Friday, July 10, 2015

One by Sarah Crossan

Very rarely do I cry over books or movies, but I was grabbing at the tissues when it came to Sarah Crossan's latest book set to release Sept. 15, 2015, One.  I'll be honest, I picked this book up because I thought the cover was beautiful (even though I have always been told to never judge a book by its cover).

Meet Grace and Tippi.  They are sisters who share everything:  their room, their clothes,... and their bodies.  These sixteen-year-old conjoined twins have never wanted to undergo the risky surgery that would separate them until they are forced to consider it after Grace suffers from a fluke virus.  Readers will ache to reach through the pages and hug Tippi and Grace as they confront the most important and impossible decision of their lives.

I had never read Sarah Crossan before, but now that I have, I want more!  She writes with an exquisite grace and sensitivity that makes the reader question everything they thought they knew about identity, sibling relationships, and true love and understanding.  I love that this book is written in free verse poetry (think Love that Dog by Sharon Creech or Brown Girl Dreaming  by Jacqueline Woodson) because there is a certain power behind each and every word, phrase, and image Crossan conjures.  This was a quick, but compelling read for me.  While I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good read, girls 14 years and up will most definitely enjoy this glimpse into a world so alike and yet drastically different from their own.

Grace gives this book 5 out of 5 carrots!

Click here to pre-order your copy of One! (Release date:  Sept. 15, 2015)

Friday, April 3, 2015

"1984" by George Orwell

Winston Smith lives in a world ruled by fear.  Everyone fears their children who are trained as spies for the government. They fear the thought police. They fear emotion and even speaking. They fear being killed. Most of all, they fear The Party.
 In the city of London, country of Oceania, the year is 1984 – or so Winston thinks, he can’t quite remember the date. He does know that The Party rules Oceania, and he is an outer member working for the Ministry of Truth. His job is to keep information ‘up to date’. Sometimes this means manipulating the records of the amount of supplies distributed to make The Party seem generous. Other times, if people were vaporized, it’s Winston’s job to make them unpersons. He deletes them out of all records as if they never existed. Winston also alters the facts of history. So much history has been rewritten; no one knows what life was like before The Party existed.
Winston loathes The Party, but just like everyone else fears it. He never shows any emotion and never speaks unless he must. Anything could be seen as rebellion and anyone can report to the ever present thought police. But one day Winston buys a journal on the black market and begins writing. It’s against The Party, but he knows his punishment would be minimal. Stories and emotions slowly begin to fill the pages. At first he is so nervous he almost can’t write, but as he continues rebellion is sweet. His hatred of The Party gradually conquers his fear and his anti-Party actions increase in number and severity. 
I have never read anything quite like Orwell’s 1984. As a lover of young adult literature, dystopian novels have a special place in my heart, but this novel is nothing like the ones I have ever read. The society Orwell created is so fear based that no one ever talks; there is rarely dialogue. Yet, from the outsider’s view of Winston’s thoughts, a clear picture of the setting, society and time is painted.  Written in 1949, this novel predicted the future as Orwell saw it.  1984 gives readers the unique ability to compare a past prediction to what actually occurred. I found it extremely intriguing and highly recommend it!
Clare gives 1984 5 out of 5 carrots!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Grace's July Indie Next List Picks

The July Indie Next List just came out and two of the featured reads are my current favorites to recommend!

Grace's 1st Pick: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell has quickly become one of my favorite authors.  I would buy anything she wrote, even if it was a technical manual on how to operate a vacuum cleaner.  That's why I'm so excited to tell you all about her latest novel, Landline, because not only is it about a topic way more exciting than vacuum cleaners, it's an exceptional piece of writing! 

Georgie McCool (seriously, what an awesome name!) is about to make a big move in her career as a television writer and she couldn't be happier, except that it means the slow implosion of her marriage is about to speed up.  Georgie's husband, Neal, and their kids leave for Christmas while Georgie stays behind to work on her new TV show, and she begins to wonder if she's finally ruined everything.   That's when she discovers that her old landline offers a way to communicate with Neal in the past, exactly one week before he proposed.  Now she has the opportunity to fix her marriage before it even starts...unless she's not meant to?  Faced with a choice of moving forward or living in the past, Georgie must decide which path is the best for herself, her marriage, and her family.

Readers will be enthralled with Rowell's true-to-life characters and her ability to make a magical connection to the past seem completely feasible.  I mean seriously?  A magical landline?  And yet, I completely bought into it because Rowell's writing totally captivates and engrosses the reader from the very first chapter.  It's the perfect beach read, rainy day read, stay up until all hours of the night read, forgot to make dinner because this book is so good get the idea!

Grace gives this book 5 out of 5 carrots!

Click here to purchase your copy of Landline from The Velveteen Rabbit Bookshop & Guest House.

More of an eBook reader?  Click here to find out how you can support your local, independent bookshop through eReading!

Grace's 2nd Pick: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

My second pick is featured as the cover page title of the July Indie Next List and it has a take-charge, intelligent heroine at the helm.  Kelsea Raleigh Glynn has been raised in exile, but now that she has come of age, she must reclaim her mother's throne and learn to be a ruler despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  There's the Red Queen, a powerful monarch in a neighboring kingdown; the Caden, a group of assassins tasked with eliminating Kelsea; and the Regent of Tearling, her uncle Thomas, who will do anything necessary to stay in power. Facing these three foes, Kelsea must gain the trust and loyalty of her protectors and subjects, as well as learn to use the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense power passed on to her by her late mother.

What doesn't this novel have?  Readers can find magic, adventure, mystery, and romance as they follow Kelsea's journey to reclaiming her throne.  Johansen has laid a fantastic foundation for what promises to be thrilling trilogy in this first book.  While the story seemed to drag in a few places, it had more than enough twists and turns in the plot to keep me reading late into the night.  Johansen's characters and world-building really blew me away and must have impressed some other readers as well because Harry Potter producer David Heyman has taken on the project of creating a film version of the book with Emma Watson starring as Kelsea!  While book to movie adaptations always make me nervous, it sounds like the novel will be in good hands.  Just be sure to read the book before the story hits the big screen!

Grace gives this book 4.5 out of 5 carrots!

Click here to purchase your copy of The Queen of the Tearling from The Velveteen Rabbit Bookshop & Guest House.

More of an eBook reader?  Click here to find out how you can support your local, independent bookshop through eReading!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"Fangirl" by Rainbow Rowell

I might be a little late to the Rainbow Rowell fan club, but I've got to say that I'm absolutely hooked after reading Fangirl.  I gave serious consideration to immediately re-reading the book once I finished it, but my pile of "books to be read" is just so huge at this point that I was forced to move on.

Meet Cath, an 18 year old starting her freshman year of college.  Her twin sister has abandoned her to meet new people, her roommate is less than polite and has an overly friendly boyfriend, her dad isn't coping well with the whole "empty nest" thing, and her fiction writing professor constantly expects more from her.  All Cath really wants to do is disappear into the world of fanfiction where she's most comfortable.  She's already gained a little bit of fame on the Simon Snow (world-wide literary phenomenon--picture Harry Potter) forums.  Fanfiction is what helped her cope with her mother leaving, created a stronger sisterly bond with her twin, and provided the inspiration for her chosen field of study.  Faced with a new life outside of her comfort zone, Cath will have to choose between moving forward in the real world or continuing to hide in the fanfiction world.

Rowell has a real talent for creating characters so life-like that you almost believe they are people you know.  The dialogue that flies back and forth between certain characters is so realistic and true to the college experience (or at least my college experience) that I was constantly telling people, "Here, just listen to this, I have to read it to you."  Perhaps most impressive was the amount of work and planning that evidently went into setting up a fictional Harry Potter-esque franchise as part of the backdrop for this book.  "Excerpts" and plot points from the Simon Snow series are sprinkled throughout which further sucks the reader into the book.  I actually did a web search to see if Simon Snow was a real series just to make sure I wasn't missing something.  I also appreciated the fact that this is a true young adult novel.  While I do enjoy a good teeny-bopper book, Fangirl  is definitely written for a slightly more mature audience (I'd probably recommend to ages 16+) and I found that really refreshing.

Grace gives this book 5 out of 5 carrots!

Friday, June 7, 2013

"The Diviners" by Libba Bray

When looking for a good book to kick off my summer reading, I searched through my "Books to Read" list (an Excel spreadsheet on my laptop complete with the title, author, date I heard about it, and whether or not I already own it, I kid you not) and decided it was time to give The Diviners a try.  I'd read several of Bray's other books before and loved them, so I wasn't surprised that I enjoyed the book.  I was shocked however by how quickly I was hooked and deeply I was engaged by the end of the first chapter.

It's 1926 and Evie O'Neill, the very definition of a flapper girl, has been exiled from her hometown in Ohio to the bustling streets of New York City (poor thing!) after making an enemy of the town's golden boy while drunk at a party.  She is sent to live with her Uncle Will, a curator for the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, who has been asked to give the police an assist in solving a string of grisly murders.  Evie convinces her uncle to let her use her ability to read people's pasts while holding an object of their possession to help him in the investigations.  Bray creates a fantastic company of characters to support Evie in her quest for answers, including a mysterious assistant at the museum, a numbers runner in Harlem who dreams of becoming famous through his poetry, a Ziegfield Follies girl on the run from her past, a rakish pickpocket, and Evie's more traditional best friend, Mabel. Now Evie and the rest of the cast must solve the mystery behind the murders before the killer has a chance to unleash some real evil into this world.

What impressed me the most about this book is the way Bray is able to seamlessly weave together multiple points of view from the different characters to create a narrative that is both snappy with that Roaring 20s vibe and hauntingly suspenseful.  There were times where I was compelled to read far later than originally intended because I had  to know what happened next.  Bray also does a fantastic job of bringing her diverse cast of characters to life.  There are only a few books that I have read where I have felt as though I truly know a character from their motivations to their mannerisms, and this is one of those books.  While this book is not for the faint of heart, I would recommend The Diviners to teen readers and those who enjoy being completely engrossed in a fantastic story.

Grace gives this book five out of five carrots!

Click here to order your copy from The Velveteen Rabbit Bookshop and Guest House!

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Friday, March 29, 2013

"Inside Out & Back Again" by Thanhha Lai

There is nothing better than falling in love with an assigned reading for one of your college courses which is exactly what happened to me when I was "forced" to read Inside Out and Back Again for my Children's Literature course.  This 2012 Newbery Honor book is actually a collection of poems (à la Love that Dog by Sharon Creech) and follows the story of 10-year-old Hà and her family as they flee from Saigon to Alabama when the city falls to the North Vietnamese.  Hà loves her native Saigon from the sweet snacks and smells found in the market to the papaya tree she grows in her backyard.  She lives with her three older brothers and her mother; her father was taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese several years ago and is classified as MIA.  When Saigon does fall to the North, Hà and her family escape the city by ship and immigrate to Alabama where they must learn a new language and new customs.

I think what I loved most about this book was Hà's poetic style.  Many of her poems were witty and clever with a strong and natural 10-year-old voice, and some of them were truly heartbreaking.  As the book is based off of real events from the author's (Thannha Lai) life, it is no surprise that he is able to capture the images and emotions that come with being forced to flee one's homeland with truthful clarity.  I have always been interested in the Vietnam War era, but had only really read accounts from United States citizens.  This novel brought a whole new perspective to that time period for me.  I would recommend this quick read for ages nine and up, especially those readers who are historical fiction fans or have a particular affinity for the Vietnam War era.

Grace gives this book five out of five carrots!

Click here to order your copy from The Velveteen Rabbit Bookshop and Guest House!

Monday, August 27, 2012

"The Legend of L'Esprit" by Doris Greenberg and Pandré Shandley

As the resident dancer here at The Velveteen Rabbit, I was so excited to have The Legend of L'Esprit fall into my lap this summer.  It was the perfect summer read for someone who spent 14 years of her life in a dance studio, but I think the plot line will appeal to those who have never stepped foot in a dance class as well.

Libby Nobleton and her family have recently moved to Chicago and she is looking for a new dance studio to call home.  When she auditions for the premier studio, L'Esprit, she knows she's found her place.  But there's more to this dance studio than ballet barres and full-length mirrors; rumor has it that L'Esprit is haunted by the spirit of the prima ballerina who originally founded the school.  Now Libby and her new friends have to uncover the truth about what happened on the most tragic night of L'Esprit's history to help more than one soul find its peace.

What I found so refreshing about this first novel in the Dance Legacy series was its spot-on blend of the day-to-day life of a young dancer along with the mystery and intrigue of the paranormal phenomena at the dance studio.  I also appreciated the fact that Libby was not involved in a torrid love triangle; she's got a straight head on her shoulders and is an excellent role model both for young dancers, as well as young women in general.  That's not to say that this book is not without its romance!  There's just enough of it to keep the reader satisfied and it's handled in a way that makes it seem realistic, rather than totally unattainable. 

One of the unique features of this book was the dance glossary located in the back.  After having been taught dance by hearing the terms rather than reading them, it was fun to see them actually spelled out and say, "So that's how that's written!"  Each chapter features a different dance term as well, so you don't have to keep paging to the back of the book to look them up.  This is a must-read for those reading dancers out there, as well as those readers just looking for a good book.

Grace gives it 5 out of 5 carrots!

Click here to order your copy at The Velveteen Rabbit Bookshop and Guest House!