Giants Beware!

8 Oct

GiantsBeware!When your life goal is to battle giants, the existence of a baby-feet-eating giant in the nearby mountains is cause for celebration. Upon hearing a story from a village elder about said giant, Claudette answers the call to adventure and heads out to slay the giant. Her trusty pup, Valiant, joins her on her quest, and she also tricks her timid younger brother Gaston and her best friend Marie to join her. Tricking her friends into joining her, stealing a map and weapons from her father’s secret chest, and sneaking out of the guarded town walls is the easy part. Once on the outside, Claudette and crew then must make their way through the Forest of Death, across the Mad River, and up the Giant’s Peak to find and slay the baby-feet-eating giant. Phew!

Giants Beware! has plenty of action, solid pacing, an imaginative setting, and funny, clever dialogue. The characters and themes of friendship and bravery are especially well developed. As the village elder tells Claudette at the beginning of the story “you never know what you’re truly made of until you’re staring eyeball-to-eyeball into the face of fear.” (p. 9) This story of adventure gives the reader plenty of opportunity to learn just what our characters are made of. The characters’ faces are quite expressive and Claudette’s red hair stands out on each page, just as her personality and rambunctiousness makes her stand out in life. Yeah, you heard me right – red hair. We have a full color comic on our hands. There’s a bit of gross-out humor throughout the book – dog poop, stinky feet, nerve-induced-barfing – that will attract some readers, but may feel immature to others (I made it through just fine). Overall, Giants Beware! is a fun, exciting, and sweet adventure story with a cast of characters that you can’t help rooting for. Much love for this one.

Em’s Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author: Jorge Aguirre
Illustrator: Rafael Rosado
Publisher: First Second (April 2012)

I love Giants Beware! I suggest it to all the cool kids at the library and some of the adults too. I can’t wait for the next adventure with Claudette, Gaston, and Marie, Dragons Beware!, coming in May 2015. See description below!

dragonsbeware

Scrappy Claudette sets out once again with her pal Marie and her little brother Gaston to right wrongs and fight evil. And this time, it’s personal. Claudette is out to get the dragon who ate her father’s legs…and his legendary sword. But as usual, nothing is as simple as it seems, and Claudette is going to need Marie and Gaston’s help more than ever.

Funny, fast, high-energy storytelling in an inventive and perilous fantasy landscape makes Dragons Beware! a fantastic follow-up to 2012′s middle-grade hit Giants Beware!

Banned Books Week Giveaway

21 Sep

I believe strongly in the freedom to read and appreciate the brave and empathic work of Ellen Hopkins, an author who often finds her work challenged or banned in schools and libraries. In recognition of Banned Books Week, I am offering a giveaway of two of her verse novels for teens.

Hopkins’s first verse novel for teens, Crank, though published in 2004, found its way onto the ALA’s Top Ten Challenged Books List for 2010. This was the year that Fallout, the final book in the Crank trilogy, was released and the same year that she was disinvited from the Teen Lit Fest held in Humble, Texas.

Crank by Ellen Hopkins
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2004
Challenged for: drugs, offensive language, and sexually explicit
Crank

Life was good
before I
met
the monster.

After,
life
was great,
At
least

for a little while.

Kristina Snow is the perfect daughter: gifted high school junior, quiet, never any trouble.

Then, Kristina meets the monster: crank. And what begins as a wild, ecstatic ride turns into a struggle through hell for her mind, her soul—her life.

Hopkins’s latest verse novel for young adults, Rumble, was just released in August and so far (knock on wood) I haven’t heard any news of book challenges or bans for this particular title.

Rumble by Ellen Hopkins
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014
Rumble

Matthew Turner knows it doesn’t get better.

His younger brother Luke was bullied mercilessly after one of Matt’s friends outed Luke to the whole school, and when Luke called Matt—on the brink of suicide—Matt was too wrapped up in his new girlfriend to answer the phone. Now Luke is gone, and Matt’s family is falling apart.

No matter what his girlfriend Hayden says about forgiveness, there’s no way Matt’s letting those he blames off the hook—including himself. As Matt spirals further into bitterness, he risks losing Hayden, the love of his life. But when her father begins to pressure the school board into banning books because of their homosexual content, he begins to wonder if he and Hayden ever had anything in common.

I picked up a signed copy of Crank when Hopkins paid a visit to the Hudson Children’s Book Festival back in May 2014 and received a copy of Rumble from the publisher to celebrate its August 2014 release. Enter the giveaway below for a chance to win these two books! The giveaway is open to readers 14 years of age and older. US entries only please.

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You can also read reviews of Identical and Tilt by Ellen Hopkins on Love YA Lit.

TBR + Giveaway: Burn for Burn Trilogy

10 Sep

AshesToAshes“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that bloggers are eagerly anticipating. This week I’m highlighting the third book in the Burn for Burn trilogy and offering a giveaway for those who still need to catch up!

It’s hard to discuss later books in a series without spoiling things for new readers. This is particularly the case with books in a series like the Burn for Burn trilogy from Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian where spoilers would ruin so much of the fun. I’m including the publisher’s description of Burn for Burn (#1) below to give potential new readers a sense of what this series is all about. I enjoyed Burn for Burn and I thought Fire with Fire was even better, and so I’m hoping that Ashes to Ashes will offer an exciting conclusion to this interesting, ever-surprising series. Ashes to Ashes will be released on September 16.

Postcard-perfect Jar Island is the kind of place where nobody locks their doors at night, where parents can sleep easy, knowing their daughters are tucked away safe and sound in their beds.

But bad things can happen, even to good girls . . . and sometimes, the only way to make things right is to do something wrong.

Lillia used to trust boys, but not anymore. Not after what happened this summer. And she’ll do whatever it takes to protect her little sister from the same fate.

Kat is over the rumors, the insults, the cruel jokes made at her expense. It all goes back to one person–her ex-best friend. Someone needs to teach her a lesson, and, with Lillia and Mary behind her, Kat feels up to the task.

Four years ago, Mary left Jar Island because of a boy. But she’s not the same girl anymore. Now that she’s got friends who have her back, he’s going to be in big trouble.

Three very different girls who come together to make things right. Will they go too far?

Still need to dive into the world of Jar Island? Enter the giveaway below. If you win, I’ll be sending you a paperback copy of Burn for Burn and an ARC of Fire with Fire

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You may also wish to enter the giveaway that SimonTEEN is offering on goodreads for 1 of 50 sets of the full series!

Sisters

8 Sep

SistersI love Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novel memoir, Smile, a coming of age story that explores the impact of years of dental work caused by a fall in sixth grade as well as typical middle school stuff: crushes, changing friendships, school, pimples, self-confidence, and family. In the follow up to Smile, Raina revisits her childhood years and explores her relationship with her younger sister, Amara. With Sisters, rather than dental drama, a family road-trip provides the framework of the story. Raina, Amara, their baby brother, and their mom head off to a family reunion in the family van, traveling from their home in San Francisco to Colorado. Along the way the family survives life on the road with crazy storms, van issues, unwelcome creatures, and changing relationships. The story jumps in time between the road trip adventures and various memories from Raina and Amara’s childhood, showing the sisters at their best and at their worst.

In one of the flashbacks, we learn that as a child Raina wanted a baby sister (and playmate) more than anything, but then Amara arrived and she wasn’t quite what Raina had in mind. Amara was a grouchy baby and cried all the time, which is perhaps normal for a baby, but her mood didn’t seem to improve much as she grew older. The girls are very different from one another and though they share a love of art, they fight over art supplies and Raina feels some stress about her art skills being compared to her younger sister. But even with all the nagging, fighting, and angry glares, Telgemeier also presents some sweet moments where the sisters come together as a team.

SistersSarahEm

Here’s me and my big sister, Sarah, being especially cute together.

While my sister and I generally got along growing up – I would even go so far as to say we were friends – Sisters brought back plenty of memories from family road trips, both the good and the bad. Telgemeier’s “Anatomy of a Road Trip” illustration offers a great reminder of times past for anyone who grew up taking road trips with family in a mini-van. Many readers will relate to the dynamic between the siblings, and between Raina and her other family members, but even those who don’t will find much to enjoy here. And while technically Sisters is a follow-up to Smile, both books work well as stand-alones, so those who have yet to read Smile will not feel lost. (Though why haven’t they read Smile yet?).

Sisters is written for a young audience and I’m curious if young readers will pick up on some of the plot developments before they are announced – some family issues and a surprise road trip visitor – or if they’ll be surprised at the turn of events. The foreshadowing wasn’t especially subtle, but it didn’t negatively affect my enjoyment of the story or make the “big reveals” any less impactful. Telgemeier strikes a fine balance in her visual story telling offering both subtle details and exaggerated expressions, mixing quirky humor with emotional depth. Sisters covers some emotional territory, but never forgets the light moments along the way. Telgemeier’s artwork is expressive and she brings warmth and a sense of humor to the story of battling siblings who figure out how to get along…well, when it matters at least.

Em’s Rating: 4 out of 5
Title: Sisters
Author/illustrator: Raina Telgemeier
Publisher: Graphix (August 2014)
Note: Review copy received from publisher.

September 2014 TBR

1 Sep

Did August fly by for anyone else? This blog took a bit of a nap in August and I’m planning to be more active with blogging this month to make up for that. While I didn’t really blog last month, I did read a lot and am looking forward to writing up some reviews to share with you all of my favorite summer reads – a few giveaways too! I’m really excited for all the fabulous books coming out this month and hoping to make time to read all of these titles (fingers crossed). Wish me luck! (note: there will be some spoilers in the descriptions for series titles below)

100sidewaysmiles100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith
Simon & Schuster BYR, Sept. 2
I’m planning to catch up on my Andrew Smith reading this fall. Too many of his books have been on my TBR for too long (I’ve only read Winger so far. Loved it.). Here’s another one to add to the list!

Finn Easton sees the world through miles instead of minutes. It’s how he makes sense of the world, and how he tries to convince himself that he’s a real boy and not just a character in his father’s bestselling cult-classic book. Finn has two things going for him: his best friend, the possibly-insane-but-definitely-excellent Cade Hernandez, and Julia Bishop, the first girl he’s ever loved.

Then Julia moves away, and Finn is heartbroken. Feeling restless and trapped in the book, Finn embarks on a road trip with Cade to visit their college of choice in Oklahoma. When an unexpected accident happens and the boys become unlikely heroes, they take an eye-opening detour away from everything they thought they had planned—and learn how to write their own destiny.

lyga_bloodofmyblood_hcBlood of My Blood by Barry Lyga
Little, Brown BYR, Sept. 9
I loved I Hunt Killers and Game. I can’t wait to see how this series wraps up! I’m starting reading this one tonight!

Jazz Dent has been shot and left to die in New York City. His girlfriend Connie is in the clutches of Jazz’s serial killer father, Billy. And his best friend Howie is bleeding to death on the floor of Jazz’s own home in tiny Lobo’s Nod. Somehow, these three must rise above the horrors their lives have become and find a way to come together in pursuit of Billy. But then Jazz crosses a line he’s never crossed before, and soon the entire country is wondering: “Like father, like son?” Who is the true monster?

The chase is on, and beyond Billy there lurks something much, much worse. Prepare to meet…the Crow King.

AshesToAshesAshes to Ashes by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
Simon & Schuster BYR, Sept. 16
This series is not what I would normally consider an “Em series”, but for some reason I really enjoy reading these books. Perhaps its the solid writing and character development? (High five ladies! Go team!) Whatever the reason, I’m excited to see what comes next in this series especially after the cliffhanger ending of Fire With Fire.

They only meant to right the wrongs. It was about getting even. Burn for burn.

But the fire they lit kept raging…Reeve ended up hurt, then Rennie ended up dead.

Everything will turn to ash if they don’t stop what they started. But now that Mary knows the truth about what happened to her, will she want to?

Secrets drew Lillia, Kat, and Mary together. The truth might tear them apart.

GiveYouTheSunI’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Dial BYR, Sept. 16
This book sounds fantastic – chapters alternating between the twins’ perspectives as well as time frames. I’m told this book will make me FEEL. I’ll do my best to be prepared.

Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

infiniteseaThe Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey
G.P. Putnam’s Sons BYR, Sept. 16
I enjoyed the audio recording for The 5th Wave and am hoping to score again with the audio for The Infinite Sea.

How do you rid the Earth of seven billion humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.

Surviving the first four waves was nearly impossible. Now Cassie Sullivan finds herself in a new world, a world in which the fundamental trust that binds us together is gone. As the 5th Wave rolls across the landscape, Cassie, Ben, and Ringer are forced to confront the Others’ ultimate goal: the extermination of the human race.

Cassie and her friends haven’t seen the depths to which the Others will sink, nor have the Others seen the heights to which humanity will rise, in the ultimate battle between life and death, hope and despair, love and hate.

afterworldsAfterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
Simon Pulse, Sept. 23
I haven’t read Scott Westerfeld in a while and I’m hoping this one will be a better fit for me than the Leviathan series (steampunk just isn’t my thing). It sure sounds promising!

Darcy Patel has put college on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. With a contract in hand, she arrives in New York City with no apartment, no friends, and all the wrong clothes. But lucky for Darcy, she’s taken under the wings of other seasoned and fledgling writers who help her navigate the city and the world of writing and publishing. Over the course of a year, Darcy finishes her book, faces critique, and falls in love.

Woven into Darcy’s personal story is her novel, Afterworlds, a suspenseful thriller about a teen who slips into the “Afterworld” to survive a terrorist attack. The Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead, and where many unsolved—and terrifying—stories need to be reconciled. Like Darcy, Lizzie too falls in love…until a new threat resurfaces, and her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she cares about most.

riseofaurorawestThe Rise of Aurora West by Paul Pope
First Second, Sept. 30
I LOVED Battling Boy and am enjoying reading more stories from that world! I have an eGalley of this title, but am looking forward to seeing it in print where I can really take in the full spread. Wish it was in full color. Ah well.

The extraordinary world introduced in Paul Pope’s Battling Boy is rife with monsters and short on heroes… but in this action-driven extension of the Battling Boy universe, we see it through a new pair of eyes: Aurora West, daughter of Arcopolis’s last great hero, Haggard West.

A prequel to Battling Boy, The Rise of Aurora West follows the young hero as she seeks to uncover the mystery of her mother’s death, and to find her place in a world overrun with supernatural monsters and all-too-human corruption.

BelzharBelzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Dutton Children’s Books, Sept. 30
I started Belzhar this weekend and am enjoying it so far. It reminds me that I still need to read The Bell Jar. Am I the only person who hasn’t read that yet? Yet another book for my ever-growing TBR!

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be at home in New Jersey with her sweet British boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing him in the library stacks. She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.

Happy Reading this month!

Middle Grade Read: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

1 Aug

DiaryOfAWimpyKid
I decided to finally read Diary of a Wimpy Kid because all the young men who spend time at my library can’t seem to get enough of the series and I wanted to know what all the hubbub was about. There was one young man last summer who would come by my office each day and read a few sentences from this book to me. He would do the whole finger traveling under the words as he read thing and it was just so sweet being read to by this young and eager reader from this super goofy story.

In Diary of a Wimpy Kid, sixth grader Greg Heffley chronicles his experiences during his first year in middle school with stories and sketches. In this first volume of the popular series, Greg and his friend Rowley navigate the sometimes-scary middle school hallways and their changing relationship. The reader is also introduced to the wonderful world of being a middle child. Between Rodrick, Greg’s older brother and frequent tormentor, and Manny, Greg’s younger brother who gets away with everything because he’s three, Greg just can’t seem to win.

Greg isn’t a perfect person, and things don’t always go his way. I doubt many kids would strive to be more like Greg Heffley, but they may recognize some of their own flaws or tough luck in this character and feel a bit of relief that they are not alone. Kinney does a great job of depicting life at this age—when you’re not quite a kid anymore, but you still want to go trick or treating and your parents infuriatingly monitor your media use.

After reading the first volume, I can understand why these books are rarely on the shelves. The stories are quite funny and are fairly accessible for struggling or reluctant readers. The diary format with short entries and the inclusion of cartoons makes for an especially quick and fun read. While these books are definitely geared towards children, they’re cute and clever and readers of any age could easily enjoy them. I can’t say with any certainty that I’ll continue on with the series, but I’m glad that I gave the first book a chance, and not only because I now know what the deal is with “the cheese touch”.

Em’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Author: Jeff Kinney
Publisher: Amulet Books (2007)

Ten Authors I’m Happy To Share My Bookshelves With

29 Jul

TopTenTuesday.jpg
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature created at the fabulous The Broke and the Bookish, featuring weekly top ten lists on a variety of bookish topics. This Tuesday the topic is “Ten Authors I Own The Most Books From”. My list includes graphic novelists and authors writing for tweens, teens, and adults.

This list is frequently changing as I try to keep my bookshelves under control by clearing them off every few months and donating to the library. For example, a month or so ago this list would have included Jeff Lemire (Essex County and his run on Animal Man) and Brian K. Vaughan (Saga and Runaways), but now these books find their home on the public library’s shelf or the library user’s nightstand. At the moment, however, here are the most represented authors in my home library:
BTVS.S10.E3
Joss Whedon and friends (Andrew Chambliss, Jane Espenson, Georges Jeanty, Drew Goddard, Brian K. Vaughan, Christos Gage, Rebekah Isaacs, etc. – I didn’t have time to go through comic by comic to see which authors were most represented nor to list each contributors name, but I appreciate each and every one of them!) – Buffy the Vampire Slayer Seasons 8, 9, & 10 and Willow Wonderland comics.

Matt KindtRed Handed, Mind MGMT 1 & 2, Revolver, and Superspy.

A.S. KingPlease Ignore Vera Dietz, Everybody Sees the Ants, The Dust of 100 Dogs, Reality Boy, and Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future.

Jacqueline WoodsonBrown Girl Dreaming, Miracle’s Boys, Feathers, Locomotion, and Peace, Locomotion.

E. LockhartThe Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, We Were Liars, and the Ruby Oliver series.

Laurie Halse AndersonSpeak, The Impossible Knife of Memory, Fever, and Catalyst

Nnedi OkoraforZahrah the Windseeker (hardcover and paperback, because it’s good to have an extra copy to share), Akata Witch, Who Fears Death, and The Shadow Speaker.
WildSeedCoverChoices
Octavia Butler - KindredParable of the SowerWild Seed (x2 because a girl shouldn’t have to pick between these two fabulous covers), and A Woman’s Liberation: A Choice of Futures By and About Women (this short story anthology includes “Speech Sounds” by Octavia Butler and since I purchased the anthology specifically for this story, I count it towards her shelf count).

These two authors’ books I share with my husband, because sharing books is caring (and he doesn’t read YA):

Barbara KingsolverThe Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer, Animal Dreams, The Lacuna, and Flight Behavior.

Kurt VonnegutSlaughterhouse Five, Player Piano, Breakfast of Champions, and Welcome to the Monkey House. (Cat’s Cradle, one of my favorite Vonnegut titles, was laid to rest during vacation in Guatemala. It had a good good life. I have yet to purchase a replacement.)

The Shadow Hero

22 Jul

ShadowHero-Cov-final2Back in the 1940s, a new superhero was introduced who defended American Allies in China during World War II. He was called the Green Turtle and some speculate that the comic’s creator, Chu Hing, intended the Green Turtle to be Chinese-American and therefore the first Asian American Superhero. It’s further speculated that the publisher feared a Chinese superhero would not sell and so insisted that the character appear white. The Green Turtle’s run in comics was short-lived and so the audience, and his sidekick Burma Boy, never learned his true identity nor saw the Green Turtle unmasked.

Enter Gene Luen Yang, 70 years later, who offers both an identity and an origin story for the Green Turtle. In Yang’s story, a first generation Chinese-American named Hank Chu transforms from a neighborhood teen working in his father’s grocery store in 1930s Chinatown to a crime-fighting superhero who is invulnerable to bullets. It all starts when his mother is saved by The Anchor of Justice and becomes obsessed with the idea of her son becoming a great superhero. She signs him up for fighting lessons with Uncle Wun Too, makes him a costume, and gives him a superhero name (Golden Man of Bravery). While he does gain some fighting skills, throwing a few good punches in a costume does not make someone a superhero. Sadly, it takes a tragedy to give Hank both the super powers and motivation he needs to be a true masked crime-fighter.

One thing I appreciate about The Shadow Hero as an origin story is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. While there is some heartbreak to help spur our hero into action and the racism of the era is not ignored, there is also quite a bit of humor as Hank survives his mother’s many efforts to have him stumble upon some super powers and as he figures out how to work with the ancient turtle spirit who is always just over his shoulder sharing his input like it or not.

ToxicSludgeIsGoodForYou

Hank’s mother and Uncle Wun Too are wonderfully entertaining supporting characters who offer the story a good dose each of humor and heart while also having a strong impact on the storyline. We’re introduced to a love interest for Hank – a beautiful, young woman named Red Center with special skills and family issues of her own. We also meet Detective Lawful, a lawman who isn’t quite up to the challenge of fighting a fight he cannot win, and the real “law” of Chinatown – Ten Grand, Mock Beak, and Big Cookie – who collect taxes from the people of Chinatown and deliver punches and bullets to those who disobey. And then there’s the ancient Chinese turtle spirit who inhabits Hank’s shadow, who is part sidekick, part guardian angel, but really neither of these two roles quite describes the relationship between him and Hank.

In addition to the strong ensemble, Yang and Liew offer action, romance, humor, suspense, and a desire for more adventures to follow. Whether there will be more Green Turtle adventures from Yang and Liew or not, I do not know. The end of The Shadow Hero suggests that the Green Turtle will be heading off to war soon (i.e. the adventures featured in the 1940s comics), so perhaps the idea is that what comes next has already been written and so need not be written again. All I know is that I would gladly read more from Yang and Liew and would be thrilled to see more Green Turtle stories in their (and my) future.

Em’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Illustrator: Sonny Liew
Publisher: First Second (July 2014)
Note: eGalley received from publisher for review

Maddie Reviews: Emma by Jane Austen

9 Jul

9780143106463_Emma_ClaDlx.indd
Earlier this year, I decided to deviate from my usual reading material and go for something a bit different. I got a copy of Emma through a free book something-or-other, and decided- why not? I had been inspired to start reading Jane Austen because of Gwyneth Paltrow, The Mother Daughter Book Club series, and just because it sounded like something that would be more interesting to me. I figured that if I was going to finally start to brave literature from the early 1900s, why not start with something a bit gossipy and love triangle oriented?

You’ve probably heard of this book before. It was the last book that the famous Jane Austen published in her lifetime. Its heroine is the witty and intelligent but extremely nosy Emma, a member of the higher branch of English society from around the eighteen hundreds. As the publisher description adequately describes her, “she was beautiful, clever, rich, and single.” She is set apart from her peers (and, I think, other heroines of her time) by being content to remain perfectly clever and single. As she says in the book, “’I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature, and I do not think I ever shall.’” Certainly, the main plot point of the story is her delightful nosiness.

In the very beginning, she sets out to match her new charge/protégé, the young Miss Harriet, an orphan of unknown parentage, to the handsome, young, and wealthy Mr. Elton. Emma decides she must take Harriett under her wing after her main companion, the former Miss Taylor turned Mrs. Weston, is married. Making matches and getting into people’s business is our dear protagonist Emma’s favorite pastime. The story evolves to include the interesting twists and turns of Emma’s scheme, with some things extremely unexpected, and others that could be guessed from the beginning – for, really, what is a Jane Austen novel without romance?

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I noticed how Jane Austen seemed to use some facts of English society in the story, remark about them in a clever prose, and then (very subtly) make fun of them, as if to say, through her characters and their actions, that some aspects of society were just plain stupid. To give a specific example I have in mind would spoil some of the book, so I’m just going to leave it at that.

Another thing I liked about this book were all the different characters. There is the disagreeable friend of Emma’s, Mr. Knightly, her father, Mr. Woodhouse, who seems to have a rather stalkerish obsession with their town doctor, Perry (and health), the young, slightly dimwitted Miss Harriet, and the dapper Mr. Elton.

I also love her use of language. It was the kind of book that you are bursting at the seams to read in a British accent, and cuddle up with a cup of mint tea, a blanket, and a small dog by the fireplace.

There were things about this book that I wasn’t as fond of. First, there are spaces in places they simply shouldn’t be. The same can be said of the letter u, and other odd things that appear in places that they don’t in American English. The book, while much more interesting, than, say, The Scarlet Letter, is still a bit tedious and hard to read at times. The plot as well, or at least parts of it, was extremely predictable. For example, I knew that ______ would end up with ______ and that ______ would, like, NEVER work out, and they’d end up back with _______ . . . I think you get my point. Saying all of this, though, it was still readable.

If you struggle sometimes with regular English, let alone older English, and classics just aren’t for you, then you may want to wait a few more years to tackle Emma. On the other hand, I highly recommend this book if you like classics, or want to start reading them. This book is most definitely a great place to begin! Also, if you appreciate love complications and just all-around extremely satisfying (read for five hours straight in a very large generously stuffed chair) books, you’d definitely adore this one.

So, pick up Emma, by Jane Austen: It’s a great way to start reading classics, and to perfect that British accent.

Maddie
Title: Emma
Author: Jane Austen
Publisher: Originally published in 1815 by John Murray

Note from Em: Maddie and I used to co-host a radio show together where we talked about all the great (and sometimes not great) books that we read. Sadly, Maddie had to leave the radio show when she and her family moved several hours away. Luckily she still shares her love of reading and her book reviewing talents with the world! Her reviews are also posted on the Bound By Books radio show blog.

Not So YA: Vegan Cookbook Edition

6 Jul

This is a YA blog and these books aren’t YA. I could make the connection to my teen years – that I went vegetarian when I was 15 and vegan when I was 18. I could talk about how much I would have loved these books as a young vegan and how glad I am that vegan teens today have so many more options in restaurants, grocery stores, and on the bookshelves. This is all true, but I also just wanted to highlight these two books because they’re awesome. The recipes are delicious, creative, and easy to follow. The design is eye-catching and informative. These two books are two of my new go-to cookbooks that I’ll be revisiting time and time again in the years to come. I can’t wait to see what my next great recipe is!

afro-vegan
Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed by Bryant Terry

Bryant Terry creates amazing cookbooks and delicious flavor combinations. His book Vegan Soul Kitchen is one of my all-time favorites. There are few dishes in my life that I have loved as much as his Cajun-Creole-Spiced Tempeh Pieces with Creamy Grits. But boy do I have a new favorite in Afro-Vegan with his recipe for Texas Caviar. mmmmMMMM. It is fresh and decadent and reason enough to buy this book (though there are plenty of other reasons).

In Afro-Vegan, Terry offers over 100 delicious recipes organized by staple ingredients such as “Grits. Grains. Couscous.”, “Greens. Squashes, Roots.”, and “Okra, Black-Eyed Peas. Watermelon.” Each section’s intro and each recipe’s blurb ties back into the central themes of the cookbook – building community around food and around the table, honoring personal history and food history, and celebrating the food and the people of ancient Africa and the African-diaspora and their contributions to New World cuisine and agricultural practices.

As he does with every book, each recipe comes with a suggested music track. For example, Texas Caviar is paired with Frank Ocean’s “Super Rich Kids”. This recipe is absolutely divine and I feel like a super rich kid when I eat it. Other dishes from Afro-Vegan that I have made and enjoyed include Glazed Carrot Salad and Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Soup. The suggested tracks for these two recipes: “Sweet Bite” by George Duke and “Africaine” by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers.

The Glazed Carrot Salad is a delicious warm carrot salad with cilantro, mint, and peanuts. I’m always excited to find dishes that give me a reason to appreciate the mint that grows like a weed in front of my house. This recipe is a bit time-consuming prep-wise for a side dish, but the resulting dish is beautiful and offers diverse textures and flavors that I appreciate. The Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Soup recipe uses a great trick that I first learned in Vegan Soul Kitchen – soaking cashews and blending them with water to make a nice protein-rich alternative to heavy cream. I made this recipe for Christmas dinner and my non-vegan family members thought the creamed cashews idea was genius and the resulting recipe delicious. They were correct.

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The book design is also lovely, with food photography by Paige Green, artwork by Nick James and Keba Konte, and a textured cloth pattern along the spine. I literally pet the book when it showed up at my library and thought to myself “this will look great on my cookbook shelf”. Then remembered that the copy belonged to the library, not me. Oops! I quickly remedied that situation and bought a copy of my own. Doesn’t it look so cozy with its friends?

Em’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author: Bryant Terry
Photography: Paige Green
Publisher: Ten Speed Press (April 2014)
Note: eGalley received from publisher.

“If A People’s History Of The United States and Joy of Cooking had a baby, Afro-Vegan would be it!”
—Isa Chandra Moskowitz, author of Veganomicon and Isa Does It

Isa-Does-It
Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

What I love about Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s recipes is that they’re really easy to follow and the resulting dishes are always delicious. What I love about her latest cookbook (in addition to the tasty dishes she introduces) is that almost every recipe is accompanied by a mouth-watering photograph. While the photography doesn’t technically make the recipes any better, aside from offering a reference for what the dish should/could look like, it does help build the excitement for trying out new dishes.

With Afro-Vegan I offered Texas Caviar as the recipe that is reason enough to buy the book. Here I suggest Jerk Sloppy Joes with Coconut Creamed Spinach as the recipe that alone is worth the price of the book purchase. I’ve had several vegan sloppy joes over the past 20 years, but this one is by far the best and I will never go back. The Coconut Creamed Spinach is a delicious addition that I never would have thought to add to a sloppy joe. Other recipes that have become go-to recipes for me in this book are the Meaty Beany Chili and the Cornbread Muffins; both are simple recipes that offer a lot of flavor. Here’s a video of Moskowitz making her Meaty Beany Chili and Cornbread Muffins (the video is by Breville, so she uses their slow-cooker and toaster oven – I use a good old fashioned pot and oven for these recipes at home, but hey, options are always good):

Other recipes that I have tried include Norah’s Lemon-Lemon Cookies and Curried Peanut Sauce Bowl with Tofu & Kale which were both delicious. I’m excited to try out more recipes this summer with all the fresh local produce available! Yum! The only trick is trying to narrow down which recipe to try out next. They all look so good!

Em’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author: Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Photography: Vanessa Rees
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (October 2013)
Note: eGalley received from publisher.