aka YA Literature

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Switched (Trylle Trilogy#1)

I received a Kindle for my birthday this past weekend. I love being able to fit so many books in my purse. My husband loves that he doesn't have to deal with all my books sliding off the dash during road trips. However, as a former librarian, I don't love having to pay for books. So, I have mostly been downloading the free or very cheap books off Amazon. One book in particular caught my eye. Switched by Amanda Hocking. It had a lot of great reviews and I couldn't beat the price (.99). I am so glad I purchased it!

Switched is the first book in the Trylle Trilogy. Trylle are trolls...which is what the book is about. The Trylle take their children and switch them out with human children at birth. Then, when their powers began to develop, they bring them back home to their little Trylle community. When I think of trolls, I think of ugly, squatty things, but in this series, the Trylle are beautiful if not a little cold. Switched has a lot of action, suspense, and even romance (including one hot and heavy make-out scene). I found the story to be completely fascinating and I was really surprised that our public library system does not carry any of Amanda Hocking's books. Which means I now have to pay for the second part in the series and it isn't as cheap! I also plan on downloading Ms. Hocking's other series, My Blood Approves, even though I am getting a little burnt out on vampires. If the writing is as entertaining as Switched, then I am sure it will be worth it!

Friday, November 26, 2010

High School Library Changed Into Coffee Shop

My friend sent me this article about a Houston high school that changed its library into a student-run coffee shop. The print books were removed and replaced with ebooks, 35 laptops, and the coffee shop.

Of course, I'm appalled that there are no more print books. I seriously doubt they have e-manga for students to read. Maybe some e-YA fiction, but I'm not sure. I think ebooks actually make a lot of sense for research, but I'm not sure we're at a point where we can provide all pleasure reading in electronic format. I know my library isn't anywhere near that point, even if we bought tons of ebook readers to circulate. Certainly without that, very few students would be accessing ebooks for pleasure through the library. Yeah, I have a few who do (either through the library or on their own), but not many. I also think about a lot of our really cool books that circulate that aren't available in electronic format. It makes my librarian heart ache to think that these books aren't/wouldn't be available to students. We're also fooling ourselves if we think there is anything resembling equitable computer/internet access for students.

On the other hand, I think a lot about this coffee shop project is cool. It probably will bring in students who wouldn't use a "library." If this is the "library," then it could change the meaning (possibly in a positive way) of making "lifelong library users." If students do access ebooks and databases from laptops, it could help them think of doing the same later in life (or even now) when they're at, say, Starbucks. I wouldn't mind that at all. (Of course, if they go to a traditional library, they'll have to figure out things like navigating the catalog and using print books.) Lamar High School is a HISD magnet program for business, so having students run the coffee shop seems like a great idea. It will probably give them a lot of ownership and they'll probably have great ideas for what to do with it.

I don't know if this is a great reconceptualization of "the library" that will help it to survive and thrive or a sign that the library isn't valued and is on its way to obsolescence.

Article from The Houston Press here

Monday, November 1, 2010

Play Dead Movie

According to Variety, Ryan Brown's Play Dead is going to be adapted for a movie. One of my students picked up the novel today and was going to check it out, but then when he was holding it at the circulation desk, he turned it over. When he saw the picture of Ryan Brown on the back, he decided not to check it out just because, according to him, "he [Brown] looks like his name should be Chaz."

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Story Behind the Photo

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal had an article entitled "Does Her Face Foretell Her Fate." The article explains that this photo ("Lucille Burroughs, Daughter of a Cotton Sharecropper. Hale County, Alabama") is one of 95 portraits chosen for the NYPL's photographic exhibition "Recollection." I found the article really interesting for many reasons, but (a) I'm actually surprised that in talking about the photo's power and history, no one mentioned that it graces the cover of Karen Hesse's Newberry Award-winning Out of the Dust, and (b) I never really thought about the photo as historic. I guess I never gave it that much thought at all, but I certainly never realized it was part of an effort to document the Dust Bowl in photographs.

I think it would be interesting to have students talk or write about the photo and to hypothesize about things like where she lives, what her name is, who took the picture, why they took the picture, and what became of the girl when she grew up. Then they could compare their hypotheses to the actual Lucille Burroughs in the picture.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bitter Melon

I came across a mention of the upcoming book Bitter Melon by Cara Chow. I need to read this! The main character competes in speech, and I read that Chow also had a positive experience with her speech coach in high school. I myself was in forensics and was a speech coach before becoming a librarian, so this is right up my alley. I'm not Chinese like the main character, but my high school debate partner is. Wonder if I can get my hands on an ARC somehow...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

The cover attracted me to this book, and the description sounded promising, both scary and with the potential for some romance. Even though it wasn't particularly scary, I wasn't at all disappointed.

Mackie is a teen boy who has always known that he is a "replacement." When the "real" Malcolm was four years old, he was taken by a shadowy figure in the middle of the night and replaced with Mackie (similar but not quite the same as the original). His origin isn't quite known, but Mackie does know he is allergic to iron and metal. His pastor father has always impressed upon Mackie the importance of blending in and not drawing attention to himself (the whole family knows Mackie is a replacement, though). Even though the town seems to know strange things like baby abductions and deaths happen, they don't seem to want to acknowledge it. This state of affairs can't last at the point when the book's narration starts, however, because (a) Mackie is getting sicker, (b) he is confronted with other other-worldy beings who want to claim him, and (c) another baby dies. There is a lot of suspense, but I wouldn't say it's as creepy as the cover might lead one (ie. me) to believe. And there was a bit of romance, which I liked. Over all, I'd say it's certainly worth purchasing and reading. It is similar enough to other paranormal YA books that it will have an audience, but it's different enough to be worth reading and will likely hold the reader's attention.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010


In an effort to embarrass myself in as many international bookstores as possible, I decided to hunt down and photograph the Twilight series last week when I was in Japan. (I can't even express how difficult it is to locate a specific book when you don't speak the language or even understand the script!) I was actually kinda' surprised at how little was devoted to the Twlight series...it basically on a discount shelf (or at least that's what I'm assuming it was.) In fact, this was the only Western YA book I recognized (but then again they may have had more somewhere I didn't see...)

What was amazing was the fact that almost half the bookstore (and it was a large bookstore) was devoted to Manga. I had hoped to visit one of the Manga museums, but sadly, I didn't have time for that on this visit.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

My new favorite author

I love hearing authors speak, and just when I start to get jaded about hearing them ("oh, ho hum, just another author panel"), I hear someone I've never heard before and love them. LOVE them. Like, I must have them at my school, or I have an author crush on them, or, in this case, I want them as my best friend. I went to the Austin Teen Book Festival yesterday, and there were several great authors I'd never heard before. But one of the authors I was really looking forward to hearing was Susane Colasanti, and she did not disappoint me one little bit. In fact, she was awesome! I think she should be my ABFF. Her books are really popular at my school, and she seemed very cool from her website (I mean, anyone who loves Jon Stewart is smart and fun, right?). She was really funny and entertaining during the panel presentation. She seems like she would be really fun to hang out with.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Just heard that there's a new The Great Gatsby movie in the works to be directed by Baz Luhrmann. I love remakes like this. I think it's important to update them every few decades or so.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Firelight by Sophie Jordan

Books about dragons are generally not my thing. However, Firelight was an excellent exception. I suspect this is because the main character, Jacinda, spends much more time in her human form than in her dragon form, as do all the other characters. It's more of a human romance and action story than a fantasy dragon book.

Jacinda is a sophomore in high school, and she is a draki. Draki descended from dragons, but they evolved the ability to morph into human form as a way of blending in and protecting themselves. She lives with her mother and twin sister Tamra in her pride's secret mountain town, but after an illegal flying incident outside of the pride territory goes awry (hunters see her and shoot her), her mother takes both girls away under the cover of night to protect Jacinda from the pride's retribution. Jacinda has a special draki power: she can breathe fire. And this makes her especially appealing to the pride's king and his son, Cassian. Jacinda doesn't want to mate with Cassian, however, and her mother doesn't want the pride using her that way either. Indeed, her mother really doesn't want to have anything to do with the draki. So the three resettle in an arid desert town where Jacinda's mother hopes that they won't be found by their pride and that Jacinda's draki self will die from lack of exposure to the moisture and fertile earth it needs to survive. Jacinda is miserable, but she meets the gorgeous (of course) and secretive Will, and he makes her draki come alive whenever she's with him. Romantic tension and plenty of action proceed from there.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will definitely recommend it. One of the great things about it is the development of all the characters, not just Jacinda. Jacinda's relationship with Tamra in particular was very complex and believable. I thought the elements of draki life were also creative and well thought-out.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


As the subtitle tells us, Jane by April Lindner is "a modern retelling of Jane Eyre." Twenty year-old Jane Moore is forced to drop out of college and get a job as a nanny because her parents died and left her without means of finishing school. She ends up getting a job as a nanny for the daughter of Nico Rathburn, an aging rock star who is trying to make a comeback. And if you know the story of Jane Eyre, then you know what happens.

I personally thought it was okay, but it's probably only really worthwhile if you're a huge Jane Eyre fan or one of those readers who has read everything and just needs another book. It's not the kind of book I'd really recommend to someone asking for "a good book." I didn't buy Jane and Nico's falling in love. She was not only shy and responsible (both fine and good), but she was boring and she and Nico never really had any connection or anything in common (even though the narrative states that they do, I never saw it in the scenes). I can totally buy that she falls for him; he's rich and attractive after all. But actually truly falling in love? Both of them? I didn't see it. I also thought (and this is somewhat of a spoiler, but not really if you've read Jane Eyre), it didn't make sense that his wife was living in the attic. I think Lindner could and should have taken a few more liberties with the modernization, especially here. In the original, it made more sense because divorce wasn't really the option it is today. It was just not believable to me. Maybe she could have been off living in France or something, maybe showing up here and there, stalking him or something if it was necessary to introduce the "threatening" aspects or foreshadowing.

I do quite like the cover, even though it doesn't really portray the Jane of the book imo.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Help

Even though many people (all women) told me how much they loved The Help by Kathryn Stockett, it just didn't sound like my cup of tea. There are so many YA romances and dystopias for me to read! But I bought a paperback copy in England for the plane ride when I had run through all the books I'd brought with me. I started reading it when we boarded, and I only stopped when (a) they served a meal and (b) I finished. It was fantastic. I'm not recommending it to all my students (my male sci-fi/fantasy fans probably wouldn't be into it), but there are a lot of teen readers I am recommending it to. I'm planning to convince my sophomore English teachers to use it as one of their lit circle choices too.

Set in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962, the chapters follow three main characters: Eugenia ("Skeeter"), Aibileen, and Minny. Aibileen and Minny are both African American women who work as maids in the homes of young middle class white women. Skeeter is a young privileged white woman who has just graduated from college and is living at home with her parents while she searches for a job in journalism. All her other friends (including Aibileen's employer) apparently dropped out of college long ago to get married and are already mothers. Skeeter starts to question the arrangement of society and to wonder about the personal lives of the maids when her best friend Hilly initiates a campaign to have separate bathrooms installed in white houses just for "the help" so that the white families won't have to share their bathrooms.

There are some issues with the book (ex. Is Hilly too two-dimensionally evil? In a book purportedly about the lives of the maids, does Skeeter's story and moral discomfort take over the narrative?), but it's still engrossing and worthwhile. And I think these kinds of questions are what make the book great for lit circles. Skeeter's relative youth and struggles with her parents (she loves them at the same time that she disagrees with them and is trying to create a measure of independence for herself) make it something I think teens can relate to as well.

Holly and Cody, you have to read this. I used the UK cover of the book because I like it better than the US version. The UK photo is from the Library of Congress archives. What do birds have to do with anything?

Monday, August 9, 2010

UK Covers

Cheerio! I've spent most of the summer "studying" in jolly ol' England, but I'm back now. And of course, I couldn't help but peruse the YA sections of UK bookstores.

Just a general comparison of some YA titles: (notice Shiver is the same but the colors are different)

I found myself wishing for the UK versions of most of the books, but this was one exception. Look at the terrible cover for What I Saw and How I Lied:

Another thing I found really interesting was the difference in the way some books that are YA here are Adult there, and vice-versa. All of Cory Doctorow's books, for instance, were in the Adult section. And then, as you can see from this photo, Holly Black's White Cat was in the adult section too. The sticker on it says, "A novel for grownups by the author of Spiderwick."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Publisher's Weekly: Autobiography of a Cover

A recent cover story of Publisher's Weekly focused on the amount of thought and energy that goes into creating the cover design for most YA books (the article focused on Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars series.) Although the article was perhaps a little light in content, it was interesting to get a behind-the-scenes explanation of how the covers are put together (though they failed to explain how so many covers can end up with the exact same photo!) I'm guessing the $26,000 price tag has something to do with it...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

I came across an ad in Facebook for an audio of David Levithan and John Green talking about Will Grayson, Will Grayson on Symphony Space. It may be the most interesting and relevant ad Facebook has ever shown me.

White Cat by Holly Black

I inserted Simon & Schuster's trailer for the book, so you can get a sense of the plot from that. It'll save me from recapping. I liked the book, but I expected to like it a lot more than I did. I loved her other faerie novels, and the premise of this (that a small percentage of the population is able to perform magic "curse work" with their hands, but it's illegal and everyone has to wear gloves on their hands and avoid ungloved hands by others) was really interesting. The first half to 2/3 of the novel kept me kind of confused. I didn't totally get the different types of curse work, the history, what Cassel's brothers did/do, the "families," what happened with Lila, etc. Part of this is because Cassel himself doesn't know what is really going on and part is because Black is not setting out the entire backstory of curse work all at once; like any good writer, she tries to let it unfold in the narrative. But I did like the last 1/3 of the book quite a lot, once I got a better grip on the whole idea of curse work. I really liked the climax; it was very suspenseful. And if there are more books in the series, I'd probably be interested in reading them.

Cover Twins

I noticed that Wendy Toliver's new book Lifted has the same cover photo as Ann Dee Ellis's Everything is Fine, just a slight cropping of the model's head. I like the new version much better (ie. I never liked the coloring on EIF).

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

I must say, I'm quite surprised that one of my blogmates didn't beat me to the punch of reviewing Stephanie Meyer's newest book. Now, I will first admit that I am NOT a fan of authors adding to a completed series (I never even read Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard - though based on the poor circulation stats, I'm not alone in that!) However, since the Twilight Saga is the very standard by which I judge all other YA literature, I felt I'd be a little remiss if I didn't at least give The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner a chance - especially seeing as how it's available free online!

Sadly, I can't say that I enjoyed Bree Tanner's story. I found the first half of the novella extremely grating; it seems like all of Meyer's female characters have this annoying whiny helplessness, which was particular unattractive on Bree. (I guess I could stomach it more from Bella because it was more central to the original storyline.) Fortunately, Bree eventually forms a friendship/relationship with another vampire, and together they begin unravelling some of the vampire "mysteries".

The second half of the novella is definitely much better - but then how could preparing for battle not be. My only major complaint towards this part is that Meyer's almost completely glossed over the battle scene. I understand she could only write what Bree actually witnessed, but I would have enjoyed a stronger parallel to the original story in Eclipse.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

How is the SI Swimsuit Issue Like Custom Kicks?

Answer: They both tempt me into censorship.

I admit it. I don't put out the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Call me prude. Call me a censor. It just doesn't have much "sports" content and isn't appropriate for my high school. But I hate not to subscribe to SI because of the one issue. It's otherwise a really great magazine. I have another confession. I've ripped an ad out of a magazine before putting it out. It was either that or don't put out the entire magazine. See, magazines are so tricky because you can't evaluate what is in each issue until you get it. You can only look at the magazine as a whole and decide if you want to subscribe or not. And so what to do when you get an issue that has one random objectionable ad or one article about oral sex tips?

So I have this really cool book called Custom Kicks by Kim Smits and Matthijs Maat that is all photos of how people have customized their shoes. You can see some pics on Amazon here. The only problem is that this student discovered (actually, it was his mom) that there is this one picture of a woman's bare bum with just pink paint on it. It's really unnecessary (imo as a hs librarian, of course) to the rest of the book. So do I get rid of the whole book? Do I just leave it in the collection and pray that I don't get any parent complaints? If it weren't for that one picture...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

YA in Korean

Since my blogmate always updates us on the Polish book market, I thought I'd check out what was available in a Korean bookstore. First, let me say I have never seen so many Graphic Novels in my whole life! There was partically an entire floor devoted to nothing but Manga. I'm also proud to say that our two favorites were front and center (though it took me FOREVER to find the Twilight series since I was looking for the traditional black covers I've seen on all other editions.

I did notice a boy looking at "The Hunger Games", and it was all I could to to control myself and not gush about how wonderful that book is! (I didn't want to give the Koreans the impression we American librarians are complete crazy or anything...)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Set in a future where oil is scarce and climate change has ravaged the U.S. Gulf Coast, Nailer works the light crew that scavenges lighter metal materials and fittings from old tankers along the beach for money. His mother is dead, and his father is a drug-addicted, unpredictable, mean and abusive drunkard. After a "city killer" storm attacks the coast where Nailer lives in utter poverty, he and his best friend Pima discover an expensive private clipper washed ashore. They begin to scavenge as many riches from it as possible before anyone else discovers it's there. In the process, they find a girl aboard who survived the crash, and Nailer must decide if he'll save her or let her die. Saving her means not only that he'll lose the opportunity to scavenge from her boat, but he'll also be putting his life in danger to protect her from his father and other political forces much bigger than any he's known. What follows is a series of ethical decisions, complex moral revelations, and lots of adventure and suspense. It's probably a bit more of a "guy" book than a "girl" book, but some girls should like it. (I did, afterall.) I will definitely be recommending it often and to many people. The story was unique and suspenseful with fantastic characters (and violence), but what I think I loved the most was the way the world and the setting were established. That's not usually something that is very significant to me, but in this case Bacigalupi did such an amazing job at showing (not telling!) how deplorable the conditions are and how the climate had affected the world. You could really imagine the danger and the grime and the rust that infused their daily lives.

I don't love the cover because I don't think it really captures attention on the shelf, but I personally like the colors and hopefully I can push it on to some students.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

New Soul Screamers Book

You may remember that I really liked My Soul to Take and My Soul to Save, so I am eagerly awaiting My Soul to Keep on June 1.

I'd mention that you can post this widget on your own blog for a chance to win a book and a t-shirt, but then you might do it and that would be even less chance for me to win. And I really want a shirt! Nay, I NEED a shirt!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

I finally got a copy of Will Grayson, Will Grayson and stayed up until about 3:30 this morning reading it. This should tell you how much I loved this book. It was hilarious with amazing voice and characterizations.

But it won't be for everyone. As I was reading it, I was thinking how I'm going to have to tell my assistants that whenever they check it out to someone that they're going to have to give them some kind of warning. The students must be completely okay with cussing and homosexuality and reading about boys involved in physical homosexual relationships. There's no actual sex described in the book (I think all the main characters are virgins, except possibly Jane), but they definitely discuss sex. I loaned my ARC of this to a student who is a huge Boy Meets Boy fan, so I know there are some readers for whom this is an acceptable and even fantastic book. But it's not for everyone. Just as well that the cover is kind of bleh and nondescript.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Time 100

Suzanne Collins is one of the "Time 100" of the world's most influential people. Pretty cool, but the drawing that I suppose is supposed to depict her is really awful and very little like her, imo. It looks like this series of purposefully terrible sketches one of my students does of me.

No Stephenie Meyer on the list, although Robert Pattinson is.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent

Kaylee and her best friend Emma sneak into an 18+ club (they're only HS juniors). While Emma is off dancing with her many admirers, Kaylee is unexpectedly approached by one of the most attractive and popular guys in school, Nash Hudson. Before she really understands why, she and Nash are dancing together. In the midst of trying to enjoy the moment and figure out how she got so lucky, Kaylee notices a drunk girl who is surrounded by shadows. Kaylee is suddenly wracked by pain as everything begins going gray, and she feels a compulsion to scream. She's felt this one time before, about nine months ago in a shopping mall, and her incessant screaming caused her aunt and uncle (her legal guardians) to check her into the psychiatric unit of the hospital. Not wanting to repeat that experience nor to cause Nash to think her crazy, Kaylee exerts all her willpower to keep from screaming. But Nash can tell something is wrong, and eventually he and Emma escort her outside the club. After calming down, thanks partly due to the soothing humming that Nash offers, all three teens return home. The next morning, however, Kaylee turns on the news to discover that the drunk girl was found dead at the club last night. Then other young teen girls in her city start to collapse mysteriously and die for no apparent reason, and Kaylee never met the second victim but does know the third girl (a cheerleader at her school, whom Kaylee has the same physical reaction to just before she dies). Kaylee is struggling to figure out how the deaths are related (they must be related, right?) and why/how she seems to know they're going to die. She's trying to decide how she should proceed with her aunt and uncle since she doesn't want to return to the psych ward, and Nash seems to be a huge comfort to her. Does he understand her better than she could even know? I was interested in her relationship with Nash, the mystery of how she knows these girls are going to die and why they're dying, and why her dad has been pretty much absent since her mother died. I never felt like there were too many threads in the plot, and while you could figure out parts of each question, it wasn't all telegraphed from the beginning.

I really enjoyed this story, and I even went to a nearby but not-my-usual-library this weekend so I could pick up the second book in the series, My Soul to Save. Both books kept me very engaged, and I liked that they were complete stories in themselves. They made you interested in the characters but not feeling like you were left hanging at the end. And I really liked the ending to My Soul to Take because I didn't see it coming but it totally fit and made sense for the storyline and the characters.

Tangential: I liked that the parents weren't okay with Kaylee and Nash being alone together. To me, this is a realistic portrayal of concerned parents. I'm sure there are parents who don't care if a guy and girl are gettin' busy, but that was never my experience as a teen. I feel like I've been encountering a lot of nonchalant parents in my YA reading lately.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Rock Bottom Remainders

What do Mitch Albom, Dave Barry, Roy Blount Jr., Greg Isles, Kathi Kamen Goldmark, Stephen King, Matt Groening, James McBride, Amy Tan, Ridley Pearson, and Soctt Turow have in common? Apparently they're all members of a "band" called The Rock Bottom Remainders. I haven't heard of them until now. They are touring to raise money for Haiti relief, and the Pearson Foundation and We Give Books will be donating books in the tour cities (DC, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York). Apparently, they have little in the way of musical talent, but I can see how they'd attract a crowd. Too bad it's so contained in the northeast part of the country.

Monday, April 19, 2010

David Levithan Love

I haven't gotten my library copies of Will Grayson, Will Grayson yet, but fortunately I got an ARC at TLA last week. I cannot wait to read it! EW has an interview with John Green and David Levithan here. I've read pretty much all of this before in other places, but what I didn't know is that David Levithan and Rachel Cohn have another book coming out in October! It's called Dash and Lily's Book of Dares. Since I've LOVED both of their other books and requested that all their future books be written together, this is just fabulous. But how did I not know of this until now??? Apparently, they were trying to throw me off with this.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles

Rules of Attraction is the follow-up to Perfect Chemistry. Alex and Brittany are going to college in Colorado, and Alex's younger brother Carlos moves there to live with Alex for his senior year of high school. Their mother sent Carlos there so he won't end up in jail. After an incident at school, however, it looks like Carlos might still be headed in that direction. Since Carlos can't really live in the student housing with Alex, the judge says he can't stay there. He ends up staying with the extremely well-adjusted family of Carlos's "peer guide" from school, Kiara. Her dad is also friends with Alex because he was Alex's professor. Kiara isn't traditionally hot and she stutters, but after a slightly rocky start, she and Carlos develop an attraction to each other.

I feel pretty much the same way about Rules of Attraction as I did about Perfect Chemistry. I mean, as I re-read my post about Perfect Chemistry, I was thinking, "Well, that pretty much exactly sums up how I felt about this book."

* Seems like a romance I would normally like: check.
* Would normally like the happy ending but this is too over-the-top (esp. the epilogue): check.
* Unrealistic/lacking authentic voice for the characters: check. (for Carlos anyway)
* Gang member who is too "good": check. (Think about this when you read the reason Carlos really got fired from the sugar mill.) And I can add into this one that Kiara's family seems extraordinarily well-adjusted and even pretty okay with the two of them living together under the same roof and obviously having a physical relationship. Not totally believable for me. Also not totally believable: the father's entire diverse background and the way it works into the resolution of things with Devlin.

Once I let go of all these things, I did enjoy the story, though. It was a lot steamier than I remember Perfect Chemistry being. I wouldn't have it in a middle school library, for instance. I don't want to spoil anything for you, so if you're really concerned about that, you may want to stop reading here. But if you're still reading, then know that when Carlos and Kiara finally have sex, it's pretty explicit. It doesn't describe the actual act, but all the way up to it where they are getting naked, how and where they are touching each other, etc. I liked that Elekeles included the fact that they used a condom and they talked about it. It wasn't a big "conversation," just something they did in the normal course of having sex, and that seemed like a pretty positive way of including that important issue. Definite props on that.

The bottom line is that if you or your patrons like Perfect Chemistry, you're/they're sure to want and to enjoy Rules of Attraction. I know PC has been very popular in my library. And look, even though I had all these problems with PC, I was still anxious to read ROA. Also, even though ROA is the sequel and you'll understand the Fuentes family backstory a little better if you've read PC, you could still easily read ROA without having read PC first.

I liked the cover on this before I read the book, but I really liked it after I read the book. For one, it's a particular scene from the book, not just a generic cover of a guy and/or girl (which I figured before reading the book). But I don't know if I would have thought of choosing that scene, and I think it's a cool choice. I don't know, it just seems very original and poignant as a cover. And the cover is very faithful to the scene from the book, including the cars and what they're wearing.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Numbers by Rachel Ward

When Jem looks into someone's eyes, she sees a number. That number is the date they are going to die. She doesn't want to see the numbers, and she tries to avoid looking into people's eyes. This "power," along with the fact that she's been in foster homes since her mother died of a drug overdose, means she is a loner. When she meets Spider, they get along well, but Jem doesn't want to get close to anyone, and she especially doesn't want to get close to Spider since she sees that he only has three months to live. Try as she might, however, she keeps getting more and more caught up with Spider, and things really take off when she and Spider are caught on camera running away from the London Eye just before a bomb explodes. The police want them for questioning, either as suspects or witnesses, not knowing, of course, that they ran because Jem freaked out when she saw that everyone around them had the same death date (that very day). Once Jem and Spider are on the run from the law and Jem is trying to figure out if she can do anything to change the death dates, the action and tension of the book really get notched up. A good read.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Why "Vampire Diaries" Makes Me Mad

I am referring to Vampire Diaries the CW series, not the books. When they first announced that Vampire Diaries (henceforth referred to as V.D., heehee) would we made into a television show, I had high hopes for the show, especially when I saw the cast of characters. But, one things has been driving me NUTS lately, so much so that I almost can't watch the show. It involves completely ignoring a major plot line.

One of the major plot lines initially was that the vampires could not go out in sunlight. The Salvatore brothers are able to go out in daylight because they have their magic rings, something Stefan said he hadn't heard of any other vampires having. They even went so far as Stefan taking Damon's ring to keep him trapped in the house at one point.

However, now their little town is being overrun by vampires who seem to be able to prance around in daylight without a worry. Maybe everyone suddenly has magic rings? But I don't see it on their fingers! Am I being too nit-picky here? I feel like in books, authors wouldn't be able to get away with such a huge omission, but on TV it is like, well, that whole no-daylight thing was pretty constricting, let's pretend it wasn't a MAJOR issue. What's next? Will vampires no longer need to be invited in? Will they no longer drink blood? I just keep hoping for the episode that explains it all.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Back Creek by Leslie Goetsch

Back Creek is set in 1975. The main character, Grace, is about to go to college for the first time. However, many events unfold that summer that cause her to question who she is and how she views those around her. When I say many events, I’m not kidding. She witnesses a suicide, her mom leaves, her long-lost sister shows up, and, oh yeah, a hurricane hits the area. Not to mention she has to take care of her alcoholic father. Quite a few plot events for a relatively short novel.

This story is being marketed to young adults, but I think it would be a better fit with an adult audience. The first thing I noticed was the cover. It is kind of bland and boring. Having done many a YA book display in my time, I know that the catchy covers are the ones that teens gravitate toward. Also, the setting…1975. I think most teens like extremely current or set way back in time.

That being said, the story itself was interesting and I really liked Grace, the main character. She is the peacemaker, the one who tries to hold her family together. I enjoyed following along as she discovered her place in life. This story is one that I would most likely recommend to my friends or sisters, but probably not to my students.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bree Tanner

MTV has this post up about how Jodelle Ferland, who will play Bree Tanner in Eclipse, got an advance copy of The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, but she could only read it on-set with security watching her, and then she had to burn it. That book will surely make her relatively small part a whole lot bigger.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Creepiest Children's Books

The Huffington Post has a collage of the "creepiest children's books ever (PICTURES)." A couple I don't really agree with why they think they're so creepy , but some are really funny. Be sure to read the captions.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Poetry Reviews

I presume in conjunction with National Poetry Month, PW has an article this week entitled "What Poetry Reviews Are For (And Up Against)."

As I read this article, I had some thoughts. First, I'm REALLY glad PW still reviews poetry books. It's one of the only print review magazines that regularly does so. I know that some sources like VOYA or SLJ will include some YA poetry books, but there aren't a lot of these, and I really like to buy adult collections. I realize that I probably buy more poetry than most school or YA librarians, but surely I'm not the only one.

Second, after discussing how poetry reviews in publications like PW aren't necessarily for the (sole) purpose of selling the books, it says:

“The importance of reviews for book sales is overrated,” [Matthew Zapruder] says. “I don’t think reviews are particularly necessary to help people decide if they want to buy the book or not, since anyone who has access to the Web can Google an author and find a pretty good sampling of someone’s poems on on-line literary magazines, especially from recently published books.”

I'd like to disagree. I'm not necessarily disagreeing with the importance of reviews for the overall sales of poetry books, but I do disagree that they aren't important (and I mean particularly in major print publications like PW). In the first place, although I really like to buy poetry books, I don't have the savvy or the time to peruse specialty poetry sites. Secondly, this is an example where Zapruder is thinking people should/would go out and search for the information rather than having it come to them. This would be like the difference between going out to a database to find an article rather than having the hard copy of the magazine or journal delivered to you every month, or going out to read/search a blog rather than getting RSS feeds. It's assuming a lot more interest, initiative, and knowledge on the part of the potentially interested buyer. And it also assumes you've heard of a poet or their work. I do a lot with poetry at work, but in 99% of the cases where I'm reading a poetry book review in PW, I've never heard of the poet. I can't search for information about poets if I don't know who to search.

I hope PW continues its poetry reviews. It's my primary source for buying new poetry, and the length and type of information provided in the reviews is exactly what I need. I don't need a lengthy in-depth analysis of the poetry. I know what types of poetry I'm looking for for my curriculum, so I just need a description of the style and themes. Whether it's a good review or not isn't even so much important.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Alice in Wonderland

I wanted to share a really successful program I did in conjunction with the premiere of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. We had a "Mad Hatter Tea Party" after school. I provided the tea, refreshments, and a Power Point presentation on the history of Lewis Carroll and AIW. I had over 30 students, some brought tea cups, and at least half brought hats. I'd post pictures, but I'm not allowed to post pictures of students. Not only did they show up, but they had a great time and were really interested in the presentation part. I gave out AIW pins to everyone who wore a hat, and I did some trivia at the end and gave out my remaining pins. I also did a little trivia contest based on the presentation and gave away the Johnny Depp movie poster (from Amazon) that I had bought as part of my advertisement.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Reading Proficiency & Sexual Activity

Girls Inc. released a study called "Girls Shape the Future" in which they collected data over a three year period on the sexual behavior and attitudes of adolescent girls. The study found that regardless of family structure or SES, the two factors that acted as positive "protection" (their word, not mine) from early and risky sexual behavior was the quality of their relationship with their mother and their grades in reading. Interesting, eh? Just another reason we need great libraries and librarians...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Clockwork Angel

Entertainment Weekly posted the cover of Cassandra Clare's new Clockwork Angel, along with a nice interview with her editor about the cover and book. Th3rd World is apparently also doing a graphic novel adaptation. I think it could work really well in that format, although the popularity of this series sort of ebbs and flows with the release of a new book, and right now the books aren't that popular since it's been a little while since the last book was released.

Wonder if there'll be any ARCs of Clockwork Angel at TLA...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

No Jewish Fantasy Writers?

Michael Weingrad has an interesting article in the Jewish Review of Books entitled "Why There is No Jewish Narnia." In the article, he discusses the reasons (social, historical, and religious) why he believes there are not a lot of Jewish fantasy (*not* sci-fi!) writers, particularly in the vein of Tolkein or Lewis. It's a pretty interesting article, although a lot of it seems to be impressionistic or opinionated rather than something that could really be proven. Weingrad mentions a couple of recent Jewish fantasy writers like Lev Grossman and Hagar Yani, and I started trying to think of other Jewish fantasy writers. The only one I came up with is Cassandra Clare, although her fantasy isn't precisely Tolkein-esque (it's definitely "modern" and urban as Weingrad describes -- although City of Glass was less so) . I remember once when I heard her speak, she mentioned how she knew she wanted Simon to become a vampire because as someone who is Jewish, she always wondered why Jews couldn't be vampires since crosses don't mean anything religious to them.

Any other Jewish fantasy writers?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Monday, March 1, 2010

Another Post on Book Covers

I really love the topic of book covers because good books with bad covers are something I really hate to see. So I liked this humorous post "Why Book Covers are So Very Clichéd" by Mark Charan Newton. I actually don't mind clichéd book covers. I think I posted at some point about how book covers with girls holding a guy's hand (think Sarah Dessen, Susane Colosanti, and Simone Elkeles) may be clichéd, but they attract their target reader. When someone sees that cover, they know what kind of book it is, and they will probably be interested if that's the kind of book they normally like. Example: Catherine Gilbert Murdock's Dairy Queen would appeal to lots of these types of readers, but they don't know that based on the cover of a cow wearing a tiara, and they aren't the least interested in reading that book, no matter how inventive the cover. I read a great article in Romantic Times about the meaning of romance novel covers and how the style clearly indicates to the reader what type of romance they're going to read (urban fantasy, historical, light contemporary, etc.). Yes, they're usually cheesy and maybe even embarrassing to buy, but you know what you're getting. I was at a bookstore recently with a friend, and he would pick up a romance novel and I'd tell him what it was about based on the cover. Example:

"That's a contemporary romance about a woman who owns a bakery or a dog-walking business," I'd say. Verdict: It was indeed about a woman who owned a dog-walking business. See? People know what they're getting, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Will Grayson

So I already want to read Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Who doesn't? But after reading this article in Publisher's Weekly "("Double Identity"), I'm really dying here. I love how David Levithan wanted John Green to write this book even before Looking for Alaska was actually published. And a best friend named Tiny Cooper who is writing a musical about his life called "Tiny Dancer"? I'm laughing just at the description! I need this book.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford

Carter is a fourteen year-old freshman just entering high school. Carter's pretty popular, has lots of friends, and is fairly athletic (he plays football and swims with pretty good results for a freshman). Like most freshmen, however, he's primarily concerned with getting hot girls and not looking "gay" in front of his friends. Early on, he has some success with the ladies (thanks partly to the tutelage of his older sister), but due to his general ineptness because of being 14, a guy, and having ADD, he manages to screw things up with girls so that pretty much all of the cheer-leading squad and drill team hate him. The book follows him throughout his freshman year, through football season, swim season, and baseball season/the spring theatre musical. The title of the book should give you sense of where the book is going and how Carter is developing.

I loved this book. It was hilarious. Guys and girls check it out from the library, and it's appealing to both. I'm really happy to recommend it to guys because I think it pretty accurately (if somewhat politically incorrectly or insensitively at times) portrays how a freshman guy thinks, and there are lots of embarrassing moments, flatulence, and porn-watching to satisfy.

Furthermore, I listened to the audio version of the book. Nick Podehl does an AMAZING job as the narrator. This is by far one of my favorite audiobooks now. He sounds like a freshman guy, and he really brings the narration and dialogue to life. I was laughing out loud listening to it, especially when he was doing "Bitchy Nikki's" dialogue.

I'm excited to see that a sequel, Carter's Big Break, is due out soon. Brent Crawford's site says April, but Follett and Amazon say June 1. Now, how can I get my hands on an ARC?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Book Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

EDIT: Cody and I have not posted a review in FOREVER! What are the chances that we will both review the same book just days of each other. I typed this whole review and posted it before catching up on my ATR reading and realizing Cody had beat me to it.

Having recently given birth and returned to work full time, I don’t have much time for reading these days. However, when I walked into my school’s library and the librarian thrust The Maze Runner on me, declaring that it was “like The Hunger Games, only better,” I decided to make a little time for reading.

The main character, Thomas, wakes up in an elevator with no memory other than his names. When the doors open, he finds himself surrounded by other teenage boys in the same predicament. They are in an enclosed environment and forced to eek out their own survival. There is a maze in the enclosure that a few “Runners” try to navigate daily in the hopes of finding an escape. Unfortunately for them, the walls move around every day and they cannot go in the maze at night because of strange, dangerous beasts (aka “Grievers”).

The Maze Runner isn’t as deep or thought-provoking as The Hunger Games, but it is still a fast, compelling read. I liked the relationship dynamic between the boys…a little like The Lord of the Flies. Also, the main character is this great guy…a realistic hero, if you will. A few things I didn’t like: the one girl in the story is supposed to be this super smart girl who is key to solving the maze, her character just wasn’t consistent. Sometimes she would be all brave and tough, but other times, like when put in solitary, she gets all teary-eyed and timid. Also, the last part of the book kind of loses momentum. Overall, although I didn’t LOVE The Maze Runner, I still really enjoyed it and I am definitely looking forward to the sequel.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Maze Runner

Title: The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Rating: C+

Ok, let me begin by explaining something to the YA authors that may stumble upon this; a good book requires a beginning, middle, and END! Just because you've been offered a multiple-book deal, doesn't mean you can just drop your story with the hopes of picking it up in the next volume! We, the readers, will not blindly follow you!!!

The Maze Runner begins in the mysterious world of the maze, where a group of teenage boys have had their memories erased and must attempt to solve the complex puzzle. Although there are many hazards in their new world, life is fairly structured - that is, until the new boy, Thomas, is thrown in the mix! Thomas proves to be the key needed to help solve the puzzle and escape back to their former lives; however, what are they escaping to??? (You'll apparently have to wait until the second book to discover this fact...though I suspect you won't care enough to continue reading by this point.)

The Good: The Maze Runner is a fairly typical work of dystopian literature and would serve as a good recommendations for fans of The City of Ember and/or The Hunger Game series (however, The Maze Runner is nowhere near as good as The Hunger Games!) The story also focuses primarily on male characters trying to survive - a characteristic that might also make it appeal to boys.

The Bad: Honestly, The Maze Runner isn't really that great of book. The story was slow-paced, and (as I mentioned above) the ending left something to be desired. Although I might recommend this book if I was desperate, I don't think I would make this my first suggestion.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Books in Prisons

The Austin American Statesman has an interesting article today on how the Texas prison system decides what reading material is allowed for inmates. Essentially, reading material like books arrive in the mailroom, the mail clerk looks in the computer database to see if it's already been "banned," and if not, they scan through the item to see if there is anything objectionable ("objectionable" including all kinds of different issues). I guess it's efficient, and efficiency is necessary when you're talking about sorting through so much mail. I guess from a librarian's p.o.v., it hurts me to think of a single mail clerk deciding if a book should be on the "banned" list. They do have an appeals process, which is good, but the article points out how difficult that is considering the inmates can't look at the book to make a case for its acceptability. Some of the books that are and are not allowed are pretty interesting. I also love that the AAS would look at this issue and put it front page.

"Banned in Texas Prisons: Books and Magazines That Many Would Consider Classics"

Friday, January 29, 2010

Book Ratings

Preface: I'm not in favor of book ratings.


Tony Buchsbaum at January Magazine has this post called "Are Your Kids' Books Rated R?" In reading this article (and others like it), I'm surprised that no one ever seems to mention that manga has ratings ("all ages," "teen," "older teen," and "adult"). How does this play into arguments about marketing, sales, censorship, artistic expression, selection, etc.? I have to say that I personally really like the ratings because I don't read manga myself and there aren't a lot of reviews for manga in the major library and book review publications. I rely on these ratings to give me a sense of what age group the book is for. I have all but "adult" series in my library. I could be wrong, but I think it might actually help in a book challenge because I could say that students chose a book that was clearly intended for above their age, or we do have books for older students who go to my school. I don't know---maybe that wouldn't help.

I do agree with him that it is often difficult for students to select books that are of appropriate age, style, interest, etc. to them (many things to consider as far as "appropriate," not just if there is anything naughty in the book). I posted about the research Vivian Howard did for VOYA on how selection is the single biggest impediment teens face in reading books. I remember seeing a 9-10 year-old boy reading Frank Portman's King Dork. I can totally see why he'd select that book, but it's totally not right for someone of that age for many reasons. Then, of course, we have the perennial issue of parents who purposefully choose books intended for older individuals because their child has a high reading level, even though the "intended audience" isn't merely about vocabulary and sentence structure. Don't really know where I'm going with all of this except to bring it back to my original question/observation of the fact that manga has ratings and is that bad?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wings Movie

Am I the only who didn't know that Miley Cyrus is going to star in the film version of Aprilynne Pike's Wings?

Monday, January 18, 2010


My thoughts on the Printz this year:

1. Nothing for Marcelo in the Real World? This makes me utterly disappointed.

2. Didn't see Going Bovine coming at all. I don't know that I would have agreed, but good for Libba Bray!

3. I didn't see The Monstrumologist coming either (even though I think I read some blog speculation about this), but I'm happy for Rick Yancey. As I've mentioned before, I thought the marketing on this (trailer, cover, etc.) was very good. My students who read it have all given it a "so-so" verdict, though.

4. I haven't yet bought a copy of Punkzilla for my library because I've been hoping the paperback version will have a better cover, one that will actually appeal to any teenager. This is one of, if not the worst, covers of the year imo.