Archive | March, 2012

Review: BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver

What if you only had one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?
Samantha Kingston has it all: looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last.
The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. Living the last day of her life seven times during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

On February 12, Cupid Day, Sam has a great day. She gets the last parking spot at school, gets roses from different admirers (including her boyfriend, the very popular Rob), flirts with her handsome math teacher, and gets sloppy drunk at an amazing party. And on the way home, she dies. The car she and her friends are in swerves to avoid hitting something in the road and goes careening into the woods. There’s pain and lights… and then nothing.
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The Mockingjay Debate

For months now, the eager public has been dissecting every bit of Hunger Games news available. Cast bios, merchandise faux pas (a cookbook? really?), marketing, awe at the cult following, and more! Then the movie was actually released and the web was flooded with more opinions. But the movie is out now, so surely the topics have been exhausted, right? Wrong.

I’m in several different YA groups on Goodreads (friend me!), and believe me, when topic turns to the Hunger Games series, it’s not just the first book being dissected. Instead of jumping to Catching Fire (for the uninitiated, that’s book #2), most of the heated discussions are centered around the third and final book, Mockingjay. More specifically, we argue about the ending.

This is the time where I place the jump break. That’s your warning to walk away, because from here on out, it’s spoilers galore.
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Review: THE FLIGHT OF GEMMA HARDY by Margot Livesey

When her widower father drowns at sea, Gemma Hardy is taken from her native Iceland to Scotland to live with her kind uncle and his family. But the death of her doting guardian leaves Gemma under the care of her resentful aunt, and it soon becomes clear that she is nothing more than an unwelcome guest at Yew House. When she receives a scholarship to a private school, ten-year-old Gemma believes she’s found the perfect solution and eagerly sets out again to a new home. However, at Claypoole she finds herself treated as an unpaid servant.
To Gemma’s delight, the school goes bankrupt, and she takes a job as an au pair on the Orkney Islands. The remote Blackbird Hall belongs to Mr. Sinclair, a London businessman; his eight-year-old niece is Gemma’s charge. Even before their first meeting, Gemma is, like everyone on the island, intrigued by Mr. Sinclair. Rich (by Gemma’s standards), single, flying in from London when he pleases, Hugh Sinclair fills the house with life. An unlikely couple, the two are drawn to each other, but Gemma’s biggest trial is about to begin: a journey of passion and betrayal, redemption and discovery, that will lead her to a life of which she’s never dreamed.
Set in Scotland and Iceland in the 1950s and ’60s, The Flight of Gemma Hardy—a captivating homage to Charlotte BrontË’s Jane Eyre—is a sweeping saga that resurrects the timeless themes of the original but is destined to become a classic all its own.
So says Amazon. Let me preface everything to come by saying that grownup literature really isn’t my thing. Really, the only way to tempt me into that section is to dangle the names Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, or Charlotte Bronte in front of me. But I read the buzz concerning Gemma Hardy and was intrigued to see what Livesey could do with an Icelandic Jane Eyre, so I picked it up.

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"Revamped" Covers And My Battle With Being an Old Coot

Sigh. I’m such a grumpy old coot.

So, I was working today, minding my own business, just doing happy, shelver-y things. In fact, I was doing one of the things that makes me the happiest, which is shelving new shipment. I get to see what new books are coming in AND make everything look nice and tidy while I go. It’s a very fun chore.

I was deep in the kids’ section when I saw not one but TWO familiar titles, Encyclopedia Brown and the Bailey School Kids. Talk about a blast to the past! I LOVED these guys!

For those of you who don’t know, Encyclopedia Brown was like the Sherlock Holmes of elementary school, except he didn’t do crack, was very polite, and had basic social skills. Also, his arch-foe was named Bugs and said really awesome things like, “Make like a tree and LEAF!” (Believe me, it was hilarious in third grade.) He solved all kinds of crimes just based on stuff he knew, which was great because sometimes I knew the same stuff and sometimes I didn’t. When I didn’t (which was a lot, because what third-grader knew about whether the stocks were printed in the Monday paper or not?), I learned something new. Awesome sauce.

And the Bailey School Kids? They were Buffy the Vampire Slayer before Buffy was cool. I mean, they ran into these crazy characters all the time. Pirates, witches, skeletons, cyclopses, elves, Martians, Bigfoot, Hercules, trolls, you name it! Their own teacher was Mrs. Jeepers, a(n alleged) vampire who could control her students’ behavior just by rubbing her scary, green broach. Once again, not only were the books exciting, but I learned stuff about each kind of supposedly mythological creature/person. For instance, who knew leprechauns, not werewolves, are the vampires’ main enemy? Not this girl! Plus, the books had the added cool factor of needing a parental warning before I was allowed to read.

Nah, really, I love my mom.

But when I picked the books off the shelf at my store, my friends looked different.

<--- This is the Encyclopedia Brown of my childhood. He's tall and neatly pressed and rocking a nineties hairstyle that looks oh-so-touchable. My young self thought he was hot and smart-looking. To me, hot + smart + older than me = totally cool. I also loved studying the covers to get hints for the stories I was about to read. They may look like simple snapshots, but they always ended up being important to a case. But is this the EB I saw at work?  No. Instead, I was greeted with this… hooligan. —> Who the heck are you? Okay, first of all, EB calls himself “Boy Detective,” not “Super Sleuth.” He’s not a braggart, and “Boy Detective” is literally on his sign in the garage where he sets up business. And second, what’s with the haircut? It’s a mess! I’m not saying he still has to rock the mama’s boy look, but he doesn’t look intelligent. He just looks cocky.

And the Bailey School Kids! The horror! To the left is MY Mrs. Jeepers. Once again, the bomb-diggity. She gives me the shivers, but not by being overtly menacing. No, she’s superior. Just look at that smirk. She could have you bled dry in seconds, but does she? No. Instead, she stands and smirks and rubs that broach and makes you do multiplication tables. Not to mention she’s practically taunting the title! “Oh yeah? Vampires don’t wear polka dots? Take an eyeful of this!”And you can tell those kids are terrified of her, but not so terrified that they won’t try to run her (and any other creatures that follow) out of town.

And then, to the right, is the new cover. Okay, sure, she’d overtly creepy. And she’s writing “Rules” on the board, which sets her up as a stickler. But does she look like someone other adults would let around kids? No! The other Mrs. Jeepers totally was. That smirk is part of her respectability!

Boy, was I in a tizzy. I was outraged that some know-nothing publisher would mess with my classics like this. What’s next, the Magic Tree House?!

But then I really looked at the covers and thought about what I was like in elementary school, what my brother was like (to get a male perspective), what we would have been like growing up in this decade. Would we have really picked up a buttoned-up mama’s boy with static pictures surrounding him? Eh.  Maybe me, my brother not so much. The new EB, as much as I hate to admit it, is more relatable. No one wants to read about a kid who looks like he spends all his allowance on dry-cleaning bills, even if he is a underage private eye.

As for the Bailey School Kids, when you’re under a certain age, sometimes chucking subtlety out the window is a good thing, especially since kids are supposedly getting harder and harder to scare. Yes, I just used Monsters, Inc., as a reference. These are kids watching the world go nuts over Twilight and Vampire Diaries and Hunger Games and Dexter and other scary things. They want to be scared, too, just maybe not with that much blood. And boy does this Mrs. Jeepers look scary!

So, in the end, I decided that change was inevitable. Kids’ll hopefully pick up these books, in spite of (or because of) the new covers, and enjoy them just as much as I did. Then. when they get older and have blogs of their own (or whatever they’ll have in the future), they can gripe over the changes to their beloved classics… and then go out and buy them for their own kids anyways.


Hunger Games B-Roll Footage

This is totally legit, guys, and I’m freaking out just a teensy bit. I’ve been very, very good not to spam this blog with Hunger Games posts, factoids, etc., but I thought this particular video is worth sharing, at least for those of us who have read the book excessively.

And seeing as this is a book-oriented blog, that seems fairly common sense, no?

So if you’re only interested in the movie, feel free to watch the clip, though it might not make much sense out of context. But if you love the book, please feel free in rejoicing with me.

A lot are pieces we’ve seen before in the trailers (Cinna and the pin, the Reaping, hunting with Gale), but there were some real gems hidden in there, too. The gems for me were all Peeta-related. Seeing him throw away the burnt bread (which all fans of the book know is a key moment), hearing part of his “gotta be me” speech to Katniss, watching Josh Hutchinson watch Jennifer Lawrence. And wow, does JLaw look like a natural with that bow!
So what do you think? Am I the only one geeking out over this?


Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school—that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class.  The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses but it’s really a school for spies. 

Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she’s an ordinary girl.  Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real “pavement artist”—but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her?Cammie Morgan may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she’s on her most dangerous mission—falling in love.

I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You. Whew! What a title. Very cute, but a pain to write. I wanted to make sure I stated the full title first thing, as it barely fits in the subject line. From now on, it shall be ITYILY.
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The Naughty List, a.k.a. Does No One Know How To Drive?!

While turning the contents of my brain upside-down to try to find a topic to write about (ideas flow so readily when I’m working, not so much when I actually sit down), I came across a tweet that made my day.

@editrixanica: RT @kate_mckean: Least favorite words in YA/MG queries: car crash, angels, orphan, boarding school, ordinary girl/boy, lesson, zoinks. #pubtip

Heck to the yes.

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An Apology Puppy

This is the day when I normally try to post a review. I say “try”, because it’s usually today or tomorrow, but the point is that it’s usually about this time. Unfortunately, this week there was a snafu. I didn’t like the book I picked. I tried, believe me I tried, but I just couldn’t finish it. It wasn’t completely awful, but it wasn’t something I wanted to waste my time on. Maybe that makes me a bad blogger/reviewer, I don’t know.

What I do know is that I don’t want to waste space or time talking about a book unless any negatives mentioned can be counterbalanced by positives. So there’s no review this week, so very sorry.

However, here is an apology puppy for you!

Say it with me: awwwwwwwww! <3
And while I am a sucker for gratuitous puppy photos, this little guy resembles another little guy that I met in the store just last week. Like most places, my store doesn’t mind pets as long as they’re carried, quiet, and well-behaved (no accidents, please!). A couple came in holding this itty-bitty puppy, and it was all we could talk about for the next half hour. 
Really, puppies make our day. 
Not to mention the puppy in question had been blessed(?) with the moniker Draco, which I can only assume is in honor of Draco Malfoy. I would’ve gone with Fitzwilliam (Darcy), Dune, or even (Dr.) Seuss, but I suppose that’s just me.

If presented with an adorable bundle such as the one above, what would you name it? Skips and Marleys need not apply.


The Valiant Bookstore vs. The Big, Bad Amazon Monster

Click for larger image.


Okay, let me get this out of the way right now. Bookstores aren’t going anywhere. They’re just not. Yes, Borders going bankrupt was a freaking big deal, but so was Circuit City. You don’t see people running out to shutter their local Best Buy or hollering about the end of name-brand consumer electronics as we know them(!) Borders had questionable business strategies, and the other bookstores, both chains and independents, are happy to fill in the gap.

Judgmental Bookstore Ostrich, FTW

However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need to keep up with the times.
Amazon, for one, is a beast that will never be squashed. It will always be there, looming over us, selling cheap books. Every month seems to bring a new outrage, a new tactic used to undercut brick-and-mortar stores for the benefit of the almighty Amazon. My personal favorite was the app over the holidays that could read the barcode on any book and then automatically offer the same book on Amazon for a lower price. Oh yes, my boss loved that one.

Of course, Amazon excels at being cheap and at selling ebooks. Of course it excels at being cheap, people. Even American minimum wage help costs, as do the expenses of owning a physical location (property taxes, electric bills, yearly fire inspections, etc.) As a virtual store, Amazon does not need to restrict itself to using $7.25-an-hour help (instead, it can use even cheaper foreign techs), nor does it need to worry about paying its utilities or fixing a broken pipe or calling an exterminator. As for ebooks? Even cheaper! Now it doesn’t have to worry about paper or ink or that pesky shipping.

So what do we do? We evolve.

Amazon has the Kindle? Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million roll out the Nook.

They offer discounted prices? We offer sales, coupons, and free shipping for members (and that’s free shipping at the same speed as the $70/year Amazon Prime shipping).

You want to pick up notebooks, CDs, DVDs, bookmarks, novelty gifts, headphones, or angry Birds paraphernalia? We’ve got you covered!

And I can say without fear of being biased that there are things that bookstores can offer that Amazon can’t. Amazon is a machine. It’s a mechanical entity that crunches data. We remember you. You’re the wannabe “cool aunt” looking for that perfect kick-tush book for your nephew. You’re the out-of-towner with a love for Westerns. You’re the fifty-something well-spoken sci-fi nut who just wants to stand by the register and discuss Red Dwarf all day.

We also cater to a hard-wired fact of human nature: procrastination. Sure, you can pay Amazon to ship a book to you in 1-3 days… after their warehouse gets the order together, so maybe it won’t be 1-3 days. And what if you can’t wait 1-3 days? What if you need it NOW? What if your kid has to go to a birthday party tomorrow morning and, oops, you forgot to get a gift! Or what if your book club is meeting in half a week, and you haven’t even bought the book, much less read it?

Tada! We’re right here! One of my coworkers, handy-dandy shelvers all, will walk you physically to the book and place it in your hands. Bada-bing, bada-boom.

So, bottom line? We’ll change. We’ll adapt. But we ain’t goin’ nowhere, baby.


Review: STOLEN by Lucy Christopher

Stolen by Lucy Christopher; The Chicken House

A girl: Gemma, 16, at the airport, on her way to a family vacation.

A guy: Ty, rugged, tan, too old, oddly familiar, eyes blue as ice.

She steps away. For just a second. He pays for her drink. And drugs it. They talk. Their hands touch. And before Gemma knows what’s happening, Ty takes her. Steals her away. To sand and heat. To emptiness and isolation. To nowhere. And expects her to love him.

Written as a letter from a victim to her captor, STOLEN is Gemma’s desperate story of survival; of how she has to come to terms with her living nightmare–or die trying to fight it.

Oh, this book. Talk about a land mine. Whisked from an airport in London to the empty and deserted Australian Outback, Gemma is completely without resources. She’s too far from the nearest town to summon help, too deep in the Outback to hope for accidental discovery, and too closely watched to hope to deceive Ty successfully. I say successfully, because she does try a few times, but it always ends in either disaster or them staring soulfully into each other’s eyes. Oh, didn’t you know?
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