Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Happy Birthday, J.K. Rowling!

Today we celebrate the birthday of J.K. Rowling, author of the wildly popular and beloved Harry Potter series.  If you've been wishing and hoping for her next book, you're in luck!  Rowling's first book for adults, The Casual Vacancy, comes out at the end of September. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Debut Mondays: The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam

From Giller Prize winner, internationally acclaimed, and bestselling author Vincent Lam comes a superbly crafted, highly suspenseful, and deeply affecting novel set against the turmoil of the Vietnam War.

Percival Chen is the headmaster of the most respected English school in Saigon. He is also a bon vivant, a compulsive gambler and an incorrigible womanizer. He is well accustomed to bribing a forever-changing list of government officials in order to maintain the elite status of the Chen Academy. He is fiercely proud of his Chinese heritage, and quick to spot the business opportunities rife in a divided country. He devotedly ignores all news of the fighting that swirls around him, choosing instead to read the faces of his opponents at high-stakes mahjong tables. But when his only son gets in trouble with the Vietnamese authorities, Percival faces the limits of his connections and wealth and is forced to send him away. In the loneliness that follows, Percival finds solace in Jacqueline, a beautiful woman of mixed French and Vietnamese heritage, and Laing Jai, a son born to them on the eve of the Tet offensive. Percival's new-found happiness is precarious, and as the complexities of war encroach further and further into his world, he must confront the tragedy of all he has refused to see.

Blessed with intriguingly flawed characters moving through a richly drawn historical and physical landscape, The Headmaster's Wager is a riveting story of love, betrayal and sacrifice.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dream Big: Space Exploration for Older Kids

The sky doesn't have to be the limit with these excellent books on space exploration!

The Kingfisher Space Encyclopedia

With dramatic full-bleed artwork, a visual design that organizes the information into clear, digestible sections, the latest photography, and special features such as digital cutaways, step-bystep sequences, and callouts featuring key scientific ideas, this amazing 160-page volume is the perfect guide to space.  Arranged thematically into five key areas—Observing Space, The Solar System, Stars and galaxies, Space Exploration, and Space in the Future—this encyclopedia features concise text by an astrophysics expert that is coherent, accurate and perfectly pitched for middle-grade audiences.

The Mighty Mars Rover by Elizabeth Rusch

On June 10, 2003, a little rover named Spirit blasted off on a rocket headed for Mars. On July 7, 2003, a twin rover named Opportunity soared through the solar system with the same mission: to find out if Mars ever had water that could have supported life.A thrilling addition to the acclaimed Scientists in the Field series, The Mighty Mars Rovers tells the greatest space robot adventure of all time through the eyes—and heart—of Steven Squyres, professor of astronomy at Cornell University and lead scientist on the mission.

Space Exploration by Giles Sparrow

Space Travel Guides offer a unique look at our Solar System and beyond for older children. Adopting a 'travel guide' format, this original series takes the reader on a fascinating fact-packed voyage, offering insights and points of interest along they way. Stunning full-colour photographs and quirky cartoons ensure that no detail is omitted as the trip progresses - from planetary features to star magnitudes and from space toilets to driving on the Moon.
This is Rocket Science by Gloria Skurzynski
The compelling text—vetted by NASA scientists—is a combination of history, science, human drama, and future challenges. Readers learn how fireworks in ancient China developed into the fire arrows used by Genghis Khan; we meet Sir Isaac Newton, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and learn how their imaginations shaped rocketry. We revisit the era of Sputnik, the satellite that launched a superpower space race, ending with moonwalks and a rendezvous in space. Finally we look forward to the future challenges of Mars and beyond. We also get a sneak peek at new technologies like space elevators, solar sails, ion propulsion, and more.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Debut Mondays: Shine, Shine, Shine by Lydia Netzer

When Maxon met Sunny, he was seven years, four months, and eighteen-days old. Or, he was 2693 rotations of the earth old. Maxon was different. Sunny was different. They were different together.
Now, twenty years later, they are married, and Sunny wants, more than anything, to be “normal.” She’s got the housewife thing down perfectly, but Maxon, a genius engineer, is on a NASA mission to the moon, programming robots for a new colony. Once they were two outcasts who found unlikely love in each other: a wondrous, strange relationship formed from urgent desire for connection. But now they’re parents to an autistic son. And Sunny is pregnant again. And her mother is dying in the hospital. Their marriage is on the brink of imploding, and they’re at each other’s throats with blame and fear. What exactly has gone wrong?  Sunny wishes Maxon would turn the rocket around and come home.  When an accident in space puts the mission in peril, everything Sunny and Maxon have built hangs in the balance. Dark secrets, long-forgotten murders, and a blond wig all come tumbling to the light. And nothing will ever be the same.…

Friday, July 20, 2012

Happy Birthday, Sir Edmund Hillary!

In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary was the first climber to reach the summit of Mount Everest. He started mountaineering as a young boy, climbing his first major summit in 1939. In 1958, he reached the South Pole overland, and later he traveled to the North Pole. Beyond expeditions, much of his life was devoted to helping the Sherpas of Nepal through the Himalayan Trust, which he founded.

To read more about Sir Hillary, check out the amazing National Geographic documentary, Surviving Everest

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Laughter is the Best Medicine: Funny Juvenile Fiction

Beware the Ninja Weenies by David Lubar

Welcome to the Weenie Zone! Acclaimed author David Lubar is back with his sixth collection of Warped and Creepy Tales: here are thirty-three hilarious and harrowing stories that will scare you, make you laugh, or see the world in a whole new way. Find out where David got the idea for each story at the end of the book.Stranded aliens seek out Earth’s most intelligent species. (Hint: It’s not us.) A bully discovers the meaning of “spatial displacement.” Two girls find out why you should never annoy a witch. When a swarm of sneaking, slashing, scurrying ninja weenies invades their neighborhood, a boy and his best friend find a way to fight back.

You Can't Have My Planet, But Take My Brother Please by James Mihaley
Thirteen-year-old Giles is the last person anyone would expect to save the planet. he's not as charming as his little sister, and not as brainy as his goody-goody older brother. But when Giles witnesses an alien realtor showing Earth to possible new tenants, he knows he'd better do something. With the help of an alien "attorney" and the maddest scientist in middle-grade fiction, Giles just might save humans from eviction from Earth. Let's hope so. The alternatives are...not so hospitable.
The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups by David Wisniewski 

Parents are always spouting these rules. Do they really care about nutrients and mattresses, or are they hiding something? Luckily, one fearless grown-up will risk his neck and his dignity to find out. Disguised as everything from a chocolate milk scuba diver to a giant nose, this counterspy uncovers the disturbing truth. And what he learns will shock you like nothing before. Startling suckface emergencies! Dangerous digit gangs! Powerful sumo cells! Those are just some of the secrets revealed in this book by Caldecott medalist David Wisniewski. But don′t let anyone catch you reading it-especially grown-ups. Who knows what could happen if they knew that you knew?

Fake mustache, by Tom Angleberger

Regular kid Lenny Flem Jr. is the only one standing between his evil-genius best friend—Casper, a master of disguise and hypnosis—and world domination. It all begins when Casper spends money from his granny on a spectacularly convincing fake mustache, the Heidelberg Handlebar #7. With it he’s able rob banks, amass a vast fortune, and run for president. Is Lenny the only one who can see through his disguise? And will he be able to stop Casper from taking over the world?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Debut Mondays: Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

Nick and her cousin, Helena, have grown up sharing sultry summer heat, sunbleached boat docks, and midnight gin parties on Martha's Vineyard in a glorious old family estate known as Tiger House. In the days following the end of the Second World War, the world seems to offer itself up, and the two women are on the cusp of their 'real lives': Helena is off to Hollywood and a new marriage, while Nick is heading for a reunion with her own young husband, Hughes, about to return from the war.

Soon the gilt begins to crack. Helena's husband is not the man he seemed to be, and Hughes has returned from the war distant, his inner light curtained over. On the brink of the 1960s, back at Tiger House, Nick and Helena--with their children, Daisy and Ed--try to recapture that sense of possibility. But when Daisy and Ed discover the victim of a brutal murder, the intrusion of violence causes everything to unravel. The members of the family spin out of their prescribed orbits, secrets come to light, and nothing about their lives will ever be the same.

Brilliantly told from five points of view, with a magical elegance and suspenseful dark longing, Tigers in Red Weather is an unforgettable debut novel from a writer of extraordinary insight and accomplishment.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Silent" Mystery Novels

Since The Artist, an almost silent movie about a silent film actor, won the Academy Award for Best Picture this year, we thought it'd be fun to feature "silent" mysteries. Enjoy (very quietly, of course!).

The Old Silent by Martha Grimes

In order to help stave off a bout of melancholy, Superintendent Richard Jury perversely vacations in the north of England in winter. While at his lodgings, The Old Silent, he witnesses a woman kill her husband. Even though he knows what he saw, the lady intrigues the unlucky-in-love Jury, and he feels that she must have a good reason for pulling the trigger -- but she refuses to talk. Meanwhile, Jury's well-to-do friend Melrose Plant makes the acquaintance of a fiercely independent young girl who has a way with animals -- and who might be in danger. As always, this 10th Jury novel features well-drawn characters and a complex plot and should please fans of traditional mysteries.

The Silent Hour by Michael Kortya

Can murderers be rehabilitated? Alexandra Cantrell, a mafia princess, and her husband, Joshua, thought so -- and so they opened Whisper Ridge, a sort of halfway house for parolees. But 12 years later, the estate sits abandoned and the Cantrells have been missing for over a decade. Then, a former Whisper Ridge resident suddenly contacts Cleveland, Ohio private investigator Lincoln Perry to find the couple. But why has the man been silent all these years? In this 4th outing for Perry, the answer to that query leads to other questions as the already complicated case becomes even more so. Kirkus Reviews says that The Silent Hour has "feisty plotting and the most memorable prose since Chandler."

Lord of the Silent by Elizabeth Peters

In 1915, with a world war going on, Egyptologist Amelia Peabody Emerson and her family leave England to return to Cairo, Egypt. Hoping to keep her son Ramses away from the spy work that endangered his life in an earlier book, Amelia sends him and his new wife, Nefret, to Luxor to check on security at old dig sites. But there's no keeping this family away from trouble! Before you know it, fresh corpses turn up in old tombs, kidnappers strike, and an old enemy returns in this 15th book in the character-driven and very popular Amelia Peabody series. For more warmly humorous mysteries set in Egypt at the turn of the 20th century, try Michael Pearce's Mamur Zapt novels, which feature a Welsh detective

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Teen Fiction: Love is in the Air!

Nothing blooms more lovely than young love . . . .

Kiss Crush Collide by Christina Meredith

Kiss: What Leah did. only she really shouldn't have, one night at a country club party.  Crush: What Leah has, only she really shouldn't have, on the guy with the green eyes, the guy who is not her perfect boyfriend, the guy who does not fit in her picture-perfect life, the guy her sisters will only mock and her mother will never approve of. Not in a million years.  Collide: What happens when everything you always thought you wanted, having cool friends, being class valedictorian and homecoming queen, runs smack into everything it turns out you really do want.
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer Smith
Today should be one of the worst days of 17 year old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18C. Hadley's in 18A. Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

What Boys Really Want by Pete Hautman
So Adam would never sell copies of a self-help book before he'd even written it. And Lita would never try to break up Adam's relationship with Blair. They'd never sabotage their friends Emily and Dennis. Lita would never date a guy related to a girl she can't stand. They'd never steal each other's blog posts. And Adam would never end up in a fist fight with Lita's boyfriend. Nope, never.  Adam and Lita might never agree on what happened, but in this hilarious story from Pete Hautman, they manage to give the world a little more insight into what boys and girls are really looking for.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Debut Mondays: The Innocents by Francesca Segal


Newly engaged and unthinkingly self-satisfied, twenty-eight-year-old Adam Newman is the prize catch of Temple Fortune, a small, tight-knit Jewish suburb of London. He has been dating Rachel Gilbert since they were both sixteen and now, to the relief and happiness of the entire Gilbert family, they are finally to marry. To Adam, Rachel embodies the highest values of Temple Fortune; she is innocent, conventional, and entirely secure in her community—a place in which everyone still knows the whereabouts of their nursery school classmates. Marrying Rachel will cement Adam’s role in a warm, inclusive family he loves.
But as the vast machinery of the wedding gathers momentum, Adam feels the first faint touches of claustrophobia, and when Rachel’s younger cousin Ellie Schneider moves home from New York, she unsettles Adam more than he’d care to admit. Ellie—beautiful, vulnerable, and fiercely independent—offers a liberation that he hadn’t known existed: a freedom from the loving interference and frustrating parochialism of North West London. Adam finds himself questioning everything, suddenly torn between security and exhilaration, tradition and independence. What might he be missing by staying close to home?

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Making Friends in Picture Books

A Visitor for Bear by Bonnie Becker

Curmudgeonly Bear wants to be left alone, as anyone who reads the large "NO visitors allowed" sign on his door might infer, but Mouse knocks anyway. Bear tries to get rid of him, but Mouse keeps popping up in unusual places around Bear's house. After Bear has plugged the drains and boarded up the windows, Mouse peeps out of the teakettle -- and Bear gives in. The two of them have tea by the fire and chat, and to his surprise, Bear enjoys Mouse's company so much that he takes down his sign. Sweet without being saccharine, this charming book demonstrates that, sometimes, making friends requires persistence.

Yoko by Rosemary Wells

When Yoko the kitten opens her box of sushi at lunchtime, all of the other critters in her class make fun of her for eating food they think is yucky and weird. The teasing intensifies when Yoko reveals that she's brought red-bean ice cream as a snack -- but Yoko's teacher, Mrs. Jenkins, has an inspired idea and announces that Monday will be International Food Day. Yoko brings sushi for the whole class that day, but no one tries it until Timothy (who's still hungry) musters his courage, discovers that he loves sushi, and makes a new friend in the process.

Oswald by Dan Yaccarino

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Red, White, and Blue: Fiction Edition

We're taking a patriotic slant for our readers advisory this week.  Got any other faves with red, white, and blue?

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman

Hoffman brings us 200 years in the history of Blackwell, a small town in rural Massachusetts, in her insightful latest. The story opens with the arrival of the first settlers, among them a pragmatic English woman, Hallie, and her profligate, braggart husband, William. Hallie makes an immediate and intense connection to the wilderness, and the tragic severing of that connection results in the creation of the redgarden, a small, sorrowful plot of land that takes on an air of the sacred. The novel moves forward in linked stories, each building on (but not following from) the previous and focusing on a wide range of characters, including placid bears, a band of nomadic horse traders, a woman who finds a new beginning in Blackwell, and the ghost of a young girl drowned in the river who stays in the town's consciousness long after her name has been forgotten. The result is a certain ethereal detachment as Hoffman's deft magical realism ties one woman's story to the next even when they themselves are not aware of the connection.

Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

Isabella, Mary, and Lauren are quickly realizing that the postcollege years aren’t a parade of guaranteed, life-altering changes. Invited to a dizzying array of bachelorette parties, weddings, and showers both baby and bridal, the three get the sense that the adult world only applies to their acquaintances. After seeing each other through disastrous blind dates, unfulfilling career choices, and tense family holidays, they comfort themselves with the small victories of singledom. GirlsinWhiteDresses is genuinely empathic, and Close brings a tender sense of humor to each of the episodic chapters. With a voice similar to those of Melissa Banks and Cindy Guidry, Close’s novel expresses the perfect blend of midtwenties angst, collegiate nostalgia, and plentiful laughter. With different chapters narrated by each protagonist and some of their close friends, the novel is richly satisfying.

Once in a Blue Moon by Eileen Goudge

As children, sisters Lindsay and Kerri Ann are shunted into the foster care system after their mother is arrested.  charming newest. Lindsay is fortunate enough to be adopted by a loving family, while younger Kerri Ann bounces from family to family, eventually losing custody of her own daughter. Thirty years after they last saw each other, Kerri Ann shows up on Lindsay’s doorstep in a last ditch effort to save herself. Lindsay, of course, has troubles of her own, and her nearly unrecognizable sister turning up is the last thing she needs.  A touching story with wide appeal, Goudge’s novel is a sharp example of dysfunctional family fiction.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Debut Mondays: Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

Utterly convincing in its portrayal of obsession, Into the Darkest corner is an ingeniously structured and plotted tour de force of suspense that marks the arrival of a major new talent.

Catherine Bailey has been enjoying the single life long enough to know a catch when she sees one. Gorgeous, charismatic and spontaneous, Lee seems almost too perfect to be true. And her friends clearly agree, as each in turn falls under his spell.

But what begins as flattering attentiveness and passion turns into raging jealousy, and Catherine soon learns there is a darker side to Lee. His increasingly erratic, controlling behaviour becomes frightening, but no one believes her when she shares her fears. Increasingly isolated and driven into the darkest corner of her world, a desperate Catherine plans a meticulous escape.

Four years later, Lee is behind bars and Catherine—now Cathy—compulsively checks the locks and doors in her apartment, trusting no one. But when an attractive upstairs neighbour, Stuart, comes into her life, Cathy dares to hope that happiness and love may still be possible . . . until she receives a phone call informing her of Lee’s impending release. Soon after, Cathy thinks she catches a glimpse of the former best friend who testified against her in the trial; she begins to return home to find objects subtly rearranged in her apartment, one of Lee’s old tricks. Convinced she is back in his sights, Cathy prepares to wrestle with the demons of her past for the last time.