Monday, June 25, 2012


Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, the ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
-Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

Now that is a hard premise to resist. Also, there are so many fairy tale retreads that I really appreciate when an author makes it worth my while. Why choose Cinderella? Why not write about a cyborg Snow White, or one of any other dozens of characters? Because Cinderella's lowly status in the traditional version segues perfectly into a look at the social status of cyborgs, that's why. Hurrah, a reason for a retelling!

I was hoping for a smidge more in the way of world-building, and some of the plot points were fairly predictable (then again, how could they not be in a story with such a familiar framework?), but those are pretty much my only quibbles. This was an interesting story with enough brains, heart, and originality to keep me interested. There was plenty going on- politics, a plague, romance, subterfuge, medical experiments, social tensions, endearing robots, and more. Also, her "pumpkin" is pretty amazing. You'll see.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Graphic Novels for Kids (?)

One of my very favorite parts of my job as a children's librarian is working on developing the graphic novel collection. What makes this especially fun is that there are so many fantastic authors/artists making incredible books that I think kids can access and relate, but are also thought-provoking and enjoyable for older readers. Here are some of my favorites:

Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Zita’s life took a cosmic left turn in the blink of  an eye.

When her best friend is abducted by an alien doomsday cult, Zita leaps to the rescue and finds herself a stranger on a strange planet. Humanoid chickens and neurotic robots are shocking enough as new experiences go, but Zita is even more surprised to find herself taking on the role of intergalactic hero. Before long, aliens in all shapes and sizes don’t even phase her. Neither do ancient prophecies, doomed planets, or even a friendly con man who takes a mysterious interest in Zita’s quest.

Zita the Spacegirl is a fun, captivating tale of friendship and redemption from Flight veteran Ben Hatke. It also has more whimsical, eye-catching, Miyazaki-esque monsters than you can shake a stick at
. -Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

There is not a single thing not to love here. The characters, art, and dialogue are all fantastic and smooth and fun, as well as being smart, full of humor and surprisingly deep. Read this book and just try not to fall in love with Zita.

Robot dreams by Sara Varon

This moving, charming graphic novel about a dog and a robot shows us in poignant detail how powerful and fragile relationships are. After a Labor Day jaunt to the beach leaves the robot rusted, immobilized in the sand, the dog must return alone to the life they shared. But the memory of their friendship lingers, and as the seasons pass, the dog tries to fill the emotional void left by the loss of his closest friend, making and losing a series of friends, from a melting snowman to epicurean anteaters.  But for the robot, lying rusting on the beach, the only relief from loneliness is in dreams. -Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

If this book doesn't make you bawl, you might be more robotic than the protagonist. Just sayin'. I am amazed by how honest and sad and cathartic and optimistic this book is in terms of relationships.

For something lighter but also about the nature of friendships, check out Bake Sale by the same author.

Copper by Kazu Kibuishi 

Copper is curious, Fred is fearful. And together boy and dog are off on a series of adventures through marvelous worlds, powered by Copper's limitless enthusiasm and imagination.

Each Copper and Fred story in this graphic novel collection is a complete vignette, filled with richly detailed settings and told with a wry sense of humor. These two enormously likable characters build ships and planes to travel to surprising destinations and have a knack for getting into all sorts of odd situations.
-Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

These characters are so sweet, fun, realistic and funny together that I'd put them right up there with the immortal Calvin and Hobbes. Here's a quick example.

I love everything Kibuishi has done so far. His work is smart, honest, full of wonder, and has that fantastic, rare knack of not talking down to young readers. Like Zita the Spacegirl, the art here has a really great quality, that, not being an art person, I am woefully unequipped to describe. It's.... smooth? Nice? Round? Good colors? Pictures be pretty? I'll stop now.

 I'd also recommend his Flight anthology (for YA/Adult readers), and the younger version, Flight Explorer.

After the Snow

After the Snow by S.D. Crockett

Fifteen-year-old Willo was out hunting when the trucks came and took his family away. Left alone in the snow, Willo becomes determined to find and rescue his family, and he knows just who to talk with to learn where they are. He plans to head across the mountains and make Farmer Geraint tell him where his family has gone.

But on the way across the mountain, he finds Mary, a refugee from the city, whose father is lost and who is starving to death. The smart thing to do would be to leave her alone -- he doesn't have enough supplies for two or the time to take care of a girl -- but Willo just can't do it. However, with the world trapped in an ice age, the odds of them surviving on their own are not good. And even if he does manage to keep Mary safe, what about finding his family
? -Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

Speaking of palate cleansers. I picked this book up at a Barnes and Noble and was intrigued by the cover, premise, and male protagonist. Don't get me wrong, I love my kick-ass lady protagonists. But it is nice to have some variety sometimes. Anyway. I love Julie of the Wolves, My Side of the Mountain, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Hatchet, and some other survival stories, so I decided to give this one a whirl.

The setting is believable and very well drawn. It's all too easy see how climate change could tip us into another ice age, and Crockett does a great job of showing how people would act in a world with far fewer resources and much more desperation. The writing matches- everything is bleak, stark, and cold. What I wasn't really prepared for was the first person narration, which goes something like this:

"But he's my dad like I said, and you got to respect your dad I reckon. My mum got dead when I been a baby still scrieking in my ass rags. That happen a lot up here when the snow been deep and your breath freeze in the air. But Magda live with Dad now, up in our end of the house. Magda's in charge of the little kids and I don't envy her that job. If it been me I'm gonna bash them all."

See what I mean? It's a little jarring. Not everyone speaks this way, but since Willo is the narrator as well as the protagonist, there is quite a bit of it. It makes sense- he grew up in a very isolated setting with no schooling other than learning to read from a few tattered and precious books. His father, who remembers the world from before, tries to stifle his son's rustic and wild ways, but with no luck. It's hard to argue with this style really. It's well done, consistent, and fits the tone of the novel perfectly.

Besides, there are other passages (from different characters) that are wonderful and poetic:

"I can look after myself, Callum. you know that. I was born in a tent like you but I've grown soft. I remember the feel of rags on my feet but I found chinks in the walls. You're like a dog but I am a cat, always seeking the warmth of the fire..."

Overall, I didn't love it as much as I had wanted to, but it was definitely worth reading, especially if you are looking for a wintry setting, survival, or just something that is a bit off the beaten track.


Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne

When sixteen-year-old Faye arrives at Holbrook Academy, she doesn't expect to find herself exactly where she needs to be. After years of strange waking visions and nightmares, her only comfort the bones of dead animals, Faye is afraid she's going crazy. Fast.

But her first night at Holbrook, she feels strangely connected to the school and the island it sits on, like she's come home. She's even made her first real friends, but odd things keep happening to them. Every morning they wake on the floors of their dorm rooms with their hands stained red.

Faye knows she's the reason, but what does it all mean? The handsome Kel tries to help her unravel the mystery, but Faye is certain she can't trust him; in fact, he may be trying to kill her - and the rest of the world too.

Rich, compelling writing will keep the pages turning in this riveting and tautly told psychological thriller.
-Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

I can't tell you too much without giving this book away. I will say that it is compelling, strange, dark, suspenseful, and in the end, maybe just a little bit too weird for me (and this is coming from someone raised on Oingo Boingo and Tim Burton). That said, it was a quick and hard to put down read, and it was definitely refreshing to read something so original and unpredictable. If you're grinding your teeth from an excess of love triangles, dystopias, and paranormal romances, this might be a bit of a palate cleanser. In a gibbering, Lovecraftian kind of way.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Across the Universe

Across the Universe, by Beth Revis

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.
-Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

I wasn't very interested in this book for a long time (I don't read much sci-fi, and was getting a little tired of teen romance), but given the great cover and so many positive reviews, I figured I would give it a shot.

I'm glad I did because these books grabbed hold and wouldn't let go. I was very nearly as hooked on this book (and even more so its sequel, A Million Suns) as I was on the Hunger Games. The opening scene is chilling (har, unintentional pun!), the setting is claustrophobically believable, and you will be on the edge of your seat waiting for the next clues in solving the mysteries of the murders, and the ship itself. Even if you don't normally go for stories set in space, give this one a chance if you're looking for some excitement.

 Here is a peek at the sequel (available now at your local library). The third and final book will be published in 2013 and I cannot wait!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday. 

With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful. -Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads
I'm not sure I have words for how much I love this book. It is definitely reminiscent of so many classic stories, and that is because it is mostly about classic stories, and how much we love them, and how important and real to us they can be. If you ever checked the back of your closet for an entrance to Narnia, scanned the skies for your owl-borne acceptance letter to Hogwarts, or wished that you could run off to Green Gables or Digitopolis or the Shire or Oz, do yourself a favor and read this book.

Anya's Ghost

Anya's Ghost, Vera Brosgol

Anya could really use a friend. But her new BFF isn't kidding about the "Forever" part . . .

Of all the things Anya expected to find atthe bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who's been dead for a century.
Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya's normal life might actually be worse. She's embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she's pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend--even a ghost--is just what she needs.
Or so she thinks. -Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

Poor Anya. High school is hard enough without the extra pressures of an immigrant family and body issues. She's such a relatable character, but as recognizable as she seemed to me, I also feel like I got a whole new perspective on life for new Americans, what it's like to have strong cultural ties, etc. There is a lot to love here.

If the theme and/or art style of Anya's Ghost appeals to you, you might also want to check out American Born Chinese and/or Level Up by Gene Luen Yang, and (of course) Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

Trying Again

Hey Readers. Sorry I flaked on the blog for so long, but I'm trying to get back in the swing of things now. So keep a look out for new book reviews, movie news, and other oddments. Thanks!