Friday, December 29, 2006

Cybils Debate

It's done. Well, my part is anyway. After much sweat, gnashing of teeth, a few paper cuts and some persuasive argument my fine colleagues and I have narrowed our 80 YA Cybils nominations down to the shortlist of five.

So here's to Little Willow, Mindy, Sara and TadMack (and, as always, our administrator Jen who did not take part in discussion, but was there in spirit)! We had a blast. I can't tell you what we decided yet, the Cybils site will be the first to announce, but be sure to check one/both/all of us on Monday!

Don't forget that there are eight whole short lists that will be announced on Monday!

Also, a big thanks to the publishers and authors who sent us review copies - it really made our lives easier!

The Real Question? What the heck do we do now? (Answer forthcoming)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Well, I dig music, but some of that stuff is weird.

I was so caught up in Just Listen that when I finally got home from Anti-Turkey Day, I dropped my bags and picked up the book. Is it weird to have the audio in your car and the book in your home? Maybe. It's just lucky I did, otherwise I would have been wandering around the city trying to finish it. Or sitting in my garage slowly poisoning myself. But hey, it's Dessen. She's worth it, right?

Annabel Green has everything. At least that what the department store commercial she stars in indicates. In fact, her life is far from ideal. She doesn't want to model anymore, but is afraid to tell her mother that, her best friend thinks she's a witch with a capitol 'B', and her sister is sick - scary sick. She definitely doesn't want to start school this fall, cope with fact that creepy Owen is the only who acts like she's alive, or deal with adoring tween fans. What she really needs to face is much darker.

By the way? Love Owen. Interesting, cool, sweet and totally misunderstood. Or not. Shall I comment on the cover? No, wait, I
did that...

I've long maintained that Sarah Dessen is awesome. I like all of her books. That said, I don't feel the need to read all of her books because I know exactly what I'll be getting. An girl-oriented issue book of high quality. I know who I give the books to. It's a pity, really, that I feel this way, because I always feel so good after reading her. One day I'll go back and read the rest - it's just hard to justify when there are so many unknown books out there. Of course, I've read entirely too many Meg Cabot's, but Cabot is tends to be candy and Dessen is much more; Cabot's a throwaway and Dessen involves and entangles a reader. That's a good thing.

Cybils Tally: 28/80

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I'm off to D.C. for a week. My plane leaves at 9 tomorrow morning, barring the freezing rain & snow the weather people keep yapping on about. Then, assuming there will be no delays, I've got half an hour to catch the connection. My regional manager gave me her good luck charm - here's hoping it works. If it doesn't, here's hoping I put enough books in my carry-on...

When I asked my brother where the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot was he said, "There's a McDonald's down the road." So... I don't know how much connectivity I'll have whilst away. I'll try for at least a couple instances.

In the interim, Happy Holidays! Or, if you don't care about that stuff - Happy Day Off Work!

<3 Jac

Monday, December 18, 2006

Yeah, the hair and the coat? Mistake.

Hmm... doesn't this look like some other covers this year? What's up with that? The 3/4 girl body in?

Hey look, for all of you who weren't counting, it's
books later! For all of you not paying attention, we're going to talk about high school popularity again!

Valerie Frankel's Fringe Girl can best be described as Meg Cabot meets Andrew Clements with a dash of Cecil Castellucci thrown in for spice.

Embracing my dorky librarian habits, I tend to look at the CIP (er, copyright page) of each book I read. The complete title of this, not found anywhere else, is Fringe Girl: The Revolution Starts Now, which you may not find interesting, but I do. um... wait... what's that it says on her t-shirt? crap. nevermind.

Revolution indeed. Much like the student in Frindle, Adora takes a social studies lesson to extremes and decides to mount a mutiny of the student downtrodden and reinstate the school's social hierarchy with kinder, gentler, more democratic leaders. With a few well-strategized hits, the popular crumble and Dora suddenly rules the school. Did I mention all this was homework?

I had some hesitations prior to reading this, but I can honestly say that, one month later, there are no foul tastes left in my mouth whatsoever. That doesn't sound enthusiastic enough. hmm... This was a solidly enjoyable book that while expounding upon a popular theme, did it in a fresh way that gave me nothing to complain about. It was fun. I laughed. I cared about the characters. I may not read the sequel (Fringe Girl In Love), but was very glad that this was brought to my attention. I will have no problem giving this title to teens, and will certainly put it before that other book. ;)

Cybils Tally (which, really, is so out-of-date it's almost pointless): 27/80

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Try Not to Laugh. Just Try. Book Group Round 4

Here we are, December 13. I know that you've been holding your breath since I teased you about this title last month. Tonight was our fourth adult book group. Six participants this time, down one (4 returns, 2 new), but it is December, and I KNEW I had chosen a book that wouldn't be terribly popular with the group. But, they did want me to push them, and I have wanted to read Christopher Moore's The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror since I saw it last year.

The reaction was mixed. I loved it. I don't think two pages went by without at least a snort. Several times I had to actually put the book down in order to laugh. It is, much as whomever said about me, irreverent. Therein lies both its appeal and its repugnancy. One loved it as much as I did, another liked it, two admitted to laughter but not necesarily enjoyment, one didn't read it, the last gave up when the zombies appeared.

Wait...Zombies? In a Christmas story?


I really can't put it better than the publisher, so here's what they have to say:
'Twas the night (okay, more like the week) before Christmas, and all through the tiny community of Pine Cove, California, people are busy buying, wrapping, packing, and generally getting into the holiday spirit.

But not everybody is feeling the joy. Little Joshua Barker is in desperate need of a holiday miracle. No, he's not on his deathbed; no, his dog hasn't run away from home. But Josh is sure that he saw Santa take a shovel to the head, and now the seven-year-old has only one prayer: Please, Santa, come back from the dead.

But hold on! There's an angel waiting in the wings. (Wings, get it?) It's none other than the Archangel Raziel come to Earth seeking a small child with a wish that needs granting. Unfortunately, our angel's not sporting the brightest halo in the bunch, and before you can say "Kris Kringle," he's botched his sacred mission and sent the residents of Pine Cove headlong into Christmas chaos, culminating in the most hilarious and horrifying holiday party the town has ever seen.

Move over, Charles Dickens -- it's Christopher Moore time.

And wait 'til you find out what the zombies want to do after they eat brains! (Seriously, Mom, you totally have to read this book - and that goes for the rest of you too!<3)

Read the first bit here.

(note: Irreverence is fine with me, I just hope I don't cross that line into rudeness. Do let me know if I do, and I'll rectify the situation. However, not wanting to be rude doesn't necessarily mean that I'm always going to be nice. There's little worse than a sycophant. No matter how much I love authors and what they do...I'm not sure I buy into that "if you've nothing nice to say, say nothing at all." I rather think that's a disservice to us all. I'm nothing, if not honest. Thank You, musing over.)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Wishing...for something else.

Something that continues to surprise me as I read the Cybils YA long list is the sheer amount of historical fiction. Now, if you are at all familiar with my reading habits, I have a great deal of affection for this genre. I have had, I think, since sixth grade when I read The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (this also sparked my love of kids-stuck-on-ships books, which has been well expounded here). Once thing that makes historical fiction wonderful is that the time period chosen is necessary to telling the story; the setting should have as much presence as the characters. Otherwise, why bother? Which is kind of the question I now want to ask Celia Rees.

It's the conventional coming-of-age story taking place largely over one summer, with the future events providing closure for that summer. Richard is 15 and his older summer pal is no longer kid enough to hang out with him, so Richard goes off on his own returning to an abandoned house that is now occupied. He becomes entwined with the bohemian family and enraptured with their daughter. Richard isn't treated very well, but he learns a lot.

The Wish House's primary action occurs in 1976 England, in flashbacks from 1982. With the exception of some punk-rock styles in '82 & perhaps the Bohemian er... lifestyle of the artistic Dalton family in '76, I don't feel the setting as a presence in the book. But this certainly raises the question of whether the setting needs to have a presence. What do you think?

Still like Rees's Pirates! best.

For those who need it: Definitely for older teens. At times very risque, lots of nudity, lots of sex & drug use.

Cybills tally: 26/80

Monday, December 11, 2006

This Is All, and it's a whole lot.

Is it just me, or is it terribly ironic that a book with 808 pages is called This Is All? Am I just stating the obvious again? *sigh*

I read it all. Every word. At times I hated it fiercely. I hated it most when it challenged the way we read books. For a period of 213 pages Aidan Chambers wanted the reader to first read the even numbered pages, then turn all the way back and read the odd numbered pages. It's very disarming and rather frustrating. By the time I became accustomed to the technique, when I finally stopped instinctively reading, the experiment was over and I had to remind myself to go back to normal. It took several pages. And you know what? It worked. I can look back however many weeks ago that I read it (yeah, as of this morning, I'm 16+ books behind in blogging) and recognize that it was an innovative way to separate two storylines in Cordelia's life that were intertwined in time. Had Chambers offered the events in chronological order the importance of the individual storylines would have been muddled.

This Is All is not for everyone. Obviously. It's Epic Realism. I don't know if that is an actual term, but I can't think of one that fits it better. Full title: This Is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn. Cordelia has kept a diary (or Pillow Book in the Japanese style) for several years. At 19 she has become pregnant and is going back to those old entries, editing them and fleshing them out with the goal of giving them to her daughter on her 16th birthday. Cordelia spares no event - hides nothing from her daughter, no matter the content.

When all was said and done, I was astounded by this piece. I'm not quite sure what to do with it; it doesn't easily fit into any list save for those for length. It was very good; the characters were amazing - every one of them were 3D (which, really, they better be at this length). Sometimes Cordelia did strange things that made me raise my eyebrow. However, there is really only one choice that makes me wonder. Something drastic needed to happen plot-wise for two of the characters to recognize what mattered in life (yadda, yadda). Without giving anything away, I wonder whether the event needed to be quite so dire. In a book that was generally the realistic everyday musings and events of a teenage girl, the sudden transition to a teen-in-peril type of book actually made it just a little less believable. In a different book, I wouldn't even think twice about it, but here, something else might have worked better. (But what do I know?)

If there is anything at all about this that intrigues you, I urge you to read this book. All of it. In all honestly, you can't accurately respond to part of the book without knowing the context of the entire book. By the time you get to the end you must reevaluate everything that came before. It will take time, but I think it's worth the work the reader has to put in. Plus, I'd love to discuss it.

While reading this title, I spoke with a coworker and she mentioned that she used to read War & Peace and Anna Karenina every holiday season. I made some comment about length and depression, but acknowledged that I hadn't actually read either (I'm a bit of a commitment-phobe). I told her about This Is All, then, unsurprisingly, found it on the shelf and gave it to her. I also gave her Speak, which, in my opinion, every ninth grader in the nation should read, as well as every adult who has any contact with teens. She commented that I must like books with disembodied eyes & leaves on the cover. I hadn't noticed. She took the books.

One last note: I've heard a lot of discussion this year about books marketed for teens that could well be as or more successful for adults. This might be one of them (others: Octavian Nothing & The Book Thief).

Cybils Tally: 25/80

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Without Spells

Having read most of Alice Hoffman's teen books, I was expecting more magical realism. I persisted with the erroneous thought that something magical was going to happen at any moment for far, far too long. This is a story of the Inquisition. The Spanish Inquisition. In Incantation, Estrella is confident of her family's 500-year heritage in their Spanish village, but when her neighbors are arrested for being Jewish, she begins to question all that she's held true.

There are some absolutely ghastly scenes in this book. It's set in 1500 during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella about 20 years after the Catholic Monarchs set out to maintain religious and political unity. They weren't exactly... nice about it. This comes through in the text in some very painful sections. On the less bloody side, my favorite scene was with her grandfather. He had discounted Estrella, and the revelation of her intelligence and the connection forged between them because of it was touching. As well as amusing.

Months ago Justine Larbalestier related on her blog Margo Lanagan's (Black Juice) list of forbidden words. I bring this up simply because dear Madam Hoffman brought to light a word that, if I were to have such a list, would top it. That word is "sneaked." Poor Estrella was sneaking an understandable, but surprising amount. The book is only 166 pages long!

"It was nearly sunrise when we sneaked..." p 82.
"We had sneaked out..." p 114.
"I sneaked in at the last moment..." p 125.
"We sneaked into the doctor's stable" p 161.

It's a perfectly fine word. I know that. It just grates fiercely in my head when up against Hoffman's otherwise succinct but elegant prose. Couldn't Estrella have tiptoed, slipped, or crept? It's me, not her, but it jarred me out of the story every time. And so, "sneaked" is on my forbidden word list. That hypothetical list.

My favorite of Hoffman's is still Green Angel, but I've yet to read the adult titles, although I'm set on doing one of them for the adult book group...

Cybils Tally: 24/80