Tuesday, August 14, 2012




I had already heard great things about this novel, but when I finally started flipping through it, I had to buy it.  (And this is coming from a librarian... who usually borrows books.)  The images that I found inside... the old photoraphs... they just really seemed like works of art, and I knew right away that this was a book that I needed to have on my personal shelves.

This is the story of Jacob, who is a bit of a loner and is generally disappointed in the way his life is going.  He has grown up listening to his grandfather's fantastic tales of life in a children's home where he kept company with children who had unnatural skills.  He even gave Jacob some photographs of these peculiar children.  As he grew up, Jacob realized that the stories were just that--stories, and the photographs were obviously fabricated. 
     One day, however, Jacob receives a strange call from his grandfather.  He rushes to his house, thinking his grandfather's mind has finally slipped completely.  When he arrives, he finds the house a disaster and his grandfather, savagely attacked, in the nearby woods.  After listening to his grandfather's last words... a warning to go to the island; it was safe there; he has to find the bird... Jacob sees a glimpse of some sort of creature that he is sure killed his grandfather.
     After months of therapy, it is decided that Jacob should go to the island in Whales where his grandfather once lived to confront his fears and his past.  What Jacob finds is a whole new world, one that repeats September 3rd, 1940 over and over again.  Jacob meets the mysterious Miss Peregrine and her charges, and he must decide if he will follow is grandfather's footsteps and protect this new world, or if he should return to his "old" life, his normal life, which is no longer safe.

Ransom Riggs is one of those authors who, literally, creates a whole new world with his writing.  His names for things and the concept of the loop can be somewhat confusing, but it's also what makes the story wonderfully strange.  The images in the book are what draw you in, and Riggs ties them so perfectly to the story.  It's like a picture book for adults with all the same awe and magic remembered from childhood.  The adventures of Jacob take him into fantasy and history.  I cannot wait to see what Ransom Riggs does with the story, and from what I can tell on his blog: http://www.ransomriggs.com/, I will get to find out next year!  He also has put out a book of found photographs like those seen in Miss Peregrine's, and I can't wait to get my hands on that as well!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Rot & Ruin Giveaway

ROT & RUIN Zombie Giveaway!

This is our first ever giveaway on the blog!  The prize package includes:

  • a signed copy of Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry!
  • a collector's' zombie card of the author
  • a body parts gummy candy
Enter below.  The giveaway runs until August 19th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

YA Fest 2012

YA FEST 2012


This past weekend, Janine and I headed out east to YA Fest in Easton, PA.  It was the first of hopefully many more of these events for the Palmer branch library, and it was our first chance to meet some of our favorite authors!  The day-long book festival had tons of highlights: Jonathan Maberry suggesting a skype with our high school book club, hugs from Michelle Zink, a great panel discussion, a prize basket win (which I shared with Janine) and TONS of additions to our "must read in the near future" lists!  We were blown away by how down-to-earth and receptive the authors all were, AND they really dig librarians!! 
Janine, Michelle Zink, and Nicky

When we first arrived at the festival, we hit the author signings first.  Michelle Zink blew us away when we walked up to her, she told us that we looked familiar, and asked if she's seen us online.  Um... YES!  Holy crap, she remembered Janine's review of A Temptation of Angels!!  We chatted for a while, took pictures, and got (many) books signed.

Michelle Zink and Jon Skovron signing books
We also talked with some authors with whom we were not as familiar, but who were very gracious, and we will definitely be checking out their books!  We found out that Jon Skovron, author of Struts & Frets and Misfit, went to college in our town of Pittsburgh.  Michael Northrup was also very fun.

Discussion panel

We then headed off to enter the raffles, and man, they had a TON of prizes!  It was hard to decide which ones we wanted to enter for the Chinese auction.  Next on the schedule was the panel discussion.  The festival held two panel discussions--one for those who love to read YA literature, and one for those who love to write YA literature.  Janine and I sat in for the first one for readers.  We listened to  Jonathan Maberry, Michelle Zink, Barbara Dee, Charles Benoit, and Anne Greenwood Brown.  After the discussion and question-and-answer session, we just had to get books signed by Charles Benoit (who was just too cool for words!) and Anne Greenwood Brown, who was adorable (we can't wait to read Lies Beneath). 

Jonathan Maberry... king of zombie fiction
After the panel discussion, we still had some authors we wanted to meet.  I was so excited to finally meet Jonathan Maberry.  I felt very honored when he commented on my review of Rot and Ruin.  Also, our high school book club had discussed Rot & Ruin last year.  We are planning on reading Dust and Decay with the high school book club for Teen Read Week.  When I told Mr. Maberry about this, he offered to skype with our kids!  I can't wait to tell them!  This really was quite an experience... one I will always remember.

This was such a great an event.  It was well-worth the five hour drive!  Although this was our first festival like this, and we have nothing to compare it with, Janine and I were both very impressed with the number of authors involved with this event, the number and quality of prizes, the organization of the festival, and the number of teens who participated and who were clearly excited to meet some of their favorite authors.  We send out a sincere thank you to all the staff at the Palmer branch of the Easton Public Library, as well as to all of those who volunteered their time, including the authors.

  While Nicky did say it all, I only wanted to say how wonderful of a time we had at YAFest.  This was the first author festival we have been too and it will definitely not be our last!!! I had such an amazing time meeting Michelle Zink (see the picture above), the picture is getting framed and going on my desk!!  Meeting Jonathan Maberry was also a major highlight for me.  Our lunch time book club read Rot and Ruin last September and ever since then, they have been obsessed ( me included!).  The other authors we had the privilege to meet and hear speak were terrific, down to earth and funny!!!  It was also great that Nicky won a gift basket and even better that she shared, since I am one of those people who never seem to win anything!  Thank you to all the amazing authors who participated in this event and to the Easton Public Library, Palmerton branch for hosting what I hope will be the first of many YAFest's!!
                                                             ~ Janine

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Book Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman



As a high school librarian, it's obviously hard to read every book in my collection, and I often find myself recommending books that I haven't even read yet... going by what critics or other students say, or by having read a synopsis of the book.  I must admit, that I've been recommending Unwind for quite some time without having read it.  So this summer, I was determined to get to this book.  I finished it tonight, and I now know that I will be recommending and book talking this one with a whole new passion!

The idea behind this book is what really grabs your attention and makes you want to read it--to find out more.  The characters, and how the story is told, are what keep you from ever wanting to put it down!  The novel takes place in an unspecified future time.  A second civil war has ended... a war between the pro-life and the pro-choice movements.  A compromise has been established.  Unwanted pregnancies can no longer be terminated.  However, a child's life can be terminated by his or her parents between the ages of 13 and 18.  Should a parent decide that they no longer want their child, he or she can be "unwound."  Doctors slowly "dismantle" the body, one part at a time, and each part is donated and used by someone in need.  This story centers on three characters.  Connor, after constantly getting into trouble, is being sent away by his parents to a harvest camp, where he will be unwound.  Risa, whose mother left her when she was just an infant, is a ward of the state.  She has failed to make a great impression on the board who decides her state, and so she is also being sent off to be unwound.  Lev is a tithe.  He has always known that he will be unwound.  As their tenth child, his parents are giving him up as a contribution, a sort of sacrifice for the greater good.  Lev looks forward to his unwinding and believes that he is special, a chosen one.  On one fateful day, their lives intersect, and their survival depends on each other as well as those who want to help.  But not everyone can remain "whole" when the entire world seems to be collapsing.

This is one of the most exciting books that I have read this summer!  I appreciate that, rather than being preachy, Shusterman has even avoided taking sides on the abortion issue while telling a compelling story of what happens when people are so divided that either extreme fails to see what truly is evil.  One of my favorite quotes from the novel goes...
"You see, a conflict always begins with an issue--a difference of opinion, an argument.  but by the time it turns into a war, the issue doesn't matter anymore, because now it's about one thing and one thing only: how much each side hates the other."
Reading this during an election year, with slandering ads on the television every five minutes, and arguments flying back and forth over social media, these words really carried some meaning.  Still, the novel tells a compelling and exciting story based on a heated issue, without getting overly political.   Mostly because you, the reader, want to know what happens to the characters more than you are interested in the political or legal outcome.  Near the end, questions arise.  Seeds of doubt and rebellion are planted, and I see the next books in the trilogy headed in a more political direction.  Still, Shusterman and his characters are dealing with the issue of unwinding, not abortion.  I see readers on both sides of the pro-life/pro-choice debate enjoying this story.  I couldn't put it down, and I'll be waiting on August 28th, for the release of its sequel, UnWholly.