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Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

Ms. Carriger has been kind enough to grace our shelves with this absolutely topping new series of novels for the entertainment and edification of young ladies and gentlemen of discerning taste. Etiquette & Espionage is set in the same fun-fair universe as the wildly popular Parasol Protectorate series but a quarter century before Alexia Tarabotti's debut in Soulless. We see the same brilliant wit and invention, zany adventure, and excellent attention to detail of Victorian life that has made this charming author a steampunk favorite.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia lives in an alternate Victorian Britain whizzing along with all manner of amazing clockwork gadgetry where the aristocracy and military are dominated by vampires and werewolves respectively. (These supernatural citizens are usually too polite to eat the general populace uninvited but, well-there are misunderstandings) Her despairing mother has
had enough of her tomboyish romps and unladylike love for mathematics and engineering. To her horror the girl is whisked off to the terribly exclusive Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, which overlooks the lonely English moors in a dramatic and very original fashion.

Secret and Peculiar Schools are certainly commonplace to young readers, but this institution has a curriculum as unusual as its lofty location. Along with the classical academic subjects, manners, and poise, the young ladies of Mme. Geraldine's are studying to become intelligencers-spies! They will learn all the social graces to gossip, flatter, connive, and seduce information from hapless targets. When that objective is achieved the girls may be required to use unarmed combat, knives, or poison and really "finish" the job. Intrigued, Sophronia applies herself to the demanding coursework despite having the Worst Curtsy in the Empire. She even learns to enjoy the formerly forbidding feminine disciplines of High Fashion, the Coy Smile, and the devastating Batted Eyelashes.

She will make a diverse circle of friends (even cute working-class boys!). With every chapter we meet the highly eccentric staff, Mean Girls, young mad scientists in training, dangerous aerial pirates called flywaymen, and and elite clique of steamgoths, "The Pistons" (more cute boys). Of course Sophronia and the gang will have to solve a big-time mystery without getting demerits. This first book of the new trilogy mostly concerns exploring the school and the wider crazy world around it. The reader will be satisfied and thoroughly entertained while looking forward to the laughs and increasing intrigue ahead. --reviewed by Chris from Compass Books SFO

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

I'll never forget what book got me hooked on reading. Gary Paulsen's Hatchet, was one of thrills and adventure. I realized at a young age that I adored books where the main character was just trying to survive, but was left with nothing or no one. I suppose it was easy to put myself in the place of that character and wonder to myself how would I survive if put in that same place. Ashfall is one of those books! What would you do if a supervolcano erupted and you had no warning and no one to help you figure out what to do? You had no preparations, no family near you, no clean water, and people known as 'flencers' were trying to hunt you down and eat you?! Mullin makes it easy to put you in this person's place, and it's honestly terrifying. I truly loved the twist and turns this book took, and am just engrossed in the second installment. I highly recommend to those who looking for a thrilling story with just a tad of romance and plenty of moments that will have your heart racing. --Reviewed by Courtney, of Books Inc. Burlingame

Red Kite, Blue Kite by Ji-Li Jiang

I love the stories that have historical truth to them, and this one falls under that category. Such a sweet and sad story. Brand new to our shelves, I picked it for my book of the week choice and have gotten excellent reviews from my fellow staff members. For a parent looking for a sweet story AND teaching their kids about a significant event in the past, I strongly recommend this story. -- Reviewed by Courtney of Books Inc. Burlingame

Author Interview: Bianca Turetsky!

        1.)    At what age did you fall in love with vintage fashion?

I was always dressing a bit odd compared to my classmates, although there weren’t really any vintage stores in the small CT town I grew up in. I spent a lot of time combing through the racks at the local Salvation Army and Goodwill stores looking for discarded treasures, which ended up being more from Ann Taylor than Anna Sui. I have to admit that ½ the reason I love living in NY is that there are so many great vintage shops to explore!

2.)    Do you bear any resemblance to your main character, Louise Lambert?

Louise definitely reminds me of myself at 12. Like Louise, I grew up an only child, with frizzy hair, braces, and an overactive imagination in a suburban Connecticut town. I was also on a swim team. But Louise has far more exciting adventures than I did!

         3.)    What kind of research did you do for the various historical locations you depict in your series?

Because I tried to be as historically accurate as possible, these books required a lot of research, which ended up being so much fun!  For T-TF At the Palace of Marie Antoinette my grandmother, who immediately volunteered to be my research assistant, and I went on a trip to Paris! We took the train out to the palace of Versailles to see what it is actually like in person. It’s really hard to appreciate the scale and grandeur of the place from photographs- although I hope I was able to capture it in this story. We ate lots of French pastries (for research purposes of course!) and wandered around the grounds and gardens where Marie Antoinette lived hundreds of years ago. My main character is actually named after my grandma, so it was pretty cool to be seeing Versailles for the first time with the original Louise Lambert.

                4.)    If you could choose one era of history to visit, which would it be and why?     

Choosing one is hard, there’s so many I’d love to visit!  The roaring 20s seemed fabulous with the bedazzled Flapper dresses, and t-strap tap shoes.  The Great Gatsby is one of my all time favorite books, so I’ve always been a bit obsessed with that period of Jazz Age glamour. Now that I think of it, this would be a good Time-Traveling Fashionista novel!

 5.)    What does it mean to you to write for a young audience?

Even though I find it really fun, I also take it extremely seriously. So many of the books I read when I was young really affected and changed me and have stuck with me for my whole life.  It’s a huge responsibility that I don’t take lightly. Reading great books by Judy Blume, Louisa May Alcott, and Madeleine L’Engle as a kid created a lifelong reading habit, inspired me to write my own books, and to this day, a free afternoon and a good book is my idea of bliss.

 6.)    If we were to snoop in your closet, what would we find that we may not expect?

When I was in Spain writing the second T-TF book, I went to this amazing vintage store and found a gorgeous long white tiered dress with handmade lace trim that looked like something Dolce and Gabbana made for last spring’s collection. The dress probably dates back to around 1910- just the period I wrote about in The Time-Traveling Fashionista on Board the Titanic. The fabric is so delicate that I’m afraid to wear it out of my apartment, but I love it.

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

The Apothecary is Meloy's first novel for young readers, and she tells The riveting tale of Janie, a Cold War American girl whose parents are suspected of Communist sympathies. They move to London to avoid the McCarthy trials, where Janie is almost immediately embroiled in a race against time and the forces of world destruction to aid a courageous apothecary and his quick-witted son against nuclear holocaust. This novel is original, fast paced, and perfect for fans of The Golden Compass. --Reviewed by Megan of Books Inc. Market Street

Life in the Ocean by Claire A. Nivola

Since Jacques Cousteau no one person has contributed more to ocean exploration than Sylvia Earle. This book tells the true-life story of "Her Deepness" and follows her from her early childhood interest of monitering wildlife to her pioneering work with deep sea expeditions and live-in laboratories. This book is for the seasoned picture book reader, with lots of text and great illustrations as well as a very informative author's note at the end. Also a great book to keep in mind for March to feature for woman's history month! Great for fans of Manfish by Jennifer Berns and Coral Reefs and The Island by Jason Chin. --Reviewed by Caitlin of Books Inc. Laurel Village

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

The extraordinary Glower Castle is alive with magic. It is a castle that constantly changes itself, moving rooms around and creating new ones along the way. Above all, it is a castle with a fierce loyalty to the royal Glower family, particularly young Celie, who understands the castle better than anyone. The family lives in the castle happily until the King and Queen leave one day and are ambushed. Local and foreign royal councilors all presume them dead. But Celie and her siblings know better. With the castle's help, they must figure out what the royal councils are up to, what happened to their parents, and how to protect themselves.

This is a well-written and charming story. Though we only ever see the inside of the castle, we never get bored, as the action starts right away and never really stops. The best part of this novel is easily the castle, which strongly resembles Hogwart's Room of Requirement and Howl's Moving Castle. However, with a simple plot and cartoonish villains (who plot to kill, but can be somehow defeated by a 11 year old girl stomping on their toe) make this more of a read for a strong 8 year old to 9 year old. Overall, it is done very well and is perfect for budding fantasy readers. -- Reviewed by Kelly of Books Inc. Laurel Village

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