Monday, September 28, 2009

Alibi Junior High

While it is not entirely uncommon to find a haunted 13-year-old, Cody, in Greg Logsted’s Alibi Junior High, is haunted in an unusual way for teens in the western world.

You see, Cody has been living deep undercover with his CIA agent father pretty much his whole life. He speaks five languages, has two black belts, has lived all around the world, and can make lethal weapons out of whatever is around him. But in all of the dangerous situations he’s survived, he and his father have finally encountered someone who REALLY wants them dead. And now Cody must go into the deepest cover he’s ever known: Normal Kid. And junior high? Far worse than anything he’s ever imagined.

Just so we are clear, THIS IS NOT A TWEEN NOVEL. I know you might be tempted to give this to your average 10 year-old, but know this:

“There’s someone lying next to me. I look over and see the waitress who had winked at me. Her lifeless eyes are now permanently opened wide and there’s a large piece of metal sticking out of the center of her chest. The Yankees cap is still on her head, but it’s now soaked in blood and almost unrecognizable.

There’s an arm near me. Just an arm, and it has a wedding band on the ring finger. I pick my head up and look around at what’s left of the restaurant. There’s blood and bodies all around me. I start to scream but it’s a silent scream. All I can hear is the ringing” p 11.

I just made you either move this one up your queue or drop it entirely, didn’t I?

We originally had this one in the children’s section. We don’t anymore. That passage is by far the most graphic incident in the novel, but since it looks so incredibly kid-friendly with that cover and title, I thought you might want a heads up.

All of this said, you can also probably tell from that excerpt that Logsted captured the spy novel tone. Logsted also did well with that captured, helpless, alienated feeling junior high instills in most of us. Even with the fact that I MUST believe that he exaggerated the nightmare of school a little bit. That school was a misery, although the principal did begin to develop some depth through the novel.

Unlike some of the other characters. Most of Cody’s friends remain one-dimensional. Logsted did far better with the adult characters, most notably the Iraq War vet, Andy, who lost an arm in combat. Logsted handled the disability of that character frankly, never pandering and without didacticism.

An obvious match for Alex Rider and Charlie Higson fans. It’s more… believable than either of those, and immensely readable. Could be a series, although I've found nothing in my cursory searching that indicates it will be.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Don’t ALL throne rooms have that feature?

Ok, The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale was published 6 years ago, so I’m not really worried about spoilers at this point. If you are, you might want to stop reading. However, I assume that if you are reading this blog you are in possession of an astute and finely honed intelligence, and nothing I say here would be any surprise to you, even if you haven’t read the novel.

I say that because there was nothing about The Goose Girl that was not entirely predictable. Entirely. I mean, it’s a given in this type of story (usually) that the heroine wins the prince, however, this went beyond the natural level of predictability with the villain being obvious, the villain’s goal and motive being clearly apparent (before there was ever real confirmation of WHO the villain would be, or, at that, IF there would be a villain), who the mysterious noble was, and, above all, exactly HOW it would all work out (not THAT it would work out, of course that would happen).

But here’s the remarkable thing. I DID NOT CARE. I did not care one whit that I knew how it would all play out, down to the very mode of resolution. And that, my incredibly intelligent friends, is a remarkable feat of writing. I read The Goose Girl almost straight through.

Now, I can’t really say that fairy tale plots get old; they generally turn into cozy blankets (although, to be honest, I’m a little sick of that 12 dancing princess tale, authors, please stop adapting it, thanks), but that alone can not make a compelling read to a discerning audience. What carried this novel were the characters.

It is not a surprise to me that this one book has gone on to inspire an interlocking series. The secondary characters were interesting and varied, and I am eager to read Enna Burning and River Secrets based on my introductions to the main characters in those two titles in this book. And Ani. Oh, Ani, how you grew through this novel. How you learned strength in yourself, first through (possible) artifice, then strife. And while I hate this term, you truly blossomed into a confident future queen. You never would have been able to rule your birthland, not with their nature (for even the settings had character), nor without the travails.

The language was great, and Hale truly captured the tone of the fairy tale in a wonderfully developed world. Some of that predictability, is as I said, unavoidable when working with this genre, other elements are due to some rather clunky foreshadowing.

The novel, as I’m sure you realize, is based on a fairy tale, but Hale, as she did with The Book of a Thousand Days, owned that world, skillfully setting up the next installments. Or so I assume, as I haven’t read them yet. But, as I picked up Forest Born at WASHYARG last week, I’ll need to read all of them before December 4th, when my review is due for that. Since I’m cursed with an obsession with chronology…

Monday, September 21, 2009

I'm sure this is someone's favorite book...but...

Here's some honesty for you: I don't care for novels where the protagonists are unlikeable. Sometimes the novel can overcome unlikeable characters, and it is realistic to expect them to pop up occasionally, since, you know, they pop up more often than occasionally in real life. Of course, I generally read fiction to escape reality or experience new realities, so that whole concept doesn't really jive much with my goals. But, like I said, I can get over it if the book is good in other ways.

Unlike A KISS IN TIME by Alex Flinn.

(omg, that was so harsh.)

That is not to say that this book didn't have it's high points - there was definitely some very good humor. And the two protagonists, I suspect, were supposed to be unlikeable, and they DO become more endearing as the book neared the end...but...they just...GRATED against my skin. I read on mostly because the plot was interesting and I wanted to see how it would all work out:

Talia was always told never to touch a spindle or the curse would descend upon their kingdom. Problem was, no one ever bothered to tell her what a spindle looked like... and so Sleeping Beauty slept for 300 years. And her prince never came. Well, until Jack stumbled into the forgotten kingdom... But Jack was no prince, he was just a kid from Florida whose parent's had gotten rid of for the summer by sending him to Europe. Now Talia's parents, the King & Queen, are FURIOUS at Talia and she so she runs away with Jack - back to Florida. Hijinks ensues.

So, Talia is a spoiled, but ignorant, princess who has just been plunged into the 21st century after 300 years of sleeping. Jack is largely ignored by his parents and expected to follow a career path he has no interest in. It's not that they don't have issues or the right to be surly. But seriously. Stop whining.

High points:

Talia, upon leaving her kingdom:

" will hard to be a commoner. They have to do a great deal of work, and sometimes they smell bad" p 113.

Talia, on living in the 21st century:

"I have never heard of a party without gowns. This is turning out to be a very disappointing century" p 167.

It's actually out-Disneyed Disney in that even the bad guys aren't really all that bad - just misunderstood. It has a happy ending. Which I can appreciate.

I know that I should write more in depth about other issues I have with the novel, but, I just don't want to expend the energy. So instead, I leave you...

Other opinions:
Young Adult Literature Review Blog
Sonder Books
And Another Book Read

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ok, now here's something I've never done:

turn this blog over to someone else. Sure, I've done interviews, but I've never allowed anyone to wrest this helm from my cold, diamond encrusted hands (ha!). But, then there's the encruster.* He has unusual sway over me. And by golly, since he had something to say about Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins's sequel to her blockbuster, Hunger Games, and I had no intention whatsoever to spend any time on the most reviewed title of the season, I thought why not? Besides, he just introduced me over at the Cybils.

Here's Kyle:

Being the wonderful librarian and fiancé that she is, Jackie handed me Hunger Games to read on our recent vacation to Michigan. I read the whole thing in three days, and, as she reasonably expected, I loved it. Looking around on the internet and talking to friends of Jackie, it's very clear that I'm not alone. Hunger Games is just one of those great books.

Jackie and her mom, giddy about their success of getting me, a typical non-reader, so interested in a book, quickly got my hands on Catching Fire, the sequel. However, I can no longer say that Jackie is now batting 1000, because in so many ways, Catching Fire failed in all of the places where Hunger Games succeeded. By the end, I found myself frustrated with just too many things to enjoy what I felt could have been a good story.

So naturally I was quite surprised when Jackie tells me that she'd be interested in having me write a review and post it on her blog. I've never written a book review before, let alone one that's going to be read by as many readers as Jackie has. Not to mention, this is a sequel to a very popular book - the second in what is going to be a very successful trilogy. Who am I to affect other people's reading of this book? However, I will still try my hand at this.

The end of Hunger Games is a good non-ending. In fact, it is so good, that it could have stood on its own without the promise of a sequel (I could go on for a while about my opinion of sequels and non-endings, but not now). I spent some time between finishing Hunger Games and starting Catching Fire thinking about how the sequel should play out, and I struggled coming up with anything good. The games were over, Katniss had successfully defied the Capitol, and she had broken two hearts in the process. But back home, she would once again be a powerless teenager. The only hope I saw for an interesting story was for something to happen that would cause her to become the strong character that she was by the end of the first book, the survivalist with a strong grasp of humanity, character, and defiance.

Well, that "something" happens in Catching Fire. Suzanne Collins puts in the perfect story arc that could precisely pull out the crafty, cunning girl that I'm begging for Katniss to be. Except, to my dismay, the arc happens at the end of the book, and the arc doesn't cause any transformation in Katniss at all. Instead, we are treated to 2/3 of a book full of angsty love tryst where Katniss realizes over and over again that yes, both boys in her life are perfectly nice boys who she could end up with if she had to, and yes, it would be unfair if she had to.

In the meantime, a rebellion is starting all around her, and Katniss is practically oblivious to it except to feel fear and guilt whenever someone gets hurt. The entire time, I felt like reaching into the book and strangling her saying "Where's the anger? Where's the defiance?" Instead, except in a few small instances, the only defiance she shows is a completely illogical defiance of her friends who she is aware are going out of their way to save her. She simply doesn't care. What I assume is supposed to be seen as a decision based on logic and self-sacrifice instead comes across as a decision based on the selfish belief that it’s better to die than to live in guilt even if it means making everyone else around you live in guilt. The level-headed thwarter to the Capitol from the last book suddenly became the emotionally-wrecked thwarter to her level-headed friends. This goes so far as to make me wish that I could listen to another character narrate for a little bit just so I would stop wringing the book in my hands.

Katniss remains completely unaware of the situation around her until the last few pages of the book when the whole mystery is explained in one unsatisfying quick paragraph. I think that it was supposed to be a mystery to the reader as well, but it was too obvious to not guess. For a character who, in the first book, was so quick to correctly judge a situation or a hidden message, the entire final third of this book was filled with way too many things that were clear to the reader but somehow not so clear to the smart girl that we wanted to root for.

The ending of the book sets the stage for the third book, and it does so in a way that successfully makes me want to pick it up and read it. Some of that optimism is because I think that the only way to write the third book is to have Katniss step up and become the strong character she was always meant to be. However, there's a worry in the back of my mind that Collins is going make the same mistake as Catching Fire, and spend too much time dealing with the main character's irrational emotions and less time dealing with actual plot advancement.


Thanks, hon!

It's Jackie again. If that wasn't apparent.

Ah, how I love disgruntled reviews. They are by far the most entertaining to read, don't you think? I asked Kyle whether he was Team Gale or Team Peeta, he decided that she should just dump both of them (well, he did after I explained what Team Fill-in-the-blank WAS) and move on with her life.

If you are a tweet-a-holic like us, you can follow Kyle (and me!) if you so desire!

*By the way, Kyle reallly doesn't want me to call him the encruster. He really prefers something sappy, like fiancé, or beloved betrothed. I'm liking encruster. Personally. ;)

Monday, September 14, 2009

You might think YOUR power sucks, but at least it's not Rogue's.

I feel pretty "meh" about this one. There wasn't enough paranormal activity early on for me to really buy into the premise, and frankly, I'm having a truly difficult time separating DEADLY LITTLE SECRET and WAKE in my mind. Now, partially that is my fault for being on a paranormal kick and reading similar books right in a row (followed by EVERMORE, I might add - which I have pretty much ENTIRELY forgotten - to the extent that I know I read it, but can't remember what it was about. My notes tell me that it was massively similar to WAKE, TWILIGHT & Meg Cabot's MEDIATOR series, that I was emotionally invested, but not intellectually. And that I didn't plan on reading the sequel.)

Anyway, back to the actual book on hand (don't expect a review on Evermore, k?):

What was, I believe noteworthy in Laurie Faria Stolarz's book was that the main character wasn't the one with any paranormal powers. Why I say this in the wake of Twilight, I have no idea, except that while Camelia, like Bella, lacks a certain self-preservation gene, she does struggle with believing in the paranormal powers Ben claims to have, and does, for fleeting moments wonder if she should trust her instincts. Furthermore, at the end of the book, there really isn't anything special (power-wise) about our main character, just that she's para-paranormal.

Two things have coincided in Camelia's life: the arrival of a new boy she's inexplicable attracted to and creepy, threatening messages start plaguing her life. Her instincts are to trust Ben, but the coincidence of his arrival and the stalking starting at the same time is certainly suspicious. Besides, there are some seriously worrying rumors about this guy. Rumors from his last school regarding his last girlfriend. The girlfriend that died...

There was definitely a well-crafted tone to the novel - oniminous and tense. It followed the constructs of a classic mystery/thriller teasing you with the unnamed villian's point of view, leaving the reader to suspect everyone, even when aware of who it can and can not be due to the nature of the genre (like, it can't be the most obvious person because this is a book, not real life, right? right?).

So, well done. It is exactly what it was supposed to be.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Love is the Higher Law

This is a remarkable book. Even, I think, for David Levithan, who has a history of remarkable books.

Some of you know that I take notes, of varying depth, while I read. Sometimes it's just notes on plot and character. Sometimes the notes consist of sentences that strike me as emblematic of the novel as a whole or are just beautifully written. In LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW I took no notes on plot. I did however manage to copy out ONE WHOLE PAGE of the text into my notebook. I thought it would just be a couple sentences, but it ended up being pretty much the whole page (page 39, if you were wondering).

Anyway, I didn't read this because the eighth anniversary of 9/11 was coming up. I don't really need to relive that day - ever - I haven't read or watched anything dealing with the subject prior to this. I read it because it was David Levithan writing about 9/11. I know that Levithan is a New Yorker. And I trusted him as an author to deal with this subject with barefaced honesty, never pandering, never with any sense of self-importance or false heroism, or anything else that sullies that day.

Or something.

Love is the Higher Law follows three teenage New Yorkers through September 11, 2001 and beyond that to the marvel of living on. It follows how one day has lingering effects on their lives and what it meant to be a New Yorker, and a human, on that day.

It was beautiful from the first page. Each of the three voices were distinct and unique.

Claire started out the morning of 9/11 paranoid and worried over the what-ifs in life. It took a what-if she never expected to realize what life - and love - is.

Jasper began that day self-absorbed and self-important and deals with it by pushing everyone away.

Peter sees the world through the goggles of the truly music-obsessed, but is at a loss when the world drowns out his music.

These three teens who barely know each other before these events somehow eventually find each other in a masterful and utterly believable weaving of storyline. High school and college typically see teens grow and change, but those who came of age during this period had their transition sparked by one shared event, which makes them unique among recent generations. Levithan explores this thought with sensitivity.

Yes, I'm raving. And nominating it for my library's Mock Printz.

Here are some quotes:

Peter, p 39: "I know if I press play, the song will never be able to work for me again, because instead of the song playing under the moment, the moment will weigh on top of the song, and I am never going to want to remember this, I am never going to want to be here again, so I walk withougt anyone else's words in my ears, and all the music falls away from the world, because how can you have music on a day like today? Whitenoise is not the same as silence. White noise is different because you know white noise is deliberate, composed to cancel everything out. It is the opposite of music, and it is all that I can hear and all that I can imagine hearing right now. I keep going back to that first moment - seeing that black hole on the tower, seeing the site of the crash, that image, that one image is what I am picturing right now. That tower is our history, our lives, all the minutiae and security and hope. And that black hole is what I'm feeling. It will effect me in ways I can't even begin to get my mind around. This day is a dark crater. There is no room for songs. The songs are wrong. Every song is wrong. And I don't know what to do without music."

Claire, p 106: "I think that if you were somehow able to measure the weight of human kindness it would have weighed more on 9/11 than it ever had. On 9/11, all the hatred and murder could not compare with the weight of love, of bravery, of caring. I have to believe that. I honestly believe that. I think we saw the way humanity works on that day, and while some of it was horrifying, so much of it was good."

Jasper, p 125: "I went the whole day withought thinking about it...I didn't let the world in at all. or that day. Until, of course the end of the day, when i realized I had gone the whole day without thinking about it, and wondered what that meant."

Claire, p 111: " can't find a common humanity just because you have a common enemy. You have to find a common humanity because you believe that it's true."

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

There were no ghosts in this book.

I say that upfront because the fact kinda ruined the book for me. In turn, that fact makes me contemplate the idea of reader expectation. Which I'll subject you to for a moment (nice, right?).

Reader expectation can be formed in more ways than I am likely to think of. On the most basic level it can be the cover, the jacket material, summaries, blurbs, reviews, word of mouth, the reader's past experiences with the author, etc. I'll admit that, personally, I am most swayed (one way or another) by a cover.

So, what led me to believe that there were ghosts in this book? Well, the title, for one. It seems reasonable that a book called Nothing But Ghosts, would in fact, contain ghosts. Now, I have not read anything else by Beth Kephart, but via word of mouth, I have heard nothing but praise toward the author's work. That, combined with a very lovely cover, and the potential for ghosts made me want to read this particular book.

So, as stated, I liked this book less because it was so very different than what I was expecting. I picked it up wanting and expecting ghosts, and in a way I got them, but they were metaphorical ghosts. And, frankly, those are less interesting to me when I'm hoping for the ones that say "boo" and give me goosebumps.

Now, had I read the jacket copy, I might have been prepared, but since those are notoriously spoiler-riffic, I avoid them like the plague if I actually plan on reading the book.

ULTIMATELY, ALLOWING MYSELF TO BE LET DOWN BY A BOOK FOR THE SIMPLE FACT THAT IT WAS NOT ABOUT WHAT I EXPECTED IT TO BE ABOUT IS NOT FAIR TO THE BOOK ITSELF. Basically, it's my own fault for being swayed by marketing. Especially when you figure that the author, who owns the words, most likely had nothing to do with the marketing department, who owns the appearance. I hate it when that happens.

So, let us set all that appearance crap aside and take a look-see at the ACTUAL BOOK (also, let's have MORE CAPITALIZATION!):

This is a book about grief. This is a book about a mystery. This is a book that takes a mystery to understand the mystery of death. And life. And a little about how cope with both.

Katie's mom died. She and her dad are operating in an autopilot haze that insulates them from the world they were forced out of upon her mother's death. Katie doesn't see her friends; her father pours himself into his work and trying to make up for his wife's absence. They are both functioning, but miserable.

Katie takes a summer job landscaping a local mansion to keep herself away from the memories and plunges herself into distraction by researching the mysterious landlord who communicates her instructions only through the groundskeeper and hasn't left the mansion in decades. But the groundskeeper has his own mysterious plans and he's using the summer help to find something himself. Why hasn't Martine Everlast left the house, and what, exactly is the groundsman looking for?

In researching a woman who decides to waste her life shut up alone for decades, when her mother could have used those years, Katie begins to understand some of her mother's last actions and wishes - and what she would have wanted for Katie.

"Maybe I can't really save my dad from sadness, but maybe so much time goes by that you start to understand how beauty and sadness can both live in one place" p 165.

The dynamic between the grieving father and daughter is quite well-done. The metaphysical musings of the opening ("There are the things that have been and the things that haven't happened yet. There is a squiggle of a line between, which is the color of caution..." p 1) that will turn off some, more reluctant, readers. The story is interesting, but frustrating, both in pacing and plot.

Other than the lackage of ghosts, my biggest problem with the novel is the level of coincident: just as Katie becomes curious about Martine Everlast a box of historical clippings containing important clues to the reclusive heiress shows up at the public library; her father, out of nowhere, suddenly takes an art restoration job on a painting he suspects was done by Martine's father. No one has heard anything of this family in decades and suddenly, just as Katie gets curious two clues surface? hmm.

Voice was good. The style weaving flashbacks and present day was effective. The setting was very good, so good that I'd be interested in other books set in this small town that concerned completely different characters. The primary and secondary characters all felt well-rounded. Kephart did not answer all of the questions a reader might ask, but she left breadcrumbs toward those answers that can be reached with some reflection.

Besides, all is well, because there was a pretty kick-ass librarian character. No bun OR sensible shoes included. ;)

Books to recommend alongside this one:
If I Stay by Gayle Foreman
The Pursuit of Happiness by Tara Altebrando
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
and many, many more. Feel free to add to these three in the comments.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I say all this, but I still totally liked it.

I've got a soft spot for Michigan authors. Even if they don't live in Michigan anymore (like me!). I've got even more of a soft spot for books Actually SET in Michigan. It is NOT easy to find books set in Michigan.

So, what that means is that I'm willing to cut books from the homeland a lot of slack. But even I have my limits.

Lisa McMann's WAKE and FADE are massively successfully, so I'm not going to spend a ton of time here telling you what you already know: It's fast-paced, compelling, fresh, and thrilling. Super easy sell. Here's the booktalk I've used:

Getting sucked into other people's dreams is a bit annoying to Janie, but she's used to it. It isn't until she finds herself in slacker Cable's nightmares that things get truly frightening, because for the first time she's not just a witness, she's a participant.

The but:

Wake lost direction during the last third of the novel, suddenly transforming from a paranormal romance into a crime novel. The transition was weak and pretty jarring. It sets up a trilogy well, but failed to really honor the individual book and reader's expectations (at least this reader's). The book stopped being about the basic premise (girl gets sucked into other people's dreams! boy dreams of horrible things! she must help him!), and adopted another plot entirely.

Further hurting this transition was what I've come to call the "ZOMG We Can Love Each Other!" section. These sections are chock-filled with melodrama, insipid introspection, and copious making-out. Obviously this is all the rage with the Twihards, and WAKE definitely feeds that audience, but it just wasn't in line with the pacing set up in the first two thirds of the novel.

Nevertheless, just looking at the sales figures or the waiting list at your local library will tell you that, really, these things don't matter. It's a page turner.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I know it's a fantasy, but that flower doesn't look like that.

I know, cause I looked it up. Not that it really matters. I'm just saying. We seem to be talking a lot about covers lately.

The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry is a very loose Cinderella story. Lucinda was the prized daughter of wealthy and influential parents, but when they die, she is left penniless and sent to live with her uncle and evil step-aunt. Now she's fifteen, her life is bleak, and she doesn't see a way out. All of this changes in a matter of hours when three strangers separately enter her life - a mysterious lady, a handsome thief, and a prince (princes don't need adjectives).

Strengths: The evil aunt is given a reason for being evil - not an excuse, but the reader understands a bit better why she behaves the way she does. She's also not entirely irredeemable. Basically, she's a villain with a little bit of depth. Nice to see, and not something required of a Cinderella retelling. So, points for that.

Lucinda was interesting. The plot was compelling - I did want to know how it turned out (ok, mostly I wanted to see the bad guy vanquished and find out what boy she ended up with). I laughed in a few places. I was invested.


Yes, but. You knew this was coming.

I have to question if any fantasy elements were even necessary. I honestly don't think they were. This could have been written as a simple historical fairy tale (minus the, er, fairy bits) and, frankly, I think it would have been a stronger story for it. Alternate realities? Preternatural goats that that verge on magical, but are left without explanation whatsoever? There was a whole secondary world built up here, and very little need. It's like normal evil wasn't evil enough and needed to be ramped up with magic evil. And, ok, if magic was needed, why the alternate reality? Why go to the trouble? It's not like the powers were all that special to require that. They were pretty typical magical powers.

It was just too damn complicated. Which is a pity, because Berry did a good job with giving a known entity (Cinderella) a very fresh turn. I just, in my humble opinion, think she went a bit too far, straying out of my ability to suspend disbelief.

And, seriously, WTF was with that goat?

Other opinions:
Official reviews

The Book Report
Kiss the Book

Sunday, July 26, 2009

"Sometimes he'd tell me the myths that go with the constellations, or we'd talk about who was the better general, Odysseus or Patton" p 42.

Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry made me cry twice. That's not really a trait I look for in books, but, hey, that's later on, lest it be a turn-off for you. Before all that, Heart of a Shepherd made me laugh and cheer out loud. Full of endearing characters, it was just what I was hoping to read over the holiday weekend.

See, I was headed to Spokane, in eastern Washington. My betrothed's (yes, betrothed, if you missed the updates on Twitter or Facebook) family lives there. It was 4th of July. Heart of a Shepherd looked both patriotic and like the topography I was headed to. Also, it was short. And sometimes, you just want a short book. One that lacks a little commitment.

Brother (that's what everyone calls him) is counting down the months until his officer father returns from combat in Iraq. In the meantime, he's the man of the ranch with his aging grandparents while his four older brothers are off at school or stationed elsewhere, and a barely known artist mother in Italy. Brother, being the youngest, is the only one not somehow involved with either the Army or ROTC. Everyone else knows just who they are and what they will do with their lives, but Brother can't really see himself as a soldier or a rancher. And those are about the only things he knows.

Brother is a charming and thoughtful boy who purposefully crumples up his perfectly done homework (to keep up appearances) and has read all the dragon books on his shelf - so he steals ship books from his brothers. He's shouldering a great deal of responsibility and handles it seriously, but appropriately, for a kid his age - there is the necessary worry and fear that would be inherent in that situation. He also personifies his chess pieces as his loved ones - and purposely loses because he can't bear to kill his grandpa's queen (being grandma). Adorable.

There was a lot of honesty in this story. It felt like real people in real situations. While religion was portrayed in the best of light, this isn't an "inspirational fiction" book (keep reading, I know that phrase makes many of you shudder). There was a really awesome priest (all the characters, save grandpa, are Catholic) and Brother's grandfather's a devout Quaker. It's the same kind of versatile combination we found in Hattie Big Sky: safe for the wholesome-seekers and entertaining for the heathens. There was no blatant didactics that overshadowed all other features of the story, there were no conversations with, or beseechments to, God, just a quiet religion that served as the foundation of identity for several characters. Or perhaps this is exactly what inspirational fiction should be.

Basically, as the worst kind of Catholic (lapsed) who regards religion with suspicion, this book didn't piss me off AT ALL.

I especially loved the grandparents; the chess-playing grandfather, the mechanical wiz grandmother. Both veterans.

I truly have nothing bad to say about this book, and you do know how much I like to balance these overly positive reviews with something negative. I mean, it can't be THAT good, right? *shrug* I'd love to see a sticker on this. It's probably a shoo-in for a Christopher Award, and here's a hope for a Newbery (honor, I'd imagine) from my direction (but what do I know? A: nothin'). I really need to do a negative review. I miss being snarky.

Oh, wait, I DO have one complaint. I couldn't tell the four older brothers apart. They all blended together into lovable mush (clearly, not a huge deal for me).

Anyway, give it a go, it's both enjoyable and a good one to have in your arsenal. It's solidly middle grade, I'd say 3rd-6th.

Here's some quotes, in case you were on the fence:

p 2-3: "Rosita's my queen, of course. She's a fifth grader up at the school and my best friend's sister. She can birth a lamb and kill a rattlesnake with a slingshot, which is what I look for in a queen. Plus, she's as pretty as a day in spring, and she laughs when I'm the one talking."

p 27: "
The lambs aren't supposed to have names - only horses and dogs are allowed to have names - but I call them Frodo, Merry, Pippin, and Bilbo. I know better than to call one Sam, because Sam is my favorite Hobbit in the whole story."

p 30: "I reckon my grandpa's the only Quaker member of the National Rifle Association. he's a dead-serious pacifist and the best marksman around. he's gotten coyotes, cougars, and even a full-grown bear. No trophy antlers cluttering up our parlor, though. It's not the Quaker way to shoot a vegetarian."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Getting the Juby

I'll confess. I haven't read any of Susan Juby's other books. I started Another Kind of Cowboy, but after a few pages I realized I was still scarred from Freak Show and couldn't go on. I avoided her Alice series (Alice, I Think, Miss Smithers, Alice MacLeod: Realist at Last) despite good reviews, because I was having a difficult time separating it from the Phyllis Reynolds Naylor books; a syndrome I have about similarly names books; see Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies) by Headley and the book by Avi I read in junior high that shares the first half of that title. I don't like to read two same-ish titled books out of an, I don't know, twisted loyalty to the first book, or more likely, the idea that there would be some Back to the Future-like conundrum where the world would cease if I held both plots of same-titled books in my head at once.


I was wrong then and now; not reading Juby's other books?* "Big mistake. Big. HUGE." Getting the Girl is a laugh-out-loud mystery. A funny book? A mystery? Aimed at teens? Omg. I'm happy to encounter ONE of those qualities in YA books. Add in a side detail of food and cooking? I think Juby wrote this book just for me. And all the teens I'm going to make read it. Will this make it into my summer booktalks? Yep. And to make it even more awesome, I can talk this one up in both the middle schools and the high schools. Making MY life just a little bit more easy.

Shall I stop gushing and tell you why I like it? Hell, why not.

Sherman Mack is really into Dini Trioli. She's the perfect girl - cool, aloof, older. Sherm is sure an older girl will appreciate his sensitive ways, despite her dating the popular jock. But when he figures out that Dini is in serious danger of getting D-listed and ostracized by a cruel school ritual, he decides that if he can uncover the D-listers and make the school safe for all girls, Dini will have to fall in love with him. What he doesn't know is that there's physical danger, a pink bike, some crossdressing, and a burnt omelet in his future.

Short chapters help with a snappy pacing that's in tune with the book's sharp and witty dialogue. There's certainly a level of predictability with the plot and romance, but it's with the B-level lines, so it provides more a level of comfort than an annoyance; Juby maintains a balance between predictability and surprise (humor helps a ton with this) that will please readers coming from different interest points (mystery, romance, humor, etc).

It's been so long since I've read something I've truly fell in love with. Not since Ellen Emerson White, and I've been making the EEW love last a long time by reading the out of print stuff at the rate of about one a month. The added bonus with Juby is that it's going to be so much easier to sell than EEW due to the better covers and the more plot-driven story (rather than EEW's entirely character-driven ones - although I was able to sell THE ENTIRE President's Daughter series to an aspiring writer-teen last week. Which made my day.).

Anyway, Getting the Girl should be a sure bet across the board. Well, maybe not for the emo kids. It would cheer them up and ruin their demeanor. We wouldn't want that.

*And let us not forget that there is another teen book called Getting the Girl. One by Marcus Zusak. But as I'm not convinced by Zusak; i.e. yes I, too, believe Book Thief is brilliant, but as I Am the Messenger made me want to die slowly, I don't care a whit. Therefore, my opinion is still out on the man. Also, I haven't read Zusak's version and have little to no intention to do so. Especially not with a subject heading of "self-actualization (psychology). Fiction." ugh.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

And there's my completely cheesy answer...

to the rgz monthly theme.

Really. I should have spent more than those 10 minutes on it.

At readergirlz. At Buildungsroman (it's the same both times).

All the same. If you're reading this, you are probably part of the family I speak of. Unless you are reading this with malice. Then you aren't.

Also, while my blog promises tend to be hollow, I think you'll get a book review sometime this week. If you like that kind of thing. If not, well, stop being so malicious.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Rgz gets an Innovations in Reading Prize!

This just makes me so happy. Partially, because they asked me to write a letter of recommendation for them, also because they honestly needed the money to continue making it all happen, but mostly because they deserve it.

So I thought I'd share.

Here's the list o' winners. Read more about it at the rgz blog.

While we're talking about readergirlz, this month their theme is family, and we're focusing on RED GLASS by Laura Resau. I read Resau's book back in 2007 when I was a Cybils nominating panelist. Since it became a finalist, it would be safe to assume Red Glass is a good'un.

If you haven't noticed, rgz has recently separated from the refresh-madness of the MySpace forum, opting for a more live-action chat with CoverItLive on their blog. The chat with Laura Resau will occur there on Wednesday, May 20th at 6 PM PST/9 PM EST.

IF you have something to say about what family means to you, get ahold of Little Willow. She'll be posting answers to that question all month long at Bildungsroman and the rgz blog. My answer should be going up tomorrow-ish.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Bridget Zinn

I don't remember whether or not I met author and librarian Bridget Zinn at the Kidlitosphere conference in Portland last fall. But she was there.

Currently Bridget is battling cancer. A rather severe and expensive cancer. Jone MacCulloch, the woman who spearheaded the Portland conference is now taking on an auction to help Bridget out with all the bills that this disease is racking up. Read about Bridget here. Email Jone (macrush53 [at] if you think you can help. Otherwise, take a look at the online auction and bid on something.

If biding in an auction just won't fit in your budget, and even if it does, I encourage you to check out Bridget's blog and lend her your support that way.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Race, My Library, and More!

Inspired by the SLJ article by Mitali Perkins, my own review of A la Carte by Tanita Davis, and my experiences at my library that relate to race, I started to tell you about some experiences I've had at my library in a footnote in the last post. It turned out to be a bit long... and warranted it's own post. So, here we go:

The other day I had a gaming program at the library. We had some time to kill before the program started, and I had three boys just hanging out with me, setting stuff up and chatting. All three are multi-cultural, two half black, half white (I've met both parents), the third at least half white (I've met mom), but clearly has something else going on there (1/2 or 1/4 black, I suspect - but do not know). Great boys, I heart them dearly, and I haven't at all talked about race with them. To fill up time, and because they are regulars, I had them make their own Mii's on our shiny new branch Wii. It was FASCINATING to watch them choose the skin color on their avatars. The lightest skinned (and youngest) of them chose the darkest coloring - far darker than he actually is. One paged through all the options and stuck with Caucasian coloring - far lighter than he is. The third (and oldest) seemed pretty unhappy with the Nintendo-offered shades (as well he should have been - they suck) and kept going back and forth between the options.

I'm not raising this to talk about my interpretation of the psychology of their choices (so not qualified for that), or even suggest that there is some interpretation beyond my neophyte observations, but nevertheless, it was truly interesting. I know it's just a video game, but in light of the discussion I had with Mitali & the Seattle-based readergirlz when Mitali was in Seattle and writing the article appearing in this month's SLJ, as well as the study she referenced within it, I can't help but think of the entire event in a different light. Not that it wouldn't have been fascinating without that conversation.

When all the kids showed up for that epic Mario Kart tournament? I was the only white person. Fifteen kids, and not one of them solely Caucasian. Most of those kids? Not readers. "Reading is boring." "I don't read." "Reading is for school." Why is that? I would say, and this is a gross estimation, most, though not all, of the teens who come to my programs don't read. It's like there are two different clans - the kids who come to the library for programs, and the kids who come to the library to get books recommendations from me. Guess where more of the white kids are? And rarely shall the twain meet.

In a completely separate instance of race and teen literature, I was working with Lorie Ann Grover to find compelling teen novels featuring Native American girls. I will never be able to convey in words what an incredibly frustrating experience that was. Readergirlz is committed to featuring non-white heroines. Being in the world I am, and doing what I do, I'm quite aware of how critical the Native American community is of books depicting them. Who wouldn't want their culture to be portrayed accurately? At the same time, it was incredibly disheartening to think I've found a good, compelling book, then research it more, only to find an essay eviscerating it for inaccurate portrayals. How much of that is no different than the standard inaccuracies of historical fiction? Why aren't there more teen books that have the Native American seal of approval? I sincerely hope that those who are most critical of these books are writing their own. Otherwise, I'm not sure how it will get better.

It may have nothing whatsoever to do with reading habits or the relative availability of books featuring kids that look like them, it may simply be how comfortable they are looking to me for advice. I don't know. But either way, the fact that I find a solid, well-written book like Tanita's more remarkable because it features middle class black people, coupled with scarce YA novels accurately portraying Native Americans... Well, whatever the connection there, I'd like to see more books like Tanita's, for all races. I actually hate to think that whether they read or not has anything to do with race. Kyle wants to believe that it's more class than race (and that very well could be true - there aren't that many books featuring poor happy people either in YA lit).

I'm not writing this in an attempt to solve anything, or come up with some pat answer, I'm more interested in sharing and hearing your experiences along this vein. I'm truly interested in what you have to say, so please comment or email me!

(and I'm cool if you also want to suggest more books like Tanita's or, actually, especially, if you have some accurate Native American YA lit)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A la Carte? I'd like Ice Cream, then, with everything.

Now that I've explained myself, we can get down to business. I like A la Carte, and I have something to say about it, so forget the author and our tenuous claim on friendship, I'm going to freakin' have my say. Finally. So there. *harrumph*

Lainey has been (not-so) secretly in love with her (male) best friend Simeon for, well, ever. Sim's always been the one friend Lainey could always be herself with. They've recently grown apart, or, rather, Sim seems to have grown away from her. Now Sim has come back into her life. But is he there for friendship or something else? Is he needing her, or using her? When he disappears, Lainey's not sure she's ready for the answer, so she hides behind lies and what might just be the real love of her life - the kitchen and her budding talent as a chef.

There are books out there for all of us that speak to our individual souls. In these books, often unexpectedly, we find some plot point, characteristic, phrasing, or some quality that hits us, sparking memory or topic or something else that communicates on a deeper level than the simple words on the page belie. For me, in A la Carte, it is Lainey's attachment to a friendship that is no longer healthy for her, that speaks to me. How does one cut ties to a person who once meant so much? How do you override what your heart wants for what your head knows? How do you sever the hopes for a fantasy when reality gives you every indication that it will never happen. Hope is powerful. It is, in my opinion, the most powerful element in our overcoming hardship. If you can believe in your dreams, they can happen. Hope is also what helps delude us and lead us into less than wise situations. For Lainey, it is ultimately about choosing a dream that might be different from the dream she has a habit of dreaming. If we are able to take stock of the reality, severing it from the old hopes, we might just find that what we really want is a little different. We might even discover ourselves in the process. That's what Lainey does in this book. And THAT is why I recommend this book. And why, when I find it on the shelf in my library, I pull it face front. Not because I want to hug the author. Or, well, not just because.

I'm alarmingly prone to psychobabble these days, aren't I? Jeeze. I so apologize.

What I think is remarkable above all else in this book, is that whilst the main characters are largely minorities, they just happen to be black. The race is interchangeable. She's dealing with the everyday issues and heartache of growing up - something not contingent upon race. Perhaps I am naive (I'd believe it), or, at best, simply unaware of many teen titles that *don't* deal with some sort of race issue when the main character is anything other than white, but I think it's noteworthy and wonderful. Because, you know what? There are teen readers of color, and something tells me they'd like to occasionally read about someone who looks like them AND just has a normal, middle-class, financially stable, stereotype-free life. (On that topic, if you haven't already read the SLJ article by Mitali Perkins, you should. Right now. It's more important, and better written, than this review. No offense, my dear Tanita.). All of this said, I'm a white girl who really doesn't know what I'm talking about.*

And, speaking of surface topics, I think that, while the cover of A la Carte is an unusual choice of art for a teen book, it is beautiful. Frame-and-put-on-my-wall beautiful. Not sure how compelling it is to teens, though. The beauty is continued throughout the book, with the caring details in the recipes sprinkled within. They appear on battered recipe cards, and it's a fantastic choice. All art direction does successfully convey how hungry you'll get reading the book. And, speaking of food, while Lainey is concerned about healthy food and reducing calories and fat in the food she makes, she has a healthy relationship with food and eating. With so many books portraying teens with eating disorders, this pleasant to read.

I am SO looking forward to her WWII novel, Mare's War, out in June. The day before my birthday. *nods* I'm also going to try and leverage my relationship with this author for an interview. What do you think T?

* Ok, this was going to be a long comment about race in my library, but it's turned into a post of itself. Come back later (tomorrow?) for the thoughts.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

More Angst-Ridden Babble

There's something weird about being a book blogger, especially one in the kidlitosphere. There's a weird symbiosis about writing about books and interacting with their creators. Others have oft noted it and bloggers have been accused of being unable, as non-professional reviewers (a whole different beef), to be objective about the task. I think it's bullshit, at least as it pertains to me (the only case I'm qualified to talk about). Because, trust me, I can like you and not think your book is anything special - I'll try to be nice about it, though. But even basing my argument on "trust me" opens me up to valid accusations of self-referential, fact-free, unprofessional writing (cue eye roll).

What does this mean to you, my reader? Well, it means that you may well find from time to time that I'm talking about a book by an author I've somehow become friends with. So how does a blogger review a book written by a friend without appearing biased or unreliable? This is a growing concern for me as I immerse myself deeper into this kidlit world and start creating friendships with the people whose creative work I may well criticize in this space. Most of the time, I've simply chosen to either not read or review books of authors I consider friends. But that's not really fair, either - to me, or them.

For instance, in this very case - I really, truly, like A la Carte, I want it to do well, and I want readers who maybe haven't seen this title to be aware of it - or better yet - pick it up. And not because the author is my friend - but because I liked that book. I've had a hard time with this. It doesn't have anything to do with the book - it's the all about the author. See, Tanita S. Davis? I've never met her, but I would absolutely not hesitate to call her my friend. If I were in Scotland, I'd absolutely stop by and have a cup of tea. Or force them to feed me something more substantial than that (b/c she and her husband have a food blog. A food blog that always makes me hungry.) Or even, if I suck up really well, stay with them. Three years ago, Tanita and I served as nominating panelists during the very first year of the Cybils. During that process received she her contract for A la Carte. We were a tight group. We bonded. I'm still very attached to the members of that group. They are amazing women whom I watch to this day with interest and love (me = total sap). Can I judge the products of Tanita's imagination without bias or predisposition?

Ultimately, it's up to you to decide if you find my content unbiased and of quality. I suspect you will, and that I'm far more likely to lose (and have lost) readers due to my irregular posting. A point I'm not willing to adjust, since I'd rather have a life than be a star blogger (of course, if someone wanted to PAY me, the whole equation is null). If you don't like what I review, the way I review, or how I review, well, I'm not quite sure why you are even still here, so I'm not terribly concerned about that.

Like I've said, I've struggled a great deal with this decision, but ultimately, I've decided that, to over simplify the whole damn thing, it's my blog and I'll blog about what I want to, regardless of who wrote it and how much I like that person. Since really, as we all know, liking a particular book isn't what makes me talk about them here. And *that* more than anything, should tell you whether to give credence to what I say, as I think I've proved with the content of this blog that I can like something just fine, and still have negative things to say, and dislike something and still have good things to say. So, as I said in my last angst-ridden post, I'll speak up when I have something to say. 'Cause I'm not reviewing the author, I'm reviewing the book. I hope you'll stick around.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Why I don't blog more.

So I've gotten some grief for not posting in a month. I understand that. I suck. Ultimately, it takes me a hell of a long time to write up my thoughts on books - far more time than it did when I began this blog, and that is time I'm not spending reading or living. As I become a more critical reader, I become more exacting in what I expect of myself in my reviews here. I also must acknowledge that since I've gotten the new job (which happened in March '08) as a teen librarian, I've needed this outlet less. Not to mention that I blog and tweet for work and do teen stuff all day. Which, to be honest, burns my enthusiasm out a little.

This said, I am not abandoning the kidlitosphere (meaning the kid lit-centered blog world, for those of you who don't know the term). I'm just planning on staying unreliable. If I lose (or, um, have already lost) readers, well, so be it. I'll pop up when I have something to say.

I'd just rather live (away from the computer screen) than feel obligated to do something that used to be fun. I don't want blogging -or reading- to become an onerous duty - which is the way its been feeling in the last six months or so.

However, your comments are always so welcome. If I didn't receive any comments (or emails asking why I haven't posted in so long) I probably would have given up ages ago. I am continuing my role (actually, increasing a bit) with readergirlz and still plan to do the bi-yearly author interview event.

Also, if you are really wanting to hear more from me, get thyself on Twitter and follow me there. It's such a small little time committment, I find myself addicted. Probably because I can tweet from my phone.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Me, the Missing, and the Dead

Seems an apt title for the first review after a long absence, doesn't it? It's also the title to the Morris Finalist by Jenny Valentine. I read it quite some time ago (last Spring? Summer?), but it just shouted out at me from the bookshelf and, finding I had taken copious notes, I agreed to review.

Of course, that all is probably the vicodin talking. But nevertheless.

Me, the Missing, and the Dead (hmm. That's a long title, isn't it. Let's be more familiar and call it MMD. We'll pretend that doesn't sound like a vaccine) is a quiet, unassuming novel with a clever, but equally unassuming cover. It is also obviously British from the very first sentence - instantly evoking place within a few words.

Lucas is a drifting, introspective young man who idealizes his father - his father who's been missing for most of his life. He's always hoped to find him, but it isn't until one day, when he walks into the office of a taxi business that he starts his true search. Why there? Because it is there he meets Violet - or, we should say, the urn containing Violet's ashes. She knows something about his father. And weirdly, Violet is talking to him.

There are a few oddities about this book - one of which is that as a reader you go back and forth between wondering if Violet is really talking to him or not. Another is its sorta odd ending. But that, you should discover on your own, and here's why:

While the plot starts off slow, momentum is gained when the grandparents (of all characters. Is it just me, or is there a prevalence of spunky/cool grandparents in kid lit these days?) enter the scene. They are quirky and full of amusing thoughts, like:

"Pansy [the grandmother] hated it in the hospital. She said an airless room full of ill people was like dying in Tupperware" p 95.

Valentine does something fairly restrictive in her storytelling technique - she shies away from actual dialog in most instances. Rather than have a scene of he said she said, we get something like p 144:

"Martha said maybe I was clinging on to all Dad's stuff because I didn't have enough good memories of him to fill the spaces."

Let's forget that the obvious choice would to actually have a scene where that's revealed between Lucas and his love interest; instead, we are forced to deal with one perspective beyond the normal level for a first person perspective novel. There is certainly still dialog, but the tactic lends a general tightness to the writing that fits the introspection of the character and the plot, as what was said doesn't matter so much as how Lucas interpreted it. Actual dialog scenes are then left for truly important or comic bits. By large.

MMD is a novel very much about identity and memory. And, of course, it is a bildungsroman, but then, most of YA is. Lucas is going in search for his father, and on the way has to challenge how he sees him, how everyone around him sees him and try, maybe, to see him without any bias or expectations.

"And come to think of it, how well does anyone know their own mum and dad? I'm only just beginning to learn. You start off thinking they own the world, and everything is downhill from there. Parents do so many things to wake you up to the idea that they are less than perfect" p 89.

"How many versions of Dad are we all missing, me and Mercy and Bob and Norman and Mum and Pansy? A different one for each of us and not one of them is real" p 94.

It occurs to me that there are loads of stories with this basic plot: kid figures out that X person is not who s/he thought X was, and in the process finds his/herself. Paper Towns. White Darkness. Ok, naming two doesn't amount to loads, but I'm on vicodin. I'm sure you can come up with a few more. You're clever. Either way, it's interesting (to me) that I keep seeing this plot pop up, and yet I'm not tired of it. I wonder if it's just our general anticipation that people, someone, will inevitably let us down.

Ok, that's waaay too much crazy introspection from me.

There's also a lovely romance. With Martha. Who's got her own problems.

To sum up: Good book. Well written. Somber, but surprisingly funny. Quietly lingers in your mind without you realizing it had surreptitiously crept in. Give to teens who like to think.

I have to say, I'm surprised at myself that of all the books I could have reviewed, this is the one that caught my eye and made me sit down to write.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


*wipes forehead*

We have a Cybils YA Fiction Winner!

Nope, I'm not going to tell you which book it is!

You can find out on Saturday on the Cybils Blog!

IF you can, and are planning on buying something from Amazon anyway, please think of getting there through the links on the Cybils site. The proceeds go directly into promoting the Cybils and prizes for our winning authors. Or just use the JacketFlap Cybils widget in the right column - that goes toward the Cybils, too.

But I can read something *new* now! Yay!

What should I read AFTER I read my two Ellen Emerson White ILLs (Friends for Life & Welcome to Vietnam) and Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson?

Let me know in the comments which looks most interesting to you:

Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception by Maggie Stiefvater

The Humming of Numbers by (Seattleite!) Joni Sensel

Wings by Aprilynne Pike

Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My meager predictions for the ALA Awards.

Though by the time 99% of you read this, you'll already know the answer. I'm not going into deep analysis with this, and I'm only covering the really high profile ones (I really sucked at reading this year, I feel very disconnected).


I'm going to keep mum on the Printz, just because I wouldn't be even a little surprised to see titles from my Cybils list show up there - and I'm pledged to total secrecy on what I think about Cybils titles. But, if Audrey, Wait!, Frankie, I Know It's Over, Jellicoe Road, Sweethearts, Ten Cents a Dance and/or Thaw makes it, I'm counting it as though I called it. Are you cool with that?

However, if we were to branch out into non-Cybils YA finalists, for which I have no Cybils secrecy obligations, I wouldn't be surprised to see Nation. I don't think we'll see Octavian Nothing, Volume II, as I don't think it stands alone well enough. I would love to see The Adoration of Jenna Fox, but I'm not holding my breath. I don't think there's a chance in hell The Hunger Games will make it, despite all the buzz (but really, what do I know?). I would be happy with Graceling, but find that event unlikely. I wouldn't blink at What I Saw And How I Lied. Mostly because my mother assures me it is excellent - and I listen to my mother. Most of the time. I think Impossible has an outside chance, although I'm not as enchanted with it as many are. I feel the same way about Chains, though it's got more than an outside chance. With the Newbery, too, methinks.

While I think that John Green's Paper Towns is actually better than An Abundance of Katherines (I have a review of PT I started back in July that touches this topic - a review I still haven't posted. I'm weird.) I think that there would be open rebellion if John Green got up there again. But you never know. Which is why all this speculation by me is something I'm not getting worked up about. I'm just spouting off. I love this stuff.

Hmm. I didn't keep very mum, did I?


Shooting the Moon. God I loved this book. Seriously one of my favorites this year. So touching, so well balanced.

The Underneath. Everyone I know who's read this one won't shut up about it. Srsly. They have me convinced, but I haven't read it yet. I will.

The Graveyard Book. Can't decide if it should be teen or not. Might be a tad controversial. Don't really care, as I haven't read it, even though I think I have two copies floating about my house. Probably will, eventually, but who knows.

And, as we all know, The Ever Prestigious Newbery Award will do whatever it wishes.


What To Do About Alice? Ok, this might just be my picture book biography bias (did you know I had one?), but it's also deliciously illustrated by Seattleite (whom I've not yet met, but keep meaning to track down & interview) Edwin Fotheringham.

Wabi Sabi. 'Cause it's pretty. And already feels like a classic. I love the texture and depth of the pictures as well as the integration of the words.

I'm setting my alarm tomorrow for 6:45am even though I have the day off. I'm gluing myself to the awards Twitter account. Actually, I think I'll set Twitter up to txt me the ALA tweets, so I don't have to get out of bed. Yes, that sounds like the PERFECT solution! Awesome! I'm excited! And, now that I think about it, the fact that I'm excited makes me feel like a total dork. But whatever. Still excited.