Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Day by Day Armageddon" by J.L. Bourne

199 pages

A plague has suddenly swept across the globe, turning most of the world's population into flesh-eating zombies in a matter of weeks. This is the diary of a young U.S. Naval Pilot who chronicles the disaster from the beginning of the outbreak. He turns his home in San Antonio into a fortress but soon has to go on the run to escape the growing population of undead and to find new supplies. Along the way, he pulls together a small group of survivors and discovers that the state of the world has become far worse than he could have imagined.

I can't decide how I feel about the diary format in general. I like the personal tone and that it helps keep chronology straight. On the other hand, I think it's hard to do well because there are some details that readers want to know but wouldn't realistically be in a diary (for instance, you wouldn't write "my mom, Janice"; you would just write "Mom"). I suppose you might give the extra info if you are writing something as a historical record for future generations, but in this case the writer starts the journal before the outbreak of the plague and was just writing to get his feelings out. I know that's not a big thing, but it still bugs me for some reason. At first, it bothered me that the diarist is so prepared for the disaster--as a military man, he's got tons of weapons and knows how to fly a plane, and he has solar panels on his house. But then it started to make sense: if anyone would survive long enough to document a zombie apocalypse, it would be someone who had advantages over the average citizen. All in all, I enjoyed this story. It moves quickly, kept me guessing, and held my interest throughout. Zombie lit fans like me should not be disappointed. The sequel, "Beyond Exile," came out in July and I'm looking forward to reading it.

Alpha by Rachel Vincent

This book is the sixth from the Shifters series. It is the end of the story of Faythe and her Pride. Faythe unexpectedly needs to step up as an alfa and defend her Pride. The Pride and its allies are attacked politically and physicaly and there is a strong chance that they won't survive.

The book is really interesting. When I started the book couldn't put it down.

Waking the Witch by Kelly Armstrong, pages 309

This book is #11 from Women From The Otherwold. I haven't read the other books from the series, but the plot is still easy to understand. Savanah Levine, daughter of two dark and powerful magical parents works in detective agency and she is investigating her first solo case. Three girls are murdered in a small town in Washington and there are traces of magical rituals. Gradually the plot thickens and she realizes that somebody is trying to kill her.

I think that the book is very interesting. I like the main character because she always seems strong and confident. She rides a motorcycle and understands a lot about cars.

I also like the plot. The case turned to be more complicated than I thought. There are many suspects who could have killed the women.

Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle: Volume 19

by CLAMP, 183 pages

!!More stuff happens!! The drama continues unabated as the companions suffer yet another complicated "loss," although, just as last time, whether or not that will actually decrease their physical number has yet to be seen.

Terminator's "Fight the Future" line comes to mind here as the characters, without always consulting one another first, run from or face or attempt to alter what they believe may or may not come to pass. I hope their own strengths combined with whatever cosmic advantage Yûko's support brings them is enough to see them through. Next volume! I need it!

Black Bird: Volume 7

by Kanoko Sakurakoji, 190 pages

Misao and Kyo are together but they aren't "together"--yet. Not that they wouldn't like to be. But there's the small matter of Kyo being a tengu, a type of winged demon, with some major clan responsibilities hanging over his head, and the fact that Misao is the prophesized "Senka Maiden" whom every other demon in the area would like to consume in order to gain immortality and the upper hand over their rivals. The couple have survived conspiracies from other demon clans and from Kyo's own brother, but now there's a new threat to their lives as well as their love: a very human yet powerful exorcist who believes all demons are evil things to be eliminated and whom Kyo cannot harm (due to his being a not-evil, though admittedly cranky and sadistic, demon).

This series is fun-ish, but it's rather light on the qualities that encourage real reader investment. Misao is a besotted weakling and almost completely dependent on the protection of her lover, Kyo, who is himself a bit too much the mean-and-detached-but-actually-nice-with-emphasis-on-the-detached romantic lead to be all together likeable. The will-they-or-won't-they tug of war is wearing a little thin by this volume, as well, but I don't think there's much left to the series, so they can't drag things out much further. There are moments when elements work really well--as when in an earlier volume Kyo unhappily executes another charismatic demon he knows will otherwise only attack his beloved again--but there aren't enough of them to make the whole consistently satisfying. I like the story concept just fine, but the end result is a little lackluster. Still, I'll be waiting to see how they overcome this latest, and very nearly last, obstacle to happily-ever-after (I'm assuming it's going in that direction, but I've been wrong before...).

Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee: Volume 1: Letter and Bee

by Hiroyuki Asada, 197 pages

Gauche Suede is a letter carrier, or Letter Bee, in the sunless world of Amberground. He's on his last pick-up before his long-sought transfer to the capital when he discovers that his designated package isn't a heart-filled letter. It's a child. Lag Seeing, a small, emotional boy who's recently seen his mother carted off and his home burned to the ground by mysterious men from the capital, initially trusts the capital-idolizing Gauche about as far as he can throw him--and considering how tiny Lag is, that's not far. If Gauche is going to deliver him safely to the address on the mailing label on his arm, the two will have to cooperate and count on each other's strengths--especially the strength of their hearts.

Giant, armor-plated bug monsters called gaichuu roam the less populated regions of Amberground, attracted to the "heart" of humans. The only way to destroy them is to shoot them with a heart-powered weapon right between the plates of their protective shells. All Bees are so-armed and draw their power by resonating their hearts with a piece of spirit amber, a bead of hardened amber containing an ancient insect. As long as they don't expend too much of their heart at once, they'll eventually recover the bits they spend in ammunition. When a weeping Lag accidentally powers up Gauche's gun to eleven just by picking it up, the older boy knows there's something different about this crybaby package. And as Lag observes Gauche's dedication to his mission regardless of the personal cost, the child vows to someday follow in his footsteps.

I quite like the animé based on this series, so I'm giving the books a read to see how the two compare. So far, so good. The visuals feel a little cramped by their frames, but I think that's just because I'm used to seeing them full-color, in motion, and in a "frame" the size of my monitor. :P Otherwise, they are plenty pretty. Lag is a tear and snot factory, poor thing, but his meltdowns never get annoying. And his hero-worship of Gauche and the Bees is naive and sweet. This volume only just touches on the mystery of Amberground and its capital Akatsuki's artificial sun, but there'll be much, much more to come.

XxxHolic: Volume 3

by CLAMP, 182 pages

Watanuki and Dômeki investigate Himawari's concerns about unsettling events at another school. And the shop has a new customer, who decides--contrary to Yûko's recommendation--to walk away with what turns out to be a monkey's paw. Anybody's who's read the W. W. Jacobs story knows that's not going to end well.

I'm enjoying the addition of Dômeki to the story. His calm, quiet demeanor is a nice contrast with Watanuki's high-strung, manic nature. Yay for frenemies! Also, sheesh, lady--hello? monkey's paw? baaaaaad idea? *sigh*

XxxHolic: Volume 2

by CLAMP, 190 pages

Yûko decides that Watanuki needs to see what a real fortune teller is like, so after crossing paths with a charlatan she takes him to see an old friend. The old woman sees more clearly into Watanuki's soul than he does himself and she and Yûko share some secret smiles while they talk about him. Annoyed but impressed, Watanuki shrugs it off and goes about his schoolday and working at the shop, always looking out for a chance to talk to Himawari-chan, the sweet girl he's crushing on. He finds he might have some unwanted competition in his classmate, archery club star Shizuka Dômeki, with whom he's always arguing, and tries to avoid him as much as possible. But when Yûko decides they all need to have a ghost "story" party at Dômeki's family's temple, Watanuki has good reason to worry he'll be seeing a lot more of Dômeki in the future, whether he likes it or not.

Hmm, Yûko always seems to know more than she says, that sneaky space-time witch. She and Mokona (the black counterpart to Tsubasa's white fluffy bunny dimension gate creature of the same name and personality) really like their booze. I want to see their next customer. And I want to see another glimpse of the bigger story beneath the story. Yûko does actually say the words, "I wish...." in this volume as she sees the Tsubasa kids off on their journey--nobody says anything about it, but was that a contract, too? If so, what is she going to make herself pay to fulfill it? Sneaky, sneaky, I tell ya.

Skip Beat!: Volume 22

by Yoshiki Nakamura, 187 pages

When Kyoko Mogami realizes Sho Fuwa, the love of her life for whom she's given up everything and whom she's followed to Tokyo to support, thinks of her as nothing but a free housekeeper on his path to celebrity stardom, she goes on the warpath, vowing to beat him in his own field. If anybody's going to be a show business idol, it'll be her!

In this volume, Kyoko is focused on finding the perfect motivation for her new character. She's afraid of being typecast as a bully, which was her breakout role in another ongoing TV drama, but she can't turn down a job if she wants to make it in the business. So she delves down deep and finds what makes Natsu, her current role, different from Mio, her first bully role, and surprises everyone with the dramatic contrast. But although Kyoko's figured out how to escape her past persona, not all of her cast members can say the same about themselves. What will Kyoko do when one of her colleagues takes her talent and self-confidence personally?

Skip Beat! is awesome! The romance (with Kyoko's mentor, the popular actor and model Ren Tsuruga) is just a quiet, parallel, sub-surface plot to Kyoko's development as an actor and a self-actualized adult. She may not always be aware of it, but her passion and pursuit of perfection have long ago left off being about revenge against that twerp Sho and have come to have everything to do with finding and growing into her true self. Nakamura's skill and creativity in coming up with Kyoko's insights and interpretations of her roles are impressive. You know it's good when you don't even notice that there's no blatant progress in the romance plot (which Kyoko hasn't even picked up on yet, although Ren definitely has) because you're too involved in how she's going to read her latest role and make it real and human and unforgettable. And while Nakamura's anatomical artwork is often less than attractive, her layouts are very good and her characters' expressions are so versatile and nuanced that you don't much care if their bodies are a little gangly. And really, the fact that the character's aren't always perfectly beautiful just adds to their believability and inner attractiveness.

Get a few volumes under your belt, and you'll see why this series is on my *squee* list.

Ain't She Sweet?

by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, 383 pages

Four years after swearing she'd left it behind forever, former spoiled little rich girl Sugar Beth Carey returns to her hometown, where she is given anything but a warm welcome. The animosity, the reader learns, is deserved, but the woman on the receiving end isn't the person she once was. Will she be able to make amends and find acceptance, or will her past crimes remain unforgiven and spoil her future, as well?

Romance is not my genre of choice (although I do read a lot of books with romance as a theme), so my experience with it is pretty limited. I like a little more realism and messiness to my fictional relationships than is standard for the romance formula, and in that regard Phillips delivers. While the characters are still paragons of one sort or another, it's more a case of the two in the principal relationship seeing each other that way than of their actually being "perfect". They say and do awful, thoughtless, yet understandable things, realize and regret them, and then set about fixing what's broken, resulting in some believable emotional drama. Also, Phillips is funny and arms her characters with smart-aleck remarks and amusingly human foibles. They may be prone to "more" (money, gumption, good looks, luck) than your average real human being, but they carry it well enough (and with enough stumbling on the way) to make you not worry about the disconnect too much. And while the happy conclusion may wrap up a little too nicely, isn't that kinda what you read a romance-romance for?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Muchacho by Louanne Johnson

The author of My Posse Don't Do Homework, which became the hit movie, Dangerous Minds, has this new book.  She's still writing about disadvantaged kids and this book is based on a true experience.  I loved it.  It's straightforward, not mushy, not preachy but optimistic and positive.  She references the book, The Four Agreements, which my friend, Erin, mentioned to me months ago.  Now I understand why Erin liked that book so much and it fits perfectly into this one.  The main character, Eddie, is in alternative school and seemingly doesn't care but a new teacher shows him a light and even though she leaves soon after, he remembers and begins to travel a new path.  This is a 2010-2011 Gateway Nominee and I'm hoping kids will pick it up. 
Kim F
197 pp

"Be Thrifty, Not Cheap: How to Live Better with Less" by Pia Catton and Califia Suntree

368 pages

This book has sections for all kinds of areas of life: food, entertainment, transportation, recreation, raising children, and more. Each section has tips for getting the most from your money as well as anecdotes from people about how they've made the most of what they had. There are step-by-step instructions for repairing things and performing maintenance around the house so items can last longer and you don't have to pay a professional to do things--everything from changing the oil in a car to sewing projects to trimming hair. It's realistic, though, and advises on situations that are better left to professionals. I like the simplicity of the directions and the pictures that accompany them--I felt inspired to try things that might have intimidated me before (I sewed on my first button--sad, I know, for someone who is 25). On the other hand, I'd heard most of the shopping tips and general advice before. This book was definitely worth reading, though, for all of the handy instructions and ideas for recycling things. I don't buy many books, but this is one that would be useful to have around the house!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov

335 pages

Middle-aged "Humbert Humbert" is obsessed with young girls--a certain type of young girls he calls "nymphets." In 1947, he moves from Paris to New England to focus on his writing. There he boards with Charlotte Haze, a single mother to a 12-year-old named Dolores (also called Lolita) whom Humbert immediately becomes infatuated with. He ends up marrying Charlotte just to stay close to Lolita. I won't spoil the rest of the story, but I will say the Humbert's obsession only grows and he proves that he will do anything when it comes to Lolita.

I'll be honest: this book really creeped me out. I picked it up because it's on Modern Library's Top 100 Novels list (actually, it's number 4) and I've been trying to check some of those off my list. I'd vaguely heard that there was a pedophile in it, but I didn't realize that Humbert's obsession is basically the whole story (yeah, I know, pretty ignorant for a librarian). I guess I'm missing something that most people get out of it, but it pretty much just disturbed me. I had to skim a lot. I thought it was interesting to get the perspective of crazy Humbert, but I still didn't feel a connection with him or any of the other characters. Perhaps some of you read it better than I did and got more out of it...

The Last Boy

by Jane Leavy
p. 387

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. There are the extraordinary people that do extraordinary things, the ordinary people that do extraordinary things, and just the simple folks that live their lives by example. Micky Mantle was a "hero" that perhaps fit into all those categories. In Jane Leavy's thorough examination of the life and legend of Micky Mantle she explores not only the legacy of NY Yankees' "the Mick" but also the boy from the small town of Commerce OK.
Micky Mantle never intended to be a "hero." His love for baseball came from a desire to please his father, Mutt; that pushed his oldest son to be the player he never was. Throughout his amazing baseball career, statistics put Mantle in the stratosphere of "super athlete" and he was a combination of desire, determination and physical ability that created one of the best athletes the word has ever witnessed. Yet in expert hands, Jan Leavy also gives us a glimpse of Micky Mantle, the "tragic" hero that could never satisfy his inner critic and whose hard life and lifestyle manufactured the what-if's that surrounded his life.
Mantle was never my hero. As a child growing up in St Louis, my baseball heroes were Musial, Boyer, Gibson and Flood. After reading "The Last Boy" I have added Mantle's name to my list.
For those who love baseball, I give this book a Rock. Chalk, Jay, Hawk!!!!

Hoshin Engi, Volume 3: Precogs

by Ryu Fujisaki
191 p.

This time around, Taikobo recruits Raishinshi, the 100th son of Lord Sho Ki. Abandoned as a baby and adodpted by Sho Ki, Raishinshi grew up in the immortal's world where an immortal transformed him from a human to a man-bat. Later on, Taikobo meets up with the two princes of Yin, who are fleeing Dakki. Also, Taikobo discovers that the Hoshin project is not quite what he thought it was.

Simply Irresistible: Unleash Your Inner Siren etc... by Ellen T. White


Yes, I am that librarian that totally judges a book by its cover.  I discovered this book by accident on the shelf kinda like a crow sees something shiny. Ooooh, it’s pretty and red! I admit, I snickered at the full subtitle and almost put it back. Ok, if you must know: Unleash your inner siren and mesmerize men, with help from the most famous and infamous women in history. Happy?

Basically, the author has broken down the world of sirens into five different categories ranging from companion siren to sex kitten siren. It all sounds a little bit ridiculous until she breaks down each category into brief biographies about different women throughout history that have fit into each of the siren roles.  Each woman’s  background and how they used their feminine wiles and what lessons the reader can take away is provided. Still sounds silly?

I know, right!? But, it was so interesting that it became my nightly, historical People magazine type of indulgence. Some of the obvious sirens throughout history I knew (Cleopatra, Mae West, Angelina Jolie) but others I knew nothing about and their stories and how they made their way no matter what their circumstances made for an enjoyable read.

Oh well, it was a fun romp! Never apologize for your reading tastes, right? Hello?  2007, 259 pages.

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

breathtaking, adj.
“Those mornings when we kiss and surrender for an hour before we say a single word.”

Levithan’s first novel for adults brings the reader into the romantic relationship between two nameless characters told completely in the format of a dictionary. Words are listed alphabetically with a snippet from the relationship that relates to the word. Some words have a sentence of definition/story. Others are a few pages in length. All tell of the intricacies, humor, passion and secrets that reside in everyone involved in a relationship.

The beauty of the words in this book take my breath away. The format lends itself to being able to easily pick up where you left off weeks ago, but I doubt you will be able to.  Levithan has a gift in bringing the simplest of thought into the riot of emotions that are part and parcel to a relationship between two people. There is a comfortable, familiar feel here and you will want to know where it all leads. An easy read that will stick with you. 2011, 211 pages.

Oh, and just incase it all sounds too “mushy”, take this entry into account too.

flagrant, adj.
“I would be standing right there, and you would walk out of the bathroom without putting the cap back on the toothpaste.”

Brave New World

by Aldous Huxley
(1932 | 259 p)

In this classic of dystopian literature, Aldous Huxley creates a horrifying world of perfect order and stability. The world order of the novel is precariously balanced on the somewhat misinterpreted ideals of Henry Ford and Sigmund Freud. From Ford this society has embraced a religious zeal for mass-production, from Freud an aversion of repressed desires and a belief that sexual promiscuity is the only civilized course of action. The population is highly controlled and have been conditioned to accept this way of life since they were embryos developing in test tubes. They live, work, and die in their particular caste level, distracted from any ill-feelings by readily available drugs and sexual freedom.

Quite preachy and without any discernible plot, the story failed to overwhelm me. But I can't deny that it was incredibly well written. Huxley was clearly displeased with the industrial revolution and Americanism in general. The American focus on youth, beauty, mass production and commercialism are taken to horrifying extremes in Huxley's vision. This is the novel that kicked off dystopian fiction, a must read for fans of the genre.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark

The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark, by Deborah Diesen. Illustrated by Dan Hanna. 32 pages

The Pout-Pout Fish is as happy as a lark.
He's fast as a sailfish.
He's strong as a shark.
He's as smart as a dolphin,
But he's scared of the dark.
In this second book about everyone's favorite mopey fish, Miss Shimmer helps Pout-Pout conquer his fear of the dark. Lush and fun illustrations complement the whimsical rhymes, making this a fun read to preschoolers.

The River Between Us

By: Richard Peck, 164 pp.

"People swarmed wherever you looked. Men mainly, of every age. Most were in uniform or parts of uniform. Some went about their business, but more of them were drunk - reeling drunk and fighting drunk and sleeping it off with their boots in the ditches and their heads cradled in filth."
This is the scene that Richard Peck describes how the Civil War was in Cairo, Illinois; and these were the men who were not killed or very ill or hurt from the war, just drunk. The scenes are worse and sickening as Peck reveals the sick and the hurt of the war.
This starred review book is one of our Big Read books in April.
Peck first takes you through a trip with Howard Hutchings in 1916 on his way to his grandmother's house. Then Howard's grandmother, Tilly Pruitt, tells Howard how she lived through the Civil War back in 1861 and travels form her home in Grand Tower, Illinois to Cairo, Illinois to retrieve her twin brother, Noah, from the war.
From this trip, Howard learns of his family's secret.


By; Janet Evanovich, 250 pp

Lizabeth Cain is divorced, has two sons, and is in need of a job - bad! She has tried several different positions throughout town and not one call back. She finally decides to try out for carpentry, even though she has no clue when it comes to tools and building houses. She is desperate.

She meets Matt Hallahan, co-owner of a construction business. He hires her out of pure passion for her. He wants to get to know her.

Their business affair turns into a love affair... Is this the right move for Lizabeth right now? But how can she help her feelings that are returned back to Matt? And are they right for each other? She is afraid she cannot give him all he needs with her being a mother and all.

The sound recording is performed by C.J. Critt. She does an awesome job at portraying the characters in "Smitten."


by Scott Westerfeld, 485 pages

Behemoth is a ferocious beast used in the British Navy. Now that they are at war with the Clankers the Darwinist will need both the Behemoth and the Leviathan to battle. As Leviathan makes its way to the Ottoman Empire to deliver Dr. Barlow's mysterious eggs they run into trouble with the German Navy ship. They peacekeeping quest has failed and they find themselves alone in enemy territory.
Deryn and Alek struggle to maintain their friendship when it might mean they are being treasonous. Deryn is posing as girl aboard the British Air Services and is falling for Alek, who has no idea that she is a girl. While Alek is posing as a commoner in the Ottoman Empire when he is actually an archduke of Austria-Este. To bring this war to an end they will need each other, new allies and bravery to overcome what is ahead.

If you loved reading Leviathan, you will definitely love reading Behemoth. It is a steampunk adventure, full of nonstop action. The black and white illustrations by Keith Thompson enhance the story and capture the imaginary world Westerfeld has created. Leviathan focused a lot on the introduction of the characters and the setting, while Behemoth is full of constant action and character development. The Leviathan series is an awesome YA book and I would suggest it to anyone who is just starting to read steampunk books.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

I was crying or in tears from page thirteen. Really.

Mia, seventeen, is facing a lot of choices she isn’t sure she is ready to make. A gifted cellist, she has been invited to attend the Julliard School of Music in New York.  She just isn’t sure she can leave her exuberant, rock star family back in Oregon or Adam, the boyfriend she still can’t quite believe really loves her. When all the choices evaporate in an instant Mia has only one choice left to make. Should she stay or should she go?

This is not your typical Lurlene McDaniel sappy teen dealing with death book. It is complicated and solidly emotional. Through flashbacks into different times in Mia’s life we get a surprisingly detailed character study for such a slim tome. Readers who connect with empathetic characters and are ok with a high level of intensity, will find much here to make you reflect and appreciate. There is a sequel coming out in April: Where She Went. 2009, 201 pages.

"Ellie McDoodle: Best Friends Fur-Ever" by Ruth McNally Barshaw

Ellie McDoodle, a hybrid of Greg Heffley ("Diary of a Wimpy Kid") and Amelia ("Amelia's Notebook"), faces the challenges of pet-sitting for a neighbor's parrot, a class project and hive-inducing presentation, and the threat of letting someone down in this quirky chapter book aimed at the tween set. Profusely peppered with animal facts, pet jokes, humorous doodles / visual musings, and simple instructions for making critter crafts, this book would appeal to the visual reader who has a short attention span for lengthy text. Although the animal anecdotes and factoids weigh heavily on the overall storyline and slow it down somewhat, they do provide particular appeal for those kids out there who just can't get enough of this kind of information. Ellie's family is endearing and their unique dynamics provide another fun layer to the humor in this book. Ideal for 8-12-year-old girls who love animals and drawing, it also provides a nice introduction to new vocabulary and fun jokes that are sure to make their way into the reader's social repertoire.

"Super Sad True Love Story" by Gary Shteyngart

331 pages

"Super Sad True Love Story" takes place in the near future. America's economy is falling apart and the government is controlled by a single party, but most citizens don't care because they'd rather shop online and try to raise their "hotness" rating (which is measured by a handheld device used by members of the opposite sex). Meanwhile, middle-aged Lenny Abramov falls in love with Eunice Park, a 20-something Korean-American he meets abroad. Even though she doesn't love him, she moves in with him back in the States after a bad breakup. She plans to stay only until she can get back on her feet, but of course things get more complicated. The perspective alternates between Lenny and Eunice, in the form of his journal and her "teening" (email) correspondence.

I enjoy dystopian lit, so the setting was the most interesting thing to me about this book. It seemed to me more like speculative fiction than science fiction because I could definitely picture this sort of future for our society--and I could see it happening in not-such-a-long time. Although the setting of this story held my attention, the plot itself did not. I didn't really like, care about, or connect with the characters, so it was difficult for me to get into the story.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm


About the Book: It's 1935 and jobs aren't easy to find. So when Turtle's mom gets a housekeeping job that won't allow her to have kids in the house, she send Turtle to live in Key West with her Aunt, Uncle and cousins. Turtle doesn't know anything about living in Key West and finds a whole new world. She encounters scorpions, a group of boys known as the diaper gang, a crabby old lady, and a legend about buried treasure. Can Turtle find the treasure and find her way to easy street?

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I'm a bit mixed on if I think this book was Newbery Honor worthy. On one hand I really enjoyed it, the storyline is great, and the author weaves together a lovely plot. On the other, I thought there was a lot that wasn't developed and the book wrapped up too quickly. The end of the book felt much different than the beginning.

The setting of 1930's Key West is a unique one-I didn't know much about Key West during this time, so I learned a bit from this book. But while this is a historical novel, it could almost be set in any time period. Turtle's life might be a bit simpler, and there are lots of references to 30's comics and Shirley Temple, but the characters and adventure and dreaming for something bigger fit no matter what the time period.

Although Turtle is the narrator and the story is told in first person, there were times I forgot she was narrating the story. At times it almost feels like her voice goes into a third person limited narration. This threw me off a bit and I had to remind myself Turtle was telling the story. I also had a problem with how fast the ending wrapped up. For the most part, the book reads almost like a diary, with day to day adventures of Turtle and her cousins in Key West. Then the ending throws in a bunch of twists and instead of giving time to wrap things up with these characters we've gotten to know and care about throughout the book just ends. As an adult, I got the subtlety that is thrown in at the end and could figure out the things left unsaid, (and yes, it's a bit predictable) but I wonder how much will go over young readers heads.

It might sound like I didn't enjoy this one, but I really did! It's a fast read that's full of humor and I really enjoyed Turtle's voice. She's a likeable character and she reminded me a bit of India Opal Buloni from Because of Winn-Dixie or Franny Chapman in Countdown. I loved the diaper gang and thought they were hilarious! And the setting of 1930's Key West makes the book stand out and a bit more unique.

It's a great read and I flew through it-it's a very easy read. It would be good for a classroom read aloud and I think it has some kid appeal, especially for readers who like historical fiction. I could even see it being used as a step up from the American Girl series for readers who like Kit. I just would have liked a more fleshed out ending.

Singing Away the Dark by


About the Book: A young girl who lives in the country must walk to the bus stop in the snow.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: LOVE LOVE LOVE this book! It's beautiful, I could stare at the artwork all day and the story is lovely. I'm going out and buying this one for my personal library collection because that's how much I adored it.

Maybe I love it because the illustrations remind me of one of my favorite Etsy artists. They have a vintage feel to them, but the book doesn't feel dated at all. It really could take place in any time period.

Our narrator is only six and lives in a very snowy wooded area and has to walk a long way just to get to the bus stop. At first the task seems daunting and scary, but our narrator has learned to sing away the dark and by singing she's no longer afraid. It's a simple story and it's sweet, but the lyrical rhyming text make the book stand out. "When I was six and went to school/I walked a long, long, way.../I leave my house, so nice and warm, on a windy winter's day." Don't you just want to read more?

The illustrations, as I mentioned before, are gorgeous. The are filled with detail and the snow looks perfect and white and the woods dark and somewhat scary. But slowly throughout the darkness fades as our narrator becomes more brave.

A beautiful book-Highly recommended!!

Mr. Putney's Quacking Dog by Jon Agee


About the Book: Mr. Putney has some very unsual animal friends. Can you guess what their names are?

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I LOVED this book! I took it home to read to my husband (who isn't one who will willingly let me read him picture books often!) and we both had a blast with it.

Mr. Putney's Quacking Dog is full of world play. Who wakes Mr. Putney up in the morning? An ALARMadillo!! The drawings are fun and have a classic, James Marshall/Jules Feiffer feel to them.

But the illustrations are just half the fun. Reading the book and trying to figure out what the animal name is what makes the book. And not all the animals are easy to figure out which makes it perfect for older readers. I would even read this one with tweens and teens. And it's perfect for tweens looking for a new joke or riddle to tickle their funny bone.

Stand Straight, Ella Kate by Kate Klise, illustrated by Sarah Klise


About the Book: Ella Kate was a real giant-at her tallest she stood at over 8 feet! This is her story.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Yep, another shout out to the Klise sisters! (and Kate Klise who is a Missouri author!)

Stand Straight, Ella Kate is a picture book biography of Ella Kate Ewing, the tallest lady on Earth. When Ella starts growing at an alarming rate at age seven, she's embarrassed, teased and becomes shy. But as she grows up, she realizes that her height can also lead to great adventures. She travels with the circus, appears in museums, and makes money for her family.

I loved the illustrations! The illustrations bring the story to life. I also love that there's a great discussion that can happen with this book about overcoming your fears and shyness, but it never feels like the book is really slapping you in the face with that message.

A great early biography-highly recommended!

Calvin Can't Fly: The Story of Bookworm Birdie by Jennifer Berne Illustrated by Keith Bendis


About the Book: Calvin is a bird, but he's not interestd in flying. Instead he spends all his time at the library and reading books. But when winter comes, will Calvin be able to migrate with his family?

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: OK, I'm a sucker for any book featuring a character who is as much of a bookworm as I am. And Calvin sure is a bookworm (although as a bird, being called a worm is not a good thing!)

This one is a cute story about reading and the advantages of reading because Calvin gets a chance to show off his book smarts. But it also is a bit jumbled in the story. It was almost like the author wasn't quite sure what kind of book to write. Should it be a book about promoting the value of reading? Or a book about how not being social and learning new skills can be bad? Or can it really be both? It tries to be a bit of both and doesn't really pull it off. In the end I felt like there were some mixed messages-read all the time because it's good for you, but yet don't read all the time. And if you do read all the time, don't worry, you'll be able to do anything you want because you read about.

A cute story and an OK book on reading and books, but not one of the best.

How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills


About the Book: One day Rocket meets a bird who says she will be his teacher. She reads to Rocket, teaches him all about the alphabet and slowly Rocket learns to read.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: This little book about reading is adorable! Rocket is a cute little dog who is taught to read by a sweet yellow bird. Rocket's journey to reading mirrors those of young readers. This would be the perfect book for those young readers to listen to and then learn to read themselves. I also think it would be great for a reading pals session where the kids come and read to dogs. What better book to read to a dog than a book about a dog who reads? This is a sweet little story and a great book about learning to read that never feels too lesson-y. Readers will relate and maybe even without realizing they are relating to Rocket's story. I plan on tucking this one away on my great picture books to give as gifts list. There really is nothing better than dogs and books!

Dewey: There's a Cat in the Library by Vicki Myron & Bret Witter and illustrated by Steve James


About the Book: Dewey is a kitten who is found by a librarian. She decides that Dewey will live in the library. But just living in the library isn't enough-Dewey wants to help people and be a library cat!

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Oh Dewey. Your story was cute to start but now I'm a bit sick of you. You, like your canine counterpart Marley, have turned into a let's see how much money we can make off this animal marketing venue.

This picture book featuring Dewey might appeal to Dewey fans or cat lovers, but that's about it. I didn't really learn anything about Dewey's life, the story doesn't flow, and it really does read like a "let's see what else we can turn this Dewey story into it and milk it for all it's worth" type of book. The book starts out OK but then it turns into random snipppets about Dewey and doesn't ever really have a cohesive plot. Honestly, I'm not even sure how this made it onto the Show-Me Readers list, other than the fact that it takes place in the library. But there isn't much of a lesson typically found in books on the list.

Needless to say, I was very disappointed in this book.

Peace Week in Miss Fox's Class by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Anne Kennedy


About the Book: When Miss Fox has had enough of the fighting and arguing in her class she declares a peace week!

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Yep, it's another Show Me Readers Award nominee that is an OK book with a very heavy handed message. I can see this book being good to use in the classroom and you might be able to make your own peace week out of it. But the results of Miss Fox's peace week are almost too good to be true. (I guess that's why it's fiction!) The students all remember it's peace week, they all accept it's peace week and they all resolve their various arguments, sibling fights, and never say anything mean or rude. And by doing so they make new friends. Yes, it's a good message, but for me it was just a little too easy.

It's also one of the Show Me books that I think is very limited on age. It really is for 1st grade and I'm not sure has appeal all the way up the 3rd grade-I think 2nd and 3rd graders would be rolling their eyes at this story (or maybe I'm just too cynical).

Vile: A Cautionary Tale for Little Monsters by Mark Robinson, illustrated by Sarah Horne


About the Book: What if you're a monster with no manners? Where do you go to school? The University of Vile of course, where arguing, pushing, poor hygine and bad habits are encouraged!

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I was very disappointed in this book. I think I was expecting more from the title. I guess it could be seen as a cautionary tale because we learn what happens when bad mannered monsters learn to be nice and where they are sent. But cautionary doesn't seem like the right word because we're never told that we're supposed to be on the side of the University of Vile and want to go there. Maybe kids will like it and there's lots of gross moments. I was just expecting more humor and a different story I think so this one let me down.

The Wonderful Book by Leonid Gore


About the Book: When a book goes missing in the woods it finds many new owners and new uses.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: This is a cute little picture books about books and reading, but not my favorite and one I wouldn't seek out and read again.

A book is found by various animals in the woods and each animal thinks of a different use for it. The book becomes a hat, a bed, and a tasty treat before the animals realize the true use of the book. I liked the concept and the illustrations are cute, so I'm not sure why I didn't enjoy it. Maybe it felt a bit simple and sweet when I wanted a bit more. It would be a fun book to use in storytime though and I think young readers will get a kick out of the things the animals use the book for.

The Terrible Plop by Ursula Dubosarsky, illustrated by Andrew Joyner


About the Book: The rabbits are enjoying a leisurely picnic when they hear a terrible plop in the water that sends them running. The warn all the other animals of the terrible plop, but the big brown bear is not afraid. He bullies the littlest rabbit into showing him where the terrible plop is-but is bear as brave as he says he is?

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: The Terrible Plop is nominated for the Building Block Award and I think it will make a great read aloud. Kids will love the humor and guessing what the cause of the terrible plop is. The author is sneaky and never tells the reader what exactly the terrible plop is but the reader has to look for it in the illustrations.

My only problem with the book was that I felt it went on just a bit too long. You'd have to have a very captive audience to read this one to. But for older readers who can stit through longer books, I think it will go over well and I can see them asking for it over and over.

"Speak" by Laurie Halse Anderson

198 pages

Since the beginning of the school year, high school freshman Melinda has found that it's been getting harder and harder for her to speak her mind. Everyone at school is mad at her for calling the cops during a party during the summer. Her parents are absorbed in their own lives and primarily communicate with her via Post-It notes on the fridge. Still, there's another reason why Melinda is having trouble speaking up. No matter how hard she tries to repress it, she can't stay silent forever...

I've enjoyed all of Laurie Halse Anderson's books, but this is one of my favorites. I love that Anderson isn't afraid to tackle big issues and write about things that other young adult writers don't. She gives a voice to teenagers--and adults--who've gone through tough things, which I'm sure makes them feel less alone. This story ha

"869 New Uses For Old Things" by the editors of Real Simple

192 pages

This is a compilation of the New Uses for Old Things section that appears every month in the popular magazine Real Simple. There are ideas for everything from an accordion file to a zipper, arranged alphabetically for convenience. Most of the new uses are very simple but I never would have thought of them myself. I am always looking for ways to be more thrifty and more environmentally-conscious, so I love that this book shows me how to recycle things that I would have otherwise gotten rid of and get the most out of the things that I have by using them in creative ways. With the economy like it is these days and the increase in awareness of environmental issues, this book should have wide appeal.