Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Continuing Saga

I must admit that, and I realize this could start arguments, in my opinion Garth Nix's Abhorsen Trilogy is the best trio ever written. Needless to say, holding that opinion, I was quite happy when Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories was published this summer. I pretty much got what I wanted. A novella from Ancelstierre, and so much more! What stands out most are the novella, a King Arthur story focusing on the Lady of the Lake, and a Choose Your Own Adventure. Yes, you read that right. I tried to read that format when I was a kid, but I found them maddening. And now I remember why. I want to know all of my options, but at the same time I don't want to have to make any decisions. I read to be entertained, yes, but there is also this great perk where I don't actually have to play a part; choose. It's only frustrating. That said, Nix's version of the format was rather hilarious. Did I mention my obsession with chronology? And my equally annoying need not to miss anything? I really hate Choose Your Own Adventures. But I still want more Ancelstierre.

Back to Standards

I haven't read an Arthurian novel since Yolan's Sword of the Rightful King (which I LOVED). In theory, I don't like the genre, but it may just stem from reading Mary Stewart too young and being tragically bored with it all, but feeling that I'd be a wuss if I stopped. I made it through two, and didn't read anything touching Arthur for many years. Anyway, The Book of Mordred takes the traditional antagonist and humanizes him. Told in three separate stories with three separate and equally strong female narrators, it chronicles Mordred, illegitimate son of Aurthur, before he becomes the enemy of Camelot. The characters, while often extraordinary, are flawed and believable. Ages 12+.

Finally Getting To It

You may remember me whining (or whinging, as befits the setting) about I Am the Messenger several posts ago. It was the last book I started during the G.I.A. and perhaps I just wasn't in the mood for something as dark as this is. I was really debating whether this was even a teen book, consumed as it was with the end justifying the means. There was serious doubt as to the outcome - it could have convincingly gone in any one of many directions. That alone is impressive. Basics: Contemporary Australia; 19 yr old Ed's life is going nowhere fast, until he manages to stop a bank robbery in its tracks. Soon he is embroiled in an extensive game that is both rewarding and dangerous. It was interesting, and I can see how the book would have a following, but it wasn't really my kind of book. Older teens, adults.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Not in the Heartland!

The return of Koertge brings an interesting (well, not that interesting) format/device where the voice rotates three characters who are on the cusp (yes, cusp. I said something earlier about coming-of-age themes, didn't I?) of graduation. The plan is for the inseparable trio to get out of podunckville and find a land of acceptance. The voices are largely individual, although sometimes blurry, which can be realistic - any group of people who spend that much time together do eventually pick up on each other's mannerisms. Elliot feels inferior, Larry is gay, and Teresa has an unrequited crush on Elliot. All of them need to come to terms with this. Oh, and there is that heartland vs. gay twist. I mean, you did expect that, right? It's a respectively tame and rather predictable read, but not unpleasant. Either, 14+.

Two Gulps

I don't remember why I read this. I think that maybe Rachel said something about it. Well, for whatever reason, I read it in two short sittings; it's one of those quick, satisfying reads that most of us can identify with, as we tend to be slightly dorky, rather intelligent (if I do say so myself) girls (intelligent, I meant, not girls. Well I did mean girls as I am one, and I most of you are too... oh dear. I'll just go with the thought that you know what I meant...). Egg is obsessed with a sci-fi movie called Terminal Earth, which she's seen 42 times (good grief. If I've seen anything 42 times it's The Princess Bride and that's only over like, 20 years). She's changed her appearance to fit the heroine, and hides behind the facade, which helps her forget that she's boy proof. She has everything under control, until the new boy hits town. Girls 12+.

Re-Reading For Your Gratification

I read this shortly after it came out two years ago. It being one of those many-character epics, I found that when I tried to bow to the overwhelming votes for Eldest in the poll, the little summary at the beginning of the book only served to confuse me about what I had forgotten in the time before its sequel's release. I had the basics down: boy finds egg that hatches into a dragon, must go on quest to save the kingdom. Pretty standard fantasy plot with a cast of twelve hundred and four. But this all of you know. I'm just telling you so you know I'm not ignoring the whole voting thing - I just needed to remember what was going on and why it was so important. I actually own Eldest, so it is one of the books I'll read in that brief time between libraries, when I'm without (gasp the horrors!) a valid library card. Next week, it is! (Same goes with Under the Jolly Roger).

Now for something completely different.

I believe that this is a good book. I believe that it is authentic to its subjects. It was interesting and it was completely foreign to me, at least on the cultural/ethnic level. Beyond that, it is the classic coming-of-age story (brace yourself - this may be a theme tonight). Jesse, 15, has always been best friends with Rise, 17, but Jesse notices that they seem to be growing apart and he has become closer to CJ. Old bonds don't break easily though, and soon Jesse and CJ start to get pulled into Rise's new associations and they have to make decisions that could put their lives in danger. They have to figure out who they are outside of the influences around them - find the strength to be themselves, and all that cheese. But it was compelling. Ages 14+.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

In a Dangerous Land, G.I.A., vol. 4

Emi and I got off the plane, waited for baggage (where some woman molested my bag because she was curious about my tag which is bright pink and says 'oops' on it to supposedly indicate that if you picked this bag, it is clearly not yours. Unfortunately, it inspired this woman to do just the opposite. Isn't there some unwritten rule that you are NEVER to touch anyone else's luggage on the carousel unless it is in direct violation of your's? Luckily said woman was like 4 yards in front of me - which brings up another annoyance of mine - why don't people understand that if everyone stands a few yards away from the carousel we can all easily jump forward to grab our luggage without problems. However, if we all try to crowd around it everyone whose luggage has actually appeared can't get to it without elbowing the obnoxious people out of the way or waiting for the dratted bag to go all the way around, and who wants to do that? Well, I suppose if you are crowding the carousel, you deserve to be elbowed sharply. And thus ends the longest parenthetical statement ever.), rented the exciting Ford Focus and headed to town, about a 15-20 minute drive. Soon we were both gasping about how beautiful this chunk of land is. Later that night we just drove around town and, let me tell you, it would have been easier to point out the things we didn't like. It was a constant peppering of "Hey look at that!", "Wow, that's so gorgeous!", and "I want that house, no wait that one, ah, man, I'd take any of these!" repeatedly. I'm not kidding. By the middle of the drive I was all begging the universe for this library to hire me. Which they did. But that, of course, is getting ahead of the story.

The next morning I got up and went to my interview (well, clearly there was more to it than that, but who wants to hear about me curling my hair). This town has more freakin' one way streets than I have ever seen. In the entire three days that I spent there, I was never ONCE able to take the same route back as I had come. I was so confused that I still can't figure out how the whole time I though north was south and vice versa. (Wow, with the tangents today) Anyway, I got to the library way early and was able to wander around a bit before my interview. It was one of those tag team getups, so there were 4 people in the room, three asking me questions. And Rachel and Eric: twice during this adventure I was asked "what would make me leave my job at [insert library here]." How did I answer? The first time: More opportunity, more money. The second time: Only if I'm not being mentally stimulated. The first library, (one stop town) didn't hire me. The second (dangerous land) did.

How did I feel about the actual library? Well. They have one of the most limited collection development policies I've ever seen, however I think that I'm spoiled where I am, and I think that they are slowly heading toward that more popular material collection, which is what I'm used to. Personally, I figure if the people are going to check it out, let them. It's becoming harder and harder to validate our existence if the offerings are mostly research related. Other than that, its a library. It's not a stunning building, but it's nice. The job itself? The posting emphasized "all ages" in service and programming. Which is totally awesome to me. In actuality I would be an adult services librarian developing/doing programming and teaching computer classes. I'm all about the teaching, but everyone knows that I want teen work. I don't get that with this job. AND IT'S 2000 MILES AWAY FROM EVERYONE I KNOW. Needless to say, when they offered me the job the next day I needed time to think about it. I went back and forth almost hourly for FIVE days. It's the most wrenching decision I've ever made. I like my friends and my family. I like what I have where I am. Why did I even apply to places so far away if I didn't want to leave? Because my Alma Mater is puking out graduates like you wouldn't believe, so it takes a while to get a job around home, because it would be healthy to leave the place I grew up for once, because I didn't actually think that anyone would actually pay any attention to me. After serious soul searching, a really long phone conversation with my favorite grad professor Holly, and (I am embarrassed to admit) a tarot reading from Cory, and massive amounts of crying, I decided that I would take them up on their offer. I am moving 2000 miles away. Dear God. What have I done.

18 applications
8 phone interviews
4 real interviews
4 states
8 days
2 job offers
1 acceptance

Why is it a Dangerous Land? You are talking about a girl who's sprained her ankle twice in a month (more on that tomorrow)- there are outdoor adventures there. I'm doomed.

Monday, January 23, 2006


Ok, can I quickly express my disappointment in the ALA awards (ok, the Printz, I lost faith last year in the Newbery's when Kira Kira won)? I'm totally behind "Looking for Alaska" (as evident by the link to the right connecting to the author's blog) but the rest of them? Yeah. Not so much. In fact, so uninspired that I'm not even going to bother putting them on hold. This may stem from the fact that I've been in the middle of "I am the Messenger" since the last plane ride (so we are talking since the 13th - simply ages). I've read a book and a half since I put it down - in the midst of deciding whether to move 2,000 miles away from home, finding apartments and packing (more on this later, I promise!) A delay like this is never a good sign. I'll probably finish it, but, man, who were those people on the committee? Those books are so unexciting. I'm sure they are good, or whatever, on whatever scale they go by, but there were fun books out there this year that were deserving, in my unworthy opinion. Poetry? Short Stories? Non-Fiction (even when about a music guy I like)? I don't know. Maybe one day I'll be on the committee (right, me win such a coveted spot, ha). I'd make sure that the award goes to books kids actually want to read. Argh. (this bitterness will be tempered with time, I'm sure)

Monday, January 16, 2006

One Stop Town, G.I.A., vol. 3

There isn't a whole lot to say about this one. Much like there isn't a whole lot going on in this community. Welcome to Library #4! It occurs as the third interview, but was arranged as the fourth, and I wanted to keep everything as confusing as possible. Have I succeeded? The pay is, well, really awful. However, although less actual money, the pay is not as atrocious as Dirty Urban Library, simply because the cost of living isn't even comparable. The job, however, is IDEAL. The position itself, I mean. The community is, well, rather limited, if not as soul-sucking as Tumbleweed Library. The staff could go either way. The Director seems fantastic (although it could be a cleverly placed facade - I've been known to fall for them in the past), but the long-established Children's Librarian would probably need a lot of hand-holding and, I suspect, significant adjustment to the new position and any changes that would have to happen. So, I foresee probable personality conflicts. And she's just a little to far away from retirement to wait it out.

I would be able to literally create the Teen Librarian position, and all of the programs therein. It sounds like the library is in a good place, I could probably have anything I can give a good reason for. That said, I can't quite figure out exactly where I would live. It's only 150 miles away from home, but I saw no real discernible living possibilities. Do I want to live in a place where everything you need is literally miles and miles away? And it is so not an attractive vacation destination, so will my friends actually visit me, since it is just far enough away to be inconvenient? This is basically, the perfect starter job. Assuming they want me and that I can want them. Argh.
Ok, maybe there was a lot to say about this one...

Sunday, January 15, 2006

There Were Tumbleweed! G.I.A., vol. 2

It's been almost a week since I left on the second adventure. I've been horribly remiss to make you wait, but in the few moments at home I've had over the last week, I wasn't really cognitive enough to give you anything worth reading (terribly presumptive that this is worth reading, isn't it?). On the way to Tumbleweed Library (#2, if you aren't paying attention) I was sofortunate to sit in the middle seat on both packed planes. So, what an auspicious start! I pick up my rental (PT Cruiser, blue) and head out on the hour-long drive it will take me to get to the city. And Lo! What is that I see dancing across the highway, not once, but THREE different times? Tumbleweed! TUMBLEWEED! I must admit that I've never seen tumbleweed and it had become a bit of a myth in my mind, relegated to cheesy westerns and vague recollections of NPR stories commenting on its proficiency at sucking up radiation from the ground. It was an unexpected encounter, and should have been my first clue.

There was nothing wrong with the library. At all. The job sounded like I would have fun, the people seemed very nice, the library itself was beautiful. It wasn't a youth position. I had applied to the teen librarian job, but they filled that internally and said that they were "still very interested in me for the adult opening." I can deal with that, I figure. I'd rather work with adults than with kids under 7, I say, so I'll check out the situation there. And I was right, the library was beautiful, the people great and I'm sure that I would enjoy the job. However, the land. The city. That's were the tumbleweed come it. I think that I would literally go mad if I lived in that part of the country. It was SO FLAT. There weren't trees. Not naturally, anyway. The wind would just blow and blow. I'd be like the woman in Centennial who goes mad from the flat and wind and dust and kills her family, then herself. I couldn't live there. Not and retain my soul. (how melodramatic) I just didn't expect it of this part of the country. I'll hear back from them this week. I'd like to know how much they'll pay. Just out of curiosity.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Plane Food: Round 4

I was actually kind of excited to write about this book for the simple novelty of giving something a bad review. It really isn't tough to entertain me, and I don't think that Deliver Us From Normal even tried. Perhaps Klise was attempting to portray events in the truly naive view of her eleven-year-old narrator, and, in a way, it worked. The book was ambitious, but totally shortsighted - a remarkable feat to say the least. Charlie is a hyper-sensitive kid, but he doesn't really realize that he has anxiety attacks, and no one bothers to talk to him about them. He just goes around thinking that he has 'special powers' to understand everything that is going on around him, when really he's misinterpreting most all of it. Because of his issues, after a mildly bad incident at school, the parents pull everyone out of school, without telling Charlie why. He's left to believe what he always assumes, that his family isn't 'normal' enough to stay in a town called conveniently, Normal, IL. This flee from the hometown is supposed to allow Charles to grow, see his family without embarrassment and realize what's important in life through a series of ridiculous (and irresponsible, for the parents) events. Some sort of epiphany was reached, but not realistically. This book wasn't worth my time. It was boring from start to finish, and I only finished it to confirm that it was bad (and I can't write something disparaging without all the facts, right?). Despite its 'teen' classification in the library, it should probably be in 'J,' if its even worth having around. Oh, and I was horribly disappointed to realize that those were, in fact, bunnies, not kangaroos on the cover as I gotten into my head.

Plane Food: Round 3

I'm not a big non-fiction reader, nor am I much of a reader of adult titles. It is, therefore, quite surprising (well, to me) that I have read two adult non-fiction books within a month. Within the month in which I started a blog. So that's odd. Anyway, I love to cook, but I've always been scared of those old cookbooks that called for lard or unmentionable bits in everything, cookbooks that considered food served in loaf shape the height of couture. I have my grandmother's 1927 edition of Joy of Cooking. I had, therefore, an idea of just what Julie Powell was into when she set forth on a quest to cook all of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. From there it is marrow, maggots and melodrama, hoofs and humor. And a lot of swearing. I genuinely enjoyed it. The Julie/Julia Project started out as a blog, became wildly successful and then became the book that I just read. I have to be honest, with the exception of a few desserts and the potato and leek soup, I'll never have any desire to undertake such an endeavor. Oh, and I'm still scared of old cookbooks...

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Plane Food: Round 2

I was MESMERIZED by this book. A first book by Laura Whitcomb, the spine (of all things) caught my attention in a book store, the cover did me in, and I went right to work and put it on hold. I saved it for the plane home, because it hadn't received any votes, unlike Grace, but was a smaller, lighter book, suitable for travel. Frankly, I didn't even realize that we were flying. It has now put me in the position where I can't decide what my favorite book of 2005 was, A Certain Slant of Light or Twilight. Argh. The later was so clearly winning before I read this one. There is some sex in it, so ages 15+, I think. Unless you know the kid, of course. Wait, I haven't even told you what it's about. Isn't the recommendation enough?

Plane Food: Round 1

All of you who voted for Amazing Grace can now give your allegiance to another book. It was the perfect plane book. Started it when I got on the plane, finished it that night at the hotel, despite really, really wanting to close my eyes after being up for 21 hours of travel and interviewing. It is chick lit for teens, and as with most chick lit, there were tiny holes in the plot, but I really didn't care. It was fun and I wanted to find out the resolution, although the author cheated us out of some of the ending revelations that I was hoping for. I really enjoyed it, and will look into other books by Shull. Basic synopsis: Teen Tennis Sensation suddenly wants out of her life and flees to Alaska to find out what normal life is. Easy sell to girls 12+.

A Crazy Person Told Me I Was Pretty Today...G.I.A, vol. 1

Well, actually yesterday, but today sounded better... It was one of those 'whatever you do don't make eye contact' moments. He was a big guy and it was a close space; I knocked over luggage in my haste to move out of the range of his admiration. This is one of the many reasons why I think that super-urban libraries aren't for me. I've been spoiled in suburbia. Even the poor rural areas I've worked in are better than what I encountered on Thursday. This sounds harsh, and it is probably too harsh.

A couple weeks ago here at home I was subbing at a big, busy library at the adult info desk, where, for the first time ever, I was actually scared of a patron. She was diminutive, but possessing such a vibrating intensity that I feared that if I made the wrong random movement she would freak out and attack, and there's no easy way to defend against the crazy. Especially at work, if you want to keep your job. What I'm saying is that, while there are crazies (and not just the mental ones) everywhere, when coupled with the depressing nature that seems to be the urban library (or at least the one that I interviewed at), I just don't want to deal with it.

That, and they seemed to want to stick me in a isolation booth they call the [children's room] where I wouldn't have contact with anyone over grade six and their parents. That's just not me. To be fair, I don't know exactly what my situation would be there, but that's the impression I got. I visited a branch with the nicest, most enthusiastic children's librarian, but she was like a teacher. I know that there isn't a huge gap between teacher and librarian, but, the thing is, I would have gotten a teaching degree if I wanted to be in the environment she was working in. I like variety. I don't think that I want to be in a position where I help only one demographic. That would be boring. Oh, and the pay sucked. And the books weren't shiny. The HR person who was in on the interview said that she would probably offer me a position next week when all the paperwork was done. I don't want to flat out say right now that I won't accept it, because maybe she'll have a working scenario for me that would be more appealing, but I doubt it.

I know that it is the urban libraries that are needed the most. I feel bad, but I'm just not sure I could bring it. Not when my personal life will be depressing enough on its own. I can't gamble that the reward of being truly effective will balance out both a dreary job environment and a lonely existence. I have to admit that this time, for this big of a step, I'm going to be selfish. Sorry, if you thought better of me. (and on that depressing note):

Library 4: Interview Jan. 10, 2pm. Roughly 150 miles from home.
Phone Interview (doesn't get a number until face-to-face): Interview Jan. 17, 10am. Roughly 850 miles from home.

I've read a lot, so that's next.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Announcing the Adventure

On December 19th I hinted, ok, basically said, that I had been looking for a professional job and that there had been a few hits. Starting tomorrow the Great Interview Adventure (henceforth known as GIA) begins. Three public libraries are, at their expense, flying me out for a final interview (this fact was entirely shocking to me, I mean, come on, these are non-profits!). I am going to attempt to remain entirely neutral until all libraries have been visited. I will not tell you where I am going, or with whom I am interviewing with. I will, however, reveal their distance from home and basic generalities, such as: large metropolis, or suburbia, or rural. I am very helpful like that. Besides, it's not like anyone who doesn't know me actually reads this. But just for anyone who might comment on the upcoming entries who does actually know where I am, please don't give any leading indication of the locals. Vote, if you wish, but I shall come up with some sort of pseudonym. Or something. At the moment, none of the libraries have personalities to me as I've never visited any of them; their current noms de plume will be uninspired.

Library 1: Interview Jan. 5, Noon. Roughly 800 miles from home.
Library 2: Interview Jan. 9, 9am. Roughly 1,200 miles from home.
Library 3: Interview Jan. 12, 9am. Roughly 2,000 miles from home.

I realize that I am very fortunate to have even a fraction of the opportunities that I have here. I truly do. I'm still petrified. Hopefully, I'll be able to post on the road, but if not, I'll do my best to give you a honest account as soon as possible. Thanks for your support!