Oscar is an orphan. He was raised as the “hand” to a magician on an island where magic is all but lost to the people. Long ago, there were many wizards who used their magic to do extraordinary things. Now, few can use magic in the way that it is meant to be used. When something terrible happens to Wolf, the magician’s assistant, the magician must travel far across the country in hopes of discovering what really happened to Wolf. When the magician leaves, Oscar is left to care for the magician’s magic shop. However, Oscar is much more comfortable with plants and cats than he is with people. It isn’t until Callie, the healer’s assistant, comes to Oscar and helps him with his people skills. But when the city children begin falling ill and no one wants to know the truth, it’s up to Oscar and Callie to discover what’s really going on. This is one of my favorite books from last year and it’s perfect for those rapid fantasy lovers. Anyone who enjoyed Harry Potter or Narnia will devour this one! -- Reviewed by Anna from Books Inc. Palo Alto
To say that Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl is good is an understatement. It’s fantastic. It’s brilliant. It’s wonderful. It’s witty and insightful and utterly beautiful. Fangirl is, by far, the best book I’ve read all year.
Starting her freshman year of college with a gruff roommate, a cute writing partner, and an absent twin sister, Cath’s severe social anxiety almost pushes her over the edge. Time and again, Cath finds solace in her Simon Snow fanfiction - a genius hybrid of Harry Potter and Twilight - writing about romance, betrayal, wizards and vampires. Despite Cath’s lack of friends outside her sister, the thousands of followers Cath has on the fanfic boards seem to make up for it. However, it isn’t until she really messes up that Cath realizes she can’t live within her fanfiction forever.
After hearing everyone rave about this book, I knew I had to pick it up.
Cath’s social anxiety is something that I think many people can relate to.
The idea of moving away from home for the first time, being separated from one’s family, and having to start all over in a giant fish bowl is daunting.
This situation begs for self-discovery and growth, which Cath has a hard time embracing. I loved Cath, despite her flaws. She’s intelligent, but she’s afraid to push herself. She’s witty, but too shy to show it. She’s creative, but too stubborn to apply creativity to any story outside of Simon Snow. As someone who constantly struggles with pushing herself, I loved being confronted with a situation that made so much sense to me. That transition from any tiny comfortable fish pond to a deep dark ocean doesn’t just apply to those moving from high school to college.
The story itself even made me want to return to college, and maybe even sign up to live in the dorms. Who knows, maybe I’ll start writing my own fanfiction? This is one of those books you won’t be able to put down. Trust me, you’ll be up reading until 3am and you’ll force yourself to stay up another two hours while you really contemplate what you just read. Then you’ll have to go back and reread several scenes just to relive the magic of them. And for those of you romance junkies out there, fear not. There’s plenty of romance to go around. Although, you might have to fight me for him.
If you haven’t already given in to the hype of Fangirl, just do it. You really won’t regret it. The splendor of this novel is something that will last with you for weeks, months, maybe even years after it’s over. So, what are you waiting for?
--Reviewed by Anna, Books Inc. Palo Alto
Quite possibly the greatest vampire novel I have ever read. This is not merely hyperbole; Robin McKinley has created a world of magic, detailing the aftermath of a war against vampires and demons with an end result of government-registered magic. Where the only good demon is a part-blood demon and that’s only if your “power” is the kind that pours the hottest cup of coffee. I dare you to read this book without wanting Sunshine’s cinnamon rolls ‘big as your head’ or a slice of her ‘death by chocolate.’ The romance is believable but not over the top as some other glittery vampire novels. Constantine will win your heart but you will want Sunshine to be your best friend. This summer marks the fourth re-reading and every time I discover something new. This is my chicken soup book and the novel I purchase for friends whenever I’m wondering what to get them for a birthday or I think it is time they learn how well vampires and baking go together.
--Reviewed by Renee from Books Inc. Market Street
With Halloween just around the corner, I want to remind everybody about this Newbery Honor book by the wonderful E.L. Konigsburg (of FROM THE MIXED UP FILES…fame!) JENNIFER is one of my favorite books and I still enjoy reading it.
Elizabeth is a new fifth grader in school, but has not made any friends. On the way to school on Halloween, dressed as a witch for the school parade, she meets another fifth grader named Jennifer. Jennifer is not only dressed as a witch, but informs Elizabeth that she is, in fact, a real witch, and will make Elizabeth her apprentice. Though not exactly friends, the girls spend all of their time together, with Jennifer setting up ‘apprentice witch’ tasks for Elizabeth to follow.
This is a great ‘girls’ book, (3rd, 4th, 5th grades) about friendship, loneliness, being the odd girl out, but also about finding that one good friend. I just love how Elizabeth’s mom keeps asking her to become friends with one of the other girls who all the parents think is the perfect child, but who Elizabeth knows is actually fake and not a nice person. Kids really do know best!
--Reviewed by Penny of Books Inc. Burlingame
Rosie Revere is a natural born tinkerer, creating fantastical gadgets out of found objects. When one of her inventions is received with laughter, Rosie decides her engineering needs to be confined to her attic room. The encouragement of her great, great aunt Rose (who just happens to be Rosie the Riveter - an iconic trailblazer) gives Rosie the courage to pursue her interests regardless of what people think; to redefine what failure means; and to persevere in the face of that failure. The affection and respect the Rosies feel for each other warms this auntie's heart (and makes this a great choice for book-buying aunties), and the joy Rosie experiences from the creative process is palpable. Beaty's language is rich and rhyming, and Roberts’ mixed media illustrations are quirky and expressive. As with their earlier collaboration Iggy Peck, Architect, there is a perfect (and lively) balance of words and images. The illustrations could delight a sophisticated three year old, but the language and message are better suited to a slightly older child. Absolutely love it.
--Reviewed by Ingrid, manager of Books Inc. Laurel Village