Heist Society: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Katarina Bishop grew up all over Europe, but she isn’t an heiress. She has a Faberge egg, but she isn’t a Romanov. Kat is used to looking at a room and seeing all the angles, but that was before she stole a whole other life at the Colgan School only to walk away from it months later without a trace.

That was before everything went sideways.

While Kat was busy trying to steal a new, legit, life the family business prospered. When a powerful mobster’s priceless art collection goes missing it isn’t all that surprising that Kat’s father is on the list of suspects. It isn’t even surprising that he is the entire list of suspects.

The only problem is the mobster wants his paintings back. And he isn’t taking no for an answer.

Kat has two weeks to find the paintings and steal them back with her own heist society and the help of her friend and long-time co-conspirator W. W. Hale (the fifth). Her pursuit will criss-cross Europe and reunite Kat with some of the most talented teenagers in the world–if, that is, by talent you mean skills like picking pockets, hacking computers, and running a con.

Time is short and the job is monumental but Kat has a crack crew and, hopefully, enough talent to pull off an impossible heist (and maybe right a few wrongs along the way) in Heist Society (2010) by Ally Carter.

Find it on Bookshop.

Carter’s writing is poised to dazzle and enthrall right from the first page. Filled with twists, turns, criminals and even some restitution Heist Society is a sleek, clever, and subtle book that somehow exceeded even my (high) expectations.

Heist Society is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year and officially in my Ten for 2010 list. I can’t put into words how much I love the cover or how much the writing impressed me. Let’s just say that if I could live in a book, I might want it to be this one. I fell in love with the setting, the characters, and everything else about this little gem.

Stories about criminals and their crimes have been around for years, but never has life on the other side of the law looked this exciting and dangerous all while being glamorous. A must-read for anyone with a little larceny in their soul (or a little love for an old-fashioned heist).

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, White Cat by Holly Black, Museum: Behind the Scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Danny Danziger, The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece by Edward Dolnick, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau by E. Lockhart, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief by Bill Mason and Lee Gruenfeld, Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud, In the Hall With the Knife by Diana Peterfreund, Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt, The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe, The Deceivers by Kristen Simmons, Leverage (television series), White Collar (television series)

Mostly Monsterly: A Picture Book Review

Mostly Monsterly by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Scott MagoonOn the outside Bernadette is mostly monsterly. She has point ears, huge eyes, fangs and even a creepy necklace. She can lurch, growl and cause all kind of mayhem. But underneath the fangs and the fur, Bernadette has a deep, dark secret.

Sometimes, when she’s all alone, Bernadette likes to pick flowers, and pet kittens, and do all kinds of things that aren’t monsterly at all.

When Bernadette starts school all of her classmates act like total monsters but with a few secret weapons and some quick thinking Bernadette should be able to win them over and still get to be herself in Mostly Monsterly (August 2010) by Tammi Sauer and Scott Magoon (illustrator).

Sauer’s writing is perfect for reading aloud with built in pauses for suspense and surprises and a lot of humor. Bernadette is a lovable monster who learns that sometimes being different is okay but some concessions might be needed to make friends. The message is never heavy handed or otherwise over the top.

Magoon’s illustrations add the perfect blend of creepiness and cuteness to the story to create a book that will be perfect for any monster fans but not too scary for younger readers.

Excellent possibility for a storytime program about being yourself.

Possible Pairings: A Girl and Her Gator by Sean Bryan and Tom Murphy, Bark, George by Jules Feiffer, Presenting . . . Talulah by Tori Spelling and Vanessa Brantley Newton

*This book was received for review at Simon and Schuster’s Fall 2010 preview in May*

Jeannette Claus Saves Christmas: A (Christmas in July) Picture Book Review

Jeannette Clause Saves Christmas coverIt was the night before Christmas and Santa was sick. He sneezed, he coughed, he groaned, he moaned. He sniffled and he blew.

And there was no way his daughter, Jeannette, was letting Santa out in the sleigh that night. Jumping jingle bells, if Santa could do it, so could she. Sure, the reindeer are tricky and none too fond of their work. But Jeannette was a Claus and it was Christmas. This was kind of her thing.

But when the sleigh is still more than half full of presents, the reindeer decide to jump ship and Jeannette is stranded with a big sleigh and no one to pull it. Unless a few stray cats and dogs can help Jeannette to turn a really bad Christmas Eve into a really successful one without the help of those pesky reindeer in Jeannette Claus Saves Christmas (October 2010) by Douglas Rees, illustrated by Olivier Latyk.

I’m a fan, first and foremost, of traditional Christmas stories. “Twas the Night Before Christmas” is an annual favorite. As far as reimagined  (or even slightly fractured) Christmas stories go, this is a fun one. Latyk’s illustrations–sketched in pencil and then rendered in Photoshop–are original and provide a unique vision of iconic holiday images including the jolly man himself and, of course, the reindeer.

Rees’ story is also a new take on the holiday theme. Jeannette is a winner and the text lends itself to reading aloud with natural pauses and good pacing. The premise isn’t my favorite–misanthropic reindeer feel . . . odd (and they’re really mean!)–but it is a fun twist for anyone looking to go beyond the familiar songs and stories with their holiday reading. Of course, more astute readers will be left to ask, where’s Rudolph when you really need him?

*This book was received for review at Simon and Schuster’s Fall 2010 preview in May.*

Miss Print is starting a book club

I love sharing reviews with my dear readers and getting other opinions in the comments. But sometimes it’s fun to talk about books in more depth.

So . . .

I’m starting a virtual book club. I am giving it the very original name of Miss Print Book Club.

For now my vision is to have it focus on YA and/or children’s titles. There will be a new book every month with relevant site links and a few discussion questions. It’s of course all optional and you can answer as many or as few questions as you want.

The club lives on Wikispaces and you can view it at any time. If you want to join the discussion, simply click on the “join this wiki” button on the page. (If you want more info or have questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll get back to you.)

Below you can see the fancy logo I made for the club with the help of Spell with flickr. The logo is also living in the blog’s sidebar and links to the wiki should you ever want to see what’s going on. Hopefully I’ll see some of you there!

Kiss of Life: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Life is always about choices. It’s about Phoebe Kendall befriending Karen DeSonne, the “differently biotic” girl next door and choosing to go to homecoming with Tommy Williams, the “differently biotic” boy next door. It’s about Tommy standing immobile when Pete Martinsburg pointed a gun at Phoebe’s head. It’s about Adam taking a bullet to save Phoebe. And, even though his “traditionally biotic” life might be over, it’s about Adam coming back–maybe for himself but probably for Phoebe, the girl he loves.

Adam isn’t alone.

All over the country, dead teenagers are waking up and rejoining the living with varying degrees of success. No one knows why some teenagers come back and some don’t. The only certainty is that everything changed the moment these zombies began trying to reconnect with the world of the living.

Adam’s death and return have rocked the city of Oakvale, Connecticut to its core. What really happened that night? Is it murder if the the victim can get up and walk away? Does a dead person deserve the same rights as a living person? Wouldn’t things be simpler if all of the zombies would just go away?

Vandalism and social protest abound as some of the zombies try to remind Oakvale that they aren’t going anywhere. But instead of raising awareness, the Sons of Romero might just be putting a bigger target on their differently biotic backs.

While Phoebe struggles to bring Adam back as much as she can, Tommy and Karen try to act as voices of reason among the zombie community. But the time for reason might be over in Kiss of Life (2009) by Daniel Waters.

Find it on Bookshop.

This sequel picks up shortly after the disastragic conclusion of Generation Dead leaving all of the characters to deal with the fallout, and the grief, in their own ways.

Don’t let the blurb or excerpt fool you. Both try to play up the Dramatic Love Triangle angle to lethal effect* but Kiss of Life is smarter than that. Waters continues to use the dichotomy between traditionally and differently biotic people to examine matters of tolerance and equality in a clever, original way.

In fact, even though this book is necessarily about Adam and his return, the book’s main event is really the polarizing nature of the newly dead arriving in Oakvale (and the rest of the country) and their own attempts to raise awareness and get some rights. Social protest is a big part of the story but so is, for lack of a better term, the meaning of life as all of the differently biotic characters try to make sense of what their returns really mean for them and, in a greater context, for the world at large.

I always said that Generation Dead was a really smart book. If possible, Kiss of Life is even more on point. It’s exciting, it gets under your skin, and it’s socially aware. Waters’ characters are charming and terrifying as he shows events not only from the heroes’ viewpoints but also from that of a villain. Nothing is black and white here. Add to that a dramatic finish and one of the most heart-wrenching love stories ever and you have something really exceptional.

Possible Pairings: 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, The Demon’s Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel, Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan, Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde, Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

*I was so excited about this sequel, but when I saw the blurb and excerpt I was so angry because this was one of those moments where there was absolutely no contest (Adam all the way, always and no matter what) but it really seemed like there was. I put off reading this book for almost a year because I DID NOT need to watch Phoebe spend a whole book mulling over which zombie boy she really loved. But the book is not about that AT ALL as the story really continues in the same vein as the first book. And I wish I knew that a year ago.

Exclusive Bonus Content: Like its predecessor, this book also has a fantastic wraparound cover that makes use of the full jacket. I get a little teary when I look at it, thinking “Oh, Adam.” every time. But aside from that it’s awesome. I don’t know who is finding these models but they are spot-on in capturing all of the characters and the whole “zombie” look. I love everything about this cover. (Click on the picture if you want to see it in its enormous full-sized image glory.)

In the Realm of the Never Fairies: A Picture Book Review

In the Realm of the Never FairiesIn the Realm of the Never Fairies: The Secret World of Pixie Hollow (2006) with text by Monique Peterson and illustrations by Disney’s Storybook Artists is one of several titles Disney rolled out to coincide with their launch of a new line of films/merchandise featuring Tinker Bell. The launch also featured a variety of books including Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg which, frankly, was a huge disappointment.

Instead of providing a full story about Pixie Hollow, this is more of a coffee table book with all of the facts and vital statistics about Pixie Hollow, Never Fairies in general, and all of the Fairies you’ll meet in other volumes.

In the Realm of the Never Fairies is a fun look at fairies and a must read for anyone who is a fan of Brian Froud‘s fairy books or, really, fairies in general. I’m still not sold on the idea of all of the fairies having talents (bit too clique-like for my tastes) or a few other things about the new angle on Tinker Bell and the never fairies.

That said, this book is filled with fun information for fairy lovers of any age and the beautiful illustrations that have set Disney’s new fairy books apart as something really special. Like other books in the new Disney Fairies series, I’m not sure how I feel about this one as an actual book or a piece of text. But as a work of art it’s definitely a winner–all of the books in the series are stunning.

What did you think of Covert Affairs?

You wouldn’t know it from this blog, but I watch a lot of TV. And I take it really seriously.

I was really excited when I saw USA’s early promo spots for their new show Covert Affairs. I’m already a die-hard fan of White Collar and Burn Notice. The show had some of my favorite actors. And the premise looked really promising. AND the promos kept teasing me with shots of Oded Fehr in just about every single one.

Last night my mom and I watched the pilot and . . . it wasn’t as awesome as I had hoped. My mom flat out detested every single thing about the show, but she was in a mood. My feelings were, I think, more balanced. But I still don’t see myself becoming a regular viewer.

First of all, Oded Fehr was not in the first episode which was very sad. Aside from that the fundamental basis of the show bothers me. I’m not sure how I feel about the implications of Annie being a really good agent but essentially (at least I think?) being kept at the agency and not having to go back to The Farm because she’s bait for her rogue ex-boyfriend. Would this be happening if the show were about a newbie MALE agent with a rogue ex-girlfriend?

I also was deeply troubled by Christopher Gorham’s character and the fact that he is blind. (Gorham is not, you might remember him from his own short-lived series called Jake 2.0). My mom and I thought about this and we don’t really think a blind person could do well in the actual role since TV production presumably involves so much moving of set gear and so many visual cues. We might be wrong, but I think our reasoning is sound.

Given that, it seems very . . . gimmicky to have a blind character when (probably) it was obvious that a blind person would never be playing the role. It’s another weird implication thing but it also just  seems so strange. Why bother? What was the purpose of making this character blind? I could almost let it slide more easily in a book where there would be no actor involved. But it just . . . it didn’t work for me.

Those are my two big problems with the show and, for me, they’re big enough that despite my great hopes I have to conclude that the show just won’t work for me.

This was literally mainly for me to unpack my own thoughts on the show. If you also have thoughts, I’d welcome them in the comments.

Some Bookish Links

So, I’m enjoying my Linktastic! posts listing stuff I read that was interesting and that I think YOU might find interesting. I’m going to try to do them on a semi-regular basis. In this edition, for your perusal, are a bunch of articles I had on hand about books, authors and other bookish matters. (Some of these are really old because I’ve been working on this post for months and I tend to not read links I get pointed to right away–bad blogger.)

  • What better way to celebrate books than using their spines to create some poems? (Who needs magnets!?) Need some inspiration first? Check out this flickr set of examples from the Somers Library. (Originally brought to my attention by Travis at 100 Scope Notes who has his own gallery of samples.)
  • Ever wonder how NYPL sorts their books to fill holds? Wonder no longer, read about it in “That Mighty Sorting Machine Is Certainly One for the Books” by Kate Taylor. There is also a video of the sorter in action. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I have always been fascinated with the annexing aspect of the library because it was so distant and mysterious and really enjoyed the video for that reason.
  • Angels and Ages: Lincoln’s Language and its Legacy by Adam Gopnik is a fairly old article from The New Yorker magazine. It’s also one of my all time favorite articles. It’s a great look at Lincoln’s last day and also how real history isn’t always what gets written in the history books.
  • Yale Alumni Magazine recently ran a brief feature by Alex Beam on the Psychology of the Bookplate. Beam covers a lot of territory in a short space ending, as I would have myself, by suggesting that e-books will never be the same as real, physical books anymore than they will manage to occupy the same place as real books. But first Beam talks about the bookplate acting as a way to possess and even become a book. My personal library has no bookplates–I think of them as something very near damage when it comes to a book (though I love a good signed book as much as the next girl). But when I was in grade school my aunt worked for a publisher and had access to tons of books that she gave to my school’s library. Each book had a bookplate indicating it was donated by . . . me. It’s a strange thing to walk around a school and be thanked by strangers for books when you’re eight years old–bookplates are powerful stuff. Not as powerful as an e-book. Not yet anyway:

“Their library exists on a server farm, where real estate is cheap. My library is here, in this room where I am writing.”

  • The Subconscious Shelf (a blog from the magazine) reminded me why I fell in love with The New Yorker in the first place. I can’t afford the monetary or physical strain of subscribing again. But I will be a faithful reader of this blog that analyzes user submitted photos of bookshelves. What could be better? This idea is so right, so pure, that I can add nothing to make it more enticing. Go, read it now, finish this post later. I think one of my life goals just became getting my shelves analyzed there (I’d like to see them handle my hodgepodge of picture books, YA books, and what not). Exclusive Bonus Content: This also ties in with my post about personal library organization.
  • Here is an old article from the NYT about E-Readers and eye strain. Basically, nothing works perfectly to read in bright sunlight or dim light but there are pros and cons to all of the different reading media available. I still prefer books, but that might have to do with being able to get books from the library. Who knows?
  • I love Charles Dickens. And I especially love A Christmas Carol and all of the different movie versions it has inspired. One of my friends once told me that he read it every year on Christmas Eve (or thereabout, I can’t remember the specific day) and he would only get a gift from his sister once he had finished it. Anyway, there is only one manuscript of that famous novel and, amazingly, it’s available online for your viewing pleasure! (I find it really hard to read, but then I have a hard enough time with my own handwriting so maybe you all will fair better.)
  • Not exactly book related, but definitely worth reading for all the twitter users out there now that Twitter’s archive belongs to the Library of Congress. (First thoughts: Who would want all those tweets? I guess we know why I’m not an archivist . . .)
  • Also not exactly book related, BUT the Eclipse movie is out now and maybe you want a taste of it without paying for a pricey ticket. I direct you to Jen Lancaster’s improved version of the story. For bonus awesome check out all of her like-themed posts (read: random but funny) here.
  • Last, but not least, I haven’t made it any secret that I think Jacob is way more fun and better in every possible way than Edward. That said, here is an explanation of why Jacob cannot win.

“Why does Team Jacob always have to lose? Because Eclipse is a movie about rejecting adulthood, not just as a person but also as a culture. It’s about rejecting adult relationships between men and women, but also between people of different races and between people from the city (like Victoria’s army) and people from Forks. It’s about never crossing boundaries, never leaving home.”

And on that note, I will leave you dear readers.

The Demon’s Covenant: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Demon's Covenant by Sarah Rees BrennanMae thought she had left all of her troubles behind in London. Certainly nightmares followed her home to Exeter, but that was okay because her brother Jamie was safe from the magicians and the Ryves brothers were too far away to draw either of them into their more complicated web of lies and trouble.

That’s what Mae thought when her life finally seemed to be getting back to normal.

But trouble has its eye on Mae. The magicians who wanted to kill Jamie are now trying to  lure him into their ruthless circle. Nick and Alan Ryves are, of course, uniquely qualified to help. Their return brings its own unique blend of exhilaration and mayhem to Mae’s life.  The lure of magic is tantalizing but the danger is greater than ever before as Mae tries to make sense of her own, normal, world and the magical one that glitters just out of her reach in The Demon’s Covenant (2010) by Sarah Rees Brennan.

Find it on Bookshop.

If Sarah Rees Brennan’s first book, The Demon’s Lexicon, crackled with intensity then this book is burning with it. Brennan has taken a story that already seemed at the breaking point with tension and emotion and made it all even more taut and thrilling. As ever, the characters shine with a unique blend of action and humor throughout the story.

The Demon’s Covenant necessarily spends more time looking at what it means to be human and, more importantly, what it means to love. Watching Nick stumble through what it means to really care about someone and try to decide if he even can care for someone is heartbreaking and utterly compelling to follow as Mae tries to explain alien concepts like comfort to one who never had use for such feelings. It’s a strange thing to say about what is largely an adventure fantasy, but this book brims over with brotherly love and friendship. There are few writers who handle those themes as well as Brennan does here.

Some reviews expressed disappointment that the story shifted to Mae’s point of view in this installment but, really, the transition was seamless. The writing here is spot-on with a dynamo combination of exposition and character development to create an exciting story with substance besides. And, of course, Mae is an awesome girl (with awesome pink hair) ready to not only save herself but also everyone else! All in all, The Demon’s Covenant was even better than Brennan’s rather great first installment in her Demon Trilogy.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, Caster by Elsie Chapman, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga, Shadowshaper by  Daniel José Older, The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Peeps by Scott Westerfeld, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

Exclusive Bonus Content: The only great flaw in this book, and it’s a big one, is that Alan remains painfully fictional. One might even call it disastragic.* Aside from being one of my favorite characters (of all time) Alan is also really well developed. He also continues to run brilliant, cunning circles around all of the other characters with his brilliant, cunning plans all while being charming, smart, and just a bit dangerous (and cunning and brilliant). It was crushing, upon finishing this little gem, to be forced to acknowledge that this literary hottie is not real and that even if he were he would be in England and far too busy fighting magicians and saving demons to bother with boring old me. Alas and alack.

*That there is a new word I created, a combination of disastrous and tragic, obviously. Ray Gunn decided it might have some staying power, so feel free to use it in situations like this one where you want to convey a disastrously tragic event or a tragic disaster.

Unrelated Note: Who else loves this cover? Isn’t it fantastic?

Nathaniel Fludd Beastologist: The Basilisk’s Lair

The Basilisk's Lair by R. L. LaFevers, illustrated by Kelly MurphyNate Fludd, Beastologist in training, has just barely recovered from his adventure protecting the Phoenix egg and rescuing Aunt Phil from the Bedouin when adventure once again comes knocking while Nate is struggling with his (lacking) navigation skills. A basilisk, the King of the Serpents, is loose and must be contained before he destroys a Dhughani village and poisons the entire region’s water supply.

Nate would much rather return to London with his new pet/friend Greasle the Gremlin than trek through Africa with Aunt Phil and her secret weapon to face one of the most fearsome creatures documented in the Fludd’s Book of Beasts. But where trouble goes, beastologists tend to follow. As he grapples with his own fears and the usual problems that come with dealing with beasts of a mythical nature, Nate might just find he’s braver (and more of a beastologist) than he thought in The Basilisk’s Lair (2010) by R. L. LaFevers with illustrations by Kelly Murphy.

Find it on Bookshop.

There are not enough words to say how much I love this series. Nathaniel Fludd is everything readers will want to see in a young hero. Murphy’s illustrations perfectly capture the essence of the characters and the atmosphere of the story while LaFevers’ writing creates a funny, exciting story that will appeal to readers of any age.

The book comes equipped with a handy glossary of real (and imagined) terms to help readers better make sense of the slightly Steampunk world of Beastologists and the era of 1928.

The series started with a powerhouse debut in Flight of the Phoenix and if this book is any indication, the series will only get better with each new installment.