Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Naturals


I've seen enough SVU and other crime shows that I thought I had this one figured out...I did not.  Which is great!

Jennifer Lynn Barnes' The Naturals is the first in a new series. Seventeen-year-old Cassie is good at reading the tiniest of details, and figuring out a person's story to a T.  So far, though, she's used it to guess customer orders at the local diner.  When the FBI comes to recruit her, she is brought into a world of killers, cold cases...and other teens with similar gifts.  A serial killer is striking, though, and a bit too close to home for Cassie.  Will she be able to use her gift to save herself and others?

The Naturals was gritty and suspenseful, while still Teen-ish?  It's told primarily in first person, with Cassie as our narrator; occasionally, though, it switches to a disturbing second person POV.  From the first second-person narrative, I was hooked (and creeped out).

To be honest, I thought Cassie and the others would have supernatural, X-men-esque abilities.  The fact that it was all profiling, etc, makes it so much cooler! 

The characters are likable--interestingly enough, Cassie wasn't at the top of my character favorites.  For some reason I really liked Lia, the resident liar.  I liked interactions the teens had with each other, and wondered about each past.   Actually, as sick as I am of series (for the time being anyway) I am looking forward to this branching into stories of each kid: Lia, Sloane, Michael, more of Dean...

There's a love triangle, but it's not the most compelling.  I almost wish it had been left out completely and maybe developed throughout the series.  Cassie also says she "should have" done well, a lot of things.  I got to where I highlighted every time she said she "should have [done this]" or "should have [done that]."  Those minor things aside, though, I enjoyed the book.

This would be great for anyone who likes shows like Cold Case, The Mentalist, Profiler and any of the Law & Orders.  Highly recommended for teens who like crime shows.

The Naturals is published by Disney-Hyperion.  Digital ARC provided by NetGalley.
Release Date: 11.05.2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I Am Pusheen The Cat

Oh my...what adorable cattishness is this!?!  (and this is coming from a non-cat lady Librarian)

Before reviewing this book, the one and only time I had seen Pusheen was this meme that Dramafever shared back in April (which is absolutely what I do when I watch K-dramas) and didn't know the cat had a name: 

Although, looking at the color differences now, is it a Pusheen friend?

I Am Pusheen the Cat by Claire Belton, is a cute, funny collection of kitty comics.

I really wasn't sure what to expect, but this had me snorting, snickering, and chortling.  There's a section on Pusheen's No-Shave November Styling Suggestions...I died.  I mean, there's one called the "butt-stache."  Apparently my 10-year old self came out while reading this, because there were tears.

There are 5 sections that allow you to get to know Pusheen, her friend/sibling Stormy, how to be a cat, etc.  There's a collection of kitty horror stories, as well as some baking instructions.  The book also includes handy tips on everything from uses for marshmallows to tech support.

The style kind of reminded me of the Scaredy Squirrel series, including his Guide to Christmas and Guide to Halloween.  However, I think Pusheen is MUCH cuter, and funnier.

Anyone who has, or has had (like yours truly), a cat will really appreciate the situations Pusheen gets in.  If you've read and enjoyed The Oatmeal's "My Dog, the Paradox", I think you'll like this.

Also, I really want this Ramyun-eating Pusheen T-shirt from HeyChickadee:

I Am Pusheen the Cat is published by Touchstone (an imprint of Simon & Schuster).  Digital ARC provided by NetGalley.
Release Date: 10.29.2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


So....I grew up on Christian YAish fiction.  The Christy Miller series, the Elizabeth Gail Dobbs series...super girly, wholesome and admittedly, I still re-read them from time to time.  However...alien shisa & zombie-like victims were never a part of that.

And that is why I think Sanctuary by Pauline Creeden is awesome.  It's totally not what you'd expect from "religious" fiction!

Alien spaceships have been hovering for months, dimming the sun, and poisoning the water supply.  People are dying left and right, no one is safe.  After killing 1/3 of the population with the water contamination, alien beasts that look like shisa are sent out to attack people.  They don't kill them, but the victims wish they did.  Jennie, home from college, tries to find the strength to protect her brother.  The journey to safety is a hard one, full of colorful characters and horrible situations.  Will she find (dun dun dun) sanctuary?

I really enjoyed this.  Like I said before, it's not your typical, preachy religious fiction.  Faith absolutely comes into play, but it isn't shoved down your throat.

The story is action-packed, and told from three different perspectives: Jennie, our main protagonist; Hugh, a science teacher from her old high school, aka "Hot Mr. Harris;" and Brad, Hugh's playboy younger brother, who's kind of a douche canoe.  Other characters that come into play are Jennie's 5-year old brother Mickey, and Pastor & Mrs. Crawford- who take everyone in.

I'm trying to think of the best way to describe it...Walking Dead meets X-Files meets Left Behind? Coincidentally, I finished this just before my hubby and I watched This is the End.  It made for some interesting dreams last night...

All in all, great YA religious horror fiction (I still love that "religious" or "Christian" and "horror" are in the same description).  

Sanctuary is published by All Night Reads.  Digital ARC provided by NetGalley.
Release Date: 10.10.2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Weird! Dare! Tough! [Bullying Series]

The Weird Series by Erin Frankel, illustrated by Paula Heaphy, is a trilogy about bullying that would be appropriate for elementary ages (but also adults working with children).

In Weird! Luisa is the kid being bullied (she speaks Spanish and wears polka dots!)  Dare! is from the perspective of Jayla, a bystander, and former victim of bullying, watching Luisa's struggles.  Tough! is about Sam, the bully.  The colors in the illustrations pop, and add to the story.  It's interesting to note things that carry over from one book to the next.

This trilogy of bullying and conflict resolution from different perspectives would be a great addition to any home and library.  Each book is great as a stand-alone, but the three together are powerful.

Each book comes with a series of thought-provoking questions, a letter from the main character explaining how they felt and why they took the actions they did.  There's a teacher's guide (well, Leader guide), an Activity Corner, and information for both adults and kids on approaching the issue of bullying.  I think some good discussions would come from sharing this with your children or students.

Note: Also meets Common Core standards.

The Weird Series is published by Free Spirit Publishing.  Digital ARCs provided by NetGalley.
Release Date: 09.01.2013

Sunday, October 13, 2013


What if the only clue to who you were was the title of your iPod playlist?

One day, 17-year old Sia wakes up on a park bench, in her running gear, with no idea who she is. After a week navigating the rough streets, and being taken in by homeless Carol, she is reunited with her family.  Remembering nothing, she finds she was the school's Queen Mean Girl.  Horrified by who she was, she seeks to rectify past hurts and mend family dysfunctions.  Most people like the new Sia, but what will happen when her memory returns?

Sia, written by Josh Grayson, has a great message, and the characters reminded me a lot of The O.C. TV show.  However, after the first third-ish, I was kind of put off by how easily everything changed for Sia--just because she was nice now.  There's a situation with her alcoholic mother, and after one conversation she lets down her guard...after fighting up to that point of the book.  Another thing that had me throwing my hands up, yelling "Why!?! Why are you telling everyone that!?!" was her telling anyone who would listen her family's impending financial situation.  Though, I guess if I was so into it I yelled at a character, that speaks to some good writing :)

Those minor details aside, I loved the premise. I also loved Carol, the homeless lady who befriends Sia, and I appreciated their relationship.  It's a good lesson for kids to learn- that you never know a) what others have been through, and b) who's going to make a difference in your life.

While I think there are other books on the "bad girl gone good" front that some teens would like more, this one would be appropriate for those in more conservative households.  No sex, no profanity (that I can recall...maybe some minor stuff)- nothing terribly offensive, and I find that wholly refreshing.  Ah...just saw the screenplay will be submitted to Disney and ABC Family next year.  Actually, I think it would be perfect in that context!

It's an enjoyable read, and if you're not frustrated by the minor things I mentioned, go for it!  It's absolutely appropriate for younger tween/teen girls.  It's also intriguing as far as getting me to Google "fugue amnesia."

Sia is self-published by Josh Grayson.  Digital ARC provided by NetGalley.
Release Date: 11.20.2013

Saturday, October 5, 2013


Who would you blame if your books started disappearing?

The Snatchabook is a picture book written by Helen Docherty & Thomas Docherty.  Eliza Brown lives in Burrow Down, where animals enjoy their nightly bedtime stories.  But! The stories are disappearing!  Eliza stays up late to see what's going on, and meets the book thief- the little Snatchabook, who is only stealing them because he has no one to read him a bedtime story.  Eliza helps him see the error of his ways, and the Snatchabook rights his wrongs (and even makes some friends).

This is a brilliantly written and illustrated bedtime story!  I dare you to read this and not start reading it out loud (I read it with the cadence I do with "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening").  I liked how Eliza helped the Snatchabook, and kind of took him under her wing.  Something kids can definitely learn from.

The illustrations are adorable.  I may get a little freaked out if I ever meet a Snatchabook the first time, but it's still cute.  I loved the setting illustrations- the lines of the grass and burrow and trees; the midnight blues, moonlit hues, and yellow glow of reading lights.  And the animals are just so cute!

This is definitely a book that should be part of your bedtime story repertoire.

The Snatchabook is published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.  Digital ARC provided by NetGalley.
Published: 10.01.2013

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Seven Deadlies

What...did I just read?

Seven Deadlies by Gigi Levangie is a novel compiling seven stories on the seven deadly sins.  Perry, the brainy, down-to-earth, daughter of a nurse, tells us the misadventures of the students she tutors in her ritzy, Beverly Vista high school.

I had such high hopes, and yet I'm so disappointed.  This had all the makings of a dark, Dahl-esque cautionary tale, but the writing was so convoluted.  And the ending?  Huh?

I wanted to like this so much, and there were a few of the tales that were better than others (I really liked "Gluttony" & "Greed").  I also liked the style of the novel- dividing the chapters as letters written to a board.  However, the narration left a lot to be desired; our narrator, Perry, goes off on tangents that leave us confused.

I am a fan of hyperbole & allegory, and when used well it can make a great point.  However, this was so ridiculous at times, I felt the point was lost.  It's really sad, because I enjoyed Levangie's novel The Starter Wife.  It looks like Seven Deadlies is going to be made into a TV series- as unimpressed as I was with the book, I do think it will translate well to television.  Maybe it will cause us to care about the characters more.

I'm still torn on what I thought...I did find it entertaining...but again, the narration (to me) just took away from everything else.

If you're going to go for a book on being a good human being- stick with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  It wasn't bad...but there are better.

Seven Deadlies is published by Penguin USA.  Digital ARC provided by NetGalley.
Release Date: 10.17.2013

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

{Blog Tour--Fairy Tale Comics} Interview with Gigi D.G.

You KNOW how much I love graphic novels, especially ones from :01 First Second.  I recently reviewed their most recent anthology, Fairy Tale Comics- a collection of 17 fairy tales by 17 different cartoonists.  I'm thrilled to be part of the Fairy Tale Comics blog tour- please, PLEASE follow the entire thing here.  Many great blogs are interviewing these talented illustrators.

I fell in love with the style of the "Little Red Riding Hood" re-telling, and jumped at the chance to interview artist Gigi D.G.  Huge thanks to Gina Gagliano and :01 First Second for setting this whole thing up.

Now, without further ado, my Q&A with Gigi:

First off, did you always know you would to be a cartoonist? I ask because, despite my love of reading and daydreaming, the thought of being a librarian didn’t occur to me until after 3 different majors and a stint in musical theatre in California :)

It can definitely take a while to find yourself! For a while in high school, I considered studying French or Japanese and pursuing a career in translating. I was pretty serious about it, too! But art has always been my first love, so I think becoming a cartoonist was inevitable.

Are there any cartoonists/artists that have influenced you?

Erté and Tadahiro Uesugi are two of my favorite illustrators, and the work of Mary Blair was a huge influence during my art school days. I also draw a lot of inspiration from the art direction of video games like Kirby's Adventure and Paper Mario.

What tools do you use?  And what is your preferred medium?

I like watercolors and gouache from time to time, but my preferred medium is digital. I usually work in Photoshop.

How often do you draw?

As a children’s librarian, I have to ask: were there any picture books that inspired you, or that you kept coming back to, when you were younger?
I remember really enjoying Miss Spider's Tea Party by David Kirk and The Stinky Cheese Man by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. And, while I didn't grow up with it, I adore the work of Mo Willems.

Do you read a lot of comics?

Admittedly not as many as I should, but Yotsuba&! by Kiyohiko Azuma is one of my all-time favorites.

What does your illustrating process look like?

Messy! My sketches are usually very loose, and I like to lay down huge blobs of color as quickly as possible, then slowly chisel away at them until the final product reveals itself.

Where is your drawing space?  What does it look like?  (asks the girl with wind-up sushi, Adventure Time miniatures, and Korean wedding dolls on her desk)

At the time of writing, I've just moved into a new apartment, so my work station is still a little barren. But there isthe giant, stuffed Donkey (from Shrek) that my friend sent me as a joke a few years ago. He's there.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

I like baking. Actually, I just baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies to celebrate the move.

What was your reaction when approached to contribute to Fairy Tale Comics?

Surprise! I was incredibly honored to be asked to participate in a project with so many amazing illustrators, some whose work I've known and loved for years, and I honestly felt a little out of my league. Even now, it's surreal (in a great way!) to see my name in the table of contents.

When did you decide to do the character twist with the lumberjack, and what influenced that twist?
I like ladies taking active roles in old-fashioned fairy tales, so I figured there was no reason not to have a female lumberjack. I was discouraged from making any radical changes to the original Red Riding Hood story, so I was worried that the change might be overstepping my boundaries, but the folks at First Second were very receptive.

What is your favorite fairy tale/folktale?

I loved Sleeping Beauty as a kid, and it still has a place in my heart.

I checked out Cucumber Quest (and I love it!)- what was your inspiration for the story and characters?

Thank you! Cucumber Quest was largely inspired by the video games I grew up with, both in storytelling and visuals. Though it pokes fun at a few "hero's journey" conventions, I don't consider it a parody--at its heart, Cucumber Quest is a very genuine, very silly adventure story that kids and adults can enjoy.

What advice would you give to new artists out there?

Keep drawing what makes you happy! It can be easy to forget what drew you to art in the first place, especially if you pursue it as a career. Always work hard and keep learning, but don't forget to have fun with it, too.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me!  I look forward to seeing more of your work!

Thank you for the interview!

Fairy Tale Comics was published a mere week ago- that means you can go get it now!  Also, you should check out Gigi's webcomic Cucumber Quest.  You can also follow her on Twitter Tumblr.