Celebrate Screen-Free Week Part 1

To celebrate Screen-Free Week (April 28-May 5) we will have activities every weekday afternoon from 3:30-5:00 pm. All ages are welcome, stop in and unplug with us. And check out these great books that will inspire you to unplug!

Before she created Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins wrote this zany little picture book. When the power goes out and Charlie can’t play his video games, he loses control. Only imagination can temper this tantrum.

When Charlie McButton Lost Power by Suzanne Collins; Putnam; $5.99

Doug the Robot learns a lot by downloading, but only when he unplugs does he discover the vibrancy of life. As Doug explores the city he also learns how to use his knowledge to help a new-found friend.

Doug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino; Knopf; $16.99

In this cute picture book Lydia discovers there is a whole world waiting for her, away from all of the electronic devices that distract the other members of her family. The simple text in this book make it great for younger audiences.

Hello! Hello! By Matthew Cordell; Hyperion; $16.99

Erin

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Miss Megan’s Five Star Favorites, Part III

Believe it or not, I read grownup books on occasion. Not as often as I would like, but still, I try to add a “big kid” title to my list every now and again. These are a selection of my favorites, the ones I’ve given the coveted five star rating on Goodreads.

The Death of Bees by Lisa O’DonnellHarperCollins; 25.99; Ages 16-adult

Opening line: “Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved.”

For fans of: The Cement Garden; The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Pure by Julianna BaggottHachette; 9.99; Ages 14-adult

Opening line: “There was a low droning overhead a week or so after the Detonations; time was hard to track. The skies were buckling with dark banks of blackened cloud, the air thick with ash and dust.”

For fans of: The Hunger Games; Divergent

Room by Emma DonoghueLittle Brown; 14.99; Ages 16-adult

Opening line: “Today I’m five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I’m changed to five, abracadabra.”

For fans of: Living Dead Girl; Angela’s Ashes

Atonement by Ian McEwanAnchor Books; 15.00; Ages 16-adult

Opening line: “The play—for which Briony had designed the posters, programmes and tickets, constructed the sales booth out of a folding screen tipped on its side, and lined the collection box in red crepe paper—was written by her in a two-day tempest of composition, causing her to miss a breakfast and a lunch.”

For fans of: Skeletons at the Feast; Never Let Me Go

Jane Eyre by Charlotte BrontePenguin; 7.99; Ages 14-adult

Opening line: “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.”

For fans of: Great Expectations; Persuasion

Give us a call or shoot us an email if you want to put any of these titles on hold! (703) 548-4092 or info@hooray4books.com

Read on, readers!

Miss Megan

NPR’s List of 100 Best Teen Novels is Out!

NPR Books is known for their “Top 100” lists, which tally votes (from listeners like you!) for the most beloved titles in a given category. This summer, it’s all about the young adult books—click here to check out the list of the 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels!

We were stoked to see a lot of our favorites on the list, including a few we’ve raved about on this very blog:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; Scholastic

Megan says: Collins’ characters are incredibly compelling, and she knows how to layer on the action like nobody’s business. If you haven’t read these yet, DO IT NOW. You won’t regret the decision. Just be warned that you may not be able to sleep until you’ve torn through all three novels.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green; Dutton Books (Penguin)

Amanda says: Hazel and Augustus meet in the most unusual place — a cancer support group. Though the setting alone may lead a reader to believe the story will be heavy and depressing, it’s anything but. Filled with sarcasm and hysterical wit, you’ll be both laughing and crying through the entire book. Sometimes both at the same time!

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen; Speak (Penguin)

Maryam says: Auden is a serious student who as a kid did not have time for riding a bike because she was too busy studying and sitting in on literary discussions at the dinner table. Due to her parents’ constant arguing when she was a child, she learned to stay up all night, which only gave her more time to study.  Now,  the summer before she starts college, she goes to visit her father, step-mother, and newborn step-sister, and her entire life turns around.  In her late night wanderings she meets Eli, who helps her on her “quest” (as he phrases it) to do everything she missed out on as a kid.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith; St. Martin’s (Macmillan)

Megan says: Set in the 1930s, when England, like [protagonist] Cassandra, was teetering on the brink of the modern age, this is one of the most satisfying titles I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. Cassandra’s narration is frank, witty, and utterly hilarious. This is one of those books you’ll want to read over and over. Cracking open that cover is like seeing an old friend!

If I Stay by Gayle Forman; Speak (Penguin)

Megan says: The gentle, unassuming writing style of If I Stay lends itself beautifully to the telling of this haunting and hopeful story. As author Gayle Forman weaves together past and present narratives, she creates a lovely, memorable tale that will thoroughly engage teen readers.

Chaos Walking Series by Patrick Ness; Candlewick (Random House)

Maryam says: Todd is a boy who has grown-up his whole life in New World (think of Earth 2.0). To the settlers’ surprise, when they landed on New World, they could suddenly hear everyone’s thoughts, nothing is secret. When Todd is told that he needs to leave his town before his next birthday, trouble arises; after all, how can you keep thoughts secret when everyone can hear them?

This is a mere sampling of the books on NPR’s list that we absolutely love! Drop by the store to check out more of the 100 Best Teen Novels!

Any books you think should have been included on the 100 Best list? Post a comment! You can also see the full list of 235 finalists here.

A Very Norton Juster November

Norton Juster is one of my Absolute Favorite Authors of All Time: so imagine my delight when the box of new books this morning contained not one, but two, new Juster books! Now, to be fair, one of them is a new-old book: the 50th anniversary edition of The Phantom Tollbooth. However, this does not make it any less exciting.

     The Phantom Tollbooth (Anniversary) by Norton Juster. Random House. Ages 6-99!

The new edition is gorgeous, with Jules Feiffer’s familiar Milo and Tock unchanged, except that Tock is definitely shinier. Philip Pullman, Suzanne Collins, Mo Willems, and more contributed wonderfully inspiring essays for the new edition: each author has a slightly different take on why The Phantom Tollbooth is such an enduring classic. Since my childhood paperback is definitely well-loved, (read: completely unreadable), I dropped a not-so-subtle hint to my mom to pick this one up for Christmas. Whether it’s for someone like me or for a child reading it for the first time, this lovely edition makes a perfect gift.

Neville by Norton Juster. Schwartz & Wade Books. Ages 3-7.

For the littler ones in your life, Norton Juster has written a funny and moving new picture book, Neville.  Most kids have had the experience of moving to a new place: Juster treats this theme with characteristic empathy, recognizing that kids usually don’t have a say in the matter! On the first page, we see a boy standing in front of his new house, his colored shirt contrasting with the black and white background, heightening the sense of isolation. “Nobody had asked him about moving. They’d just told him,” the narrator wryly comments. His mother encourages him to go outside to try and meet some neighborhood kids, and the boy reluctantly sets off for a walk. He does make friends, but in such a clever and charming way that I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you! You’ll love the warmth and ingenuity of this wonderful story. Great for ages 3 and up.

Miss Megan’s Guide to Dystopian Fiction

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed that the latest trend sweeping the teen/young adult section is dystopia. Bye, vampires! Happy trails, werewolves! So, as we enter the holiday shopping season, I thought I’d give you my quick and dirty run down of the genre, as well as my top picks.

According to trusty Merriam-Webster, dystopia is “an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives.” It is, essentially, the “anti-utopia,” a world where civilization has run amok, and things are, generally, pretty bleak. Why on earth would I want to read about that, you ask? Because it is the perfect environment for plucky, brave, intelligent protagonists to rise from the ashes, that’s why! And take heart, grownups–this genre tends to accommodate adult readers quite well, thanks to the political and philosophical implications of the setting. But enough teacher-talk. Let’s get down to business…

The One That Started It All (Sort Of): Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic Press)

Let’s go through our dystopian checklist. Iron-fisted dictatorship? Check. Brutal, warlike society designed to squelch any thought of rebellion? Check. Resourceful, loyal heroine? Love triangle? Trilogy? Check, check, check. Sure, dystopian novels like Brave New World and 1984 have been required reading in high schools for years. They’ve appeared in children’s lit, too (see The Giver). But we have Suzanne Collins to thank for their explosion onto the pop culture scene like never before. And even with a rabid fan base and a movie adaptation on the way, allow me to say: these books are excellent. Awesome, even. Collins’ characters are incredibly compelling, and she knows how to layer on the action like nobody’s business. If you haven’t read these yet, DO IT NOW. You won’t regret the decision. Just be warned that you may not be able to sleep until you’ve torn through all three novels.

The Kinder, Gentler Introduction to the Genre: Matched by Ally Condie (Penguin Books)

Not drawn to epic, expansive scenes of battle, blood, and gore? No need to miss out on the dystopian genre! This is the book I recommend for younger readers who want to check out Hunger Games but probably aren’t quite ready, or those who just aren’t sure about the violence. In the Society, marriage matches are made scientifically. The process is streamlined, and Cassia hasn’t once heard of a mistake being made. But at her own matching ceremony, she sees two boys on the screen that is to reveal her future husband. Confused, Cassia embarks on a quest to discover exactly what happened in her case, and discovers more deeply hidden secrets than she could have imagined. Matched focuses heavily on the societal/political implications of dystopia and for the most part keeps away from scenes of intense violence, while gently developing the various character relationships. Watch out for book two, Crossed, which will be out November 1st.

The One That Gets You Right Into the Action: Divergent by Veronica Roth (HarperCollins)

I’ll admit, my expectations weren’t high for this one. It was, I thought with disdain, a debut novel. Everyone wants a piece of the dystopian pie, but can anyone really expect a hit on the first try? The answer, in Veronica Roth’s case, is a resounding yes. After reading Divergent (another one that cost me sleep, I was that breathlessly glued to the page), I was ready for a slice of humble pie. Roth’s story is gripping and unique, and I couldn’t wait to see where it went next. Set in future Chicago, society is divided into factions based on various essential character traits. Upon turning 16, teens go through a series of diagnostic tests to determine which faction they are best suited for. Typically, this is a simple, logical process, but for Beatrice it is anything but. Instead of fitting neatly into one faction, she is suited equally for more than one, a trait that makes her “divergent” and possibly dangerous to the methodical system that has been established. I loved that Roth didn’t waste time with exposition–we as readers are thrown right in with Beatrice as she struggles to figure out her situation, and we can only hang on and enjoy every moment of the exhilarating, heartpounding ride! Book two (it’s a trilogy) is set to be released in May 2012, and I, for one, can’t wait.

The Thoughtful, Dreamy Romance: Wither by Lauren DeStefano (Simon & Schuster)

Let’s slow things down a bit and take a breath. As gung-ho as I am about the guerilla warfare and subversive rebellion of dystopia, all that combat can be taxing. Apparently Lauren DeStefano agreed with me. Don’t be fooled, though, there’s plenty of action here. But it’s punctuated nicely by gentle scenes of character development. Set in a world where disease claims all females by the age of 20 and all males by 21, Rhine knows she doesn’t have long. But when she is kidnapped and forced into a polygamist marriage (the gentry’s desperate attempt to continue their bloodlines), she is determined to spend what time she has left formulating a plan for escape. What she doesn’t expect, though, is to find friendship, sisterhood, and even love inside the walls of her palatial prison. The uniqueness of the plot intrigued me, and I was most definitely not disappointed in the choices the author made. DeStefano’s characters are engaging and unexpectedly sympathetic–relationships between the three sister wives are especially compelling. There are moments of frantic speed, but for the most part the tone of this novel is dreamlike, which makes it a welcome departure from some of the more stark offerings of the genre. Like every other book on this list, it’s the first in a trilogy–the second installment will be available in February 2012.

My New Favorite That You Absolutely, Positively Must Read: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Candlewick Press)

I’ll shout this from the mountaintops: I LOVE THIS BOOK! My fellow bookseller Amanda always recommends it, so I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about. Boy, was I rewarded for my effort! I could only wonder how long I had survived without experiencing the brilliance of this title. And guess what? For the first time on this list, we have a male protagonist (don’t worry, ladies, there’s a prominent female here, too). Todd Hewitt has only ever known the presence of Noise. It is all around him–coming from the men of his village, from his own head, even from his dog, Manchee. It expresses the hidden thoughts and emotions of every man and animal in Prentisstown. But when Todd finds a void in the midst of the Noise, he stumbles upon a being he has never before encountered–a girl. Suddenly, his world is thrown upside down, and he is forced to flee his home in hopes of finding refuge from those who are determined to capture both him and Viola, his mysterious new companion. Please know: this description only scratches the surface of how excellent this book truly is! Ness expertly examines the difficult choices that must be made when the lines between good and evil are confusingly blurred. Yes, you guessed it, this is a trilogy, and, no, you won’t be able to quit until you’ve read all three books. Which I emphatically encourage you to do as soon as humanly possible!

There’s a lot more to this genre, but these are the stand-outs in my mind. I’m an unapologetic fan of dystopian novels, so I’m always on the lookout for the next winning title. Stop by our front desk and ask for our latest favorites–we’re always thrilled to talk books!

Happy reading,

Miss Megan G.

Maryam’s Pick of the Day: Catching Fire

catching fire

Finally, the second book in the Hunger Games series is out!  It was released at the beginning of this month and is just as good, if not better, than the first book!

Just like with The Hunger Games, do not start this book unless you have nothing planned for the next 24 hours.  This captivating sequel starts out with Katniss and Peeta having to tour the districts after winning the games, but Katniss learns quickly that President Snow is not happy about how they tricked the gamemakers and ended the games with two winners.  Katniss has a lot to worry about after President Snow pays a visit to her house.  He blames Katniss for the arising riots in District 8 and threatens her family and Gale;  because of this, she and Peeta have no time to rest. Then there’s the Quarter Quell which the Capitol is looking forward to, the 75th Games which just spells disaster.  On top of all that, rumors start about District 13 still being alive and living without the Capitol’s knowledge.

I promise you will not be able to put this book down and fans of The Hunger Games know why.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins; Scholastic; Hardcover; $ 17.99

Best Wishes and Happy Reading,

Maryam

Maryam’s Pick of the Day — Hunger Games

2767052The Hunger Games,  by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games are a spectacle, something to watch every year, sure it’s not the must humane act, but as long as it doesn’t happen to them, it’s okay.  That is until it does happen to them.   When Katniss’ sister Prim’s name is pulled at the reaping, Katniss steps forward to take her place and becomes a part of the horrible excitement around the Capitol along with Peeta, a boy Katniss’ age, a boy to which Katniss owes a favor because he helped her and her family survive, even if she doesn’t think that he remembers.  She, Peeta, and twenty-two other contestants (a boy and a girl from all 12 Districts) now have to fight and survive until just one remains.
Now a part of the Hunger Games, Katniss feels nothing but hatred for the Capitol that she never felt before while simply watching the Games in her house.  This hypocrisy runs deeper to us readers as well.  Reading the description we think what grotesque and almost barbaric actions; however the more we read, the more we become one of the spectators of the Hunger Games, rooting for a character to live, meaning we’re rooting for another to die.
This fast-paced novel makes up the first of the trilogy, leaving the reader begging for more.

Book Two: Catching Fire will be released September 1, 2009.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; $17.99; Scholastic

Happy reading and best wishes! -Maryam