Thursday, October 20, 2011

REVIEW: Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens

Rating: 3/5 Stars
Audience: Adult
Genre: Psychological Thriller

Summary: Sara Gallagher has always felt that she didn't fit in with her adoptive family.  She has questions about the parents who gave her up and wants to know more about her medical history for her daughter's sake. Now that her daughter is six and she's planning a wedding to a wonderful man, Sara decides it's time to dig into the past. But when she finally discovers the identity of her birth mother, Sara makes a shocking discovery: Her mother was the only victim to survive a notorious serial killer. And everything she learns indicated that her father was The Campsite Killer. Sara's mother wants nothing to do with her... but her father is a different story.

Tracy's Thoughts:
I loved Chevy Stevens's debut novel Still Missing, and her second novel has many similarities. The action takes place in short, fast-paced chapters, each of which represents a different session between Sara and her therapist. And it is a page-turner without a doubt; I read the entire book in one sitting. The premise is fascinating, and the story emotionally complex. Sara's doubts about her own emotional reactions and coping mechanisms were realistic and intriguing. The characters and their difficult relationships were equally interesting.

However, for me, Never Knowing lacked the impact of Stevens's award-winning debut. The last-minute plot twist was predictable and unbelievable, and I also had issues with the therapy session format. The plot device seemed a bit stale the second time around, plus the difference in timeline (most of this novel takes place in almost-real time, while most of the events in Still Missing occurred long before Annie's therapy sessions) occasionally makes the break-up of sessions awkward and unrealistic. So, yes, I was disappointed in Stevens's sophomore effort. Still, it was a compelling read and I definitely plan to pick up her next novel.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

NEWS: National Book Awards snafu

There's been another development in the National Book Awards' category for Young People's Literature. The addition of a sixth book was quickly announced last Wednesday, October 12th, due to an error on the committee's part. In explanation, Harold Augebraum, executive director of the National Book Foundation, stated: "It was our mistake, and we take full responsibility...For security reasons, we do everything by phone, and we don't write things down when [the judges] transmit the titles to our staff. And someone wrote it down wrong." Apparently, someone mistook the word Chime—the intended nominee—for Shine. Augebraum claimed that for confidentiality reasons, the involved titles would not be made public and that the six finalists would stand. But...then author Lauren Myracle was asked on Friday to withdraw her novel Shine from contention.

Myracle, who is known for writing popular but often controversial books for both middle grade and young adult readers, consented. In a statement released through her publisher, Amulet Books, she stated “I was over the moon last week after receiving the call telling me that Shine was a finalist for the award. I was later informed that Shine had been included in error, but would remain on the list based on its merits. However, on Friday I was asked to withdraw by the National Book Foundation to preserve the integrity of the award and the judges’ work, and I have agreed to do so.”

So... I understand that mistakes happen. But it is incredible to me that the staff member writing down the book titles didn't take the time to confirm the author. I also think that the way this mistake was ultimately handled—claiming that the involved titles would remain confidential and then requesting a withdrawal of Myracle's book several days later—was another bungle. What are your thoughts?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Congratulations to the winners...

Congratulations to the winners of our Fall Giveaway Event! If you haven't received a notification e-mail, please contact me at the Ridgway Reference Desk or e-mail me to arrange for pickup of your prize!

Angela: A Thousand Lives, Heresy, Prophecy, The Heretic's Daughter 
Marissa L. Sanders: Radiance, Forgotten
Lena: American WidowKat, Incorrigible
Melinda: The Promised World, Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, Glow, Falling for Hamlet, Love Ya Bunches 
Christina Shepherd: Original Sin, Triangles
Cindy: Maman's Homesick Pie, Triangles
Bobbie Sharp:  All These Things I've Done, Chime, Thirteen Days to Midnight, The Katrina Club, Keeper, The Phantom Limb, and Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact
Sherry Hutchins:  One Day, The Soldier's Wife, The Replacement, Sacred Hearts
Kasey: Nate the Great Strikes Back
Pamela: The House at Midnight, The Iron Queen, White Cat
Marie: A Spy in the House, The Body at the Tower, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, Museum of Thieves, Simple Skin Beauty
Elizabeth: Etta, Think of a Number, Promise the Night, The Body at the Tower
Kari: The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, Delerium, The Duff

Orphaned Books, looking for a good home
Our Sad, Unclaimed Orphans include:

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama, We the Children by Andrew Clements, In the Sea There Are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda, South of Broad by Pat Conroy, A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres (copy #2), The White Mary by Kira Salak, The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry, and So Long at the Fair by Christina Schwarz

You may have noticed that a few titles went unclaimed. If you would like to receive any of these ARCs, please leave a comment below telling us which title(s) you would like to receive. You can choose as many as you like, and they will go to the first claimant. Ready, set, go...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

NEWS: National Book Awards Finalists Announced

The 20 finalists for the National Book Awards were announced yesterday in Portland's Literary Arts Center. Later, an additional nominee—Chime by Franny Billingsley—was added to the Young People's Literature category. Winners will be announced on Wednesday, November 16. The finalists are:


Andrew Krivak (The Sojourn), Tea Obreht (The Tiger’s Wife), Julie Otsuka (The Buddha in the Attic), Edith Pearlman (Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories), Jesmyn Ward (Salvage the Bones).


Deborah Baker (The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism), Mary Gabriel (Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution), Stephen Greenblatt (The Swerve: How the World Became Modern), Manning Marable (Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention), Lauren Redniss (Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout)


Nikky Finney (Head Off & Split), Yusef Komunyakaa (The Chameleon Couch), Carl Phillips (Double Shadow), Adrienne Rich (Tonight No Poetry Will Serve), Bruce Smith (Devotions)


Franny Billingsley (Chime), Debbie Dahl Edwardson (My Name Is Not Easy), Thanhha Lai (Inside Out and Back Again), Albert Marrin (Flesh and Blood So Cheap), Lauren Myracle (Shine), Gary D. Schmidt (Okay for Now)

So what do you think? Are there any glaring omissions or surprises? Personally, I am very surprised by Chime's nomination (though I have to admit I haven't read it yet!). In fact I haven't read any of the nominees, though there are several—The Tiger's Wife, Salvage the Bones, Radioactive, Inside Out & Back Again, Shine, and Okay for Now—that I've been looking forward to.

Have you read any of the nominees? Which titles do you want to read? For further details on the finalists and book summaries, check out the official site of the National Book Foundation.

**NOTE: The Library currently owns many of these titles; others are on order.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

NEWS + REMINDER: We're now mobile-friendly

It's now easy to navigate our site on your smartphone! The gadgets on the right sidebar don't appear in the mobile version, but you can browse recent posts and click on the title to open the full post—including images and comments. If you still see the desktop version on your phone, your mobile browser may not be supported. However, if you would prefer a more easily navigated version, you should be able to force the mobile version by appending ?m=1 to the URL. This trick should also work for some other websites that aren't currently mobile-friendly. To force "mobile-ize" Book News and Reviews, simply type in

Don't forget that our Fall Giveaway Event deadline is this Friday! It looks like there are a few titles in high demand (Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, Forgotten, Heresy, Prophecy, The Iron Queen, etc.) If you want to increase your chances of winning your top pick, remember that you can earn an extra entry by commenting about any of the other news or reviews we have posted to the site. Good luck!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

REVIEW: The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Audience: Young Adult/Teen
Genres: Realistic Fiction

Summary: The first time seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper hears the term "Duff," she's sitting by the bar at a teen night club. Wesley Rush, the "most disgusting womanizing playboy to ever darken the doorstep of Hamilton High," saunters over to chat. Wesley wants to hook up with one of Bianca's hot friends and talking to their Designated Ugly Fat Friend, he explains to Bianca, is his way in. Bianca, being no shrinking violet, quickly and dramatically crushes his plan. Still, being called the Duff continues to niggle away at her. She knows she isn't really fat or ugly, but next to her gorgeous best friends she's a nonentity. Add to that her parents' crumbling marriage and the return of the boy who broke her heart, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction... So she kisses Wesley. It's stupid and she hates herself, but they start hooking up secretly. The plan is to keep everything on a strictly physical level, but then the impossible happens: she actually starts to like Wesley and is horrified to discover that she could actually be falling for the guy she hated more than anyone.

Tracy's Thoughts:
First off, I have to warn you. If (fictional) teen sex and swearing upset you, you might want to give The Duff a miss. This is an edgy book that is practically destined for the Banned Books list. Due to some harsh language and sexual content, I would only recommend this title for mature teens and adults. The relationship between Bianca and Wesley is smoldering, and most of the teenage characters drop the F-bomb more than once. (Though not all... Casey's discomfort with swearing was a subtle contrast, and one of the endearing details that makes this book so special.) So, yes, the content is a bit graphic, certainly more than in your average YA novel. But Keplinger isn't promoting sexual activity to teens—far from it, though this isn't a book with a heavy-handed abstinence message either.

So okay, you have been duly warned. Now on to what I loved about this novel. I cannot tell you how much I adored Bianca's snarky, smart, totally authentic voice. She's abrasive and more than a little spiteful—in real life, I might hate her. But she's also clever and loyal and eminently relatable. While her cynicism and aggression frequently shocked my inner sensibilities, I always understood where Bianca was coming from. She says what she thinks and makes bad decisions, but she accepts the consequences. In her first novel, Kody Kepplinger has created a memorable, fully realized character that I won't soon forget.

The other characters of The Duff are also fabulously complex. There's no question about it: Wesley is often a total jerk and is way too focused on physical gratification. But like Bianca, I somehow found myself liking him anyway, maybe even partly because of his unabashed behavior. Of course, he is also unexpectedly sweet and vulnerable with issues of his own. He's a real, nuanced person—not just a stereotypical Misunderstood Bad Boy with a Heart of Gold. And I loved Bianca's friends Casey and Jessica, and the relationship the three girls have with each other. Bianca's parents are not as skillfully drawn, but they too are flawed and interesting.

The teen dialog is spot-on, not surprising considering that Keplinger was 18 when she wrote the book. It feels fresh and natural, not stilted at all. The banter between Bianca and Wesley, reminiscent of the great repartee in classic screwball comedies but with a modern edge, is particularly engaging. The entire novel is smoothly written, flowing seamlessly between Bianca's inner thoughts and the exterior action.

All in all, this is a unique and fast-paced read that will be adored by the right audience. It is contemporary, sexy, and sharply funny. It examines teen self-esteem and the social labeling of others as well as being a modern love story and family drama. There is a lot to like about The Duff, and I look forward to reading Keplinger's next book, Shut Out, as soon as I can get my hands on it.

The Duff is one of the titles up for grabs in our Fall Giveaway Event.

Friday, October 7, 2011

REVIEW: The Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger

Audience: Young Adult/Adult
Genre: Steampunk/Vampire/Werewolf

Summary: This delightful comedy of manners set in the late Victorian Era, details the adventures of Alexia Tarabotti, a woman who is a preternatural.  In other words, she has no soul and her touch causes vampires and werewolves to revert to their former human selves, thus rendering them no longer immortal.  Alexia is a quiet spinster just trying to survive life with a vacuous mother and selfish half-sisters, when adventure suddenly finds her.  Join Alexia as she snares a great catch for herself on the marriage mart, foils several plots to kill Queen Victoria, and learns what constitutes proper dress for dirigible travel. This series starts off with Soulless and is followed by Changeless, Blameless, Heartless, and the soon-to-be published Timeless. (2012)

Changeless     Blameless    Heartless  Timeless
Lucinda's Views:  This series, is a delightful romp through Victorian England.  However, it is a Victorian England where vampires and werewolves move through high society.  An England where the Queen has werewolf bodyguards and their existence is not a secret.  Alexia, is a complex, but pragmatic character whose soullessness is supplemented by her cool, almost sarcastic logic.  If you enjoy the ins and outs of Victorian etiquette and love a good intrigue, with a dash of romance thrown in you will enjoy this series.  As the series progresses, the characters become more complex and develop surprising depths.   Part of these developments include surprising revelations concerning the nature of Alexia's union with Lord Maccon,  revelations concerning the unflappable Professor Lyall, and a whole new view of Lord Akledama's drone Biffy.  On the whole, an entertaining read for fans of the steampunk genre.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

REVIEW: Keeper by Kathi Appelt

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Audience: Middle Grade/Tween
Genres: Magical Realism

Ten-year-old Keeper believes in wishes and magic, and truly thinks her long-lost mother is a mermaid. She’s safe and happy living in a small, close-knit Gulf Coast community with her guardian Signe and an extended family made up of eccentric neighbors and pets. But on the day of the blue moon, everything goes wrong. Keeper makes a series of mistakes that angers everyone she loves and the only solution she can think of is to find her magical mother to ask for help. Setting off alone to find a mermaid could be dangerous, but Keeper has a plan and her dog BD and Captain the seagull for company. Unfortunately, not everything goes as planned. 

Tracy's Thoughts:
It has been months since I first read this book, and yet thinking of this charming tale still puts a smile on my face. The setting is beautifully and evocatively drawn, and a hint of magic runs throughout. It's not a fairy tale, but there is a dreamy, nostalgic quality to Appelt's writing that is similar. From the beginning, I doubted Keeper's belief in magic and mermaids, but her faith had me constantly thinking "what if?" Between Keeper's rich imagination and Appelt's lyric writing style, even the most common things are lent a measure of magic. 

Keeper is a clever, loveable girl with a unique personality. In fact, all of Appelt's characters in this wonderfully written book have a distinct personality and history—even BD and Captain! Keeper contains several flashbacks and is narrated from multiple perspectives, which may challenge some younger readers, but the payoff is definitely worth it. There are actually several storylines woven together here, though Keeper's adventure remains central. One set of flashbacks involves Keeper and Signe's neighbor and good friend Mr. Beauchamps, an older gentleman with regrets about a youthful romance and missed chances. His relationship with another young man is mostly implied and contains nothing objectionable for young readers, but some readers/parents might want to be aware of this small piece of the overall storyline.

This is a very quiet book. The action builds slowly, only gradually reaching a point where the tension is so high that I actually, literally, held my breath as I turned the pages. I was genuinely worried about the characters, as if they were real people that I knew. Going into too much detail would ruin this enchanting story of family, love, and secrets—but if you enjoy vivid settings, a touch of nerve-wracking adventure, and colorful characters, this book is a rewarding, unforgettable read. It is especially good for thoughtful tweens who consider most middle grade fiction too childish.

Keeper is one of the featured titles in our Fall Giveaway Event!
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