Archive for the ‘Lauren Oliver’ Category

As 2013 meandered into 2014, there were four books I was looking forward to reading:

ImpossibleKnifeOfMemory1. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson – published in January. I’ll review that shortly, but suffice it to say, it lived up to my expectations.

2. Panic by Lauren Oliver – to be published in MarchPanic


3. Going Over by Beth Kephart – to be published in April. I’m so excited because I have an advanced reader’s copy in hand. Can’t wait, can’t wait, can’t wait.

4. Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Anne Peters – to be published in June. My wonderful daughter got me an advanced readers copy of it at ALA Midwinter Conference.LiesMyGirlfriendToldMe

So, going into February, I will have read three out of the four books I’ve been looking forward to. What can be better than that? Four out of four? Hey, I’m OK with waiting until March for Panic.

Read Full Post »

If one thinks there is a lack of imagination in the world, one need look only as far as Lauren Oliver’s TheSpindlersThe Spindlers. It is full of wonderful imaginary characters (or are they imaginary?). Everyone knows that the spindlers come at night and steal children’s souls, replacing them with spindler eggs so that more spindlers can be born. When Liza wakes up one morning and her brother Patrick isn’t really Patrick anymore, with his glassy eyes and lack of emotion, she is panic-stricken. While brothers and sisters have their ups and downs, generally they do love each other.

Of course her mother sadly thinks she’s making up yet another story, but Liza knows she must rescue Patrick’s soul before it’s too late. She ventures into the basement, with a broom as her only weapon, moves a bookcase covering a hole in the wall and enters the Below.

The first thing she meets is a rat almost her size named Mirabella. Mirabella is wearing a newspaper skirt, a hideous wig, a hat and enough makeup and mascara to scare anyone…including Liza. This is the delicious beginning of a dangerous journey the two take to reach the spindler’s nest, meeting along the way troglods, nids, lumer-lumpens, nocturni and more.

These days, when kids grow up too fast, when they are bombarded at a young age with activities that will get them into a good college, a good dose of fun and fantasy is the prescription for bringing back childhood. (It even works for adults who have forgotten the wonders of childhood.) Lauren Oliver has supplied a goodly dose of adventure. I was with Mirabella and Liza every minute of their journey, beside them on the dangerous River of Knowledge, there when Liza had to outsmart a three headed dog, there in the troglod market. Knowing in my heart that Liza would save Patrick’s soul, I couldn’t wait to get to the next adventure, to get that much closer to what I knew to be a satisfying ending.

We all know that Lauren Oliver is a talented writer. She writes in multiple genres for middle schoolers and high shcoolers. Liesl & Po is another wonderful fantasy book of hers. So, if you’re looking for something wonderful for your child to read OR you yourself want something wonderful to read, pick up The Spindlers and Liesl & Po. It is imagination at its best.

Read Full Post »

Are you in the mood for just the right amount of magic and puppetry and suspense and thievery? SplendorsAndGloomsIf that’s the case, then you’re in the mood for Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz, whose previous book, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village was a Newbery Award winner. Splendors and Gloooms is no slouch either, being a 2013 Newbery Honor Book.

Since I’m having trouble these days describing books, I’ll take the description off of the Association for Library Services to Children website: “Lizzie Rose, Parsefall and Clara are caught in the clutches of a wicked puppeteer and a powerful witch in this deliciously dark and complex tale set in Dickensian England, where adventure and suspense are interwoven into nuanced explorations of good versus evil.” It is deliciously dark and scary. You can feel the London fog wherever Lizzie Rose and Parsefall travel.

Parsefall is the perfect Dickensian ragamuffin and Lizzie Rose is his prim and proper, although poor, partner in crime, both dominated by greasy, master puppeteer Grisini–a perfect name for him. When these three perform at Clara’s twelfth birthday party and she  disappears soon thereafter, the plot thickens. How the bigger than life Cassandra, the powerful witch in her remote castle, enters into the story is for readers to find out. Even Ruby the spaniel is adorable.

Readers will feel like they are living through an 1860s London winter.They’ll certainly feel like they are part of the story, not merely reading it. They might find themselves shouting out loud, “No Parsefall, don’t do that!” or “Watch out. Grisini’s hiding there!” Even I was afraid of Grisini.

My daughter recommended this book to me, before it was voted an honor book, indicating her good taste in books. For some reason, Splendors and Glooms, to me, was a middle school version of Night Circus because they had that same foggy aura (although their subjects are somewhat different).

So, my 2013 has started off with a bang. I’ve finished Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool and now Splendors and Glooms. Next up is Courage Has No Color, The True Story of the Triple Nickles: America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone which is getting great reviews and The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver which has gotten great reviews. And then coming down the pike soon is Beth Kephart’s Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent, a prequel to Dangerous Neighbors. I know, also, that Susan Campbel Bartoletti’s new book, Down the Rabbit Hole: The Diary of Pringle Rose, is due out in March.  If my reading keeps up at this pace, 2013 is going to be a banner year.

Read Full Post »

In her acknowledgments, Lauren Oliver explains why Liesl & Po is especially important to her, and it shows in her writing and story, as well as Kei Acedera’s illustrations, which are somewhat akin to Brian Selznick’s illustrations in Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck, but on a smaller scale.

Poor Liesl is stuck in her attic by an evil stepmother, ever since her father died.  One night, she is visited by Po, a ghost (a boy…or maybe not) and his companion, Bundle (a dog…or maybe a cat).  It is hard to tell what these apparitions are, since they are somewhat fuzzy. Liesl and Po are both lonely and befriend each other.

Will, an orphan and alchemist’s apprentice, has a crush on Liesl, although they’ve never met.  He just sees her each night sadly sitting in her attic window. When Will, making deliveries for the alchemist, mixes up a box with human ashes from the undertaker with the box of the most powerful magic the alchemist has ever made, destined for Madame Premier, he triggers an escapade loaded with good and evil, action and adventure.

Liesl and Po’s story is, indeed, enchanting. While Oliver describes the bleak, sun-starved landscape the characters inhabit, there is always hope. The characters are marvelous.  There are kind hearted people, such as Madame Premier’s guard, Mo, who only wants to give Will a hat because he looks cold and who carries his cat, Lefty, in a sling.  There is the evil alchemist and, more evil, Madame Premier who generates coldness wherever she goes.  Of course, no fairy tale/fantasy could be complete without an evil stepmother and Augusta surely fits the bill. The care that Will, Po and Liesl show for each other, confirms that there truly is love in the world.

We should not forget Kei Acedera’s black and white pencil (I’m assuming it’s pencil) drawings which are rich in detail and add an amazing touch to the story. In my mind, they are an integral part of the book.

While the book jacket says Liesl & Po is geared for 8-12 year olds, I think teens as well as adults will enjoy it, because if you have a good story and good artwork, the appeal is ageless. I took Liesl & Po out of the library, but have plans to add it to my personal book collection.  It is a treat.

Read Full Post »

Richard Peck’s Secrets at Sea was reviewed in The New York Times Book Review this weekend, so I thought I’d add my two cents.

I wish I could recreate for you Richard Peck’s autograph on my copy of A Long Way From Chicago.  The flourishes, the curlicues, the expansiveness of it are indications of how he talks and how he writes.  There’s an imagination, an imagery, a use of words that few authors achieve in a lifetime and he does it time and again.  Maybe his mantra of “If you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader” really holds true.  Whatever it is, he certainly has the talent.  And Secrets at Sea will enchant you.

The ‘upstairs Cranstons’ need to find a husband for older daughter, Olive. They’ve exhausted all the possibilities in the New York vicinity and have decided to try their luck abroad. They are off on a trans-Atlantic voyage to see what England has to offer.

The ‘downstairs Cranstons’, the mice residing in the lower levels, are frantic.  What is to become of them if the Upstairs Cranstons desert them for foreign lands?  Helena, the older sister to Louise, Beatrice and Lamont, decides to seek counsel from old, wise Aunt Fannie Fenimore, who lives in the mansion next door. Aunt Fannie looks into her crystal ball and describes Helena’s two futures:  the one that chooses her and the one that she chooses. The one that chooses Helena does not look promising, but the one that she can choose is even more frightening because in that crystal ball is the image of a huge ocean liner…and you should know that mice and water are not friends.

And this is how Helena finds herself on an ocean liner bound for England and Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee – “60 years upon the greatest throne in human history”. You will meet a marvelous cast of characters, both human and rodent.  And, most importantly, you will learn why, without the aid of our mice, we humans would be in one great big mess.

Secrets at Sea is a wonderful voyage for your imagination.

At the suggestion of the same New York Times Book Review issue and several other library journals, I have Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver on my night table.  Oliver, author of Before I Fall (which I really liked) and Delerium (which I haven’t read because dystopia just isn’t my thing, but which got great reviews), has ventured into the world of middle grade fiction and Liesl & Po is getting raves.

Read Full Post »