Saturday, March 31, 2007

"Is it possible to peak at thirteen?"

"There is no way I'm dancing with Howard Goldstein."

So starts Rachel Lowenstein's quest to sin more and break some Teen Commandments in search for a more interesting existence. First up? Dating Luke Christiansen, the blond, blue-eyed basketball star who attends Catholic school. Definitely not Jewish and definitely not family-approved.

Goy Crazy by Melissa Schorr is everything a romantic comedy fan could ask for. It's sweet and sincere and better than any rom-coms in the theater recently (have there even been any decent ones of late?). Rachel searches for herself amid all the normal teen pressures of popularity, drinking, dating and morality. She sneaks around, hiding Luke from her family, but as always, what you expect from life doesn't always pan out, and your family is always there for you. Sometimes, they can even surprise you. So can the boy next door.

You can also find Melissa Schorr at MySpace.

Other fab blog reviews:

Sara's Holds Shelf
Little Willow
Cynsations Interview
of Schorr

The plans, they go astray.

Fisher works hard. He studies for the grades he gets. The problem is that he's only doing it to make his father feel less guilty over his mother's leaving. He doesn't have a life outside of school, and he's beginning to fracture over the stress of having perfect grades and getting into college. So he does something drastic.

When his father goes out of town, Fish decides to blow off studying and go on a road trip with the neighbor's shady brother. He wants to see a bit of the world before he's totally committed to the rest of his life. Besides, he'll be home before his father ever finds out... These things, they never go according to plan...

This is an entirely personal opinion, based on nothing but my own issues: Fish! What are you thinking? You are a very smart kid! How could you possibly think that leaving with Lonny is a good idea? So, this is to say that I had a bit of a problem believing that Fish would get himself into such a predicament, AND THEN HAVE SUCH A HARD TIME GETTING OUT OF IT. But, this is me putting myself in his place. I'm not much for the rebelling. Maybe I just haven't been pushed far enough...

For other thoughts on Adrian Fogelin's The Real Question:

Mindy @ Proper Noun
TadMack @ Readers' Rants

I'll skip the cloistering. Thanks.

Rome, 1680's, under the rule of Pope Innocent XI. Angelica Voglia would have attracted attention simply because of her beauty, but since she also has the best voice in Rome, she finds herself part of power struggles ranging from her social-climbing mother, to one of highest offices in the world - the Pope. Innocent has banned women from performing in public in fear of their feminine natures... distracting... the laity and clergy alike. For her own safety, to escape confinement in a convent, and to sing, Angelica becomes The Queen's Soprano.

Carol Dines found just the barest mention of Voglia in research she was doing and it inspired this tale of what felt like a very oppressive religious regime. I wanted more than anything for this innocent girl to find happiness, which always seemed just out of her grasp. It is court intrigue at its finest. There is no predicting the next turn, or anticipating who is truly good or bad, and poor Angelica must learn alongside us. We see her grow from a dutiful daughter to a confident, sure woman who will make her own way and refuse to be a pawn.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Give Me Liberty, but skip the lectures.

In Give Me Liberty by L.M. Elliott, Nathaniel is an indentured servant in the tumultuous time at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Quiet, timid and terribly afraid of abandonment, he's consistently swept around at the whim of others. Escaping a cruel new master, he's taken in by Basil, a man of letters, living in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Basil turns out to be a great influence on Nathaniel; one with a penchant for detailed speeches about the political situation of the rebel colonies. These are tiresome. Coupled with the entirely too cute and out-of-place cameos of luminaries like Washington and Jefferson, there were many times I wanted to just stop reading this. I kept questioning myself why I didn't. What I figured out was that while there were frequent tedious passages, ultimately the paradoxes about Briton vs. America that Nathaniel was working out, slowly, on his own, was fascinating. The growth of this character was tremendously interesting to watch, even if it meant slogging through what amounted to lessons in liberty.

It's too long, but for those good readers avidly interested in history or this war, it may just fit the bill.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

It only works if you have a goal.

Ok, here's the deal. At the moment I'm 26 books behind in posting. Which, actually, isn't as bad as it has been in the past, but I'm sick of the stacks staring at me on my desk and bedside. Besides, I have shiny new bookcases I'd like some of those books to land on. Sooner. Not later. SO, since every friend I have in this town is busy this weekend, I'm giving myself a challenge. Starting tomorrow (Friday) I'm going to blog as many of those 26 books as possible over the weekend. There are old books, books from 2006, brand new books, and even a handful of books that aren't out yet. Any guesses how many I'll get through?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Margo Rabb, Live!

Ok, that's a lie. But she was so kind as to stop by my little hobby of a blog on her Spectacular Blog Tour for her Shiny New Novel Cures for Heartbreak. In doing so, she has become My Very First Author Interview. Margo is obviously very brave as well as being a rather awesome author.

Mia is 15 when her mother dies. She doesn't quite know how to fit this fact into her life, but she does know that her life still marches forward. It's about life after death and the new perspective one gains. It's about moving on but not forgetting. Much of the story is based upon Margo's experience of losing her mother at a young age, and despite the somber inspiration, Cures is very much a novel sparkling with humor, wit and life. It is a novel in stories and each section stands alone as well as it seamlessly fits into the whole.

On to the interview!

So, have you got something against Precious Moments? I mean, I, personally, read Mia's hatred of the figurines you called 'Zingy-Dell' as a veiled guise of those creepy porcelain collectibles of my youth. Am I off base here?

I’ve always found Precious Moments to be pretty horrifying, but when I was writing that scene I googled “figurines” and apparently there are legions of figurine companies out there. We are living in a frighteningly figurine-filled world these days, I’m sorry to say.

Mia had a poster up in her room of Rob Lowe – with, I believe, lipstick kisses on his chest? May I say I laughed pretty hard at that? It was the kisses. I totally remember posters like that. Who was on your wall back in the day, and whom would you put up now, if you weren't, you know, an adult? Still Rob Lowe?

Embarrassingly enough, I did have a poster of Rob Lowe, and also ones of Chachi and Simon Le Bon which I’d torn out of Tiger Beat. If I had a poster now, it would be of Harry Connick, Jr., who I’d never been interested in until I saw him on Broadway in The Pajama Game. Not incidentally, he appeared in the last scene with his shirt off. Perhaps that explains why I saw that musical twice.

Mia's story is very subtly set in the past. I've noticed many a novel of late where, while set 10-30 years in the past, the time doesn't really affect much more than the details. What was behind your choice not to set this in present day?

It’s set in the past partly because I drew on my own memories to write it, and partly because I wanted the narrator to have a more introspective tone, with the subtext that she’s recalling the past. If I’d told the story in the present, I’m not sure that the introspective passages would’ve worked. Also, all the changes in technology like the internet and cell phones would’ve affected the way the characters interact and relate to each other.

Each chapter is preceded by quotes. How did you choose these?

I read the Jeanette Winterson quote “You don’t get over ‘it’ because it is the person you loved” a long time ago, and I thought of it often as I worked on Cures—I thought it embodied the book perfectly. Thinking of that quote often kept me going when I lost faith in whether I’d ever finish the novel; it reminded me of how poorly people understand grief, how they expect you to be over it so quickly. Most of the other quotes I picked up while reading, but for a few chapters I couldn’t find anything that quite fit, so I found quotes from The New Beacon Book of Quotations by Women.

I really admire the depth of emotion you explored in the novel. Mia is at turns angry, resentful and just completely floored by sorrow, yet still able to see the humor in life. I imagine that parts were incredibly difficult for you to write. So, rather than talk about the Kleenex moments, what were your favorite bits to write?

Those internal monologue sections are my favorite parts to write. When I write those parts a sort of otherworldly feeling seems to take over the writing process…it isn’t thinking, but an automatic state where the words flow out. For each passage that was in Mia’s head, I usually wrote a whole page or two and then trimmed it back to get one good paragraph. I also really enjoyed writing “The Healthy Heart”—the characters of Gigi and Sasha and the trip to Green Springs are so vivid to me.

This is clearly a very personal story for you, and you've received, by my count, four starred reviews for the book so far. That's pretty awesome, but how does it make you feel in regards to your next book? I'm assuming something here – will there be a next book? What's next?

I never take anything for granted as a writer. The publishing industry is tough, so I try to keep my expectations low. I just want to keep writing, and hopefully I’ll become a better writer with each book.

Do you remember your dreams? Are there any recurring dreams you'd like to share? Have you ever dreamt of the Abominable Snowman?

I’ve never dreamt of the Abominable Snowman, but I’ve repeatedly had a very strange dream about trying to insert giant contact lenses into my eyes. (Weirdly enough, my best friend has had the same contact lens dream too.) We have no idea how to interpret it, though.

So how happy is your sister that you included the afterword telling readers not to compare Mia's sister Alex to her?

She’s actually here visiting me right now, so I’ll let her respond:

“I am indeed happy that she included it, however I wish it didn’t include the painfully obvious sarcasm.”

My sister and I enjoy driving each other crazy. She found the whole scrotumgate news story amusing, so as I was writing my answers to another interview for this blog tour, she borrowed my computer and inserted the word “scrotum” into every one of my responses. Funny indeed.

What authors do you get overly excited about when they publish a new title?

Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Anne Tyler, William Trevor, Tobias Wolff, and Judy Blume. And J. K. Rowling, of course—I’ll be pushing those ten-year-olds out of the way so I can get my hands on Book 7.

If you were to pick one book you wish everyone would read, which book would you choose? At what age, or point of life, would you have them read it?

Anne Frank’s The Diary of A Young Girl. Her writing about her inner life—first love, her relationship with her parents, and humanity in general—resonated with me intensely when I read the book at twelve, fifteen, twenty-five, and thirty. She was a beautiful writer, and that book changed my life and made me want to be a writer.

For more Margo Rabb be sure to visit her website and MySpace page. You can also read her other stops on the Blog Tour:

3/19: Colleen Mondor at Chasing Ray
3/20: Lizzie Skurnick at theoldhag
3/21: Jen Robison at Jen’s book page
3/22: Betsy Bird at Fuse #8
3/23: Kelly Herold at Big A Little A
3/26: Liz Burns at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy
3/27: X
3/28: Little Willow at bildungsroman
3/29: Leila Roy at Bookshelves of Doom
3/30: Mindy at propernoun

Thanks for stopping by, Margo, it was fun. If any other authors out there want me to pose slightly irreverent questions to them, I'm game!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

5 Questions

Via the Darling Miss Erin, this is a meme that has been circulating around the kidlitosphere. Erin has come up with these five questions for me to attempt to answer (they're really hard!). To keep it going, let me know if you want me to give YOU five q's in the comments!

If you could co-star in a movie with a famous (or not-so-famous) actor or actress, who would you pick?
This may be because I'm watching season 5 of ALIAS right now, but I think that Jennifer Garner would be cool to work with. Mostly because she seems really nice and not at all scary or intimidating. And then I could be the quirky sidekick. I always wanted to be a quirky sidekick.

If you were a villain in a book, who would you be?
Oh, this is horrible. Fantastic, but jeeze. I wish I could say Artemis Fowl, because he's just awesome, but there's no way I merit. So who would I be...Well, I took a quiz recently that said I was Mystic from I'm just not evil enough. I need to be someone misunderstood. Someone who means well, but just goes about it mysteriously or in the wrong way...who would that be? Oh, right. Snape. You know. If I were a guy. Who doesn't bathe (ick). And in a book. But mostly, I just don't want to be evil. And I don't think he is.

Best book you've read this year?
Easy, but only because we're only 3 months into the year. Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson. (Dramarama by E. Lockhart is a fun second, though! Which, Erin, I just know you'll love.)

As a librarian, what's the funniest thing a teen has asked you?
You know, you'd think otherwise, but when a teen actually gets it together enough to ask me stuff they are usually dead serious. I've only been at my job for 13 months, and as we don't have a Teen Advisory Group (I'm working on it) and we don't do much targeted programming for them (starts this summer!!) I only have a handful of teens that know me well enough to relax. Strangely, all of them are boys. I did have one poor kid, while talking to me, drop his pile of books like three times in a row today. That was pretty funny. I waited until he left to chuckle, though.

If your life were a book, what genre would it be?
What it is or what would I like it to be? Hmm...Well, I think it would be cool to be in a Fantasy. Something with Magic. But that's probably the obvious answer. What my life is? At times I feel like I'm in a screwball comedy (see: black & white films with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. I just need a Cary Grant.). For instance: I had people over for Corned Beef & Cabbage on St. Patrick's Day. None of the food was done on time. I ended up serving in 6 courses what should have been one sit down affair. First wine and cheese. Then the potatoes and carrots. Then soda bread. Then cabbage. Followed by the meat and finally dessert. It took over two hours, but ultimately was still fun. Despite the extra trip to the grocery store. And then there was the last time I went bowling...

Thanks Erin! This was fun!

Well, I leave for Seattle (Veg Fest! Woo!) right after work, so this is the last you'll hear from me for a few days! But never fear, if I don't post for Monday, stop by on Tuesday for my FIRST EVER AUTHOR INTERVIEW!!!!! (can you tell I'm excited?)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sirs weren't always that nice either.

Ok. I didn't really always know what was going on in this book. You see, there were extended passages depicting football games. I've watched a lot of football in my time, but it was only because I liked being in band or it was the only way I'd see the guy friends. This doesn't mean I've ever really payed any attention. I get the basic stuff, the downs, the scoring, the penalties, but I'm lost to position roles or anything more in depth. I'm ok with that. Occasionally, I store some gleaned factoid away in order to surprise the boys, but really, they are just sweaty guys in tight pants running about. All that said, it was strange this past autumn not to have any football going on in the background of my life, no matter how inattentive I am. I was almost nostalgic. I drank some hot cider and felt better.

Always in search of good books for boys, Knights of the Hill Country by Tim Tharp certainly delivers. Hampton has always followed along behind his best friend Blaine. But when Blaine gets hurt and Hampton becomes the star player, his world starts to shift. Is he as dumb as everyone thinks he is? Is the man people expect him to be the kind of man he wants to be? Is Oklahoma football the be all end all? Is the unpopular Sara worth risking Blaine's anger over?

When you read it, brace yourself to be firmly entrenched in the male mind. Hampton was real. He does dumb things that made me yell at the book, but he was entirely believable. It kinda makes me think back to jocks I knew in the past, and wonder if maybe some of the 'dumb' ones just didn't really know how to express themselves. That really applies to most people who are awkward in social situations, myself included. Look below the surface. Still waters run deep and all that. It's a great read, whether a sports fan or not.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Book Group, Round ELMNOP

Yes, yes, I'm a very bad blogger. I've been very good in the past about writing up the book group selection directly after each meeting in the past, but last week, I was tired. I don't do well with time changes. I am NOT a morning person. So, I didn't blog. At all. It was rude of me. I apologize.

Anyway, Mark Dunn's Ella Minnnow Pea was far more than I was expecting from such quiet-looking book - even given it's unique premise.

In the center of Nollop there is a statue of the island country's namesake. Nevin Nollop, an aficionado of words and the inspiration of the island inhabitant's lifestyle, coined the pangram "the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog." As the letters from that sentence fall to the ground, the high council decides that it's a sign from the long-dead Nollop. As the letters disappear, they ban their use in print and conversation. At first the citizens humor the council, but soon, as more letters fall, it becomes more and more obvious that the council is drunk on power.

Being an epistolary (I do love the word and format. Too bad it can't spur me into actually writing letters to my grandmother. Sigh.) novel, the reader is very much part of the story. As letters become verboten, they drop away from the epistles and we, as readers, are part of the struggle. Dunn's characters are creative and have a broad vocabulary, so at first it is very clever, but as more letters are forbidden, we must work alongside them to decipher the communication. I found myself reading aloud at times.

The punishments for disobeying the government are severe, ranging from warning, to the stocks, flogging, expulsion from the island, and even death. Neighbors are reporting on neighbors. Faith becomes misguided (my favorite part), and the people are at a loss.

The only way that Dunn's novel works is we believe in this world - one where the inhabitants are very educated and skilled in communication. I found that this it what divided the book group most of all. There were two or three people who really didn't buy into the premise. They couldn't really suspend disbelief enough to accept the world. It was mentioned that because of the format, readers couldn't get close enough to feel connected to the characters. One said that she felt that she was being hit over the head with the totalitarianism. My thoughts on this are along the lines of: It's a failed utopia, people. How many dystopias are you familiar with that aren't oppressive, hmm? That's the point, innit? That the government is everywhere, in everything, unavoidable. Bit hard to escape, eh? The reader should feel that just as much as the characters. But maybe that's just me.

The novel, to me, is a love letter to language. I think it would be a wonderful book to teach. Certainly, thematically, right beside 1984. While an adult book, I have no qualms giving this to teens who are truly good readers, or anyone who aspires to write. I found it fascinating and read it in one go.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

It's a map.

If you've worked hard your whole life to attain one thing, what happens once you get it? What do you do when the aftermath doesn't just fall into place? What if what you were striving for all that time really wasn't everything you thought it would be?

Craig Gilner wasn't ready for what happened after he got into the school he wanted. He wasn't good at it. In fact, he was really kinda bad. Which makes him question his life. It makes him question whether he wants to go on living. Freaking out, he calls the suicide hotline and ends up in the Adult Psychiatric Ward. At 15.

It's Kind of a Funny Story, well, is. It's far funnier than your standard novel about suicide and depression. It's another one of those books that I can see definite appeal with 20-somethings.

Ned Vizzini just sucked me into his blog. Which means he's kept me up too late. Weird, because, while I've liked this book and Be More Chill, I get a distinct feeling, after reading way too much of his blog, that if we were to meet each other he would scare me. And that we wouldn't really like each other very much. :( I know that's a really strange thing to say since A) I'm not going to meet Ned Vizzini and, B) what the *%^# am I basing that on? Whatever. I'm obviously going to bed now.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Remember Queen of Cool? (hint: it's the feet)

Catherine Ryan Hyde's Becoming Chloe is many things, but most importantly it is a search for beauty in a life without it. It is deciding that beauty can be found in both the small and the grandiose. It's about changing your perception of your life and the things around you. It's about Jordy who was kicked out of home because he's gay and now gets by on the gritty underside of NYC. It's about Chloe, who's been so abused, she's just a little It's about these two lost kids finding each other and a life worth living.

These are definitely themes that Hyde has explored before (ok, that statement is entirely based upon my viewing [years ago] of the movie Pay It Forward, which was based upon the book she wrote of the same title. So, yeah, do with that info what you must.). She emphasizes that communities and people are both good and bad; that there are as many wonderful people who will help you out as there are that will hurt you or push you down. Jordy & Chloe have to choose which face of the world to focus on. There's is a harsh reality which through struggle and perseverance becomes something better.

Good message, tough life.

Older teens, b/c if there is something you are trying to hide the kids from, it's probably in this book. That was sarcasm.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Every once in awhile I come to the sad realization that my Mother is cooler than I am.

Point 1: My mother has podcasted. I have not podcasted. My Mother is cooler than I am.

Point 2: After work today I went home. After work today, my Mother went to dinner with Eric Rohmann. My Mother is cooler than I am.


How come I haven't ever had dinner with cool authors?

UPDATE 3/11/07: Yeah, Mom woke me up this morning to tell me that she had just seen Laurie Halse Anderson speak. And that she was about to go see David Wiesner. She was bragging, but since she asked me which books I wanted signed, it was ok. She's such a cool mom.


My computer keeps randomly telling me 'hello' in rather insistent and annoying tones. I don't know why. I can't identify what application it is coming from and it's beginning to creep me out. I think that my computer is possessed. It's all because I learned about the electromagnetic spectrum, I just know it. There are ghosts, and they are in my computer!

Anyone have any real clues? It's made some other random sounds that were out of place, but tonight's attack of the 'hello's' is really weird. It doesn't seem to interfere with anything that I'm doing. Except for my, you know, peace of mind.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

And the gold looks lovely.

I feel as though there is something rather redundant in me talking about a book that has already won the biggest award in teen literature. ... ... ...

Right. Monday is the day I work late, so on that magical morning in January, I work up early and watched the webcast of the awards announcement. It's not like I had anything better to do. I would have just slept. In fact, I think I did doze a little bit... Anyway. I immediately went an placed a hold on American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. It had been on the to read list, but being a graphic novel, it wasn't going to happen during Cybils. I read it that night. It demanded a second read. It just gets better.

There are three seemingly unconnected storylines that are ultimately concerned with stereotypes and self-acceptance. The art is great, very striking. It's humorous and serious, but not self-important or didactic. Absolutely worth the read. While they don't have a ton in common with each other, I'd give this to fans of Craig Thompson's Blankets. Which was equally awesome. If much, much, dear Lord much, longer. Or, actually, maybe give them this BEFORE you give 'em Blankets... yes, this is good. Much more diabolical... Runaways, then this, THEN Blankets.... muhahaha!

I really need to diversify my Graphic Novel Knowledge... (say that fast three times)

Monday, March 05, 2007

It's the fabric.

Ok, I'll admit it. I hadn't heard of Martine Leavitt's Keturah and Lord Death before the National Book Awards. Ok. Really, I hadn't heard of Leavitt before. But hey! Now I have! I'll also admit that, while it may not go with the poor granddaughter of a midwife, I very much want to touch the fabric of that dress. It's just so shiny. I live a tactile existence.

Keturah foolishly follows a gigantic deer deep into the forest where she gets lost. Nearing death, Death comes to claim her, bringing to the forefront a skill she has always, though unknowingly, possessed: she can sense death. Now she can see him too. Keturah makes a deal with the handsome cloaked entity. If she can find her one True Love before the next sunset (technically, "when the shadow of the forest touches your cottage."), he will spare her.

It is very much a fairy tale. A dark fairy tale - as they were intended. The tone and language is perfect for what Leavitt was going for. While the plot is seemingly simple - Keturah must find her love (is it the young lord?), save her beloved village (who now think she's dangerous), and her own (borrowed) life - Leavitt allows for several plausible endings. She kept me (and I like to think I'm pretty accurate at guessing how things will turn out) wavering. I didn't know where she would go, and, more importantly, I didn't know where I WANTED her to go. That's fine storytelling people. I trusted her to make the right decision, whatever that was.

I think that this is one of those teen books you can easily give to adults, fans of Robin McKinley, and even, I think, Katherine Sturtevant. But the latter may just be because of my recent review and it's place in my head.

nota bene: OMG did you follow the link to Robin McKinley? Doesn't Dragonhaven look awesome?! All of this makes me want to reread Hero & Blue Sword as an adult...

Friday, March 02, 2007

In Memoriam

Today we mourn the loss of the Wicca Handbook, by Eileen Holland. Again. She lived a long life, about three months. She provided entertainment for many, obsession and religion for others. Luckily she will be reborn.

Steal it all you want people. I don't care if you just don't want to check it out (get over yourself - no one cares what you checkout, besides that's what selfcheck is for), or if you are making a statement. I'm just going to buy another one. But, hey, thanks for tearing off the ISBN from the back cover. We wouldn't have caught it for days (weeks, months...) had you not. Peeling off the sticker was also helpful, since we did have two copies, only one of which was reference.

The library is free, and with renewal, you could've had the dern thing for 3 months, returned it and checked it out for another 3, ad nauseam. Jerk.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

In Honor of 103.

Ok, it's been everywhere, but I can't take the chance that someone might miss it. That would really be a shame.

Thanks: BoD & Fuse8