Saturday, March 12, 2011

InuYasha: Volume 47

by Rumiko Takahshi, 186

Kagome and the others fight to save Kikyo and stop Naraku from getting all the shards and poisoning their only hope to stop him. Meanwhile, Sesshomaru is looking for a certain someone to help him hone his inherited blade so he can take out Naraku, himself, if need be.

Ohnoes! Kagome and her companions temporarily derail Naraku's plan but suffer a significant loss in the process. And Sesshomaru, who at most normally manages to appear merely vaguely put out, here not only looks ever so slightly snarly in his focus, on the second-to-last page he looks downright shocked. =:-O And with good reason.

"Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories" by Zach Whedon

78 pages

I LOVE the web series Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, so I was super-excited when I saw this collection of short stories about Dr. Horrible and the rest of the crew. Here, in these mini graphic novels, we see the backgrounds of the characters come to life. We learn how Moist got moist, why Penny is single, how Billy became Dr. Horrible, and more. I especially loved the story about the Evil League of Evil reeking havoc on the city while the superheroes are off on a retreat.

This is a great collection for Dr. Horrible fans who want some more information about the characters to put the blog in context. It's also just fun in itself! My only complaint is that it's too short. Some of the stories could have been developed more, and of course I wanted more stories since I enjoyed the ones in the collection so much! Perhaps there will be more to come? I hope so!

Hoshin Engi, Volume 7: The Curtain Falls

by Ryu Fujisaki
191 p.

Taikobo finds a new ally in Su Kokuko, master of the birds, in an attempt to secure Seiki's northern border. Sho Ki, being of ill health, dies and his second son, Hatsu Ki, succeeds him as king. Seiki declares its independence from Choka and is renamed Zhou. Bunchu sets out to destroy Zhou, but Dakki intervenes and Maka Yonsho from the Kingo Islands are sent out instead. The Maka Yonsho are stronger than anyone Taikobo has faced yet. Can his wits help Taikobo out of this jam?

Friday, March 11, 2011

XxxHolic: Volume 5

by CLAMP, 186 pages

White Day has come and gone but Watanuki hasn't been able to find the spirit who "gave" him chocolate on Valentine's Day. As he looks for her so he can return the gesture, he runs into a different spirit who demands that he help her regarding a poisoned hydrangea that turns out to be suffering a greater contamination than he expects. Later at school he starts to see what look like tiny wings on the back of a classmate who's been acting strangely belligerent lately. When she suddenly latches onto the belief that Watanuki is an unbearable irritant, he finds himself in yet another precarious position. Being able to see spirits is all well and good, but not being able to actually do anything about them is becoming a problem.

If he's going to be relying on Dômeki so much to save his behind, Watanuki had better learn to say "thank you." And Yûko, still complaining about not getting enough White Day gifts, herself, turns momentarily serious as she contemplates the closeness of Watanuki's latest close call and the plots of those behind it.

Afterschool Charisma: Volume 2

by Kumiko Suekane, 199 pages

St. Kleio Academy is an exclusive school whose students have been educated since birth to be the best they can be in their fields for the betterment of society (and the business world's bottom line). The pressure to excel is considerable, as every student, save one, has great shoes to fill--for they are all clones of history's greatest achievers: Freud, Napoleon, Joan of Arc, Marie Curie, Mozart, Einstein, Hitler...among others. Theoretically, the students are meant to embody the best of their originals without following too precisely in their footsteps, but when J.F.K's recently graduated clone is assassinated while delivering a speech about looking hopefully toward the future, the others begin to fear they are more bound to their predecessors' fates than they'd believed.

Shiro, the lone non-clone and son of one of St. Kleio's professors, feels a little useless while his friends and classmates prepare for their yearly expo in which they display their developing genius to their future employers from the government and business communities. When the school's flamboyant director shows up with a young adopted clone in tow, Shiro is unhappily enlisted as babysitter (to the immature director as much as to his small charge). Meanwhile, a new fad has been spreading throughout the school as the clones, desperate to prove their independence from their originals, look to small key-chain charms of a sheep (appropriately named Dolly) for divine protection from all things unpleasant--including their oppressive destinies. As the clones' devotion to Dolly takes on an increasingly creepy tenor, those responsible for J.F.K.'s death reveal that they've only just begun.

The cold disassociation almost every non-clone but Shiro seems to feel towards the clones, who see themselves as fully human individuals, is frightening. They're just tools to be pampered and made use of until they break and are replaced, only they don't know it and for the most part trust the people shepherding them through life and their studies. At this point, I'm not sure whether the greater threat originates from within the school or without. But with the twist at the end of this volume, you can be sure I'll keep reading till I find out.

Kekkaishi: Volume 19

by Yellow Tanabe, 188 pages

Neighbors Yoshimori and Tokine are descendants in a long line of kekkaishi, magical barrier-wielders, acting as protectors of the Karasumori mystical site in which their oblivious school also happens to be situated. Unfortunately, their grandparents have not gotten along very well for some time, but the two have managed to put that aside and work together to keep the peace and control the ayakashi (a kind of spirit) that flock to the site in search of power.

Over time, it has become clear that the driven, headstrong, cake-loving Yoshimori has some as-yet untapped and unstable potential of his own, so the ever-practical Tokine tries to keep him out of trouble while she fights alongside him. But now that a young ayakashi has delivered a prophesy warning of death and destruction at mystical sites across the country, and at Karasumori in particular, Tokine isn't sure if Yoshimori will be the cause or the cure. While Yoshimori's older brother Masamori works behind the scenes to counter the corruption in the Shadow Organization, the kiddos and their families must learn to trust one another and present a united front to their enemies, whoever they may be. And that won't be easy.

Kekkaishi is a solid supernatural action series with unique, well-developed characters about whom you actually care (evidenced by the grief you feel when you lose one of them...). The big-arc baddies are scary and you're only now starting to see more clearly into their identities and scheming, which just makes you worry about the goodies even more.

Natsume's Book of Friends: Volume 3

by Yuki Midorikawa, 191 pages

Natsume mistakes a goofy-looking cat for a drunken, dirty Nyanko-sensei. When the silent kitty suddenly makes off with the Book of Friends, Natsume and the real (and rather offended) Nyanko-sensei follow it into the woods, where they overhear a gathering of yokai plotting to attack the local humans for the sake of their missing king. If Natsume speaks up, they'll surely eat him; but if he doesn't, what will happen to his fellow villagers? And later, Natsume accompanies Natori-san, a famous actor who secretly moonlights as an exorcist (and is the only other person Natsume has met who can see yokai), to a conference of fellow practitioners. Can the boy trust them with his secrets?

The more he interacts with the yokai who've haunted him all his life, the more Natsume sympathizes with them (at least with the ones who aren't trying to kill him or hurt anyone else) and the more he longs to be a bridge between them and humans. Apparently, I'm a sucker for natural diplomats as much as I am for quasi-families. I also love grumbly relationships of mutual dependence between characters who gleefully let each other squirm when things get unpleasant but who don't hesitate to jump into the fray when the need is real.

The line work in this series is light, airy, and delicate and lends itself to the story's atmosphere of quiet country life and the fragile (and often permeable) boundary between the human realm and the supernatural.

The Great Monster Hunt by Norbert Landa, Illustrated by Tim Warnes

2010/32 pgs

About the Book: When Duck awakes to a strange noise under her bed, she calls out to her friends to help.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: A great aloud and storytime book, The Great Monster Hunt is a fun and humorous read. Each animal finds another animal to help out with the hunt for Duck's monster and each time they add another noise on top of the one Duck heard. The ending is silly and come as a surprise to young readers who will be anxious to see just what is making the mysterious noise. A fun picture book and one of my favorites on the Building Block list.

Kitty and the Silver Bullet

by Carrie Vaughn, 326 pages

When Kitty finds out her mother is going into surgery for what could potentially be cancer, she is forced between staying safe and staying away from Denver or risking death and rushing back to her mother's side.  She tries to stay under the radar and out of trouble, but a brewing war between two vampire factions may drag her back into conflict with old enemies who want her dead.  This is the fourth book in the Kitty Norville series.

These books are just so much fun!  Vaughn mixes real world concerns and emotions with supernatural dangers.  This is a genre that can easily get melodramatic and hokey, but Vaughn avoids all that by creating likable, imperfect characters and mixing real-world threats with fantastic ones. 

The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Marcellus Hall

2010/40 pgs

About the Book: All the animals on the farm love to eat. The pigs eat gooey glop, the geese munch corn-but the cow loves cookies!

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I think this is my favorite Building Block nominee. The story is told in rhyming verse. Each animal that's introduced is then repeated as the story goes on. And we always get to call out "the cow loves cookies!" which I think would make this one a great read aloud and a hit in storytime. The artwork is adorable and colorful. The Cow Loves Cookies is sure to delight young readers.

Square Cat by Elizabeth Schoonmaker

2011/32 pgs

About the Book: Eula is a square cat. When she falls over, it's hard to get up. Circle skirts just don't work on her. It's tough being a square cat when everyone else is round. But Eula has friends who accept her and help her get her purr back.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: This is a creative take on acceptance. Poor Eula doesn't feel like she fits in and is sad about being a square cat. But luckily she has great friends who help her see the good things about being a square cat. I thought the best part of the book were Eula's friends, who don't make fun of her but help her embrace her squareness-a great lesson for kids. Pair this with Spork by Kyo Maclear for fun unique picture books on accepting who you are.

Kitty Takes a Holiday

by Carrie Vaughn, 303 pages

In this third installment of the Kitty Norville series, Kitty is trying to get away from civilization after her traumatic exposure in Washington.  Playing Thoreau should help her recover from her experiences, except for the fact that it leaves her with too much time to think.  Things change, however, when bounty hunter Cormac shows up with Kitty's wounded lawyer needing a safe haven.  When locals start leaving slaughtered animals on her porch in an effort to scare her out of town, her holiday starts to feel less like Walden and more like a horror story.

Like the rest of the series, "Kitty Takes a Holiday" is a great blend of danger, mystery and the supernatural.  Compelling characters and twisty plots make for a book that's hard to put down.

Twist of Fate: The Miracle Colt and His Friends by Chris Stuckenschneider, illustrated by Kevin Belford

2009/32 pgs

About the Book: An accident causes a semi to overturn, trapping the animals inside. This is the story of the animal rescue and the miracle colt that was born.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I sort of wonder if the reason this is on the Show-Me Awards list is because it takes place in Missouri. I don't really know what the point of this book was. Was it to tell me about the accident? Was it about the animals survival? It tried to do a little bit of both and because of that I don't think the book works at all. Instead it has no real plot and I found it boring.

It's told from the point of view of Twist of Fate, the colt who was born after the accident-his mother was on the truck and was pregnant at the time of the accident. Throughout the pages are also pictures of other surviving animals and short bios about them. I didn't think this worked all that well because it didn't tie in well with the story Twist of Fate was telling. I found the whole book choppy and wasn't impressed.

Yum Yum! What Fun!

By: Mara Bergman, Illustrations by: Nick Maland, 29 pp

Katie and James and their little dog, Harry, are very busy cooking in their kitchen. All the while there are noises all around, but they do not notice any of the noises due to their cooking.
There are several surprised guests in their home, but no one sees them. Until the last guest comes in and everyone sees him - even the other guests! A lot of fun in this cute little poetic story! Also Maland has the sweetest illustrations!
I really enjoyed this little book (as if you couldn't tell)!

While Mortals Sleep

Kurt Vonnegut, 253 pages

Smart and imaginative short stories about how love, fame, and values can take a extradordiary turn in ordianary lives. A successful business owner of a road construction company spends all of his time working or playing with is train set instead of spending time with his wife - until his mother destroys it all. A young nurse recieves a gift that everyone would dream to have, but will it stop her from having the life she wants to have? Two young man decide to start spread rumors and convince a co-worker it is true, but when the joke is on them how will they react?

I thought Kurt Vonnegut short stories were witty and creative. Each story ends with the character usually learning something as well as the reader. Whether or not you want moral advice I would recommended that you read this book.

The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle

This book would make Voldemort giggle.

The Princess and her teddy bear live alone in a Marzipan castle and spend their days engaging in a variety of adventures that define what it means to be a kid. Pirate battles, riding ponies and even freaking out about the "thing" underneath the bed can fool the reader into believing this is a children's book. Trust me, it isn't. There are three endings depending on the mood of the reader.

This graphic novel was a surprise read on lunch break a few days ago and it still makes me chuckle in reflection. It has sweet moments and moments that make you cover your mouth and go, "oh no" as you giggle in dark delight.  My advice? Just go with it and enjoy!  2010, 68 pages.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"This World We Live In" by Susan Beth Pfeffer

239 pages

This third and final book of the Last Survivors series brings together the narrator of the first book, Miranda Evans, and the protagonist of the second story, Alex Morales. The narrator is Miranda again, and it's one year after a meteor hit the moon and the world fell apart. Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother are just trying to survive day-to-day, but then Miranda's father, stepmother, and infant stepbrother show up--with three strangers they've met and become close to during their travels, including Alex Morales. Miranda and Alex grow closer, but Alex has plans to move on soon and Miranda has to make some big decisions.

I enjoyed this book, but not as much as the first two. I like the idea of having two independent stories in the first two books and then bringing them together in the last one, but some how it didn't fit like I thought I would. After reading the first two stories, I really cared about all of the characters, and I liked having them all come together, but "This World We Live In" seemed too rushed. Miranda and Alex develop feelings for each other very quickly even though they barely know each other, though I suppose that isn't so unrealistic considering that they don't have many opportunities to meet members of the opposite sex who are their age. I wish the book had been a little longer so Miranda and Alex's relationship could have developed more.

The main conflict in the story (besides the constant struggle for survival) comes from the choice Miranda has to make, but it seemed to me like there are several options that Miranda and the others don't consider. This bothered me and made it hard for me to sympathize with them because I felt like they were being stubborn and not thinking things through (I apologize if this is confusing, but I don't want to give anything away!). I also wasn't a big fan of the ambiguous ending, since I hear that this is the last book in the series. I want some closure!

Overall, though, I enjoyed this book as well as the entire series. The premise is interesting and the plot moves quickly, for the most part. The characters are good people but definitely make mistakes, which makes it easy to relate to them and care about them. I like that the author isn't afraid to kill people off and have other bad things happen, but there's always some hope. I recommend this series for everyone who likes apocalyptic science fiction.

Justice League of America: Team History
by James Robinson, Mark Bagley, and Rob Hunter
This is the story of the beginning of the new JLA: the JLA with a new Batman, a new Superman, and a new Wonder Woman. It begins during the Blackest Night Crisis. Then, once the team is fully assembled, a new challenge involving alien artifacts and unknown dangers will determine if they can truly work together as a team. Will they succeed, or will they fail?

Blackest Night
by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert, and Joe Prado
After the events of the Sinestro Corps War, the Green Lanterns learn that there are more colors to the emotional spectrum than just green and yellow. There are seven: green, yellow, red, blue, orange, purple, and indigo. But now there is another faction that seeks to devour all the colors of the Spectrum. They are the Black Lanterns. Their leader, Black Hand, begins his assault by bringing to life all of the current superheroes' dead friends, family and enemies in an attempt to bring the entire universe into a black nothingness. Can the Flash, Hal Jordan, and other heroes stop the black Lanterns, or will they be numbered among the undead?

Gin Tama, Volume 3: If You're a Man, Try the Swordfish
by Hideaki Sorachi
189 p.
Shinpachi and Kagura have been kidnapped and it's up to Gintoki to save them, which he does. Then, Gin helps an old guy who's out of work find a job as a cabbie. Then, Gin and the gang fight over a picnic spot with the local Keystone Cops (that is, the Shinsengumi) using a strange variation of "rock, paper, scissors." Then, the Gin crew go fishing and meet a water spirit being threatened by a snobby rich guy. Then, Shinpachi vows to protect the teen idol Otsu from an unknown, potential assassin. Then, Gin and Katsura get into an intergalactic, exotic pet competition. Then, Gin teams up with a struggling firefighter lady to find the arsonist responsible for starting fires in trash heap. Also, the Shinsengami protect a frog-man alien who thinks humans are lower than dirt. Yep, sounds like another typical week in the life of Odd Jobs Gin.

Sneaky Sheep

By: Chris Monroe, 31 pp

Blossom and Rocky are two small sheep who are very sneaky. They are looked after by Murphy, a sheep dog. Everyday Blossom and Rocky try to escape the meadow that they live on. They see a different patch of meadow way upon the mountain, but they are told not to get out of the meadow everyday - especially those two because they have tried many times before to get out of the meadow and have gotten themselves into trouble. Do they get out of the meadow? Do they get into trouble this time?
This is a cute little picture book that I just wanted to share.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Wake" by Lisa McMann

210 pages

Seventeen-year-old Janie has never known her dad and her mom is an alcoholic, so she has to rely on herself to get by and work hard to save money for college. But those are the least of her worries; since she was eight, she has been repeatedly sucked into other people's dreams, literally. If she's in close proximity to someone (with no doors or walls in between) as he or she sleeps, she unwillingly goes numb, blacks out, and becomes part of their dream. It's always been a pain, but now it's making her life miserable. She's always kept her distance from others in order to stay out of their dreams and prevent them from learning her secret, but now there's a new guy in her life and he's starting to catch on. On top of that, he's been acting pretty strange himself. Janie has to figure out whether or not she can trust him.

This is a really quick read, and it grabbed my attention right away. I like the fast pace of the plot, but the writing itself is too choppy for my taste. Also, I think it's unrealistic in a lot of ways--yes, I know, this a story about someone entering other people's dreams, so I shouldn't nitpick over the details. In my defense: I have no problem accepting a big fantasy scenario because that makes books interesting, but I want the events to play out in a way that makes sense. One of the things that bothered me the most was that almost all of the dreams involve sex or something that happened in the past. In real life, I hardly ever have a dream that makes sense. The story would ring true to me if Janie had to do some dream interpretation to learn anything. Plus, Janie is getting pulled into dreams all day long--do kids really sleep that much at school? I don't think so. Despite the annoyances, I did enjoy this book and plan to read the sequels.

"Crazy Love" by Francis Chan

192 pages

This book challenges Christians to move away from a "lukewarm" faith and let God take over all areas of their lives. The author (a pastor) believes that many American Christians have become content to simply go to church and try not to curse, smoke, or drink and think that this is all they need to do. Chan says that if someone really loves God, he or she will be totally transformed and live completely differently. Instead of putting all of our efforts into making money, impressing people, and having fun, we should focus on spending time with God and serving others. Chan says that we should pay special attention to those that the rest of society often ignores and the ones who are the hardest to love, such as the poor and those who are rude and unpleasant.

This book is really popular right now, and I find a lot of Christian bestsellers to be cheesy or oversimplified. This one is different for me, though. It was a big wake up call and it called me out on some specific things, like having judgmental thoughts about others and losing patience with people who get on my nerves (this happens a lot, since I work with the public). It made me think about the way I live my life--can people tell that I'm a Christian? Am I actually doing what Jesus says we should do? Do I make my little corner of the world a better place? I like that Chan uses the Bible to back up the points he makes and provides examples of ways to put his ideas into practice. This book is going to be on my mind for a long time, and I hope I use it to actually make some changes in my life.

The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton

2010/304 pgs

About the Book: Michael is what's known as "boxman"-he has a talent for cracking safes. He was trained by The Ghost and works for a man in Detroit taking boxman jobs for hire. When he gets a call, he goes. As a kid, Michael survived a family tragedy during his childhood but hasn't uttered a word since, which makes him perfect as his job because he will never tell on anyone. Michael is passing his time by writing his story and recounting the journey that landed him in prison nine years ago. Told in alternating timelines, this is Michael's story of how he became a boxman and the strange events that followed.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: This is a unique crime thriller. The book is told in alternating timelines-the first is the story leading up to Michael becoming a boxman (1992-1999) and the second is a narrative of the jobs he takes (2000). This adds to the suspense of the story because things are slowly revealed in the 2000 timeline and then a little bit later we get the backstory of how that happened. In some ways we're one step ahead of the story until the end when the timelines start to connect. This is a effective device as it gives the reader a chance to try and piece together the story before Michael gets there.

Michael is an interesting narrator because he doesn't talk, so his interactions with others are interesting to read about. We know Michael's voice and his snarky comments, but the other characters don't. Michael expresses himself through art to his crush Amelia, and they communicate through comic panels they draw each other.

I was surprised a bit by how much I liked The Lock Artist. It was an inventive story and I liked reading about Michael's safe cracking skills. Anyone who is a fan of crime fiction should pick this one up. This was also on the 2011 Alex Awards list and I could see this having appeal for older teens.

Clarity by Kim Harrington

2011/256 pgs

About the Book: Clarity "Clare" Fern has a special gift-she's a psychic and see visions about people's pasts. When a teenage girl is found murdered in her quiet Cape Cod tourist town, Clare's cheating ex-boyfriend enlists Clare's special talent to help solve the case. Clare is still mad about the fact that he broke her heart. But when the top suspect in the cast becomes Clare's brother, she knows she has to help. Clare joins up with Gabriel, the hot son of the town's new detective to bring the murderer to justice. But will Clare's gift fail her just when she needs it most?

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Clarity is a supernatural mystery that is an easy and addicting read that I think will appeal to fans of Meg Cabot. The writing and mystery reminded me a bit of Cabot's books and the banter is fun. The book is a fast read and Clare is an engaging character. She has a quirky family and she's easy to like and root for.

The mystery is a bit simplistic and I would have liked things to be a bit fleshed out more. Clare stumbles upon clues fairly easily and I wanted a bit of a more complicated mystery and puzzle to figure out. There's also a large cast of characters which means a lot of people to keep track of. Clare also has a lot of potential love interests for Clare, which I found a bit annoying, since she mentions many times that she's a loner and viewed as a freak at school because of her gifts. Sure, we have our love triangle, but I kind of hoped that her brother's best friend would become a possible love interest as well! It's also a bit convenient how the teens end up working on the case, but that can be overlooked fairly easily.

Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy Clarity and I think it sets up what could be a great new mystery series. I really hope we see more of Clare. While it doesn't end on a cliffhanger and the mystery is resolved, the book does leave a few things open and I would love to know what happens next. It's easy to get pulled into the story and finish it quickly. I liked that while Clare has a psychic power, that's not the focus of the book, the focus is the mystery and her power aides in solving that. I also liked her relationship with her mom and her brother-I love great family dynamics in YA! I just hope that the future volumes in the series give us a more complex mystery.

"Story of a Girl" by Sara Zarr

"It came down to the smallest things, really, that a person could do to say I'm sorry, to say it's okay, to say I forgive you."

When she was 13, Deanna Lambert made a mistake. She slept with her brother's best friend Tommy and her dad caught them in the act. Two years later, he still hasn't forgiven her and he labels her just like everyone else in the small town of Pacifica - as the school slut. Feeling a bit lost and maybe a little hopeless, she sets out on a mission to escape - but when that plan goes awry, Deanna must come to terms with her past before she can face her future.

I enjoyed this title from start to finish. In her debut novel, author Sara Zarr has created a journey of self-discovery that is honest, heartbreaking and hopeful.

This read would be empowering to any young person who feels that they'll always be defined by a single choice. Change is possible, but sometimes YOU have to be the one to create it - even in very small ways. What a great testimony to the amazing power of love and forgiveness.

Kitty Goes to Washington

by Carrie Vaughn, 342 pages

In this second book of the Kitty Norville series, Kitty is on the road when she gets a call from her lawyer informing her that she's been subpoenaed to testify in a senate hearing about the Center for Paranormal Biology.  When she arrives in Washington, she is waylaid by the local master vampire and warned about the dangers of the local werewolves.  Oh, and the head of the Center may or may not be running unethical experiments on supernatural subjects.

Vaughn steps up the action and intrigue with devious scientists, politicians, and reporters- human and supernatural.  Kitty finds herself in the spotlight- the last place she wanted to be, but she doesn't let that stop her from making new friends and a few new enemies.  Some characters are out to use her and some are out to get her, and sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between the two.  This is a sequel that's even better than the original!

Doctor Who: The Visual Dictionary

by Jacqueline Rayner, 111 pages

This came out in 2009 so it features David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor. Being a DK issue, it has lots of pictures and interesting tidbits about the Doctor, the Tardis, Gallifrey, the Time Lords and the Time War. It also describes the Doctor's adversaries and Companions from Ten's time as the Doctor. Fun to look at for any Whovians, especially fans of Ten. We don't own the latest edition, which is about Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor.

As those in the know say, Doctor Who is all about the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.


Kitty and the Midnight Hour

by Carrie Vaughn, 272 pages

Kitty Norville is a late night DJ for a Denver radio station.  Being a radio DJ is kind of like being God, so when Kitty refuses to play any music unless one of her callers requests a song that was made prior to 1990, she inadvertently turns her show into an all night talk show.  The topic: the supernatural.  Most people think it's a joke, but a few start to suspect that Kitty is more than she seems.  Soon she is dealing with a bounty hunter that  specializes in werewolves and angry vampires determined to shut her down.

I couldn't put this book down.  The story is fast-paced and exciting with smart dialog and flashes of humor.  Despite their supernatural origins, Vaughn's characters are surprisingly human.  In the beginning of the book, Kitty is just trying to survivor her complicated life, but as the story builds she starts to figure out what's important and that some things are worth fighting for.  This should appeal to fans of urban fantasy and maybe the paranormal romance crowd, even though romance isn't the focus of the book.  If you're looking for a great escapist read, give this one a try!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Pet for Petunia by Paul Schmid

2011/40 pgs

About the Book: Petunia wants a pet-but not your typical pet. Petunia wants a skunk-they're just so cute! But her mean parents say no! So Petunia sets off to find herself her pet skunk and has an unfortunate meeting!

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Oh Petunia, how I can relate. I wanted a monkey for a pet, but my parents always said no-how mean! Any child who has longed for a pet, unconventional or otherwise, will relate to Petunia's plight. She begs her parents for a pet skunk, she promises to feed it, and gushes over how cute they are. But Petunia is in for a surprise. Readers of course, know that skunks are stinky and that it's not the kind of pet Petunia would want, which makes the book that much more fun-kids are in on the joke from the start. Petunia's voice is perfect-when she gets mad at her parents, she decides to storm off and mutters how mean they are which is sure to have kids are parents laughing.

The artwork is all black and purple, which reminds me a bit of the Olivia books, with it's simplistic color palate. I think Olivia fans would get a kick out of Petunia-Olivia and Petunia remind me a lot of each other. I would even try A Pet for Petunia is a preschool storytime-it could be a great read aloud. A fun addition to "I want a pet" picture books!

If You're A Monster and You Know it by Rebecca Emberly and Ed Emberly

2010/32 pgs

About the Book: If you're a monster and you know it, it's time to show it with smacking your claws, wriggle your warts and acting like a monster.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: My two-year-old niece is currently obsessed with monsters and the song "If You're Happy and You Know It" so of course, If You're a Monster and You Know It makes me the coolest Aunt ever!

The illustrations are bright and colorful and will engage young readers and they'll for sure what to sing along. The familiar song adds fun new elements like wriggling warts and twitching your tail and young readers will have fun participating in all the moves. The text is easy to read, making this a good pick for storytimes-just be prepared for lots of noise!

Where's Walrus by Stephen Savage

2011/32 pgs

About the Book: Walrus has escaped from the zoo? Can you help find him?

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I love illustrations, so that might be the reason I picked this book up. The illustrations are hilarious and have a very retro throwback to the 60's feel to them.

Where's Walrus is a wordless picture book that makes a great seek and find book for the youngest of readers. Walrus sets off on some crazy adventures and it's fun to see where Walrus ends up next. It's not too hard of a puzzle book, which makes it great for toddlers as a first seek and find book. And kids as well as adults are sure to get a kick out of the illustrations and where Walrus hides.

A fun picture book that is sure to be a hit!

Dave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill illustrated by Bryan Collier

2010/40 pgs

About the Book: A picture book biography of a a slave named Dave who has a talent for pottery and etches poems into his pots.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Looking at the pictures in Dave the Potter, it's easy to see why this book ended up on the Caldecott list! The illustrations are beautiful, detailed and bring Dave to life.

As far as picture book biographies go, the text is written in a lyrical poetic format, which echoes to poems Dave etched into his pots. We don't know much about Dave and a lot of what we do know is pieced together from the words he wrote. But he made a lasting impression and his talent deserves to be noticed. Dave the Potter gives us a story of a man many children may never have learned about otherwise and I think they should hear Dave's story. Messages of being not giving up and using your talents come across in a subtle way. The thing I liked most about the book that this isn't a story about Dave, a man who was a slave, but instead a story of Dave, a man who was a talented potter and poet.

"The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark" by Deborah Diesen

The Pout-Pout Fish and his sea-dwelling friends are back in this sequel to the popular picture book of the same moniker. In this installment, Ms. Clam yawns and accidentally loses her pearl (for shame Ms. Clam) and the Pout Pout fish offers to retrieve it for her. As his journey continues towards the bottom of the sea, it becomes darker and darker until the Pout Pout fish gets lost and scared. With some encouraging words from his angelfish girlfriend and some help from his friends, will Pout-Pout find the pearl-pearl? (ahem...excuse me, got carried away there)

Bright, intricately detailed illustrations make this book as aesthetically pleasing as it is fun to read. This would make a great read for fans of the original Pout Pout Fish book as well as little ones who might be struggling with their own fears of the dark. A great message about conquering your fears and finding courage in yourself with the help of those who love you.

"Monkey With a Tool Belt and the Noisy Problem" by Chris Monroe

"Early one morning, Chico Bon Bon awoke to a loud noise in his tree house..."

Chico Bon Bon is resting in his tree house when he hears a strange noise. With the assistance of his handy toolbelt he sets out on a mission to identify the noise and solve the problem. Readers will be shocked and tickled to discover what Chico finds in the laundry chute.

This sequel to "Monkey With a Tool Belt" is an exciting installment in what I hope will be a growing series from author Chris Monroe. The artwork is vivid, whimsical and so much fun to explore. With over 17 rooms in his tree house and more than twenty tools in his tool belt, I found myself getting lost in exploring with Chico as he searches for the source of the noise in every room of the house. Monroe's attention to detail is brilliant and so funny.

Excellent illustrations and a great pace of a story, kids of all ages will enjoy this latest adventure with Chico.

Batgirl: the Greatest Stories Ever Told
by Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino, and others
160 p.
This is a collection of various Batgirl stories from the seventies and nineties. It includes a story of when Batgirl was a US Representative.

Monday, March 7, 2011

"The Night Bookmobile" by Audrey Niffenegger

40 pages

In this graphic novel, Alexandra discovers an unusual bookmobile on one of her middle-of-the-night walks around Chicago. It's a mobile library that contains every book, magazine, newspaper, letter, form, and scrap of paper that Alexandra has ever read. But she can't check anything out, and when she returns to the spot where she found the library the next night, it's gone. She searches for it every night and soon it becomes an obsession. For years, she occasionally finds the bookmobile, only to lose it again. It inspires her to go to library school and find a career that she loves, but ultimately her obsession with books and the bookmobile is more harmful than helpful.

This book seems to be saying two things to me: one, that our relationship to books is powerful and the things we read shape who we are; and two, that there is danger in putting more effort into reading than our real lives and relationships with real people (and I expand this to include not only books but also any kind of escape from reality, like television, movies, and video games). It seems strange that a best-selling author would write a book about the dangers of reading, but I think she basically wants to encourage people to enjoy books but not to take them too seriously and forget to live in the real world. It's an interesting concept that I haven't read about in any other books. The illustrations are plain and the book left me with a sad feeling, but I recommend it for anyone who loves to read, as it made me think about the way that books impact my life.

"History's Greatest Events: 100 Turning Points That Changed the World--An Illustrated Journey" by Kelly Kauner and the editors of Time Magazine.

154 pages

Here, the editors of Time magazine highlight 100 events, from the invention of the alphabet to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, that have shaped the world as we know it. For each event there is a one-page general description and a photograph or two. The selection seems heavily biased toward the Western world and relatively modern events (six of the 100 most important events of all time happened during World War II?!), but I still learned a lot from it. The descriptions are the perfect length for those who want to understand the big picture but get bored with tons of details. Many of the photographs are stunning, and they stay away from the images that we've all seen plenty of times (the flag rising over Iwo Jima, execution of the Viet Cong guerrilla, etc). Overall, I enjoyed this collection and I recommend it for anyone who wants to brush up on their world history, although hard-core history buffs won't find anything new here.

"Dexter is Delicious" by Jeff Lindsay

350 pages

This is the fifth and most recent Dexter novel. In case you've never seen the Showtime TV series "Dexter" or read my review of the fourth book, I'll summarize: Dexter Morgan is a psychopath with a compulsion for killing people, but his late father taught him to only kill criminals who have escaped justice. The stories are told from Dexter's perspective. He's completely self-aware of the fact that he's "a monster with no soul," but he's studied human behavior for so long that he blends in perfectly. In "Dexter is Delicious," Dexter becomes a father and it totally shakes his world up. For the first time, he finds himself feeling love and other emotions--almost becoming human! He decides to stop secretly killing people and focus on his family. But, of course, it's not that easy. First, his long-lost brother, Brian, shows up and is suddenly interested in being part of Dexter's family, which doesn't seem too bad until you consider that Brian is also a psychopath and the last time they saw each other, Brian tried to convince Dexter to kill his adopted sister, Deborah. Then, as if Brian's reappearance isn't enough, Dexter and Deborah (a blood-splatter analyst and a cop, respectively) start investigating a series of disappearances that seemed to be linked to a group of cannibals. Dexter discovers that even when he tries to leave his life of crime behind, it seems to find him nonetheless.

I enjoyed seeing this new side to Dexter and watching him become more human. I didn't expect it at this point in the series; as I read the first few books, I thought something might come along to give him feelings and emotions, but had given up on that by the fifth book. I also enjoyed the mystery part of this story. I really got sucked into the cannibals storyline as well as Brian's return, as I suspected that they had something to do with each other but I couldn't figure out how. There's a nice twist at the end, which I always enjoy, and plenty of the dark humor that Dexter fans love.

The Death of Sweet Mister

By: Daniel Woodrell, 196 pp

Wow! It is very difficult for me to describe this novel...It is very dark & harsh.
Daniel Woodrell again has this novel set in the Ozarks. He has no boundaries whatsoever. Meaning, it might be a bit offensive to some.
I do not suggest letting a kid or even a teen read this; even though it is in the point of view of a thirteen year old boy named Morris (Shuggie) Akins. Shuggie is also Glenda's Sweet Mister.
Shuggie lives with his mother, Glenda, and (when he is home) his father, Red, in a house in the middle of a cemetery that they take care of in order to live there rent free.
Drugs, alcohol, and abuse is practically all Shuggie knows. He has a strange obsession for his mother that at times is described in very disgusting details.
It is hard for me to say whether or not I liked this book. However, I could not put it down for wanting to find out the ending. Yet I found myself wanting to take the book back to the library before I had completely finished it because of some of the offensive writing.
The death of Sweet Mister may be quite different than you think. I will not say in case you want to read this book for yourself. I don't want to give it away.

"King of the Screwups" by K.L. Going

"You can't create love, Liam. You just have to take it wherever you can find it."

According to Liam Geller, Liam Geller is a perpetual screw-up. He has been since childhood and he knows he always will be. If he could just stop making mistakes, he knows that his father would be the type of father he has always wanted - one that cares and takes an active interest in his life.

After one too many transgressions, Liam's father kicks him out of the house. Against his homophobic father's wishes, he goes to live with his cross-dressing, gay glam-rocker Aunt Pete in the small town of Pineville. He sets out on a mission to become unpopular, reinvent himself and prove to his dad that his interests lie in other places besides girls and drinking.

This book was a refreshing retreat from some of the hard-hitting YA fiction I've been reading lately - although it's not without a healthy dose of conflict. It's blatantly obvious to everyone but Liam that his dad is a jerk and at certain points, it's almost heartbreaking to hear Liam blame himself as he relives instances since childhood where he has inadvertently disappointed his father.

Yes, this book is as crazy as it sounds. And yes, while they have lots of heart, the characters aren't always believable. But the message is clear - there comes a point where you have to stop trying to please someone who simply can't be pleased, even if it's your own father. Unfortunately, that's a big part of growing up.

February Challenge Winner!

Kristi T. won the February challenge by reading six romances! Go Kristi!


by Elizabeth Berg. Random House, 2007. 276 p.

World War Two turned the lives of most Americans upside down, not in the least the lives of Kitty Heaney and her two sisters. Between boyfriends going off to war, joining a defense job, and keeping up with USO dances and letter-writing, the sisters lives are centered around this major event in American history. Reading Elizabeth Berg is much like living: experiencing love, passion, heartbreak, jealousy, devotion, fear and an entire litany of other emotions. Descriptive yet succinct, she is able to bring to life both Chicago during World War Two and life as young, civilian women. Readers of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society with appreciate a keen story teller with a passion and understanding of the correspondence of yore, but who can also create a family so real they feel as if they are your own.

Big Sky Winter

Big Sky Winter by Diana Palmer 414 p.
Two books in one. Rawhide and Lace and Unlikely Lover. Both are about Texas cattle ranchers who live on neighboring ranches. They are mortal enemies until love comes into their lives. Both are sweet love stories and a good light read.

Yuck! That's Not a Monster by Angela McAllister, illustrated by Alison Edgson

2010/32 pgs.

About the Book: Mr. and Mrs. Monster are waiting for their monster hatchlings. The first hatching is a scary blue monster and the second is a scaly green monster. But the third hatching is fluffy and pink and cute-yuck!

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Yuck! That's Not a Monster is a fun take on the ugly duckling story. Little Shock is the pink monster and he's a shock to his monster family. He has no scales or lumps and instead is very cute and cuddly. He likes to give kisses instead of roar and go scaring.

Kids will get a kick of the twist on the monster story. Little Shock may not seem like a monster, but he saves the day in the end and will leave readers cheering. Bright colorful illustrations and large easy to read text make this a great book for read alouds.

Bella & Bean by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Aileen Leijten

2009/40 pgs.

About the Book: Bella loves to write poetry. Her best friend Bean wants to spend the day outside but Bella wants to stay in and write her poems. Bean keeps interrupting and soon Bella decides to write a poem about her best friend.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I picked this book up because one of the character's was named Bean, and as a Bean, I had to read it. I wasn't really a huge fan. The story just felt like it never really flowed that well.

This is a book about friendship and a book about poetry, but I wonder what age group will really get all the poetry writing. It's a picture book for older readers and would work as a great introduction to poetry for older picture book readers. The artwork is whimsical and the mice are cute, I just wanted a bit more from the story. I'm not sure exactly what I wanted and what I felt was missing, but I just felt a bit disappointed by the book.

Too Many Faries by Margaret Read McDonald illustrated by Susan Mitchell

2010/32 pgs

About the Book: When an old woman cries out that she hates housework, she hears a knock at her door and a cry to "let us in!" In come fairies who are there to do the housework for her. But the fairies are very noisy and when the woman tells them to stop, they just start all over!

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Anyone who has chores and housework will appreciate this tale! The fairies are trying to be helpful, but when the woman decides she's had enough, the fairies can't stop. They finish the chore they are working on and just take the bed apart or make the dishes messy and start all over, noise and all.

I don't know if I'd mind some fairies stopping by my house to help with my housework, but like the old woman, maybe the noise would be too much. And do you really want fairies all over your house? The illustrations are sure to delight and add a nice fairy tale touch to the story. A cute book and a creative read about chores.

March Challenge!

The March challenge is in honor of all those questions we get about finding a book that had a certain color cover.

You will receive an extra bonus participation point for each book you read with a green cover!

February Winners!

Congratulations everyone on another great month! We had 24 active participants for the month and as a group we read 201 books or 49,386 pages! 

Most books read:
Jenny E. 57
Sarah B.T. 19
Kadie H. 17

Most pages read:
Jenny E. 11,144
Sarah B.T. 5367
Heather C.D. 4121

Participation points:
Jenny E. 60
Sarah B.T. 49
Kadie D. 19

Random drawing:
Kelley J. 

February Challenge winner:
Kristi T.

Runaway Twin by Peg Kehret

book jacket

A very quick read, this was my car book for the past few days.  It's the story of Sunny, who has been farmed out to a variety of foster homes but wants to find her twin sister, Starr.  When the story opens, Sunny is living with Rita, in another foster home, and for the first time, has found someone who seems genuinely kind and caring.  But she can't stop thinking of her sister.  In typical tween fashion, she sets out on her own instead of enlisting Rita's help and has several adventures on her way to find her sister. 
I think kids will like this story.  One, it's by Peg Kehret and she's very popular with the younger set, and two, it's a quick, fairly easy and pretty compelling story, even it it is sort of unrealistic.  Finally, there's a stray dog-a really sweet stray dog.  What's not to like?!
This is a Mark Twain Nominee for 2011-2012
Kim F

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Johannes Cabal: The Detective

by Jonathan L. Howard, 288 pages

All Johannes Cabal did was try to check out a book. Of course, it was in Krenz University's Special Collection, and he'd attempted to "check it out" at 1:30 in the morning on a national holiday with the intention of keeping it for an "extended, open-ended sort of period." It would not have been a problem, really, if he hadn't been discovered the next morning in the reading room, pinned down by a slobbering mastiff, along with his bag containing a very large and loaded handgun and the library's decidedly non-circulating, one-of-a-kind copy of Principia Necromantica. And for this small infraction, they have tossed him in a cell awaiting his inevitable execution. What's a somewhat infamous necromancer to do?

Escape, of course. And find himself enmeshed in a mid-air murder mystery, confronted by duplicitous spies, clever and not-so-clever thieves, megalomaniac military men plotting coups, evil-incarnate sorcerers, and all-too-real (and mouthy) ghosts from his past. And if that's not enough, his stupid newly-regained soul keeps triggering his long-unused conscience. That thing just gets in the way!

Cabal has rather grown on me. This is his second adventure, the first being Johannes Cabal: The Necromancer, in which he literally makes a deal with the Devil in order to get his soul back after having unadvisedly bargained it away in return for knowledge (read the book if you want to know why he gave it up in the first place and how he goes about getting it back). He is funny, unpredictable, sarcastic, arrogant, single-minded, quite possibly sociopathic, and also--just maybe, on rare occasions, if it suits his very personal, inscrutable purposes and he doesn't stop to talk himself out of it--one of the good guys. Maybe. Or not.

The story takes place in what appears to be a post WWI, pre-WWII Europe with some geo-political and fantastical embellishments in the form of a handful of small, unstable states and aeroships that use ley-lines as guides, which lend a very vague hint of steampunkishness to the setting. Poor Cabal is forced to deal with more live human beings here than he finds tolerable, but I think that's probably for the best, as I'm rooting for him to learn to let go of the past and return to the world of the living, himself. Given his personality, that will be something of a challenge. Hopefully, the author will give him (and us) future opportunity to explore that potential.