Tuesday, September 30, 2008
This week does NOT celebrate the banning of books. If it did I wouldn't be taking part. Every author, librarian, and teacher I have heard speak on this subject is against book banning. I am too. Not only do I think book banning violates the first amendment, I also think it is counterproductive and a monumental waste of resources.
Think about it: If, instead of trying to get a book banned, a book-banner put all that effort, time, and money into getting a book they liked promoted, everyone would be happier. Say instead of shouting from the rooftops (and local newspapers) "Don't read Book X!" they shout "Read Book Y!" Then instead of the librarian being in fighting stance, the librarian is on their side. Instead of people reading Book X to see what all the fuss is about, they're reading Book Y for the same reason. Instead of sounding anti-constitutional, they sound pro-education. No one will have time to read Book X because they're all reading Book Y. People are picketing the library with signs that say "Bring author Y here!" "We want author Y!" It's like a librarian's and an author's and an educator's and a parent's dream! Good books for all! Just ignore the ones you don't like. Stop worrying about protecting the community from bad books -- show them a good book and help them love it!
Yay, books! Good books for all!
A video via Bookshelves of Doom
Monday, September 29, 2008
by Cynthia Lord
I listened to this one on audio. I think books often lose something when they're on audio. I don't know what it is. Wait, I take that back. It's the opportunity for the reader to create their own voices for the characters, and put their own emphasis on the words. I'm not meaning to complain about this audio book in particular -- in fact I can only think of 2 audiobooks that didn't bother me in this way: The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett and Right Ho, Jeeves! by P.G. Wodehouse. Anyway...
It was a good book. It's about a girl whose brother is autistic and her dealing with his autism by making up rules for him. It's also about making friends, and being a good friend. I'm not alone in liking the book -- it won a Newbery Honor and the Schneider Family Book Award. Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-check it out! (like PBS says)
Jenna Fox wakes up and has to figure out who she is. She was in an accident, and she's been out of it for about 18 months. Where is the sci-fi? Her dad is the inventor of BioGel (which enables the long term storage of organs, etc.). It makes organ transplants and donations easy. But BioGel makes medical ethics hard.
I couldn't put this one down. I think it was a combination of the very short entries (some are poems, even), the curiosity that is created because of the situation, and the fact that Jenna is smart. She doesn't ignore the clues or sit around waiting for all the pieces to come to her. The book asks awesome questions about ethics and identity and makes you think. . . . Which is why I hated the epilogue. Seriously. Either don't read it, or (if you're like me and wouldn't be able to not read it) wait a couple days before you do. I finished the body of the novel and was like "Wow, cool," and was thinking about all the awesome questions it poses. Then I dove right into the epilogue in which mountains of easy-answers were given. What a disappointment!
So, I liked the book a lot a lot, and the epilogue not at all. I guess that averages out to just one "a lot."
ETA: oh yeah, it's by Mary E. Pearson.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Esme Raji Codell is a first year teacher at an elementary school in Chicago and between her fifth graders, her boss and the system, she has a lot to deal with. From the beginning, though, you know she can handle it. She's got guts and smarts and heart and sass.
Even if you're not interested in teaching like I am, you'll probably still like it. It's about more than teaching; it's about working hard and standing up for yourself and what's right. That said, swearing and serious issues aren't avoided in the book. I don't think Esme could avoid the issues if she tried. She's just like that.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
A Posse of PrincessesSo this sounds superfun. I think that smart readers of all ages appreciate protagonists that are made of flesh and not cardboard -- sounds like Rhis fits the bill. I've also heard good things about Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith, so I just picked that one up from the library. Anyway, thanks to Ashley for the great review!
By Sherwood Smith
First of all, I have to say that whatever part of a girl’s brain that’s made to love princesses as a child but supposedly grow out of the obsession as she gets older must have malfunctioned in my own head around the age of seven. It is still as deeply entrenched as ever, and I find myself getting shaky with excitement whenever a new princess book appears on my library’s bookshelf. (If I had my way, I would still be Sleeping Beauty every year for Halloween …)
As I have grown, however, my notion of a good fairy tale has, I am happy to report, matured. No longer do I require that my princess be the epitome of beauty, grace, and goodness. In fact, a little personality goes a long way toward making up for the absence of one or even all of these character traits, if an author is skilled with his or her now-proverbial pen. Too often these days, I find authors pumping out cardboard smart and sassy princesses, playing to today’s smart and sassy crowd of teenage readers.
In Sherwood Smith’s A Posse of Princesses, therefore, I found a breath of refreshing air in Rhis, the main princess, who is just … practical. She is nice, she is ordinary, she is “plain as a sparrow.” And yet I rooted for her success from beginning to end, even in her romance with a hero with wide-set eyes whose looks are described not as handsome, but as “interesting.” With a fun and unexpected mid-book twist, a daring rescue attempt by a group of princesses dripping with personality, and a happy ending, A Posse of Princesses did not disappoint my deep-seated little-girl need for a little royal romance.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary -- Candice Fleming
In the tradition of Louis Sachar's Wayside School, Aesop Elementary is full of crazy characters. Each one has a little bit of a story and each story has a moral. Very enjoyable, very punny. Would be A+ for the classroom!
Chasing Vermeer -- Blue Balliett
Mysterious happenings in Chicago come to the attention of neighbors Calder and Petra. When a priceless painting is stolen the kids have got to help! Loved learning about pentominoes (aka the five-pieces in our fave board game, Blockus) and the coded letters were fun.
Bird Lake Moon -- Kevin Henkes
A short novel by the author of Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, Julius Baby of the World and Chrysanthemum. You know you love 'em. It's a good one, starring Mitch and Spencer (but Lolly is my favorite). Spencer thinks the house may be haunted, but Mitch knows it's not and why. It's good. If you don't read it, you'll probably have F.M.S. (Camille's List)
Cinderella (as if you didn't already know the story) -- Barbara Ensor
Touted on the cover as "a quick read for smart girls" I had to pick it up. I love being called smart. Smartfoods White Cheddar Popcorn, anyone? So, anyway, you know the story. The fun is in the details: the shadow illustrations and Cinderella's letters to her mother, especially.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Here’s the next installment in Enna Isilee’s (squeakybooks.blogspot.com) big birthday contest. Today’s mode of entry is:
Who said, “If this is just about revenge,” said ________, “Then feel fulfilled and go home.” ?
That’s all you have to do! E-mail Enna Isilee your answer at Books@Squeakybooks.com . You get 2 entries for answering the question and 5 entries if you get it right. So you could get two entries just by e-mailing! These entries go towards the weekly prizes and the grand prize. This week’s prize winners will be announced on Monday morning, and the grand prize winner will be announced on Enna Isilee’s birthday, September 22nd (the same Monday, just later in the day).
Friday, September 19, 2008
I think it's about time I reviewed Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett for you.
But first, Deborah Smith, editor of Bell Bridge Books asked me to spread some love about Moonstone by Marilee Brothers. It's a YA urban fantasy about Allie Emerson -- who discovers she has more talents than she thought since that latest encounter with an electrical fence. I haven't read the book myself, but you can find a couple of reviews here and here.
Now, Thief of Time. The History Monks of Discworld (the world that is the setting for many Terry Pratchett novels, including The Wee Free Men) have discovered the secret to controlling time. They redistribute it, so that it goes to where it is needed most. The hitch here is that a new clock is being built -- a clock that may mean the end of time.
Jacob and I both read this one and enjoyed it. We still find ourselves groaning "Yeth marthter." So, yeah, great characters. I especially liked Miss Susan (who teaches elementary school). The plot was good too -- it took me a bit to get into the book at the beginning though, because there are several plot threads. They all come together awesomely later, but it was a bit jumpy-aroundy for me there for a while. The denoument was a bit long for me but it was fun nonetheless. Awesome Pratchett humor throughout. Recommended to teachers, chocolate-lovers, monks, thieves, nerds, etc.
Jacob sez: Terry Pratchett always writes such good characters. And he makes them real characters. "Is it not written: 'if you pick at it, it will only get worse'?"
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Laini, Let me start off by saying I'm thrilled to interview you. And then, let me ask you to supply me with three nouns, four adjectives, and two verbs (one present tense and the other past tense) for a little bit of mad-lib fun.
Fun! I’m a wee bit afraid to see the results, but here are the words: nouns: scar; disguise; robot adjectives: grotesque; chirpy; feverish; blue verbs: waltz; kissed
You've said on your website that "our dreams are real things…and it is our job in life to make them come true…" What are some dreams that have come true for you? How did you help make that happen?
Finishing a novel is a huge one. I’ve wanted to do it my whole life, but I was just letting years go by without doing the work that needed to be done. There’s a great quote: "What you have to do and the way to do it is incredibly simple. Whether you are willing to do it, that is another matter." -Peter F. Drucker At a certain point, it hit me hard that I would never be “a writer” unless I, um, wrote, and I would never make a living at it unless I finished things. So I reformed my habits. I started getting up early and getting straight to work at the kitchen table while it was still dark, and I taught myself a ton of tools for overcoming my many hang-ups with perfectionism. It took a couple of years, but I did it. My hang-ups still plague me every single day of my writing life, but I have learned to manage my brain to some degree, and make it do what I need it to do. (More details on that at Not For Robots.) Another dream for me was to make a living as an artist, and I've been really lucky that the Laini's Ladies line has enabled me to do that -- but there were steps I had to take, and things I had to do that were out of my comfort zone, like going to the National Stationery Show in New York to learn about licensing and to meet manufacturers. If I'd stuck with what I was comfortable with, or kept on just *wishing* something would happen, I would still be making the ladies by hand and selling them at the local craft fair. A lot of time gets wasted wishing things were easier, that we were luckier, but the only chance most of us have of getting the life we want is if we make it ourselves.
If you could create the most divine dessert, what would one or two of its certain ingredients be?
What books and projects are coming next from you?
Well, Dreamdark: Silksinger and my first YA title, Lips Touch, are both coming out in 2009. Now, I am working on two novels, both YA, and the third Dreamdark book is percolating in my head and getting itself ready to be written. That makes me sound like one of those fast writers who’s tossing off books left and right, which is definitely not the case. It just means that I have a few projects in early stages, all of which I love and have high hopes for, but am still just a wee bit unsure of.
Were you born with hot pink hair, or was it more of a pale pink, and then got darker as you grew up?
Excellent question! I was actually born with thick black hair, which fell out within weeks, leaving me bald until my thirty-fifth birthday (for 35 year I wore brownish/blondish wigs), at which time I began to mysteriously grow a kind of straggling pink fluff that closely resembled flamingo down. A specialist advised me to sing to it (there’s a special Portuguese hair-growing chant for just this purpose), and I did, and the happy results are what you see today: a healthy head of bright pink hair!
What book are you reading right now?
I just read An Abundance of Katherines by John Green and Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr, both of which were amazing, and a really, really odd sci-fantasy book called This is the Way the World Ends by James Morrow, which was kind of like if Lewis Carroll wrote about nuclear war! Now I am reading the third of the Temeraire books, by Naomi Novik -- historical fantasy about battle dragons being used to fight the Napoleonic Wars. Last year when I asked after this series in the bookstore (having forgotten the author’s name), I was told by the clerk, “No, I don’t know. I don’t read that kind of book.” Agh!
What is one of your favorite pieces of trivia?
Ooh, I love weird facts. Here are a few: --There is a kind of parasite that kills a fish’s tongue and then becomes its tongue, and lives the rest of its life in the fish’s mouth, helping itself to food! -- The leading theory of the origin of the moon is that it was caused by a glancing collision between the young Earth and an object the size of Mars!!! -- Only 5 out of every billion atoms of rock in the Earth’s crust are gold. -- Mako shark embryos cannibalize their siblings in utero. Eww.
What question have you not been asked in an interview, but think you should be asked? (Both the question and the answer, if you like)
What is the most backhandsprings you ever did in a row? Fifty! For some reason, no one ever asks me about that! :-)
Excellent answers! If you asked me how many backhandsprings I had done in a row, the answer would be zero. Okay, now it's time for some mad-libbing! I have here the actual first few sentences of Laini's novel. Then... the New and Improved beginning to Blackbringer! Enjoy!
The wolf tasted the babe’s face with the tip of his tongue and pronounced her sweet, and the fox licked the back of her head to see if it was so. For the rest of her life when this child grew into a faerie with bright eyes and a laugh as loud and unladylike as a crow’s, that spot on her hair would never lie flat. And though she wouldn’t remember the night the creatures had gathered around to look at her and taste and smell her, she would call those unruly hairs her foxlick without knowing why.
The scar tasted the babe’s face with the tip of his tongue and pronounced her grotesque, and the fox licked the back of her head to see if it was so. For the rest of her disguise when this child grew into a robot with chirpy eyes and a laugh as loud and feverish as a crow’s, that spot on her hair would never lie flat. And though she wouldn’t waltz the night the creatures had kissed around to look at her and taste and smell her, she would call those blue hairs her foxlick without knowing why.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
What you end up with is a bunch of lists of great new books that a lot of people liked!
Anyway, there are nine categories or genres in which to nominate books -- which means there will be nine shortlists and nine winners. And here's the part I'm most excited about: yours truly (as in me, Alysa) is a panelist for the Middle Grade Fiction category! So. Come October 1st y'all get over to the Cybils and nominate your favorite books published in 2008 for kids 8-12! And your other favorites too. I'll put a link in the sidebar.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Here are a couple of sequels that I've enjoyed recently.
The Titan's Curse is the third in the "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series by Rick Riordan (pronounced Ryer-dn, you can hear him say his name on his website...) and it was good -- in the tradition of its prequels. I have to say I could have used some more of Annabeth in this one, she just didn't get enough screen time. Anyway, Percy is a very fun narrator and he's finally getting wise to the dangers around him.
The Mysterious Bendict Society and the Perilous Journey is another great sequel, coming right after The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. As I was reading it I couldn't decide if I liked it or the original better. Since, I've decided I just have a special place in my heart for the first one. Seriously though, as sequels go, this one is great. You get all the awesome characters back, and they're not flat and changeless. There are some crazy new villians and even scarier shenanigans. Recommended. Oh, and don't you love the cover art, again? Awesome.
The First 2 Percy Jackson Books
The Mysterious Benedict Society
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo (who also wrote the fantastic Despereaux) is about a porcelain rabbit doll. We follow him as he changes hands time after time and as he learns about life and love along the way. A chapter a night would be perfect -- they're very read-aloud-able, and full page illustrations are sprinkled throughout. Each chapter ends with a bit of a cliff hanger, so you'll want to read again the next night. The story is moving as well -- don't miss it.
One of my childhood favorites, My Great Aunt Arizona (by Gloria Houston) is a picture book about the author's heritage. Sometimes you worry about finding an old favorite -- will it be as good as you remember? This one is even better than I remembered. The illustrations were unforgettable, and are still fantastic. The book isn't wordy, in fact it's a very accessible, non-rhyming sort of poetic. It's a short book, but it covers Arizona's whole life by giving little vignettes on the way. I remember staring at one page and telling myself stories about what that must have been like. So, it's a book that can really engage the imagination. sigh. It's beautiful. I gotta get me a copy.
Friday, September 12, 2008
I've been trying to branch out and explore the genre of the graphic novel -- the comic book in book form. So, I checked out Babymouse 1-8 (all the ones that are in print--oh, jk, looks like there's another one now). It took me a couple of these tiny volumes to get into the swing of things, but now Babymouse is a favorite. Kids and adults will both appreciate the humor in the series and the bold, black-white-pink illustrations are fun, too. I love the running jokes in the series: the whiskers, the locker of the black lagoon, etc. And each volume has a little plot to it as well. There is no questionable content -- if you can read, they're appropriate for you (though I think I saw them classified as grades 4-6 somewhere). Here's a link to preview Babymouse: Rock Star! on Publisher's Weekly. Read 'em! Love 'em! (Jacob loves them too.)
Here are the rules: I am going to list three categories of books. 3 MUST Read Books, 3 Keep Your Eyes on These, and 3 Look For These Soon. Keeping with the theme, I am going to tag at least 3 bloggers. They should put these same lists on their blog but SUBTRACT one book from each list and ADD one of their own. Then they should tag at least 3 more bloggers. It will be fun to see how the lists change as they go around the blogosphere. Please come back to this post and leave a comment so I can see how the lists are changing.
Since this is Book Buzz…please keep your lists to titles released in 2007-2009.
So, here goes…[asterisks are next to my additions]
3 Must Read Books:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak**
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
The Host: A Novel by Stephenie Meyer
3 Keep Your Eyes on These:
The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
The 13th Reality by James Dashner
Blackbringer by Laini Taylor**
3 Look For These Soon: (what does this category mean? like, "look for this book when you have time"? or "this book isn't out yet but I think it will be good"? I'm going with the latter.)
Cybele's Secret by Juliette Marillier
How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier**
A Fatal Slip by Melissa Glazer
And I'm going to tag:
Monday, September 8, 2008
The novel is definitely not marketed to males, although it's told from the male point of view, and I think that many males would enjoy it. It isn't particularly fast-paced or extremely riveting, but it's a quick read and an intriquing mystery. I like Harrison's folkloric style, though it could use a bit more humor here and there. While the book probably makes my cannon of YA fairytales, it doesn't quite make my top 5. The sequel is due to come out fairly soon, and I'll be interested to see where the story goes next.
Stevens is an old-school butler in the tradition of fine England. However life isn't what it used to be. When Stevens receives an intriguing letter from the former housekeeper, he takes his new employer's suggestion and goes for a tour of the country. Along the way, he reminisces about his service to Lord Darlington between the two World Wars.
This book is rather fascinating. Stevens reminded me of Jeeves for a bit at the beginning, and his accidental humor kept me reading. Pretty soon though I was trying to figure out what Stevens is really up to. This is a "read between the lines" novel -- Stevens doesn't give you the whole story. Imagining what other people must have been thinking kept my mind on the book whenever I wasn't reading it and long after I finished.
Part philosophy, part love story, part memoir, the book kept my book club talking -- that's for sure.
So, I decided to rent the movie. I was interested to see how the adaptation had gone. I have to say I like the book better -- you just understand more. However the movie was good too, and kept the four of us who watched it talking for quite a while too.
An interesting piece. It's all mental. Recommended.
Friday, September 5, 2008
I am moderately obsessed with the Twilight Saga, which is to say I know many people who are both more and less obsessed than I. If you were to ask my whereabouts on midnight of August 1/2, you would hear that I was at a Breaking Dawn release party. And I'm no slouch when it comes to reading, so I finished the book some time ago. Since I finished it, I've been following the mixed reaction to the book.
I enjoyed Breaking Dawn immensely. I liked the twist in book 1 that I had not suspected, I adored the chapter titles in book 2, and the first few chapters of book 3 were among my favorite in the series. Plus, I loved the ending. Happy, romantic, and humorous.
One of the main complaints that I've heard about the book is that the big climax scene did not become a battle. I have to say, I thought it was fresh and enjoyable. Not every fantasy needs to end in a big nasty battle, you know. Some people can talk about their problems and work them out -- at least to the extent that nobody is killing anybody. Props to Stephenie Meyer for writing the road less traveled. The same goes for writing about people after they're married. Rock on.
Another complaint I've heard is that the ending was "too happy." As I've already said, I didn't have a problem at all with that. But I wonder if I can pinpoint why some people did. Usually when I read sci-fi and fantasy, or even mystery, I come away thinking, "Phew, I'm glad that's not my life. I'm glad that my big problems are homework/paying the bills/making dinner and managing the zillions of things I want and need to do. I'm so happy I don't have to save the world or worry about evil enemies hunting me down" et cetera. When you finish Breaking Dawn, you're not thinking those thoughts. You're thinking, "That is so romantic! and sweet! I wish I had that kind of life/love/money/superpower..." In short, the ending probably left some fans dissatisfied with their own lives. That's why I think some people didn't like it.
But here's the good news! You CAN have a great life! Sure maybe you'll never be as rich as the Cullens, you and your man may age, and you may have to actually spend a few years trying to figure out what your baby is telling you, but life is good. It's my philosophy that life is mostly fair. You get what you work for. Go make your dreams happen!
Okay. Now you've had your happy pills. Here's a downer: Midnight Sun (which is Twilight from Edward's perspective) is "on hold indefinitely." It was going to be Meyer's next book published, but the draft was leaked on the internet, so Meyer decided to post it herself and move on with some other projects. I think it's kinda sad, but it's nice that she has the prerogative to do that. It would really stink if she was contractually obligated to continue working on a project that her heart wasn't in.
So, what do y'all think? Did you like Breaking Dawn? If you didn't, then was I right about why you didn't like it? What do you think about Midnight Sun?
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Alright Evereaders! It's time for our first list! Lets jot down, in no particular order, our favorite princes in print. Who is the best royalty around? I'll add your nominations to the tab, just leave them in the comments.
Geric of The Goose Girl
Charmont of Ella Enchanted
Talon Rathersting of Blackbringer
Kent of Summers at Castle Auburn
Curdie of The Princess and the Goblin
George of The Princess and the Hound
Daystar of The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Mendanbar would definitely make the list, but technically, he's King of the Enchanted Forest, not a prince)
The Marquis of Shevraeth of Crown Duel
Charles Pierre Phillippe of East
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
I actually quite enjoyed this book. It made me wonder if the girl who is the subject of The Plain White T's hit song "Hey There Delilah" had an experience like this. I wouldn't quite classify this book as a "problem novel," but it does have some sensuality, definite language, drug references, etc. In all fairness though, it's a book about pop culture, so what do you expect? In my opinion, it's fairly tastefully done to make a point--fame is no cakewalk kids!
This book was not only tons of fun, but would be a great companion novel to compare and contrast with the Shakespeare play. I knew that A.E. Cannon used the play for the novel before I read it, but even though I know Midsummer Night's Dream pretty well, it took me until the end of the book to really look back and find all the parallels. Even without the Shakespeare backbone, the novel has enough hilarious teen angst to keep readers thoroughly entertained for the few hours it takes to get through the text. Definitely worth a read!
Laini Taylor's Blackbringer is a fantasy epic starring tiny people with wings: fairies. With occasional furry imps, terrifying demons, and miscellaneous woodland creatures. Humans only seldom, and at a distance.Amen! Silksinger is the sequel and it isn't out just yet. I too enjoyed this read. I found it totally gripping. Good verbs. And I loved the ending!
Reading Taylor's book took me back to a moment in my childhood, sometime not too long after reading Watership Down and Fellowship of
the Ring, when I thought to myself "I like books with maps in them". Blackbringer doesn't actually have a map in the inside back cover, and certainly doesn't draw as extensively on fictional languages as Tolkien or Adams, but it took me back nonetheless. Taylor's world is a pleasure to explore. A trusted friend suggests that the author may have dedicated even too much space to the metaphysics, ancient legends, and creation mythos of her world. Didn't bug me-- I ate it up. Anyhow, If one intends to save the entire world, ought not one to know something of where the world came from?
Taylor also writes the sort of characters I want to read more about. Diverse and viscerally hateable villains. Sympathetic heroes. Whom, I hesitate to add, she kills off to good effect. In the interest of minimizing spoilers I won't say too much, but it really gets me every time another one bites the dust.
Thumbs up. I await the forthcoming sequel with bated breath.
Also, I have a confession. As soon as I started reading Blackbringer I began kicking myself for not having read it sooner. I knew about it -- oh yes, I've been reading Laini's blog for some time now. But here's the thing: I liked her blog so much that I was scared to read her book. What if it was crap? Then I wouldn't enjoy the blog nearly as much. Well. That just tells you how silly I am. The book was fantastic, and so is the blog.
I wonder what we can do about getting a map in the book. Laini's husband did the illustrations, you know.