Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Best Reference Questions of Late. The Good & The Funny

In Person: I'm writing a letter to the editor and I want to be able to back up my argument. Here I say that the per capita carbon emission in the US is 25 metric tons.
Me: Well I don't see an authoritative source for that amount, but here's one that says it was 20.1 in 2002.
Person: That's close enough.

On Phone: I just moved here from California. Does this state allow medical marijuana?
Me: Yes, since 1998 the state has allowed Medical Marijuana for the following reasons.
Phone: What about for psychological issues?
Me: Um, you'll have to speak to your doctor about that.

Wait. Are these related?

If we were to allow for psychological issues... oh, that WOULD be funny.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Look where those so-called orphans can go!

You know, I dig retold fairy tales. Ella Enchanted is one of my all-time Favorites (just, please, lets just pretend the movie never happened). I happened upon Diane Stanley's Bella at Midnight while it was sitting on the new book shelve. I read the flap and decided that it would be worth it despite the rather bad cover (I like the design but, there's something that bothers me about that ring; it's more than just the fact that the ring plays a VERY small role in the plot).

Bella is sent off at birth by a father who can't cope with his wife's death to live with peasants. There she grows up to be a intelligent, caring resourceful young lady without much use or knowledge for the court life that her lineage warrants. What makes this different from all the other retellings of Cinderella is the setting and the relationship of Bella with the Prince (Julian here, which I always thought a cool name for a boy. Unfortunately, any male child I might have is genetically doomed not to be cool enough to not get beaten up everyday with that moniker). Her country has been at war with the neighbor for ages and through a believable series of events she finds herself in a position to attempt to travel on her own quest to save the man she loves.

There is one issue I have with this book (note that I greatly enjoyed it - a very satisfying read). The story is told in several voices, including the POVs of her step-creatures. Stanley offers the beginning of depth for the step-creatures, however, she doesn't quite follow through with their development to the end and what sympathy you were inclined to feel for them is ultimately lost. Which is a pity. Also, like Ever After (I so love that movie), you've got a good step-sis who eventually overcomes her sister's shadow, and a heroine that has to save the prince. However, I was never hung up on these things while actually reading the story. So that says something. For Girls who've already read all the other princess novels.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Best Subtitle Award

Since Drawing a Blank pulled me in by the cover and sold me with the subtitle (OR How I Tried to Solve a Mystery, End a Feud, and Land the Girl of My Dreams), I suspect it shouldn't require any more book talking than, well, that.

Sprinkled with footnotes, drawings and comic strips Daniel Erenhaft (with help from illustrator Trevor Riston) gives us a book that is pretty much as advertised. I'm inclined to put it in the same category as Alfred Kropp, only with a slightly more light-hearted bent. Carlton Dunne IV's relationship with his father has eternally been overshadowed by Carlton Dunne III's obsession with an ancient feud to the point where the younger feels that his dad loves his letter opener more than his son. When the feud is suddenly proved real with the shocking kidnapping of Carlton the third, our hero must venture to the wilds of Scotland in a mad attempt to rescue his father (and maybe convince the babe he travels with to fall for him). All of this is cleverly illustrated to rather amusing result as Carlton III happens to have small but burgeoning comic strip that appears occasionally throughout the text, though I must admit, the heroine, Signy the Superbad is rather buxom, and I felt odd reading it on the plane where all my seat mates could see what I was reading. Clearly I have a self-esteem, peer-pressure-like complex. I should do something about that.

Amusing, but I'll still give them Gordon Korman's funny stuff first.

Funny bit: "Also, my mouth felt like a car seat that had recently been occupied by a pro wrestler: grossly warm and fetid." p 213

A Feeling I can sadly relate to: "I spent the next several hours in closed-eyed silence. Maybe it was even longer than several hours. Maybe it was shorter. It was hard to tell. In any case..." p 291

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

And where were the effing birds?

City of Ember kinda came outta nowhere for me. As awesome as it was, I loved People of Sparks more, which (as far as I could tell) wasn't the most popular opinion (but then, have I ever sought out popularity?). I thought that the social issues were fascinating and interestingly done in a children's book. Overhanging both books was my nagging curiosity: what exactly happened to drive people to create an underground city? How did humanity reach that point? Since DuPrau dealt so well with the implications of two cultures merging in Sparks, I was greatly anticipating The Prophet of Yonwood, where, I suspected, I would find out the answers to all my questions, what with it being a prequel, and all.

First, two disclaimers: 1) I don't really remember specifics from the first two books. 2) I'm not an animal person (fine. call me a heartless unloving person. Whatever. I don't want to clean up after them, I don't want hair on my stuff, and I don't want to have to come home to check/feed/walk/pay attention to anything. Basically, I'm adverse to responsibility. I have plants. I like those. Now leave me alone about it.). These two items may have affected my appreciation of this book.

Second: Dig the cover. Aesthetically. Not sure really what birds have to do with it, but perhaps the fact that I read it a week ago and lots has happened since then has given me Quantum Leap brain (swiss cheese, get it? ha. I'm such a dork). But I was expecting something more, er, Hitchcock-ian.

To the meat: It was interesting for what it was. It seemed younger than the last two, but that might just be me. (gosh, I'm really being passive aggressive tonight.) I'll be honest. I was disappointed. I wanted more than she gave me. I wanted to know what happened. Instead, I get an epilogue. Admittedly, this was a good representation of how the situation would be viewed through an 11-year-old's eyes. Nickie is far more concerned with escaping the tense, overpopulated city, falling in love and making the world better (in that order) than the impending, yet shadow laden World War. The applicable commentary for today's world scene is obvious, though not painfully didactic. It would make a VERY good discussion book for the middle school set. Excellent, actually, in that role. In no way must one have read the first two books, however, it isn't the best introduction to DuPrau, in my opinion. She creates a tension filled world with easily recognizable and realistic villains. Ultimately, the lesson is that despite how scary the world becomes, one simply MUST think for one's self. A good message to a demographic assaulted with suggestion. +9

Disturbing sentiment: "Listen, honey. I want you to remember this. When you know that you're doing God's work - then you're willing to anything. I mean anything...I think you and I have the same thing in mind - a bright, clean world where everyone knows how to behave! Wouldn't it be splendid?" OMG. And you SO know people like this.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Audible Reactions

Last year the cover of The Ranger's Apprentice: Ruins of Gorlan pulled me right in and it surprised me by being one of my favorites of 2005. Now, this was the question: did I like it that much because it was genuinely good, or was it because I went into it with no expectations? Here's Book Two: The Burning Bridge, with the answer.

Wait, let me backtrack. I read the first one before I had a blog. Quickly: Will has dreamed of going to battleschool and becoming a knight as he always imagined his father was. When the day finally comes and Will is not chosen, he is devastated. What he doesn't know is that the mysterious Ranger has been watching him for years, thinking he'd make a great spy for the kingdom...

Book Two started off slow. I was rather worried for a while. We reconnected with three of the orphans*, but ignored two of them, which makes me wonder about them a bit as there was opportunity for cameos for each. Oh well, maybe next time. Horace carried a great deal more of this story, and he's really grown since his role as a bully in the last book. Anyway, once Flanagan hits his stride he's off at full speed. We're still battling the Truly Evil & Scary Lord Morgarath, and, as you might guess, this one involves a burning bridge.

I have to say that I read this in one sitting - I couldn't put it down. I stayed up WAY too late. Like 3:30am or something. At one point I had to put the book down for five minutes because I was actually cheering too much to continue reading. Really. Like out loud. "You Rock [Character]!!! You Freakin' Rock!!! That was freakin' awesome!!!" I'm sure it was a sight to behold. I hope I woke my annoying neighbors. Is it wrong that that's the most excited I've been in months? Literally months?

It's so not fair that Australia already has Book 4. If you've missed this series - it's not too late. Start now. You'll thank me for it. For those who care, it's got broad appeal, easily 10+, but in no way unappealing to older teens. Know that there were two "Damns" that I noticed. One felt awkward, the other didn't.

An interview with authorJohn Flanagan. Oh, and Mr. Flanagan? If for some reason you read this? Get yourself a website, eh?

(*note to the reader, I can't actually remember if they were all orphans or just some of them, I'm like 85% sure that it was all of them - but just in case...)

“Close you eyes and tap your heels together three times. And think to yourself, there's no place like home.”

I'm off to fly home for four days and attend my friend Angela's wedding (for which I hope to dress correctly. The website says "semi-formal" and for women to wear "dresses," but as it's an outdoor wedding in July, I don't exactly know what "semi-formal" means, and I don't do dresses, I'm not positive that my choice is correct. I wear skirts. I haven't worn a dress since my some weird formal freshman year of college. I'm hoping the semi-formal bit is meant for 'Cousin Jethro' who would wear jeans unless told not to. That's what I'm banking on, at least.). Because of the wedding, I should be able to see all of my library related friends in one place for what will probably be the last time for a long while, what with me being out here, Angela living in London, and various others of us looking at the library market farther afield than West Michigan. It sounds like I'll get to see all of the family who lives within an hour of GR, and it also looks like I'll manage to see most of my oldest friends, except Ryan, who'll be wandering around the woods somewhere in Upstate NY. Ryan, if you ever read this, I hope that makes you feel guilty. I am greatly looking forward to it (Seeing everyone, not making Ryan feel guilty. Well, ok, making Ryan feel guilty is fun too!).

I'm less looking forward to the 3:30 am alarm clock and the following 12 hours of travel. This, of course, includes the two (2!) layovers. I'm not bringing my computer, so I don't know how connected I'm going to be. Most likely, there won't be any new posts between today and Tuesday, at the earliest. The big question - what books am I going to bring?!

But first, one last post! (sorry about its bad writing - I need to go finish packing and go to bed)

Rather than a Dalek shooting high officials...

Bookshelves of Doom found an article that I've already sent to most of my co-workers. If I felt that strongly about it, I figure it's worth the duplicate posting. Not to mention the fact that I don't actually work with most of you, so you may have missed it. Here's Eva Ibbotson on libraries.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Brands I've never even heard of...

If you read this blog, you know that I love Meg Cabot. I do. The bar isn't high, but I expect to laugh a few times and feel good at the end, and I've yet to be disappointed. I might complain about one dimensional characters or stale romances, but I'll still read the next book because they amuse me and there's no commitment. That said, I have this one niggling issue with Queen of Babble that's driving me crazy, like, to the point that it has affected the way I feel about this book. This will contain spoilers. As if you don't already know what happens.

Lizzie Nichols has just graduated from UofM with a degree in fashion history, or so she thinks. Turns out she forgot to read the instructions, neglected to do the required thesis, and doesn't know how she'll get it done as she's off to visit her long-absent boyfriend in London. Supposedly, she's incapable of keeping secrets, but I find that she doesn't blab much more than is standard in your typical Rom Com. But that's not what bothers me. See, when she gets to London and sleeps with Andrew (total scumbag) Cabot makes a huge point about using condoms. Huge. Even (on page 77) for oral: "I make him change the condom first, though. I don't love anybody THAT much. Not even Andrew." Which is funny, I'll grant you, and bravo to Lizzie for it, but it's when she finally gets the real guy (not scumbag) and they have sex unexpectedly in the cask room and they don't use a condom, that I have a problem. What? It's ok if it's love? Why make the point earlier, just to abandon it at the first opportunity? Ok, he's rich, so pregnancy wouldn't be as big a deal, but seriously? With his ex-girlfriend? I don't care how much love there is - test him for everything. There's bound to be something crawling. ew. so. ew. Is it just me?

(Clearly an adult book)

Reality Sucks

So I started reading this and it was every journal-keeping fear I ever had in high school. I would start journals, and write periodically. Then, months later I would go back and read those entries, and hear from a distance exactly how silly and shallow it made me sound. I resented that view of myself. Not necessarily that it might be accurate, but that I didn't really want my teenage self preserved for all. Because, of course, if I kept a journal I would be propelled into dramatic times and people of the future would rely on MY account to understand the 1990's - and I didn't want to single-handedly throw the world into chaos or be the definitive shallow account of the havoc. So, on one hand, bravo to those four girls who were willing to share their inner thoughts and outer deeds, no matter the interpretation. Me, myself, I don't really want to read any more of your ramblings. I'm sure that someone does. Have fun!

Monday, July 10, 2006

A View I Don't Need

Continuing with awesome cover's, we have Dead Connection by first time novelist, Charlie Price. It's sort of an odd book. Told from the perspective of SIX different people, there was a Distinct difference between the adult voices and that of the two kids. Murray, our main character, hangs out in cemeteries because he's learned that the dead are far better friends than the real people in his life. One day he hears something far more unsettling than the normal peace found amongst the headstones. Meanwhile, Deputy Gates is investigating the recent disappearance of a local teen. During his chapters the book takes on a completely different tone - that of the hard-boiled detective novel.

It was interesting to read as I would get a totally different feel for the book when Gates spoke - it seemed much more an adult book. Like in "Joan of Arcadia," how all the Joan scenes were shot with a warm, golden tone, and all her father's work crap was cool blue tones (why'd they have to cancel that show? why, why, why?). Anyway, there were things that were predictable, and others that came out of nowhere. Gates' shoe-leather police work seemed authentic, and Murray's reluctance to admit his talent, genuine. I think I was expecting more dead people, or something. It was well done. Very much a paranormal mystery, which, at least in this incarnation, is (to my knowledge) rather new to the teen scene. (yes, yes, there are paranormal mysteries in the teen section, but this one had that whole cop character bit, and it just seems different from what I've read.)

"He hated being talked to in that tone of voice, but on the other hand, she was kind of cute, trying to be so tough with her bad-guy pose, and at the same time leaking a smile at the corners of her mouth." p. 13

Is it just me, or does that sentence rock? "leaking a smile at the corners of her mouth." Very cool.

All babys should have mohawks.

It's not to say that everything that Gordon Korman writes will forever be held up against Son of the Mob, but well, ok. Yeah, he's always going to be chasing that one. However with this prologue, I knew SotM was in for a race:
"There are two kinds of people in this world - those who have had a cavity search, and those who haven't. This is the story of how I wound up in the wrong category." p. vii

Seriously, who wouldn't be excited after reading that? Oh, and the cover is totally awesome. Leo's known for awhile that his dad isn't really his dad, but suddenly, this Harvard-heading, Young Republican finds out that his father is King Maggot, lead singer of the maddest, baddest punk rock band the world has ever seen. Leo tries to ignore this embarrassing fact, but then fate conspires making him in need of tuition money. Now, not only does he have to admit that he's Prince Maggot, but he has to go on tour with the band and try to convince his publicly insane father to fund college.

I LOOVED this. I don't know if it was better than SotM, but it doesn't even matter. Korman excels at the fish-out-of-water scenario. I'll have no problem giving this to teen walking in the door, though know that there is a lot of off-screen casual (and possibly irresponsible) sex as well as alcohol and at least one drug scene. But hello? The kid's touring with a Punk Rock band. What do you expect. Leo is firmly anti-stupid.

This also made me laugh:
"Why are they bothering a band that hasn't recorded an album in sixteen years? What about rap or something recent?" King shrugged. "These people don't listen to music. They only know what The O'Reilly Factor tells them to hate." p. 134
hahaha. If only it weren't kinda true. Sigh.

Thus ends my Rock triumvirate (if you can call it that - King Dork was a while ago).

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Spattered with pink blood.

In what must have been a ton of fun, two well-known YA authors came together to write a book in alternating voices. I assume Rachel Cohn and David Levithan had as big a blast writing as I had reading. The jacket flap says "If traffic is good, it only takes a half hour to bus and subway between their apartments."

Nick (odd chapters) has just been decimated by his girlfriend and is both desperate to get her back and wanting never to see her again, but she shows up at his concert and acting quick, he gets random girl (Norah, even chapters) to be his 5-minute-girlfriend. Naturally, the ruse has to last longer than the allotted time. Whatever will they do? Well, fall in love in the Punk Rock scene of NYC, of course! Not that that is as easily done. There's baggage, emotions, mixed signals, outside influences, lots of swearing, and so much more! (Including, but not limited to rather graphic, if not detailed, almost-sex. Did I say this was for older teens without clean clauses?)

Always fun, sometimes laugh-out-loud and with the occasionally cringe, this has cemented the fact that I need to read more David Levithan. Eventually I'll get around to Rachel Cohn. Incidentally, each has their own blog (and Cohn is all over the internet). Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist official site, viewable if your work computer doesn't block Flash. Like mine does. Stupid computer.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Electronic Hug

I'm not a very important person, so when I came back from the holiday and found that I had three voice mail messages on my work phone, I was a bit surprised. Nobody calls me. So I fumble around making attempts to log into my mailbox with the little passcode I can never punch in correctly the first time. Eventually, an oddly robotic voice starts talking at me. "That's weird," I'm thinking, "my voice mail doesn't normally sound like that. What's this garbled little machine saying to me?"
"garble, garble, Sprint Text to Landline, garble, garble... This is an Electronic Hug from [insert phone number] to let you know that someone cares about you..."


And I got three of them. All from the same number. Well, actually, at least the first two were - I was too distracted to pay any attention to the third. I don't recognize the number, and it doesn't magically appear in my cell phone. My work number isn't published, so a person would have to really work to get it. It must be a wrong number. Or some creepy stalker. Hey, I work with the public. Stalkers are NOT out of the question. If you smile at the questionable camouflage guy, he might just follow you around too much. Anyway, I do the 'ole reverse number lookup thingy, which solves nothing, what with cells not being in the white pages. Sigh. "How much self-confidence do I have today?" I ask myself. Enough to call a stranger's phone number? Yep.

Dial. Weird dead space sound of connection. Hey, cool, s/he's got Jack Johnson on ringback!

Guy: Hello?
Me: Who's this?
Guy: This is Noah

*Pause - I so don't know any Noahs *

Me: Um, yeah. So I got an Electronic Hug from this number. It said it was from someone letting me know that they care.
Noah: Really?
Me: Yeah. So if you were intending that to go somewhere else, it didn't.
Noah: Well, I guess a stranger's just letting you know they care. *laughs*
Me: Thanks for that, then. *also laughs*
Noah: No problem.
Me: Bye.

That's it. I got an Electronic Hug from a stranger. Whether intentional or not. It was odd.

In searching for a image to personify an electronic hug, I found this. Ah, you crazy New Zealanders.

Beauty is Pain

In no way do I need more books to read. The shelf I reserve for library books is completely full. All the same, while stealing the pic for Nick & Norah so I could post about that book, I ran across David Levithan's MySpace blog, where I found an excerpt from his Marly's Ghost. Now, I've been meaning to read Levithan for years. I just haven't gotten to him. There always seemed to be something else more pressing to read; Levithan would always be around. And then I read the excerpt. It is beautiful. It is painful. And now I have another #@*% book to read.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

This isn't a request. It's an order. heh.

What Teen Angst Novel Are You?

Created by E. Lockhart and blogged about by John Green, it's a hilarious must-take for anyone who reads this blog. Tell me what you got!


LOOKING FOR ALASKA, by John Green. Sad, Funny, boozy, thought-provoking. Go read it. It's you.

Wait - does that say boozy? Hey.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Minus those annoying bimbos!

I don't remember how this graphic novel attracted my particular attention, but I distinctly remember actually knowing what the kid was asking for when I placed a purchase request for the series. The two things together (me being aware of it, and a kid making a real effort to get it) told me that clearly, if I read only one Manga this year, Fullmetal Alchemist would simply have to be it. Chose well, I did.

I'll admit that I haven't read a ton of Manga. What little I've read has rather turned me off with the half nekkid girls bouncing around with their improbable anatomy. But that's just a style thing. I've liked Bleach and hated Love Hina because of the insufferably stupid storyline (IMHO). But this. This is my new favorite. Not that it's usurping anything else.

The series opens with the Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse, on a mission to find out what's upsetting the natural world's balance in a small community. Ed is the state alchemist (alchemy being, of course "the mystical power to alter the natural world"), his brother, a gigantic suit of armor, his sidekick. Note the irony of Ed, the puny one, being The Fullmetal Alchemist - not his metallic brother. Turns out that the town has been co-opted by an evil pseudo-religious leader (insert tasteless joke here). Our hero's must reveal to the citizenry the truth behind the sunflower, using both brain and brawn.

What makes this good. There is a clear character arc. There is genuine depth to the brothers - a task that I'm always impressed with when all they have to work with are bubbles (well, ok, and art or whatever). They have flaws, and there is room to grow. It's very much like a TV drama where each episode has its own purpose and plan, in addition to the season's (or series') overarching goals. Amuse me with today's story, and ever so slowly inch me forward toward the ultimate resolution. And Dramedy gets me EVERY time.

Any terribly religious person might get offended by the opening sequence with it's, er... obvious correlation between the "Church of Leto" and popular religions of our day. Other than that, this really was wonderful, and I can't wait to read the rest, I think that it will appeal to even non-Manga fans (such as myself), and I think that the fact that it appears to be on television helps as well... +11

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Because who doesn't like a pointless poll?

HPANA is taking a pole measuring reader's opinion of whether Harry Potter is doomed to die, or will live to, well do something else.

Harry Potter: Wanted dead or alive
Vote now!

I didn't know I was supposed to be in Mourning!

Ugh! In less widely dire news (about that other Twilight title), Meg Cabot says that there won't be anymore Mediator books!!! *sob* *gasp* *drama* I'm of two minds about this. 1) Well, at least the relationship won't go the way of Mia & Michael, which is just obnoxious at this point. 2) But it's my favorite!!! I don't want it to end!!! *whine*. Those of you who like or at one point liked Cabot, try this series. Really. It's good. The whole thing. (That's just six books, people - Meg Cabot books. They're quick. Like lightning. heh.).

Read Meg Cabot's words.

New Moon, Chapter 1

Ok, so I'm a bad fan. I totally forgot that the first chapter of New Moon would be posted (in PDF) on Stephenie Meyers site on July 1. I purposely withheld the fact that it was going to happen in the first place simply because I think that I obsess over it too much. Then I forget. *shakes head* I think that the first was just a weird, vortex day where my memory was replaced with someone else's, as I also forgot that rent was due that day (yikes!). Luckily, what with the next day being Sunday, I got a grace day. That and I was avoiding blogverse as what I really needed to do was post about King Dork. Anyway, head over and read the 22 pages of tantalizing torture!