Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Staff pick-a-palooza.

Seems like all of us have been staff picking it up lately -- maybe it's the terrible weather encouraging us to read under a mountain of blankets, or maybe it's just the abundance of great new books! Here's a slew of staff picks of our newest titles.

Bookseller: Michelle
Title: North of Beautiful
Author: Justina Chen Headley
Genre: realistic fiction; for fans of Sarah Dessen
Suggested reading level: ages 14 and up
Synopsis: With a gorgeous body, perfect hair and stylish clothes, you almost wouldn’t notice Terra’s facial birthmark. But the mark and her father control her life until a cute goth boy, a trip to China, and an art show change her life. Brilliant prose, cartographic imagery & well-crafted characters set this novel apart.

Bookseller: Dave
Title: Woods Runner
Author: Gary Paulsen
Genre: Historical fiction
Suggested reading level: 10 and up
Synopsis: A backwoods/Revolutionary war adventure told with gritty detail and interspersed with real historical segments. It is a fascinating and vivid portrait of frontier life in the late 1700’s. A fun way to learn some history.

Bookseller: Katie
Title: Beautiful Creatures
Authors: Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Genre: Southern gothic supernatural romance
Suggested reading level: ages 13 and up
Synopsis: Everything changes for Ethan when the strange girl he’s dreamed about enrolls in his high school. Together they brave small-town prejudice, Dark forces, over-protective magical guardians, and a Carrie-style prom to break the curse on Lena’s family. An up-all-night story of star-crossed first romance!

Bookseller: Natasha
Title: Nothing
Author: Janne Teller
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Suggested reading level: ages 12 and up
Synopsis: “A Lord of the Flies for the 21st century.” The novel explores the question “If there’s no meaning in the universe, what’s the point?” Upon this realization, 13 year old Pierre takes to living in a plum tree & practices doing nothing. His fellow classmates, unnerved by his newfound philosophy, try to get him out of the tree. The novel is at times creepy and always thought-provoking.

Bookseller: Michelle
Title: Incarceron
Author: Catherine Fisher
Genre: dystopian, steampunk; for fans of Hunger Games
Suggested reading level: ages 14 and up
Synopsis: In order to make the world “safe,” Incarceron, a vast thinking prison, was created to contain the criminal or mentally ill. Finn, an epileptic prisoner, finds a crystal key to communicate with a girl Outside – but can he escape before Incarceron thinks, and acts, for itself? This British import blends action, philosophy, and mystery.

Bookseller: Katie
Title: All Unquiet Things
Author: Anna Jarzab
Genre: mystery, drama
Suggested reading level: ages 15 and up
Synopsis: A year after Carly’s murder, her first love Neily and her cousin Audrey team up to exonerate Audrey’s dad and find the real killer. During their investigation they uncover unsettling truths about their community and Carly’s last months. Suspenseful and sad, this is a great novel for a stormy night.

It looks like March will be coming in like a lion, so cuddle up with one of these great reads and a cozy blanket to stay warm inside and out.

Friday, February 19, 2010

What Rachel Wants to Buy This Week - Episode 33

After a few weeks of zaniness, here we are again with a regular old edition of What Rachel Wants This Week! I almost can't believe I've done 33 of these so far. Just goes to show you how much cool stuff there is here that I want to buy... ;)

Charley Harper Flash Cards and Floor Puzzles by Ammo Books
Located on the New Titles table and outside the Baby Room

Anything involving Charley Harper is bound to be a staff favorite here at Curious George, and this set of alphabet flash cards is no exception! Staffer Natasha suggested the set should make it onto the blog this week, and since I'd planned to write about it anyway, I happily obliged. Harper's minimalist wildlife art is vividly reproduced on twenty-six 8" by 4" sturdy cards--and when you turn the cards over, they become pieces for two different floor puzzles featuring more of Harper's art! These flash cards are not only great for kids just learning the alphabet, but also great for art-loving adults to frame and hang as decoration.

Western Fun Dinnerware Set by Pecoware
Located in the Baby Room

I love fun plates and utensils, like Food Face from the Chrismukah edition of What Rachel Wants, so of course I can't resist this five-piece set. Decorated with retro-style art of a cute child cowboy and his pony, a tepee, and Western landscape and gear. There's a plate with three sections, to keep different foods from touching (I hate it when things touch that really don't go together!), a bowl, cup with a handle, fork and spoon--everything required for a cowboy or cowgirl meal. :)

Bingo Fun for Everyone! by Schylling
Located downstairs in the Chapter Book Room

Bingo is one of those games that just never gets old--and Schylling proves it with this great game set, complete with a mini ball cage, a master Bingo card to hold the balls as they're drawn, and a full complement of cards and colored chips, so you can play over and over again. Whether it's for a party or just a game night with a big family, this classic set is the perfect way to bring Bingo fun to your living room, or your kitchen, or MY living room....

Like Porky says--th-th-th-th-that's all, folks!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The kids are all right: Curious Kid PIcks #2

I've got a brand-new batch of reviews for you, from out of the mouths (the pens?) of babes.

Title: Ivy + Bean Take Care of the Babysitter
Author: Annie Barrows
Reviewed by: Ruby
Rating: 5 bananas
“I would give it a five bananas because they cut her sister’s hair. Hee hee.”

Title: The Care and Keeping of You
Author: Valerie Lee Schaefer
Reviewed by: Jai-Lin
Rating: 4 bananas
“It has a lot of true facts.”

Title: Twilight
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Reviewed by: Emily
Rating: 5 bananas
“It’s well-written and one of a kind. *Read the whole series!*

Title: Breaking Dawn
Author: Stephenie Meyers
Reviewed by: Maya
Rating: 5 bananas
“It was an awesome book!”

Title: The 39 Clues #1: The Maze of Bones
Author: Rick Riordan
Reviewed by: Nicholas
Rating: 5 bananas
“It was a book like if you were in a movie at the edge of your seat. Very well written too.”

Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Author: Jeff Kinney
Reviewed by: Murphy
Rating: 5 bananas
“It is awesome! I never get bored reading it!”

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us -- keep writing and reviewing!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Our... barrel... runneth over: many thanks to our co-conspirators in this monkey business.

As Michelle mentioned in her post yesterday, we'd like to thank all of you who came in Sunday for our Alison Paul signing/Valentine's Day party! We had such a good time decorating V-Day burglar masks, seeing your "hardened criminal" faces in your mugshots, and coveting the mouth-watering sundaes you designed.

We also need to extend great big grateful thank yous to Alison herself, her publishing team at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and our neighbors at Uno's Chicago Grill!

Alison not only wrote and illustrated the hilarious tale of a burglar and his true love, ice cream (bringing a new meaning to the phrase "sticky fingers"), but also dressed as a swanky burglar herself, brought a life-size Bruno, and read Sunday Love with all its sound effects. HMH people came out to lend Alison moral support, and we put them to work taking pictures. Uno donated ice cream and toppings, and their marketing coordinator hung out to serve it. It was awesome to have so many people outdoing themselves to make this event a huge success! Thank you!

And I seem to have a fairy godmother or godfather at Penguin. After Incarceron last week, another review book mysteriously arrived for me on Monday. This one is The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, which will be out in just a few weeks. I'm not at the store for the next couple of days, so I'll read them and report back. I'm looking forward to it. Thank you, nice Penguin person!

Post-Valentine's Post

Happy school vacation! Don't forget to pick up some comfort snowed-in reading - those spring new titles are already coming our way...we've got all kinds of genres from Erin Hunter's latest Seekers installment, The Last Wilderness and Jeff Stone's newest of the Five Ancestors series, Dragon, to Elizabeth Eulberg's teen romance The Lonely Hearts Club and native Cantabrigian Kathryn Lasky's Ashes, set in Germany during WWII. And of course, if you haven't read him yet and want to be an informed movie-goer, there's always Percy Jackson...

Thank you everyone who came out for Alison Paul (and ice cream sundaes!) on Sunday! We sure had lots of fun and it looked, sounded, and smelled (mmm, the scent of hot fudge on sticky little fingers) like you guys did too! I saw some intimidating burglar masks and hilarious Polaroid mug shots - and best of all, some gorgeously delicious, heavily decorated ice cream sundaes. We'll have pictures up here and on our Facebook in a few days if you want to relive the fun, or if you sadly had to miss it.

Last bit of news to look out for: we'll be announcing the guidelines and deadline for our annual art and writing contests in a few weeks, we hope you're working on your masterpieces!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Three things to get excited about!

Okay, so the "blizzard" which had Boston in a panic yesterday was a complete flop. Almost everybody got a snow day anyway, but there was hardly any snow, and you know what that means -- no sledding, no snowmen, and no snowballs. As a California native, I was quite disappointed after patiently waiting for feet and feet of snow.

However, three items of good news lifted my spirits!

The title and cover of the new Hunger Games sequel (book #3) have been announced! Of course, now the wait until its middle of August pub date will seem even longer, but hooray for Mockingjay! I'm stoked to find out how Katniss and co. bring down the Capitol.

Speaking of long waits, I haven't even been whining about how long I've been waiting for the new Neil Gaiman book. Aren't you proud? The incredible Charles Vess has illustrated Mr. G's poem "Instructions" (as in, instructions on how to survive a fairy tale); the picture book will be released in late April. That's only two-ish more months to go. I suppose I'll survive.

Last but by no means least, our Sunday Love Valentine's Day party is THIS SUNDAY, the 14th, at 1 pm! Come in and warm your heart with Alison Paul's sweet love story, criminally fun crafts and activities, and a sundae courtesy of our friends at Uno. Now that's something worth waiting for!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Rachel Wants For a Snowy Day

It's already started snowing outside, and Boston is expecting up to a foot of fluffy white--so I've got my eye on some fun items to keep me busy in case I'm snowed in tomorrow!

Meanwhile by Jason Shiga
Located in the Chapter Book Room on the New Titles spinner

This brand-new comic isn't like anything I've seen before, and I see a lot of comics. Meanwhile is a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style comic that begins innocently enough at an ice cream shop, but ends in any number of bizarre, funny, crazy situations based on what choices you make. Colored lines lead you from one panel to the next and from page to page via tabs, making a reading experience like no other! So far in my perusal, I've eaten chocolate ice cream, met a mad scientist, and read his thoughts using one of his inventions. I wonder what choices I have to make to reach the giant orange squid I spotted when I was flipping through?

Aside from fun art and amazing layout, one of the small advantages to the system of tabs is that it makes it easy to turn straight to the page your choice lands you on--there's less chance of accidentally seeing things that might happen later on in your adventure, because there's no searching through for page numbers. The pages are glossy and sturdy enough to withstand the many readings that this book begs for, it's neither too big to carry around nor too small to properly see the art, and it even has an instruction page to help you sort out the unique reading method. I can't wait to snuggle into a blanket with some hot chocolate and try it out!

Lucky Dragon and Phoenix 3D Puzzle by Puzzled
Ages 8+
Located downstairs in the Chapter Book Room

We have a variety of wooden 3D puzzles here at the store, but this one is by far my favorite. With 147 pieces to fit together, it's a surefire way to keep busy on a rainy or snowed-in day, and when you're finished, you've got a really cool and intricate conversation piece to hang up or display on the included stand. Best of all, the lightweight pieces are unpainted, making the puzzle more challenging and also giving the puzzler the opportunity to paint it to his or her own tastes (not to mention that a coat of paint after assembly will help the pieces hold together tightly). This puzzle measures 4"L x 12"W x 16"H, and comes with assembly instructions, as well as fun googly eyes to add a little personality to the dragon and phoenix!

This is Rachel, signing off on a snowy day--catch you next time!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Too many books, too little time.

We just got a slew of awesome new books in the chapter book room, some of which I've read already and some of which I can't wait to read. My ever-growing to-read list must be reshuffled (again) to prioritize new arrivals!

On the new hardcovers shelf:
- Catherine Fisher's Incarceron (a kind soul at Penguin sent me a comp copy and I am so looking forward to dystopian goodness)
- Rachel Cohn's Very LeFreak
- John Barnes's Printz Honor book Tales from the Madman Underground: An Historical Romance 1973

I also just wrote a staff pick for Anna Jarzab's taut mystery All Unquiet Things:
A year after Carly’s murder, her first love Neily and her cousin Audrey team up to exonerate Audrey’s dad and find the real killer. During their investigation they learn unsettling truths about their community and Carly’s last months. Suspenseful and sad, this is a great novel for a stormy night.

New paperbacks I can highly recommend:
- Margot Lanagan's Tender Morsels -- check out Michelle's staff pick for this Printz Honor book
- Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth (next installment, The Dead-Tossed Waves, is coming next month)
- Norma Fox Mazer's The Missing Girl

Here's my staff pick for Lisa McMann's Fade and its predecessor Wake; I'm waiting impatiently for Gone, due out tomorrow.
Janie’s ability to dreamwalk is a dark secret; her new friendship with Cabel provides much-needed comfort. When the police recruit the two for undercover missions, though, the stakes quickly become high. Unexpected dangers threaten Janie’s health, their blossoming romance, and even their lives.
None of these are exactly fun-filled, light-hearted romps, but if you can brave difficult topics for the sake of an amazing story, come in and ask me about these books. I'll talk your ear off about their wicked geniusiness.

Whew! I hope that's enough reading to get you through these yucky winter days when curling up with a good book and hot chocolate sounds like the best idea ever. Now I just need to pick one to curl up with myself!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

What Rachel Wants for Valentine's Day

I'm pleased to admit that I've never been one of those single girls who hates Valentine's Day because she doesn't have a date. The day is all about love, whether it's your friends or your family or your sweetheart, and I'm a big fan of love. So here's a nice big roundup of some tokens of said love that I want to give myself (because hey, I deserve it):

Valentine's Hand-Beaded Coin Purse by Two's Company
Located in the Valentine's display on the Hut

I never really got over my childhood love of beaded things, so these beaded purses are right up my alley! We've got them in three eye-catching designs of pinks and reds that just scream Valentine cheer. My personal favorite is the psychadelic heart purse pictured to the right. The great thing about these is that they're sturdy, and larger than your average coin purse--they could probably even double as a tiny clutch, if you don't plan to carry much stuff on your V-Day excursion this year. The beading is tight, the inside is lined with satiny pink, and they have a pleasantly solid weight to them that I rather like. Just perfect for a little goofy-love-eyes-inducing surprise!

I Heart You Toast Stamper by Accoutrements
Located in the Valentine's display on the Hut

What better way to wake up someone you love than with breakfast (or brunch...or lunch!) that tells them you care? Just press this toast stamper into a piece of bread, stick it in the toaster, and when it comes out, voila! A message etched by the flames of your love. (Not really, unless you have a very special toaster, but you could tell people it was etched with the flames of your love.) A sweet, silly, simple way to brighten somebody's V-Day!

Kiss It Make It Better Adhesive Bandages by Two's Company
Located in the Valentine's display on the Hut

Love always has its bumps and bruises, but these band-aids are the perfect TLC. Use them to kiss and make up, or cover that burn you got trying to bake sweets for your sweetheart, or as a little reminder to your loved ones that you care. However you use them, you've got 30 tries in one little box to get it right!

Only U Love Pennant by Accoutrements
Located in the Valentine's display on the Hut

Let someone know you're in their cheering section with this clever mini-pennant. Painted felt just like the real thing, this fun gift comes with its own heart-adorned envelope that's just the right size, making it even easier to show your romantic spirit. Even better, it's just the right size to adorn a locker or a cubicle wall--and if you put one up for yourself, well, only you will know who it's really from. ;)

Love Pirate Heart Eye Patch by Accoutrements
Located in the Valentine's display on the Hut

Do some swashbuckling this V-Day with this awesome accessory! A flexible, bendable plastic patch covered over in satiny red fabric, it's the perfect aid in stealing hearts and looting booty (you know...treasure!). The comfy elastic band will keep your heart in the right place, even through the stormiest seas, and if there are some unexpected kisses, well...blame it on the lack of depth perception.

Also, I'm sure another of the fabulous bloggers will put together a Valentine's book roundup for you all, but I can't resist naming a few titles that aren't strictly holiday related--or even strictly romance. Sure, there's tons of vampire/werewolf/mythical creature love stories out there these days, and some of them are awesome. If you're ready for something different, though, here are a few books you might want to try:

Ash by Malinda Lo
$16.99 in hardcover
Located downstairs in the Chapter Book Room

My staff pick of this book made it into an earlier blog post, but I can't make a list of unique choices for this holiday without including it. In a lesbian retelling of Cinderella, Ash must bear the death of her parents and the cruelty of her status-hungry stepmother, fulfill her bargain with a fairy godmother like none you've ever seen before, and find a way to follow her heart where it leads her--straight to Kaisa, the dashing and kind King's Huntress. This is my favorite lesbian YA novel since Annie On My Mind, and that's saying something.

Feed by M.T. Anderson
$7.99 in paperback
Located downstairs in the Chapter Book Room

In the not-too-far future, the internet has evolved into the Feednet, a constant flow of information and advertisements through a chip implanted directly into the brain. Privacy has become a thing of the past; conglomerates can mine thoughts for marketing data, the government can subpoena memories, and people can speak "telepathically" with one another via M-chat. Titus has never considered a world without the Feed until he meets Violet during a trip to the moon. Violet is different--Violet wants to fight the Feed. It's sometimes hard to find good sci-fi for young adults, and not only is Feed an awesome read, but it's a refreshingly unique futuristic romance.

How They Met and Other Stories by David Levithan
Located downstairs in the Chapter Book Room

"...Here are 18 stories, all about love, all kinds of love. From the aching for the one you pine for, to standing up and speaking up for the one you love, to pure joy and happiness, these love stories run the gamut of that emotion that at some point has turned every one of us inside out and upside down." - from

I haven't had the pleasure of reading this collection yet, but what better way spend a relaxing Valentine's afternoon than reading love stories? I can't wait to check it out!

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
$17.95 in hardcover
Located downstairs in the Chapter Book Room

Marcus is wise in the ways of the networked world, and has no problem finding ways to hack his school's intrusive security system so that he and his friends can skip. They get more than they bargained for, though, when they're caught up in the aftermath of a terrorist attack; Marcus is apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security, held captive and interrogated in a secret prison. When he's finally released, Marcus comes home to find San Francisco devolved into a police state. When nobody believes his story and conditions worsening by the day, Marcus has no other option but to take down the DHS himself--with the aid of the fourth girl he's ever kissed, Ange. An excellent geek-chic story with a techno-romance to match!

The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd
$16.99 in hardcover
Located downstairs in the Chapter Book Room

"It’s Dade’s last summer at home. He has a crappy job at Food World, a “boyfriend” who won’t publicly acknowledge his existence (maybe because Pablo also has a girlfriend), and parents on the verge of a divorce. College is Dade’s shining beacon of possibility, a horizon to keep him from floating away. Then he meets the mysterious Alex Kincaid. Falling in real love finally lets Dade come out of the closet—and, ironically, ignites a ruthless passion in Pablo. But just when true happiness has set in, tragedy shatters the dreamy curtain of summer, and Dade will use every ounce of strength he’s gained to break from his past and start fresh with the future." - from

Yet another book on my V-Day to-read list, this one was recommended to me by a librarian friend, and was the winner of this year's ALA Stonewall Book Awards in the Children's and YA category. Looks like Valentine's is going to be all about reading for me this year!

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
$8.99 in paperback
Located downstairs in the Chapter Book Room

We here at the George are big fans of Graceling, and we've blogged about it before, so I'll try to contain my fonts of praise. I can't round up great romances, though, without including Katsa and Po. Their romance is one of the funniest and most appealing I've read in some time, full of obliviousness, confusion, angst and stubbornness. If you're tired of the same old love-at-first-sight storyline, then this is the book for you.

Whew, that's a lot of love! I'll catch you soon for a return to my regularly scheduled What Rachel Wants in the next week or so.