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.