Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Inscribed Forever

Remember Drawing A Blank and King Dork? Me too. The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga is the amalgamation of those two books. This might just be in my brain. I have it from several sources that my brain is certifiable, so take the comparisons with salt.

I must confess that I'm so far behind in blogging books that I actually read this over Thanksgiving. Yeah, that was like, what? At least three holidays ago. I mean, I know that I read a lot, but how is it that I get THIS far behind on 'reviewing' the books? *Long pause while blogger figures out she can watch the Veronica Mars episode she missed last week online*

Fanboy is plagued by bullies. Whether in gym class or by the step-fascist at home he's always on guard for potential pain. His best friend, who shares his passion for comics, can't be seen in public with him because it'll endanger his popularity. Enter Goth Girl. Kyra sees him, and there starts a most unlikely friendship.

In searching for Fanboy's actual name (Donnie) I reread parts of the book thinking that I would just be able to quick jump in and find the name, but I got a bit sucked in again. I liked it much more than either of the books I compared it to. Fanboy, with all of his angst, is not a depressing kid. He's funny. He's got goals; passion. He will someday get the comic he's working on published and that keeps him going - along with some needed encouragement from Kyra. With its catchy cover, it'll be an easy sell.

Be sure to stop by the F&G site, where, among other things, you can send away for a free temporary tattoo. It's a bit boggling, but fun. And very, very red.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Book Group, Round 5

Couple new people this month, but they really only replaced old people who didn't show up. I'm hoping that it was due to the odd freezing fog that hung around all day. It was there when I went to work, and it was there when I left. Actually had a guy show up. He'd even read the whole book. An especially surprising occurrence considering this month's title was Elizabeth Berg's The Art of Mending. This is, of course, a rather sexist statement on my part. On the other hand, the only other guy to come to book group has been a husband who was dragged along with with his wife for emotional support since she hated the book (last month's The Stupidest Angel). The new guy gave it the resounding approval of "[reading this book] wasn't a waste of my time."

Laura's a big-time quilter. She's looking forward to the annual trip to the Minnesota State Fair with her family, but when her little sister calls her up and asks if the siblings can talk privately about their childhood, Laura knows that her relaxing vacation isn't going to happen. When Caroline reveals her secret, Laura has to reevaluate her entire childhood and examine trust, guilt and forgiveness.

It's a pretty quick read. Pat loved it, but she's a quilter. I liked it. Laura had a tendency to relate anecdotes of friends' experiences with abuse, which served to illustrate points, but after about the second or third anecdote I began to wonder if anyone in Laura's past hadn't been exposed somehow to abuse. It threw me out of the story. The use of photographs describing scenes from their childhood was very effective. Much better done than The Wish House's use of the same technique.

Basically: It wasn't a waste of my time to read. ;)

Monday, January 22, 2007

ALA Midwinter is like crack for book lovers.

Now, Seattle is actually nowhere near where I live, but it is a conveniently mind-numbing car trip away. Since Melissa, whom I've not seen since July (and who may have abandoned her work-sanctioned blog), would be there, I decided to stock up on audio books and head out a mere two and a half days after returning from the Florida vacation.

My library system isn't big on sending peons like myself to big national conferences, but I did manage to score a free exhibits pass. Which turns out to be far easier than I would have imagined, making me feel less special, but whatever. So, while I wasn't able to attend any of the educational or networking sessions, I was able to, well, get lots and lots (and lots) of free books and posters. I was under instructions to bring back books that others would be interested in. Not just teen books. I think it might have been a condition of leaving work early. Anyway, it was like carte blanche. I'm most excited about Maureen Johnson's Girl at Sea, Cecil Castellucci's GN The Plain Janes, and Laurie Halse Anderson's Twisted, the latter of which I scored the last ARC of by asking for it with wide beseeching eyes. She dug under the table for me. That was awesome. Thank you random woman at the Viking booth!

I've been to two different states' library conferences, but this was my first national. They really don't exist in the same stratosphere. Just the exhibit hall at Midwinter was so...full and bustling that it was like a fantasy funhouse of awesomeness. There were books EVERYWHERE. And they were FREE. The people were like - take this book. Oh, and this poster. And don't forget the pin! And they gave bags in which to carry the books. There were movie passes to see movies based on books. And there were Authors. Authors who were signing their free books. Some of these books were even in Hardcover! They were real books!

I met Sherman Alexie, who I had heard of, but have not yet read. He was really funny, though, so I'm planning on reading the book they gave me and he signed. Which I'd give you the title to, but I seem to have left it in my car, and nothing's ringing a bell.

I met Jess Walter, National Book Award Finalist, and got a copy of The Zero signed. Which I will read because a) he seems to have a sense of humor and b) we live in the same city so if I were to run into him, I want to behave better than I did with

Justina Chen Headley. In the melee that was the exhibits, I first saw Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies) and turned, pointing, back to Melissa and Rachel saying,
"Oh! I SO loved this book! It was one of my Favorites this year!" I got closer in order to pet the book, as I am wont to do with things I love, when I realized that there was some unexpected order to the masses around this booth. I blurted out, "Oh My God, is that the author? That's the author!" At this point I got overly excited. The important people at the booth kinda laughed at me and said that they were giving away free hardcover copies of the book and I could get it signed if I waited in line. Which I SO TOTALLY did. I'm jumping about a bit and smiling like a crazy person, but all I can manage to say when I get to her is "Totally fantastic! Really, really great. Loved it." When what I really wanted to do was hang out and talk about why I thought it was great. That it is by far the best Asian-American experience novel I've read. That regardless of ethnic issues the intergenerational relationships were touchingly done - that each character's backstory TRULY informed their present. I wanted to say **SPOILER** that I was really glad that Patty didn't end up with the boy because really, that was the better choice. Who says we need to always end up with the guy to have a happy ending? LW says I should just email her and tell her this, but despite evidence otherwise in this blog, I'm a total introvert who is SO not cool enough to actually email a rockin' author. I'm working on that. (Heck, I haven't even responded to Penni Russon, and I feel totally bad about it.) Maybe Justina Chen Headley will see this post and I'll have passive-aggressively accomplished the goal anyway. I'm a terrible person. Anyway, meeting her was a pleasant surprise that made my day.

I was more subdued when I got my copy of Bridge to Terabithia signed by Katherine Paterson. I've not read nearly enough of her books, but those that I have, I love. Mom gave me Bridge to read when I was a kid. I don't know how old I was, but I remember liking it a lot. It lead me to Park's Quest, and eventually to Jacob I Have Loved, which I think might be my favorite. It rekindles a desire to read Bread and Roses, Too. Rachel and I were first in line for the signing, so we chatted with the man from (I presume) Walden Media for awhile. He gave us free passes to the first public screening of the movie Bridge to Terabithia for Sunday night. I thought for a moment, and decided that seeing the movie was absolutely worth delaying my departure time. It meant not getting home until midnight at least, risking mountain pass conditions and a tired Monday workday, but I don't regret it. Great movie. The trailer is very misleading - it misrepresents the amount of CGI in the movie. I'd only cried once in a movie theater, and that wasn't out of sadness. This was my second. And it's not like I didn't know what would happen! So, if you go see it, bring tissue.

The funny thing is that I had just been boasting about not crying in movies the night before when Kristy G & Melissa were sobbing the way through our free screening of The Namesake based on the book of the same title by Jhumpa Lahiri. Kal Penn has come a long way since his day as Kumar (which, don't get me wrong, was hilarious, but you know what I mean). Go see it if you get a chance, all 4 of us really liked it. I actually want to see it again.

That's pretty much it. At some point I'll go through the books I got and share them with you.

There's lots of Cheering!

As you may have heard already:

Printz Award:
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Haven't read it yet, but it's been on my to do list for months... It's the first ever graphic novel to win, and I'm pretty darn excited about that.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green!
We do love John Green. He's posted, like last year (only better), his reaction to the news. Not to miss. Also, his vlog bit with his brother that started at the turn of the year is daily hilarity.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I really was sure this one would win. It took a long time for me to get into it, but once I was, wow. Anything that can tell me exactly what's going to happen and still force me to emotionally involve myself? Yeah. That's good writing.

Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson
Dude needs a real website. Still maintain that it's a great book I don't know what to do with. Will reserve final judgement until after vol. 2.

Surrender by Sonya Hartnett
(Also needs a real website) Haven't read this based on the thought that it might either make be dislike mankind. Again. Or make me feel claustrophobic. That's why I can't read David Almond or Gail Giles. Now I'll just have to try to read it anyway.

Note, please, the two Australian authors, Zusak & Hartnett. It was that way last year, too. With Zusak & Lanagan. That's it, nothing more, just a point of interest.

Newbery Award:
The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
Cute cover. Never heard of it. Which makes it the third year in a row for that. Might read it. Might not. Still haven't read Criss Cross after being so disillusioned by Kira Kira.

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
Love. This. Book. Can. Not. Express. How. Much. It also happens to be the book I've given away the most this year. Almost exclusively to adult women, but still. It's never actually on the shelf when there's a kid around who would appreciate it. I honestly think that Hattie Big Sky is destined to be a comfort read for generations. Like the Little House books and the Anne of Green Gables books. I was pulling for this one to win the medal, if only to ensure its space in literary history. This, I suppose, will have to do.

Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm
This has been on my radar for awhile, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. It's been bumped up. I've liked everything I've read by Holm.

Rules by Cynthia Lord
Mmm... the cover looks familiar... It appears to be a first novel, and I do like rubber duckies...

Note: The lack of fantasy in both lists, and the prevalence of historical fiction.

Alex Awards:
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
The Color of the Sea by John Hamamura
Eagle Blue: A Team, A Tribe, and A High School Basketball Season in Arctic Alaska by Michael D'Orso
Floor of the Sky by Pamela Carter Joern
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig
The World Made Straight by Ron Rash

I pay particular attention to the Alex Awards because if I have to read adult books once in awhile, I might as well read the ones designated to have particular interest to teens. I think it weeds out the overly self-important adult books (this is said with tongue in cheek. mostly.). Also, I've never read an Alex winner I haven't liked (ok, the numbers I've read are not extensive). It's also a great resource for the Adult Book Group I run at the library. Water for Elephants has been on my "Future Book" list for the group for months. I have to wait for it to come out in paperback first, though.

Geisel Medal:
Zelda and Ivy: The Runaways by Laura McGee Kvasnosky

Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride by Kate DiCamillo, illus. by Chris Van Dusen
Move Over, Rover! by Karen Beaumont (I Like Myself! is one of my Favs), illus. by Jane Dyer
Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

Totally not my field but absolutely cool, and in its second year, the Geisel Medal awards books for the youngest of readers and is named after, who else, Dr. Seuss.

If you have a great deal of time, watch the webcast of the awards announcement. Head here for the complete list of winners and honors announced today, including the Coretta Scott King Awards, the Caldecott and the Batchelder.

Stay tuned for my ALA Midwinter Experience. I kinda went.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Nary a 'gator to be seen. Thank God.

Yes, yes, I just got back from D.C. Whatever. I'm on my first "just because" vacation in a long time. Since, gosh, Oct. 2004, I think. I'm not traveling for an obligation or a holiday. Just because I wanted to, and I totally missed Sarah. Hello, Florida. Hello 75 degrees. Goodbye 17. My body may still be on Pacific Time, but it's sure confused about the season. So is my brain.
What we did today:

To be clear, we didn't go there. But we did pass the sign.
That's exciting, right?

Look! We're venturing off into the great unknown!
Fear for us! No, really. We left the map in the bathroom.

All the other programs on my computer don't seem to have a problem recognizing this as a vertical picture. Blogger however...
Also, we seem to have a ghost. Though it might just be a speck on the lens. At least it's not my finger. 'Cause
that would just be embarrassing.

OO! Wildlife.
At this point I'm only a little scared that that thing
will fly at me and plunge my shiny new camera into the salty water.

Oh good. He went the other way. Phew.

Hmm... We seem to be entering some kind of maze...

A dead end. Well, that can't be good.

At this point, I resort to licking a mangrove leaf.
As you may be able to tell, the leaf is covered with salt crystals.
This leads to the variety's name of White Mangrove, as the salt it exudes from the leaves causes it to be more pale then its friends the Red & Black Mangroves, which, at least in Red's case, blocks the salt from being absorbed in the first place with some amazing root filtration. Haven't got a clue what Black does.
Yes, I'm a dork, but I did make Ally lick one first, so that says something.
I also cleverly avoided leaves with bird poop on them.

Land! Glorious Land!

Can't remember what the dead beastie is called, but the leaf is a Sea Grape. My sources tell me they don't fair well in hurricanes. You can also make jam with their fruit. I don't think I'd make jam of our beastie.

Speaking of jam, we are comforted by the familiar growth of the Prickly Pear
although, I'm a little surprised to find it growing on an island. Either way, if we got stuck on the island and could manage to make pectin, we'd be set with two varieties of jam!

My souvenir. Didn't notice it until we returned the kayaks.

If you happen to find yourself in South Florida, check out John D. MacArthur State Park. We had a ton of fun, the kayaking was cheap, and it's always good to support the nature preserves!

Monday, January 08, 2007


I pledge Allegiance
to the Flag
of the Safer States of America
and to the Republic
for which it stands
one Nation
under Law
with Security
and Safety
for All.

Yep. That got my attention. My how I love social commentary. Never mind relying on immigrant labor for menial jobs, just make so many laws that 24% of the population ends up in jail. Then, contract out prisoners to work camps! The government makes money on the contracts, and society has prisoners do road work, shell shrimp and make pizzas. Brilliant really, unless you were the person who dropped the apricot that Melody Haynes tripped on. Even though Melody wasn't wearing her walking helmet.

I'm accustomed to dystopias where our hero struggles against the constricts of a society and government gone wrong, so I was pretty surprised when this one turned into a football game (ok, that's overly simplified, and by the way, football? Totally illegal.). I recognize that one teen boy is unlikely to really be capable of being a sole resistor, and therefore must acknowledge that this is probably a more realistic of a teen protagonist's reaction. But darn if I didn't want Bo (short for Bono, hee!) to stick it to the man. As for the virtual sidekick Bork? Pretty darn amusing.

Rash is just my second Hautman. I thoroughly enjoyed Godless and have heard great things about Mr. Was. Sweetblood seems to involve vampires, and I'm always up for teenage vampires. Perhaps I'll get around to those someday... Meanwhile, Hautman impresses me.


Today I slipped on the ice and fell. My knee is now rather purple and it's swollen into a bit of a knot. My hand is all scraped up and all I want to do is whimper, whine, take an aspirin and curl up with Becoming Chloe. Of course, there's no point in wallowing, so I'll post instead. Besides, compared to what the Scottish sisters Jeannie and Sarah experience in Helen Frost's The Braid, I'm a big klutzy wuss. There are no grounds for denial of this statement (follow the 'klutz' label for more classic examples).

1850. The Highland Clearances are forcing thousands of people to emigrate from Scotland. Jeannie leaves with her parents and two younger siblings. Sarah hides herself away until her family has left, then travels with her grandmother to live on an island - a place where it isn't more profitable for the landlords to raise sheep than collect rent. Connecting the sisters is the titular braid - a twist of each girls' hair - held safe for remembrance. Each girl faces hardships. Not everyone makes the crossing to Canada, where there isn't a home or work waiting for the family anyway. Their struggles are different; Jeanie's are more physical and environmental, where Sarah's are more emotional and social. Each find reserves of strength and become women in the poems before our eyes.

Frost's form is elaborate, inspired by the Celtic knot and explained fully in the afterward. I have to acknowledge the ingenuity of the endeavor, but must admit that had it not been covered in the afterward, I would have missed the importance of what she had done. This can also be attributed to my laziness as a reader who has become to expect less from prose poetry. I'm happy that she has added a degree of difficulty to the genre in this moving and readable story.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Ze Finalists!

79 books into 5 (was 80, but we commuted one over to Sci-Fi/Fantasy). There were so, so, so many wonderful titles, it wasn't easy. Either way, as always, if I finish it, it's reviewed. It just might take some time. I'm about 25 books behind... (Which is why you don't see a link for Brief Chapter). Our 5 choices for the YA category are all fantastic, but very different - I don't at all envy the Judges!

For the other 40 finalists in the 7 other categories, click on over to the Cybils and feast your eyes!

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
WWII Germany. Death speaks. A little girl who wants more than anything to read.

A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt
Adoption. Religion. Questioning that which you never questioned.

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
WWI. Orphaned. Decides to head out to Montana and stake a claim. Alone.

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
One night in the NYC Punk Rock scene. Two kids fallin' in love. And swearing.

The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin
Abusive mother. Three kids finally taking steps to escape.

Head on over to my cohorts blogs - they are very clever people: Little Willow, Mindy, Sara TadMack,
and our administrator, Jen.

Keep your eyes on this spot! We're cooking up something fun for you!