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review: “liar” September 29, 2009

Posted by Katie in reviews.
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Happy book birthday, “Liar!” Can’t wait to see you on the library’s shelf.


Liar by Justine Larbalestier.
Bloomsbury // ARC // 384 pages.
Reviewed from an ARC received at ALA Annual Conference 2009.

Micah Wilkins will tell you flat out that she’s a liar. Except, she promises, that this is the truth. Her secret boyfriend Zach is now dead, and she’s going to tell her story. Toss in some family secrets, the whole school thinking that Micah had something to do with Zach’s death, and her own tendencies to lie about everything and you’ve got yourself one interesting story and protagonist.

This book is an incredibly hard book to summarize without giving spoilers. I will probably pitch it to teens as “She’s a liar. Can you believe anything she says?” and hope that we get some bites from that.

I liked this book, but I’m still not one hundred percent sure about how I felt about it — if that makes any sense. It’s a fast, compelling read, and I know that readers will race to the end of the book trying to find out what really happened.

For me, it was a hard read at the same time because I had no idea if Micah was telling me the truth and had an even harder time trying to relate to her. When I found parts to connect with her, I had to sit there and wonder if that was a lie designed to make me like her, created by Micah to make Micah sympathetic. And then I sat back and thought about whether or not Micah herself even knew what was true or not anymore. By then, I had to re-read the last few lines to remember where I had been.

(Is your head spinning yet?)

That being said, I love Larbalestier’s writing and I don’t think that this kind of a novel would have worked with just any writer.

I’m patiently waiting for the official release date so that my teens can start reading the finished copy and we can start comparing how we felt about Micah. I will definitely be purchasing “Liar” for the library even though I’m still halfway baffled by the book.

SWAN catalog
Justine Larbalestier



book birthday bash. September 2, 2009

Posted by Katie in shoptalk.
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Well, my birthday bash celebration on Tuesday ended abruptly when I went to Borders and didn’t manage to snag any of the books I wanted to, other than “Catching Fire.” (Ironically, Borders did have “Crazy Beautiful” by Lauren Baratz-Logsted in stock a week early though. I did get that!)

But, I now have in my possession “Dreaming Anastasia,” and the mockingjay bird pin that Borders was selling exclusively (a co-worker went and got it for me because my Borders failed). I put “The Hollow” on order. Hopefully, I’ll get it soon.

Additionally I completely forgot about *another* September 1st release date — “The Devil’s Kiss” by Sarwat Chadda.

So, in brief conclusion, YAY that all of these books are now out. One of the hardest things for me after hearing about a new awesome book is the wait. I was never a patient kid! I knew where the presents were hidden in my house and I peeked every time.

The day I had to sign the waiver stating that I wouldn’t read “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” before midnight when they would ship the book earlier that week was the hardest day of my life! (I did, however, restrain from reading it. Instead, I hugged the book every time I went into the circulation area though.)

Go run out to your library or bookstore and get these books though! Enjoy their birthday week!

“Ash” by Malinda Lo. [Amazon, SWAN Catalog, Review]
“Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins. [Amazon, SWAN Catalog, Review]
“The Devil’s Kiss” by Sarwat Chadda. [Amazon, SWAN Catalog, Review forthcoming!]
“Dreaming Anastasia” by Joy Preble. [Amazon, SWAN Catalog, Review forthcoming!]
“Hate List” by Jennifer Brown. [Amazon, SWAN Catalog, Review]
“The Hollow” by Jessica Verday. [Amazon, SWAN Catalog, Review forthcoming!]

Happy book birthday to you!

review: “hate list” September 1, 2009

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(Yay! “Hate List” is now available wherever books are sold! Give my library another week to process it.)


Hate List by Jennifer Brown.
Little, Brown // ARC // 416 pages.
Reviewed from an ARC provided by the publisher.

It’s been five months since Val’s boyfriend Nick brought a gun to school and open fired in the school cafeteria. Val’s been painted as part of the problem because the names of the targets Nick shot at were all on their “Hate List.” Shot herself, she spent the summer hiding out, but has decided to return to school to complete her senior year. Her friends have left her, her enemies are suddenly hanging around, and the school is reciting the party line that the shooting has built their community, that hate has disappeared. Val’s stuck in a maelstrom of feelings as she tries to come to terms with the shooting and her place in it.

I was a freshman in high school when Columbine happened. I was a sophomore when we started practicing “Code Red” drills. I was a sophomore when someone brought a gun to my school and was only suspended. We didn’t make the news because no one was shot.

I knew that reading this book would be difficult for me. I didn’t realize exactly how much I needed to read it though.

Val’s story is told in newspaper articles, in flashbacks, and in present tense. Her feelings are real, tangible, and I was caught up in her own turmoil, in her own confusion.

This novel is about more than a school shooting. It is about the aftermath, the new school rules, the media attention, the media spin, and hate. And bullying. And cliques. And everything that adults like to pretend doesn’t exist in high school, everything that adults like to chalk up to as “adolescent behavior.”

I have long since believed that adults need to open their eyes.

This book is accessible, and I hope that adults will find it as well as teens. I’m already thinking about doing a book club feature, pairing this with a non-fiction read.

A must buy for YA collections.

SWAN catalog
Jennifer Brown


review: “ash” September 1, 2009

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(Yay! “Ash” is now available wherever books are sold! Give my library another week to process it.)


Ash by Malinda Lo.
Little, Brown // ARC // 272 pages.
Reviewed from an ARC received at ALA Annual Conference 2009.

A retold and re-imagined Cinderella story. Ash’s mother has past away and her father has remarried, leaving her alone with her step-mother and two step-sisters. During the day, Ash works hard, following the orders of her step-family. At night though, she dreams of fairies and the woods. Slowly, Ash begins to explore the woods around her home, meeting Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, and Sidhean, a mysterious stranger. But secrets from Ash’s past have yet to play out. And there is more to her story than meets the eye…

I read “Ash” in one fell swoop, eagerly turning the pages until I finished the book. The writing of this book was lyrical and the imagery was fantastic. I really got a sense of the location of the book; Ash’s mother’s grave site and the woods are the most memorable places for me.

But what truly shined were the characters and their accessibility. So often in fairy tales I feel like the characters are too perfect, that they don’t make mistakes and that they don’t rescue themselves. What this retelling has done is given us real characters that teens can relate to despite the historical setting. Teens will be able to see themselves in Ash, and to connect with her.

I loved how the elements of the traditional Cinderella story were changed, molded to the story. I didn’t feel like it was forced, it was all very natural and fluid. In particular, I liked the idea of an actual fairy serving as the fairy godmother.

The ending of the story leaves a good chunk to the imagination. There is a part of the story untold. I wasn’t bothered by this, but I know some of my teens will come up to the desk and ask me why that part wasn’t written. I’m betting, though, that the majority of them will just use their imaginations.

A wonderful debut novel — I look forward to whatever follows.

SWAN catalog
Malinda Lo


book birthday! August 31, 2009

Posted by Katie in shoptalk.
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Well, the day has finally come. And by the day, I mean September 1st. It seems like a ton of YA books are having their book birthdays tomorrow/today and I for one, will be celebrating.


Check back on the blog throughout the day for reviews, discussion posts, and possibly a trip to Borders to celebrate the following books:

“Hate List” by Jennifer Brown.
“Ash” by Malinda Lo.
“The Hollow” by Jessica Verday.
“Dreaming Anastasia” by Joy Preble.
“Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins.

Looking forward to these amazing books being released into the world!