As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

August 30, 2013

HEIST SOCIETY by Ally Carter, 2010

For as long as she can remember, Katarina has been a part of the family business—thieving.  When Kat tries to leave “the life” for a normal life, her old friend Hale conspires to bring her back into the fold.  Why? A mobster’s art collection has been stolen, and Kat’s father is the only suspect.  Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help. The only solution is to find the paintings and steal them back.  Kat’s got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family’s history—and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Francesca - high school graduate and huge bookworm

I adore HEIST SOCIETY because it is so fast paced and cleverly written. It had twist and turns, humor and I honestly love learning about con people. I get so curious on how they pull the con off. 

I really enjoyed how hard Kat (the main girl) tries so hard to stay out of the con business but everyone and their dog tries to get her back in. I love Kat's relationship with her cousin because she is like the sister Kat never had, whether she likes it or not, and I love her relationship with Hale. It is a very clean book and it is the first of a series.

Market: Young Adult
Language: none
Sensuality: the worst thing is kissing
Violence: very mild
Mature themes: stealing but they are con people

August 26, 2013

THE PRINCESS BRIDE by William Goldman, 1973

Anyone who lived through the 1980s may find it impossible—inconceivable, even—to equate The Princess Bride with anything other than the sweet, celluloid romance of Westley and Buttercup, but the film is only a fraction of the ingenious storytelling you'll find in these pages. Rich in character and satire, the novel is set in 1941 and framed cleverly as an “abridged” retelling of a centuries-old tale set in the fabled country of Florin that's home to “Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passions.” (Amazon)

Reviewed by L. Danielle

To be honest, it wasn’t until my dad found a copy of THE PRINCESS BRIDE in the Trade-In section of our library that I even knew that it was anything more than a movie (albeit one of the greatest movies of all time). I loved the movie and I know from experience that the books are usually ten times better, so I really looked forward to reading this novel.
My family was going on vacation, so I tucked it away for the car ride (not an easy task) and began to thumb through it as soon as the sun was up (we always leave super early). I was easily forty pages in before I realized anything was amiss.
Wasn’t The Princess Bride supposed to start with Buttercup ordering the love of her life around?

Well actually, no. If you remember correctly, you’ll find that The Princess Bride actually begins with a sick boy in bed trying to get out of his grandfather’s cheek pinching. The Princess Bride begins with the narrator, William Goldman himself, floating in a pool and eventually reminiscing on a story his father read to him when he was feeling down himself.

Next follows the story of how Mr. Goldman intends to track down the one and only copy of S. Morgenstern’s epic tale in order to present it to his son as a birthday present. The narrator then quickly realizes that the story his father had read to him was a rather condensed version of the actual epic- his father had taken out all of the flowery bits to make it more appealing to his young audience. Realizing his son couldn’t possibly enjoy the dusty tome he’s been presented, Goldman sets out to abridge and keep “just the good parts”, and that is what his readers are then presented with.

The interruptions that fans of the movie find equal parts annoying and endearing are also parts of the novel- though not because of the kissing scenes. Goldman instead has to explain how various scholars he consulted with bickered with him over just how intrinsically important an entire chapter about trees is in the center of a chase scene. Goldman sums it up like this, “Here's what you are not reading: sixty-five pages on Florinese trees, their history and importance. (Morgenstern had already started if you noticed--just when he realizes he's got them, Prince Humperdinck does an entire dumb paragraph about trees.) Even his Florinese publishers begged him to cut it. So I don't care what grief those Morgenstern whizzes at Columbia give me, if ever anything needed getting rid of, it was this.”

I found this book absolutely charming. I love it very deeply. Usually, when there is a movie adaption of a book I find myself with two options: A) Treat the movie and book as entirely separate entities (Ella Enchanted) and love them both or B) Only love one version- usually the book(Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thieves). The Princess Bride brought me to conclusion C) Allow the book to enhance the movie. I was so surprised to find that there were answers to questions I didn’t know I had (Why on earth would Miracle Max have a holocaust cloak lying around?). I cannot recommend this book enough. I just can’t. Stop looking at your screen and get this book already dagnabbit!

Market: Everyone.
Language: None
Sensuality: None
Violence: Not much more than the movie
Mature Themes: None

August 21, 2013

Robert Munsch Book Reviews

Reviewed by Sarah Hofhine

Robert Munsch is a Canadian author from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania whose career in childcare led him to become an author when his boss ordered him to publish all those stories he was telling the children.  He now has 54 published books and travels extensively telling stories.  These are my 3 favorite Munsch books:

Princess Elizabeth is living the dream: royal castle, royal wardrobe, and royal fiancé Prince Ronald – until one day a dragon ruins her castle and takes off with her Prince.   Wearing only a paper bag she sets off to find the dragon and rescue Ronald.

This is my absolute favorite picture book of all time.  As per usual with Robert Munsch’s books, it’s full of fun plot surprises and quirky characters.  Elizabeth is one of the best literary heroines ever written.  It’s amazing how well the characters are developed in just a few short pages, thanks in large part to the fabulous illustrations.  The illustration style fits the tone of the story perfectly. 

Make sure to check it out to find out whether Elizabeth saves Ronald and gets her “happily ever after.” 

Thomas doesn’t want to wear his ugly new snowsuit, and he goes to great lengths to avoid it, waging war with his mother, his teacher, and his principal.  Will anything or anyone be left standing by the time they get him into it?

The illustrations in this book are just delightful.  The best part is how expressive the characters are – every line of every limb adds to the character development, from hair down to foot position.  Thomas’ expressions are hysterical.
One of the best things about Robert Munsch’s books is how much fun they are to read aloud.  Thomas’ Snowsuit is particularly fun to read…the kids always chime in when Thomas says “NNNNNO.”  Make sure you REALLY draw out that ‘N’ sound.  Extra bonus points if you let out your inner goofball; the characters just scream for funny, over-the-top voices.

Love You Forever is Robert Munsch’s best known book.  It started out as a song, written in honor of his two stillborn babies.  He changed publishers when the company which had published his previous works wouldn’t publish it.   Love You Forever came out in 1986 and was the best-selling children’s book in Canada for 3 years straight.  It was also the best-selling children’s book in the U.S. as of 1994, quite a feat considering it didn’t have an American publisher or distributor!  (All info in this section is paraphrased from the ‘about’ section of his website

Love You Forever is the story of a mother and son and their lifelong relationship.  Throughout all the stages of her son’s life from his babyhood to adulthood the mother sneaks into her child’s room after he is asleep and rocks him and sings him a special song, “I’ll love you forever.”  (I wish I knew the tune Robert Munsch wrote for this!)

The book paints perfectly and poignantly the challenges of parenthood and the unbreakable bond of love between a parent and child.  McGraw’s art complements the story perfectly, and her unusual perspectives (i.e. scene angles) keep it interesting.  It’s fun to watch both the son and the mother grow and change.  There are also 2 ‘extra’ characters who show up consistently in the illustrations throughout the book and add a lot of fun.

Warning: reading this book will make you want to go hug somebody you love. 

Market: Children’s Picture Book
Language: Wholesome and fun
Violence: None
Sensuality: None
Mature themes: Aging (Love You Forever)

August 16, 2013

SORCERY AND CECELIA OR THE ENCHANTED CHOCOLATE POT by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, 2003

A great deal is happening in London and the country this season. For starters, there's the witch who tried to poison Kate at the Royal College of Wizards. There's also the man who seems to be spying on Cecelia. (Though he's not doing a very good job of it--so just what are his intentions?) And then there's Oliver. Ever since he was turned into a tree, he hasn't bothered to tell anyone where he is. Clearly, magic is a deadly and dangerous business. And the girls might be in fear for their lives . . . if only they weren't having so much fun! (Amazon)

Reviewed by Laina, writer, bookworm, and British television addict

It was how SORCERY AND CECELIA was written that I’m so crazy about. The story goes that Patricia and Caroline wrote each other letters back and forth while in character and in the end they decided to tidy it up a bit and publish it as a story. I’m glad they did (I’m also glad they kept doing it and wrote a few more books)

Told in ‘letters’, the story is about cousins Kate and Cecelia. The setting is an alternate and magical 1817 England, which is utterly brilliant. The cousins are ‘separated’ (which may or may not have to do with them getting into trouble) and Kate is off in London having her Season while Cecilia is stuck at home in the country, much to her chagrin. The two exchange letters frequently. Then the magic comes in and many rather hilarious escapades ensue as the girls realize that though they are apart, the people they are dealing with in league. And of course there’s the business of an Enchanted Chocolate Pot. There is danger, mystery, intrigue, and some delicious dashes of romance in unexpected places. 

So I adore how the book was written and I also love Kate and Cecelia’s voices in the story. It is a delightfully humorous tale full of quirky characters and magic, believable and entertaining. If you need a fun read, this is a good pick.

Market: young adult and upwards
Language: none, or just good ol’ british stuff
Sensuality: none
Violence: mild if any
Mature Themes: stealing, secrets, magic