Saturday, September 27, 2014

Royal Airs

Royal Airs (Elemental Blessings, #2)Royal Airs by Sharon Shinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #2 in the Elemental Blessings series features Princess Josetta and her sister Princess Corene. When Corene flees her abusive stepfather, she is rescued by professional gambler Rafe Adova not too far from the shelter Josetta runs just south of the Cinque, the five-sided boulevard separating the nicer part of Chialto from the slums. That encounter is a turning point the lives of all three, as well as the start of an unexpected turn in the complicated politics of the nation.

I was grateful for the explanatory charts of characters, blessings, calendars, and money that Shinn includes at the start of the book. I referred to them time and again to help me keep track of the complicated relationships between characters, especially. It had been a while since I'd read the first book in the series, and the family connections are even more muddled now, thanks to revelations in Book #1 (Troubled Waters) as well as in the second half of Book #2.

For readers' advisors: setting and story doorways are primary, character secondary. One swear word, and the few sex scenes are nearly entirely offscreen.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Books Can Be Deceiving

Books Can Be Deceiving (Library Lover's Mystery, #1)Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Lindsay Norris is the director of a small town public library. Her best friend Beth is the children's librarian. Beth has spent the past five years dating a famous picture book author/illustrator who is a total jerk, and she breaks up with him the night before discovering he has plagiarized her work on a picture book she wrote and would like to get published. When she and Lindsay go to confront him, they discover he has already had a fatal confrontation with someone else, but the town's police chief is convinced he need look no further than the angry ex-girlfriend to close this murder case. Lindsay refuses to let her best friend be railroaded and sets out to solve the crime herself.

My favorite thing about this book were the snippets of library life--very very brief mentions of quirky questions and patrons. As a reference librarian, I can totally identify with those. Unfortunately, the characters and much of the story felt pretty one-dimensional and formulaic. It wasn't a terrible book. I just really wanted to like it more than I did, and I was hampered by the stereotypical characterizations and idiotic actions of the narrator, especially by the end of the novel. I mean, seriously, someone breaks into your apartment in the middle of the night, and once you chase the person out, you don't pick up the phone and call the detective?! Yeah, I can see not calling the idiotic chief of police, but to not pull out the intelligent detective's business card, even the next morning?? Oy.

I'm also confused by something that happened at the crucial climactic moment, but as talking about it would be even more spoiler-ish than my previous complaint, I will just rant to my mom, who read the book before she gave it to me. (Standard practice in our family.)

For readers' advisors: story doorway. No sex, on-screen violence, or swearing.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

I Ate a Cicada Today

I Ate a Cicada TodayI Ate a Cicada Today by Jeff Crossan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"I ate a cicada today. I know that sounds crazy to say. But it flew in my mouth, and it didn't fly out. I ate a cicada today."

For kids, especially 8 year old boys, who are enjoying language exploration, this could be a fun choice. The vocabulary, rhymes, and humor would most likely fly over the heads of preschoolers, but primary school students should get a kick out of both the book and the song as well.

The illustrations are simple watercolors which enhance and emphasize the humor of the random, quirky lyrics. ("I followed a swallow today. She wanted me to go away. She swerved and she swooped. I looked up, and...oops!"

This picture book comes with a CD, but my free review e-copy didn't include the audio files, so I've only heard a sample of the first few pages. I can't speak to the full song, but the sample certainly got stuck in my head! I think elementary school teachers could easily incorporate Crossan's book and music into their story times.

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