Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday's Radar: A Plague of Sorcerers

At 16 Jermyn is a bit of an embarrassment. He hasn't attracted a familiar yet, and he's years behind since he can't officially become an apprentice magician until he does. His aunt has confidence in him, but Jermyn is beginning to fear that he'll never be a wizard.

But when his aunt is about to fall in a great duel, Jermyn finds his power and calls his familiar in a reflexive bid to save her. It's an impressive show of power, but it earns him no friends. It, in fact, gives him a very powerful enemy. And if that wasn't enough for the new apprentice to deal with, rather than calling the customary bird or cat, Jermyn has bonded to a very unusual creature indeed. A skunk.

It's just in time, as soon the wizarding city becomes victim to a magical plague that's quickly infecting the magicians. As each wizard falls, that's one less to find a cure and discover the root of the epidemic. Jermyn, naturally, is ideally placed to help out - between studying.

I ran across Mary Frances Zambreno's A Plague of Sorcerers years ago while shelving. It was consistently the very last book in the children's fiction section, and after some time it was just mocking me, daring me to read it. I'm always up for a good fantasy, and diseases fascinate me, so I figured this was a sure bet. It's a fun read, although for the younger set, and is, of course, out of print. Worldcat claims that 536 libraries still own copies.

I'm really not one for mysteries, as I said at the beginning of this week, but this one has the benefit of a thoroughly believable fantasy universe with very interesting plot twist. I didn't realize that it was actually a mystery until I was completely invested. Plus, I always root for the underdog. And Jermyn is definitely that. But you've gotta watch those guys, they tend to win when you aren't looking.

If you are lucky enough to have a copy, give it with confidence to fans of Christopher Golden's Outcast series, Suzanne Collins' Underland Chronicles, definitely Tamora Pierce's Circle books, or anyone who will appreciate a good magical mystery featuring an underrated boy. ;)

Today's Radar Recs across the kidlitosphere:
  1. A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy: The Vietnam books by Ellen Emerson White
  2. Big A, little a: The Deep by Helen Dunmore
  3. Bildungsroman: The May Bird Trilogy by Jodi Lynn Anderson
  4. Chasing Ray: Kipling's Choice by Geert Spillebeen
  5. Finding Wonderland: The Avion My Uncle Flew by Cyrus Fisher
  6. Fuse Number 8: Stoneflight by George McHarque:
  7. lectitans: Gentle's Holler and Louisiana Song both by Kerry Madden
  8. Not Your Mother's Bookclub: A look at some recently revised classics
  9. 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast: Such a Pretty Face: Short Stories About Beauty edited by Ann Angel
  10. The YA YA YAs: Resurrection Men by TK Welsh

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wednesday's Radar

Once upon a time I decided I was too old for the teen section at the library. I thought that the librarians were judging what I was reading, and that they thought I was silly to still be reading "kid's stuff". So I slogged through the adult stacks reading what my mom read, perusing what I should read, or clinging to mediocre fantasy series; all so I didn't have to take a chance on something that all too often proved boring or painful. Now that I'm a librarian - a librarian who focuses on teen lit - I know that my 17-18-year-old self was...a complete paranoid lunatic. Even so, in a desperate attempt to read socially approved literature, I stumbled upon a Reader's Advisory bookmark on WWII Fiction, a genre I had always loved. At least, in the form of The Devil's Arithmetic, Number the Stars, and myriad others. And that is how I found Frances Donnelly's Shake Down the Stars.

It's out of print now. It probably was then. But my library had a copy, and after checking it out two or three times over the next few years, I decided I needed my own copy. My copy even made the initial cut and traveled 2,000 miles with me when I moved. Not many books did. WorldCat tells me that 888 libraries have copies. Not bad. Does yours?

Now that I've waxed poetic for an eon, perhaps I should tell you about the story? Although I warn you it's sweeping, epic, tragic and romantic.

Three girls. Their lives intertwined, but not willingly so. Virginia is an heiress without anything to inherit. Beattie, daughter of the gardener and accepted on scholarship to Virginia's mother's alma mater. And Lucy, the daughter of a writer and living in the house Virginia's family can't afford not to let out. Virginia is spiteful and angry; Beattie, innocent and earnest and Lucy, caught in the middle. But soon class and society will matter little as England enters the war and no one's future works out as they had planned.

Soon we are plunged with our heroines into a foreign and dangerous world with the London Blitz, a farm, a boarding school, dashing RAF pilots, the burgeoning film industry and each girl doing what she can to aid the war effort. Even if it means getting VERY creative with your wardrobe as everything becomes rationed, or trying to recover from the heartbreak of your life.

Ok. It's probably a little melodramatic. But in a good way, I promise. What separates it from your average melodrama is that while each girl definitely starts out as a stereotype, by the end of the novel all three have grown and truly transformed into strong women. You watch them love and lose, triumph and suffer through 6 long years of war. They make different, sometimes surprising choices that don't always work out well. Not everyone ends up better for the years.

Anyway, the book has stayed with me through the years, and that's all. I just wanted to share.

WEDNESDAY's Radar Books:

A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy: The President's Daughter series by Ellen Emerson White
Big A, little a: The Tide Knot by Helen Dunmore
Jen Robinson's Book Page: The Zilpha Keatley Snyder Green Sky trilogy
Bildungsroman: Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn: A Discussion Part 1
Chasing Ray: Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn: A Discussion Part 2
lectitans: Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn: A Discussion Part 3
Finding Wonderland: The House on Hound Hill by Maggie Prince
Miss Erin: The Reb & Redcoats and Enemy Brothers, both by Constance Savery
Bookshelves of Doom: Harry Sue by Sue Stauffacher
Chicken Spaghetti: Pooja Makhijani guest blogs with Romina's Rangoli by Malathi Michelle Iyengar
Writing & Ruminating: Dear Mr. Rosenwald by Carole Weatherford
Shaken & Stirred: Elizabeth Knox and the Dreamhunter Duet


A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy: Friends for Life and Life Without Friends both by Ellen Emerson White
Shaken & Stirred: The Changeover and Catalogue of the Universe, both by Margaret Mahy
Big A, little a: A interview with Helen Dunmore
Jen Robinson's Book Page: The Treasures of Weatherby by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Bildungsroman: Swollen by Melissa Lion
Finding Wonderland: Lucy the Giant by Sherry L. Smith
Miss Erin: A discussion of Erec Rex: The Dragon's Eye and an interview with author Kaza Kingsley
7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast: Billie Standish Was Here by Nancy Crocker
Fuse Number 8: The Noisy Counting Book by Susan Schade
Chasing Ray: Juniper, Genetian and Rosemary by Pamela Dean
lectitans: Who Pppplugged Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf
Writing and Ruminating: Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tuesday's Radar

  1. A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy: Ellen Emerson White
  2. Big A, little a: Ingo by Helen Dunmore
  3. Jen Robinson's Book Page: The Changeling and The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  4. Bildungsroman: Girl in a Box by Ouida Sebestyen
  5. Finding Wonderland: A Door Near Here by Heather Quarles
  6. Miss Erin: Girl With a Pen and Princess of Orange, both by Elisabeth Kyle
  7. Fuse Number 8: The Winged Girl of Knossos by Erick Berry
  8. Bookshelves of Doom: The Olivia Kidney series by Ellen Potter
  9. Chicken Spaghetti: Natural History of Uncas Metcalf by Betsy Osborne
  10. Writing and Ruminating: Jazz ABC by Wynton Marsalis
  11. The YA YA YAs: Massive by Julia Bell

Monday, August 27, 2007

Radar Books: Body of Evidence

I found out this year, when trying to replace a lost copy, that the first novel, Body Bags, in my FAVORITE paperback series went out of print. I don't know when exactly that happened, but it wasn't so long ago that the whole series had reawakened with new titles. At the moment, World Cat says that supposedly 186 libraries have the title on the shelf, and Amazon has 27 copies for sale.

This has bothered me for a lot of reasons, among them is just that I think that the series is well written and overcomes both the fact that it's solidly a genre piece and that it was only ever published in paperback, especially after seeing the reasonable success of Alane Ferguson's Forensic Mystery series. But, the first in the series? Why on earth should THAT be the one to go out of print? How can I give the dern series out without the first title?

So when Colleen came up with the Recommendations from Under the Radar idea, well, Little Willow and I had the same idea: Body of Evidence. And that led the two of us into a conversation, of sorts, about this series we think should get LOTS more attention (Personally, I think it would fill a hole left in my heart by the demise of Veronica Mars. Let's see it on TV!!). LW's got more to say about the series over on her site, but here's our little chat, with a special bit tagged on in the end:

Favorite main character?
LW: Jenna!
Jackie: No choice.

Favorite supporting character?
LW: I'd love to list all of them. Slick is smart, Al
is sweet, Melody, Hunter, Danny . . .
Jackie: Oh, Danny. Definitely Danny. But the great
thing about this series is that ALL of the supporting
characters are fully presented. You kinda like them
LW: Agreed.

Favorite book in the series?
LW: Body Bags, then Thief of Hearts and Skin Deep.
Jackie: Soul Survivor, I think. It's a hard question.
Maybe Last Breath.

Why did you pick them up?
LW: I started working for Christopher Golden in 1998.
I redesigned his website, then started maintaining the
site and doing online publicity for his books. Thus, I
was there when Body Bags was in the works, and I was
beyond thrilled that he was finally writing books for
the teen fiction section. Ask Chris. When he told me
he was writing a new series that was about murder,
forensics, and college, I pretty much screamed.

Jackie: I was in Library School and my YA Lit
professor, Holly Ward-Lamb (who is magnificently
awesome, BTW), required us to read one book from a
paperback series. She was very concerned that her
students didn't get elitist about literature, and that
we read at least SOME of what the kids actually read,
so I tried Body Bags upon her recommendation. I was

Why did you keep reading the series?
LW: Because Golden Books are the Best Ever. Truly. I
was a reader before I was a friend of his. That is how
I came to know him. I admire his writing. The entire
Body of Evidence series is well-plotted and
well-written. Each book stands alone, yet is part of
the bigger picture -- just as a series should be!

Jackie: Because they are Freakin' Awesome. And I say
that as a person who has never met or received
monetary compensation from the author. ;)

LW: Hey, now. I'm not partial or anything. :)

Had you read Christopher Golden books before?
LW: Yes, since 1997. See above.
Jackie: Nope. Body Bags was the first.
LW: I hadn't read Rick Hautala's books before he
joined the series. I then read his novel The White
Room, which was written under the pseudonym A. J.

Do you like murder mysteries?
LW: Yes! I love mysteries when they are done well. I
also love procedural television series like Law &
Order: Special Victims Unit. To quote one of my
current stage roles, "What I say is, let justice be

Jackie: Nope. They are usually WAY too predictable and
repetitive. What? The bad guy lost? Shocking. (Not
that I'd have it any other way.)

Do the books feel accurate?
LW: Definitely. The research is evident.
Jackie: Beats me. I'm not a Science Nerdfighter. But from a literature
standpoint, everything hung together.

The books get pretty gruesome, what with the
autopsies and the murders. Do you have a strong

LW: Yes.
Jackie: Ironclad.

Did you read the series in order?
LW: Yes.
Jackie: Blasphemy. As if there's another way.
(LW cheers. She obviously feels the same.)

Does the series feel like it's done?
LW: No! It should never be over!
(LW is in denial.)
Jackie: Not really. I think that Jenna's a character
that could always be picked up again, even 10 years
later. She's strong enough that her story will always
be interesting.

If more books were written and released, would you
read them?
LW: Yes, immediately.
Jackie: What she said.

Are there more stories to tell?
LW: I think so. I think Jenna has a promising future
in front of her.
Jackie: Uh, what I said.

And then, unbeknown to Jackie, Little Willow took it upon herself to ask some questions of the creator himself, Christopher Golden.

Favorite main character?

CG: Jenna, of course!

Favorite supporting character?

CG: Slick. I love them all, but Slick is so much fun to

Favorite book in the series?

CG: Probably Thief of Hearts, though I'm also quite
partial to Last Breath and Skin Deep.

What inspired the series?

CG: My editor at the time called me up and said, "Three
words: Scully in college." I took it from there.

What prompted you to (FINALLY!) write a teen
fiction series?

CG: I'd actually written two YA horror novels in the mid
nineties. They were fairly mediocre, but I'd always
wanted to do it again. I like to think I have a
fairly decent handle still on what it felt like to be
in high school.

When and how did Rick Hautala come on board?

CG: I'd agreed to write a second series for Pocket and thought it would be easier--and energizing--to collaborate with someone on the series. I'd known Rick for many years, since before I wrote my first novel, and I think we gelled really well. Though his name isn't on the cover, the first book he co-wrote with me was SKIN DEEP. They'd already done the cover before he came on board, believe it or not.

How much research did you do to ensure the stories'

CG: I talked to everyone. Doctors, medical examiners, FBI, Coast Guard, name it, I talked to them. Where the weird science was concerned, I let myself improvise. But most of the real medical stuff comes directly from first hand conversations.

Would you ever write more BoE books?

CG: In a heartbeat. I'm just waiting for the

Are there more stories to tell?

CG: Thousands.

For more Radar Recs, via Chasing Ray:

Colleen's happily posting about a wicked-good looking title called Dorothy of Oz (coincidentally? I'm listening to Wicked right now).
Finding Wonderland loves The Curved Saber: The Adventure of Khlit the Cossack by Harold Lamb
Not Your Mother's Bookclub: An interview with Robert Sharenow, author of My Mother the Cheerleader
lectitans: The Angel of the Opera: Sherlock Meets the Phantom of the Opera by Sam Siciliano
Bookshelves of Doom: The God Beneathe the Sea, Black Jack & Jack Holburn all by Leon Garfield
Writing and Ruminating: An interview with Tony Mitton and a review of his book, Plum
The YA YA YAs: I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade by Diane Lee Wilson
Chicken Spaghetti: The Illustrator's Notebook by Mohieddin Ellabad
SemiColon: Sherry is talking picture books that should not be missed, including the lovely Nothing To Do by Russell Hoban.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


All right you haters. I don't agree. AT ALL. Now, I'll give you that New Moon left something to be desired, and I was prepared, going into Eclipse, to again be disappointed. But I wasn't. I really, really wasn't. Yes, they spend an incredible amount of time staring at each other and convincing one another that it is wuv tru wuv, but whatever. It doesn't change my mind that their worries needed to be addressed. Sometimes, reassurance is needed. Wouldn't you hate it just as much if Bella were unquestioning? What kind of girl would enter into possible UNDEAD ETERNITY without at least SOME KIND of serious analyzing?

We now know that werewolves can 'imprint' upon another, instantly finding their true partner. It seems that Edward & Bella are as close as possible short of imprinting. Is it an animalistic thing, exclusive only to the werewolves? Or those with souls? *raises eyebrow*

The big complaint seems to be that Bella whines. Okay, maybe. The way I look at it, you've got a girl who seems to be ordinary in every way who has been plunged into an environment where she is no longer in control. Everyone around her is far more powerful in every way; endowed with gifts (or curses) no mortal can contend with. Why shouldn't she be irritated at how ineffectual she is? She, in her normal life, is the caretaker. She's confident and capable. Around the vamps and wolves, all of her faults and insecurities come to the forefront; they are, in fact, highlighted by the simple fact that those around her are supernaturally good at what she isn't. It must be beyond frustrating.

People have gone so far as to lament Bella's place as a role model for teen girls, since she constantly needs protecting. Bella is enormously brave, and if this book doesn't prove that, then nothing will. Perhaps some of her courage is motivated by selfish reasons, but it doesn't change the fact that, however improbable the likelihood of her winning, Bella will fight for her love. And that is to be respected in its own way.

Furthermore, they wonder why Bella is such the hot ticket. Well, why doesn't Edward's or the Volturi's power work on her? The two are the same. I think whatever makes this ordinary girl unique among humans, makes her potential irresistible to the extraordinary. We don't know what exactly makes Bella special, but at some point something will unlock her power. I just wonder if it will actually be by her becoming a vampire.

Let's be open about this: Both Jacob and Edward are manipulative and fighting dirty. Neither is more honorable in that fight. Their approaches are just very, very different. People are irritated with the idea that Bella could love both Edward and Jacob. Here's the thing. Bella and Jacob are what would have been. Had vampires not existed and the world not gone mad, THEY would have had a perfect life full of love. And it is that ordinary love that Bella feels. Unfortunately, for Jacob and even perhaps for Bella, it is an extraordinary love she feels for Edward. And ordinary love cannot truly compete.

It all comes down to that. The Ordinary versus the Extraordinary. And which is which. It isn't fair, not to Bella, Jacob or Edward. Or even Charlie. But then? What is?

Have I nothing to complain about? No. Again, but not nearly to the extent in New Moon, Stephenie Meyer's major plot 'twist' is painfully obvious, and a secret to only the characters. But hey, at least she let Bella figure it out and blindside the beasties with it.

Even so, Bated Breath, I have, for Breaking Dawn. But you know what? I'm going to go out on a limb here: I don't think that Bella will end up a vampire. (I'm beginning to feel as confident about this as I was about Snape. That doesn't mean it's rational. But at least I was right about Snape.)

Have at it.

Recommendations from Under the Radar

Tomorrow, it starts again. For an entire week, you won't be able to throw a stone without hitting an impeccably organized event in the kidlitosphere. This time? Books we don't think should be forgotten. New titles, old title, out of print titles... anything we don't think has gotten the attention we think (ok, the individual blogger thinks) it deserves. They may not even BE kids titles.

I'll be participating on Monday (in conjunction with the ever talented Little Willow, creator of the image to the left), Wednesday and Friday.

All of my choices happen to be out of print. So, what's made such an impression on me that I'm not willing to let them die softly? Well, you'll find out starting Monday!

Full schedule found, as always, at Chasing Ray.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Not Pretty, Not Friendly

From the first page of Holly Black's Tithe, the reader is assured that this is not a land full of friendly faeries with shimmering wings cavorting in a meadow. It's not for little girls dressing in pink and wearing tiaras. These faeries, they are dark. They've got a sacrifice to make, they are angry and they are devious.

But so is the girl who will lead us into their world. Kaye's been hopping about the country with her mother's rock band and has finally settled down (for the moment) with her grandmother in a rather bleak sounding New Jersey. She's spent some time there in the past, so she has a few friends to turn to, but she's not quite ready for what happens when the faeries she thought she grew out of return. Turns out she's the only one who can help them, but helping them will risk her life.

Dark, dark, dark. Smoking, stealing, swearing, drinking. None of that is anything when compared to the depravity of the faerie court. Now that's some scary stuff.

Also? Best outing ever.

"Yeah, the whole family knows. It's no big deal. One night at dinner I said, 'Mom, you know the forbidden love that Spock has for Kirk? Well, me too.' It was easier for her to understand that way" p 63 of the hardcover. hahaha

I love Corny (unfortunate name, though), I was pretty sad that the poor guy disappears for most of the story. I get it, though. Why. I can see how that character would make that decision. So that's really what matters.

Be sure to join the Reader Girlz chat with Holly Black tonight, at 7 pm PST, 10 pm EST. You'll have to have a MySpace account, but otherwise it's quite easy. You might even see me there. Although, I haven't read the other two books in the series, and I'll admit to some fear of spoilers...

If chatting with the author isn't enough, and you've blown through the sequels Valiant and Ironside and all the other Reader Girlz picks, do try Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr. Methinks you'll like it. Ach, then, if you are still hungry and in a vintage mood (hehe) perhaps pull up the unsanitized Grimm Fairy Tales... that'll help you sleep. (hey - It's better than zombie cupcakes!)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Readergirlz: Gearing Up for 31 Flavorite Authors

via Little Willow:

In October, 31 Flavorite Authors will be rocking the internet and reaching out to readers. YALSA and readergirlz have teamed up to present an amazing month-long experience. Every day in October, a different author will be appearing at the readergirlz forum to chat with fans.

Meg Cabot, Stephenie Meyer, John Green, Ann Brashares, and many, many more are booked for this awesome interactive event. Want to see the entire schedule? Download the 31 Flavorites poster! It is available in three sizes and formats: Large PDF, small PDF, and JPG.

Also download and print the 31 Flavorites bookmark!

Here is the entire schedule in plain text:

Week One
1. Meg Cabot
2. Tiffany Trent
3. Brent Hartinger
4. Lorie Ann Grover
5. K.L. Going
6. Nikki Grimes

Week Two
7. Ellen Hopkins
8. Justina Chen Headley
9. Chris Crutcher
10. Ann Brashares
11. Sarah Mlynowski
12. Cecil Castellucci
13. Kirby Larson

Week Three
14. Tanya Lee Stone
15. John Green
16. Sara Zarr
17. Deb Caletti
18. Rachel Cohn
19. Kirsten Miller
20. Mitali Perkins

Week Four
21. Sonya Sones
22. Lisa Yee
23. Carolyn Mackler
24. E. Lockhart
25. Janet Lee Carey
26. Gaby Triana
27. Lauren Myracle

Week Five
28. Holly Black
29. Cynthia Leitich Smith
30. Dia Calhoun
31. Stephenie Meyer

Spread the news, visit, friend the readergirlz MySpace page, join the readergirlz group forum, and get ready to hang out with your favorite authors and readergirlz!

Have you read the latest issue of readergirlz? The August edition spotlights IRONSIDE by Holly Black. Read the exclusive interview, take part in the book discussions, pick up other highly recommended books, and more! Read the issue.

Readergirlz is a literacy project founded by four female authors - Justina Chen Headley, Lorie Ann Grover, Dia Calhoun and Janet Lee Carey - in an effort to encourage teenagers to read and discuss quality books featuring gusty girls, and to get active in their communities. For more information, please visit

I hope that all of you will take part in 31 Flavorites this October!

Little Willow
on behalf of postergirlz, the official advisory council for readergirlz

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

One Shot World Tour: Best Read with Vegemite Part 2

I have a love for sidekicks. What would Harry be without Ron & Hermione? Buffy without the Scoobies? Colin without Hassan? Russel without Min & Gunnar? Sidekicks are the salt and pepper of life; totally essential. The hero is just bland without them.

True to this sentiment, the Ranger's Apprentice series by Australian author John Flanagan just wouldn't be the same without Horace. He's a bit of the strong silent type, and maybe not quite as clever as our hero, the eponymous Ranger's Apprentice, Will, but some of the greatest triumphs in the series have been Horace's. Furthermore, Horace is the most dynamic character - he's grown the most, and is, frankly, the source of most of the laughter. And after this latest installment, I'm almost beginning to think that the series should be named after Horace, rather than Will.

Last we saw dear Will, in The Burning Bridge, he and Evelyn had been kidnapped by the Skandians - the very men they had been fighting. They have been made slaves to the violent, Viking-like society in The Icebound Land. Meanwhile, Halt (the Ranger) has been refused permission to go after his kidnapped apprentice and is about to take drastic measures. Measures that will certainly alter the course of his life - if they don't kill him.

Horace enters the story and suddenly the tale has got some legs. Horace and Halt play off each other so well. There's humor and their storyline has the most action. Will and Evelyn are definitely in serious danger, but I (a lowly reader), think it might have worked better had Evelyn & Will's roles been reversed. However, Erak, their captor, is a lovely, complex character. I'm quite glad to see that book 7 is entitled Erak's Ransom. It's ominous, but I'd very much like to see this character come back (and not go the way of some other lovely characters from book 1; into oblivion).

What bothered me:
Will. Seriously. That storyline better pay off down the road, 'cause otherwise...
This book felt very much like a bridge. Something to get us from book 2 to book 4 (The Oakleaf Bearers). We were just marking time. Will went through some hellish stuff, and I hope that there is some lingering affect to effect some character development. I guess I could always order the next FOUR books that are out in Australia and find out. By the way, What on Earth is the hold up? Is the Penguin/Philomel afraid of flooding the market? I know I'm not the only crazy fanatic out there for this series. Dude. We are SO going to read them. Just hurry up already!

Still a great series, and Ruins of Gorlan is still one of the books I give out most at the library.

Books by Australian Authors that I've talked about in the past:

Across the Wall by Garth Nix
Black Juice by Margo Lanagan
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Does My Head Look Big in This by Randa Abdel-Fattah
I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty
The Burning Bridge by John Flanagan
Undine by Penni Russon
The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty

(via Chasing Ray)
Colleen @ Chasing Ray: Nick Earls
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
interviews Margo Lanagan
Kelly Fineman: Melina Marchetta
Big A, little A : Anna Feinberg
Jenn @ Not Your Mother's Bookclub interviews Simmone Howell
Chicken Spaghetti : Kathy Hoopmann's All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome
Gwenda at Shaken and Stirred: How Sassy Changed My Life, The Red Shoes by Ursula Dubosarsky and more with Margo Lanagan
Jen Robinson : John Marsden's "Tomorrow" series
Finding Wonderland : Undine by Penni Russon and Jaclyn Moriarty's titles
Little Willow: Finding Grace by Alyssa Brugman
Liz @ A Chair, a Fireplace & a Tea Cozy: Catherine Jinks and her four "Pagan" books
The Ya Ya Yas: interview Queenie Chan
Fuse Number 8: John Marsden & new HMOCL, Andy Griffiths
Jenny Davidson: Peter Temple.
Mother Reader: Am I Right or Am I Right? by Barry Jonsberg.

There. That'll keep you busy!

One Shot World Tour: Best Read with Vegemite Part 1

Remember how in John Green's An Abundance of Katherines, Colin's sidekick Hassan generally introduced himself with the phrase "not a terrorist"? You know why he does it, and you sympathize. But really, that wasn't Hassan's story, so while it was great to have some ethnicity in popular teen lit, it makes ya kinda want to see something from the perspective of a contemporary Muslim teen wandering around a world that maybe isn't the friendliest at the moment.

Enter Australian author Randa Abdel-Fattah and Does My Head Look Big In This? It's her first book, and it's certainly getting notice with it's fresh subject and catchy title. Not to mention the beautiful cover.

Amal has decided it's time. She's ready to wear the headscarf, the hijab, full-time. This means in public, and in an Australia only a couple years beyond 9/11, that isn't going to go unnoticed when she returns to school from the holiday break. Her Melbourne prep school isn't going to know what to do with her. But she's ready. She thinks.

I think that Abdel-Fattah nails it. The book is incredibly approachable and Amal is grounded and smart; she knows what she's in for and she's prepared to stand up for herself. Abdel-Fattah is occasionally in danger of becoming didactic, and the writing itself is not fantastic, but the fun, genuine, and honest tone of the novel in general overcomes those tendencies. Amal's voice will certainly appeal to readers, and I won't have a problem recommending the title.

Take a look at the Inside-a-Dog interview with Abdel-Fattah.

Other blog reviews of DMHLBIT:


'Tis a full day of blogging today, take a look at the ONE SHOT WORLD TOUR schedule.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Just freakin' say what you mean!

I always thought it would be romantic to live in the times of corsets (This was before I knew that tight corsets could rearrange a girl's innards.). When there were gentlemen and manners, simplicity and.... I think that I had an unrealistic fantasy of history.

But really? I think just maybe life back then may well have been boring. I think that's why I never did read Austen when I was young. I tried once. I'm not sure which book it was, but my ever-wise mother pushed it on me, and I gave it a shot. What I found within (for the handful of pages I allotted) was a world full of gossiping and meaningless chatter about clothing and balls. No one SAID what they were thinking. It drove me nuts, and before I could cotton on to the satire or humor, I gave up. Never, so far, to return.

It's this memory that A Room with a View evokes; a society so concerned with propriety and appearances, that honesty isn't at all valued. I can't help it (well, I probably could, but my soul would rot), if I have an opinion, I will state it. I will be honest. I'm not going to assault people with opinions they don't want to hear, but I'm not going to pretend to feel anyway other than how I feel. I can hold my tongue, but the result is often an awkward silence heavy with things unsaid. I haven't quite figured out how to get out of those yet. Which is why I think that perhaps I wouldn't fair will in those olden days. It's also a MAJOR point of conflict in Forster's classic. And thus, August's Book Group selection.

Sonia, a fellow librarian and occasional Book Group participant, asked me upon arrival whether I liked the book. I told her that I would decide after we discussed it. It turns out that I do like this book. I certainly respect it. I might just read it again someday. Or maybe I'll just watch the movie. I hear tell it's good. Sonia and I decided that had we discovered this novel in college, it would have been a perfect subject for one of those interminable papers. Assuming, of course, the freedom to actually pick your own subject matter. A rare thing, indeed.

Lucy is a perfectly proper girl. She goes where she should, does what she should, thinks what she should think. It doesn't really occur to her that there is any other option. Until Florence. On holiday with her very proper spinster cousin, a small spark of individuality ignites. It's most appalling to her at first, but eventually, the freedom she felt only in her music can't be snuffed out despite what she knows to be proper. Right isn't always socially acceptable.

Reasons why I like this book:

If Forster were alive today, and happened to be, you know, sitting next to me (why not?), I'd smack him about the head for pages 184-5. I just about threw the book across the room, I had such a physical reaction. I didn't realize how much I had invested in the story until I thought I'd be robbed of my happy ending.

"'It is so understand people who speak the truth. ... When he first came here he not unnaturally put people's backs up. He has no tact and no manners - I don't mean by that that he has bad manners - and he will not keep his opinions to himself'" p 8.
"...the ghoulish fashion in which respectable people with nibble after blood" p 48.
"'...for we fight for more than Love or Pleasure: there is Truth. Truth counts, Truth does count'" p 191.

It's about class and manners and love and truth. Sometimes the words get in the way, but deep down, that's what it's all about. Truth does count.


My obsession with Honesty shall continue with some rather... unflattering reviews this weekend (how many is several, again?). After we get those out of our system, I'll review some of the BEST I've read this year (hint: look over in that right column, and you might just know which books...)

Interesting coincidental observation: this is the 3rd book group in a row whose setting is primarily England, and the 4th in a row for the blog. This shall change on Wednesday, when you shall see the first round of the ONE SHOT WORLD TOUR. Wednesday's edition is BEST READ WITH VEGEMITE. Guess which country we visit first! You can find the full multi-blog schedule in several places, but try Colleen first.

Good grief, this post is long.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Isn't 'Lad Lit' a funny term?

I was really looking forward to reading A Long Way Down. I'd been meaning to get in on the whole Nick Hornby love for years now. Especially since my esteemed friend, Kip, is such a big fan. As I do try to avoid adult novels, my only recourse was, of course, to assign it to the book group. I'm quite the overlord like that.

Of course, I forgot the darn book when I went on vacation. As group was literally 3 days after I returned, that wasn't very smart. Fortunately, it gave me a really good reason to visit my old hometown library. Where I also used to work. I borrowed theirs. They were very nice about it.

But, to the book. This is a review site, after all. I suppose. Of sorts.

Four strangers find themselves at the same time at the same place with the same goal: Midnight, New Year's Eve; the roof of Topper's House; suicide. Surprised not to be alone in what they thought to be their last moments, the four disparate characters turn to each other and find the one thing they thought they had given up - hope.

Maureen, JJ, Martin and Jess. Mother, rocker, celebrity, obnoxious teen. I enjoyed it. It took me forever to read, but I appreciated the ever-present dark humor. It was far lighter than one should rightfully expect a novel about suicide to be, but it didn't hold back when the darkness was warranted. It's a bit of the tragicomic. Maureen's story was especially sad. Jess was marvelously unreliable as a narrator. Martin was realistically unlikable, but interesting. JJ was probably the weakest character-wise, but Hornby avoided making him into an American cliche, so that's something.

Did I mention that the entire book rotates through each of the four's voices? Group, by large, had a hard time following the shift in POV. I didn't really have a problem, but I can admit to a few chapters where I had to flip back to figure out who was talking. This was usually between Martin and JJ.

There has been a shift in my group that became wildly obvious at this session. Suddenly, I found myself primarily surrounded by 20-somethings. When I started this group, almost a year ago now, I was by far, the youngest person there. Gradually, the average age has sunk (by like, 30 years). It's neither here nor there, as all are very much welcome to come, it is just interesting to note.

Coincidentally, Hornby's first teen novel, Slam, comes out in October. I do think I shall check that out. I think the pairing just might be ideal.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Just be glad you weren't a Boleyn.

I'm going to stop apologizing for being so behind in posting and just catch up. This is my goal for the next couple weeks. So, since I've book group on Wednesday, and since I've not posted the last... two book groups (sigh), I thought I'd start with June's The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory.

Yeah, so to say that this went over famously would be... quite accurate. I gave them an extra week because of its length (672 pages, what was I thinking?) but the doorstop qualities didn't seem to deter them at all. By and large they were fascinated. And really, that's what I was going for.

Sibling Rivalry. Cutthroat in normal times, but when you are part of the scheming court of Henry VIII, and your family is willing to sacrifice one person in the hopes of incurring the King's favor... well, do try not to want anything for yourself.

Anne Boleyn wasn't the first girl to catch King Henry VIII's extra-marital eye. Her sister was there far before her. But how is it that Mary Boleyn hasn't gone down in history like her sister, and how does one girl feel when her sister takes her place in every possible way?

I was, um, rather surprised that at least two group members didn't know that Anne gets the ax in the end, but perhaps that's just me. I likes me some history. And Henry VIII's court is scandalous and disturbing even now. About 100 pages from the end, I got curious about the time frame. I thought I could quick look up her date of death, no problem, it's not like I don't already know the ending. Of course, then I find out the fate of an entirely different character, one for whom I had great affection. Talk about spoilers. Totally bummed me out.

Can I say that I totally want a William Stafford? (not the poet)

Oh, yes, and did you know that the movie comes out in December? Some girls named Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson are in it. Oh, and Eric Bana.

Now I must go actually READ the book I'll lead on Wednesday. Not that I'm fast and loose or anything...