Review: Cinders & Sapphires

Cinders & Sapphires
Leila Rasheed
2013
Disney-Hyperion
ISBN 9781423171171

*Reviewed from galley via http://www.netgalley.com*

Rose Cliffe is a housemaid to Lady Ada Averly at the lavish Somerton house. As the housekeeper’s daughter, she seems to be a favourite of the master of the house, which doesn’t exactly endea her to the rest of the staff. But could there be another reason for Lord Averley’s interest? Meanwhile, Lady Ada must marry a wealthy man in order to erase the hint of scandal that has followed her family from their decade spent in India. But on her voyage to England, Ava meets an enchanting stranger and finds herself falling in love with someone she can never marry.

I wanted to read this book because it sounded very Downton Abbey-esque, although I don’t know if that will matter to teens. Lady Ada being in love with an Indian scholar was a nice twist on the typical unrequited love story. I also liked having the story told from multiple perspectives, as this helped gain insight into the minds of both the characters upstairs and those serving below stairs. Otherwise, the writing was a bit cliché at times and the story line dragged a little. Still, I’m a fan of historical novels and will probably check out the next book in the series.

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Review: Origin

Origin
Jessica Khoury
Razorbill
2012
978-1595145956

Piya lives in the scientific community called Little Cambridge, hidden away in the Amazon rainforest. She is not like other teenager girls – she is immortal, the first of her kind. Piya dreams of becoming a full-fledged scientist so that she can learn the secret to creating immortals and eventually help to create others like her. At the same time, she yearns to explore the world beyond the glass walls of her bedroom. One night, she spots a hole in the electric fence surrounding the compound, and decides to sneak out and explore the jungle. There, she meets Eio, a member of the Ai’aon tribe that lives in the jungle. As she begins to fall in love with Eio, Piya feels torn between her destiny and her desire for freedom, and she begins to discover that her life in Little Cambridge may not be what it seems.

I found Origin a bit slow to get going. Khoury does an excellent job of describing the jungle and the various plants Piya encounters and these vivid descriptions help immerse the reader in Piya’s world. At the same time, I am someone who gets bored easily with too much description so for me I found the pacing a bit slow. Fortunately, things pick up in the second half of the book as Piya begins to question her world and seeks to find answers about what is really going on in Little Cambridge. I got a little exasperated by all the obstacles she encounters in her quest for truth. It is necessary for the plot, as otherwise there would be no story, but I find sometimes the number of things that stand in the way between the heroine/hero and what they desire just becomes a bit much. Nonetheless, Origin raises a lot of important questions about biological engineering and is still a worthwhile read for sci-fi fans.

Review: Such Wicked Intent

Such Wicked Intent
Kenneth Oppel
HarperCollins Canada
2012
9781554683420

In this sequel to This Dark Endeavour, Victor Frankenstein is mourning the death of his twin brother, Konrad. The dark library has been closed off and all its books burned following Victor’s failed attempt at creating the elixir of life in order to save his brother. When Victor pulls a book from the ashes of the fire, what he finds inside seems to be the answer he’s been seeking – a way to bring Konrad back from the dead. But as Victor and his friends Elizabeth and Henry travel to the spirit realm to save Konrad, what they find is far more dangerous than they expected. Will magic be enough to reunite Victor with his twin, and can he win Elizabeth’s affections even as she continues to mourn his brother?

I liked this book a lot more than the first one. As I mentioned in my review, I found that This Dark Endeavour was slow in places and had expected more action during Victor’s quest to make the elixir of life. This book was a lot more action-packed and I found it easier to get invested in the story line. I do find it a bit puzzling that every boy she encounters somehow ends up falling in love with Elizabeth given that at times she is seriously unlikable. True, Victor is often self-centred and has a tendency to scheme, but I think Elizabeth could stand to lighten up a bit. Anyway, just my opinion. I still enjoyed the book and hope to see more of Victor’s adventures.

Apocalypse Tour at Indigo

Megan Crewe, Cherly Rainfield, Leah Bobet, Maureen McGowam, and Lesley Livingston

Last week, I attended the Apocalypse Tour at Indigo Yorkdale. The event featured five authors who have recently written dystopian-ish novels: Megan Crewe (The Way We Fall), Cheryl Rainfield (Hunted), Leah Bobet (Above), Maureen McGowan (Deviants), and Lesley Livingston (Starling). I love reading YA and have read three out of the five books, so I decided to go and listen to the authors discuss their craft. The authors discussed their writing process, how they got published, what intrigues them about writing dystopian fiction, and why they love Toronto. Afterward, the authors stuck out to sign books and give out some free swag. This was a great event, and I hope Indigo will continue to host YA authors in the future.

Pew Research Center Report on E-readers

Yesterday I was looking over a study from the Pew Research Center on e-readers in libraries. When I worked as a Young Adult Librarian, I didn’t get a lot of e-reader questions. Occasionally I would have someone call me asking for help accessing our Young Adult titles through Overdrive or a parent asking about Tumblebooks, but for the most part the questions were confined to the adult desk. Now that I am working in adult services, however, I have noticed quite a few people are asking about e-readers and are interested in borrowing them from the library. Not surprisingly the study found that social media use is on the rise, with 92% of users 18-29 using social networking sites, 73% of people 30-49, 57% of those 50-64 and 38% of those 65 and older. One-third of adults surveyed own an e-reader or tablet, and this number is likely to rise this holiday season with the launch of the iPad Mini, iPad 4, and Microsoft Surface, among other devices. In terms of borrowing e-books from the library, 62% of survey participants who do not borrow from the library didn’t even know they could! Additionally, 58% of all library card holders didn’t know they could borrow e-books. Clearly libraries must do more to promote their online resources. Many libraries are beginning to offer “Book a Librarian” programs to allow people to bring in their mobile devices and get assistance with downloading audiobooks and e-books. Additionally, some public libraries are hiring “tech coaches” on a paid or volunteer basis to teach people the ins and outs of e-readers and social media technology. I believe these types of services will continue to be popular in the coming years. Interestingly, the study also found that 40% of users age 16-29 are reading more as a result of digital content and 83% has visited a library in the past year. This is encouraging news given how much worry there seems to be in the media about young people and reading.

Book Award News

The Ontario Library Association has announced the nominees for this year’s Forest of Reading. You can find the lists here. I have to say that after reading and reviewing all the nonfiction titles for the Red Maple, it is exciting to finally be able to see the list in print and know that soon kids across the province will be reading the books our committee chose. Personally, I’m about to start reading Megan Crewe’s The Way We Fall, which is nominated for the White Pine Award.

The short list for the Scotiabank Giller Prize was released October 1st. You can check out the nominees here. So far the only book I have read is Nancy Richler’s The Imposter Bride, which I stayed up later than I should have to finish last night and hope to find time to review soon.

The winner of the 2012 Man Booker Prize was announced today. Hilary Mantel won for Bringing Up The Bodies, a sequel to Wolf Hall, which won the award in 2009. Given my love of novels and TV shows set in Tudor England I am surprised I have not read these books yet. Guess I’ve got some more titles to add to my perpetually expanding “to be read” list!

The Word on the Street

On Sunday I braved the chilly temperature and threat of rain to venture over to Queen’s Park Circle in Toronto for the 23rd annual Word on the Street book and magazine festival. It had been a few years since I was able to attend, so I was happy to be back. My first stop was  This Is Not the Shakespeare Stage, where I was able to take in Norah McClintock, Ted Staunton, Shane Peacock, and Richard Scrimger (see photo below) as they discussed their recent collaboration on the young adult series Seven. The series is about an adventuresome grandfather who, upon his death, leaves a will outlining seven tasks, one for each of his grandsons that will take them on journeys from Iceland to Mt. Kilimanjaro. Other authors who contributed to the series include Eric Walters, John Wilson, and Sigmund Brouwer. Interestingly, the books do not need to be read in any particular order, so the “ending” of the series is really dependent on the reader. For more information about the series, visit http://orcabook.com/seventheseries/#!/main.

Moderator Dory Cerny leads the discussion with Norah McClintock, Ted Staunton, Shane Peacock and Richard Scrimger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up was author Megan Crewe. Crewe discussed facing your fears through writing and talked about the inspiration behind her novel The Way We Fall, about a teenager whose island community is quarantined following the outbreak of a deadly virus.  After hearing Crewe read a passage from the book, I am adding it to my “To be read” pile! If you’ve already read it, fear not: the second book in the trilogy, The Lives We Lost, is out in February.

Next onstage was the “Out of the Ordinary” panel featuring Deborah Kerbel, Lesley Livingston, Mariko Tamaki, and Natalie Zina Walschots. Kerbel began with a reading from her latest book, Under the Moon, in which Lily’s health suffers after she loses the ability to sleep following her aunt Su’s death. She meets Ben, who works the night shift at the local drive-through, who at first seems just plain rude but who might actually be the key to saving her. Next up was Lesley Livingston, reading a storm scene from her new release, Starling. Appropriately enough, during the reading heavy rain came down and the wind was blowing. Very creepy. Fans of Livingston’s Wondrous Strange trilogy will be pleased to know that Fennrys Wolf shows up just in time to save our heroine, Mason, from the storm and he just happens to be…naked. And suffering severe memory loss. He and Mason must work together to figure out what is happening around them and who Fennrys is. Following Livingston, Mariko Tamaki read from (You) Set Me On Fire, about a college student named Allison who’s been burned before – both literally and figuratively. Allison revels in the opportunity to reinvent herself at college, but will her relationship with Shar cause her to earn more scars? Tamaki’s hilarious reading of a scene in which a college party goes horribly wrong thanks to the “Tower of Power” and its accompanying shots was certainly well-received by the crowd. Finally, Natalie Zina Walschots read a few poems from Doom: Poems for Supervillains, impressing us with her vocabulary while offering up a different take on classic bad guys like Bane.

Following the panel, I was able to get my copy of Starling signed by Lesley Livingston, and then it was off to explore the rest of the festival. Unfortunately my camera battery died and I have no idea how to get the rest of my pictures out of my (non-smart)phone, but I can say I did Kevin Sylvester rocking an awesome chef’s hat while signing books for his fans, and I also saw Olivia leaving the festival, Chirp over at Owl Kids, and Polkaroo hiding out behind the TVO Kids stage waiting to make a grand entrance. Despite the chilly weather, I had a great time and hope to return next year.

Pride and Prejudice: Fun and Games

It’s Pride and Prejudice week over at Forever Young Adult, and they’ve highlighted a couple of P&P-related games. The Pride and Prejudice board game, while pricey at $45.00 (I assume U.S.) looks awesome. In library school, my friends and I used to gather to watch Jane Austen movies and drink tea (not kidding). How awesome would it have been to play this board game? The bloggers at FYA have also created a drinking game based on the 1995 miniseries so that you can “kick it Mr. Hurst-style.” Cheers!

Librarian Tattoos

My friend Dana sent me this link from Mental Floss of library-related tattoos. I love libraries, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a limit to how far I would go to express my library love. I particularly like the sleeve of the card catalogue and the “Shh” one.

Indigo’s Fall YA Picks

Indigo has posted a list of top picks for teens. I am super excited to read The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. I really enjoyed The Scorpio Races as well as her Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. I am also keen to read Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel, the follow-up to his Frankenstein retelling This Dark Endeavor.  I did find that book a bit slow in parts but I am still intrigued to see what happens to Victor next. Also on deck is Reached, the finale of Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy; Days of Blood & Starlight, Laini Taylor’s sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone; and Starling by Lesley Livingston. Have I mentioned how much I love fall?