Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Patti's Favorites of 2008

It has been a really strong year for teen books. So strong, that I am having a hard time picking out my favorite books! This really can't be a bad thing to have an embarrassment of riches to choose from.

These aren't really in any particular order, although I think I would say The Knife Of Never Letting Go was my favorite. 

1. Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness
2. Graceling - Kristin Cashore
3. Ten Cents a Dance - Christine Fletcher
5. Me, The Missing and the Dead - Jenny Valentine
6. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
7. Sweethearts - Sara Zarr
8. Two Parties, One Tux, and a Very Short Film About the Grapes of Wrath - Steven Goldman
9. Pretty Monsters - Kelly Link
10. What I Saw and How I lied - Judy Blundell

And there were probably more that I'll wish I had put on here when I see everyone elses!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday Reading

If nothing else, traveling for hours shoved into a cave-like backseat of a truck where you can't really talk to anyone or even see out the window is good for reading. But only if you are driving during daylight. Luckily I was.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Anderson tackles eating disorders in this one. And does it really well. Lia is anorexic. Her best (but estranged) friend was just found dead in a motel room. She had called Lia 33 times before she died. I've never suffered from an eating disorder, but I imagine it is very much like this. Lots of fear and anger and punishment. Lots of denial from the people closest to you because they really just want everything to be all right. Very good book. I think this is one of the first 2009 books I've read, but I think it is destined to be one of the best too. By the by, anyone remember Even If it Kills me? I couldn't find the original cover. Bummer.

All We Know of Love by Nora Raleigh Baskin
I was touched by this one. I didn't think I would be. I feared it would be a road trip, look at all the kooky people I meet on the bus who teach valuable life lessons. Still I remembered some very favorable reviews so I picked it up. Natalie was a wonderful main character. She is stuck. Her mom left 4 years ago. Just stopped mid-thought, picked up her car keys, and left. Now Natalie is in a relationship with a boy that she is crazy about even though she knows (deep down, deep, deep, down) that he isn't good enough for her. So she buys herself a bus ticket to visit her mom. But without telling anyone that she's going. Along the way she does meet people. No one kooky. And here is something interesting that the author chose to do. Everyone shares a story about love, what they've learned about it, felt, experienced. But it isn't with Natalie. Their stories are just interjected into the text. It was extremely effective, heart breaking, heart warming, all that good stuff. I think I probably would have cried if i hadn't of been shoved in the back seat of the truck.

Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve
Another retelling of the Arthur and his round table legend. However, this one takes an entirely different tack on the story. Here Arthur is just a dude, a rather rough and unsophisticated dude, who happens to have a fantastic storyteller (aka Merlin known in this story as Myrddin). Myrddin weaves truth and fiction together to make tales that appeal to the wider population, increase his fame, and make him a legend in his own time as well as securing him a place in history. The story is told to us by Gwyna, Myrddin's servant. And she is as much a focus of the story, perhaps even more so, than Arthur. This was a great book. I love Philip Reeve. He never disapoints.

Dishes by Rich Wallace
Danny is 18 and has moved in with his dad for the summer. His dad works at a gay restaurant/bar and gets Danny a job there washing dishes. Neither Danny nor his father is gay, but the rest of the staff is. Not a problem. Except that Hector, a waiter keeps flirting with Danny and Danny finds himself flirting back. Or something like that. It's getting in the way of him securing his new girlfriend's trust. Anyhoo, I was iffy on this one. Mainly because I don't feel like I got to know Danny any more than when I met him on the first page. The way he talked was sort of terse and stacatto. I didn't warm to him.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Brisingr by Christopher Paolini

Brisingr is the newest installment of Paolini's Inheritance Trilogy (oops, Cycle) and pretty much follows the patterns of the previous novels. In this one, Eragon has been reunited with the Varden and his family and friends from Carvahall and now must travel with Roran to save his betrothed, Katrina, from the Ra'zac. After this battle, Eragon continues through a series of missions and quests to discover more about himself and find ways to defeat Galbatorix and save Alagaesia.

Having finished it, I did enjoy the fabulous revelations at the end of the story. And the Eldunari are a fascinating concept. Eragon himself is not nearly as annoying as he was in the first two volumes, likely because he has finally began to grow up. Also, I really do like Roran, even with his slightly abrasive personality. I admire Paolini for showing the dark side of war with little reservation or rosy coating for young readers. The battles are graphic but not over the top and even the most bloodthirsty of the good guys questions his own morality.

However, I do have a few problems with the book.

First of all, this was supposed to be the final part of the story, but is instead a continuation that will be completed in a fourth volume. I have one of the same problems with it that I have with the Twilight saga: where was the editor? While the story is still one I wish to finish and contains many interesting revelations at the end, the middle drags terribly and a lot is included that really doesn't matter. Paolini obviously admires Tolkein and Star Wars, but both were able to complete their essential stories in three volumes, likely for a reason. I greatly fear that Paolini will lose all but the most devoted audience with this installment.

Secondly, now that magic has become increasingly involved, true injury and death seem unlikely for the main characters. An exception to this comes at the end, but this is necessary and expected by those who are steeped in fantasy. Hopefully, we will not see a "happily ever after" ending to this tale.

Finally, even though I love fantasy and revel in world building novels, the language and names are getting to be a bit too much. Understandably, the cast is very large, but I trip even in my head at trying to pronounce 'Blodgharm' and 'Inuarin'. Do we have to know every bit of every culture? Do we need every article of clothing, every building, every facial expression described in full detail? With elvish or dwavish or ancient language name included?

That being said, by the end of the novel I was anxious to read the next volume. I really want to know how this is going to end. I just hope that his editors have a stronger hand in the final (we hope?!) volume of this epic story.

P.S. The above image is the Spanish cover. I like the change of perspective!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Tale of Despereaux Movie

For this year's holiday movie, I went to see "The Tale of Despereaux" with my hubby, after first reading it aloud together. I wasn't expecting perfection, but they did all right.

Lots of details were tweaked and changed, I guess to make the story either more interesting or more understandable. It was definitely obvious that they took out some of the more "disturbing" features, such as Despereaux being betrayed by his family and the repeated clouting of Miggery Sow's ears. Typical Hollywood rewriting.

However, for the most part, I was happy with the result. The spirit of the story remained: bravery, individuality, and forgiveness. So, I can forgive the changing of a few minor details.....

All in all, I recommend the movie for those who love the book, even with the changes.

P.S. The detailed sneak peeks of "Coraline" and "Inkheart" got me pretty excited about those upcoming releases!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Everybody and their mother has already reviewed Graceling so I won't add to much, other to agree with the masses that this was, indeed, a spectacular new fantasy. The author created a new world that was well thought out, rich with history, and because of that the reader becomes completely immersed in that world as they read.

It reminded me a lot of Tamora Pierce, which I think is a high compliment. It featured an independent woman as the main character, a romance that was based on mutual respect, constant plot development, and action that almost never stops. All the while featuring superb characterization.

I'm glad I got to read this before the year ended, although perhaps a little closer to the sequel would have been good!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mock Newbery

Our library system is holding our first Mock Newbery. Alison and I worked with a committee to select a variety of titles to make it to this final list. Judgment day is January 12.

Ain't Nothing Like a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry by Scott Reynolds Nelson

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look

Brooklyn Bridge by Karen Hesse

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Savvy by Ingrid Law

Smiles to Go by Jerry Spinelli

The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West by Sid Fleischman

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

We are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson

Thursday, December 18, 2008

This is kind of eerie...

Taken from a gossip website I don't really read, but there was a link to this from one I do and should probably be embarrassed about reading (and so I'm not gonna tell you which one it was).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Twilight Movie

So a few of us librarians went to see Twilight THE movie event of the year and boy was it ever an experience. I had several distinct impressions:
  1. The director must have impressed upon the actors that eyes are the windows to the soul and should be their main method of conveying information. I think if they had acted any more with their eyes they might have popped out of their sockets and demanded a raise. And it was everybody. Everybody. I actually wasn't sure that much eye acting could exist in one movie. I was wrong.
  2. The scene where Bella walks into the science room and her scent is thrust upon Edward by the fan was amazing. He was going to hurl into his hand. I have rarely laughed so hard.
  3. Edward really did look like someone dipped him in a vat of glitter.
  4. What was up with the makeup on the Cullens? That sh*t looked stupid people.
  5. Did it take them so long to kiss in the book?
  6. I am so going to see the next movie.

What I've Read Lately

I've been doing quite a bit of reading lately, not that anyone would know since I haven't written anything in what seems to be a bazillion years. But I have been reading, some I've enjoyed more than others. Here is a random sampling:

Two Parties, One Tux, And a Very Short Film About the Grapes of Wrath by Steven Goldman

In a word: hilarious. This book had me hooked from the very first page. Dry humor, honest dilemmas minus the overwrought angst, and fully developed characters. And did I mention funny? Sooo funny.
"And we need to use more obcenities," David continues. He has obviously been thinking this through. "We don't cuss enough. How's the fucking beer?"

It's warm and tastes like thin mucus. "Fucking great," I say.

"Louder," commands David. "We should be loud. HOW'S THE FUCKING BEER?"

"FUCKING GREAT," I shout. It isn't much of a shout.

David drains about a third of the bottle. "And we should complain about our parents more."

"Yeah, parents suck."

The Ghost's Child by Sonia Hartnett
Much more on the literary side of things, The Ghost's Child is all about the remembrance of a life fully lived even if it didn't all turn out like the narrator hoped. All the reviews I found called it a fable, but I prefer to think of it as magical realism. I want all the fantastical things that happened to have actually happened. It will be a special reader that gets into this one.

No More Us for You by David Hernandez
Loved the title, loved how the title was taken from an art piece from the museum where Carlos works (a neon light that reads "no more coitus for you" but then the letters coi burn out). Unfortunately I never got terribly invested in the characters and so the book fell a bit flat.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine

(Note on Cover - this is the British cover, my galley had a different one)

Rowan’s older brother Jack has been dead just over two years. Her mother is catatonic, her father left just as soon as he could, and so Rowan is left holding together the fort for her six year old sister. Then one day a boy hands her a photo negative telling her she’s dropped it. She knows it’s not hers, but she takes it anyway. Then a girl whom Rowan has admired from afar approaches her at school to ask what the boy handed her. Together they develop the photo and it sends them onto a path that neither of them had expected.

This is, at its center, a story of grief. It is about a family who was devastated when a beloved son and brother died accidentally. The back cover of the galley I read promoted the book as a mystery. Yes, there was a bit of a mystery in the story, but I think it is vastly misleading. It is not anything like her previous novel Me, The Missing and the Dead other than the fact it is also well written.

Broken Soup is nothing if not tenderly told and extremely touching. Valentine has a way with words that makes her slender novels incredibly rich with detail, emotion, and setting. The relationships that Rowan develops with Bee (the girl who develops the photo with her), Harper (the boy who handed her the negative), her dead brother jack (which we learn about through reminisces) and her sister Stroma were beautifully developed and heart wrenching.


There was one plot point that I thought was out of left field, although perhaps a re-read would show that there were hints in the story although a quick flip through didn’t convince me of that. Sonny, Bee’s 2 year old brother, turns out to be her and Jack’s son (2 months in the womb at the time of Jack’s death). This is revealed near the end of the book. Rowan had spent what seemed to me to be quite a bit of time with Sonny and Bee, I wondered why in all that time he never called Bee mommy as it was clear she was raising him (with help from her father) and was not hiding the relationship from him. Its not that I minded that Sonny was Bee’s son, I thought it was actually quite lovely (despite a romantic take on teenaged motherhood being somewhat problematic). The reaction of Rowan to this news and the hope it gives her for her family, was truly touching. But I still feel as though it was sprung upon the story in a way that seemed contrived. Why didn’t Sonny call her mom? He didn’t seem to have any developmental issues. I can see how Rowan would have assumed Sonny was a younger brother, but I find it unbelievable that he wouldn’t have said mommy in all that time.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Twilight Discussion on Yalsa-BK Listserve

There is currently a discussion on the Twilight books by Stephenie Meyer that is raging on the Yalsa-BK listserve. Frankly, I am finding it fascinating. So many people making so many wonderful arguments about the representation of feminism (or the rather anti-feminist message) in the books.

There are people who think the books are sending a terrible message to girls about only being something if someone loves you and wants to protect you. There are people who think the books are only for entertainment and girls can see through them. And there are people who share their own experiences talking to teens (who sound frighteningly unintrospective). I do wonder that no one has brought up how Meyer's religion has also shaped her books. Because, hello, it certainly has.

These are the conversations that keep me from unsubscribing to the listserve. Mostly I delete everything because there are only so many times you can read about turning off your out of office message (which come on people - you totally should) or "I'd like that book too please" without your soul dying a little bit each time from the ridiculousness of it all.

So thanks people on Yalsa-BK. You've given me something else to be thankful about this Thanksgiving. An intelligent conversation held by intelligent people.