Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Fave Books of 2009!

Wow. 2009 seemed to be a really busy reading year for everyone!

Well, my official books read total was 205. I thought that I had read more, but the official "Books Read" monthly notebook does not lie. That total is books I read for fun, ones I reviewed for SLJ, and ones that I listened to in audiobook format.

Here is a list of some of my favorite books from this past year, broken into my own "genre" categories (or stolen from yabooknerd's fantastic year end list). Not all of these books were published in 2009. I tried really hard this past year to read books that were recommended to me over and over, some of them being much older!

In no particular order:

Best Endings of Great Series
The Last Olympian - Rick Riordan

Silvertongue - Charlie Fletcher

Best Follow Up Book
Everwild - Neal Shusterman

Best Fantasy Books
Eon: Dragoneye Reborn - Alison Goodman

The Books of Umber: Happenstance Found - P.W. Catanese

Quick and Fun Paranormal Romance
Moonlight - Rachel Hawthorne

Best Ghost Story
The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman

Best Realistic Fiction
The Summer I Turned Pretty - Jenny Han

Best Science Fiction AND Flat Out Romance Triangle (Quadrangle?)
The Host - Stephenie Meyer

Best Steampunk
Leviathan - Scott Westerfeld

Best Dystopia Novels
The Maze Runner - James Dashner

Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins

Best Mythology Book
Radiant Darkness - Emily Whitman

Best Mystery
Death by Bikini - Linda Gerber

Best New "Got Me Hooked" Series
Chicagoland Vampires - Chloe Neill

Best Tween Book
Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life - Wendy Mass

Best Adventure
Bloody Jack - L.A. Meyer

Best Fairy Tale Retellings

Hush: An Irish Princess' Tale - Donna Jo Napoli

Princess Ben - Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Best "New to Me" Author
Maria V. Snyder - Poison Trilogy, Glass Trilogy

Utterly Shocking, Yet Compelling
Living Dead Girl - Elizabeth Scott

Book That Had Me Bawling
Before I Die - Jenny Downham

Best Use of Librarians in Story
Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians - Brian Sanderson

Historical Fiction
Samurai Shortstop - Alan Gratz

Killer Unicorns, Need I Say More?
Rampant - Diana Peterfreund

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Favorite Christmas Books

In the spirit of tomorrow's holiday, Christmas!!, I thought I would share my favorite Christmas books.

About three years ago, my mother gave me the book, Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. It is the book that inspired the movie, Christmas with the Kranks. What a wonderful story!! It's about a couple, the Kranks, that are fed up with the hoopla of the holidays and decide that because their grown daughter will not be coming home for Christmas, they will instead take a cruise over the holidays! Their decision to boycott offends everyone in their neighborhood and at work, and soon they are at odds with everyone they know, but they are standing firm in their decision...until Blair calls to say that she is coming home, after all! As they panic, their neighbors and friends pull together to help them make this holiday the best ever for their daughter. It's a touching story of people coming together at the holidays and recognizing that the holidays really are about friends and family instead of all the muss and fuss.

Then, of course, there a favorite of children and adults alike...The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. A wonderful picture book, also recently turned into a movie, telling the story of a boy who is unsure whether or not he still believes in Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve, he is magically whisked to the North Pole on the Polar Express. The train takes them directly to Santa's magic workshop and all the children on the train are able to experience the wonder of the holiday. This boy is also chosen to receive the first gift of Christmas and chooses one of the sleigh's beautiful silver bells. He loses it on his way home and is momentarily devestated, but finds it wrapped from Santa under the tree on Christmas morning. The best part of the story, though, (the part that always, always, makes me cry) is that only those that believe in Santa can hear the bell jingle and slowly everyone but the boy loses the ability to hear it. He never stops believing!

So, in the spirit of these wonderful tales...
Merry Christmas to All!!!

Whoo Hoo - Mari Mancusi Book Giveaway Contest!

Check out this huge pile o'books that Mari Mancusi is giving away for the holidays!!

Want to check out the details and enter?
Go to her blog at:, then get follow her directions for reblogging, tweeting, etc. and you could win!

Keep your fingers crossed for me (and I'll keep'em crossed for you if you enter too!)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


by Neal Shusterman

The Skinjacker Trilogy: Book 2

There was the rumor of a beautiful sky witch, who soared across the heavens in a great silver balloon. And there were whispers of a terrible ogre made entirely of chocolate, who lured unsuspecting souls with that rich promising smell, only to cast them down a bottomless pit from which there was no return.

Everlost, the limbo land of dead children, is at war. Nick the "Chocolate Ogre" wants to help the children of Everlost reach the light at the end of the tunnel. Mary Hightower, self-proclaimed queen of lost children and dangerous fanatic, is determined to keep Everlost's children trapped within its limbo for all eternity. Traveling in the memory of the Hindenburg, Mary is spreading her propaganda and attracting Afterlights to her cause at a frightening speed.

Meanwhile, Allie the Outcast travels home to seek out her parents, along with Mikey, who was once the terrifying monster the McGill. Allie is tempted by the seductive thrill of skinjacking the living, until she learns a shocking secret: Those who skinjack are not actually dead.

It had been awhile since I read Everlost, which came out in 2006, so at first I had a little trouble remembering what had transpired in the first book. Once I sorted things out mentally, though, this book sucked me right in and blew me away! Shusterman is a master at creating a new world with its own distinct rules and mores. Each character grows in interesting and revealing ways. Mary Hightower's progression into a dangerous fanatic was especially disturbing and compelling to read! There are so many revelations and twists in this book, it's incredible that it still flows in a distinct storyline. When I finished this book, I literally had to pause to catch my breath and now I am upset that the final book in the trilogy is not yet published.

Highly recommended!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Summer I Turned Pretty

The Summer I Turned Pretty
by Jenny Han

Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer -- they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one wonderful and terrible summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.

This is my first Jenny Han book, though I've heard great things about Shug and I keep meaning to go and read it. This book was wonderful. Belly is a very realistic feel her awkwardness, her earnestness, her yearning for love, her "brattiness." She is what I think I was as a fifteen year old. Han has a beautiful way of drawing the reader in. You know, or at least have an inkling of what's really happening, but still she surprises and tells each scene with such delicacy that it is truly wonderful storytelling.

Having had the experience of finding out that someone in your family has cancer and then having to live with the fallout...realizing that life never will be the same, and yet, needing to continue on in life as much as possible, this book really spoke to me personally. I was pulling for everyone in the book with all my heart. It was realistic and yet, left me filled with wonder and hope. Highly recommended.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Interview on yabooknerd

I'm not trying to toot my own horn, but I just wanted to give a shout-out to my friend, Jen, who kindly interviewed me on her blog, "yabooknerd." It's a fantastic blog, so if you don't already read it check it out!!

Check out the interview here.

Hope you enjoy reading it. I definitely had fun answering some of these questions!!

Thursday Tween Talk - Dec. 17

At our library, we run a "Tween Time" program for students in grades 4-8 every first and third Wednesday of the month. We try to rotate between book related, craft, active, and "other" programs to keep the tweens guessing...and coming back!

Yesterday, we did our second annual "Holiday Gifts Workshop" for our Tween Time program. We gave the tweens all the supplies to make five different crafts and let them go at it for an hour. They had a blast and came out with some great looking homemade gifts to take to their families for Christmas, Hannukah, or whichever holiday they celebrate.

The crafts that we suggested they make were recycled greeting card ball ornaments, beaded candy cane ornaments, popsicle stick sleds, popsicle stick frames, beaded bracelets, and felt magnets.

We're planning a break now until February. We found last year that our January attendance really suffered between the weather, people recovering from the holidays, and other factors, so on the first Wed. in February, we're kicking off again with "Chocolate Day." YUM.

I can't wait for our Spring line-up of programs...we have a ton of great stuff planned. Chocolate Day, Life-Size Monopoly, Clay Crafts, Wii Fun, a "Camp-Out Movie..." It's all going to be a blast to do. Do you all do this type of program at your libraries too?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Visit to my teen years!

I follow the discussion list for PUBYAC. That's all about programming, books, etc. for librarians that deal with children and teens in public libraries. Anyway, a few weeks ago someone posted about the Sunfire Romance series and it totally struck a chord with me! I had forgotten all about that series, and yet, they were books that I was totally hooked on in middle school! I promptly went and ILLed the only available one in our library system and I just finished rereading it. I feel like I just reexperienced a little of my childhood!

In the Sunfire Romance series, each book's title was the main character's name (i.e. Joanna, Danielle, Sabrina, etc.) and each was set in a different period of America's history. In each book, the main character had interesting role based within her time period and where she lived in the U.S. (one helped with the Pony Express, one was a spy in the Rev. War, one was a movie star in CA) and she met two boys. One slow and steady boy that grew to love her...and one flashy, bad boy that also loved her! In each book (very formulaic, but fabulous when I was a tween) the girl had to eventually choose which boy to be with...and it usually ended up being the steady guy...ahhh. I loved this series!!

My favorites were Roxanne, Sabrina, Emily, and Megan.
Did anyone else read these??

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Alice - Twisted Once, Twice...

I've always been a big fan of the original Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. I was even Alice for Halloween in fifth grade. I am an even bigger fan of Through the Looking Glass. I love the idea of being transported to another world and seeing amazing and different things. I even liked the Disney movie, though the books are much better!

As I've become an adult, my perspective on all things has least, I think it has :P and so I've come to the realization, of course, that good comes with bad. In other words, rereading the Alice books, I now see new nuances and pick up on different themes. Not all of them as cute or fun as the talking, dancing flowers, or the idea of drinking a potion and growing as big as a house.

As a huge fan of dystopia books, science fiction, and twisted rewrites of fairy tales, I was extremely excited when I found the first book in the Looking Glass Wars series by Frank Beddor. This series, including The Looking Glass Wars, Seeing Redd, and Arch-Enemy is a science-fiction rewrite of the original Alice stories. In this series, Alyss Heart, Princess of Wonderland is orphaned when her evil aunt, Redd, has both her royal parents assassinated. Alyss if forced to flee with her parents' bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, to our world. There she meets Reverand Dodgson, who incorrectly publishes her life story as a horrible book, Alice in Wonderland. Years later, Alyss must return to Wonderland, a kingdom run on imagination that fuels the creative genius of other worlds, and claim her right to the throne. Filled with wonderful new technological twists (robotic cards that morph into soldiers) and interesting takes on well-known characters (the Cheshire Cat is the Queen's favorite assassin, half man, half cat), this series is full of adventure, danger, wonder, political intrugue and even some romance. A definite favorite of mine!
Another really great rewrite of the Alice series was actually just done as a miniseries on the television channel, Syfy. "Alice" is set 150 years after "the Alice" of our story originally ventured into Wonderland. The current Alice, is a martial arts instructor who has fallen for a guy named Jack Chase. Unfortunately, when he gives her a ring and asks her to come home to meet his family, Alice freaks and kicks him out. He is then kidnapped and Alice chases his captors...straight into Wonderland! Alice journeys through a Wonderland that has fallen into where the Queen of Hearts captures "Oysters," earth-dwellers, and distills their stolen emotions into teas that keep the Wonderlanders in check. I do not want to spoil the ending for anyone who may see this miniseries in the future, but I do have to say that I loved the way that Wonderland's capitol city rises above an ancient one, the flying mechanical flamingos, the Dodo and his Library, the Mad March assassin, and of course, Alice's devoted companion, the Hatter! An excellent and fun version of Alice!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Radiant Darkness

Radiant Darkness
by Emily Whitman

He smiles, "Hello."

It's a deep voice. I can feel it reverberate in my chest and echo all the way down to my toes.

I know I should leave, but I don't want to. I want to keep my senses like this forever. I'm all eye, all ear, all skin.

Persephone lives in the most gorgeous place in the world. But her mother's a goddess, as overprotective as she is powerful. Paradise has become a trap. Just when Persephone feels there's no chance of escaping the life that's been planned for her, a mysterious stranger arrives. A stranger who promises something more - something dangerous and exciting - something that stirs Persephone to make a daring choice. A choice that could destroy all she's come to love, even the earth itself.

In a land where a singing river can make you forget your very name, Persephone is forced to discover who - and what - she really is.

I loved this book. Whitman takes readers on a journey to experience the classic mythological story of Persephone and Hades from a whole new perspective. Here Persephone is an unsatisfied young woman who yearns to connect with another and when she meets Hades, they fall passionately in love. She chooses to run away and become his bride, and is forced to leave him six months a year so that her mother, the goddess Demeter, does not destroy the earth trying to reclaim her "lost" daughter. This was an extremely well-written version of an old story, newly embued with passion, fantastic scene settings, and a clever new outlook.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rampant - Book Trailer

"Casting" About for a New Image!!

It's amazing to me when I see how much can change from an original printing of a book to a reprint, to the next reprint, and so on! I came across a brilliant example yesterday...

Now, I know this picture is small (I'll try to actually upload my own pic of the book I have at home soon), but you should be able to see that there is an actual half-clothed woman and centaur in a fantasyscape on the original cover of Goddess by Mistake by P.C. Cast.

Recently, with the amazing popularity of the House of Night series by P.C. Cast and her daughter, Kristin Cast, this previous series set in Partholon has been reissued along with two brand-new Partholon books targeted specifically to teens instead of adults. Attempting to push the books with a whole new attitude, the publishers changed the titles from Goddess by... to Divine by... and gave the covers a whole new look. Here is the new cover for Divine by Mistake.

What an amazing difference! If you didn't do your research, you might not even know these were the same book at all...but, very much more appealing to today's teens.