"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

30 December 2013

Curtsies and Conspiracies

Carriger, Gail. Curtsies and Conspiracies. Little, Brown BFYR, 2013.

Sophronia is back at her finishing school in the sky, and another mystery is at hand. Her school is traveling to London to witness the first dirigible flight by aether, but something is not quite right. She has to uncover the conspiracy against both humans and supernaturals before anyone else is hurt.

I enjoyed this book almost as much as I enjoyed the first in the series, although it took me a while to find the time needed to sit and read the book. I am glad that Carriger has a series for young adults, and I hope this will lead more people to enjoy the steampunk genre. I already have students who loved the first book, and I'm sure this one will be an easy sell, too.

Recommended for: teens, steampunk fans
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

27 December 2013

The Eye of Minds

Dashner, James. The Eye of Minds. Delacorte BFYR, 2013.

Michael is a gamer who spends most of his free time in his "coffin," a pod that allows him to experience near-reality in his gaming. But something is wrong with the game. People are dying, not only in the game but also in real life, and someone is behind the deaths. When the government asks Michael and his friends to use their programming expertise to catch the killer, they can hardly refuse. But will they be able to catch the killer without themselves being killed?

This was an interesting, fast-paced futuristic mystery. My patrons who spend their entire free time on Minecraft or other online games would love this series, as would fans of the recent rash of serial killer stories. I know this particular book will be an easy sell, and its fast pace will keep my readers interested.

Recommended for: teens, fans of MMORPGs, fans of mysteries or dystopia
Red Flags: video game violence
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

25 December 2013

Out of Nowhere

Padian, Maria. Out of Nowhere. Knopf BFYR, 2013.

Tom is a soccer star at his school, but soon he is overshadowed by a group of boys from Somalia. They are part of a "secondary immigration," a group of people who immigrated to the United States and then moved again when they wanted to live near better schools and neighborhoods. Tom's community is divided; some want to help the new neighbors, and some would rather they went somewhere else. Tom soon realizes that it's hard to hate someone once you know their story, and he fights for his friends' rights to play on the soccer team.

I have far too few sports books in my library, especially sports-themed books that also tell a second story, so I was glad to see this one in my collection. I am also glad for the immigrant story told here, and for the way readers can watch Tom and his family react to the immigrant situation. In spite of not generally enjoying sports books, I found it difficult to put this particular book down.

Recommended for: teens, tweens, fans of sports
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

23 December 2013

The Good Neighbors: Kith, Kin, and Kind

Black, Holly. Kin (also Kith and Kind). GRAPHIX, 2008.

Rue's mother has disappeared and her father just sits in his chair and doesn't respond to her anymore. Rue soon discovers that she can see things that others can't, and in fact she is half fairy. Her mother, a full fairy, has returned to her people because of Rue's father's unfaithfulness. This trilogy follows Rue as she interacts with the fae, discovers her heritage, and determines that she alone must save humanity.

I liked this trilogy and the books were a fast read. The story was easy to follow, and even though I guessed at the ending of Kind before it appeared, I was still satisfied with the resolution. This was a great vacation read, and it would be an easy sell for my graphic novel and paranormal patrons.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: One of Rue's friends spends time with water fairies who bite him and suck his blood - the pictures make it clear that he's naked, but nothing is shown. Also language
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

20 December 2013

Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust

Lieberman, Leanne. Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust. Orca Book Publishers, 2013.

Lauren Yanofsky has decided not to be Jewish anymore. She does not want to participate in any religious activities with her family, does not attend the Jewish youth group with her friends, and especially doesn't want to hear any more about the Holocaust. Lauren has decided to ignore her Jewish heritage and try to be normal, when one day some of her friends decide to play a war game involving water guns and swastika armbands, and suddenly Lauren has to decide what really matters to her.

I didn't like this book particularly, but I didn't think it would be my kind of book from the beginning. Lauren is a pretty typical mixed-up teenager who questions her heritage and also defends it from her peers. Not much changes by the end of the book, although Lauren does decide that it's okay to question her beliefs and decide what's important to her. I could definitely see this book being popular with my patrons who are fans of chick lit.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: underage drinking, language, Lauren has several panic attacks due to her excessive study of the Holocaust
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

18 December 2013

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah

Freedman, Paula. My Basmati Bat Mitzvah. 2013.

Tara Feinstein is preparing for her bat mitzvah.  She's trying to decide what she believes, in addition to trying to honor both her Jewish and her Indian heritage.  Meanwhile, she's not sure if her best friend Ben likes her as a friend or is interested in something more.

This was a typical chick-lit story, focusing on a lot of small struggles instead of some major plot point. Tara isn't sure what all she believes, and she's concerned about making promises through her bat mitzvah or committing to a belief system that she doesn't ascribe to.  She gets in trouble with her friends, watches her family interact and react to each other, and in the end decides that it's okay to live with the questions she has about her faith and her heritage. I enjoyed reading about both the Jewish and Indian cultures through this book, and I know it will be popular in my library.

Recommended for: tweens, especially girls
Red Flags: the girls get arrested for shoplifting; one of Tara's friends has a disorder where she pulls out her hair
Overall Rating:3/5 stars

16 December 2013

The Book Whisperer

Miller, Donalyn. The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child. 2009.

This book is definitely geared toward English/Language Arts teachers, but I still appreciated what the author had to say about connecting kids to books.  I am definitely going to take some of her information and present it to my students, things such as how to choose a book, when is it okay to stop reading a book, how to decide what genre a book belongs to, etc.  The biggest takeaway from this book is that kids need to see adults expressing enthusiasm for reading.  Having real conversations about books they've read will do more for kids than any worksheet they may be required to complete during a class-novel lesson. I will definitely be passing this information on to the teachers at my school, but I will also do what I can to encourage the kids in the library and continue to develop their lifetime love of reading.

13 December 2013


Wells, Dan. Partials. 2012.

The human race has been all but eradicated by the disease RM, a disease which appeared during the war with the Partials, genetically engineered super humans who were designed as soldiers. The remaining humans live on Long Island, but there is a problem: every child born since the war has died within days because it becomes infected with RM. The humans need to find a way to save their race by saving their children, but even with every woman of child-bearing age giving birth as often as possible, they are no closer to a cure.  Will they ever find a way for the babies to survive while there's still people around to care for them?

This was an interesting and fast-paced science fiction read, very similar to Divergent, Inhuman, and other post-apocalyptic literature. I enjoyed the twists in the story, although I am content to be finished with this story line now that I've read the first book (there are at least three others in the series). This book would be very popular among my students who enjoy dystopian lit.

Recommended for: teens, tweens
Red Flags: violence, similar to the levels found in Divergent
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

11 December 2013


Roth, Veronica. Allegiant. 2013.

Tris's life has changed dramatically since her society broke apart. She and her friends escape their town and find the people responsible for creating their society, learn more about the divergent and the factions, and then try to overthrow everything and save the world.

I guessed at the ending of this book long before it happened, so I wasn't surprised, and I do think it was an appropriate ending to this story. This book was good, although I enjoyed Divergent much better. To be fair, I enjoyed The Hunger Games better than Mockingjay, too. I have a copy of this book in my library, and while it is popular with the students who have already read the rest of the series, it doesn't have as long a wait list as the latest Rick Riordan or Jeff Kinney book.

Recommended for: teens, fans of dystopian lit

Red Flags: lots of violence

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

09 December 2013

The Gardener

Bodeen, S.A. The Gardener. 2010.

Mason visits his mom at work and finds that she's caring for four comatose teens rather than the elderly persons he expected to find. When one of the teens wakes up from her coma, Mason escapes with her and learns the truth about his father and an experiment to create self-sustaining humans.

This book was okay. I can see how my tweens, especially those who are fans of science fiction, would enjoy this book. I didn't find it as engrossing as other books, but it wasn't a horrible book. The idea of growing humans was intriguing, and the scenes in the greenhouse were appropriately creepy, but I finished the book wanting more information.  This story has the potential to be a great one, but as it is, it's just okay.

Recommended for: tweens, fans of science fiction

Red Flags: none

Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

06 December 2013

All Our Yesterdays

Terrill, Cristin. All Our Yesterdays. 2013.

This book opens with Em being trapped in a prison cell. She finds a note from herself, a note that has been changed and added to at least a dozen times. She is going to travel back in time and try to stop the events that lead to her imprisonment. Her previous selves have left her clues as to what she should do, and this time the note says, "You have to kill him."

This book was really intense. I enjoyed reading about Em's life before the time travel occurred, especially as this story was spliced between updates on her current trip back in time to stop whatever bad thing is going to happen. It isn't until the end of the story that the reader has the full picture, and it's amazing how the author weaves it all together. I couldn't put this one down, and now I can't keep it on my shelves.

Recommended for: teens, tweens, fans of sci-fi and suspenseful books
Red Flags: lots of violence and near-death experiences; characters are tortured in prison; mild profanity
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

04 December 2013


Mannering, G.R. Roses. Sky Pony Press, 2013.

The strange girl with the silver skin and white hair, a ward of a wealthy house, is hidden away and unnamed until she escapes her captors and is named Beauty by a passing stranger. Soon after, Beauty and other people of magic are forced to flee the city in order to escape execution. She lives with a horseman in his rustic village, until he steals a rose and angers a horrid beast. In exchange for the horseman's life, Beauty offers to stay with the beast. Will she ever be free again?

I enjoyed this book, not only as a retelling of a common fairy tale, but also as a great fantasy story with an interesting world to explore. The traditional beauty and the beast story doesn't show up until much later in the book (past page 170), but I was so interested in the first part that I didn't mind at all. Unlike the traditional stories, in this book Beauty is considered to be a freak, and her name is meant to be ironic. She is a curiosity in the city where she grows up, and an outcast in the small village she escapes to. This book will hook stronger readers with the lyrical writing and world-building, and even less-strong readers will be drawn to the story because of the fairy-tale tie-in. There is already a waiting list at my library just from this book sitting on my desk for the past week. I will be recommending it to fans of Beastly and Of Beast and Beauty, as well as my kids who can't get enough fantasy.

Recommended for: tweens, teens, fans of fantasy and fairy tale retellings
Red Flags: Beauty "accidentally" shoots her cousin, but the scene isn't graphic
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Goodreads' FirstReads program for the purposes of review.

02 December 2013

Of Beast and Beauty

Jay, Stacey. Of Beast and Beauty. Delacorte Press, 2013.

Princess Isra lives in one of the domed cities on her planet. She is the latest in a long line of female rulers who will one day give her life for her people, because the roses that protect the domed city need human blood to survive. Gem, one of the Monstrous who lives outside the city, is captured within the city and piques the interest of the princess. They soon realize that neither is truly a monster, and together they plan to save their planet from destruction.

This was an interesting twist on the Beauty and the Beast story. I enjoyed the science fiction elements, along with the Shirley Jackson-esque "lottery" situation where a female in the ruling family (married in or born to it; doesn't matter which) voluntarily sacrifices herself for the good of the city. It was fun to watch Isra's eyes open as she learned more about what was really happening in her city. This book has been very popular with the girls in my library who like fairy tale rewrites like Beastly.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: some violence; people are said to swear (but no words are listed)
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars