Tuesday, May 18, 2010

BookNotes for May, 2010.

It is finally SPRING (for now!). What beautiful bookend weekends we’ve had. The little thermometer in my car said it was 103 degrees when I turned it on after work! Obviously, I was pointed toward the west and it had been in direct view of the sun for a very long time!

Patrick Carman is coming! The author of the Elyon books and the Atherton series has penned a new volume, Thirteen Days to Midnight, and will be at Third Place Books on Monday, May 17th, 7 pm.

If you could have a secret power, any power at all, which one would you choose? The ability to fly? To be invisible? To never die? Think the question through, the pros and the cons. Our hero, Jacob, doesn’t get to choose. In one horrifying moment, his foster father whispers, “You are indestructible,” to him, passing along a power that will change his life forever.

When his best friend and his new friend, Ophelia, find out what he’s been hiding, they decide to test its limits. How far does this new power extend? Is it right to use it to change the course of history? What happens when Death gets thwarted?

Thirteen Days to Midnight
was a pretty darned good read. It allows for some serious discussion about responsibility, about confronting your mortality, about what happens when you are given power. There’s a great deal of humor, a great deal of suspense, a little romance, some skateboarding. And it takes place in the Pacific Northwest!

This book is Patrick’s first young adult novel, but we think it would be appropriate for some sophisticated 5th grade readers. The romance isn’t graphic, but the violence inflicted on each other as they test their limits got a little icky for me. Most kids won’t notice, I tend to see everything I read in my head...the metal light pole scene…eww.

Come on by and meet Patrick Carman on Monday, May 17, 7 pm, at the Lake Forest Park location of Third Place Books (depending on traffic, it is a 20 minute drive from the Central District; don’t let the address of our store keep you and your kids from enjoying a cultural evening out). P.S. Check out Patrick’s website, too: . (Available now. Hardcover only. $16.99. Little Brown.)

(If you can’t make it to any of our events, call us! We can get books signed for you without your being there! )


Moonshot, by Brian Floca, is an amazing book about the flight of Apollo 11. Told in a poetic form, it is the story of the flight of the astronauts flying to the moon. A simple enough story but written in an epic ballad format, much like The Odyssey. It is a book made for reading out loud, repetition of certain words, a chorus, it is written so it can be memorized and passed on. There are phrases in the book that made chills run up my spine.

Along the way we learn a lot about how the astronauts dress, what it takes to get a rocket into space, a lot of information about the details of space flight and the moon. It is a mistake to consider Moonshot only a picture book.

The endpages are FILLED with information: the front ones are illustrations about the flight itself from rollout to quarantine and the back pages are text for older readers related to how the space program began and where it is now. This is a good time to introduce the book to young scientists who may help get the program back into space. This is a good book for ages 4-12 (and their adults!). ( Atheneum. Hardcover, $17.99. Available now.)

Crunch, by Leslie Connor. I love Leslie Connor’s books. This one is about a family working together when the parents are out of town, unable to get home because gas tanks across America have run dry. They are stuck on a highway, hundreds of miles from the kids. Dewey and his siblings are alone with the family bike repair business when the gas stoppage occurs. All of a sudden, he and the other kids are in high demand. As the gas crisis looms higher and goes on longer than anyone ever thought it could, there is trouble from the outside as things start to go missing and the very business is being sabotaged. I really like that the kids come up with their own ideas as to how to do things, they are quite inventive, and they can use tools! Crunch is a very good, fun, light mystery, with resourceful and polite kids. Ages 9-up. (HarperCollins. Hardcover only, $16.99. Available now.)

This Gorgeous Game, by Donna Freitas. This Gorgeous Game is a very intense book about a girl who wins a writing contest. The prize is enrollment in the adored local writer priest's writing class who then becomes her mentor.

He becomes obsessed with her and won’t leave her alone, texting her, following her, calling her phone and filling the memory with messages. At first, she is flattered and amazed that he would find her worthy of his attentions, but it doesn’t take very long before she becomes wary and scared. She tries to distance herself from him but he holds harder, insisting she read the book he wrote with her in mind. It seems he is using Thomas Merton as his role model. If you don’t know the reference, I didn’t, you will need to read the book to find out.

It is a scary book that many people will identify with: how do you deal with the aloneness that comes when you are the victim? Is the whole thing your fault? How do you stop it? Should you? How did this even happen? What if they get mad at you? Don’t “they”, those elders you should respect, know what’s best for you? It was really hard to put down but a good cautionary tale. Ages 12 and up. (Farrar Strauss and Giroux. $16.99. Available May 25, 2010.)

Sisters Red, by Jackson Pearce. A great riff on the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale featuring two sisters whose grandmother is eaten by a wolf (a werewolf, known as a fenris) before the woodsman can get to the cottage to save them. In the battle to save her sister, Rosie, Scarlett kills the wolf but loses an eye.

Seven years later, the woodsman’s son returns to the sisters. There has been an uptick in wolf-sightings in the city, and many missing girls. The three of them set out to do some serious wolf-hunting but soon find that there is much more to the increasing numbers of wolves than luscious dragonfly girls (pretty girls in pretty clothes, more style than substance); they are looking for a “potential”, a new man to turn to werewolf-hood. Can the trio find a way to keep this from happening? Can they protect the girls in the city? Can they save themselves from their own history? Will true love drive the three friends apart? I absolutely devoured this book (ha ha) in hours. It’s a good addition to the fairytale variants for teens that are out there. Ages 13 and up. (Little Brown. Hardcover, $16.99. Due June 1, 2010.)

The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson. When Lennie’s older sister, Bailey, dies suddenly, Lennie is completely at sea. One morning her sister goes to school but doesn’t come home and there’s no chance to say goodbye. As Lennie tries to deal with this, she meets a new boy and really likes him and also begins a relationship with her sister’s boyfriend. What is she doing? How can she do this to her sister? People are complicated and The Sky is Everywhere highlights how quickly things change and knot up. It is very good, very romantic, very sad, realistic. I know how easy it is to make that one choice that twists the future just enough that you can’t see where you are going or where the path is headed.

It is also funny and I love the characters in the book. Lennie works through her grief by writing down memories of her sister, questions she wanted to ask, poetry about being her sister, leaving the notes in unexpected places. What a lovely idea. My favorite thing about the family, though? They road read. Read and walk through their neighborhood. Ages 14 and up. (Dial Books. Hardcover, $17.99. Available now.) I think this would be an especially good summer book.

Bullet Point, by Peter Abrahams. Peter Abrahams writes GREAT mysteries for adults and REALLY GREAT mysteries for young adults. His newest book, Bullet Point, is about Wyatt, a boy whose father is in prison. Wyatt’s never met his father, parents separated before he was born. His family, his stepdad and the rest, live in a dumpy little house and he goes to a dumpy school. And then Wyatt meets Greer, a girl whose father is also in prison with his dad.

When Greer arranges a meeting, Wyatt realizes that his father may be innocent. That means that Wyatt has to try to help him escape. Much excitement, much adventure, a lot of danger, Bullet Point is a thriller sure to encourage you to continue with the other books by him. Mr. Abrahams has written one other stand alone young adult novel, Reality Check, and a series called The Echo Falls Mysteries, all of which are immediately gripping. For you adults looking for books you won’t want to stop reading, give his adult mysteries a try. I’ve read a few of them, Nerve Damage and Oblivion are two (and they are all stand alones- thank you!) and every one I’ve read has been good. Ages 12 and up. (HarperCollins. Hardcover, $16.99. Available now.)

I am looking forward to reading the new Rick Riordan book, The Red Pyramid, and a grown-up mystery called Detective Inspector Huss, by Helene Tursten, the second one I will have read by this author about this detective (the series takes place in Sweden), and Philip Pullman’s new (and controversial) book, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (written for adults).

I have one more project to write and then I’m heading out to the lounge chair and my patio. Surrounded by noxious weeds (blackberries) and holly bushes, once I’m in the chair, it’s almost like being in the woods, only rooftops showing on the street below us!

Let me know if you need some ideas for summer reading (I will be at the store on Sunday if you need to stock up during the sale!)-

Go out and read something in public! Share the love! Enjoy the weekend-


  1. Speaking of fairy tale riffs: have you read "Dust City" by Robert Paul Weston yet? It is coming out this fall, and I LOVED it! (His "Zorgamazoo" is also a favorite.) Brilliant-- "Dust City" is fairy tale noir, for teens.
    Love your blog! Thanks for sharing!

  2. No! I haven't read Dust City- I will look for it. I just finished the sequel to "Rampant", "Ascendant", by Diana Peterfreund. Fabulous books about unicorns and unicorn hunters that take place now. Wild unicorns loose in the world, eating people, hence the hunters. I love these!

    I love YOUR blog-food and books. Can't get much better than that! Thanks, Tegan!