Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Well, I suppose it's just expected.

My mom was complaining that I hadn't posted in 10 days. Since it's actually been 14 days...well. I suppose I should buckle down. It's been a busy fortnight for me. Lots of happenings. No, I'm not going to tell you. Right now, at least (ok fine, I'll give you a little).

Anyway, I've got a shelf of to-blog books that can't take another ounce of weight, but I suppose I should start with a title (and really, blogging this is boring to me, as EVERYONE at this point has done it...but, I'll cling to the novelty that I read it before most of them. Silver linings, people, do you want me to blog or not?) that I last told you I'd blog next (I might have said "tomorrow," but you won't hold it against me, right?). (Have you lost the thread of what I'm actually talking about after all of these parenthetical statements? Me too.) Remember what that was?

This year's Printz Award The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean. I read the first page and was not only instantly riveted, but I had to share. The subject of my sharing isn't really one I've been able to engage in the material I read (He said he didn't think Holling Hoodhood was believable as an anti-hero and was thus unable to finish The Wednesday Wars. The only thing I've gotten him to finish was Mouse Guard, and if you are familiar with that, you know it's a graphic novel about warring mice.), but even he sat through the entire first chapter as read aloud by me, remarking that it was very good writing. Re-reading it now? Holy crap with the foreshadowing. Everything you need to know about this book is told to you in the first chapter. You just don't realize it at the time. Just so you know what I'm talking about, the handful of you to whom this is actually new material:

"I have been in love with Titus Oates for quite a while now - which is ridiculous, since he's been dead for ninety years. But look at it this way. In ninety years I'll be dead, too, and then the age difference won't matter.

Besides, he isn't dead inside my head. We talk about all kinds of things. From whether hair color can change spontaneously to whether friends are better than family, and the best age for marrying: 14 or 125. Generally speaking, he knows more than I do, but on that particular subject we are even. He wasn't married - at least, he wasn't when he died, which must have substantially cut down on his chances" p 1.

You want to read it now, don't you? Give in. It's totally worth it. I don't know if there's any point in trying to review this one, so I think I'll just share stuff that struck me enough for me to make a note while I was reading. SO:

"For some crime committed by my ancestors in the dark and forgotten days, I came into the world already tarred and feathered. With shyness. It hurts terribly - every bit as much as hot tar choking every pore - and I wish I could be rid of it. But it hurts a lot less than having someone try and peel the shyness off. That's like being flayed alive" p 56.

As someone who has been forced to karaoke when she doesn't want people to look at her, I can appreciate that sentiment.

On being dropped off in Antarctica and watching the plane leave them behind:

"It left behind a legacy of silence - immense and solid. The clamor of silence was so loud that it herded the other visitors into a nervous huddle, cowed. Didn't worry me! Me, I know silence. I knew all along it would be here, waiting. Me, I do silence" p 76.

Um. Wow. Symone is FASCINATING.

"Titus never says anything that I don't, in my heart of hearts, already know" p116.

There are a few things that quote tells us. The most important being that while dear Sym believes so hard in what she tells us that we want to believe too, ultimately, she knows what we suspect. She's not dumb. She's just repressing. The reality of certain events in her life lend her to cope in unusual ways, but she knows the truth. She always has.

"We cupped our hands around our ears and turned to all four points of the compass, but the sound was filling the sky like a cloth soaking up blood. The whole hollow sky reverberated with engine noise" p 161.

That brutal little simile? It perfectly mirrors the danger they are in, and the lifesaving potential held in the sound of that engine. Oh, and it's beautiful and evocative and gruesome (like the next book I'll blog. The gruesome part, I mean.).

And the quote on page 325, but if I share that, then it will give away too much to discerning readers. Which, of course, you all are.

And the eponymous quote on page 328:

"What is passion for? It's for when the words run out. That's when to come down out of the nursery: when you can't see the stairs for the white, glaring darkness, but you don't care anymore if you fall. When there's nothing left between sky and earth or as far as the eye can see, except Need. It's like a blizzard unpicking flesh and bone and what's real and what's not..."

I've changed my mind. Blogging that wasn't boring. I appreciate the book even more, now that I've revisited it. Have you read it at this point? What did you think? Still smarting from the committee's omission of your favorite title?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Looking Forward to 2008

A new year, a whole new slate of books to fall behind on. Wait. That's not the right attitude. Ah, who am I kidding? Antibiotics have addled my mind. I don't know what I'm saying. I do know that Colleen asked us last week (or was it the week before? hmm.) to put in a few moments thinking about the 2008 titles we are most looking forward to. A brief, horribly incomplete list of what I'm anticipating follows. Head over to Colleen's for the catalog of blogs posting lists today, and start feeling overwhelmed making YOUR list.

A la Carte by Tanita S. Davis: I've been waiting over a year for this title. Tanita was a panelist with me during the inaugural season of the Cybils, and she's awesome in every way. I love her lots (clearly I'm completely biased). But, her book is about a girl wanting to be a chef and there's food and cooking and love and, well, I am a girl, and I like food, and cooking. It even turns out I'm a pretty big fan of love. Plus, it comes out on my birthday. Knopf, 6/10

Alien Feast: Chronicles of the First Invasion by Michael Simmons: Actually scored an ARC of this title and it looks Hysterical. Total fun. So good that I lent it to a colleague because after reading the back cover out loud, well, it would have been like taking crack from an addict. And that's just not pretty. Roaring Brook, 5/27

The Battle for Skandia by John Flanagan: Latest in The Ranger's Apprentice series. I'm religious about these. Here's hoping our dear Will is back in form this time around. I'm thinking they may have changed cover artists or something, as this installment leaves something to be desired. Whatever, as long as Flanagan's still got the words. Philomel, 3/18

Crimes of the Sarahs by Kristen Tracy: I heard good things about Tracy's Lost It, even though I never got to it. Crimes of the Sarahs looks like farcical fun: A gang of teens named Sarah are mastering the art of petty crime over their summer, but when one of them gets caught, the stakes are raised, and one girl must prove she's not a rat. Simon Pulse, 2/19

A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce: Touted by Sarah Miller, who bragged shamelessly about having an ARC, reading said ARC, and proclaiming it wonderful...Well, if I needed more that that, just look at that cover! Arthur A. Levine, 3/1

dead & the gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer: This is probably the book I'm looking forward to most. I'm STILL haunted by the companion novel Life As We Knew It, and that was what? Eighteen months ago? Who can I bribe to get one of those ARCs that are floating around? I know some of you have them. Pretty Please? Harcourt, 6/1

Ever by Gail Carson Levine: Well, judging by the cover design, I'd say this another set in the world of Ella Enchanted. I liked Fairest, so I see no reason why I wouldn't like this. I totally ganked the cover art from Sarah Miller. HarperCollins, 5/6

The Fortunes of Indigo Skye by Deb Caletti: I really enjoyed The Nature of Jade. I have no idea what this is about, and I'm wishing I would have thought to ask the author when I saw her on Saturday. I suck. But, in my defense, I didn't know I was going to see her, nor that this book was even coming out. Man that's a lousy defense. Simon & Schuster, 3/25

How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt: I've been heartily impressed by Reinhardt's previous two novels, so I'm geeked for this one. Everyone who's scored an ARC has had great things to say about it. I got mine while knee-deep in the Cybils and therefore brokedown to the begging of my bff, so my copy is currently living in Iowa. I hope I get it back someday. 'Cause I really want to read it. Wendy Lamb, 5/27

Jump the Cracks by Stacy DeKeyser: Stacy was one of my panelists this year for the Cybils, and she showed an honest sensibility toward YA Fiction, so I'm trusting that her own fiction will stay true to that. Oh, and it appears to be about a justifiable kidnapping of a neglected toddler. Sounds gripping. Flux, 3/1

Love (and other uses for duct tape) by Carrie Jones: Sequel to Cybils YA Finalist Tips on Having a Gay (ex)Boyfriend. I dug the first one (obviously) and am looking forward to this title. It will be interesting to see how those characters are doing. I'm sure I reveal no confidences when I tell you that Tom was in contention for hottest boyfriend according to the YA Panel. I'm just saying. Flux, 3/1

Newes From the Dead by Mary Hooper: Ok, I don't know if this counts as I'm actually in the midst of this one right now. I'm not terribly far due to the aforementioned addledness, but I'm liking it so far, and what's not to like - In 1660 England a maid is hanged. But she doesn't die, a fact that isn't discovered until dissection is about to begin. It's based on an honest-to-goodness true story, and is totally gruesome so far. Plus, it's Reformation-era, and that's always fascinating. Well, to me. Roaring Brook, 4/29

Princess Ben by Catherine Murdock: Hello? Dairy Queen's Murdock doing a princess novel? I'm so there. Houghton Mifflin, 5/5

Shooting the Moon by Frances O'Roark Dowell: My mother swore up and down about this author's Dovey Coe being great. I didn't bite, but for this follow-up about photography and the people left behind during the Vietnam War, well, I think I'll take a look. Atheneum, 1/29

The Sky Inside by Clare B. Dunkle: This appears to be about a city in a dome. 'Nuf said. Ginee Seo Books, 3/25

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson: It's by Maureen Johnson. And set in a decrepit hotel. With eccentric characters. Nobody does eccentric better than Johnson. Scholastic, 5/1

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr: Her first book was a National Book Award finalist. And I liked it. Plus, this cover totally makes me hungry. Little, Brown, 2/1

You Know Where to Find Me by Rachel Cohn: Dude. Does that not look creepy as all get out? What a change from the bright covers of her past books. This one's about suicide and looks dark, dark, dark. I'm Very interested to see how she pulls it off. Simon & Schuster, 3/4

Wow. This got away from me. What do you guys think? Anything look particularly good? Anything I miss? Besides the Sarah Dessen?

Participating blogs:

Bookshelves of Doom
Charlotte's Library
Chasing Ray
Finding Wonderland
Fuse #8
Miss Erin
Reading, Writing, Musing
Writing and Ruminating

Monday, January 14, 2008

Huh. These things are always interesting.

I'm not really one to predict things. I try not to expend too much energy on thinking about events over which I have no control. That's what always makes the ALA awards interesting. I'm a bit scattershot with what I've read this year, but I'm really quite pleased with the Printz, even if a tad surprised:

Printz Winner:
The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean. I read this over Christmas. As I put in my notes, it's "bloody brilliant" (the author is English, and you can feel it in the language of the book). This said, I didn't really think of it for the Printz. I thought it'd be overlooked by most everyone. If I can muster up the energy (I have tonsillitis. This post has already taken a ridiculous amount of time between naps), I'll post a review today or tomorrow.

Printz Honors:
Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox. I've heard enough good stuff about this one that I've been giving it out successfully (despite its blech cover), but have not read it due to it's sequel status and my general too-many-books syndrome. It was already on my to-read list. Will move it up.

One Whole and Perfect Day by Judith Clarke. Heard of. Heard good things. Haven't read, haven't given it to anyone. Wasn't on my to-read list. Will now schedule it for, oh, March? I should have time in the book queue about then... sigh.

Repossessed by A. M. Jenkins. Love, love, love this title. Reviewed. Surprised, but very happy to see it on the list. Very funny, but not without (heh) soul.

Your Own, Sylvia by Stephanie Hemphill. Really, really, really wanted this to be on the YA Cybils list, but poetry got it, so I haven't been able to read it yet. But I totally would have by now if the last three months of reading hadn't been required.

McCaughrean is English. Knox is from New Zeeland. Clarke is Aussie. Good ole A. M. Jenkins lives in Texas, and Hemphill is from Los Angeles. Just an observation. I didn't know where Hemphill was from, but I knew the first three weren't from the states, so I was curious.

As for the rest:

Go Hugo Cabret! Woo! And Wednesday Wars! And Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! All lovely books (and I am so behind on reviewing).

Anyone else a little surprised by the lack of Sherman Alexie? Story of a Girl? Boy Toy? Anything else? (Perhaps Miss Spitfire?)

Monday, January 07, 2008

Cybils 2007 Young Adult Fiction Finalists

Mercilessly Cribbed from the Cybils blog:

Finding the best seven titles out of a list of 123 is... daunting, to say the least. The bloggers on this year's YA nominating panel embraced the challenge, and below you'll find the books that survived discussion and passionate debate through countless emails and one very long instant-message group chat. We're proud of our shortlist, and hope you love it as much as we do.
--Jackie Parker, YA Fiction Organizer

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie
Little, Brown
Meet Junior, a skinny, teenage Spokane Indian with hydrocephalus, ugly glasses and too many teeth. He knows that to make his dreams come true, he has to go where no one in his tribe has gone before--a white high school outside the reservation. Sherman Alexie's semi-autobiographical novel comes at you with its chin up and fists flying. You're guaranteed to fall in love with this scruffy underdog who fights off poverty and despair with goofy, self-deprecating humor and a heart the size of Montana.
--Eisha, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Buy from Amazon | Buy from Booksense

21 Billie Standish Was Here
by Nancy Crocker
Simon & Schuster
Summer 1968. Billie Standish is a young girl with a lot of heart and soul whose life is about to change forever when the rains come pouring down. Newly befriended by a neighbor, Miss Lydia, neither suspect how close danger lurks to young Billie--and it's not danger from the rising storm waters threatening the town's levee. Billie Standish is a story of friendship, courage, and devotion that will charm readers young and old as they fall in love with Billie's world.
--Becky, Becky's Book Reviews
Buy from Amazon | Buy from Booksense

Boy Toy
by Barry Lyga
Houghton Mifflin
Eighteen-year-old Josh Mendel can calculate batting averages and earned run averages in an instant, but coming to terms with his past has been impossible. Until, perhaps, now. Bypassing the tawdry and sensational, Barry Lyga takes a ripped-from-the-headlines plot (Teacher-Student Sex Scandal!) and explores the devastation it leaves behind. Told with intelligence and sensitivity, Boy Toy is a powerful story that may occasionally disturb, but ultimately captivate readers.
--Trisha, The YA YA YAs
Buy from Amazon | Buy from Booksense

Offseason The Off Season
by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Houghton Mifflin
Farm girl and football player D.J. Schwenk's refreshing voice and self-deprecating humor return in this continuation of her hilarious and occasionally heartbreaking coming-of-age story. Catherine Gilbert Murdock's characters are authentic and fully realized, and the story perfectly captures the rhythms and conventions of life in a small, rural town. D.J.'s straightforward and endearing personality shines as she faces up to everyday adversity and struggles to find her voice.
--Anne, LibrariAnne
Buy from Amazon | Buy from Booksense

Redglass" Redglass Red Glass
by Laura Resau
Sophie, an Arizona teenager full of insecurities and phobias, becomes the foster sister to an orphaned illegal immigrant boy. When the boy's family is located in southern Mexico, Sophie goes along on the trek to return him, all the while hoping he'll decide to come with her back to the U.S. As she journeys through Mexico and beyond, evocative settings and vivid characters immerse the reader in Sophie's world. Sophie finds guardian angels along the way, and discovers inner strength.
--Stacy, Reading, Writing, and Chocolate
Buy from Amazon | Buy from Booksense

Tips Tips on Having a Gay (ex)Boyfriend
by Carrie Jones
Tips is in many ways a typical high school story--loves lost and won; navigating the social minefields of a small town; figuring out who you are, measured against the way others see you. It depicts a week in the life of Belle, a high school senior who's just been dumped by her "true love"--for another guy. Belle progresses through heartbreak to jealousy to anger, to genuine concern for Dylan (her ex), whose road will be much tougher than her own. And Belle's gradual realization that she and Dylan weren't meant to be opens her to new possibilities. Belle is a sweet and optimistic narrator with quirky but believable friends and family.
--Stacy, Reading, Writing, and Chocolate
Buy from Amazon | Buy from Booksense

The Wednesday Wars
by Gary D. Schmidt
Condemned to spend every Wednesday afternoon alone with a teacher he is sure hates him, Holling despairs. When two demon rats escape into the classroom walls, and Mrs. Barker brings out Shakespeare, Wednesdays seem to grow even worse. But despair has no place in this very funny and deeply moving book about 7th grade love, the Vietnam War, heroes, true friendship, and the power of giant rats.
--Charlotte, Charlotte's Library
Buy from Amazon | Buy from Booksense

All eight shortlists have now been announced. Head here to see the entire list of 2007's finalists. Finalists will be announced on February 14th.

I don't normal flog for sales (this blog brings me no money whatsoever), but by clicking on the links above (or on the Cybils blog, or on the widget you see to your left that is sprinkled throughout the kidlitosphere) and purchasing books, you are supporting the Cybils Award, proceeds which go toward this. If you're one of the 90-odd bloggers who participated in the award and would like something for yourself to commemorate the experience OR just really dig what we stand for, take a gander at the Cybils at Cafe Press. Volunteer your clever slogan ideas here.

On a personal note, it's been a joy to serve this year as a panelist, and as the YA Fiction Organizer (still amazed they let me do that...). Now that the bulk of my role is past, I look forward to blogging with at least a little more frequency. Assuming you all will still have me. ;)