Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mini-Review: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

by Jonathan Auxier
Series: none
Hardcover, 381 pages
Published August 1st 2011 by Amulet Books
Age Recommendation: Middle Grade

Summary (from Goodreads):
“Now, for those of you who know anything about blind children, you are aware that they make the very best thieves. As you can well imagine, blind children have incredible senses of smell, and they can tell what lies behind a locked door—be it fine cloth, gold, or peanut brittle—at fifty paces. Moreover, their fingers are so small and nimble that they can slip right through keyholes, and their ears so keen that they can hear the faint clicks and clacks of every moving part inside even the most complicated lock. Of course, the age of great thievery has long since passed; today there are few child-thieves left, blind or otherwise.

At one time, however, the world was simply thick with them. This is the story of the greatest thief who ever lived. His name, as you’ve probably guessed, is Peter Nimble.”

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes was very whimsical; it was the type of book you need a certain mindset to read, but if you can channel your inner child, is so much fun and so rewarding. Peter Nimble felt like a "classic" children's tale. It seemed almost Alice-esque, but with hints of other of my favorite MG and kid's books, like Cornelia Funke's stories, The Phantom Tollbooth, and even a bit of The False Prince. Some parts of the story seemed obviously written for a younger audience (like the prophecy, which would have been a big reveal if I hadn't guessed it the first time I read it) but I enjoyed it very much all the same.

Overall, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes was an unusual and original story with will delight early middle graders. I can easily see it as a great read-aloud book as it is perfect for all those young at heart.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Archived

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

I have decided to try Waiting on Wednesday posts instead of Monday's regular Cover Crazy.

This week, I am eagerly waiting on...
The Archived, by Victoria Schwab

Summary (from Goodreads):
Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous-it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da's death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

The Archived will be released January 22nd 2013 by Hyperion.

What are you guys waiting for this week? Leave thoughts and links in the comments!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday Face-Off: Magic Castles

Friday Face-Off is a weekly feature hosted by Misty at The Book Rat

This week's FFO compares two covers that, although illustrated, seem to come from the same scene: Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway and Rump: The True Story of Rumplestilskin by Liesl Shurtliff. I could imagine looking through the trees on the left of the Ordinary Magic cover and seeing the castle from Rump. They have smilier color palettes and the titles look very similar as well.

I personally prefer the cover for Rump, since it seems more focused on the central image of the kids and the tower, whereas everything in the Ordinary Magic cover seems to be leaning away from the center. The Rump cover is also really cool when zoomed in (as I would recommend).  

But now it's your turn to choose...
Which cover did it better?

Click on any cover to enlarge.
Leave your thoughts in the comments!

On last week's FFO: Ashes on the Waves won against the older victor of A Beautiful Dark with three votes to zero.

As usual, you are still welcome to comment with your thoughts on old FFOs, and I will update this page accordingly.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mini-Review: Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword

by Barry Deutsch
Series: Hereville #1
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published November 1st 2010 by Amulet Books
Age Recommendation: Middle Grade

Summary (from Goodreads):
Spunky, strong-willed eleven-year-old Mirka Herschberg isn’t interested in knitting lessons from her stepmother, or how-to-find-a-husband advice from her sister, or you-better-not warnings from her brother. There’s only one thing she does want: to fight dragons!

Granted, no dragons have been breathing fire around Hereville, the Orthodox Jewish community where Mirka lives, but that doesn’t stop the plucky girl from honing her skills. She fearlessly stands up to local bullies. She battles a very large, very menacing pig. And she boldly accepts a challenge from a mysterious witch, a challenge that could bring Mirka her heart’s desire: a dragon-slaying sword! All she has to do is find—and outwit—the giant troll who’s got it!

A delightful mix of fantasy, adventure, cultural traditions, and preteen commotion, Hereville will captivate middle-school readers with its exciting visuals and entertaining new heroine.

As creative and unusual middle grade graphic novels go, Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword is an excellent standout. Mirka's story is engaging and different, and readers will be delighted to see her come into her own. The plot is well-written and the illustrations are fantastic. I was especially glad to see that the story was self-contained in a single volume (I have read far too many graphic novels where none of the loose ends are wrapped up for several volumes), and even within the somewhat restrictive graphic novel format, Deutsch was able to show Mirka's growth as a character and connect her journey to itself in a larger way.

The story is very different from everything else I have read in the genre, mostly set apart by Mirka's unique community and family. Everyone in Hereville is orthodox Jewish (as referenced by the awesome subtitle "Yet another troll-fighting 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl"), and the graphic novel format is excellent at showing the reader around this fictionalized community that still adheres to very real traditions.

Overall Thoughts: The story was very clever, with great characters, an interesting plot, and engaging illustrations. I would happily hand this to a middle schooler (girl or boy) looking for a good graphic novel. I'd never heard of it outside of the one author interview I found, and it definitely deserves a larger audience. I recommend giving Mirka a try.

I found this trailer on the author's website, and I liked that it gave an example of the illustrations. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Review: A Tale Dark and Grimm & In A Glass Grimmly

by Adam Gidwitz
Series: A Tale Dark and Grimm #1 and #2
Hardcover, 252 pages
Published October 28th 2010 by Dutton Juvenile
Age Recommendation: Middle Grade

Summary (from Goodreads):
In this mischievous and utterly original debut, Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm-inspired tales. As readers follow the siblings through a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind (and beyond) the bread crumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches.

Fairy tales have never been more irreverent or subversive as Hansel and Gretel learn to take charge of their destinies and become the clever architects of their own happily ever after.

These books were fantastic and fun middle grade reads. I picked up A Tale Dark and Grimm during the Fairy Tale Readathon, and it was the perfect book to get me excited about reading during an extended readathon. When I finished A Tale Dark and Grimm, I immediately ran out for In A Glass Grimmly, because I wanted to continue with such a fun book.

In each chapter, Gidwitz modifies an original Grimm tale (or sometimes another fairy tale) to create a flowing narrative which, in A Tale Dark and Grimm, follows Hansel and Gretel, and which, in In a Glass Grimmly, follows Jack and Jill. He uses both well-known and lesser-known tales, ranging from Faithful Johannes to Hansel and Gretel.

As much as I liked the fairy tales (and I did like them very much), the best part of these stories is the constant narrator commentary. The narrator inserts his (or her, but I'll assume his as the author is a man) thoughts every few pages, speaking directly to and even playing tricks on the reader. It reminded my a little bit of the Bartimaeus books, but without the footnotes. This narrator doesn't both with footnotes. He sticks his thoughts right into the middle of the text. And it totally worked - it was hilarious.

In A Tale Dark and Grimm, I loved Hansel and Gretel, the main characters. They were excellent middle grade protagonists: clever, interesting, and proactive. In In a Glass Grimmly, Jack and Jill were not quite as fun. Although I enjoyed the narratorial comments just as much if not more in In a Glass Grimmly, I found the characters not quite as easy to connect to or sympathize with.

Overall Thoughts: I would happily recommend this to any middle grader who came my way, especially a middle grade boy who was in a reading slump. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and I am proud to add these volumes to my collection of fairy tale retellings.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cover Crazy: Towering

Cover Crazy is a weekly meme hosted by The Book Worms on Mondays. The idea is to showcase a beautiful book cover each week.

This week, I'm crazy about...
Towering, by Alex Flinn

For a change, I am not a fan of the girl-in-a-dress part of this cover. I definitely preferred when Alex Flinn's books all had the red, white, and black flowers and the matching thorny font. The flowers connected the different books in my (and I'm sure other readers') mind(s) with the author and the other books.

However, I do really like the other elements of the cover. It is very clearly a Rapunzel retelling, especially combined with the title, Towering (which does keep the thorny font that I like so much). I like the way the colors play off each other. With the dark sky, the snow, the tower, and the white dress, her hair seems to be nearly the only color in the cover, and certainly pops against all the other elements. I also really like the way that the snow is placed on the cover. I can't quite put my finger on why but it is my favorite part. The tower is also really cool.

All in all, even though I am not such a fan of the girl or the dress, this cover makes me very excited to pick up Alex Flinn's new release.

Want to know more about Towering?
At first, I merely saw his face, his hands on the window ledge. Then, his whole body as he swung himself through the window. Only I could not see what he swung on.
Until, one day, I told my dream self to look down. And it was then that I saw. He had climbed on a rope. I knew without asking that the rope had been one of my own tying.

Rachel is trapped in a tower, held hostage by a woman she’s always called Mama. Her golden hair is growing rapidly, and to pass the time, she watches the snow fall and sings songs from her childhood, hoping someone, anyone, will hear her.

Wyatt needs time to reflect or, better yet, forget about what happened to his best friend, Tyler. That’s why he’s been shipped off to the Adirondacks in the dead of winter to live with the oldest lady in town. Either that, or no one he knows ever wants to see him again.

Dani disappeared seventeen years ago without a trace, but she left behind a journal that’s never been read, not even by her overbearing mother…until now.

A #1 New York Times bestselling author, Alex Flinn knows her fairy tales, and Towering is her most mind-bending interpretation yet. Dark and mysterious, this reimagining of Rapunzel will have readers on the edge of their seats wondering where Alex will take them next!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Face Off: Falling Forward

Friday Face-Off is a weekly feature hosted by Misty at The Book Rat

This week's FFO is a throwback to my very first FFO, when A Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn Davies won against Baci Immortali by Laini Taylor. This week, A Beautiful Dark faces off yet again, this time against Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey. 

Like the last cover comparison, both covers show a girl with her arms outstretched, falling forward to an uncertain fate. Although I still prefer the cover for A Beautiful Dark, I like how the girl seems to be rising out of the water on the cover for Ashes on the Waves, almost as if she was part of the wave herself. 

But now it's your turn to choose...
Which cover did it better?

Click on any cover to enlarge.
Leave your thoughts in the comments!

On last week's FFO: The covers for Scarlet won against, Dark Triumph and Maid of Secrets. Dark Triumph came in second, and Maid of Secrets received no votes. Thanks to M.A.D., Natasha, and Heather for commenting!

As usual, you are still welcome to comment with your thoughts on old FFOs, and I will update this page accordingly.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Review: The False Prince

By Jennifer A. Nielsen
Series: The Ascendance Trilogy #1
Hardcover, 342 pages
Published April 1st 2012 by Scholastic
Age Recommendation: Young Adult and older Middle Grade readers

Summary (from Goodreads):
THE FALSE PRINCE is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.

I loved The False Prince. It had all the elements of my favorite books: fully fleshed out and fantastic characters, intricate plans, and just a hint of fantasy. Sage was practically a reincarnation of one of my favorite characters of all time, Gen from The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. He had the same irreverent attitude and quick wit along with a healthy disrespect of authority and sharp temper. Also like Gen, he always had a plan up his sleeve and a secret that even the reader doesn’t know about. I loved him. It was like reading my favorite story in a whole new way.

There is no way I can possibly praise the book enough. It begins excitingly, and only gets better from there. Nielsen gives just enough information to keep the reader on the edge of their seat, and it is so much fun to unravel the many mysteries entwined and surrounding each other. Of course no one is as they seem (I wouldn't enjoy it nearly so much if they were).

The plot does not move quickly, but it never seems to drag. It is the perfect pace, and keeps the reader turning pages as quickly as if it were an action-packed thriller.

All of the characters were fantastic, especially as the reader is able to see many sides of each. It is not possible to call even the supporting characters flat. Readers will be eager to uncover the secrets of each character.

Overall Thoughts:
A superb read. Sage alone makes The False Prince fantastic, but all of the other elements - the exciting plot, amazing characters, and the secrets hiding everyone's true intentions - raise it to the next level. Highly recommended.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday Face Off: Playing With Knives

Friday Face-Off is a weekly feature hosted by Misty at The Book Rat

This week's FFO features not two but three covers that show a girl holding a dagger. All three of the girls seem to have a different intent, but there is little doubt that they would all use their daggers if necessary. 

But now it's your turn to choose...
Which cover did it better?

Click on any cover to enlarge.
Leave your thoughts in the comments!

On last week's FFO: The cover for The Goddess Inheritance won against Cursed, although Cursed gained support for its more natural-looking model. The overall sentiment was that the colors on The Goddess Inheritance complemented each other better, which created an overall more pleasing cover.

As usual, you are still welcome to comment with your thoughts on old FFOs, and I will update this page accordingly.


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