Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer Reading Program

We start registration for our Summer Reading Program (A Midsummer Knight's Read) today!  Stop by to sign up.

If you haven't already liked us on facebook, like us now at our library's page!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

Book Jacket

Nick and his brother, Alan, have spent their lives on the run from magic.  Their father was murdered, and their mother was driven mad by magicians and the demons who give them power.  The magicians are hunting the Ryves family for a charm that Nick's mother stole--a charm that keeps her alive--and they want it badly enough to kill again.

Danger draws even closer when a brother and sister come to the Ryves family for help.  The boy wears a demon's mark, a sign of death that almost nothing can erase...and when Alan also gets marked by a demon, Nick is desperate to save him.  The only way to do that is to kill one of the magicians they have been hidking from for so long.

Ensnared in a deadly game of cat and mouse, Nick starts to suspect that his brother is telling him lie after lie about their past.  As the magicians' Circle closes in on their family, Nick uncovers the secret that could destroy them all.


Okay, caveat #1:  DO NOT JUDGE THIS BOOK BY ITS COVER.  I know.  I am constantly mortified to be seen in public with this book.  But only because of the rainbow boy on the front.  The story within is so fantastic that I gladly endure any social shame just so I can keep reading Nick's story.

Caveat #2:  This is not a spiritual demon book.  It's not weirdly dark or a gateway to magic.  These are Buffy the Vampire Slayer-type demons, creatures from a shadow world that want into ours.  Are they evil?  Yeah.  But not in a real-life, spiritual way.

On to the awesome!  Because this book brings it in spades.  I followed Sarah Rees Brennan's blog (link to the left) long before she became an author.  Her words sparkle with wit and beauty!  She makes me laugh out loud, which is kind of embarrassing when I'm around others!  And she can write a mystery like no one's business.

Seriously.  I didn't even know what the real mystery was until I finished the book.  And then I immediately started from the beginning and read the whole thing again.  Not even kidding--that is the ONLY TIME EVER that I have reread a book right after finishing it.  The twist ending was that mind-blowing.  I thought I saw where Brennan was going, but she took the story in a completely different direction.  And the crazy thing is, upon rereading it (this is my fourth time, and I'm still picking up clues), everything is there.  It should be super obvious, but it's not!  Brilliant.

Nick is an absolutely terrifying individual.  He is a sociopath, but somehow, I love him?  It's not even hard to know why, because it's all about Alan.  Even though Nick could care less about hurting people (physically or emotionally), he completely loves and trusts his brother.  Which makes Alan's lies so confusing and heart-wrenching.

And of course, that means I love Alan!  I love lying liars who lie.  No, but really, I love people who have a mastery of words, and good liars do.  He is manipulative, but fiercely loyal.  He craves a normal life, but he excels at the magical one he was thrust into.  In a word, he is awesome.

Then we have Mae and Jamie.  Mae is kind of incredible, because she manages to be an assertive, fully-fleshed out female SIDE character.  That is incredibly rare, and all the more amazing because Nick is the short-sided narrator.  And Jamie.  Oh, Jamie!  He is probably the funniest person I've ever read, and I was so thrilled to find someone who reacted to horrors of magical life with honesty (by which I mean, he gets scared a lot...and is hilarious about it).

This book has four fantastic characters.  There are side characters with enough backstory to make you want a full book about each of them (oh, how I want a book about Olivia...and also one about Gerald).  Thankfully, Brennan has written some free short stories about various characters on her blog.  Check it!  These characters find themselves in an urban fantasy world with a crazy plot and killer twists.  Read it now.

Five out of five Goblin Markets.

Release Date:  June 2009
Reading Level:  Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL BRE

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of The Demon's Lexicon:

A Chair, A Fireplace, & A Tea Cozy
A Myriad of Books

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3)

Book Jacket

For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black.  Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort.

Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed:  Harry Potter's defeat of You-Know-Who was Black's downfall as well.  And the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, "He's at Hogwarts...he's at Hogwarts."

Harry Potter isn't safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends.  Because of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.


Thus begins my epic reread of the Harry Potter series before the final movie comes out on July 15!  (What will we do when there is no longer a new Harry Potter creation to look forward to?)

If you haven't read the Harry Potter series yet, WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?  Go out and read them immediately.  Thank you.  For the rest of us, spoilers are ahead, because I will talk about each book with the revelations of the whole series in mind.

THIS.  This is what a perfect story looks like.  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is my absolute favorite of the series, and possibly of all stories everwhere.  It's definitely in the top ten, anyway.  The mystery this time around is brilliant, mostly because it's so close to Harry's heart.  I remember the first time I read that scene where Harry overhears Fudge telling the other professors the true identity of Sirius Black--that he was, in fact, James' best friend.  It was heartbreaking.  And so so right.

Let's be honest.  Sirius Black is one of the awesomest characters ever.  As is Lupin.  And the Marauder's Map?  I WANT ONE.  In fact, if I could choose Rowling's next writing venture, I would totally beg her to write the seven years in which the Marauders went to Hogwarts.  It would be legendary, and you know it. 

Also, the dementors are all kinds of creepy.  They are really maybe the greatest evil creatures ever created.  Slow moving, rotting hands.  Suck away all your happy thoughts until inevitably they take away your soul.  And boggarts aren't half bad either.  And Patronuses?  Fantastic.

Hm, so far this is entirely flail.  I can't help it! 

I have to admit that I really hate how juvenile Ron (and Harry by extension) acts toward Hermione.  So her cat "killed" his rat?  I understand some anger, but a complete freeze-out for months?  Geez.  That is why I just don't ship Ron/Hermione.  They are frequently awful to each other, and that it just not the kind of romance I support.  *ducks tomatoes thrown by Hr/R shippers*

But Harry and Hermione rocking the final few chapters?  Never has time travel been so easy to understand.  Oh, which reminds me of Buckbeak!  I want him along with my Marauder's Map.  Oh man, and with Buckbeak comes snotty little Draco.  Hermione giving him the smack down has now permanently been mixed with the Very Potter Musical.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, PLEASE go watch it.  It's utterly brilliant.  A full-length musical created by massively talented college students for free on youtube!

Five out of five Time Turners.

Release Date:  September 1999
Reading Level:  Grade 3+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL ROW

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban:

Bookbag: Friendswood YA Blog
Coincidental Reality

Ouran High School Host Club Vol. 10 by Bisco Hatori

Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 10

Book Jacket

In this screwball romantic comedy, Haruhi, a poor girl at a rich kids' school, is forced to repay an $80,000 debt by working for the school's swankiest, all-male club--as a boy!  There she discovers jus how wealthy the six members are and how different the rich are from everybody else...

Ever since the day he helped her up from a nasty tumble, Black Magic Club member Reiko Kanazuki has been obsessed with Hunny.  She is devoting all her knowledge of the dark arts to curse him and steal his soul.  Will the sweetest member of the Host Club fall victim to her spells?


Hunny and Reiko:  A girl who is so ostracized she thinks the only way she can get her crush's attention is to curse him and a boy who really loves cake.  Obviously they are a perfect match!  I wasn't going for it at first, but when Hunny aprubtly set her straight: "If you want me to like you back, let's talk more" I was completely sold.  Way to make romance super straight-forward, Hunny.

The ongoing Mei story:  I'm not sure how I feel about her.  It's nice to see a typical person--albiet one with a fake tan and a whole lot of makeup--trying to fit into the Ouran world.  Haruhi is too laidback for us to fully appreciate their ridiculousness through her.  However, she just kind of...didn't make me love her.  That is all.

The ongoing Who Will End Up With Haruhi story:  It is so going to be Tamaki, and I can't stand it.  He's an overdramatic imbecile.  And I hate love triangles, because I HATE when people get their feelings hurt.  The fact that not only Hikaru, but now also Kaoru, love Haruhi....NO.  I cannot stand for both of the twins to be hurt.  But even if one of them does end up with her, the other will be super hurt!  And they probably wouldn't do that to each other, which just leaves the playing field wide open to Tamaki, who Haruhi vaguely sort of likes?  I DON'T KNOW but I don't like it.

However, the promising sports tournament story will likely be excellent.

Three out of five goldfish.

Release Date:  January 2008
Reading Level:  Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  Not currently part of Dunlap Library's collection.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fruits Basket Vol. 8 by Natsuki Takaya

Book Jacket

Summer is on its way, so of course Tohru and friends are excited about the upcoming vacation and field trip.  But what's that sound?  It's Hatsuharu going berserk in the classroom...again!  Black Haru is full of more rage than usual, so what will happen when Yuki interferes?  And then there's Ritsu Sohma, whos mom Tohru met at the hot spring...but what's wrong with this kimono-wearing beauty?!


Haru storyline:  At times funny, at times squee-worthy (I love how the manga plays up Kyo's feelings for Tohru waaay more than the anime ever did), at times a little bit heart-breaking.  AND a hint at the next zodiac member!  I love the insanity of Fruits Basket most, but I really do enjoy when the story takes a more serious look at what it means for the Sohma family, who have been cursed through no fault of their own.

Ritsu storyline:  YAY!  Ritsu and his mother made me laugh and laugh and laugh.  I mean, I wouldn't want them to be in every chapter, because then I'm sure I would find them obnoxious.  But their violent apologies frequently startle a burst of laughter from me.

Then we get some more precious Kyo/Tohru scenes with them worrying about the future.  And Yuki shows up to be angsty, and yeah, I do feel sorry for the poor kid.  I like seeing him bond with his older brother Ayame, who is a lot less annoying nowadays.

Haunted House storyline:  Oh my gosh, Haru telling that ridiculous story about a stabbed son trying to reunite with his headless mother, and Tohru and Momiji falling all over themselves in sympathy!  HAHAHA.  This humor, I must have it!

Four out of five last days of school.

Release Date:  April 2005
Reading Level:  Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: Not currently part of Dunlap's collection.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan

Book Jacket

Ever since the gods of Ancient Egypt were unleashed in the modern world, Carter Kane and his sister Sadie have been in trouble. As descendants of the House of Life, the Kanes have some powers at their command, but the devious gods haven't given them much time to master their skills at Brooklyn House, which has become a training ground for young magicians.

And now their most threatening enemy yet - the chaos snake Apophis - is rising. If they don't prevent him from breaking free in a few days' time, the world will come to an end. In other words, it's a typical week for the Kane family.

To have any chance of battling the Forces of Chaos, the Kanes must revive the sun god Ra. But that would be a feat more powerful than any magician has ever accomplished.

First they have to search the world for the three sections of the Book of Ra, then they have to learn how to chant its spells. Oh, and did we mention that no one knows where Ra is exactly?

Narrated in two different wisecracking voices, featuring a large cast of new and unforgettable characters, and with adventures spanning the globe, this second installment in the Kane Chronicles is nothing short of a thrill ride.


Hurray!  I think I am a fan of Egyptian mythology now!  Riordan's first book set in Egyptian folklore, The Red Pyramid, was only okay.  This sequel has converted me.  And I won't lie; my love is mostly for Bes, the ugly dwarf god in a speedo.  I know.  I didn't expect it either.

I find I am quickly becoming attached to books that deal with sibling relationships, and Sadie and Carter are an excellent example of the loyalty, jealousy, annoyance, and love that characterizes (most) brother/sister bonds.  Their alternating narrations are great fun, and provide for some nice cliffhangers at the ends of chapters.

Also, the Duat?  Mixing with the stages of sleep?  So cool!  Throw in a hippopotamus goddess and Ra as a babbling senile sun god, and I am in love with this book.

But am I a horrible person for not caring whether or not Walt succombs to the curse?  I never really connected to him, and anyway, I really like the idea of a mortal/god romance.  Anubis FTW!

Four out of five staffs and flails.

Release Date:  May 2011
Reading Level:  Grade 3+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL RIO

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Throne of Fire:

Honest Illusion

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

Book Jacket

Raising the dead--it sure beats flipping burgers. 

Meet Sam, just your average guy rocking that fast-food career.

Enter Douglas, a powerful and violent necromancer.  Douglas immediately recognizes Sam as a fellow necromancer--which is news to Sam--and he's none too happy to have a competitor in the crowded paranormal scene in Seattle.

Now Sam has an undead friend on his hands and a hot werewolf girl for company.  With just one week to find a way out of Douglas's clutches, can Sam figure out how to use his mysteriously latent powers?


I heard some really awesome things about this book, but...I couldn't finish it.  I got to page 67, but it was just too dark for me.  Even though I could tell it was dark with a side of humor, I just.  Couldn't.  Don't know why.  I'm know other people love it!

If you've read it, feel free to explain why I should finish it!  But for now, necromancers are just a little too morbid for me.

One out of five talking heads.

Release Date:  October 2010
Reading Level:  Grade 8+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  Not yet part of Dunlap Library's collection.

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer:

Forever Young Adult
My Favorite Books

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Book Jacket

The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  But just as he's packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does.  For in Harry's second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girl's bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley's younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone--or something--starts turning Hogwarts students to stone.  Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever?  Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told?  Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects...Harry Potter himself?


Thus continues my epic reread of the Harry Potter series before the final movie comes out on July 15!  (What will we do when there is no longer a new Harry Potter creation to look forward to?)

If you haven't read the Harry Potter series yet, WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?  Go out and read them immediately.  Thank you.  For the rest of us, spoilers are ahead, because I will talk about each book with the revelations of the whole series in mind.

The Chamber of Secrets is my second-to-least favorite Harry Potter book, which means its still entirely enjoyable and a lightning-fast read.  Regardless, Tom Riddle's identity reveal at the end?  SO EPIC.  I feel like that hyena from The Lion King who loves to shudder at Mufasa's name.  "I am Lord Voldemort."  "Oooohh, read it again!"

I think I never loved the story because my heart hurts for Harry.  He's a hero, kiddos!  Stop accusing him of being evil!  Despite everyone being jerks, I do love Harry's confusion about speaking Parseltongue.  I remember being equally intrigued and horrified at the idea that part of Voldemort had passed into Harry when he cursed him as a baby.

Oh, the old days before we knew the word horcrux.  But Rowling knew it, way back in book 2!  Not only do we now see Harry as a horcrux, but we also get to see Harry destroy his first horcrux...Riddle's diary.  Which reminds me of Fawkes, the mythical creature I would claim as a pet if I could.  A fighter and a healer?  Perfect for all situations!

I also don't love this book because of Gilderoy Lockhart, worst Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher ever.  Yeah, worse even than Umbridge.  At least she was deliciously evil.  He is just maddening!  His mind-break at the end is just so rewarding, especially when he says, "Am I a professor?  Goodness.  I expect I was hopeless, was I?"  Yes, Lockhart.  You really were.

Rowling's imagination is a brilliant playground.  Mandrakes?  So hilarious!  "When they start trying to move into each other's pots, we'll know they're mature."  And poor Nearly Headless Nick, having his Deathday Party ruined by a bunch of headless horsemen playing games.  And Ron's incredulous reaction to finding out there's a ghost that haunts a toilet.  Guh, if only I could think up such wonderful stories!

I leave you with probably the best love poem of all time.  I want it on a t-shirt.

His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad,
His hair is as dark as a blackboard.
I wish he was mine, he's really divine,
The hero who conquered the Dark Lord.

Four out of five wild cars.

Release Date:  August 2000
Reading Level:  Grade 3+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL ROW

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:

The Book Bug
Whatcha Readin', Books?

Fruits Basket Vol. 7 by Natsuki Takaya

Book Jacket

Tohru and company have been having a lot more fun ever since Kisa came to visit.  Now it's time for Tohru to meet another member of the Zodiac--the skillfully sarcastic grade-school student, Hiro!  One way or another, this tyke will have to deal with his resentment of Tohru and his affection for Kisa.  Where will he find the answers?  In the fabulous 7th volume of the super-popular Fruits Basket, of course!


Hiro!  Even though I immediately think of Hiro from Heroes ("Yatta!!"), Hiro from Fruits Basket is, um, not at all the same.  He is completely adorable with a wicked tongue.  His endless monologues of guilting and snark are exactly my kind of funny.  And the fact that his abrasive exterior is hiding his personal guilt for hurting Kisa?  Great storytelling.

This Akito.  Is a jerk.  Every time someone admits they love another, he/she goes and makes their lives miserable!  I can only assume this is jealousy, and we will find out more later.  I mean, even though I hate him/her, I love a villain with a motivation.

Also, the obvious parallel between angry Hiro/sweet Kisa and angry Kyo/sweet Tohru warms my shippy heart.

And then we got Uo's awesome backstory!  Are yankee girl gangs a real thing in Japan??  I'm seriously curious.  Because Uo was like, in 5th grade!  That's insane and scary!  But I loved seeing how she met her hero, Tohru's mother, and slowly realized that love and affection is more powerful than aggression and loneliness. 

Five out of five Red Butterflies.

Release Date:  February 2005
Reading Level:  Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: Not currently part of Dunlap's collection.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Book Jacket

Twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school...again.  No matter how hard he tries, he can't seem to stay out of trouble.  But can he really be expected to stand by and watch while a bully picks on his scrawny best friend?  Or not defend himself against his pre-algebra teacher when she turns into a monster and tries to kill him?  Of course, no one believes Percy about the monster incident; he's not even sure he believes himself.  Until the Minotaur chases him to summer camp.

Suddenly, mythical creatures seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life.  The gods of Mount Olympus, he's coming to realize, are very much alive in the twenty-first century.  And worse, he's angered a few of them: Zeus's master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy has just ten days to find and return Zeus's stolen property, and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus.  On a daring road trip from their summer camp in New York to the gaves of the Underworld in Los Angeles, Percy and his friends--one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena--will face a host of enemies determined to stop them.


Percy!  It's been a long time since I read about Percy discovering his demigod identity.  You'd think another story about a kid with a horrible family life finding out a mystical secret and finding acceptance (and greatness) with similarly special kids would...well, get old.  But it doesn't! 

Greek mythology was always fascinating to me, from 5th grade when we learned the stories behind the constellations to 12th grade when we read The Iliad.  Riordan's gods and goddesses have just the right about of detachment and grandeur mixed with modern snark.  A chimera disguised as a chihuahua!  Poseidon in a fisherman's chair!  A pen that turns into a sword when uncapped!  All great.

The one thing I've never quite believed in The Lightning Thief is why Percy is singled out as the one who stole Zeus's lightning bolt.  Reasons are given, but it seems like if the gods gave it more than a second's thought, they would realize there are far better demigods to accuse.  But whatever.  The story would not have happened if logic won out.

On to more Percy Jackson, Annabeth, and the gods and goddesses they meet on future journeys!

Four out of five invisibility caps.

Release Date:  June 2005
Reading Level:  Grade 3+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL RIO

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of The Lightning Thief:

Loving Books
Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog

Whedonistas edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Deborah Stanish

Book Jacket

In Whedonistas, a host of award-winning female writers and fans come together to celebrate the works of Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog).  By discussing the impact of Whedon's work, their involvement with his shows' fandoms, and why they adore the worlds he's created, our essayists aim to misbehave in Whedon's rich, fantastical universe.


It is no secret that my all time favorite TV show is Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  And it's no secret that my favorite story creator is Joss Whedon, who makes detailed worlds come alive both hilariously and heart-wrenchingly.  I have watched everything he's made (except for that horror movie) and he never disappoints.  Man is a genius. 

My favorite essays included:  "Brand New Day: The Evolution of the Doctor Horrible Fandom" by Priscilla Spencer and "Imperfectly Perfect: Why I Really Love Buffy for Being a Pill Sometimes" by Mariah Heuhner.

Don't be put off by the ridiculous name (that is intentional!); Buffy is one of the most thought-provoking and entertaining shows, um, ever.  Angel is darker.  Firefly is a western in space!  Dollhouse is a dark look at technology and human trafficking.  And Dr. Horrible is a 45-minute web musical about one man's aspirations to become a supervillain.  I think you can tell that Whedon is all about the whimsical and the serious meeting in a collision of AWESOME.

It's nice to read about a bunch of other people who feel similarly.

Four out of five online communities.

Release Date:  March 2011
Reading Level:  Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  Not a part of Dunlap Library's collection.

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Whedonistas:

The Discriminating Fangirl
Heroine Content


Oh man, if I ever need to build a spaceship to escape a Hunger Games reality in North America, I know who to go to:  4th, 5th, and 6th graders.  Need proof?  Check out the pictures below the cut.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Flight of the Phoenix by R.L. LaFevers

Book Jacket

Nathaniel Fludd's life has taken a turn for the worst.

With his parents declared lost at sea, ten-year-old Nate leands on the doorstep of a distant family cousin--the world's last remaining beastologist.  Before he can unpack his suitcase, he is whisked off on his first expedition, to the sands of Arabia, where the world's only phoenix prepares to lay its new egg.  When disaster strikes, Nate quickly finds himself all alone.

Will he be able to see the phoenix safely hatched, keep his accidental pet gremlin out of trouble, and recuse his guardian from the Bedouin?  If he fails, nothing will stand between the world's mythical creatures and extinction.  Too bad Nate's not the sort of boy who enjoys adventure....yet.


I knew I would like Flight of the Phoenix by page four, when Nate thinks, "His parents' work was much too dangerous for a young boy.  Especially a yound boy like himself, one who liked quiet walks, reading, and drawing.  Clearly he wasn't suited to a life of adventure.  Nate was a little disappointed--he thought he had felt the smallest beginning of an adventurous spark."

Let me assure you, that little spark burns a lot brighter by the end of the book.  The story's premise is fantastic--a family of adventurers who carry the secret that mythological creatures exist?  Awesome!  Nate gets to watch a phoenix be reborn, and it sounds like each subsequent book will feature a different animal.  With ongoing clues to the Fludd family history (I want to know more about the black sheep of the family!) and Nate's parents' disappearance (they are obviously not dead....rule #1 of reading books:  unless a death is shown on page, do not believe it!).

Oh, and I loved that it is set in Arabia!  How many books have I read that take place in the Middle East?  Not very many, and most of those were non-fiction.  So cool to read about camels and oases and nomads in a fictional story!

My one squabble is that, well, its a middle grade book!  I wanted something longer and more detailed.  It's nice to read a book in an hour, but...that is not something I can sink my literary teeth into.  Still, for its audience, it is wonderful!

Four out of five spitting camels.

Release Date:  September 2009
Reading Level:  Grade 3+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  BLUESTEM

The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

Book Jacket

Meet the Souls.  Noah, who quite by accident was best man at the wedding of Ethan's grandmother and Nadia's grandfather.  Nadia, a hybrid with a halo of red hair, a dog that's a genius, and a fondness for baby turtles.  Ethan, the silent second son of one of Ephiphany's oldest families, who discovers he likes halos.  Julian, the strangest person on the school bus, who starts everything by inviting the others to a tea party.

How did Mrs. Olinski, returning to teaching ten years after being paralyzed in an automobile accident, choose these four to be her sixth-grade Academic Bowl team?  And how did this unlikely foursome become even unlikelier champions, in far more than just the state middle school competition?  The View From Saturday is a rich and rewarding journey that answers these questions and raises many more.


Before I explain why I didn't like The View from Saturday (and sadly, I didn't), I should mention that I crashed through this book in a day with both the audiobook and the novel itself.  Not the best way to read a book, so maybe that influenced my opinion.

By all rights, I should love this book.  It's a story about outsiders who come together and do something great.  Race and handicap are discussed, and all kinds of sociological exploration is right up my alley.  The problem, I think, is that it is all dealt with so heavy-handedly.  The lessons are explicit, but the prose is just...weird.  I'm sorry.  But this?

"[Julian's] lips were slightly parted.  His eyelashes cast semicircles of shadow on his cheeks.

'What do you see, Mrs. Olinski?' Mr. Singh asked.

'I see angels have landed on his eyelids.'

'Yes,' he answered, pleased.  'Angels have.'"

What is that?!  I loved Konigsburg in The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, so I don't know why everything about this book hit me the wrong way.  But I didn't enjoy it.

Oh man, and I just saw that it won the Newbery Award.  Maybe I really did miss something?  Whatever, I've still got to honestly give it

Two out of five afternoon teas.

Release Date:  September 1996
Reading Level:  Grade 3+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL KON

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of The View from Saturday:

Booking Mama
Second Childhood Reviews

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Book Jacket

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent).  On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives.  For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both.  So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen.  But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death.  And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves...or it might destroy her.


I have found a new favorite book!!  The factions that Roth created in unknown-futuristic Chicago are completely fascinating.  I loved the descriptions of how life would be if you devoted yourself entirely to honesty, or courage, or selflessness (right down to clothing...I'm telling you, this world is well formed).  I know plenty of people are going to analyze which faction they would best fit into (I think I would be in Erudite, but I want to be the sort of person who would be in Abnegation).

The really spectacular thing Roth does, however, is to dig deeper into the meaning of these virtues.  Is it good to choose just one?  How can virtues be abused?  What does courage or selflessness really mean?  I rarely stop reading a fiction novel to write down a quote, but I had to do that not once, but twice for Divergent.  On page 331, our heroine is told that it is "when you're acting selflessly that you are at your bravest."  Heartslam.

I also had to write down a snippet from page 289.  Tris thinks about her love interest (who is awesome, btw), and she thinks, "Even though he saved me, he treated me like I was strong."  And this!  This is what I want in relationships, both actual and fictional.  I don't want to read about girls who are above saving.  Everyone has weaknesses, and everyone falls.  But I also don't want to read about weakling girls who are good for nothing but saving.  Tris is a wonderful female protagonist.  I would not ever want to mess with her (girl has some serious fighting skills), but she is relatable in her flaws as well.  Perfect.

The world is great.  The characters are great.  The plot is incredibly fast and engrossing.  The story wraps up while leaving questions open to be answered in the sequel.  Which I will eagerly read.  Over and over and over.  Okay, now it's your turn to drop everything you're doing and read Divergent!

Five out of five fear landscapes.

Release Date:  May 2011
Reading Level:  Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL ROT

Don't believe me?  Check out these reveiews of Divergent:

 The Crooked Shelf
A Myriad of Books

Fruits Basket Master List

Fruits Basket Vol. 1 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 2 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 3 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 4 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 5 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 6 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 7 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 8 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 9 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 10 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 11 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 12 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 13 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 14 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 15 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 16 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 17 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 18 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 19 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 20 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 21 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 22 by Natsuki Takaya
Fruits Basket Vol. 23 by Natsuki Takaya

Ouran High School Host Club Master List

Ouran High School Host Club Vol. 9 by Bisco Hatori

Book Jacket

In this screwball romantic comedy, Haruhi, a poor girl at a rich kids' school, is forced to repay an $80,000 debt by working for the school's swankiest, all-male club--as a boy!  There she discovers just how wealthy the six members are and how different the rich are from everybody else...

In middle school, Tamaki Suoh must entice the coldhearted twins, Hikaru and Kaoru Hitachiin, to join his newly created Host Club.  But in order to get them to accept his proposal, he must first best them at their own game.


A volume that starts with Hitachiin twin backstory?  Le duh.  I loved it.  I really connect to their contradictory desires--to be known but to be unknowable, to be understood but mysterious.  I was worried they were going to make Tamaki unusually perceptive and able to distinguish Hikaru from Kaoru.  That would take away from Haruhi's specialness.  Instead, Tamaki won them over by being his over-exhuberant, hyperactive self.  I can totally understand why the twins thought life with him would be consistently interesting.

The story about the princess was....okay.  I liked the idea that she was abusing her power, but to do so for the sole purpose of returning to her brother?  Whatever.  Kyoya was what made that story bearable.

And then Tamaki's emotional crisis when he finally realizes he likes Haruhi.  Poor sap.  Are boys really so oblivious about their feelings?  I am constantly creeped out by his habit of calling himself Haruhi's "father," and the fact that this story line was resolved by realizing that fathers can kiss their children was pretty disgusting.  Although I admit his gleeful "hee hee hee" as he passed out in bed made me lol.

Three out of five wrapper scrapbooks.

Release Date:  July 2007
Reading Level:  Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  Not currently part of Dunlap Library's collection.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt

Book Jacket

You can look at something every day and never really see it.  Payton Gritas looks at the back of Sean Griswold's head in most of her classes and has for as long as she can remember.  They've been linked since third grade (Griswold/Gritas: it's an alphabetical-order thing), but aside from loaning Sean countless number-two pencils, she's never really noticed him.

Then Payton's guidance counselor tells her she needs a focus object--something to concentrate her emotions on while she deals with her dad's multiple sclerosis.  The object is supposed to be inanimate, but Payton chooses Sean Griswold's head.  It's much cuter than the atom models or anything else she stares at!  As Payton starts stalking--er, focusing on--Sean's big blond head, her research quickly grows into something a little less scientific and a lot more crush-like.  And once she really gets inside his head, Payton also lets Sean into her guarded heart.  But obsessing over Sean won't fix Payton's fear of her dad's illness.  For that, she'll have to focus on herself.


For a book about a head, this is unsurprisingly cute but surprisingly deep.  Although Sean Griswold's Head is undoubtedly romantic, it was the plotline about Payton's father that really interested me.  Reading about Payton's reaction to the news of her father's illness was excruciatingly honest.  For weeks, she ignores him and the rest of her family, punishing them for something he can't control.  The great thing is that she knows she's being horrible--she just doesn't know how to stop.  And that's grief, right?  Especially as a teenager.  Uncontrollable emotions and actions that make you wonder what kind of person you are.  It was really heart-warming to see Payton work through all of that to return to a healthy relationship with her family.

And the romance.  It's cute.  Sean is awesome.  I liked that Payton's crush was simply the result of looking more closely at a person she'd never bothered to pay attention to before.  That's a nice little lesson in looking deeper than a person's sterotypes.  But I was never super invested in them.  Sean either seemed too perfect, or drama seemed to pop up for no purpose other than to be dramatic.  I might have liked them a lot more for being normal if Payton hadn't made that stupid decision (you know the one).

But what really makes me "meh" about this book is the writing.  The humor and witticisms feel forced.  Jac, Payton's best friend, is like no one I've ever met.  And I don't mean that in a good way.  She throws around ridiculous pet names ("Potato"?  Whaaat?) and is generally a chariacture of a hyper teenager, not a hyper teenager herself.  The rest of the book suffers similarly.  Dialogue is just one clever line after another, and let me tell you, it takes a lot for me to say there needs to be less banter.  The thing is, these kids sounded like they were reading from a script, not as though they would really think to say those things.

Nice idea, but I didn't love it.

Three out of five organized outlines.

Release Date:  March 2011
Reading Level:  Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL LEA

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Sean Griswold's Head:

Reclusive Bibliophile
Bri Meets Books

Monday, May 16, 2011

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Book Jacket

Sparks are igniting.  Flames are spreading.  And the Capitol wants revenge.

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games.  She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive.  Katniss should be relieved, happy even.  After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale.  Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be.  Gale holds her at an icy distance.  Peeta has turned his back on her completely.  And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol--a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever.  If they can't prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.


Few books make me as crazy as the Hunger Games series.  My mom bought Catching Fire when it first came out, and I made her promise to finish it before I came home for Labor Day Weekend.  I drove the seven hours home, walked into my house, said hello to my parents, and promptly locked myself in my room for the next five hours.  I only came out to run downstairs to where my mom was on the computer and shout, "THEY'RE GOING BACK!!!!" and then dash back to my room to find out what would happen next.  And at the death fake-out?  I threw myself to the side in emotional turmoil, and accidentally tipped my armchair over.  This series makes me feeeel things, and I feel them strongly.

One of the things I love about Suzanne Collins is that she never does what I expect.  I had guesses as to how Katniss would continue after winning the Hunger Games, and I had ideas as to how the Quarter Quell would reach new levels of horror (it would have involved Prim as tribute and Katniss as her mentor).  But Collins did the unthinkable, and made it awesome!

Another thing I love about Collins is that she writes realistic characters.  In stereotypical books like this, District 12 would rise to the occasion and win an against-all-odds rebellion.  Katniss would realize her role as the Mockingjay and do everything in her power to fan the flames of discontent and rebellion.  But real life?  Would look a lot like what actually plays out.  If I found out that my actions had led to a rebellion, and that if I continued to support it, my friends and family would be murdered?  Um, yeah, I would definitely try to placate the masses and please the evil overlord.  I don't know too many people willing to risk their loved one's lives the sake of the greater good.  The fact that Katniss is dragged into her role as figurehead makes me love her so much more, because now I understand her and can relate to her.

I have to admit, I did not understand the ending of Catching Fire the first time I read it.  The second time I had a bit of an "ooooh, that makes sense" moment.  This third time reading it, I understood it all so well that I saw the brilliance of Collins' hints and military planning.  What is astounding about this is that the confusion is not the result of sloppy writing.  It is because we have an unreliable narrator in Katniss Everdeen.  As readers, we see what she sees and think what she thinks.  So when she is wrong (her impressions of Finnick, for example), we believe her opinion until she realizes she's wrong.  This makes everything more dramatic and suspenseful!  And it makes rereads SO FANTASTIC.

Five out of five bread rolls from District 3.

Release Date:  September 2009
Reading Level:  Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL COL

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Catching Fire:

Forever Young Adult
Book Smugglers

Everlost by Neal Shusterman

Interesting.  Keeps you at the edge of your seat.  Unique.  About the afterlife.  Fight of good vs. evil.

Recommend to: Junior and up students.

Aasiya Mujeeb (8th grade)

Ouran High School Host Club: Vol. 8 by Bisco Hatori

Book Jacket

In this screwball romanic comedy, Haruhi, a poor girl at a rich kids' school, is forced to repay an $80,000 debt by working for the school's swankiest, all-male club--as a boy!  There she discovers just how wealthy the six members are and how different the rich are from everybody else...

The first-years in Class 1-A are taking part in a test of courage, where the loser will receive the dubious honor of being dubbed "Best of Cowards."  Kazukiyo Souga, the class president and a fraidy-cat at heart, is happy to be on a team with the levelheaded Haruhi, but will he be able to stomach the antics of his other teammates--the twins Hikaru and Kaoru Hitachiin?


The romance is heating up!  It is now clear that both Hikaru and Tamaki are completely unaware of the depth of their affection for Haruhi, while the rest of the club members roll their eyes at the obviousness.  And there's a hint that someone else might like her as well?  Duh.  Everyone loves Haruhi, because her laissez-faire attitude is absolutely hilarious.

We also got some flashbacks to Kyoya and Tamaki's fledging friendship.  Kyoya's mercenary attitude also cracks me up, and I loved the little side story of his staff member who watches him throw away a sentimental keepsake because "it's been long enough."

And finally someone realized that Haruhi is actually a girl!  I don't know how the secret has lasted this long (other than the obvious answer: this is a comedic manga), but it's nice to know someone has a brain.  How long until the rest of the school finds out?  And will anyone care?

Four out of five Sharpie tattoos.

Release Date:  January 2007
Reading Level:  Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  Not yet a part of Dunlap's collection.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Fruits Basket Vol. 6 by Natsuki Takaya

Book Jacket

Delving into the recesses of Kyo's past, we find the Sohma trio returning home on a rainy day.  There, a mysterious man who has known Kyo for a long time meets them.  Trust, loyalty, and the bonds of family and friendship are tested, as Tohru must help Kyo deal with the "monsters" that he's been trying to avoid.


Hurray!  We got to Kyo's deep dark secret!  (This was the last story in the anime series, but stories that must come later in the manga had already occurred in the anime...so I'm not quite caught up to new material in the manga, I guess.)

My feelings for Kyo are not secret.  I love him.  And I realized why!  Although both he and Yuki have horrible pasts in which they were hurt and abused, I adore Kyo and only tolerate Yuki.  I think this is because Kyo is extremely honest and open with his feelings of hurt and anger, while Yuki lets his dark feelings simmer behind a happy smile.  That is creepy, my friends.  I prefer guys who are honest.

And I prefer heroines who are honest, which is what enables Tohru to save the day.  I loved that the secret needed to be addresses, and that it was necessary for Kyo to hear that yes, it was not a great thing.  But even though Tohru is scared, she still chooses to care for him.  That hug!  Guh.  OTP, obviously.

Because each volume has five episodes, there was another episode after all that drama in which Tohru and Yuki go to Ayame's fantasy shop.  It was nice to see Yuki connect to his brother after Kyo connected to Tohru.  These crazy messed up kids are starting to reach out and trust other people!  Yay!  I really love how dark this series is beneath its happy exterior.  Layers are a story's friend.

Five out of five beaded bracelets.

Release Date:  December 2004
Reading Level:  Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: Not currently part of Dunlap's collection.


Star Wars, Firefly, Star Trek...if entertainment has taught me anything, it's that space is awesome.  I relearned that lesson with the 2nd and 3rd grade LEGO masters.  I was beyond impressed at their spaceships and cyborgs.  It's humbling to watch a 9-year-old make something better than I can even imagine.  Skeptical?  Check out the pictures below the cut.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Red Glove by Holly Black

Red Glove (Curse Workers, Book 2)

STOP.  If you haven't read White Cat, then do not read any of this post!  The book jacket basically reveals every plot twist of the first book, so DO NOT READ IT.  Seriously.  That book will make your brain explode, and I don't want to deprive you of that sensation.  If you have read White Cat, then by all means, continue. 

Book Jacket

Curses and cons.  Magic and the mob.

In Cassel Sharpe's world, they go together.  Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers.  Now he knows the truth--he's the most powerful curse worker around.  A touch of his hand can transform anything--or anyone--into something else.

That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat.  Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her.  Now that she's human again, he should be overjoyed.  Trouble is, Lila's been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotio-worker mom.  And if Lila's love is as phony as Cassel's made-up memories, then he can't believe anything she says or does.

When Cassel's oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue--crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves.  But the mob is after Cassel too--they know how valuable he could be to them.  Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive.  But where can he turn when he can't trust anyone--least of all, himself?

Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.


Guys, I love this book So. Much.  It has been a long time since I've read a book in one day, but let me tell you, there was no way I was going to sleep before knowing how the events in Red Glove would wrap up.  Satisfactorily, that's how, in case you were wondering.

How to begin describing the depth and the motivation of my love for Black's Curseworker series?  In my review of White Cat, I talked about the realistic and fantastic world of magic and the con artists that she created.  I didn't mention one of my favorite parts of that world--blowback.  I've talked before about my belief that all stories with magic need to have rules and consequences.  Blowback is the perfect example.

There are many kinds of curseworkers (magicians to you uninitiated, though they are never called that).  Luck workers, emotion workers, death workers, etc.  After the worker has done his job, he suffers blowback, in the same form of work he did!  So if a luck worker gives good luck, he receives good luck in return.  If she kills someone, part of her body dies (hopefully a finger, but it could be your heart).  If he makes you feel ecstatic, he feels ecstatic too.  You can see the awesome ramifications.  A person ought to do good to others, because they will receive the same.  But if and when workers choose to abuse their power, they feel the pain they inflict on others.

The way Black plays with good and bad, both in magic and in characters, is the absolute best part of her series.  Characters we read as good do some truly horrible things.  In fact, if we didn't have the bias the author gives us, and simply read facts about a person, I'm guessing we would have wildly different opinions of characters.  (Seriously, Cassel's entire family is fairly despicable, and yet I love them.)  Similarly, bad characters sometimes do good things.  There's all shades of gray in Red Glove, even in characters I previously held above suspect. 

As for the plot, I have to backtrack to my feelings about White Cat.  I enjoyed the first 3/4 of the book, but it was the last fourth, when revelation after con after surprise made me absolutely fall in love.  The ending of Red Glove was less intense (probably because the plot twists were less personal to Cassel, and therefore us), but first 3/4 of the book was way better, in my opinion. 

The whole book was solid, and I loved seeing minor characters take a more prominent part in this sequel (Cassel's mom is all kinds of crazy, Sam and Daneca are perfect best friends).  Lila is surprisingly tame in this book, due to her being under a love curse and all.  It really made me realize the horror of love work, because she was a completely different character.  BUT judging by the end of the book, I'm eagerly anticipating the return of fierce Lila in the third book!  And Cassel?  He is once again a fascinating character.  Is he good?  Is he bad?  We don't know, and he certainly doesn't know either.  But I will read about him for ten thousand pages, I don't care.  He's fantastic.

Five out of five standard poodles.

Release Date:  April 2011
Reading Level:  Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL BLA

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Red Glove:

Addicted 2 Novels
That's What She Read

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story by Ken Mochizuki

Book Jacket

In 1940, five-year-old Hiroki Sugihara, the eldest son of the Japanese consul to Lithuania, saw from the consulate window hundreds of Jewish refugees from Poland.  They had come to Hiroki's father with a desperate request: Could consul Sugihara write visas for them to escape the Nazi threat?

The Japanese government denied Sugihara's repeated requests to issue the visas.  Unable to ignore the plight of the refugees, he turned to his family.  Together they made the crucial decision that saved thousands of lives.

Passage to Freedom, based on Hiroki Sugihara's own words, is one of the most important stories to emerge from the ruins of the Holocaust.  It is the story of one man's remarkable courage, and the respect between a father and a son who shared the weight of witness and an amazing act of humanity.


This is a quiet book about one corner of the horrors of WWII.  Just about every piece of this story is unique to WWII lore--it is set in Lithuania.  Its hero is Japanese.  There are no explicit battles or concentration camps.  Yet this is still a moving story, maybe all the more moving for its simplicity.

What I liked best about Passage to Freedom is that it showed how one ordinary man used his ordinary business powers to help people.  Mr. Sugihara is not in the military.  He doesn't hide people under his floor.  He simply does his job--giving visas to people.  The catch is that he does his job even when told not to.  Despite the consequences (which are laid out in the Afterword), Mr. Sugihara does what he can to help people.

Isn't that all any of us can do?  No matter who we are or what we are good at, I believe that we can help others.  It might not be flashy, but it is necessary.  This is an excellent story to drive home that point.

Four out of five cramped hands.

Release Date:  May 1997
Reading Level:  Grade 2+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: BLUESTEM

Fruits Basket Vol. 5 by Natsuki Takaya

Book Jacket

For a springtime treat, Shigure arranges for Tohru and the gang to spend Golden Week at the Sohmas' vacation home.  On a rainy day, as the holiday draws to a close, who should make a surprise visit but Hatsuharu!  But what's that he's hiding in the bundle under his arm?  Why, it's the 5th volume of the super-popular Fruits Basket!


The first couple epsidoes at the lake house weren't riveting.  Kyo and Yuki are ignoring each other, and Tohru worries unnecessarily until they break out fighting, and she is relieved!  Except then they fight a lot, and she is worried for the opposite reason...not really enough of a story for me, I'm afraid.

However, it was nice to see Hari, Shigure, and Ayame acting like friends.  Adult friendships in a teen story!  That is of the good.

And then we get to Kisa, who is quite possibly the most adorable little girl/tiger ever.  The way she would "tup tup tup" after Tohru, who would then spin around and bear hug her, exclaiming, "I LOVE YOU!" reminded me of how I act when my dog is especially needy and adorable.  It was also nice to delve a bit more into Yuki's past via Kisa's current predicament.  I am constantly amazed at how light-hearted a story that deals with child abuse is.  The seriousness of the issue isn't compromised, but at the same time, there are funny things in life.  Fruits Basket admits the good and the bad.

I was fully prepared to dislike Hana-jima's story (because I prefer to stick to the main characters rather than follow a side character's tangent), but I ended up loving it.  There was hilarious paranoia and some really touching truths about friendship.  I hadn't thought through the implications of what Tohru's life with the Sohmas must be like for her original friends, but Hana-jima just nailed what self-sacrificial love friendship ought to be.

"Actually, I was a little jealous, too.  It felt like the Sohma family had taken Tohru-kun from me.  It left me feeling...lonely.  But 'respect the other person's feelings.'  You are right.  That's why I cannot be selfish."

And ending with Kyo cooking sick Tohru dinner?  I'm a huge sucker for men who can cook, so major points there.

Four out of five tiger chomps.

Release Date:  October 2004
Reading Level:  Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: Not currently part of Dunlap's collection.


Yay yay yay yay yay!

Since I work in a small library, we rarely get new books out on the shelves by their release date.  Or release month.  So even though Red Glove by Holly Black came out over a month ago, I am just now getting it into my eager hands.

White Cat is one of those books that completely blew me away with its creativity, characters, and plot twists.  I am SO EXCITED to see what Cassel gets up to in this sequel.  But I'm a fourth of the way into another book already...should I finish it?

No.  I'm just going to start Red Glove because I want to SO BADLY.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Book Jacket

Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius--and, above all, a criminal mastermind.  But even Artemis doesn't know what he's taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit.  These aren't the fairies of bedtime stories--they're dangerous!  Full of unexpected twists and turns, Artemis Fowl is a riveting, magical adventure.


Okay, let's get this out of the way.  Why is the main character names Artemis?  Every time this 12-year-old evil prodigy was in a scene, I had to mentally stop myself from picturing a Greek goddess.  But whatever.  Maybe by the tenth book I'll have it down.

Because even though this book didn't knock my socks off, I am positive that I will read the entire series at some point.  Colfer's underground society of fairies was so cool!  LEPrecons who used to wear buckles and breeches because that was their police uniform?  Awesome!  Dwarves that unhinge their jaw to tunnel and then expel dirt and gas that magically seals up behind them?  Gross, but hilarious!  Sprites who have wings and a massive superiority complex?  Makes sense!  And a paranoid centaur who cracks witty jokes while playing with the highest of technology?  I'm thinking Topher Brink.

What I love most about Colfer's magical world, however, are the rules.  I love stories that have limitations to magic, and consequences when that magic is used out of turn.  Colfer uses different characters to explore whether or magic is worth the rules surrouding it, and I was fascinated.

What didn't get me crazy excited was the plot.  Which might seem like a big deal, but it really...wasn't?  I didn't care much about Artemis kidnapping Holly, and while parts of the rescue operation were pretty cool, others fell flat.  (Part of the problem might have been my inability to understand how the time-stop works.)  However, from hints that were given of future stories, I think I will grow to love the characters more in future installments, and I have hopes that the plots will be taken up a notch now that the world has been established.

Three out of five horrific dwarf farts.

Release Date:  April 2001
Reading Level:  Grade 3+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL COL

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Artemis Fowl:

Fyrefly's Book Blog

Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Tom Lichtenheld

Book Jacket

There's an adorable duck in this book.
     No, there isn't.  It's a cute little rabbit.
What?  Just look at the cover!  That's a duck!
     No, it's a rabbit!

Decide for yourself in this playful take on a classic visual puzzle, which proves that when it comes to ducks and rabbits (and a few other things), it all depends on how you look at it.


Enough with Team Peeta vs. Team Gale or Team Edward vs. Team Jacob.  This is where it gets serious:  are you Team Duck, or are you Team Rabbit?

I'm totally on Team Rabbit.  I can see how people might think the cute little hopper looks like a duck, but they'd be wrong.  Still, the anonymous debators put the ambiguous animal through some pretty funny situations to prove their arguments.  As a psychology minor, I liked reliving an example of our brain's flexibility via picturebook.

However, my favorite part is the end, after the duck/rabbit has left and the narrators are at a loss for what to do next.  They argue over an anteater/brachiosaurus, of course!  That could lead to some really awesome creative exercises in creating your own double-identity animal.

Three out of five quacks/sniffs.

Release Date:  March 2009
Reading Level:  Grade K+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  MONARCH

Ouran High School Host Club Vol. 7 by Bisco Hatori

Book Jacket

In this screwball romantic comedy, Haruhi, a poor girl at a rich kids' school, is forced to repay an $80,000 debt by working for the school's swankiest, all-male club--as a boy!  There she discovers just how wealthy the six members are and how different they are from everybody else...

Hunny's little brother, Chika, pays a visit to the Host Club--and immediately starts attacking Hunny, using all his martial-arts prowess against his older brother!  Chika seems to be the absolute opposite of his sweets-loving, Bun-Bun toting sibling, but why is he so angry with Hunny?  The Host Club is determined to find out the cause...


Since I am reading and reviewing all these mangas, I thought I might switch up my reviews by making them quotes-centric.  Then I realized that all the best quotes and scenes require the picture to fully express the hilarity.  Which makes sense, what with it being a manga and all.  *headdesk*

Sooo I don't know how to make these more interesting.  I will keep thinking about it.

First, an episode about Kyoya, in which is is both heartless like normal but also possibly thoughtful! 

And then twp episodes about Hunny and Mori's younger brothers, who are their exact opposites and are therefore hilarious.  Of course, Hunny is always hilarious.  His desperate attempt to be cool, and not compelled by a child-like obsession with sweets and cute things, made me lol through every picture.

Finally, an episode in which Haruhi is kidnapped by the girl's school and forced to perform in their school play.  If only life were more like these stories, I would NEVER BE BORED! 

And then a little snippet of the twin's past.  Their favorite nanny would have been a criminal who taught them all her secrets.  They make so much more sense now!

And what is with these extra not-Ouran stories at the end of each volume?  They are kind of weird, right?  Dramatic love stories between antagonistic teacher and student?  ....mmkay.

Three out of five midnight cakes.

Release Date:  August 2006
Reading Level:  Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  Not currently part of Dunlap Library's collection.

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

This book is awesome.  It's very colorful and light-hearted.  I really enjoyed this book, and it made me want to color.

Recommend to: Little girls and boys.

Shane Ferrero, 7th Grade

Friday, May 6, 2011

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling

Book Jacket

Harry Potter has never played a sport while flying on a broomstick.  He's never worn a cloak of invisitbility, or helped hatch a dragon.  All Harry knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley.  Harry's room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to  wonderful place he never dreamed existed.  There he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic around every corner, but a great destin that's been waiting for him...if Harry can survive the encounter.


Thus begins my epic reread of the Harry Potter series before the final movie comes out on July 15!  (What will we do when there is no longer a new Harry Potter creation to look forward to?)

If you haven't read the Harry Potter series yet, WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?  Go out and read them immediately.  Thank you.  For the rest of us, spoilers are ahead, because I will talk about each book with the revelations of the whole series in mind.

Rereading The Sorcerer's Stone is like a trip back to childhood.  Harry is only 11, and reading about his first year at Hogwarts is all kinds of delightful.  I am a fan of how Harry's journey gets darker throughout the series, but it's nice to just enjoy Rowling's wit and share Harry's wonder at this magical new world.

That said, there is a surprising amount of darkness in Harry's story from the very beginning, though Rowling tells it so charmingly that it's easy to forget.  I mean, Harry is an orphan who has spent his entire childhood belittled and abused.  The fact that he remains so well-adjusted and good-humored is a huge testament to his inner strength.  If I could adopt any book character, it would be Harry.  The poor kid just never gets a consistent parental figure who doesn't die within a couple years of attachment.

Years and years ago when I read The Sorcerer's Stone for the first time, I was hooked when Harry gets his wand.  The beginning with the Dursleys was funny, but it was when Ollivander said, "It is very curious indeed that you should be destined for this wand when its brother--why, its brother gave you that scar" that shivers went up my spin and I knew this was going to be an epic story.

With the whole series in mind, I am amazed at Rowling's forethought.  In the very first chapter, Sirius Black (Guh!  Sirius!!) is mentioned.  The Sorting Hat's mention that Harry could belong in Slytherin is our first hint that he is a horcrux with a little bit of Voldemort's soul inside him.  And on page 221, Harry wonders if Snape can read mind, which will, of course, be a major plot point of Order of the Phoenix.

The thing that stuck out to me the most during this read is just how much Dumbledore is kind of....heartless.  Now, I love Dumbledore.  I love him when he's grandfatherly, I love him when he's odd, and I love him when he's battling Voldemort.  I don't know if this is a popular opinion, but I loved him even more after the reveals in Deathly Hallows.  The fact that beneath his charming exterior is a cold-blooded war general is fantastic.  And that is hinted at even in Sorcerer's Stone.  He leaves Harry the invisibility cloak, then returns it after Harry leaves it at the top of the tower.  He is very obviously setting Harry up to go after the Stone, and I'm sorry, but what??  Sending an 11-year-old through all that?  Dumbledore is testing him, I think.  And he turned out to be right.  But that doesn't change the fact that normal people would never do such a thing.  Dumbledore is grooming Harry to confront Voldemort even now.

I enjoyed every page. 

Five out of five swallowed Snitches.

Release Date:  October 1998
Reading Level:  Grade 3+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL ROW

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone:

Bookish Novelites
Candace's Book Blog

Ouran High School Host Club Vol. 6 by Bisco Hatori

Book Jacket

In this screwball romantic comedy, Haruhi, a poor girl at a rich kids' school, is forced to repay an $80,000 debt by working for the school's swankiest, all-male club--as a boy!  There she discovers just how wealthy the six members are and how different the rich are from everybody else...

The school festival opens at Ouran, and the Host Club members are busy entertaining the visiting parents.  Teasing his son is a favorite pastime of Tamaki's doting father, the school chairman, but Tamaki's grandmother is cut from a very different cloth.  She despises and shuns Tamaki, banning him from the main Suoh Mansion.  It's now time for Kyoya to take action with the Host Club to help their favored leader out.


This volume fell a little flat to me.  Tamaki's backstory could have been really gut-wrenching, but I didn't feel the emotion like I expected.  Maybe they will revisit it later and punch me in the gut.  Kyoya's story was a bit more interesting, what with his reveal to be the third son and therefore not the heir to his family's business.  Except he's so awesome that maybe he will be.  It was fun to see the Host Club's parents, who are either eerily similar to their children or not at all alike.

The plot with the football team didn't carry much weight, dramatically or comedically.  However, I did like that the first years would build a replica of Venice in the gym, water canals and everything.  The mystery of the letters was either obvious or insane, and well, obviously nothing really clicked for me in the school festival arc.

The last story was better, as it returned to inane humor with a poignant ending.  After all the chaos of trying to find the mystery soup, the conclusion of "The important factors for whole-heartedly enjoying a meal are the environment, who cooked it, and who eats it.  That's the story," was so delightfully deadpan and anti-climactic that my love for Ouran was restored.

Three out of five Central Salons.

Release Date:  May 2006
Reading Level:  Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  Not currently part of Dunlap Library's collection.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Book Prediction: Demon's Surrender

Sarah Rees Brennan is one of those awesome authors who write not only in novels, but in a blog!  She is hilarious and insightful, but also?  She writes short stories set within the Demon's Lexicon 'verse, and they are free!  A new one just came out to celebrate the paperback release of Demon's Covenant.  And after reading it, I felt like I needed somewhere to make my shipping predictions before the series finale is released in June.

I feel like it is painfully obvious who will end up together, but there seems to be a lot of disagreement in the interwebs, so maybe I'm missing something.  In two months, we will see!

I predict these people will be couples by the end:

1)  Nick and Mae
2)  Alan and Sin
3)  Jamie and Seb

Above, I said it was painfully obvious, because, well, these are not the couples I want!  Here are the couples I'm rooting for:

1)  Jamie and Gerald
2)  Alan and Mae
3)  Nick and Sin

Alright.  Consider this time-capsuled until June 14th.

Summer Reading Program Info!

The 2011 Summer Reading Program is about to begin!  This year's theme is "A Midsummer Knight's Read," and we are going to have a lot of fun playing with medieval ideas.  There will be crafts such as shield making and stained glass windows, movies like The Princess Bride, and special programs with magicians, jugglers, and more!

Personally, I'm pretty excited about it all, and I can't wait for June to get here.  The "Future Events" tab at the top of the page has been updated with all the SRP programs, so check them out and mark your calendars!

If you have any questions, call the library or leave a comment on this blog!


We only had four kids for the kindergarten-1st grade group.  I split the LEGO Club into smaller age groups because we had so many the first month, but now I'm starting to second guess myself.  C'mon, parents!  Bring your kids to LEGO Club!  The ones who do come have a great time playing together, showing their creations, and learning how not to steal a LEGO piece from someone else.

This week: space!  Though really, we had houses, underground lairs, and a treehouse that launches skeletons into space.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This is a book.  It is good.  Hi mom.  Read this book.

Recommend to: Everyone who likes war and gore.

David Kaiser, 7th grade.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

O Me of Little Faith by Jason Boyett

Book Jacket

I have been a Christian for most of my life.  But there are times--an uncomfortable frequency of times, to be honest--when I'm not entirely sure I believe in God.  There.  I said it.

From this unconventional profession of faith, Jason Boyett sets off on a journey down a sometimes painful, often hilarious, always honest road of inquisition, searching for a God who occasionally seems to disappear.

An earnest seeker who clings to faith even as he explores the hiddenness of God, Boyett asks uncomfortable questions--the questions many of us have but dare not say aloud.  His willingness to ask these questions have made him immune to over-spiritualized church talk, suspicious of public prayers, and annoyed by too-certain believers who seem to get "personal promptings from Jesus and detailed directions about even the most trivial aspects of their lives."  (Boyett has his doubts.)

Written for doubters by a doubter, this is not a tidy, five-step solution for fixing spiritual uncertainty.  Nor is it a cynical, anti-religious rant.  Instead, it's a hopeful and confessional exploration of the relationship between faith and doubt.  It's a book loaded with grace, encouragement, humor, and--for what it's worth--an inordinate number of references to turtles and French daredevils.


This book.  This book!  I think it was written specifically for me.  There are many things about the Christian experience that I don't understand.  Why do some people seem to hear from God every day?  How can I figure out, without a doubt, what God wants me to do with my life?  Why does the Bible seem to contradict itself in places?  Does God really care about me personally?  And what if this whole thing we call religion just a sociocultural fabrication?

It's nice to know I'm not the only one with doubts.  I have long wanted the Christian community to open up and be honest, both with each other and with the world outside our church walls.  I think honesty, even when laced with doubt, is far more appealing than a self-confidant superiority.  Boyett's book is incredibly authentic, and his commitment to be competely honest draws the reader into his thoughts, struggles, and joys.

Because even though he doesn't find all his answers--and really, can we ever?  Can an infinite God ever truly be known by His finite creations?  I for one hope He can't.  But despite a lifetime of doubts, Boyett also has something that makes him persevere through them all--hope.  The hope that God is real, that He sent His Son to love us and save us, and that there is an eternity of joy waiting for those who trust in Him....that is worth working through any number of doubts.

Five out of five stacks of turtles.

Release Date:  April 2010
Reading Level:  Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: Not currently part of Dunlap's collection.

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of O Me of Little Faith:

Compulsive Overreader