review of Between the Lines, so imagine my surprise and delight to receive a copy of The Last Dragonslayer only a few weeks later. Actually, it was more of a "library appropriate" victory dance. This is Fforde’s first Young Adult book, and it does not disappoint. Fforde has a way of creating these worlds where anything can happen, and this time magic and dragons are at the center of it all.

As anyone who believes in magic and premonitions will tell you, all a premonition shows you is one version of what could happen. Things change, sometimes through no fault of your own, but to believe that a premonition will come 100% true is to set yourself up for disappointment. One of the things that really struck me was the lengths people would go to make the premonitions come true. The rules of the Dragonpact are clear; the dragon can not be killed by the Dragonslayer unless it has violated the pact. So when the pre-cogs start announcing that the Dragon will be killed on Sunday at noon by the Dragonslayer, people start camping out, placing bets, and bribing the last Dragonslayer. When Jennifer becomes a major player in the game, she has to figure out how to stick to her convictions and do the right thing, even though it is the unpopular choice. Greed is an incredible motivator and their is no lack of it in the town of Hereford.

This is the first book in the Chronicles of Kazam, and I know I won’t be the only one looking forward to the future adventures of Jennifer Strange. Sometimes it is a drag to have a British author as one of your favorites, but keep an eye out for The Song of the Quarkbeast (USA 2013) and The Return of Shandar (USA 2014).

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Ancient Art of Henna

Colleen the Henna Lady

Today we had Colleen Heller, the Henna Lady, come and do a program at North Avenue for the teens, her third of four programs for RPL. She gave a brief, but informative presentation on the history and uses of Henna. I have been looking forward to this program for months, and was especially interested to see the different styles and cultural uses.

After her presentation, she did a small henna for each of the 25 young adult attendees (and even one for me:) Since she mixes her own paste, it smells absolutely wonderful! Some opted for traditional designs, or to let her creatively free hand a design. Some asked for animals or even their initials. Some even asked glitter.

Colleen was professional amazing and you can follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook! I would recommend her for group events and library programs.

My Henna

One of the things about Henna, is that if properly taken care of it will last for a few weeks.

The first picture is of my Henna immediately after it was done. It is dark and thick because the Henna paste is still on it. I allowed it to dry, and tried not to remove the dry paste for about 6 hours.

When the paste first flaked off, it left a pale yellow design on my skin. Colleen told us that the design would continue to grow darker till day 2.

The second picture was the following morning. The color was darkening, but was almost like a faded orange.

The third picture was taken on day 2. It looks lighter in the photograph, but the beautiful pattern on my wrist is a rich, chocolaty brown.

I love it! I have received so many compliments on it, and I have been thrilled!