Friday, August 30, 2013

Giada De Laurentiis's Recipe for Adventure: Naples!

She can write fiction, too!?!

I was lucky enough to get a copy of Giada's new book at ALA 2013...but unlucky enough to be too far back in the line, and she had to leave before I could get it signed (wah wah...).  And so!  The first in Giada's new middle-grade series!

Recipe for Adventure: Naples! is a fun story about Alfie (short for Alfredo), his sister Emilia, and their great-aunt, Zia Donatella.  With a bite of magic zeppole, Alfie and Emilia are transported to Naples, where they become friends with a boy named Marco.  Marco's got to find all the best ingredients, so his family can win the annual pizza festival- but someone from another restaurant is following them!

This was such a cute story!  It kind of reminded me of Magic Tree House...but with food.  Which makes it a bit better, in my opinion :-)  It's a good intro to the Italian language- the characters insert Italian phrases throughout the book.  Sometimes there are explanations, sometimes you just have to take it in context, but either way, it's helping kids learn.  On top of learning new languages, the reader learns some of the finer points of cooking and ingredient selection.  And if you read this without becoming hungry...I don't know what to say.  As soon as I closed it I told my husband I wanted to make pizza...real pizza.  Luckily, the book also comes with two recipe cards: one for Zeppole, and one for Tomato-Basil Pizza.

I look forward to forthcoming books in the series (Paris is next, I believe!)  It's fun and educational, and this one focused on the importance of family.  Good for both boys and girls, especially ones interested in travel and/or cooking!

Giada De Laurentiis's Recipe for Adventure: Naples! is published by Grosset & Dunlap (an imprint of Penguin Group USA, Inc.)  Bound Galley received at ALA 2013.
Release Date: 09.03.2013

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Oh, Rainbow did it again.

This is the third time I've stolen away during work breaks, cut my workout short, and ignored my bedtime (5 AM comes oh so early...) to finish one of your books.  Where I can't wait to get back to your characters, and can't seem to get out from that blurred reality/fiction line and think I'm actually friends with them.  Which I guess goes really well with this new book!

Fangirl, the new YA novel by Rainbow Rowell, takes a look at fanfiction culture- and being a college freshman.  Socially awkward Cath writes fanfiction about Simon Snow (a Harry Potter-like character), and has made a name for herself in that world.  However, college throws a wrench into her introverted life- her roommate is mean, her twin sister won't talk to her, her Dad is manic, and there's a boy that won't leave her alone.  She just wants to stay in and write, but things keep forcing her to leave her comfort zone.  Will Cath learn to live in the real world? Or will she stay in her stories?

If you couldn't tell from my first paragraph, I loved this book.  It may be my Introverted, INFJ-ishness, but I related SO much to Cath!  Or as I wrote in my notebook "I have Cath-like tendencies!"  

The novel threw me back to my college days- dorm living, pushy professors (those are always the best ones, though, right?)  It also reminded me of how I preferred to stay in reading & watching movies until someone would pull me out into a social setting.

Rowell writes such real characters- smart, funny, flawed, awkward.  A board member and I even discussed last night after our meeting how real Eleanor & Park was.  She had said she didn't like the ending, but she loved the book- "Everything was just very...real," she said.  I agreed, and that is one of the Rainbow Rowell novels I devoured in a single day.  I genuinely liked the key players in Fangirl, and the few I didn't like were for good reason (they were well-written a-holes!)

And so, I will just leave this at: if you are an introvert, socially awkward, reader/writer of fanfiction (or a reader/writer in general), have dysfunction in your family, and love little "aw" moments- read this.  I can't say enough good things about it.

Fangirl is published by Macmillan.  ARC received from publisher at ALA 2013.
Release Date: 09.10.2013

Friday, August 23, 2013

Personal Statement

Ah...I needed this.

In This Together Media is an awesome publishing company that publishes books about real girls [insert Pinocchio joke here].  But seriously, when I was contacted to review the book, and started reading about this company- how could I not get behind it!  Girls need to know they can be smart and strong, and also that they don't need to see each other as competition- we should build each other up.  So!  Follow the link!  Learn more!

Personal Statement by Jason Odell Williams is a hilarious satire on the college admission "game."  Emily, Rani and Robert are from upscale Connecticut, and all have motives to be the best.  Not just the best grades, but also philanthropy.  When a Class 3 hurricane makes its way to the New England coast, they jump on the opportunity to make themselves stand out! Told from the perspective of the three teens, and a 20-something observer who's already been through it all, Personal Statement  takes a look at the dirty underbelly of college admissions...competitive volunteering.

This...this was everything I wanted the movie Admission to be.  Coincidentally, I got the e-mail asking to review the book as I was setting up our overly-complicated physical media-playing system to watch Admission.  I figured it was a sign.  [Note: Admission was good!  Just not what I expected humor-wise.]

The cast is refreshingly diverse!  Smart and snarky, real, and not a WASP among them (says the WASP reviewing...).  I was laughing from page one at the humor, but also at the truths revealed about college, admissions, debt, etc.  I was nodding with a "So true!" every few pages.  And, lots of pop culture references!

Also, jealous of these lucky New Englanders.  Whenever I say I'm from Maine I have to follow up with "but the town was kind of King of the Hill-ish...but with Downeast accents.  Not really what you see on postcards."  These kids are postcard people.

This was an original, hilarious satire.  Anyone who has been through the college admissions process, or is about to go through it, should probably read this.  I kind of want it to be made into a movie, and then shown at school assemblies.  I'm also going to take a look at the other books from In This Together probably should, too.

Personal Statement is published by In This Together Media.  Review copy graciously provided by the publisher.
Released: 08.01.2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

Into That Forest

Into That Forest by Louis Nowra, was actually published in Australia in September 2012.  I am SO glad it's being reprinted here in the US soon!

Two young girls, Hannah and Rebecca, survive a flood and end up washed upon the shore of the Tasmanian bush.  They are taken in by two tigers who raise them as their own, as they've lost cubs.  As the girls adapt, they lose their language- becoming more tiger than girl.  When they are rescued and returned to civilization, the adjustment is much harder than anyone could have imagined.

This story has such beautiful narration, a musical dialect with relearned English.  The narrator, our young (well, now old) Hannah, weaves such a beautiful, heartbreaking tale.  I picked this up thinking "Cool! A new kind of Jungle Book."  But no.  Yes, there are similarities,  There is little happy about this story.  

I was impressed by the attention paid toward the whole whaling career.  As a recovering Moby Dick reader, I still shied away from anything with whaling.  Into That Forest made it interesting.  It's incredible, seeing the transformation the girls take from young ladies, to feral half-humans, back to...I guess broken, unfamiliar humans.  Actually, if anyone saw the horror movie Mama...that's kind of what I pictured while reading.  

I'm grateful I read this one on my Kindle, as there's a lot of Tasmanian slang.  Also, be warned, there are no chapters and very few breaks.

And as interesting, and just altogether amazingly well-written as this was...I need to take a break from sad books.  I think the next few reviews will be for some fun YA and graphic novels.

I would absolutely recommend this to those who enjoy learning about other countries, and are interested in wilderness survival.

Into That Forest is published by Skyscape (Amazon Children's Publishing).  Digital ARC provided by Amazon.
Originally published by Allen and Unwin.
US release date: 09.03.2013

Friday, August 16, 2013

Somebody Up There Hates You

Did anyone read Lurlene McDaniels' books?  You know, the ones where a teen has a terminal illness, and falls in love, and starts to get better, and then tragedy strikes and you're left with an empty box of tissues?  

This isn't quite like that.

Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon is a YA novel about a boy with cancer.  Young Richard Casey is 17 years old, has cancer, and is now spending is final days in hospice care.  With Sylvie, the girl across the hall, and a cast of patients, caregivers, and family, Richie makes the most of the time he has left.

I went into this with some skepticism- is this going to be another Fault in Our Stars?  I'm happy to say, the two are completely different.  Apart from teenage romance...and terminal illness.  I felt Somebody Up There Hates You was much grittier.  It dealt with the graphic, medical aspects of cancer- and as sad as it was, Richie's narration had me laughing out loud on a fairly regular basis.  Actually, I was laughing by the end of the first page.

Now, the books does get a bit American Pie-y, with our main characters not wanting to die virgins,'s real.  And I mean, at this point, the raging teen boy hormones are about the only normal thing left for Richie.  Also, remembering that Richie is a teen boy, with those raging hormones, don't be surprised at some of the raunchiness that makes its way in there.

The cast of characters is great- from the awesome nurses, Edward and Jeannette, to Richie's black sheep Uncle Phil, to the "harpy" (an old woman with crazy hair who plays the harp in the lobby...all. day. long.) and the two old men across the hall. These aren't one-dimensional characters, they're real with real experiences, and real problems.  There's actually a great quote from Edward to Richie, about how the world is "universally sad" and all people hurt, and basically, don't be a douche canoe.

This isn't a happy story, but it takes something tragic and makes it...human.  Life has a range of emotions, and this book has them all.  Anger, hurt, hormones, laughter, sadness, concern...

Again, it's raunchy and gritty, sad and probably for older teens.  But good.

Somebody Up There Hates You is published by Alognquin Young Readers.  ARC graciously provided by the publisher.
Release Date: 09.03.2013

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Here I Am

Have you ever gone to a new country?  Where everything looks strange, different, even scary? You can't understand what anyone around you is saying?  I can kind of relate; when I was 16 I spent a summer in Greece.  It was gorgeous, but there was a lot of adapting/being confused...and I knew I would be heading back to my home country.

This is not the case with our young protagonist in this new picture book.

Here I Am by Patti Kim (and illustrated by Sonia Sanchez) is a wordless picture book about a boy who immigrates to the United States from Korea.  His treasured souvenir from home is a beautiful red seed, which he uses to imagine life back in Korea.  One day, his seed falls out the window and is picked up by a little girl jumping rope.  As the boy leaves his house to follow the little girl, and get his seed back, he embarks on a wondrous tour of the city.  He meets a wide array of characters, and comes to realize this new place isn't so bad.

Words aren't needed, as the beautiful illustrations convey all the noise and confusion into which the little boy and his family fly.  Using non-linear progression and beautiful mixed media, Here I Am shows us a boy's journey to a new land, new language, and new friends.  The gibberish on the signs shows readers what the boy is seeing.

This would be a great book for anyone.  For those new to a language and country, they can see that others have made this journey.  For those who are local to the country, they can try to understand where new kids are coming from.  Since the book is wordless, it can appeal to both at the same time!  With its beautiful illustrations, and universal message, I would recommend this book to everyone.  Definitely want a copy for my library, and a copy for myself!

Also, from Capstone, here's a great book trailer!

Here I Am is published by Capstone Young Readers.  Digital ARC provided by NetGalley.
Release Date: 09.02.2013

Saturday, August 10, 2013


I needed a bit of a break from fairy tales and realistic I chose some YA horror!

Sick by Tom Leveen is your typical zombie apocalypse/outbreak horror novel.  Brian and his friends are the school misfits/troublemakers.  Due to an accident when the school had an open campus, a high wall with spikes has been erected around their huge, Phoenix high school.  Brian and his best friend Chad scale the wall regularly to cut class.   One day, though, they come back into the school to a violent viral outbreak, and a building on lockdown.  Turned into crystallized, rage-filled zombies, students and teachers are attacking the healthy ones.  Brian and Chad hole up in the drama department, and try to figure out how to reach Brian's twin sister Kenzie, and his ex-girlfriend (whom he still likes) Laura.  Both are on the other side of the school, with the living dead between them. 

The description said it was Breakfast Club meets The Walking Dead; it reminded me more of Lord of the Flies meets The Faculty...meets The Walking Dead.  An entertaining, fairly quick read, it gave me what I expect from a zombie story.

I was a bit put off by some of the dialogue, but this comes from someone who constantly has to remind teenage boys of appropriate language, etc. at the library- so, it may have just been my professional self creeping in.  Leveen's descriptions, though- wow!  Vivid and gory, super fast-paced...two thumbs up for that!  Just don't make the mistake I did and try to read it during lunch- though, that could become a new diet craze ("Just read a highly graphic, gory novel while you try to eat, and watch the pounds melt away!")

There wasn't much new zombie-wise in this book, though, I did like that Brian's Mom was a doctor and could kind of explain what was going on with the virus.  There were also some new visual descriptions I liked- physical changes, as well as motor skills.  The attack motive was good, too, and ties into a backstory. 

All in all, entertaining horror.  If you're into zombie books, you'll probably like it.  Cell it is not, but if you aren't super-picky about the genre, give it a go!

Sick is published by Amulet (an imprint of Abrams).  Digital ARC provided by NetGalley.
Release Date: 10.01.13

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Jim Henson's The Storyteller

I briefly mentioned The Storyteller Jim Henson TV series in my review post of far far away. I watched that show when I was pretty young (4 years old, to be exact)...and will absolutely admit The Soldier and Death episode left me a bit scarred.  As I got older, I got over the flying red demons and purchased the DVD of the series.  It's pretty awesome. I mean, Sean Bean (The True Bride) when he's super young?  Yes, please! Plus, John Hurt as the Storyteller, Brian Henson as The's just a great introduction to folktales from around the world.  Needless to say, I was ecstatic to get to review the new paperback edition of the graphic novel (published in 2011).

Now, "beginning as I do at the beginning and starting as I must at the start..."

Jim Henson's The Storyteller  includes 9 stories- some well known to us, like Puss In Boots; others are a bit more obscure, like The Frog Who Became An Emperor.  Each tale is prefaced with some interaction between the Storyteller and his dog, because something has to remind him of one of his stories!

Different artists tackle different tales- the Old Fire Dragaman story had the illustrations I was expecting, while the bluish hues of Puss in Boots really brought out its fairy tale-ness.  My all-time favorite of the illustrations, though, were those in The Crane Wife.  I liked the story, too- kind of a play on the Cupid & Psyche story.

The Witch Baby was most like the TV series- the way it wove in and out of the Storyteller's narration and being in the story.  It is told by Tarot cards, and kind of a breaking of the fourth wall.  I later found that The Witch Baby was an unproduced episode from the teleplay (which explains a lot).  Honestly, I'm kind of glad it wasn't produced.  It was just...weird.  Disturbing. 

This is a rare occasion where I'll say I liked the movie (or in this case, TV series) better.  There's something about the oral/aural tradition that goes along with folklore. I did like the graphic novel, but I'm holding it to a high storytelling standard that's been in my mind for a quarter of a century.  I didn't care for some of the illustrations, but some were amazing.  Given the variety in the novel, though, I do think there would be something for everyone.

I would recommend this to those who liked the original series (folks who have seen The Labyrinth [starring David Bowie's, um...package] will recognize the dog's voice as Hoggle's!)  I'd also recommend it to those who like folklore in general, and graphic novels.

"All stories are true to someone."- The Storyteller

Jim Henson's The Storyteller is published by Archaia.  Digital ARC provided by NetGalley.
Release Date (of paperback edition): 08.13.2013

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Donna Jo Napoli has her own section on my bookshelf.  I first read her in Jr. High, but can't for the life of me remember if it was Sirena (the Little Mermaid) or The Magic Circle (Hansel & Gretel from the witch's perspective) that caught me first.  I have always loved her takes on fairy tales, as well as historical fiction (e.g. The Smile about Mona Lisa).

Skin,  however, is not a fairy tale.  It is the story of Sep (short for Giuseppina) who is sixteen, and has olive, Italian skin.  She wakes up on the first day of school her Junior year to find her lips have turned white.  She covers them with lipstick, but as days go on, the white spreads over her skin.  Over the next weeks Sep deals with school, friendships, a new boyfriend, and dance...all the while feeling her time as a "normal" person will be cut short as the vitiligo takes over.  

I have to say, this is one of Napoli's steamiest novels.  Had to set the book down and fan myself a couple of times, lol.  It's a coming-of-age novel, and there are quite a few awkward firsts.  Some may be shocked by how quickly Sep takes things to the next level with her boyfriend, but one has to remember the sense of urgency she feels with the vitiligo (yes, what Michael Jackson had) spreading.

While not a fairy tale, there is some mythology thrown in!  There are references to Daphne & Apollo, as well as Vishnu & Ganesha   There was also a lot of education- on both the disease and animal biology.  For being a fiction novel, there was quite a bit of non-fiction/reference about tuna, swifts, etc.

While Sep deals with her new skin, her friendships, her heartbreak, and her passions, one thing she takes away is that Life Goes On.  There's no need to hide who you truly are.  Or as Dr. Seuss so wonderfully put it: “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”

I would recommend this to those who enjoy Napoli's other books, those interested in vitiligo, and realistic YA fiction.

Skin is published by Skyscape (Amazon Children's Publishing).  ARC provided by Amazon.
Release Date: 08.06.2013 (today!)

Thursday, August 1, 2013


So, there's been a hiccup in posting this week; we're getting ready for a road trip to New York (Niagara area, not Concrete Jungle area) and then I was going to regale you all with a review of Donna Jo Napoli's new YA novel Skin (which so far is wonderful!) but got rear-ended by a Range Rover yesterday morning so am dealing with all that, and walking around like C-3PO (and trying desperately not to talk like him).

And so, in a non-review blog post, I am going to leave you with some interactions of the week.  Because my job rocks.

Little boy looking at me, then his mom as I exited the bathroom and then saying in bewilderment "She went to the bathroom? BY HERSELF!?!" and then his Mom responded with "That's because she's a big girl."

Little boy just got his library card, comes in the department, points at me behind the desk and loudly whispers to his mom "WHAT'S SHE HERE FOR!?!"
I smile and stage whisper back "I'm here to help you!"

He grinned, ran over...and I helped him find a movie.

And now, this morning-

5 year old girl: Math hard for you?
Me: Yes, but that just means I had to work harder at it. I'm better at English. My sister is better at Math, so she had to work harder at English.
5 year old [grabs paper and pencil; writes out her phone number]: You can call me.
[walks away]

---I promise there will be reviews again early next week; after the first Covey reunion in 20 years :D  --