Friday, May 26, 2006
Freak Out Explained
Right, so that wasn't terribly fair of me. I got distracted what with Sarah coming to visit and all. So blame her.
There I was, alone on the reference desk. The only librarian around, and by default in charge. Minding my own business, when R and K (circ and page) walk up to the desk. They have this hesitant look in their eyes, but I don't know that this is a bad sign. I catch on when they start talking:
"We're so sorry."
"You're in charge of the library."
"Uh-uh. No I'm not."
"You're the only librarian here, you are."
"But I don't want to be."
"Fine, what's wrong."
"That guy over at the copy machine said that there were these two teens on bikes..."
On go the latex gloves. On go the protective second pair. Out I march, page by my side for emotional support. Into the foyer. To stop and stare for 10 minutes, repressing the urge to shout profanities with vigor, before I can the gather the courage and master the crawling revulsion shuddering through me. What was creating such a ruckus in my life, you ask? Why the lovely two and a half foot dead snake left in front of our entryway. Yes, I said snake. Clearly dead, I just needed to make sure, so I tried to nudge it with my foot. This was also supposed to give me an indication of the weight and movement of the specimen, better enabling me to dispose of it as quickly and with as little ick factor as possible. Of course, I've forgotten that I'm wearing ill-fitting clogs, so my nudge turns into leaving the shoe directly on top of the now confirmed dead snake. Eventually, I pick up the snake with two fingers, promptly grossing myself out, dropping the darn thing and missing the bag entirely. Sucking it up I do manage to get the snake in the plastic bag and into the dumpster. I don't know if that was what I was supposed to do, but it's what I did, and By God I don't want to do it again.
The picture? That's me going to my happy place.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod. and who's in charge of the stupid library? yeah. that's me. oh my god.
God forbid we actually let the kids talk about stuff that matters in a controlled environment.
Over on Bookshelves of Doom Leila has been tracking some of the recent censorship attempts. In particular Illinois. Board Member Leslie Pinney has petitioned for nine titles on the required reading list of District 214 to be removed. The titles?
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Freakonomics by Steven Leavitt
The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan
Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez.
Now, I've only read two of the books (bad librarian. Can you guess which ones?), but Pinney hasn't read any. Now there's a online petition to save the books. Well, the first seven at least. I don't know why the last two aren't on the list. I have many a latent diatribe, but I'll leave it at this: I'm #437. You?
(thanks Leila and AS IF!)
Monday, May 22, 2006
I was going to read My Saucy Stuffed Ravioli, but then I figured out that it was the third in a series, and, well, that just can't happen. So I substituted it with the first. What strikes me most is its resemblance to the movie Clueless minus the matchmaking and dead mother, plus food & recipes (I am SO going to find a reason to make the cheese puffs). Maybe it was the tone. I don't know. It was ok. I imagine that the series has gotten better. Cup seemed rather like a prelude to the next installment. Which I doubt I'll read, although I am curious to see how her love life turns out. Maybe someday, if I'm desperate (yeah, like I'm ever out of reading material). Although only 3 years old (and British) the slang seemed very dated to me. Nice to have a normal-sized female heroine, and the love your body theme. Girls +12.
Most amusing line: "Portia is named after some bit of a totty in a Shakespeare play. There isn't a pound of flesh on her..." p11. Yes, it's a hit-you-over-the-head Shakespeare joke, but I still thought it clever.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
The Best Kind of Stealing
Dear God this was a long book. It took Forever to read. And what took the longest were the first 300 pages or so. It took me that time just to get used to the format. Zusak's narrator, as I'm sure you know by now - this being one of the most heavily buzzed new books around, is Death in Nazi Germany. Death has this pesky habit of interrupting the story to tell you things you don't really want to know. Like who's going to die. Am I really going to allow myself to invest myself in a character that I know is going to die? The author's got a lot of faith in himself to believe that he's going to make someone so lovable that you'll care despite yourself. On one hand, I admire his honesty - there were no tricks - I knew what was coming, and I read anyway. And I did care. However, I wonder how I would have taken it had I not known. Now, don't let me mislead you, everything is not revealed, and once past the adjustment period (for me 300 pages) it took a mere 100 to fall in love and the last 150 was read in awe (I did say it was long - and I really hate commitment). The characters were distinct and fully developed. All of them. It's interesting to see how incredibly different this is from I Am the Messenger. I'm sure it will at least get nominated for the Printz.
Germany, 1939. Liesel (and how much fun did I have saying that over and over in my head!) is sent to live with foster parents. The trip cross country is difficult and she sees her little brother die during it, which haunts her, making the adjustment more difficult and leading her to steal books - but only when necessary.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
This is how I watch movies.
So it turns out that I have something in common with the YA author Gail Giles. I was reading her blog (link now found on the right bar)and she sucked me in to the point that I read all the way back to March when she posted about her movie watching quirks (for lack of a better term). Darling Dan refuses to see movies for the first time through with me. If he can't avoid it, he sits as far away as possible. See, I tend to catch things too early. It's usually some random epiphany that gives away endings that I can't help but blurt out. However, if Darling Dan HAS seen the movie, he finds no end of amusement in sitting next to me just to see what I anticipate. That's partially where the 'interactive' bit comes in. Apparently Gail Giles does this too. I'm not a freak of nature! Really!
Thursday, May 11, 2006
And the crown is yanked away.
So Jaclyn Moriarty is my new hero. Stephenie Meyer may take her title back when New Moon is published, but right now, Jaclyn Moriarty has it firmly in her hands. Even if she does spell her first name wrong. She also has a blog which I'll add to the author list in the hopes that someday she'll update it. Until I get irritated/bored with the lack of postings, that is. John Green always comes so close to getting kicked of the list for lack of posts. Then he posts. Typical.
Anyway. The Year of Secret Assignments. I reached page 262 (while on a treadmill of all places) and had a sudden epiphany, two actually. This wasn't a good book. This was a sensational book. Little details, inconsequential when introduced are anything but 50 pages later. It was go ahead and laugh out loud, despite whomever might shoot you glances indicating that your sanity is doubted, wonderful. I actually experienced physical pain with my worry for a character by page 127. I can't recall that ever happening before. Entirely satisfying. Will now have to add Moriarty to the authors-I-have-to-catch-up-on list. Drat. I think this is also complicated with the fact that the titles are completely different between the originating Australia and here.
Oh, right, the second epiphany. Sarah. You said that after doubting me about Twilight, you would never doubt my recommendations again. Or something like that. Read this book. Put aside whatever depressing memoirs or trashy chick lit you were going to read and do this one instead. Really. Trust me.
For those of you keeping track, yeah, this is the 3rd book in a row with an Australian author. Odd coincidence.
Well, if you want to feel a bit uncomfortable.
So I didn't plan on reading this, but then Kip had such a violent dislike for it, I simply had to. A bit contrary, I realize. I don't read a lot of short stories. At first I was going to respond here with a simple and dismissive 'whatever' and post the picture, but I do think that this deserves more of a response than that. The first, and most noteworthy, story was rending. It was painful and poetic and perfect. The author is unafraid of the dirty, uncomfortable, true endings - sometimes to admit that barring death, life doesn't end, whatever trial the characters went through, whatever epiphany reached, in every instance you can see how these people/things will keep struggling toward the finish - they really were living, dimensional portrayals in such limited space. She may never go back to these stories for expansion - most do not need it (a couple would be interesting to see), but you will remember at least a few of them.
That all said, I was oftentimes bored. Some of the stories captured my attention, but I also frequently found myself with wandering attention. After reading a couple reviews just now, the one I had the most difficulty with apparently had elephants as main characters. Yeah, I had no idea what the heck those creatures where. Ants? Monkees? The most engaged I felt in that story was the few moments I tried to figure out what they were before giving up. It was late. I might have missed something. Probably something very obvious. I wasn't feeling the need to expend genuine effort. It was good writing, just not really my thing for the most part.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Here's a sign that your Mother doesn't call you enough - when she does, and ACTUALLY LEAVES A MESSAGE, you don't think, cool, Mom called, you think, crap Grandma died. Especially when you think that she should actually remember that on Tuesdays, you are COVERED IN CLAY in ceramics class. Just like every other Tuesday. Mom, I love you, but please make this weird role-reversal end. Call more. Thanks.
Someone please convince me:
Listened to thirty minutes of this audio book. Couldn't stand the narrator. Wasn't engaged to the story (this might be the narrator's fault). Someone, please tell me why I should expend any more effort on this. Or even if I shouldn't. Oh, and Paul Fleischman's picture was creepy. He'd never make Fuse#8's Hot Men of Children's Literature.
Monday, May 08, 2006
A friend from Library School, Kristy, called to tell me today that she's taken a job as a Library Media Specialist! That she happens to have accepted this job that happens to be in the state in which I now reside, is just a bonus. Although she'll be about a 5 hour drive from me, it's far closer than the 3-4 days drive home or the 10 hours it would take to fly (you'd think I lived in Siberia or something). I'm very excited for her. I'd link to her MySpace account, but I don't seem to have it. I'm sure that will change. Congratulations Kristy!! (Rachel, will you be following soon?)
Yeah, I crossed the line of sanity on this one a while back.
For anyone who has read Stephenie Meyer's Twilight and is interested, she posted the beginnings of a parallel novel on her site - Twilight from Edward's POV. It's called Midnight Sun. As she notes, it's rather unedited - if you haven't read the book (what's wrong with you - go read it. Now. Hurry up!), then you might not know what's going on. (Also, those tees are amusing/cute)
In unrelated news, I think that I'm going to order this. If you are interested, it's cheeper by going through here.
Because the Sea is powerful - duh
Ok, this will sound bad, and I don't really want it to, but I've found that in the last half decade or so, that some of the best fantasy fiction for kids (I know nothing of trends for adults) has been coming from the U.K. and Australia. This isn't to say the U.S. isn't producing good fantasy, I've just noticed a lot of it coming from overseas. Just an observation. One of these imports is Undine. It has a really bad tagline ("The magic, the girl, the ocean inside her...") and a cover that doesn't really do it for me, but still, I read. And I liked. It was actually quite good, well, until the end, but I'll get to that. Undine awakes one day feeling rather odd, but she's familiar with the sensation; it's happened before and it's always gone away. However, it's Tuesday, and as she doesn't trust Tuesdays, she skips school and heads to her aunt's house where she hangs out until she starts hearing voices. Which, of course, is a bad sign. Things get progressively worse for Undine, until she realizes that she has suddenly developed some mad power, which she, of course must keep secret (except for her best friend Trout). Oh - and there is a missing father about whom her mother refuses to speak. I was very intrigued with the idea touched on that power corrupts and would have liked Russon to explore that a bit more. In the end things are tied up too quickly and FAR too neatly, but I hear that there's a sequel out in Australia, so perhaps that will serve to mess things up a bit. It almost felt that it ended that way just in case Russon didn't get a contract for the next book there would be some sort of faux resolution, even though the biggest questions haven't truly been approached. 12+
Most amusing line: "...she takes me for granted. She trusts me too much, and girls never feel passionate about boys they trust." p10. Thought by best friend Trout. I think that can be reversed as well, fish boy.
I always seem to be on the cusp of giving up on Mia. I didn't even want to read this one that much. Whatever character development (please don't hate me Meg Cabot if for some bizarro reason you ever read this, I love you, really I do) that Mia was heading for in the first three-ish books has been abandoned. I actually find Mia and most of her cohorts far less interesting and individual the further we go along in this series. Mia has devolved into angsty whining. Now, perhaps she did this in the books that I actually liked as well, and I might have been less annoyed because the series was fresh or she was angsty about something worthwhile or something. I don't actually remember. I just feel that she's now just a hollow caricature of herself. And that makes me sad. And bored. What makes me keep reading these books is that I know, between the parts that make me hate Mia, both for her annoying whining and for her ability to do horrible, embarrassing, cringe-inducing acts, there is some genuine funny in everything Cabot writes. And, I do have to remember that while in reality 6 years have gone by, and in Mia-land a mere year and a half (?) has passed. Oh, and that Mia is 15. And fifteen-year-olds whine and do stupid things. Hell, even 25-year-olds do. But seriously, if I were Michael, I SO would have broken up with her by now. Please, Meg Cabot, please give Michael a better reason to stay with her -or at least help me understand why he does...
There is something futile in having a blog covering something like literature - whatever the genre. No matter who you are, there is no way to read everything or really even most of it. If you are lucky you'll have chosen to read the books that either everyone else has read or the titles that get nominated for whatever award, thus achieving the allusion, or at least convincing yourself that you are on top of it all. In Reality (Like I Ever Need That), good stuff is constantly slipping through, and suddenly 2 years have gone by and wait? Who's Scott Westerfeld? A bad librarian, I hadn't even heard of Scott Westerfeld until Peeps came out, which I loved. And now I'm playing catch up.
Having been shipped out to a library that easily tripled my drive time, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to listen to an audio book - something I hadn't done since my cross-country adventure. Enter So Yesterday. Hunter is a 'cool-hunter'. He gets paid to wander around Manhattan finding trends before they are trends - and reporting back to the 'client' who will then make money off of Hunter's discoveries by marketing the life out of them. His life is pretty good - but then Hunter's boss disappears under mysterious circumstances, and Hunter and his girlfriend stumble onto something so cutting edge that they are now running for their lives while still working to rescue Hunter's boss. 12+
What do I think? Not as good as Peeps, a little predictable, but still edge of seat. I do really love the way that Westerfeld throws in factoids, both here and in Peeps. I love factoids.
Monday, May 01, 2006
It's so pretty...
This was seriously AWESOME. Recommended by the same kid as Stetson, I had to request its purchase and wait for it to arrive. It's like Buffy meets Toy Story, minus the funny, and where the toys swear up a storm. It was beautiful and creepy and I think that I might just read it again. Dubbed an illustrated novel, the pictures are luscious and the text melds the concise qualities of the graphic novel with the depth of something much longer. Jack (from in-the-box) is called upon to fight off the demon that endangers his owner's life. Normally the idea of toys coming to life totally creeps me out, but this is Classic. (Do fight any visual comparisons of Jack to Bowie's Goblin King in Labyrinth). 13+
Best line: "Look...the only place you find fairness or evil is amongst humankind, and there you'll find only the pretense of the former and a plentitude of the latter" (p 89), said by the truly evil Plucker.
I'm too tired to say anything terribly insightful. Sorry.
I feel inexplicably stupid going back and reading the award books for this year. I feel that if I were a better librarian, I would have read them before they were announced. At least the Printz noms (I did read Alaska way back last year when it first came out, and was halfway through Messenger, that's at least a small consolation.). I was planning to ignore the Newbery's altogether, when my Mom said that she liked Princess Academy so much that she actually went and read Hale's Goose Girl. Fine, I'll read it. grumble, grumble. I think I was being ornery. Ah, the trials and pressures of being the librarian daughter of a librarian. ;)
I enjoyed it very much. Hale created a very real fantasy that wasn't about being a Princess, as much as being a good person. Miri feels like a useless burden to her village and wants to prove herself worthy of the work everyone else does, however, her father forbids her to help in the dangerous quarry. Everything changes when there is a prophesy that the next queen will be found on Miri's remote mountain. This is Miri's opportunity to earn respect and help her family, but when she and all the village girls go off to the Princess Academy to learn, the headmistress is cruel and doesn't seem to want any of the girls to succeed. 10+.
Here's the thing. We hold Romantic Comedies to a lower standard. We do. We all know how it will end, so as long as it lives up to its predictability and is fun getting there, few of us really care. There are, however, some Really Bad RomComs out there. I'd give examples, but the list would be far too long. I think that this book fell into my hands by the evil Amazon pathways. One of those "customers who bought this also bought this" types of things. It has good customer reviews and that persuaded me enough to put it on my hold list. Sigh. I've thought about the perfect adjective to describe this book for awhile and I've come to believe that that word is: VAPID. Vapid, vapid, vapid, though I don't know why I was expecting more. I've no doubt that it is popular with young girls, but there is so much that is better within this genre. Mom gets married on a cruise ship, stubborn list-consumed daughter gets a free vacation, but refuses to hook up with the boy of her dreams because he happens to be a family friend, and all she wants is a summer fling. Vapid. I was especially appalled at the phrase 'pal around,' even when said by an adult. The real problem is that with all the alcohol (in international waters 18 is the drinking limit), drunken behavior and the ultimate goal of sex for our heroine, it ages itself out of the reading level it should be at. +14.
Finally Something Good
I wouldn't have normally picked this book up, but one of the teens in my library (after enthusiastically accepting about 10 books from me) said I had to read it. Figuring this to be a good deal, I was more than happy to oblige. I started it one night, had to go to work the next day and really couldn't wait to come home and finish it. That really says a lot. I thought it was well written and not clear-cut. Very much in the vein of S.E. Hinton. 17 year-old Stetson is on the verge of getting kicked out of school. His living conditions bite, his dad is an alcoholic and all Stet wants to do is finish his car and graduate high school so he can get out of town. He's barely getting by when a sister he never even knew he had shows up. Lots of alcohol for adults and minors, bad choices and an abusive parent, +14.
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