Saturday, December 22, 2007

Joanna's Favorite Books of 2007

I am looking longingly at my "to read" pile*, but I don't think I'll make it before 2007 ends.

About Alice by Calvin Trillin (adult)
Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Arrival by Shaun Tan (GN)
HP7 by JKR
Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little by Peggy Gifford (JFic)
The New Policeman by Kate Thompson
Notes for a War Story by Gipi (GN)
The PLAIN Janes by Cecil Castellucci (GN)
Robot Dreams by Sara Varon (GN)
This Is What I Did: by Ann Dee Ellis

Honorable Mention: Boy Toy; Your Own, Sylvia; Before I Die; Twisted; Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

[*The Wednesday Wars, Faeries of Dreamdark:Blackbringer, The Sweet Far Thing, Brother I'm Dying]

Friday, December 21, 2007

Rachel's Faves of 2007

Surprise, she posts!!

Favorite YA, in no particular order:

Deadline by Chris Crutcher

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Life as We Knew It by Susan Pfeffer

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

What Happened to Cass McBride by Gail Giles

Diva by Alex Flinn

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci

Other Books:

The Boleyn Inheritance by Phillipa Gregory

(Yes, some of these were published in 2006, but sometimes it takes me a while to catch up!)

There have to be more that I enjoyed, but I am drawing a blank. You know, I'm not really one for New Year's resolutions, but I already have one for '08: Self, keep better track of what you read! :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Deban's Favorite Books of 2007

(in no particular order)

Adult Books

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Teen Books

The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

Cross my heart and hope to spy by Ally Carter

The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Spells & Sleeping Bags by Sarah Mlynowski


American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

The PLAIN Janes by Cecil Castellucci

Bluebonnet Books

Bella at midnight by Diane Stanley

Firegirl by Tony Abbott

Other books I enjoyed reading this year...

Antonement by Ian McEwan
The Gossip Girls series by Cecily Von Ziegesar
How I live now by Meg Rosoff

Michelle's Favorite Books of 2007

Adult Books:

Testament v. 2
Fables v. 9
Y the Last Man v. 9
Silver Master by Jayne Castle

YA Books:

Revolution is Not a Dinner Party
The Wednesday Wars
The Wizard Heir
Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The Princess and the Hound
Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy

Other stuff I read this year and loved even though it was published earlier:
The Penderwicks
The Book Thief
Life as We Knew It
Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life
King Dork
Dairy Queen
Breathe: A Ghost Story
The Ranger’s Apprentice

Jenn H.'s Favorites of 2007

Actually, I think a couple of these were published at the very end of 2006, but anyway....

Adult Books:

1. The Book of Lost Things by John Connelly
2. Strangers in Paradise Pocket Book 6 by Terry Moore

YA Books:

1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
2. Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt
3. The Arrival by Shaun Tan
4. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
5. Right Behind You by Gail Giles

New GN series:

1. Meru Puri and Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino
2. Satisfaction Guaranteed by Ryo Saenagi

Monday, December 17, 2007

The New Policeman by Kate Thompson

Just this year we were blessed with Kate Thompson’s award winning fantasy novel. It was published in the UK in 2005 where it won the Guardian’s Children’s Fiction Prize.

While it has been around the US all year getting glowing reviews, I finally got around to reading it this weekend. One of the reasons I kept putting it off is that it is a massive work – 435 pages. Looks are deceiving because this book moves quickly. The pages have wide margins & chapters are very short. Additionally, scores for traditional Irish songs separate each chapter. (The author also submits a few of her own songs.) The song titles work as chapter summaries in one of several brilliant twists of the book. “Last Night’s Fun” “The Lad That Can Do It” “The Setting Sun” “The Green Mountain” “My Mind Will Never Be Easy”. So awesome. I wish I were better at reading music. Come to think of it, the tunes better be included in the audio book.

J.J., our teen hero, wants to “buy more time” for his mom. It’s not that she’s sick or anything, but that everyone everywhere just doesn’t seem to have enough time in their day anymore. Busses are perpetually late, chores aren’t getting finished, & there’s never enough time to practice music. So J.J. decides that solving where the time is going will make things better. On top of this, J.J. has finally been exposed to the alleged criminal behavior of his Great-Grandfather, who was also named J.J. It seemed a little far fetched that he knew nothing of this, but I let it slide. Guys can be a little slow on these things. So we have a quest and a sketchy family secret. Good times ahead!

The story is a love song to Ireland. J.J.’s quest involves the rich Irish traditions of music, folktales, and fairies. I didn’t have difficulty with the story even though my familiarity with Irish stories is pretty nil. There’s a glossary in the back, but don’t read it in advance. Just wait it out and then go back and reread what you need to. The book made me want to play music (which I do not do) and drink pots of tea (which I love to do). And beer. And have some homemade cheese to go with all that. Treat yourself to this novel. You have plenty of time.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Patti's Favorite Books of 2007

Here are my favorite books that were published in 2007. Assuming of course I don't read something in the next two weeks that just blows me away!!!

Adult Books:
  1. A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini
  2. The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield

YA Books (these are somewhat in order):
  1. Red Glass - Laura Resau
  2. Cures for Heartbreak - Margo Rabb
  3. The King of Attolia - Megan Whalen Turner
  4. The Spell Book of Listen Taylor - Jaclyn Moriarty
  5. Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac - Gabrielle Zevin
  6. Shark Girl - Kelly Bingham
  7. Skin Hunger - Kathleen Duey
  8. Foundling (Monster Blood Tattoo #1) - D. M. Cornish
  9. Revolution is Not a Dinner Party - Ying Chang Compestine
  10. Evil Genius - Catherine Jinks
In my opinion Red Glass has been the most overlooked book of 2007. I hope its nominated for the Printz!

So what were your favorites??

Saturday, December 15, 2007

One Good Punch by Rich Wallace

Mike is a good kid. That’s what everyone would say. He keeps out of trouble and works hard at his job writing obituaries for the local paper. It’s not the most glamorous job, but he knows it gives him real world experience as a writer that will be invaluable later on. He also knows this is his year to prove himself on the track team – he’s been training all winter and they have a good chance of going to State. So everyone is surprised when a weekend drug sweep at the school turns up 4 joints in his locker. All of a sudden Mike’s got some tough choices ahead of him and his future depends on what he decides.

The book is set in Scranton, Pennsylvania and the setting was excellently depicted. Scranton almost seemed like a character in the book – a town that is aging and slowly decaying due to lack of new industry, despite having been a wealthy, booming town in the early 1900s. Mike likes living there, but he can see how he may need to get out of town so he doesn’t end up middle aged, unemployed, and in his own words – drinking beer on his parent’s porch.

One Good Punch is filled with life’s gray areas. Do you only tell part of the truth to get yourself out of trouble? Or is loyalty more important? Should you bank everything on what you thought was your future? Or are there alternate ways of getting there? Do you take your time to figure out your own mind on a subject? Or do you do what others want of you? The first person narration was very strong even though this is a very short novel, 114 pages to be exact. It’s what I would call a quiet novel even though it has the drug bust drama – it’s much more focused on how Mike determines his life’s direction than it is a problem novel per se. There will be setbacks, but Mike and Scranton will survive in one way or another.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Declaration by Gemma Malley

The Declaration starts off with a bang. It is the year 2140. People no longer die. Instead they have signed an agreement that allows them to take specially created longevity drugs in return for not having any children. This allows a certain balance in a world that has stretched its resources as far as they will go. However, there are rebels who belong to an underground movement that continue to have children.

Once these illegally born children are discovered (and they almost always are) they are taken to a detention center and not shown an ounce of humanity again. Babies are allowed to sit in their own filth, they are not cleaned often, they are not held, and they are certainly not loved. Children are drilled in the facts that shape their world: they should not have been born, they are worthless burdens, they must work constantly to pay back the world for their existence. In other words, become a Valuable Asset.

We are introduced to our heroine Anna (Surplus Anna to be exact – she is surplus because she had no right to be born) who is writing in her contraband diary. Surpluses are not allowed personal property because they have been deemed worthless and sub-human and must constantly work to even out the valuable resources that are wasted to keep them alive. However, Anna was unable to resist the temptation to write in her soft pink leather bound diary and sneaks away to write in it as often as she can. In this way we gain insight into how fully these surplus children are indoctrinated. Through Anna’s words we know that these children are broken creatures that believe whole-heartedly in their own worthlessness.

The first half of this book is chilling. The setting, the inhumane treatment of these children, and the cruelty of Mrs. Pincent, the woman who runs the detention center is absolutely frightening. The brutality these children endure makes your blood run cold.

The second half, in my mind, left something to be desired. The ending was very conveniently wrapped up and I think the writing could have been a little more sophisticated. Regardless, it was a very good story and had it not missed a couple of opportunities would have been excellent. I’ll discuss my thoughts on this under the spoiler space.


Peter, the surplus boy who deliberately gets caught in order to rescue Anna and return her to her parents was not as subtle as I would have liked. He immediately spells out his intentions. In a world where people cannot be trusted, I thought more time was needed to see where Anna’s loyalties truly lay and whether or not she could be trusted. I also thought that this would have added drama and tension to their scenes.

I was also disappointed with Sheila. She was the legal girl who had been turned into the detention center as a surplus. Even though the authorities know she is a legal, she is not allowed to go home. Sheila saddened me because she felt it unfair that she was treated as a surplus, but never questioned the system where surpluses were allowed to exist. She bought into the system completely, even though she had experienced the inhumanity and abuse first hand.

And finally, we are repeatedly told that the men who track down surpluses are ruthless and play by their own rules. However, when they are presented with the “life for a life” scene where Anna’s parents end their own life in order to make Anna legal, they kick the dirt like disappointed kids and act like, “if it only wasn’t for those meddling parents we would have had them.” I didn’t buy that they would be defeated so easily.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Snitch by Allison van Diepen

Julia has always kept her nose clean. Even though she attends a gang infested Brooklyn High School, she's managed to stay out of the gang scene and keep an eye on the prize (ie. good grades, graduation, and college). She's just rolling along...that is until Eric shows up. A new boy who is hot, hot, hot and makes Julia lose her head. Suddenly things aren't so black and white anymore and she's got to decide whether she wants Eric or whether she wants to stay out of the action.

This book is going to be highly appealing to reluctant readers. I know that the kids we work with at the detention center will eat this up. This is exactly the kind of book they are always requesting. Its got gangs and criminal activity, its got violence and action, and of course a romance. All things they request every time we see them.

As in Street Pharm, the author's previous novel, this book features characters who are involved in gangs and who feel it is a normal part of life. Both novels feel this way right up until about 20 pages from the end when the main characters have rapid changes of heart. The late turnaround actually helps keep the book from feeling like an overly moralized tale, which will be very appreciated by it's readers. The book moves at a fast clip and the story progresses rapidly. All good things.

If you're an older reader, the way that characters rationalize being in gangs and romanticize gang life will probably seem a bit lame (I mean when I hear kids talk like this in person it seems lame, so it makes sense that it would still seem lame in a book). The characters in this book do lack introspection and imagination. But, to be frank, so do lots of the kids I see at the library in real life. Why else would they pepper their Myspace profiles with gang colors irregardless of actually being in a gang? Or how about pose for pictures with their shirts off like a tough guy even even if they're scrawny 100 pound weaklings? Or better yet, lean over to shove their ass in the air in what they think is a provocative and sexy a bathroom? It certainly seems to me that they could be finding better ways to represent themselves, but then I'm not them. So it is important to keep in mind this book wasn't written for us. Put simply, it's street lit for teens who want stories that reflect "their" way of life. Does this book do a good job? It sure seems like it to me.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

What I Was by Meg Rosoff, part 2

I was testing the limits of Blogger's comments so I decided to post another entry. This is the UK cover. I'm not a fan of that wobbly writing.

I love Meg Rosoff books. I love how she weaves a little fantasy into her novels and nothing is really what it seems. You just have to surrender to the story and let it take you on its journey without over analyzing the how and why. I love the words she chooses to tell her stories and, to echo Patti, her knack for beautifully written passages. I approached this novel expecting the unexpected. When the witch said "Look more carefully" I knew Rosoff set a trap.

Here's where I come clean, Folks. I admit that about 2/3 of the way through, a little frustrated with H and impatient for progress towards the "scandal", I flipped through the back pages and saw one thing that changes everything. I was spoiled and I don't regret it. I like to know what's going on. Same with movies. Someone just tell me what happens because I can't stand the suspense. But back to the book. I was able to read the next few chapters looking for clues. I was still affected by the "heart-wrenching scandal" (spoilerage and all). I am not a fan of stories where there is some Big Tragic Event that is the focus of the story and we're just waiting and waiting for it to happen. See above with the impatient spoiling bit. I think I liked this book a little more than Patti though I do share some similar frustrations about H. I liked him, annoying features and all, until the end of the book where we learn about H as an adult. I felt not unlike Gibbon in my need to attack him. My sympathy was there as a teen, but not so much as an adult.

The ending still confused me some. This is where I'll need to talk to Patti so she can straighten me out. I found myself rereading bits to see if I had missed something because I wasn't sure what, or who, was being referenced. Still the story fascinated me and that is due in part to my appreciation of Rosoff's writing. To the question of "adult" vs. "teen", I think that calling this book adult is doing so while it just tips its toes over the line. It could also be that I so rarely read an adult novel, that one where there is a teen but without any sex, drugs, rock&roll, swearing (by US standards) etc confuses my lines. We have A Separate Peace as adult and this would be kind of similar. If I remember that book at all. I do truly wonder at the adult audience for this book. Do adults go and read books on teens if they don't normally read teen fiction?

So in closing I'm going to quote some of my favorite passages.

"Of course back then, I still thought of history as a full and frank collection of facts. Now I understand that it is only a story, one of many, or many parts of several different stories."

"I felt no particular shame, having encountered dozens of chippy little
fascists in my time, but continued to wonder at their delusions."
(1st favorite)

"From behind him a small gray cat gazed, its tail erect and twitching, as if testing the atmosphere for spies.
(2nd favorite. this cat gets some great lines.)

"None of what I felt could be explained by what I generally understood
about sex. The ceaseless tangle of emotions confused me, forced me to wonder what I was. There was no one to ask."

"By Friday I had come to the conclusion that I was crowding him, so I made myself as small as possible, stifled the desire to burble over with enthusiasm for each new discovery or to follow him around like the adoring hanger-on I was."

"Sometimes I thought about the content of those lives, the intangible things that leave no fossils and no marks on history. Would people from the future excavate traces of passion? Of hope, disappointment, despair? Would they uncover layers of love and layers of loss? Or would the entire human race end up drowned and forgotten, buried under waves of melting ice with no on left to dig us up or wonder a what was or what might have been."