Jenni Holm report

A couple of Fridays ago, the Champaign library was visited by a legend. . . Babymouse, Dragonslayer!!!

Oh, yeah. And author Jenni Holm. As pictured below, she is instructing two worried parents that they will be competing in a Babymouse draw-off!

You're gonna want to click to enlarge this one. It's a picture of the authoress drawing something special for the Champaign library. That's right... it's the library being attacked by a giant zombie squid! Babymouse is there to save the day.

Jenni did all kinds of fun things -- this is a picture of all the kids coming up to tell her what she should draw. She also brought kids up to draw, and sing, and dance, and talk on the phone with her brother. Some lucky kids even won Babymouse t-shirts. :) Cool!

But the coolest part, in my opinion, was that she remembered us from last year! As everyone was filing in, she said, "I know that mom and that baby!" She came over and gave us a hug, and smiled at Benjamin, which scared him. Babies have inscrutable instincts for these kinds of things, so I think we may have all been taken in by a giant squid in Jenni's clothing, but I can't be sure.

The House of the Scorpion

Post by Ashley
I totally agree with the reviewer on the back of this book. "It's a pleasure to read science fiction that doesn't rely on violence as the solution to complex problems of right and wrong." Admittedly, when I read that quote before I read the book, I felt a tiny bit disappointed. After all, it's the big climactic action battle scenes that so often make sci-fi fun to read. Don't get me wrong---I'm definitely not one for lots of blood and gore. But a good underdog hero vs. big-bad villain fight always gets the adrenaline pumping.

This book, however, was totally different and in no way a let-down. In fact, I think it's one of the most original sci-fi futuristic books I've ever read. It was such an intense intellectual thriller, kinda like Stephenie Meyer's The Host, only totally different. Make sense?

Anyway ... I loved The House of the Scorpion. And it only won a Newberry Honor. Looks like Crispin: The Cross of Lead got the Newberry in '03. I think Scorpion got jipped, personally. I guess the other two medals on the cover make up for it, though. :)

All-of-a-Kind Family

Post by Ashley
From reviews I'd read, this book was exactly what I'd expected: a sweet, easy-going read. And in not saying much more about it, I am saying more about it, in that there's not much more to be said. It's basically a collection of vignettes about a happy Jewish family comprised of five carefree and well-behaved little girls and their parents, living in NYC in the late 1800s. The girls aren't without personality, but the book is without any real angst. Indeed, the greatest angst to be encountered in the entire book is the afternoon when one little girl refuses to eat her soup and must go to school with an empty tummy. It's a nice period piece, and I was charmed by it. I especially liked the descriptions of traditions surrounding the Jewish holidays, since I haven't had occasion in my life to learn much about them. I recommend the book for a rainy day when you're feeling wistful.

The Luxe

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

Meh. I couldn't like it. Very intriguing start, but it fizzled for me. I ended up skimming. And by skimming I mean going from pages 122 to 433 in about 20 minutes. In all fairness, though, here are some links to people who did, mostly. Bookshelves of doom; Squeaky Books.

Yes, all the covers in the series are gorgeous like this one.

I guess it was mostly because I couldn't like any of the characters. I found them all quite frustrating. I mean, Elizabeth had no confidant! It would drive me insane, literally, truly insane to have to wear a mask all the time. So I couldn't believe in her. Also everyone was very lusty. Lots of lustiness. I can enjoy romance, but this one was too soap-opera for me.

The plot turned out just like I thought it would -- and yet I had to know. So I skimmed. And read spoilery internet stuff. And even now I keep randomly opening it, to catch little details. So, yeah. It is what it is.

The True Meaning of Smekday

A blast from the past. . . My review from March 21, 2008:

The True Meaning of Smekday
by Adam Rex, 423 pages, 2007.
Winner of the SF/F Elementary/Middle Grade category of the Cybils. There is a great description of it there. Basically, it is hilarious. But what do you expect with a girl named Gratuity, a cat named Pig, and an alien named J.Lo? Their illegal hovercar is only the start! Recommended to fans of The Hitchhiker's Guide and/or humans ages ~10+. A must-read.

I recently re-read this one. I had forgotten just how funny it was! Not only are there really funny things happening, but Tip's voice is so snarky. On top of that you get to see Tip and J.Lo's relationship change as they come to understand one another better. I think it's a very relevant story as far as living in these crazy times.

Also, I heard that Adam Rex is writing another novel, however this new one will be sans illustrations. I'm looking forward to it!

Rathersting Warrior Tattoos

Blackbringer is now out in paperback! Silksinger will be out this fall!

Yes, I wore these grocery shopping and to game night with friends. Yes, an awesome store clerk asked me if they were real. Yes, I told him about the books and said they were NOT. :D Fun times!


Scat by Carl Hiaasen

The first of Hiaasen's books that I read was Flush. I thought it was hilarious and ingenious. Then I read the famous Hoot. It too was about determined kids saving animals in Florida, and for some reason I just wasn't as impressed.

Well, Scat has the same themes, but I loved it anyway. I guess the fact that he now has three "kids help save Florida animals" books out means that they are variations on a theme, rather than one being a cheap cop-out of the other. Anyway, this is all in my mind of course.

Probably one reason that I liked Scat so much is that there is another mystery attached to the main theme. Allow me to quote the entire text of the back of the hardcover: "How could a teacher disappear on a field trip? What is going on in Black Vine Swamp?"

Intriguing, no? I mean seriously! How could a teacher disappear on a field trip? That'd be so crazy!

And there are all kinds of crazy antics going on. Hiaasen has a knack for quick humor, but he is also great at building suspense and delivering danger. There was some minor swearing -- a few dells and hams, as it were -- but I'd probably recommend this book for fourth grade on up!


Okay, this one was SO good! I love Laini Taylor and her books (of which this is the second). They're so intriguing and fantastical.

In this one, we follow Whisper Silksinger on her quest to protect the Azazel. She, however, is not so gutsy as Magpie Windwitch, and so she's going to need some help. And does she ever get it! A whole crew of creatures from fairies to hobgoblins and dragonflies and even some familiar faces from the prequel, Blackbringer.

Fantastic. Once again, just the right amount of adventure and danger and *sigh* romance. And, of course, fantastic descriptions and super-diabolical villains!

I hope you all don't hate me for reviewing it so soon -- it's not coming out until September. But Blackbringer will be in paperback on May 14th! I'm planning on wearing my awesome Rathersting tattoos that day. :D

The Well of Ascension

The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

This is the sequel to Mistborn: The Final Empire. It's the second in a trilogy. So...what can I really say? No matter how good the second in a trilogy is, it's never as satisfying as the first and the third! That's just the nature of trilogies.

Still, Sanderson did a great job. Jacob says that Sanderson is the best at crazy twists that you never saw coming but that work perfectly. I can see where he's coming from on that -- there have certainly been some jaw-droppers.

Anyway, happily, I'm on to the third book now. :D

Babymouse: The Musical!

The best! My favorite of the Babymouse collection so far! Bravo, Brava!

The new boy at school is super cute. When he singles out Babymouse for some attention, it gives her the guts to try out for the school musical. But (evil) Felicia Furrypaws gets the lead! Will Babymouse get her chance to shine?

Oh. My. Goodness. References to SO many musicals in this one! Annie, Phantom of the Opera, Grease (complete with parody of "Summer Lovin'"). But the part that really got me was the little American Idol scene.

Comic Genius! And I feel very lucky because Jennifer Holm is coming to visit Champaign again! She'll be at the library at 7 p.m. on May 15th.

Previously: Babymouse 1-8
Interview with Jenny & Matt Holm
Report of Youth Lit Festival

Prayers for Sale

Post by Ashley
This book was not action packed. It was not gripping. It was not fast paced. There wasn't a whole lot of plot to speak of. But I really, really loved it.

Prayers for Sale
is a mellow, bittersweet reminiscence of a time past and almost forgotten. Set high in the Colorado Rockies in 1936, it tells the story of the crossing of two generations in one of the harsher environments of that era---a small mountain mining town where winter grips the land for seven months out of the year. The main characters are an 86-year-old woman who's a long-time resident and a recently married 17-year-old girl who's just crossed the plains with her husband, come to try his hand at gold-dredging.

Hennie, the older woman, takes it upon herself to welcome Nit, the newcomer, to the community and to do her utmost to make Nit feel less of an outsider. Pressured by her worried daughter, Hennie herself is soon to move away from her 70-year home for good to become a "lowlander." Before she goes, Hennie is determined to impart her lifetime of stories to one who will cherish them and pass them along---Nit.

So basically, the book consists of the women sitting and quilting and telling each other stories. The stories range from fun to fascinating to tragic and moving. The overlying plot that ties the book together is Hennie's preparations to move down the mountain, tying up loose ends she's left over the years, mourning the loss of her home, and settling a secret she's had lodged in her heart for many, many decades, as well as Nit's story of coming to terms with a tragic loss, figuring out where she belongs, and finally becoming a permanent member of the community.

All in all, this was a charming, happy read. The author's ear for the dialect of the time is absolutely impeccable and totally delightful. I think I'm going to start saying "I disremember." As a side note, this book would make a great Mother's Day gift, if anyone's looking for one.

Two thumbs up!

Wren to the Rescue series

Posted by Ashley
I just finished the third book in the "Wren" trilogy by Sherwood Smith (Wren to the Rescue, Wren's Quest, Wren's War). Ms. Smith wrote one of my favorite books---Crown Duel---so I feel predisposed to like everything else she writes. This series didn't really do it for me, though. Granted they are some of the first books she published, so I guess she's improved with time. I greatly enjoyed one of her newest books, A Posse of Princesses, for instance. In any case, these books were geared toward a juvenile audience, which may be what made my interest lag. Usually when I start such a short book, I finish it within a day or two. These took me the full library check-out time (and more---oops) each. They just didn't grip me. I wasn't surprised or charmed or pulled in. Oh well. There were fun moments and some good action and a solid overarching storyline that pulled the trilogy together nicely, which is why I did read all three. A younger audience of middle-grade readers might enjoy them, but even so, the series to me was somewhat forgettable.
So, on to the next! :)
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