Thursday, October 25, 2012

Review: 'The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart' by Leanna Renee Hieber

WARNING: This review contains spoilers if you have not yet read "Darker Still", 
the first volume of Natalie Stewart's story.

But just as the witches in Macbeth proclaim:
"Something wicked this way comes,"
there's no avoiding it.
But that doesn't mean I have to submit.

Jonathan, Lord Denbury, has been freed from the painting and the demon possessing his body forced out by the combined efforts of Natalie and her friend, Mrs. North.  The painting has been destroyed.  Not everything is resolved, however,  and Jonathan is wanted by the police for actions his body committed while possessed.  Natalie hopes that the painting's destruction signaled the end of the supernatural chapter of her and Jonathan's lives.  But when Natalie and Jonathan discover that there is a new darkness brewing in the City That Never Sleeps they must muster the courage and fortitude to stop a madman from trapping the souls of the dead.

Add another well-written, suspenseful novel to the newer cannon of YA Gothic literature.  Hieber continues to weave Natalie's story while introducing new characters and new supernatural elements that  readers will hope to see in future novels.  Natalie continues to grow into her newly discovered voice, as well as into her supernatural abilities, and must learn to balance her independence and family obligations.  Her struggle makes Natalie a character that teen girls can relate to even though her adventures are anything but ordinary.  Another strength of this novel is the historical detail, the setting is as important as the characters.  Nineteenth-century New York City is beautifully depicted in all its industrial glory which makes Hieber's novels a wonderful introduction to that time period.  Romance, mystery and supernatural evil abound in Hieber's newest novel, giving readers everything they could ask for in a book.  Highly recommended.

Release Date: November 1, 2012

Book Source: Sourcebooks, courtesy of Lauren Walker - Thank you Lauren!
Reviewed by: Rebecca

Recommended Ages: 14+ for some creepy scenes

Recommended for Readers of:

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Files are Coming! The Files are Coming!

YA titles that center around the Arts.
If you look closely, you will notice a new tab at the top of my blog labeled "Files".  What is in this mysterious new tab you ask? It is the place where I am putting ALL of my Book Posters and Bookmarks!

While I am actively working on getting everything online, please be patient.  I'm going as quick as I can. :)

These items are free and may be used by teachers or librarians who work with teens.

DISCLAIMER: Book art copyrights belong to their respective owners.  These posters/bookmarks are to be used only for NON-COMMERCIAL use by teachers and librarians seeking to increase teen literacy and reading.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Stop 'Dear Teen Me' Blog Tour!

Dear Teen Me,

Can you believe it? You turned 30 this year!  It seemed so far away when you were in high school; some hazy mirage that slowly solidified into a life.  You're a librarian now (duh, right?) and you work with teens.  Lots has happened in the last 15 or so years.  From my vaunted third decade of life let me drop a little wisdom on you.  If you actually listen to me, some of the rough patches you're facing will go a lot easier.

You are quite familiar with pain right now.  It greets you in the morning with a choking grip around your throat.  It haunts your dreams and infiltrates your memories.  Loss and grief haunt you throughout the day like twin weights suspended from your heart.  Rand died only a couple months ago and broke your family; changed your world.  You are still emotionally raw.  Anger and sadness are constant companions right now along with questions you are hesitant to ask.  You can ask those questions but,  I tell you now, not all of your questions have answers.

You will never know why he chose to take his life.  You will never know what he thought or why he didn't ask for help.  And you will never fully accept the truth - there was nothing you could have done to prevent him.  Even now, a small part of us wonders if there weren't something that we could have done.  (Which is ridiculous; we were in 7th grade for God's sake and in a different state.)  Do your best to focus on the Rand you grew up with.  Embrace happier memories and don't let his last action determine his role in your life.  Don't wallow in depression too long.  It is fine, and healthy, to mourn but don't wish yourself away.  Don't wish to take his place.  Don't let sorrow's anchor pin your emotions down.  Allow yourself to feel the joy of being.  You are still here (and will be for a long time to come).

You spend most of high school being emotionally distant from people around you and, to some extent, continue to do so even now.  Distance doesn't prevent hurt, just life.  You can't experience all the highs and lows that you are meant to when you keep your inner-most self firmly under wraps.  And you will regret that distance as time passes and you remain isolated.  Your island refuge begins to feel much like a marooning simply because you lack trust in people.  (Note: Please start working on your trust issues earlier - as I am having to deal with all of them now.)  People change and sometimes those changes make them unworthy of your trust, but you shouldn't regret trusting them to begin with.  Distrust will just make you cynical and sarcastic which, while sometimes funny, is an exhausting permanent state.  Believe me, I've been there.

Lock all those doubts and darker emotions away every so often and allow yourself to have a day of pure happiness.  Don't be so self-conscious.  In fifteen years it'll have been ages since you saw anyone from high school, who cares if you get a little silly?  Silly can be good.  Odd can be even better.  In college you embrace your inner nerd and learn to revel in the geekery of life.  Just think of how much more fun you could have had in high school by letting your geek flag fly.  (Also, geeks tend to make really good friends.)

To quote our current favorite song lyrics:
Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play
And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep my issues drawn
It's always darkest before the dawn
And it's hard to dance with the devil on your back
so shake him off*

Wishing you inner peace, lots of joy, and plenty of adventure,
Your Future Self

P.S. *The lyrics are from 'Shake it Out' by Florence + the Machine but that band won't exist for a few more years.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Nostalgic Reads: They Were Great Then & They're Great Now

Here's six of my favorite titles I discovered while in Middle School & High School.
What are your Nostalgic Reads?

Snugglepot & Cuddlepie
by May Gibbs*
Arrows of the Queen
by Mercedes Lackey
by Anne McCaffrey
by Shirley Rousseau 
Oddkins: A Fable for All Ages
by Dean R. Koontz*~
ElfQuest Book 1:
Fire & Flight
by Wendy & Richard Pini*
*These title are out of print but may be available in eBook format.
~ Oddkins is available on both Kindle & Nook with the color illustrations.  The formatting is a bit strange since the original print book is laid out more like a picture book.

It's a shame really that three of my favorite titles from my teen years are no longer in print.  If you have the chance I highly recommend all of these titles, 'tho *fair warning* I am not responsible if you become addicted to the various series/trilogies and have trouble finding the books.  Thankfully I still own copies, so I can read them whenever I want to. :)

What are your favorite books from your teen years?  Do you still go back to them periodically?  Are they still in print?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Review: 'Days of Blood and Starlight' by Laini Taylor

Once upon a time,
an angel and a devil held a wishbone between them.
And its snap split the world in two.

With the snap of a bone Karou remembers her former life as a the chimera, Madrigal, and the forbidden love that condemned her people.  Karou returns to Eretz only to discover that the chimeran city of Loramendi has been reduced to ashes, its citizens dead.  Grieving and heart-sick, she joins forces with the surviving band of rebels even though that means working hand-in-claw with the White Wolf.

Laini Taylor casts a spell with her novels, easily drawing readers into a world of angels and demons where the demons are sometimes heroes and the angels are sometimes monsters.  Nothing is Eretz is black and white and the moral dilemmas facing Taylor's characters make them real in a way not often found in YA Literature.  Taylor's writing is sensual, hypnotic and original while her characters are wonderfully flawed.  Karou is a passionate female lead who's strength comes from her deep and abiding love of the people around her, while Akiva is a warrior seeking redemption for his bloody past. Secondary characters are just as complex as main characters and their existence is integral to the story, providing the reader with interesting alternative perspectives.

This is a dense, rich text dealing with issues of love, hate, redemption and morality.  These issues make this Days of Blood and Starlight a perfect choice for classroom or book club discussion.  Somehow, Taylor manages to keep a sprinting pace throughout the book, so be prepared to try and read this 500+ page epic in one sitting.  Fair warning, this is only the second installment in a planned trilogy, so be prepared to finish Days of Blood and Starlight wanting more.

WARNING: Read Daughter of Smoke and Bone before starting this novel!

RELEASE DATE: November 6, 2012

Book Source: VOYA via Little, Brown & Company
Reviewed by: Rebecca

Recommended Ages: 16+ Mature themes, attempted rape, war violence

Recommended for Readers of:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Passive Program: Button Wars

Do you own or have access to a button machine? 
Then you are minutes away from a fantastic passive program for teens!

Example: Pirates vs. Ninjas
Have the teens choose sides in the Button Wars by coming to the Reference Desk and asking for a button supporting a specific side. It's simple, quick and painless for the staff! And the best part? All you need is to count your buttons before hand and then count how many are left at the end of your "war" and there you go, instant stats!

Button Maker
Facebook Flair (or you can make your own)
Poster to spread the word

Suggestions for "Wars":
Fang vs. Fur
Twilight vs. Mortal Instruments
Star Wars vs. Star Trek
Nerd vs. Geek
Spy vs. Spy
Magic vs. Tech
Harry vs. Percy
Cats vs. Dogs

*Special thanks to Kimberly, fellow YA Librarian, for coming up with Button Wars!*

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Review: 'Ironskin' by Tina Connolly

The frothy structures were still perfect on the south end of the building, on the carriage house
On the north the house had war damage. It had been bombed, and now only the skeleton
remained, the scraggly black structure sharp and jagged, mocking its former grace and charm.
Just like me, Jane thought. Just like me.

The Great War is over, the Fey defeated.  Jane Eliot is a teacher without a position due to her status as Ironskin, scarred by fey magic which is only contained by the iron mask she wears.  When a governess position opens on a lonely country estate for the odd daughter of an eccentric artist, Jane hopes that this time things will be different - that her mask will not lead to an untimely dismissal.  But her new employer has some very dark secrets that endanger not just Jane and her charge, but all of England.

Connolly's novel is a wonderfully dark and compelling YA title written in the style of Jane Eyre.  While to nod to Bronte is apparent, Ironskin is an original work of Gothic fiction sure to be a hit with teens looking for a darker read.  The plot has some interesting twists and, like many Gothic novels, there are unanswered questions at the novel's conclusion.  The world of Ironskin mixes the elements of the early 20th century with fantasy to create a unique world.  Jane is an interesting mix of the typical Gothic heroine and a more modern YA heroine; unsure of herself yet strong and independent.  Edward, the Rochester figure, is wonderfully damaged by his life experiences but somehow remains a good, if flawed, man who is worthy of Jane's affection.  The only criticism I have regarding this novel is Jane's remoteness.  She has been hurt so often in her life that she keeps her emotions very tightly wrapped, which can make relating to her somewhat difficult.  However, this element of Jane's character also makes her more real, so I can't really complain.

Ironskin would be perfect for classroom instruction (teaching the Gothic novel) or book clubs as there are many elements of style and story to generate discussion.

Visit Tina Connolly's website here.

Book Source: Tor Books (Thank you!)
Reviewer: Rebecca

Recommended Ages: 15+ Adult themes, Gothic horror

Recommended for Readers of:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Review: 'Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick' by Joe Schreiber

I was going into shock. The pain wasn’t getting any better,
and I thought that I would probably black out before
 I found out how this was going to end. Just as well
I was never particularly good at finishing things.

Perry Stormaire is a regular high school guy, more enthused about his band’s first major performance in New York City than with senior prom. But when his mom tells him he has to take Gobi, their shy, awkward Lithuanian exchange student, to the prom, Perry’s plans for an epic rock show that same night are crushed. After an incident at the prom and an impromptu drive into New York City, Perry realizes that Gobi is actually a trained assassin on a mission to take out targets all across the city. Now Perry and Gobi are on a wild ride around the city in his father’s Jag, with thugs on their heels and explosive revelations at every stop.

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick is a fast-paced, action-packed YA novel, the likes of which I haven’t read in a long time. Once Perry and Gobi hit New York City and Gobi’s mission begins, the novel is basically one thrilling scene after another. There are plenty of car chases, gun fights and confrontations with members of the seedy NYC underbelly, all wrapped up in snappy dialogue between the two main characters. The action isn’t always that realistic considering the ages (and, in Perry’s case, experience) of the characters, but it is certainly exciting!

For the most part, the novel barrels along at a frenetic pace, but there are also moments of introspection on Perry’s part. Most of these moments have to do with the situation; some are Gobi trying to help Perry understand that his future doesn’t have to be dictated by his parents. These conversations between the two are some of my favorite because they add a certain amount of depth to the novel and give insights into who the characters are beyond this one crazy night.

Schreiber very cleverly begins each chapter with a different essay question from various college applications, and the contents subtly match the prompts. This structure, combined with short chapters that often end on cliffhangers and the action-packed plot, works wonderfully to propel readers through the relatively short novel. The questions also neatly link the plot to Perry’s overarching worries about college and his future.

Although not bursting with deep thought and realism, Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick is a great novel for vacations, lazy afternoons, and reading slumps. Pick it up now and look for the sequel in November!
Book Source: Local Library
Reviewer: Kimberly
Recommended Ages: Officially 12+, but probably more appropriate for 14+ because of language, brief discussions of sex, and violence.
Recommended to Readers of: