Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mushi-shi: Volume 8-9-10

by Yuki Urushibara, 710 pages

Mushi are all around us: in the heart of an ancient cedar, under the rocks in a river, in the rain that falls from the sky. Ephemeral, elemental life-forms of infinite variety, mushi are neither good nor evil. Most are also invisible and generally go unnoticed by humans, but wherever the two cross paths, complications can arise. And that's when you want to find Ginko on your doorstep.

Ginko is a mushishi, or mushi master. With his medicine cabinet strapped to his back, he wanders the mountainsides and hamlets of something-like-19th-century Japan, studying the ways of mushi and offering assistance to those whose encounters with them have become problematic.

A woman followed by the rain. A lost child living alone in a parallel existence alongside her mourning family. A little girl replaced by a stranger when she steps on a shadow with no body to cast it. There are as many stories as there are mushi, and Ginko approaches each case with care and thoughtfulness, endeavoring to foster an understanding of mushi as well as help his patients, as they all have to share the same world. Sometimes things work out one way, sometimes another; regardless, nature finds its own balance and the foundational rhythms of life continue.

Urushibara takes her inspiration from folklore and other stories, many of which she heard from her grandmother in her native Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island and a largely agricultural region known for its mountains and wildlife and great store of local legends. Her tales are imaginative and touching, quiet but never boring. Her depictions of the seasons are so believable you feel like you can hear the summer cicadas or could reach in and brush the heavy snow off the thatched roofs. And while most of her characters apart from Ginko look fairly interchangeable, the contrast with her beautiful, lush landscapes and the great variety of uniquely detailed mushi just further supports the universality of their circumstances and puts the mushi and the natural world even more firmly at the center of the series.

I adore Mushi-shi (Or Mushishi. Or Mu Shi Shi. Its official written title appears to be determined by whichever way the wind is blowing.). This 3-in-1 omnibus edition is the final installment in the manga series, which won an Excellence Prize at the Japan Media Arts Festival in 2003 and the Kodansha Manga of the Year award in 2006. I decided back before I finished volume 1 that I am going to have to buy the whole shebang eventually, which isn't surprising as I broke down and bought the award-winning animé after seeing only a few episodes (Urushibara's otherworldly watercolors brought to life? Too, too lovely.). Just thinking about Mushi-shi lowers my blood pressure.

This is not an action series. This is a find-a-cozy-spot-on-a-muffled-winter-morning-and-commence-with-the-dreaming series. And sometimes, that's just what you need.

Hellsing: Volume 2

by Kohta Hirano, 189 pages

The Hellsing organization's headquarters suffer a debilitating surprise attack at the hands (and fangs and claws and guns) of a foul-mouthed pair of undead brothers and their horde of cannibal ghouls. Sir Integra dispatches Alucard and the others to combat the invaders, but she soon learns she'll have to face more than just her present unsavory visitors; there's also the matter of the greater evil that sent them. To accomplish that, she must find out everything she can about the mysterious "Millennium" group, even if it means sharing information with (the devoutly Church of England) Hellsing's despised rival, Iscariot--the Vatican's own secret anti-forces-of-darkness division. To say the two do not get on well would be an understatement. But as neither of them are fans of occult-obsessed Nazis, they may be able to hold back the urge to destroy each other just a wee bit longer. Maybe.

This series just gets bloodier and nuttier. One of the hooligans in the surprise attack looks confusingly similar to Integra, but that small quibble is overshadowed by the exceedingly eager Alucard's crazy-scary transformation into...something...else. Yikes! Also, Police Girl's desperate tactic to stop Alucard and Iscariot's Father Anderson from coming to disastrous blows in the British Museum is pretty funny.

Not for the sensitive, this, but fun just the same.

Kurogane: Volume 3

by Kei Toume, 256 pages

Solitary cyborg-assassin Jintetsu continues his aimless wandering among the backwater towns of Japan. In this volume, he encounters many different manifestations of tested love--spousal, sibling, unrequited, even the bond between a kind crime boss and his erstwhile loyal underling. The relationships may be imperfect and complicated (or even a bit creepy--especially if the object is a scarily protective automaton built on the original loved one's skeleton), but that doesn't undermine their importance in the hearts of those involved. Nor does it make the participants any less worthy of forgiveness when their diverse transgressions at last come to light.

Even Jintetsu, who does what he can to help the others make amends, has his own issues to deal with. Fellow assassin Makoto has reason to revenge herself on Jintetsu--or so, for her own sake and the sake of the one she loved, he's allowed her to believe. He's prepared to die at any time; and as she watches him repeatedly put himself in harm's way--even for her--will she finally be able to let go of the past?

How is it that a series filled with so much bittersweetness still manages to be hopeful? Dunno. Guess I'll just have to read another and find out.

Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle: Volume 15

by CLAMP, 185 pages

Syaoran and company find themselves in the middle of a deadly war over fresh water in a world reminiscent of a modern-day Tokyo devastated by daily acid rain showers. When the bedraggled inhabitants they encounter finally realize they're not after their water supply, they take them in. But how will the armed-to-the-teeth locals and their strange young leader react if the companions discover that the mysterious power protecting their hosts' precious resource is one of Sakura's memory feathers--which they mean to retrieve?

Meanwhile, Kurogane asks smiling Fai some pointed personal questions, normally sweet Syaoran displays some disturbingly unlike-himself behavior, and Sakura, unconscious since the previous installment, becomes trapped in a dream that draws her soul into the liquid depths beneath what was once Tokyo's city hall.

Still pretty, enjoyably complicated, and chock-full of nunununu-ness.

Too Many Cats

By Lori Haskins Houran and illustrated by Joe Mathieu; 32 pages

In this Level 1 Easy Reader story, cats, adjectives, and music are the main focus. The title page preps readers for what is to come when it shows a black cat mesmerized by musical notes in the air. One by one a cast of cats are introduced and drawn to notes emanating from a cello. Illustrator Joe Mathieu does a terrific job of injecting humor into the story by giving each cat a unique and comical expression that is sure to make young readers giggle. Of course, when the cats find the source of the music, the story ends with a humorous bang.

Although the main point of the story is to introduce young children to a variety of adjectives (black, rich, silly, chilly, mean, etc.), parents can use the story as a way to bring up the fact that cello cords were often referred to as "catguts" in past eras. Even though it is debated and unknown if "cat" guts were ever used to make the strings, parents can delicately explain that animal intestines (most often sheep intestines) were used to make cords for stringed instruments. Perhaps this is why the cats are so entranced by the music?

Winter's Bone - A Novel

By: Daniel Woodrell, 208 pp
Yes, it is a movie too...
But you just have to read the book! There are scenes in the book that do not make it to the movie. Oh watching the movie is great too though!
Daniel Woodrell has given us a picture of a poverty stricken family that is being held together by a 16 year old girl, Ree Dolly. Ree's father is known as the best meth manufacturer there is in the Ozark hills. Yet, Ree cannot seem to locate him any where. She needs to find him because if he skips out on his next court date, the Dolly's will lose their home. She cannot let this happen for if it does, the family will have to "live with the dogs in the woods."
This book is hard to put down; it is a quick read. We are having a book discussion on Winter's Bone February 12th at the Strafford branch! Come join us!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Lady Of The West by Linda Howard 378 p.
Frank McLain thinks he will have everything he has ever wanted if he can marry a true lady. He virtually buys a southern lady from her family who has suffered terrible loses after the war. He is a ruthless man and Victoria Waverly can hardly stand to be his wife. What she doesn't know, is that Jake and Ben Sarratt are coming to revenge their parents killing at McLain's hand.
She and Jake fall in love but there are many twists and turns before we find the happy ending.

Duncan's Bride by Linda Howard 327 p.
Reese Duncan needs a wife because he wants children, but he is down on women after his first wife left him nearly bankrupt. He decides to try a mail order bride. Little did he know that that would lead to true love in the form of Madelyn Patterson.

Lip Service by Susan Mallery 419 p.
Lone Star Sister's #2. Skye Titan and Mitch Cassidy have long unfinished business to work out. And as always, Love rules the day.

Sunset Bay by Susan Mallery 342 p.
From leading a charmed life to total despair in less than a week, that is what happens to Megan Greene. Most would simply have crawled into a dark corner and given up. But, when old flame Cruz Rodriquez show up life seems worth living again. Even the most absurd situations come to life with Ms Mallery's wit and charm.

Straight From The Hip by Susan Mallery 431 p.
Lone Star Sister's #3. Now it is Nick and Izzy's turn to fall in love. What starts out as a rocky relationship becomes hot and heavy in no time.

The Darwin Awards: Countdown to Extinction

by: Wendy Northcutt, 289 pages
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not so sure about the former."         -Albert Einstein

    The Darwin Awards are named in honor of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution. The awards are a tribute to the improvement of human genome by giving Darwin Awards to those who haphazardly removed themselves from the gene pool. To win an award, an adult must remove oneself from the gene pool in an incredibly stupid way that can be proven true. Not surprisingly there is a higher percentage of males that received awards compared to females. There are also few stories that are first hand accounts from people who are now "At-Risk Survivors".

    If your looking for a book that will keep you laughing, this is it. I was amazed at the profoundly stupid things people did that resulted in their death. For example, a man was curious to know if his new jacket was stab proof. He decided to test his jacket while still wearing it, ultimately end his life. If you cannot get enough of the Darwin Awards check out the website for more at

Blood Sisters ~ A Novel

By: Melody Carlson, 428 pp

"A mysterious envelope...

A shocking obituary...

A tumultuous trip..."

This was a very sad, yet inspiring novel. I appreciate how Carlson can create the world she wants you to picture. It is definitely a tearjerker.

There are people in this novel (as well as in our daily lives) that lie, cheat, or hurt us - and this just comes with life. Judith Blackwell, our character in Blood Sisters, has come back to her home town, Cedar Crest, to try and understand the death of her childhood best friend, Jasmine Morrison; which Judith finds out some depressing news and insight to her friend's death. She had not heard from Jasmine in years and did not know why.

Judith finds out that her father had not always been honest with her. Their relationship creates questions for Judith as well. So Judith questions her father, her home town, her faith, and God in this inspirational novel. Is there hope for Judith in her life? Is there hope for this small town that Judith had at one time left behind?

Too many secrets are kept and Judith wants to find them out as she takes her trip back home.

I don't want to tell you too much of the story for fear of giving information away that is to be read and interpreted your way. However, the author does give a message after the story of how she meant for you to interpret it. I suggest reading it last!

Trickster's Girl by Hilari Bell


About the Book: One hundred years in the future, trees are dying. People are getting sick and Kelsa's father has recently passed away from a mysterious cancer that doctors and scientists can't explain. Then Kelsa meets a strange boy, Raven, who claims he knows what's going on and he needs her help. Raven says he's a mythological creature and magic is needed to stop the ecological disaster that is the world is facing. In Kelsa's high security world, magic isn't something anyone talks about. Raven might be crazy-or he might be telling the truth-and it's up to Kelsa to decide if she can really save the world.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Honestly, I'm not really sure what to think of this book. It's got a mix of a lot of things-there's some science fiction and dystopia, magic and fantasy, and adventure. It's a hard book to fit into one genre. I think it would be a good read, especially for middle school readers, who aren't sure if they really like any of those genres and want a lighter taste of each.

I liked that while the book deals with an impending ecological disaster, it never gets preachy about saving the Earth (which I think can get really annoying). Instead, it's just part of the story and while Raven might mention that humans could have taken better care of the Earth, Kelsa mostly finds his commentary annoying and wants him to stop talking about what they should have done and focus on what they can do now.

The story jumps into Kelsa meeting Raven and starting off on her journey fairly quickly. I think I just felt there wasn't enough character development. I never got to know Kelsa or Raven. I also never got if they were starting to be friends or if it was turning into a bit of romance-the relationship between them needed a bit more development. There were also points of the story that felt a bit disjointed and I wish had been worked out a bit more-they seemed to solve things a bit too easily.I wanted more explanation of Raven's world, his magic, and the fellow shape shifters-that was the part I found the most interesting. And the end was a bit abrupt and left some things hanging-I guess there's a sequel on the way.

I do think this would be a good book for readers who like science fiction and fantasy a bit on the lighter side or readers who enjoy books with ecological themes. In some ways this one reminded me of Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, so I think it would have appeal to fans of that book as well.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

book jacket 
I loved this book.  I turned the last page as though I was tasting the last bite of the most perfect meal I've ever eaten. You know how it is-the food is delicious and you could go on eating it forever but you know you can't because you wouldn't love it as much unless you knew what it was like to miss it when it was gone.  Okay, I'm waxing poetic. But this was a really good story.  Well-paced, beautifully structured and carrying a sense of magical realism, sadness, a hint of mystery and a pretty deep understanding of the human condition.  This writer is probably very good at sitting quietly and just observing, listening and soaking people up.  Otherwise, how could she understand so much?

If you only read the Wall Street Journal, then DO NOT read this book.  It will be wasted on you.

292 pp

Hot On Her Heels by Susan Mallery 376 p.
Part of the Lone Star Sister's Trilogy. This is the love story between Dana Birch life long friend of the Titan sisters and Garth Duncan the half brother that thought he wanted revenge no matter who he hurt.

Chasing Perfect by Susan Mallery 376 p.
Fool's Gold California is the setting for this touching romance between up and coming city planner, Charity Jones, and the city's most famous male, Josh Golden. Both swear they won't get involved, but love takes control. With her usual humor, Ms Mallery keeps you smiling throughout the course of the the story.

Never Tease A Wolf by Joan Johnston 223 p.
Rancher Luke Granger has a run in with Fish and Wildlife agent Abagail Peyton. Sparks fly and the heat comes up. Nice love story and I even learned some interesting facts about wolves.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nightmare Inspector: Volume 8: Madness

by Shin Mashiba, 177 pages

Hiruko is a baku, an eater of dreams. From his habitual booth in the Silver Star Tea House, he explores the depths of the heart. In exchange for his customers' nightmares, he follows them into their dreams in order to search out the root causes of their nightly suffering and suggest possible solutions--if there are any. Not all customers are innocent victims, however, and not all choose to follow Hiruko's pragmatic, disinterested advice. But the cool, collected baku has his own subconscious darkness to hide--and hide from.

The "dreams on the menu" in this volume offer up a variety of moods, from utterly serious to anything but: a boy afraid his dream-self's murderous intent will spill out into the real world; a flamboyant dealer in fantasy accidentally caught up in one of his own ridiculous delusions; a clever trap set for another baku; an old inn steeped in secrets; a memory-clouded drowning; a neglectful mother searching for what she's forgotten; an elevator boy "trapped" in his job; and Hiruko's hapless housemate's arranged-marriage meeting.

Mashiba's little glimpses into the human psyche are fascinating. Some stories inspire laughter, some hope, others melancholy, and still others a shiver up your spine. Her panels are dark and filled to the brim with her highly-detailed backgrounds in which she brings to life the ornate interior of the teahouse as well as the unique interior landscapes of her characters' minds. Her few reappearing characters give little away about their own lives except as hints are revealed by their interactions with each other and with the many varied individuals who pass through the teahouse's doors.

If you're a fan of episodic supernatural morality tales like Matsuri Akino's Pet Shop of Horrors (especially the original series--Tokyo's fun, but not nearly as awesome), you'll enjoy this quiet, imaginative study of human psychology.

The next volume is the last, and while I look forward to seeing more clearly into Hiruko's shrouded soul, I'll be sad to see him, his companions, and his uncanny insight go.

Momo Tama: Volume 3

by Nanae Chrono, 162 pages

Popular Japanese folk legend tells of Momotaro, a little boy found inside a peach floating down a river. Adopted by the couple who found him, the boy went on to conquer the island of ogres and return home with their treasure.

Flash forward a few centuries to the modern era. The island of the ogres is still under the control of Momotaro's descendants, who now run an academy for youth displaying special powers that may prove useful to their somewhat vague and possibly contradictory purposes. The newest crop of students contains two anomalies: Kashii, a young man who may either have no power at all or more than anybody realizes, and Kokonose, a mouthy, presumptuous, nine-year-old stow-away who quickly makes poor Kashii his servant. But Kokonose isn't just a brat. If what he says is true, he's also heir to the ogre clan, whose ancestral home he has every intention of reclaiming by besting the usurpers at their own game.

In this volume, Kashii and Kokonose have been dropped by the school's current (and scarily inscrutable) head into a real-life survival test to see if they deserve to stay at the academy. At least, that's what they're told. But they may never get the chance to pass, as a hostile take-over of the school (aided and abetted by someone on the inside) threatens the academy's autonomy as well as everyone's lives.

I may sometimes have to go back and reread pages of Chrono's books to catch all the nuance and intricacies of what's going on, but I have yet to be disappointed for my efforts. You just don't want to read anything of hers out of order, as she usually provides little in the way of character introductions or series-to-date recaps, choosing instead to start each book right where the last one left off--often in the thick of it. If you're paying attention, though, you'll be rewarded with intriguing characters whose motivations are obscured and whose interactions entertain. Chrono's artwork is detailed, but with clean, strong lines, giving her characters a visual intensity befitting of their personalities, and she draws from a variety of perspectives, keeping the panels fresh and eye-catching. In this series, she sets the fiery, diminutive Kokonose apart from his more realistically-styled companions, but given his purported origins and over-the-top personality, his odd-boy-out appearance quickly falls into place as a reflection of his inner character.

Odd and the Frost Giants

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman could read a phone book and make it sound great. But this really is a good book that showcases Gaiman's storytelling skills and vast knowledge of mythology and world folktales. Odd assists a trio of Norse gods who have been transformed into animals by outwitting the Frost Giants. I listened to this book on Overdrive, but I would like to see the print version to see the illustrations. I look forward to future installments!

Beautiful by Amy Reed

2009/232 pgs

About the Book: When thirteen-year-old Cassie moves to a new town, she wants to leave behind her smart good girl image. She finds herself drawn into a strange friendship with Alex and soon Cassie is in a world with drugs, sex, secrets and lies. Cassie's life spins in a downward spiral and she finds herself in a twisted friendship with Alex with now way out.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Beautiful is an interesting little book. It's very gritty and perfect for fans of Ellen Hopkins. I can see readers who love gritty realistic fiction devouring this one. But adults will see the many faults that are in the book. It's also a bit odd because the character is so young, but I don't know how many middle school libraries could really carry it and I don't know if older teens would read about the addictions of a 7th grader. So I don't know who the audience really is.

The story seems to jump around and one moment Cassie is a good girl and the next she's pulled into Alex's world-there's no explanation how she got there. We know Cassie's family moved for a reason and we're led to believe it's some big secret, but we never find out what. In some ways Cassie's fast descent makes sense, especially given her age, but I wish the author would have described it a bit more. I wanted more development for Cassie and why she was choosing to leave her good girl image behind. And what was it about Alex's crowd that really drew her in? The only explanation the author really gives us is that at her old school Cassie tried being popular and that didn't work.

Alex is an interesting character and she's a fantastic villain, but we don't get to know her all that much. She was the person I wanted to know the most about, but she seems to come in and out of the story as needed. Same with Alex's half-sister, Sarah. Sarah causes tension between Cassie and Alex because Alex can't share friends and while this creates an interesting dynamic, it's only there when the author remembers to throw it in. There are also issues with Alex and Sarah's home life that as an adult reader really bugged me. Most likely, Sarah would not be placed in the home she's placed in, yet the author overlooks this fact to make an interesting story. When I read this for book club, all of us complained about this fact (we're all adults, but I think teens won't care and instead view it as "adults don't care about us.")

I think this is a book that teens of realistic fiction would enjoy, but anyone older than fifteen or sixteen would probably have too many issues with it to really enjoy reading it.


By Laurie Halse Anderson, 316 pages.

Freedom. That is what was promised to slave girl Isabel by her recently deceased owner. Unfortunately, the man holding the document ensuring her freedom isn't present and Isabel, along with her young sister Ruth, are sold and sent to New York City. It is 1776 and anyone who might sympathize with the plight of the girls is distracted with the Revolution. Isabel is forced to quickly adjust to a city life with her new owners. She is also thrown into the drama of the American Revolution as she struggles to determine which side she should throw her loyalty to in order to secure her freedom. After losing her sister, Isabel realizes that the only person she can count on to save her is herself. Fluidly written and carefully researched, Chains is a book of historical fiction that not only describes the Revolution, but more importantly the story of how the impact it had on the slaves of the timeperiod.

City of Ashes: The Mortal Instruments Book Two

By Cassandra Clare, 453 pages.

This second book in the Mortal Instruments trilogy picks up where City of Bones left off. Clary Fray is still trying to come to terms with her Shadowhunter identity, her evil father, her comatose mother, and her complicated relationships with half-brother Jace and best friend Simon. While there are few answers to the mysteries raised in the first book, City of Ashes delves deeper into the characters and fans of the trilogy will certainly be intrigued. The book is also not without action as the heroes do battle with the evil Valentine once again. A true series book, City of Ashes continues the storyline and leaves the reader anxious for the next.

Booster Gold: 52 Pickup

Booster Gold: 52 Pickup
by Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz, writers; Dan Jurgens, pencil art; Norm Rapmund, finished art. 158 p.
In the aftermath of the events of "52," the DC Universe is messed up. Time itself is on the verge of collapsing and only Booster Gold, the most famous hero you've never heard of, can fix it. With time master Rip Hunter at his side, Booster attempts to stop events in the past from happening that threaten the future of the Justice League.

Janis Joplin: rise up singing by Ann Angel

I have to admit to being terribly curious about how someone could package Janis Joplin for teens in a way that is accurate, appropriate, and most importantly interesting. Overall, I think Ann Angel did a fairly good job at fitting this bill. I did not know much about Janis Joplin the person but I feel like I walked away with an accurate, if cursory, knowledge that didn't shy away from the less savory bits. The author was very up front about Janis' embrace of the sex, drugs, and rock n' roll lifestyle without turning her life into a PSA or after-school special.

Color photographs adorn almost every spread and the book design is one of my favorites I have ever seen! But make no bones about it this book is geared towards older teens. I'll even let you in on a secret, but only if you promise not to tell. Included amongst the pictures of Janis is one with her exposed right breast. And if you look at the cover closely...well I'll leave you to it.

I do wish that there had been some more concrete examples of the lasting influence Janis has had on our contemporary music world, especially women's role in it. But, what really would have put this over the top for me would have been the inclusion of an accompanying track with musical selections, because talking about Janis' vocal power is certainly not the same as hearing it for yourself which I doubt many young adult readers have (I realize that this may not have been a possibility). But I for one downloaded a copy of Me and Bobby McGee halfway through reading. 120p.

Museum of Thieves

By Lian Tanner, 320 pages

This book introduces us to the city of Jewel, a carefully controlled dystopia which strives to protect it's citizens, especially it's children, at all cost. In Jewel, children are chained to an adult at all times to ensure their safety, decisions are made for the public by Blessed Guardians and never questioned, and consequences for all missteps is Care: a prison for those who put the safety of the city in danger. Ironically, this attempt to eliminate all dangers has resulted in citizens who not only are unable to function without specific guidance, but who are also completely ruled by fear. The one place in Jewel exempt from the control of the Guardians is the Museum of Dunt, a strange building run by strange people where all laws of reality are suspended. This is where the young heroine Goldie finds refuge after escaping from her guardchain. Suddenly, Goldie is forced to gain all the competence and courage she has be denied throughout her childhood as she finds herself involved in a desparate attempt to save the city from much greater dangers than any the people are able to imagine. The premise of Museum of Thieves is reminiscent of Lois Lowry's The Giver, but is most certainly it's own story with a fresh plot and characters. A sequel is expected next fall.

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

The much anticipated second book in Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy (Book #1: Shiver) continues to tell the story of Sam, the boy who used to be a werewolf, and Grace, the girl who escaped that terrible fate. With the introduction of two new narrators, Isabel, who lost her brother trying to cure his werewolf-ism, and Cole, the damaged rock star willingly turned werewolf, the four melancholic teens grapple with interfering parents, love, loss, and of course werewolves.

I enjoyed Shiver quite a bit (although as a warning I am woefully ignorant of traditional werewolf lore and logic) and had been trying to get my hands on Linger for some time. I was a little curious, however, about how Linger's plot would develop as I felt that Shiver did a nice job as a stand-alone novel and didn't absolutely beg for a sequel. After reading Linger, I think I stand by that original feeling. The brooding and over-the-top devotion that started out sweet and endearing between Sam and Grace started to feel stale and I think the believability of the characters suffered for it.

The addition of Cole (and to a lesser extent the increased narrative role of Isabel) did help liven up some of the dialogue and provided a different spin on the effects of inner turmoil. However, I think the story was heavy on the melodrama (and I usually like melodrama) and a little light on the action. Like the first book the "solution" to the main crisis seemed rushed and consequently less plausible.

That all being said, I will probably still read the final book Forever when it comes out this summer because complaints aside I am invested in the characters and I hope that this was the all too common "transitional" title in the series. 362 p.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dog On It

A Chet and Bernie Mystery by Spencer Quinn, 305 pages

I found this mystery on the ALA Reading list for 2010. Since I like dog books and mysteries, I listened to this on audio.

The premise: Bernie is the human in this duo, a private investigator whose life has generally hit the skids. The one thing he has going for him is the devotion of his dog, Chet, a K9 school dropout. Together they investigate the disappearance of a local teen.

Why I liked it: Since Chet is the narrator, it has a lot of dog-related humor. Even though he loves his human, Chet can see Bernie's foibles. Chet's take on human behavior is funny, and warm-hearted.

Bottom line: I generally liked the book, though the mystery was a bit weak. Sometimes the author got into Chet's doggie ADHD personality a bit too much. Overall it was a likeable book, but you definitely have to be a dog lover or someone who likes a lot of humor in their mysteries.

Matched by Ally Condie

“The two desires struggle within me: the desire to be safe, and the desire to know. I cannot tell which one will win.”

Cassia lives in a future society where nothing is left to chance. The Society knows everything, especially what is best for you.  The Society controls everything from where you work, what you eat, who you will marry and even when you die. Cassia believes in the beauty and ease of her world until after her matching ceremony she sees not just her best friend Xander-who was her official match-but also another boy. One that she also knows.

What I liked about Match was the realistic way in which we watch Cassia, for lack of better term, wake up. She starts out naive and trusting in this perfect world where the Society just wants everyone to be happy and equal.  The emotions brought by loss, a gift of something as dangerous as forbidden words and a potential love not foreseen by the Society is enough to bring Cassia into a storm of uncertainty and growth.  The secondary characters are nicely developed and do not conform to where we expect them to go in a typical dystopia. An introspective novel that encourages thought about the directions society can take us if we let it.  Fans of the Hunger Games or the Giver will most likely eat this one up.  2010, 384 pages.

The Kneebone Boy

By Ellen Potter, 288 pages

The three Hardscrabble children are used to being considered unusual. Their mother disappeared suddenly several years ago, their father is an eccentric artist, and the eldest, Otto, hasn't spoken since their mother went missing. Things are about to get much more unusual when a visit to their cousin in London goes terribly wrong and the children find themselves on a journey that will take them from the streets of London to a remote seaside village where several mysteries that have plagued them will begin to come together. Written in the voice of one of the children (and it is up to the reader to determine which one) this book not only draws us in to the strange plot in an interesting fashion, but also captures that child-like eagerness for adventure, necessary spats between siblings, and ultimately the loyalty of family. Quirky and charming, if you are looking for something a little bit different, this might be the book for you.


Ellen Jensen
352 pages

I found this book to be a little disappointing. The story itself is intriguing but falls flat along the way. The main character Abisina is an Outcast in her village because she doesn't look like their paragon of beauty which includes blonde hair and blue eyes. She has been treated cruelly all of her life by most of the people around her. The villagers don't like anyone who is different. Centaurs and humans kill each other on sight and dwarves aren't thought of any better. The village is set on the outskirts of a civilization that is pretty new to the area and is constantly under attack or having problems getting food. A leader comes to the village but just stirs up the hate in the villagers and proposes getting rid of all the outcasts. Abisina barely escapes and her mother tells her that her father is from a place called Watersmeet. Her mother's last words to her are directions to Watersmeet. Abisina wants to go to this place but must depend on dwarves to help her on her way. She learns much on her way there but there are setbacks. These setbacks are mostly in the way the book is written sadly. I would call it a decent read but probably wouldn't recomend it to anyone.

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1)

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)
Cassandra Clare
485 pages
I had seen this book around but the cover made me think it would be cheesy and I put off reading it. One of my friends read it said it was great and gave me a copy. I had some reservations but in the end I did really like City of Bones. The book follows Clary Fray as she learns some secrets that are kept from most of the world. She can see people that others like her friend Simon can't. One of these people is Jace who makes a habit of popping up in unexpected places. Clary's life is thrown into chaos when her mother makes a frightening call and is abducted. Clary is then attacked by a strange creature but is saved when Jace shows up. Clary, Jace, Simon, and a few others learn that the disappearance of her mother is only part of a much larger story. The story meanders a bit throwing in action bits where we would rather just know what is going on but the reader is left satisfied and wanting more. I know it won't be long until I read the next book.

An American Library Association Teens Top Ten Award Winner, 2008

"Fat Cat" by Robin Brande

The premise: In order to take the top prize in her high school science fair and decimate her rival (and former childhood crush) Matt McKinney, overweight over-achiever Catherine "Cat" Locke decides to become her own experiment and live like a cave girl - meaning no modern technology or conveniences and no processed foods. As the pounds drop off, Cat begins navigating the difficult waters of having a new body and a new mindset. However, horrible things Matt said about her in 7th grade still haunt her. Will she be able to forgive him, move forward with her life AND win the science fair?

My take: This was a quick, enjoyable read with believable characters (albeit not always believable plot points) and has excellent subtle commentary on the modern day American diet without being overly preachy.

If you've ever truly struggled with obesity, especially in your teen years, you may see a lot of yourself in Catherine "Cat" Locke. I suspect Brande dealt with her own weight issues as a teen because she seems to write from a perspective of very personal experience. Cat's internal dialogue is often pessimistic and self-defeating but always raw and honest.

As Cat's shape begins to change, it takes her awhile to see those changes herself, accept them and have confidence in her skills and abilities as a burgeoning young adult. She undergoes a great deal of challenges throughout her transformation - specificaly learning the ups and downs of dating - but most importantly she learns to forgive as she discovers her longstanding issues with Matt McKinney are actually rooted more deeply in issues she has with herself.

By making healthy, intelligent and thoughtful decisions throughout the entire story, Cat makes an excellent role model for young adult readers.

I don't foresee it winning the Gateway but it was definitely worthy of the nomination.

Favorite passage from the book: "It's not that I'm hideous, but I'm also not stupid. I know how people see me. I might spend an hour every day straightening my hair and getting my makeup just right and picking out clothes that camouflage at least some of my rolls, but the truth is I'm still fat and everyone knows it. When I wake up in the morning it's like I'm wearing this giant fat suit, and if only I could find the zipper I could step out of it and finally go start living my real life."

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

2007/324 pgs.

About the Book: Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie is 34th in line for the throne and flat broke. Her brother the duke is economizing and Georgie has been cut off. When the queen tries to set her up with the horrible Prince Siegfried (aka fishface) Georgie runs from her Scotland castle to her family's London house under the pretense of helping a friend with a wedding. Georgie is hoping to make a new life for herself. She moonlights as a maid (the horror!) and befriends the handsome but also penniless Darcy O'Mara. When a blackmailing Frenchman winds up dead in her bathtub, Georgie has a new job-discover the killer.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Her Royal Spyness is a fun lighthearted cozy mystery set in 1930's London. This is the start to a series, so there's a lot of character development and introduction before we get to the actual mystery.

It's a historical, but there were times I forgot it was set in the 1930's as it felt a bit like modern chick-lit. Georgie in someways reminded me of Bridget Jones. Her adventures are often hilarious and although she's been brought up as a member of the royal family, she never comes across as too pretentious. She's a very likable character and an interesting narrator.

There are a lot of characters to keep track of and at time there seemed to be a bit too much going on. We're introduced to Binky, Georgie's Duke brother who is accused of murder, his wife Fig, several of Georgie's friends and former classmates, and her eccentric actress mother. They all add for many comic scenes throughout the novel and once you get used to the large cast, it's easy to keep everyone straight.

The mystery doesn't really get going until the last third of the book. Although it's somewhat predictable it's still fun and I have hopes for the rest of the series.

The book is a fun and quick read and I think holds appeal not only for mystery fans but for readers of contemporary chick lit.

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang

June 2011/160pgs.

About the Book: Dennis Ouyang is trying to live up to his parents expectations. He'd rather stay at home and play video games, but after his father's death, he decides to fulfill his father's wishes and go to med school. With the help of four angels, Dennis is about to discover his destiny.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I love Gene Luen Yang's Printz winning graphic novel, American Born Chinese and I expected Level Up to be another witty and heartfelt coming of age story. In some ways it is, but I was let down by this one.

I think with the cover and the title and the character obsessed with video games, I expected this one to have more of a video game feel to it, ala Scott Pilgrim. But instead, the video game aspect is pushed to the side and instead we get a story about Dennis dealing with his grief over his father and his drive to make his father happy.

I wanted more about the angels but instead they seemed to come and go and never really connect with the story. I also wanted a bit more humor-while there are moments of humor, the tone of Level Up is much more serious.

It's still a good graphic novel and I'm continualy impressed with Gene Luen Yang's work, but I had hoped for a bit more.

Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters

by Natalie Standiford, 313 pages

Almighty Lou, the matriarch of the Sullivan clan, announces that someone in the family has deeply offended her, and she expects a written confession from the guilty party or the entire family will be disinherited.  Everyone naturally assumes it must have been one of the girls, so sisters Norrie, Jane, and Sassy begin their confessions.

I loved this book.  Each girl tells a story about making mistakes, learning from them, and growing up.  The three distinct voices are connected by their unique family and their love for each other. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Black Cat: Volume 12: The New Weapon

by Kentaro Yabuki, 207 pages

Train and company are still trying to find a way to deal with the repercussions of Creed's misfired plan from volume 11. They've tracked down cyborg Eve's creator, but they're not the only ones. Meanwhile, Train's faith in wild-card Kyoko is put to the test, as is his faith in himself. Everybody's got a trick up their sleeve. Some of them are just sillier than others.

This series may not test your intellect, but it still manages to tickle your funny bone even as you're rolling your eyes.

Black Cat: Volume 11: The Promise

by Kentaro Yabuki, 197 pages

Unsatisfied with being someone else's pawn, Creed's fire-controlling minion Kyoko has thrown in the towel and gone off on her own. When Train spontaneously "saves" her from some annoying street punks (whose backsides she totally could have kicked), she develops an instant crush on him. So when he criticizes her willingness to kill anybody in her way, she takes it seriously and promises not to do it again. But how could she have known that so many people would insist on pushing her buttons and testing her resolve?

There are a lot of crazy people in this series. And not all of them are bad guys. Which just makes it that much more fun.

Black Cat: Volume 10: Big Changes

by Kentaro Yabuki, 191 pages

Crazy villain Creed just can't leave former colleague Train alone. Why won't his old "friend" join his awesome band of baddies bent on world domination? It must be because he's already got a partner he can't leave. Take Sven out of the picture...and, voila! obstacle removed! But Creed can't just outright kill his competition, oh, no--he has to go and make it complicated. But even he can't guess what happens next....

This manga series continues to be fun and unpredictable. The look on Creed's face when things don't quite go according to plan is the high point of this volume for me. He's one of those bad guys you can't help but snicker at; and yet he's scary, because his particular brand of crazy is devoid of conscience.

The Wallflower: Volume 22-23-24

by Tomoko Hayakawa, 474 pages

Auntie Nakahara approaches four gorgeous young men with a proposition. If they can turn her niece Sunako into a proper "lady", they can live in her fabulous mansion rent-free. Piece of cake! Or not....

Wallflower cracks me up.

Sunako loves the dark. Seriously. Her "best friends" are a pair of discarded anatomical models (one missing its insides) and a lab skeleton (whom she dresses in a hat and boa and to whose skull she gives a separate identity when detached). She drools over antique torture devices, gets giddy at the telling of gruesome ghost stories, and holes up under a blanket in her pitch black room watching slasher films. Her fabulously wealthy, globe-trotting aunt sincerely loves her, but would also like to be able to take her into high society without inviting disaster. And since Sunako has a pathological fear of all things bright and beautiful--and tends to scare the living daylights out of everyone she meets--that's not going to be easy.

Enter four pretty rich boys itching for independence. There's Ranmaru, the suave seducer; Takenaga, the sensitive intellectual; Yuki, the sweet innocent. And then there's Kyohei--who loves fried shrimp and having his own way. They know they've gotten in over their heads the first time Sunako screams "creatures of the light!" and flees to the safety of her cave. But seeing how none of the four is in any hurry to move back in with his parents, they decide to stick it out.

Through hauntings, stalkers, parental pressure, unemployment, spirit possession, photo shoots, masquerades, high-class parties, home renovations, and countless other crises, the five learn to live together, grow up just a little, and think of one another as friends--even if they have to hide their perpetual failure from Auntie every time she visits.

In this 3-in-1 omnibus installment, the gang has to deal with Christmas Eve plans, a possibly real vampire, Ranmaru's overly active social life, an angry cat spirit, and a classy wedding reception.

If it all sounds very silly, that's because it is. And I love it! Sunako's passions are the author's, and as much as Hayakawa makes us laugh at her, she never condemns her for being herself. And that same gentle treatment is extended to the other principals. As for the visuals, the graceful linework lends itself equally well to hilarity and sobriety, though the latter doesn't see nearly as much use as the former. The hijinks are many and there's just enough could-it-be-romance to keep us saps happy and giggling...and hungry for fried shrimp.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dog - The definitive guide for dog owners

Dog - The definitive guide for dog owners by Bruce Fogle - written and published in 2010 (384 pages).

Dr. Bruce Fogle DVM MRCVS is the author of this book about dogs and their relationships with the people who care for them. Filled with beautiful photographs, the volume also contains instructive illustrations and teaching aids in all areas including the history and breeds of dogs, choosing a canine companion, stages of life, behavior and training, health, and many other areas of interest. Within this informative book, Dr. Fogle has captured the heart of companionship between people and their best canine friends.

Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story: Volume 28: Toward a New Era

by Nobuhiro Watsuki, 223 pages

This final volume brings us to the climactic confrontation between the titular hero and the lost soul he unintentionally injured. Will sad, bitter Enishi complete his revenge, or will the spiritually-renewed Kenshin succeed in his effort to protect everyone in sight--including the man trying to kill him?

Watsuki makes good on his promises. :) In Kenshin, he has created a fun historical action series that also manages to be more than just a series of unlikely smack-downs between progressively tougher combatants (although it is certainly that, at times). In between the fighting, Kenshin's little family reinforces its foundations and his enemies reveal their own human strengths and weaknesses. When the dust clears, you want to know all of their fates. Watsuki answers the big questions, gives a few hints as to others, and then lets you imagine the characters figuring out the rest for themselves.

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Little kids are being taken and someone, or something, is being left behind in their cribs.  If you live in Gentry, you accept that this happens, whether you like it or not, because it's a cycle you can't break...
This is the story of a freak named Mackie Doyle, of a sister who loves him anyway and friends who accept him as he is.  It's a story filled with horror, mystery, sadness, love, pain, and an unlikely champion who changes the course of events in Gentry forever.  If you like stories that mete out answers in little bits and drips and leaves you wondering at the end, then this one is for you. 343 pp