aka YA Literature

Monday, December 31, 2007

Book of a Thousand Days

Title: Book of a Thousand Days
Author: Shannon Hale
Rating: B-

Being a HUGE fan of Ms. Hale's Goose Girl series, I had extremely high expectations for her newest book, Book of a Thousand Days.

Book of a Thousand Days is the diary of a simple peasant girl, Dashti, who accepts a position as maid to an unruly princess. After completely an extensive training, Dashti begins her service only to join her princess for a seven-year imprisonment in a tower due to the princess's refusal of her arranged marriage. Through the course of the book, the princess's true love often comes to comfort her; however, at the Princess's command, Dashti poses as the Princess...and secretly fall in love with him herself! Eventually, Dashti and the Princess escape to a war-torn world... now Dashti and the Princess must stop the evil forces and journey to meet "their" beloved Prince.

The Good: The last 100-pages are pure ecstasy! The creative manner in which Dashti overcomes the evil forces is reminiscent of Goose Girl, and nothing but pure joy. In fact, it would be hard for me to think of a better way to end this story.

The Bad: Perhaps the diary/journal format is not Ms Hale's strong point. This diary read much like my own...a whole lot of nothing happening...day after day after day! I don't know that I would really recommend this books to teens...the first 200-pages where so slow and hard to get through, that I doubt many teens would put the effort into reaching the exciting conclusion. I also found the whining of the Princess (and Dashti's acceptance of her whining) more than a little annoying. This is definitely no Goose Girl...

2007 Favorites

Since this is the last day of 2007, I think I can safely decide my favorite books of the year without fearing I will read another before the year is up. Note that these are my favorite books rather than the "best" books since the list and all my posts and "reviews" on this blog are not only completely subjective but also written very much in relation to me and my reactions to them.

Favorite Books Published in 2007
Freak Show by James St. James
This was by far my favorite book published this year and the only one that I think will stay in my all-time favorites list (you know, those books that just stay with you, that you mention over and over to others, that you put in your blog profile, etc.).

Other 2007 published books that I really liked and have been recommending to others:
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin (we have 5 copies and they are constantly all checked out)
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey (could be an all-time if the other books can elucidate the plot more)
Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Big Poppa E's Greatest Hits: Poems to Read Aloud by Eirik Ott (aka Big Poppa E) (Believe me, if you have students who compete in speech, they have heard of this guy. If you aren't convinced that teens will like his poetry, read this story.)

Favorite Books Read (but not published) in 2007
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Feed by M.T. Anderson
King Dork by Frank Portman
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

Favorite Book Covers of 2007



I've noticed that these two books have extremely attractive covers, and as soon as we put them on the circulation desk for display, they are immediately checked out, and the students have often commented on the attractiveness of the covers:




Books I'm Most Looking Forward to Reading in 2008
Andromeda Klein by Frank Portman
Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr
The Host by Stephenie Meyer
I'd also include Lock & Key by Sarah Dessen if I hadn't already read it (thanks again, Heather!) and whatever the sequel to Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey will be titled if I knew it was coming out in 2008.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

"New"" for Young Adults

This was a nice review of Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian in the Houston Chronicle today. I was pleased to see coverage of YA lit there. I thought it was interesting, however, that the title says "New for Young Adults." I will certainly not be looking here for "new" books if this is their idea of "new" since the book has been out for months, and he won the National Book Award back in October. Although I liked the book well enough, I have noticed that it hasn't been a huge hit with our students. Even the book club students we've persuaded to read it have not really loved it. Maybe we just have not found the right readers for it yet.

Also, a note to bloggers: Click here to learn how to complete the phrase "I hate ___" to dramatically increase traffic to your site. I am not including it here so as not to get too many irrelevant visitors. We're already getting too many from the suggestive subject line that Cody wrote about Vanessa Hudgens's sex tape and, recently, for this picture that Holly included. I guess this phrase would have been a better, easier plan than the one I had about author costumes. Who knew?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Holiday Book Agenda

In addition to the books I already had checked out and waiting for me, these are the books I checked out yesterday to read over my Christmas vacation. Think I can possibly get them all read?

Dance of the Assassins by Herve Jubert
The Scroll of Seducation by Gioconda Belli
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
Boy Toy by Barry Lyga
Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann (not a YA book but mentioned as good for teens in several reviews)
Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner
Scrambled Eggs at Midnight by Brad Barkley & Heather Hepler
Shattering Glass, What Happened to Cass McBride, Playing in Traffic, and Right Behind You by Gail Giles
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (I have to admit that I started this book twice on audio and only got about half way through, so I am going to try reading the text now)

Holly, if you have any requests for which ones you'd like me to read first, let me know.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey

I read this post about Skin Hunger on Bookshelves of Doom, and then when I was picking up my holds from the library, it happened to be sitting on the display and I decided to check it out. Even though this isn't my usual genre of reading, it really was fantastic! It reminded me of a darker Shannon Hale novel. It did take me a few chapters to really get what was going on and come to care about the plot and the characters, but then I couldn't wait for the plot to reveal the fate of the characters.

[achtung: possible spoilers]

This book has two separate storylines and the chapters alternate between the two. They are set generations apart but begin to intertwine. They are both set in a fictional land of the past. One story follows a girl named Sadima who is born to a poor farming family. Her mother dies in childbirth and she grows up with her brother and her distant and overbearing father. Magicians in this world are imposters who swindle people out of money, but Sadima is able to communicate with animals. When a boy from the city, Franklin, learns of this gift, he goes to her and asks her to move to the city with him where he and his friend, Somiss, are trying to revive true magic that was taken away from wizards long ago. When she is 17 and her father dies, Sadima finally decides to go to the city and look up Franklin. She moves in with him and Somiss and begins helping Somiss to transcribe the ancient gypsy songs that are (he believes) keys to the past wizards’ magic. Unfortunately, Somiss is overbearing and cruel. She falls in love with Franklin and begs him to leave with her, but he is loyal to Somiss.

The other story line takes place generations later and involves a teenage boy named Hahp. He is the second son of a wealthy man who is sent by his cruel father to study at the wizard academy. Magic abounds by this time, but only sons of wealthy men are allowed to go to the wizard academy. Hahp doesn’t want to go but is forced to by his father. His family is told that they will never see him again. When he arrives there, he is told that of the ten boys in his class, only one will become a wizard. The rest will die. The wizards who are their teachers are generally completely unhelpful and rely on the boys’ desperation to learn rather than actual instruction in magic. For example, the boys are given no food and can only eat when they figure out how to use magic to create food for themselves. They are not allowed to help each other in any way, and eventually they start dying off.

The two storylines eventually begin to overlap more and more. Each story is suspenseful and interesting on its own, and you have the added anticipation of figuring out how they connect. Bookshelves of Doom said the ending was a "cliffhanger," but that is a huge understatement! This was like an unfinished novel! What happened to Sadima???? I am also not clear on how it is that magic is ubiquitous in Hahp's story, even though the wizards only teach a few others and do not allow them to practice outside of the academy.

I will definitely be purchasing this for the library and recommending it to students who like fantasy. I like the cover art a lot too.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Napkin Project

I don't read Esquire much because we don't subscribe to it at my library, and it's obviously more of a guy magazine than a girl one (also, I can barely keep up with all the magazines I subscribe to as it is). So I think I've been missing out on a lot of book coverage there. Like this very cool Napkin Fiction Project. Esquire sent 250 napkins to published authors and then got the authors to return stories written on the napkins. I want a YA author one!

Every so often I get great ideas, and I think this might be another (although, of course, I am completely stealing it from Esquire and it's not quite as great as my costume idea). I think David Levithan should collect napkin stories from a bunch of YA authors. I only suggest him because he's an editor, seems to know lots of authors, and has done other anthologies, so this seems like a natural fit (and I also love him). But really anyone would be fine with me. I'd offer to collect them and post them here on ATR, which would be very cool, but I don't have the author connections. I just want to read them.

This one called "Sarah II" by J.M. Tyree reminds me of another story I've read recently, but I can't put my finger on it. Any ideas what it is?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Slam!


I have been trying to read all of the books in the Read 180 library, so that I can discuss them with my students who are reading them. I recently finished Slam! by Walter Dean Myers. Slam is a teenage boy who has a really messed up life. His father is an alcoholic, his best friend is a drug dealer, he does poorly at school, and his teammates are jealous of him. The only place he excels is on the basketball court. Slam! is not my normal type of read, but I could see its appeal to my students, most of whom come from similar backgrounds as Slam.
Each of my students is required to pick a book to read for 20 minutes each day during class. Most of them picked really small books initially, but one student chose Slam!. He worked diligently at Slam! for months until last week when he finally finished. He proudly informed me that it was the first book he's read without pictures. It's those moments that make me really love teaching.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

YA Lit-Related Album Meme

I am not really into memes. However, this one was fun and related well to one of my favoritest books of the year: King Dork. (From PoetrySlam)

1. Go to the Wikipedia home page and click random article. That is your band's name.
2. Click random article again; that is your album name.
3. Click random article 15 more times; those are the tracks on your album.

Band Name:
Topology

Album Name:
Contingent Workforce Outsourcing

Songs:
Fan Fiction
Frou Frou
Gregorio Conrado Álvarez
Post-missionary church and monastery in Lublin
Schloss Beck
China compulsory certification
Expo '98
Hong Kong Council
Ink Eradicator [I think this would also be a good band name]
Interstate 35W
Saltimbocca
Jan Zamoyski (1912-2002)
Iota Phi Theta (disambiguation)
Soulshine Digital
Diuturnity's Dawn


PS - I like the word "disambiguation."

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road is a about a nameless man and his young son trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. Some time ago, the world was destroyed by some type of cataclysmic fire. Only a few people remain on earth, and they live as scavengers. The man and the boy are following a road, and they live in a constant state of vigilance and fear that someone will take their few meager possessions and/or kill them. They are truly living in a Hobbesian State of Nature. Many of the remaining people have taken to cannibalism, and they encounter the evidence of this a few times in the book. They have to try to find the last remnants of uncontaminated food in buildings and homes they come across, even though they have all been scavenged long ago. Although they are walking with some seeming purpose, it is not clear that they will ever reach a safe destination; they may only be walking to the south for the winter. It is about the struggle to survive when there is really nothing to live for except survival itself.

I read this book because it is on the 2008 Tayshas list. From what I knew about the book, it didn't seem like a book teens would enjoy. Now that I've read it, I am still unsure. I think I could probably booktalk it pretty well. There is this really scary and disturbing scene where the man and the boy come upon a house where it is evident that some people had been staying. The boy is frightened and begs his dad to leave, but they are starving and the man needs to pry open the basement door to see if there is any food there. They discover all these people trapped down there who start crying, "Help us! Help us!" Man, just thinking about that scene now days later still creeps me out. But I don't want to get students to read it if they won't like it. I would say some teens might like it, but it is extremely bleak and disturbing. After the first few pages, the tension of the book remains very high, and it definitely deserves its Pulitzer Prize. I felt the constant desperation and danger throughout the story.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Beastly Movie

According to this article in The Hollywood Reporter, Alex Flinn's Beastly is going to be made into a movie by CBS Films as early as 2009. I haven't read it yet because SOME library system hasn't gotten it yet (I am the only one who has it requested, too), but I thought it was a student who turns into the beast, not a teacher.


Update: I haven't seen any official pages for the movie, but Vanessa Hudgens is confirmed in her role and Alex Pettyfer is rumored to be starring opposite as Kyle (ie. the beast). The book is told from Kyle's perspective.

Next update: Mary Kate Olsen has been cast as the witch who casts the spell on Kyle. I can see it.

Update III: Neil Patrick Harris is playing the tutor!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Get Ready for Lists

2007 is almost over, and I am already mentally preparing myself for my "best of" lists. Naturally, we will all want to do our favorite YA books of the year. But I think we should also do our favorite YA author blog, YA author website, and maybe our favorite My Space page. And maybe best YA news story of the year? Other "best ofs" you think we should do?

Holly, Cody, and anyone else who might read this blog, be thinking of your 2007 favorites!

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Importance of Author Blurbs

On the Freakonomics Blog, they have been talking recently about the importance, or lack thereof, of author blurbs. At first, I was thinking that I can't recall ever reading a book based on an author blurb printed on a book, but then I remembered this. But this is the issue for me: I read the book because of what John Green wrote about it rather than the fact that he (supposedly) endorsed it. I put "supposedly" in there since Dubner points out that it is sometimes the editors writing these blurbs. I don't know, I honestly don't usually find the blurbs very helpful. But like I said, if the blurbs are well-crafted, then I guess they can be influential. Certainly I am much more likely to read a book endorsed by an author in an interview or on their blog.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cybil Nominations

I was without Internet access over the holiday, so I am just now looking over the final Cybil nominees. Can I just say how much I admire and do not envy people on award committees such as these? I would have a hard time finding time to read all those books. Also, I have little patience and interest in reading books that I am not interested in reading. As I've mentioned here before, there are so many that I am anxious to read that I just cannot bring myself to spend time reading others (even though I'm sure I'd end up liking many of them).

Even though I quite liked many of the nominees, I have to say that my support would definitely go to Freak Show by James St. James.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Various Things

I have just a few random things going on in my mind today, and rather than post separately about each, I think I'll just combine them all here, especially since none of them are particularly exciting in and of themselves.

1. I posted the other day about how Kristen Stewart is going to play Bella in the Twilight movie. Supposedly filming starts in February, but when are they going to cast the Cullens??? Shouldn't they have done that by now? I once posted that I thought Jonathan Rhys Meyers would make a good Edward, but he does/did drugs and that turns me off. Still . . . . (Last time I made the mistake of posting a picture of JRM and then we kept getting all this traffic from Google image searches for him.)

2. Amazon has voting for the best teen books of 2007. The candidates are the top ten best selling books for teens on Amazon.com through October 2007. I am really surprised at some of the books on there (Math Doesn't Suck, for instance - - was it really that popular?). The editors' picks are kind of interesting. I don't think I've seen anyone talking about Arrival by Shaun Tan.

3. I wore my "Sam Hellerman is a Genius" shirt last Friday because I was booktalking King Dork. It was fantastic! Someone in every single period asked me about it before I even started talking about books. "Who is Sam Hellerman? "What does your shirt mean?" I need to get/make some more fun book shirts. (Un)fortunately, I checked out King Dork in the very first period, so I could only kind-of describe the book and not check it out to anyone.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Life As We Knew It

I decided to read all of the books on the 2007 Teens’ Top Ten that I haven't read yet so this weekend I picked up Life As We Knew It by Susan Pfeffer. The story is written in diary form by a high schooler named Miranda. Early on in the book, Miranda and her family go outside to watch a meteor that is scheduled to hit the moon. Unfortunately, that meteor knocked the moon out of orbit and closer to the earth. All sorts of natural disasters began to occur: tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, and so forth. Miranda finds herself holed up in a small portion of her house with her mother and two brothers.

I am not the natural-disaster sort of girl. I don't like the movies and I don't normally read the books. However, I could not put this book down. It hooked me right from the beginning. The writing style has a Diary of Anne Frank sort of feel to it. The ending is not tied up in a nice little bow, but I like the way Susan Pfeffer ended it. I think this is a book that even my reluctant readers wouldn't be able to resist once they started reading it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I Object to Objectification

You know I am not one to support objectification. I am the one who asked very politely if the announcements at my school could please not talk about how hot the volleyball players look in their spandex shorts. However, how did I not know about the Hot Men of Children's Literature? Better yet, why did we not think of this? Sure, we have our boyfriends, but we have never actually said that we think authors are hot, nor made a (probably irrelevant and demeaning) list of them. I am thinking David Levithan is missing from the List. (Can I also say how much I agree with fusenumber8's post about MTA because, hello?, glasses are hot?)

*Holly, you wouldn't even believe the curcuitous way I came to this site. It invloves your comment about 13 Reasons Why not being at the library and Asher's bio on iPage mentioning his inclusion in this list. I figure if someone's going to put it in his bio, I can in decent conscience mention it on this blog.

Audiobook Love

I've listened to some audiobooks recently that I haven't felt interested in blogging about: Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause (good book but pretty awful audio, IMO, because it was way too overly dramatic in tone throughout the entire performance) and Twisted and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (both solid performances, and I liked Mandy Siegfried even more in Speak than in Lockhart's books). But I felt compelled to blog about my most recent audiobook: Feed by M.T. Anderson. The book has been out for quite a while now, so if you've read it, you know how amazing it is, both intellectually thought-provoking and emotionally engaging (and I'm not a sci-fi fan at all). But the audio production and performance is probably my favorite ever. David Aaron Baker gives a fantastic performance as Titus. I thought the friends' voices were a little overly Valley girl/surfer boy-ish, but he did an excellent job at portraying the emotion and differentiating all the character voices. And every time there was a feed with news or ads, they used different people to perform them and added music. Whenever the characters were chatting, they had some kind of echo effect so that you could tell they were hearing it inside their heads instead of out loud through their ears. Awesome. This is an example where the audio really adds something to the book instead of just reading it well.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

13 Reasons Why

I just finished 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I don't know if it was all the glowing reviews or the intriguing premise of the book, but I was expecting to like it a lot more than I did. I did like the book, but I didn't love it the way a lot of others seem to.

Clay Jensen comes home from school one day to find 7 recorded audio tapes left for him. He finds that they were recorded by Hannah, the girl on whom he had a crush and who recently killed herself. The tapes are about the thirteeen reasons why she killed herself and are addressed to the thirteen people who contributed to her reasons for suicide. The premise is fantastic and I think I'll have a very easy time getting students to read this. It will definitely be in my booktalking rotation. I mean, how easy will this be to set up? (Answer: Very.) I liked how Clay would go around town not really knowing who all was involved in the story and who had heard the tapes, as well as how he had meta-knowledge and different interpretations of things that Hannah didn't have. The layers of understanding and misunderstanding were interesting, and I appreciated the intertwined stories of Clay's present storyline and Hannah's recounting of past events. I think the reason I didn't like this as much as I thought I would is that I had very little sympathy for Hannah. At one point, I did sort of feel for her (won't say when so as not to spoil anything), but mostly she was just sort of weak and irritating. I know that Clay felt annoyed and mad at her at times too, so in a way, maybe this actually demonstrates that Asher did a good job with the characterization. But since I didn't really feel for her, I just kept wanting the book to get to a part where I could feel something for Hannah's plight. It was interesting, but it didn't make me not want to put it down or care terribly much about the characters. I'm also a little confused about how Hannah could include Jessica in her list and tell the rather negative stories about her, considering what eventually happened.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What They Don't Teach in Library School

I got my American Libraries e-mail today, and it included a link to this story by Jennifer Kiffmeyer called "Things They Don't Teach You in Library School." Now, her story was obviously geared towards being an elementary school librarian, and most of the things on her list were not even necessarily specific to being a librarian but generally being an elementary school educator. So I was thinking: What are some of the things "they don't teach you in library school" that you learned and need to know?

I will tell you one thing that I never knew. Database and e-book prices are totally negotiable. I remember a reading maybe on how it's important to carefully review the contracts for database subscriptions, but I don't remember anyone ever saying how negotiable the prices are. Example: A database company (I won't say who) was trying to promote their new product to us for $1,000. They called with a special promotion for $800. We were like, "No thanks. We really don't have that kind of money." They were like, "What would you pay for it?" Us: "I don't know, maybe $200?" Them: "What about $250?" Us: "Give us a free trial and we'll see." And that's just one of many, many examples.

Another thing they didn't teach in library school but is extremely important is doing good displays! Seriously, just putting a book on the circulation desk equals a guaranteed checkout. We should have had a unit on thinking up display ideas and putting one together (ones that actually look interesting and eye-catching). But maybe other library schools do this and I just didn't.

Now these are serious things that they could have taught and that I suspect some people do get in library school. What are some things that you just have to get on the job?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

ARCs put to a good use

When I left my job as a YA librarian to teach high school Reading, I took my rapidly growing collection of YA ARCs with me. I placed them in a crate in my classroom and set them out for my students to peruse. Ok, the students that I have? Hate reading. Seriously hate it. But the other day, one of them started rummaging through the crate and picked out a book and asked if he could borrow it. I tried to stay cool, but inside I was all "Yes!" Then three other students wanted to look in the crate and each chose a book to take with him. They are reading outside of class! And no one is making them!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

YA Author Fun

Want to hear YA authors pronouncing their names? Listen to them here on TeachingBooks.net. Many also explain the origin of their name. Authors include Gail Giles, Sarah Dessen, Gabrielle Zevin, Nikki Giovanni, and Chris Crutcher. Kind of fun.

Vampire Academy

Okay, let's start with the most important thing about this book: Is it just me, or does the cover model look like Angelina Jolie?

So the basic plot of Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead is that, in addition to humans, there are three major players in the vampire world. Moroi are mortal vampires who must be protected from the evil immortal vampires, the Strigoi. Moroi are protected by Dhampir who are half vampire and half human (Moroi can't mate with each other). The two main characters are Lissa, a Moroi princess, and her best friend Rose, a Dhampir "guardian"-in-training. The book opens with them being taken back to the secluded Vampire Academy in Montana that they escaped from a year previously. From there, it's half high school cliques and politics and half serious vampire-world issues. For instance, Lissa has secret healing powers that take a toll on her emotionally and physically, and Rose can get inside of Lissa's head to experience what she does. Both girls have complicated romantic interests, and someone is leaving dead animals for Lissa to find.

I enjoyed the book and read it in two sittings. However, I would most likely recommend it to voracious readers who have already read everything else in the library or to readers who really like vampire books. I'd say it's probably comparable to Melissa de la Cruz, possibly a little bit more developed.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Recently read

I have finally gotten to the point in my new teaching career where I have time to do other things besides grade papers and plan lessons. So, last Saturday I made a trip to my old library and picked up a few YA books recommended by Sheryl. Sheryl has reviewed most of them on here, but I thought I'd throw in my two cents.

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin - I really enjoyed this book. It is a quick read about a girl named Naomi who falls down some stairs and gets amnesia. She can't figure out why she loves her boyfriend, what the deal is with her best friend (who is a guy), and why she has the hots for this bad-buy type who rescued her. This book actually reminded me a lot of Christina Applegate's new show, Samantha, Who.

The Off Season by Catherine Murdock - This sequel to Dairy Queen is just as enjoyable as its predecessor. I listened to Dairy Queen on audio where the narrator had a heavy Midwest accent so the whole time I was reading, I kept hearing D.J.'s Wisconsin accent in my head. D.J. gets a little more romantic action in this book, but don't hold out for happily ever after.

King Dork by Frank Portman - This book is very different from my normal YA reads. The narrator is a hugely dorky guy whose whole face spasms when he is nervous. And yet he still gets some hot and heavy makeout action. King Dork isn't as quick of a read because it is more detailed and has lot of references to literature and music. I liked it. And, like Sheryl, I want a shirt. But I want mine to say "The Chi-Mos."

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Lock & Key

I read Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen (thanks to the ARC I got from ATR reader Heather - - thanks again!!!). High school senior Ruby Cooper goes to stay with her older sister Cora after social services is alerted to the fact that Ruby is living alone in a house, abandoned by her unstable mother. Ruby and Cora used to be close, but they haven't spoken since Cora left for college ten years ago. In the intervening time, Cora has become a lawyer and married a very wealthy man named Jamie. At first, Ruby is desperate to run away and return to her old friends and her old life, but Cora and Jamie are very dedicated to her, and she begins to adjust to her life with them and at her new school. [Achtung: Possible small spoilers coming.] The neighbor who lives behind Cora and Jamie, Nate, is (conveniently!) Ruby's age and attends the same private school she must attend. He is an athlete and handsome and very nice, and at first, Ruby tries to maintain an acquaintance-like distance. It doesn't work too well, though, and Ruby and Nate end up being attracted to each other and sort-of-unofficially dating. Nate has his own issues, however, and Ruby has to figure out how she can help Nate or deal with not helping him.

Basically, if you like Sarah Dessen's writing, you'll like this book. It's very typical of her. I like her writing, so I liked this book. There is a female main character, she has some personal issues with herself and her family, there's a hint of romance, and things must be worked out. As with her other books, there are well-developed secondary characters. Each character and situation is always different in her books, but the style is very consistent. One thing that is slightly different in this book is that Nate also has issues to work through. I think it would have been neat if the book alternated between Nate and Ruby as narrators to give it a little something different. I didn't like this quite as much as Just Listen (man, I loved the sister in that book), but it was good.

One of the fun tidbits about Lock and Key is that it obviously takes place in the same generic place that Just Listen did because Cora and Jamie live in Wildflower Ridge, and Nate turns on Annabelle's radio show (among other JL allusions).

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sarah Michelle Gellar (& Other Stuff)

In the October issue of Self magazine, the photo spread of Sarah Michelle Gellar mentions that she collects first editions of children's books, particularly Dr. Seuss (I wonder if all these books in the photo shoot are her first editions or if they're just props). I thought this was pretty neat, but it got me thinking about those "Books That Made a Difference to ___" articles every month in O Magazine, where a celebrity shares about five books that "made a difference" to them. I love this feature of the magazine, but I always wonder just how truthful celebrities are being. I mean, they are usually pretty heavy and serious books. For instance, Hugh Jackman's books in the November issue include Banker to the Poor, Cloudstreet, The Grapes of Wrath, Siddhartha, and Long Walk to Freedom. And sometimes celebrities include children's books as well. I kind of wonder where the Nora Roberts and Dan Brown books are. Here are my questions:

Do celebrities really read this many "serious" books?
Does O Magazine just select celebrities who do read these kinds of books?
Do the celebrities read "lighter" stuff but those are not the books that "made a difference" to them? The title of the feature isn't "favorite books," afterall.
Is there any chance (some) celebrities are fronting a little on the books they choose to seem "deeper" (for lack of a better word)?

All right, Cody and Holly (and anyone else!), what books would you choose for your feature in O Magazine?

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Golden Compass

Title: The Golden Compass
Author: Philip Pullman
Rating: A

Since New Line Cinema is releasing The Golden Compass in December, I decided to read it in advance and see what the hype is all about. I don't know how I missed Pullman's His Dark Materials series before this, but I am so glad I finally discovered it!

The Golden Compass (and the entire His Dark Materials series) follows Lyra, a small girl, on her quest to fulfill her destiny and save the world from disaster. (I don't want to reveal too much of the plot because it was just so darn good!) I will, however, praise Mr. Pullman for just how intelligent this series is! He has managed to blend a fascinating story with some of the most complex theories of modern Quantum Physics...and created a story that is completely addictive. This series would be an excellent recommendation for any of the older teens who loved Harry Potter and want something new to read.
I am definitely looking forward to seeing how well the movie holds up to Pullman's work.

Betwixt by Tara Bray Smith

This was quite a unique book. As I was reading, I just kept thinking, "Wow, this is really dark." The three main characters are high school acquaintances Morgan, Ondine, and Nix. They have always felt they were different from others, and as the story begins, things are really starting to change in their lives. Nix has dropped out of school because he can't handle seeing rings of light around people who are about to die. Morgan sleep walks into the forest at night (still not exactly clear on what she does there). Ondine sees butterflies on her ceiling come to life. James "Moth" Motherwell is a little older than the three of them and a little shady, but he obviously has some supranatural mind-powers where he can, for instance, persuade the gas station attendant to sell Ondine and Morgan alcohol. **Some spoilers now follow** Eventually, Moth gets all three of them to attend this huge "concert" in the mountains where it becomes clear that Ondine, Nix, and Morgan are "changelings." They will eventually go through an "exidis" and leave their corporal human bodies to become simply conscious matter. They all resist this realization in various degrees, and there is added conflict in the story when another character, Bleek, is a "cutter" who intends to use them in various ways to extend his own life (which will mean that they are doomed to eternal conscious suffering rather than going through their exidis).

Some of the ways that this book is "dark" include the extensive use of "dust" (apparently a type of drug), Morgan's somewhat sadistic actions towards animals (including smushing a frog with her windshield wipers), and a final climactic scene in the dark underground tunnels where Bleek has tortured their friend Neve and impregnated her. I liked the book in that I was interested in the story and figuring out what was going to happen, and the characters were well developed. But it was unsatisfying in the end (Smith has said she intends to write sequels), and I was left very confused about a lot of what goes on with the changelings and why (perhaps this was intentional on the author's part to convey the confusion that the characters feel).

See Trisha's post about it here on The Ya Ya Yas blog A(long with some more of my comments).

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sam Hellerman is a Genius

Look what I got in the mail today!




















I ordered it because I loved King Dork so much and because I liked this saying. I've never bought a shirt related to books before (although I've liked some), but I think I should start doing it more (but only if they have cool sayings like this one). I think I may wear it during my next day of booktalking.


I also discovered that Frank Portman has another novel called Andromeda Klein coming out in 2008. I can't wait. I like the title and cover of this better than those of KD. Perhaps The Magic Blog (ie. some ATR reader) will send me an ARC! And perhaps Portman will tour in promotion of the new book, and perhaps that tour will include Houston (perhaps the Blue Willow Bookshop where many a famous YA author has signed?). And perhaps I will then be ecstatic.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Authors Wanted

I think it is time for another author interview. I attempted to get one with P.C. Cast, co-author of the most excellent Marked series, but she did not respond. The first author interview we had here at ATR came about through a rather embarrassing blog entry where I posted my wish list of authors I would like to interview. The google-happy John Green found my wish list and graciously offered to be interviewed. Since it worked once before, I have decided to try it again. So...I would like to e-interview the following people (who hopefully like to Google themselves and turn out to be as awesome as John Green was about being interviewed):

MEG CABOT (I have read every single book you have written...even the 1-800 series)
SARAH DESSEN (Love your books. Love. Them.)
STEPHENIE MEYER (c'mon, we are both BYU alums!)
SCOTT WESTERFELD (I met you at TLA...that bonded us, right?)
E.LOCKHART (any secret sister to B2O is bound to be AWESOME)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Author: Sherman Alexie
Rating: A-

A couple weeks ago the National Book Award finalists were announced - and sadly, I had read none of the books on the list. Since The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was the only book selected that I had actually heard of, I decided that would be a good place to start.

The story itself uses a basic theme that is quite common in YA lit today...the average teen chronicling life in a simple diary format. While this format is generally more popular in books with a female point-of-view, Alexie is by no means alone in having a male protagonist...an equally good example would be Exploits of a Reluctant (but Extremely Goodlooking) Hero. Although The Absolutely True Diary isn't exactly original in format, it is fairly unique in the fact that it's main character in an American Indian.

The novel chronicles a year in the life of Arnold Spirit, a young Indian who has decided to leave the poor Reservation school in favor of the wealthier "white" high school. Harassed by both the Indians he left and his new classmates, Arnold suffers a difficult year. Although he is eventually accepted for his decision, his journey is by no means easy; over the course of the year he must deal with poverty and alcoholism among his tribe, as well as the death of multiple family members (most of them directly linked to alcohol). Yet surprisingly, Alexie has somehow managed to give all of this a humorous twist. The Absolutely True Diary truly presents a story that is both humorous and heart-breaking.

Gail Giles Has Great Taste

People have been posting on the YALSA book list serv about who'd they'd like to see win the Printz Award. And Gail Giles said she'd like to see James St. James win for Freak Show. Gail (may I call you Gail?), I couldn't agree more! It was awesome. And, if I may closely quote GG, "what I wouldn't pay to hear him speak at the Printz Awards ceremony!" (Not that I'll be there, but I'm sure there will be podcasts.)

Speaking of Meg Cabot

which I was in my last post ---

I think she and Daria and I need to go see Kathy Griffin perform. I mean, KG is like THE celebrity I'd most like to meet, and Daria and Meg both really like her. Not sure how I can persuade them to take me along with them, but maybe I can work something out. And then maybe we can join Rachel Cohn and David Levithan for a "My So Called Life" marathon. Maybe YALSA can sponsor this as a Dream Prize or something (and I'll win, naturally). "Win a Night With Daria Snadowsky and Meg Cabot to see Kathy Griffin Live, Followed by a Night of Watching 'My So Called Life' on DVD With Rachel Cohn and David Levithan." It could work. I'll bring cupcakes.

Blogs & Their YA Book Counterparts

I was finally reading American Libraries today, so I read the PC Magazine's 100 Favorite Blogs article. Naturally, I was shocked (SHOCKED!) that ATR wasn't listed. I think Smart Bitches was the only book blog on there (if I remember correctly, and it is a good one . . . and not counting comic books, of which there were several). But I still found some awesome connections to YA lit. I mean, how can you not think of So Yesterday when you see The Cool Hunter? I wonder if Scott Westerfeld reads it.

Another connection (less exact, I know, but I loved the blog and needed an excuse to include it):


I wonder if Meg Cabot reads Cupcakes Take the Cake. . .
Of course, EcoGeek has the John Green connection. And PostSecret is sort of a book blog. Which reminds me: do you think PostSecret (the book) would be appropriate for a high school library? I've been thinking of buying it, but I'm not sure if it is appropriate.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dumbledore Revelations

So Rowling has "revealed" that Dumbledore is gay. This brings up an interesting issue of what is "true" about book characters and plot if it's not in the book. I mean, sure, I understand that maybe this is how she has thought of him all this time when she was writing, but if you don't put it in the book, do you get to post facto make this part of the story by stating it at a reading? Are we to incorporate everything an author says or writes about a character into our understanding, even if it's not in the book(s)? I haven't totally fleshed this out in my mind yet, but I sort of think that if you want to make this part of the plot and/or character, it needs to be in the book. Otherwise, you are just leaving it up to reader interpretation, and while you may have your personal authorial take, it's not actual "fact." It kind of reminds me of Stephenie Meyer saying how she worries about "solidifying" plot and character elements on her website. In a way, I like the idea of authors clarifying their thoughts about characters and explaining things and having "extra" information on their websites to supplement stories, but on the other hand, I tend to think this as much less "official" if it's not in the book. Is everything not in the book up for grabs (a la fan fiction)? I'm torn right now.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Reading List

I've seen this list on a couple of other blogs and I couldn't resist doing it myself. I read a lot more than I expected, but most of it was required reading for college lit classes
(English major). Nowadays I am slummin' it with chick lit and YA lit.

Bold those you’ve read.
Italicize books you have started but couldn’t (or just didn't) finish.
Add an asterisk* to those you have read more than once.
Underline those on your To Be Read list.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Crime and Punishment
Catch-22
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi: A Novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Ulysses
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
Emma
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Memoirs of a Geisha
Middlesex
Quicksilver
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian Halfway through...
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
Middlemarch
Frankenstein
The Count of Monte Cristo
Dracula
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
1984
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Ubervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Dune
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present
Cryptonomicon
Neverwhere
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
Dubliners
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Beloved
Slaughterhouse-Five
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Lolita
Persuasion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Monday, October 15, 2007

BAD

So today is BAD (Blog Action Day), and since the environment is one of the global issues that is most important to me, I definitely wanted to participate. I wasn't sure what I'd post about here on ATR, but fortunately, I just finished Westerfeld's Extras and I figured it was a good fit. The environment and environmental protection play a critical role in the novel's plot, so I can can kill two metaphorical birds with one stone here.

Okay, I know many of you have probably already read and/or read about Extras by now, but just for the record, let me briefly explain the plot. The main character is an "extra" named Aya Fuse, an ugly in Japan three years after the mind-rain (ie. right after the Diego War and the end of bubbleheaded-ness, thanks to Tally at the end of Specials). Aya's city is a "reputation economy," meaning that fame is pretty much the currency and (almost) everyone's end-all goal. Lots of crazy surges take place all the time, but the main point is to become famous. Aya is hoping to be a famous "kicker" like her brother Hiro. Kickers create stories that are spread through skintenna feeds, which makes the producers (ie. the kickers) famous. While working on a story that she hopes will make her extremely famous, Aya stumbles into an even bigger story, although Aya is not entirely sure what is going on. It becomes dangerous, she is invloved, Tally & Friends arrive to intervene, and the mystery is eventually solved.

Without giving too much of the plot away, the environment plays a big role in the story because not only do the characters reference the irresponsibility of the Rusties (like they did in the previous 3 books), but steel and its scarcity are central to the plot. Steel is very scarce, particularly as bubbleheaded-ness is over and cities are trying to expand. They are trying to scavenge all the steel possible from Rusty ruins and are even considering going back into Rusty mines to find more. Tally and David are trying to save the earth, so of course, they are fighting against this. As Aya is pursuing her story, she finds these "freaks" who are hording steel canisters, which she is not sure the purpose of. I can't really say too much else without giving away a lot of the plot, but suffice it to say that if you wanted to have a book to talk about environmental issues or if you wanted to do a bookmark or display of teen books about the environment, this would be completely appropriate.

My take on the book? Well, I have only ever listened to the books in this series, so this was a new experience for me. In a weird way, this was kind of better because it went faster. I'm not so much into the "suspense" parts with the flying and the hovering and the chases and the sneak suits, so in reading, I could just sort of skim over those parts. What I did really like in this book, though, was the whole concept of the "reputation economy." I can totally see how many of the current trends and practices we have now could develop into the society in which Aya lives. The idea that individuals would be preoccupied by their Face Rank is totally believable, just considering how much and often people Google themselves or check their Amazon sales number or their website's ranking or whatever. Fame seems to be a pretty big attraction, and I thought it was utterly believable and fitting that the second most famous person in the city was someone obsessed with trivial things liked what someone is wearing or who they are dating. There are tons of things to discuss here, including Paparazzi, the price of fame, what makes people famous, the benefits of fame, how people will become famous in the future, how the Internet changes or affects who becomes famous and how, etc. I really appreciate that Westerfeld is able to meld these weighty issues into the plots of his book without being too didactic.

And though it doesn't have anything to do at all with Extras, here's a link to Hank Green's EcoGeek site. It's just a tribute in honor of BAD.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

King Dork

Title: King Dork
Author: Frank Portman
Narrator: Lincoln Hoppe
Book Rating: A
Audio Rating: A-

THE BOOK:
I decided to listen to this book because I needed an audiobook for the weekend and none of my requests were in. Plus, I was getting ready for some booktalks, and I realized that I pretty much only read girly books and thus am not very familiar with more "guy" books.* I basically just pulled this off the shelf, looked at the synopsis and noted John Green's endorsement (despite the fact that he is dead to me), and figured, "Maybe this won't be too bad." But I really adored this book. I laughed so much, I can't even tell you. I appreciated the insightful commentary on AP teachers' love of A Catcher in the Rye and the way in which AP classes often have much easier and less relevant "projects" in the name of creativity and giftedness. The ever-changing band names and album titles ("Margaret? It's God. Please Shut Up.") were pure genius. I also liked how Portman made all the details come together (example: ChiMo). It was just great. And I think it is equally appealing to both males and females, and I can't wait to start pushing it on students. I do kinda wish it had a different title since I personally don't find the title very appealing or representative of the plot or greatness of this book.

THE AUDIO:

The Bad: Usually I start with "the good," but I'll end with it this time because the narration started out pretty bad for me but ended up pretty good. Hoppe didn't sound like a teenager. At least at the beginning, he was breathy and sounded a lot like a Peanuts narrator to me. The performance was total narration, which doesn't have to be bad, but he didn't really capture the right notes of sarcasm and slang from the teen narrator, and it seemed that some characters (like Mr. Teone) just screamed for character voices instead of the same repetetive and breathy narration.

The Good: I didn't like the narrator for quite a while. His voice didn't seem right to me and he was missing lots of the sarcastic tones, in my opinion. However, after a couple of CDs, he either got better or I got used to it because by the end, I was enjoying the performance and thinking that Hoppe was doing a good job of portraying Tom's confusion, sarcasm, and general perspective.

* On the subject of booktalks, I've noticed people debating whether or not one should booktalk books one has not read. For the record, if anyone cares, I come firmly down on the "you can booktalk books you have not read" side. I have several reasons for feeling this way. (1) I have done it with success and with no bad experiences. (2) I don't pretend to have read them if I haven't, and no students have seemed upset or put off by this. (3) It is not possible to read all books. There are too many. I have many adult books I want to read in addition to all the YA ones I want to read. My life is too short and does not have enough time in it to read books I'm not interested in reading (especially when there are so many I want to read). Therefore, if I don't booktalk books I haven't read, I am really limiting the number and type of books I can booktalk.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn

Book: Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn
Author: Sarah Miller
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Book Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-

THE BOOK:
I've been waiting for this book on audio for literally months! Finally it came in. The back synopsis says, "What if you could see inside the head of the guy you love? Know his every thought? Feel his every dream and fantasy? The mystery girl who's inside the mind of Gideon Rayburn can. She tells us the intoxicating story of her beloved Gideon, an adorably clueless boy who flukes his way into New England's fanciest prep school." Sounds cute, right? Some light chick lit along the lines of E. Lockhart is what I was expecting. Well, it's not exactly deep, I guess, but it wasn't the light-hearted romp I was expecting. With the drinking, drugs, sex, and occassional cussing, it was edgier than I expected (which I happen to like). In addition to the little publisher synopsis, I think it's important to add that Gideon's new roommates, Nicholas and Cullen, are extremely hot and popular and come up with a bet that Gid can't lose his virginity to Molly McGarry before Halloween.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I gave up NPR on my daily commute to listen to it, which means that I was totally enthralled. I even considered bringing the CDs inside to listen to them at home but decided against it only because I didn't want it to be over (and thus without a book to look forward to) too soon. The main drawbacks for me were that the identity of the narrator became pretty obvious after a while. Perhaps Miller could have added some more commentary to obscure this just a bit more. And a couple of times, it didn't make sense for the narrator to be who she was (ex. the everyone-almost-got-expelled-because-of-the-pot scene). But it was still very good. I liked how the narrator was a little cynical and also able to be a little cynical about herself too. I will definitely recommend this book to teens.

THE AUDIO:

The Good: Campbell did a super job at narrating and creating voices for everyone, especially the characters with accents like Pilar. Really great.

The Bad: I thought Campbell sounded a bit too old for a high schooler, even if she was smart and somewhat sophisticated. Nicholas sounded perfect, but Cullen sounded a little too much like him in parts. I thought Cullen should have sounded a little more surfer/frat boy-ish and a little less snooty-sophisticated like Nicholas.

*Can I just ask what is up with the cover of this book? I'll grant you that Gid thinks about girls' breasts a couple of times, and Pilar does wear white (although I don't think she wears a Polo shirt at any point). But really, what does a woman's half-opened chest have to do with the book? Gid's not that shallow.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature

Today, the National Book Foundation announced the finalist for the National Book Awards. The following are the finalist in the area of Young People's Literature:

Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Kathleen Duey, Skin Hunger: A Resurrection of Magic, Book One
M. Sindy Felin, Touching Snow
Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sara Zarr, Story of a Girl

Sadly, I've only heard of one of these books....and I haven't read any of them! Couldn't they have chosen at least one or two popular titles! I mean, I'm not expecting the see Stephenie Meyer on the list (she's far too good for a stupid National Book Award)...but at least something we might already have in our collection!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

N&NIP: The Movie

Apparently Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (like, one of my all-time favorite YA books) is going to be made into a movie. Michael Cera is playing Nick and Kat Dennings is playing Norah. Maybe I'm wrong, but I totally do not see Cera as Nick. He's so young and cute, not at all like I imagine Nick. I mean seriously, does he look like someone who would be in a queer core band?



It could be a good movie if they do it well. We'll see. RC seems happy about it and said the script is "excellent." What I really want is a freakin audiobook! Is that too much to ask? Would this not be perfect for two cast members?????

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Bras & Broomsticks

Title: Bras & Broomsticks
Author: Sarah Mlynowski
Narrator: Ariadne Meyers
Book Rating: A-
Audio Rating: A-

THE BOOK:
I haven't listened to any YA audiobooks in a while to post a review. But I recently finished Nineteen Minutes on audio and was awaiting Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn on CD, so I picked this up. We recently got the latest in the series, Spells & Sleeping Bags, and so I thought I should see what this is like. Since this book has been out for some time, I won't bother with a plot description.

At first, I thought it was slow. I had a hard time getting into it, and it was seeming like very average teen chick lit (amusing and enjoyable but nothing notable). At some point about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way through, though, it really picked up steam, and I ended up really liking the book. I knew that the witchcraft was going to backfire, but it didn't backfire the way I thought it would, and it wasn't as "comedy of errors" as I was expecting. Rachel was really bugging me with how completely blind and stupid she was being in not telling Raf about her father's wedding and just continually expecting it to all work out. I also thought Rachel's klutziness at the fashion show was a little overdone. Despite that, Rachel had an endearing and funny teen-speak that I enjoyed, and the book ended up being kind of what you expected (I mean, it's pretty obvious all this witchcraft is going to backfire) but also able to sustain my interest in finding out what would happen and hoping that it would all work out. The ending with Raf was quite well-done---redeeming for Raf and true to Rachel's personality. I was glad to see that things were worked out, but not completely and not with, like, Rachel becoming totally popular on her own or realizing "the magic was within her." It was a good balance of working out and disaster. It's also nice because it's completely appropriate for middle and high school, and I think both age groups would like it. I'm usually one for "older" and edgier books, but I found myself liking the mix of romance, humor, vulnerability, and plot complications.

THE AUDIO:
The Good: Meyers was believable as a teen and hit most of the right notes in capturing the essence of all the teen phrases and girly observations. She did an excellent job at creating differentiatied and appropriate character voices and keeping them consistent throughout.

The Bad: There wasn't anything bad, just a few places that Meyers used inflection choices that I wouldn't have. She didn't sound like what I pictured for Rachel, but the performance was very good. The CDs didn't let you know when they were over, which is super annoying.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

When you know your Twilight addiction has gone too far...

At my library, I am known as something of a Stephenie Meyer fanatic! My coworkers often joke about how bad it is....and trust me, they've had to sit through many of my rants on the glories of Ms. Meyer and her works!

Well, one of my coworkers happens to collect police insignia (I know, the library attracts all kinds of weirdos!) Anyway, when I mentioned to him that Forks and La Push are actual towns, he said he thought his collection included police patches for both of those towns. Well, what a pleasant surprise this morning when I discovered these two patches on my desk! My blog mates may have gotten Stephenie's autograph at the Texas Library Association's Spring Meeting, but we now know who the biggest Twilight fan is here at ATR!!!!




Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Desperation

How can I possibly get a galley of Sarah Dessen's upcoming Lock & Key? I need one. Badly! Desperately!

Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot was on the Today Show today talking about girls wanting to be popular. Man, I love her blog. She's so hilarious, and her pictures are just great. It's hard to believe she wasn't popular when she was younger because not only is she super funny, but she's got great style.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Forks in '08!!!!

Ok, the other day I was browsing the wikipedia pages on Stephenie Meyer and the Twilight series...when I discovered that Forks and La Push are actual towns. While the pictures of the towns leave a lot to be desired, the forest surrounding the towns...and the ocean views are freakin' amazing! Seeing these pictures got me thinking that it might be fun to have a Twilight Tour '08! Fly up to Seattle, and then drive over to Forks for a few days.

Well, as I was researching all this, I discovered the website for the Forks Chamber of Commerce actually has an entire section dedicated to the "Twilight Points of Interest". Apparently the folks at the Forks Chamber of Commerce think we fans are interested in such scenic sites as Forks High School (where Bella first met Edward) and the Forks Police Station (where Charlie works.)

Now, while I can understand the town wanting to jump on the fame Twilight has brought their town, couldn't they come up with a few better sites than the high school and police station? Maybe a historic exhibit that shows the true story of the Quileute Indian Tribe...or something as cheesy as a Victorian Bed and Breakfast masquerading as the Cullens' house (although that might be hard sans the beds!)
Regardless, here's my open invitation for the Forks Tour '08!!!!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Ana's Story

A few months ago, I wrote about how I was interested in reading Jenna Bush's book, Ana's Story. There was something about the description of the book that seemed incongruous with my perception of Jenna Bush, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it, other than that she had always been portrayed in the media as a big party girl. I think this blog post by Elizabeth Devereaux of Publisher's Weekly does a very good job of pointing out the political incongruities and why it matters. I mean, if your daughter is going to write a book about why your policies are flawed, that should really show you (and everyone else, for that matter) something. Thanks for the great post, Elizabeth.

Like I said in my first post about this book, I would love to see her go on "The Daily Show" and have Jon Stewart ask her about some of these political ramifications.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Overly Critical Blogmates!

Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis may remember the rather negative posting my blogmates posted about Stephenie Meyer's newest book, Eclipse. Therefore, when my library FINALLY got me a copy last week, I was completely prepared to be disappointed.

***Note, the following contains plot spoilers.****

Now, I'll admit that it may have been due to my lowered expectations, but I was completely surprised by Eclipse! As with the first two books, Eclipse proved to be a quick, addictive read, which left me only wanting more. I felt that Ms Meyer did a wonderful job of creating humorous situations, which helped give her characters much more depth; I was particularly impressed with how well-rounded Bella's father, Charlie, became in this book. I absolutely LOVED the part where Charlie had his sex talk with Bella...priceless!!! And as always, Ms Meyer's dramatic conclusion was as exciting as her previous two works.

My only complaint was Bella's neediness....which I had actually expected to be much worse after reading the previous blog postings. What caused bigger problem for me was Bella's refusal to get married. I mean, if Bella was soooo crazy for Edward that she couldn't part his side, would marriage really have been that opposed (even if it is kinda' white trash to do the marriage after high school like she mentioned.)

I can't wait to see what the fourth book will bring next year. After the dramatic conclusion, one must wonder what will happen in the next book! I was a little disappointed that Bella still isn't a vampire....I mean, how much longer is that going to drag out! However, with the villain dead, what's left? My guess is that there's going to be a lot of drama between the Collen family and the Volturi. I'll tell you one thing, I will be standing in line next August waiting for the fourth book!!! I can't wait!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Field Guide to High School

Title: A Field Guide to High School
Author: Marissa Walsh
Rating: B

Although I was drawn to this book by it's clever title and attractive packaging, it was the short length that really convinced me to pick this up. Yes, like a high-schooler who's waited until the day before his/her report is due, I chose the shortest, quickest read so that I could pop out a blog entry! (Although in my defense, I'm busy reading Eclipse....which I finally got this week!!!)

Anyway, The Field Guide to High School is one sister's attempt to advise her younger sister on the social environment of their small private school. Although the work does a good job of describing the environment of high school life - and is mildly humorous - overall, I was a little disappointed in this work. Perhaps all that can be said for The Field Guide is 1) it is short (which would appeal to reluctant reader) and 2)it used a variety of popular culture (everything from The Heathers to High School Musical.) In fact, Ms. Walsh includes a recommended reading list, which included many of the books we've reviewed here!

My advice is to skip the novel itself and just use the book, movie, and music list at the end of the book!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Guyaholic

I had been waiting and waiting for Guyaholic by Carolyn Mackler. I listened to Vegan, Virgin, Valentine on audio, but unfortunatley, it doesn't look like Guyaholic will make it to an audiobook. I enjoyed the book and it was fun to read. But . . . I didn't love it. For one thing, I think you will get a lot more out of it if you've read VVV first. A lot of V's characterization, backstory, and the reason I even cared about her came from that book. Honestly, if I hadn't read that first, I'm not sure I would have cared about V at all. I also would have liked there to be more development of her relationship with Sam. I know we get it in flashbacks/memories throughout, but it comes off (to me, at least) more as V obsessing than making me understand and really feel invested in their relationship. In the end, I like how things "worked out" with her relationship with her mom, but (SPOILER ALERT!) I wish things had been somewhat different with Sam. Yes, I love a good romance and think true loves should always end up together (at least at the end of the book's time frame), but it seemed like V still needed a guy. I realize that she realized that it was okay to be with just one guy and she didn't have to sleep around or whatever, but she still seemed to need a guy when maybe it's okay if she is just by herself and happy without a guy at all. Wouldn't Amy have followed a guy to California?

But I did enjoy the book, and it's nice to "know" what happened to V after VVV.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Aspirations

One of the vocab words in my Reading class this week is "aspire." I asked these kids who hate school (especially reading) what they aspired to be when they grew up. Know what they said? Doctors and engineers. I wonder if they realize how much schooling (and reading) that requires. But, of course, I just smiled and said encouraging things.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

I know it's been out for a little while now, but I just got Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin from the library (thanks for taking so long, Public Library!). I've been dying to read this ever since I read a synopsis last spring. I read it straight-through in one sitting, pausing only to make a quick frozen dinner. Yeah, I liked it that much.

Naomi had a really hard fall and can't remember the last four years of her life. She has a hard time dealing with the things she learns about how her parents' relationship has changed since she was 12, and she doesn't understand things about herself, like why she is so dedicated to yearbook and what she sees in her boyfriend, Ace. And even though I really expected to hate Ace based on his name alone (and I did really dislike him at first), he became just as likeable and flawed as all the other characters. Oh yeah, and it's a love story! This very much reminded me of a great Sarah Dessen novel, and I will definitely recommend it to people who like her. Excellent reading!

Oh, question: What happened to the audiobook??????? One reason I'm just now reading this is because I was holding out for the audio version but it was canceled.

*Interesting fact about Gabrielle: she has a totally fantastic name for her dog: Mrs. DeWinter (kind of long name to say, though).

Monday, September 10, 2007

Banned Books Quiz

This is from last year, so maybe you've already seen this, but I just came across it today when I was doing some work to get ready for Banned Books Week. A fun quiz about several banned books. Whose ideas was mixing band members' blood in the ink used for the book? Yuck.

Banned Books in the U.S.A.: A Bookish Quiz on Mental Floss

Smells like . . . Neil Gaiman?

Remember "In the Library: The Scent?" Well . . . now Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab is supporting the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund by offering perfume oil blends that are a tribute to Neil Gaiman with "interpretations of the characters, locations, and concepts within the worlds that he has created." Truly a worthy cause, but like In the Library, I have to wonder if these are really scents of which I myself desire to smell.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

James St. James

A little interview with James St. James about Freak Show, which I loved.




What do y'all think: Is it any easier to be a gay or transgender teen now than it was in the 80s?

Another thing this brought up for me is about reading GLBT teen lit. We have lots of it in my library, but I haven't seen any of it checked out yet. Are teens comfortable with doing that, do you think?

Freak Show

Several people on the YALSA book list-serv this week raved about Freak Show by James St. James, so since we had it at the library, I checked it out and read it. Let me tell you, it completely lived up to the "hype."

Freak Show is about a high school senior named Billy Bloom who starts his senior year at a new private prep school in Florida. On his first day of school, Billy decides to make a good impression by wearing a FABULOUS "retro-new wave/Vivienne Westwood/pirate look" with a ruffled lace shirt unbuttoned, tight blue pants, a thrift store military jacket, a crimson sash, and rags tied in his hair. "Don't worry. It's totally masculine. Swarthy, even. Nobody will suspect a thing [about him being gay]." On his way to school, he begins to anticipate all the wonderful things he'll be able to do there, like make new friends, join the Gay-Straight Alliance, write a trendspotting column for the newspaper, redecorate the school, start a Jackie O club, and set up a What Not to Wear booth in the lunchroom. Unfortunately, the very homogenous and WASP-y student body doesn't take too well to Billy's flamboyancy and he is immediately outcast, teased, and even beaten. Eventually, he makes a few friends and decides to run against Lynnette Franz for Homecoming Queen.

James St. James does an incredible job at creating Billy's "voice," and I just love Billy's plays-on-words. Just like everyone on the YALSA list said, the book is hilarious and I laughed out loud many, many times in reading it. But it's also meaningful, and Billy is vulnerable. It's not just silliness and laughs because Billy really does struggle with serious, big issues. Even though Billy relates his "freakishness" to what all teens experience, I think he has to confront issues even larger than the average teen. I mean, most people don't get beat into a coma for their issues, right?

The actually-gay-star-quarterback was a bit obvious, but I can live with it because of the homecoming queen story (don't want to give any more away!). I also overlook it because the book's cover is fantastic. I can't think of the last cover I've liked as much as this one. And I liked all the curly Qs in the chapters too.

You MUST read this book.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Unacceptable

In trying to find out how Rachel Cohn and David Levithan worked on Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List, I read this on RC's website.

Q: Will you and David write more books together?
No plans for another book at this time - too busy!

This is unacceptable.

Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List

Can Rachel Cohn and David Levithan write all their future books together, please? Or even if they don't want to write all their future books together, if they could at least write more.

Now I don't know if I can say I loved NAENKL quite as much as I loved Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, but it's pretty close. Their characterization and dialogue are amazing! And I love how unlike other YA lit and YA characters they are. Also I love how they capture so many aspects of personalities and relationships that I can totally recognize from my own life. Like I did in my post about NANIP, let me post a string of unrelated observations and comments:


  • I thought this book was just going to alternate between the perspectives of Ely and Naomi like Nick and Norah, so I was pleasantly surprised that it also includes perspectives of many other characters, which works out really well. And I love how good RC and DL are at the characterization and voice of each. I need to do some research to find out how they divided up (if at all?) the writing for this book.

  • I loved the parts about Gabriel creating the mix CD for Naomi and how he wanted her to dissect, understand, and appreciate the subtle meanings of each song he chose. And then she didn't get any of it and made him a "bad" response CD, which he took lots of meaning from. I am totally the Naomi-type. I mean, I like music well enough and can try to determine someone's intent if they tell me they had one in making a playlist just for me. But I am not a music connoisseur, I like lots of "popular" music, and I don't know a lot of bands or anything like that. But it seems like almost every guy I know is totally into music and very snobby about it and I can totally imagine them all having this same horrified reaction to whatever music I own and over-analyzing (in my opinion) my character based on the music I like.

  • Naomi and Ely's banter, much like that of Nick and Norah, is so quick and witty, it reminds me of Gilmore Girls. I love it, but I was never that quick-tongued as a teen. I don't know anyone who is. I guess Naomi and Ely are actually 19, but even so, they seem a lot older and more independent than I ever was at that age. But I also don't live in NYC.

  • I love how both books are about average things that happen to teens that are made to be extraordinary, the way they feel when they happen to you. And also they have strong satisfying endings.

  • Naomi's little picture symbols were a little distracting because they slowed me down, although I suppose they did contribute to her characterization.

  • Such a great line. It seems like it fits so many times in your life: "I know this is the wrong choice. But it feels like the only choice. So I make it."

    Rachel and David, I am ready for the next List!

    PS- Holly, I still haven't tried that thing from N&NIP.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

So Typical

So it turns out that we're pretty typical "bibliobloggers," according to this survey by Meredith Farkas about the demographics of librarian-type bloggers. Cody, being male, isn't in the majority, I have another master's degree, and none of us are in the typical librarian positions (reference for a large academic library). Otherwise, we tend to fit the majority profile. Thank God. You know how we don't like to be different. ;)