Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year End Favorites

Okay, I'm finally ready to do mine!

Picture Books
Sylvie by Jennifer Gordon Sattler
Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Chicken Cheeks by Michael Ian Black
Kiki's Blankie by Janie Bynum
Scaredy Squirrel at Night by Melanie Watt

School-Age Fiction
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Books of Umber: Happenstance Found by P. W. Catanese

Teen Fiction
Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Liar by Justine Larbalestier
Willow by Julia Hoban
Beka Cooper: Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
All the Broken Pieces by Ana Burg
Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan
Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart
Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey
Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor
The Devouring by Simon Holt
North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley
The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima

Teen and Children's Nonfiction
Written in Bone by Sally M. Walker

Adult Fiction and Nonfiction
The Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen
Someone to Love by Jude Devereaux
Swallowing Darkness by Laurell K. Hamilton

Graphic Novels (All levels)
Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori
After School Nightmare by Setona Mizushiro
Pluto by Naoki Urasawa and Osamu Tezuka
Otomen by Aya Kano
Dinosaur Hour! by Hitoshi Shiyoya
Fruits Basket vol. 23 by Natsuki Takaya
Monkey High by Shouko Akira
Tail of the Moon by Rinko Ueda
Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires
Jyu-Oh-Sei by Natsumi Itsuki
Honey and Clover by Chika Umino
Dororo by Osamu Tezuka
Ooku by Fumi Yoshinaga
Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer by Dustin Higgins
Buffy Season Eight: Wolves at the Gate by Joss Whedon
The Muppet Show Comic Book by Roger Langrige

And since I am who I am.....

Romeo x Juliet
Ghost Hunt
Ouran High School Host Club

Books to Movies
Sherlock Holmes

Now, some of these things did not publish/release in 2009, but I did read or watch them then!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Year's End Favorites

Here's my list. I forgot to add picture books, so maybe I'll do that in January. Basically, if Jan Thomas or Polly Dunbar or Emily Gravett or Amy Krouse Rosenthal created it, I adored it.

Yotsuba&! Vols 6, 7 by Kiyohiko Azuma

The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman

Lunch Lady comics by Jarrett K. Krosoczka

Mile Stellar Nerves of Steel by KA Holt

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

Magic Trixie: Dragonrider by Jill Thompson

Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima

Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey

The Bride’s Farewell by Meg Rosoff

Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally M. Walker

A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck

Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

When the Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton

Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Perfect Fifths by megan McCafferty

The Treasure Map of Boys by e. lockhart

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd ed Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci

Marching for Freedom by Elizabeth Partridge

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

First Impressions.

I am so happy that I had to re-read this book for our Mock Printz. My first impressions were not all that favorable. I disliked the lack of information about exactly what the sisterhood is up to, I disliked the love triangle, I disliked the fact that they didn’t just have zombie head chopping missions (because why wouldn’t you???). So let me say it again. I am really, really, really happy I read this again. I liked it so much more than the first time.

Yes, I still had issues with the Sisterhood. I think more answers of what the Sisters were up to – obviously bad bad things - would have fleshed out Mary’s village and their particular culture more and added to the horror. Later in the story we visit another village, the contrast between the two is apparent. Where Mary’s village seemed to don dull clothing, this one had bright and decorative outfits. The sisterhood ruled every aspect of Mary’s village, in this new one they are conspicuously absent. The meaning of this would have been more dramatic had we learned more about the Sisterhood. So yes, I think answers are needed, but I’m willing to concede that they will be just as (or almost as) satisfactory when these revelations are divulged in the second book (notice I said “when” not “if”. Ever the optimist haha).

I did find Mary just as difficult to like the second time around. I love you, no I love you, no I thought I loved you but I didn’t but now I do, bored now, look at him over in that tree house, actually no back to you… Honestly, Mary is never satisfied. So no, she’s not the most likeable or sympathetic heroine, but I’m no longer wishing her death by zombie. In fact, I’m excited to see the next part of her journey. Does she go back to the forest to rescue her friends? Does she go back to the village to rescue the book? Are the zombie hordes going to invade her new residence? I’m interested to see where the author takes it. There are so many possibilities.

One final thing that I think could have been made clearer is the average life-span of the zombies. Gabrielle had a time limit – she used up her energy and no longer seems like a threat. This doesn’t seem to be the case for the other zombies. Do they live forever? They seemed to “go to sleep” like a computer, saving energy for later. Does this go on indefinitely? One would also assume that people would spend a lot of time shooting zombies in the head, regardless of the fact that they keep coming. Surely that would lessen their numbers? Mary has me feeling as though it isn’t worth it – that their numbers are inexhaustible. Almost certainly, the numbers of actual live people has been dwindling. Doesn’t it make sense that the zombie numbers would correspondingly decline as well? And yet there is a seemingly inexhaustible supply of them. I’m curious how it all works. Were they made? Is it a genetic engineering gone wrong? Bio-chemical warfare? I’m hoping this gets also fleshed out, as it were, in the next book.

Book Source: Library Copy

Mock Newbery Results

We held our Mock Newbery on Monday and here are our results!

Medal Winner:
Stead, Rebecca. When You Reach Me

Honor Books:
Burg, Ann E. All the Broken Pieces
Kelly, Jacqueline. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Walker, Sally M. Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland

Complete List of Titles considered:
Baskin, Nora Raleigh. Anything But Typical
Burg, Ann E. All the Broken Pieces
DiCamillo, Kate. The Magician’s Elephant
Kelly, Jacqueline. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Peck, Richard. A Season of Gifts
Philbrick, Rodman. The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg
Stead, Rebecca. When You Reach Me
Stone, Tanya Lee. Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream
Walker, Sally M. Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland
Woodson, Jacqueline. Peace, Locomotion

I know the discussion and voting for the real committee remains secret, but since this was for fun I'll discuss. We had a lovely conversation, very respectful, very quick (only 10 minutes alloted for each book). The most heated conversation revolved around Almost Astronauts as I'm sure you can all imagine. All the Broken Pieces, got a lot of love and I'll be interested to see how it stacks up in our Mock Printz discussion. No one seemed to be terribly impressed with The Magician's Elephant, even though everyone reported being able to remember how it felt to read the book, even if they couldn't recall anything about the books other than the generalities.

When You Reach Me was the clear winner on the first round of voting, we had 4 other books that were clearly more favored by the group. 3 of which you see as honor books, along with Homer P. Figg which got voted off the honor list on our second vote. That made me sad. I loved me some Homer! Anyhow a good time was had by all and the food was terrific!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Farewell Kirkus, I'll Miss You

I am seriously bummed about Kirkus going out of business. If I'm to be completely honest, I dislike much more of what I read than I like. Am neutral about much more than I love and so I always respected Kirkus because they always told it like they saw it. Did I always agree? No. But at least they never wrote up milquetoast mamby-pamby reviews that didn't convey any actual information about the book. I'd rather read a scathing review than one that isn't willing to be honest with you.

“No cliché is left unused in this insulting-to-its-audience, nonsensical flapdoodle.”

From the Kirkus review of James Patterson's new book Witch and Wizard.

Kirkus, you will be sorely missed.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Years End Favorites

I suppose there is a slight chance I will read something else this year that will just blow my mind, but with all my Mock Printz re-reading somehow I doubt I'll get around to picking up anything else at all. So, here are my favorites!

Picture Books
Alsena, Linas – Hello, My Name is Bob
Fucile, Tony – Let’s Do Nothing!
McCarty, Peter – Jeremy Draws a Monster
Smith, Danna – Two at the Zoo
Thomas, Jan - Can You Make a Scary Face

Middle Grade
Philbrick, Rodman - The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg
Stead, Rebecca - When You Reach Me

Teen Fiction
Anderson, Laurie Halse - Wintergirls
Burg, Ann E. – All the Broken Pieces
Chima, Cinda Williams – The Demon King
Collins, Suzanne – Catching Fire
Duey, Katherine – Sacred Scars
Larbalestier, Justine – Liar
Ness, Patrick – The Ask and the Answer
Taylor, Laini – Lips Touch Three Times
Tan, Shaun - Tales From Outer Suburbia

Adult Fiction (Not Necessarily Published in 2009)
Berry, Jedediah – The Manual of Detection
Larson, Steig – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Rosoff, Meg – The Bride’s Farewell
Toews, Miriam – The Flying Troutmans
Wolff, Mishna – I’m Down: A Memoir

Stay tuned for some favorite covers.

Creature of the Night by Kate Thompson

Delinquents! Fairies! Never before have they met quite like this! Or in other words I don’t feel like writing a summary, read my first impressions on the book if you’d like one.

It was with great reluctance that I re-read Creature of the Night. My lack of enthusiasm was in great part due to the fact that I found Bobby, the main character, incredibly unsympathetic and unlikeable. I just didn’t want to spend more time with him. Regardless, I re-read and although I still disliked Bobby, I was once again impressed with the incredibly skilled writing. This is serious craftsmanship people.

I was completely immersed in Bobby’s world. It is a world filled with poverty. Poverty of the mind, poverty of the soul, and in the economic sense too. Bobby’s mother was 14 when she had him. Ill prepared for motherhood, she attempted to get ahead, but was unable. She submitted to a life on the dole, is grossly unhappy, obviously feels out of control, and is completely unable to regulate her finances (two words: Money Lenders).

Now Bobby is 14, forcibly removed to the countryside, away from his loser (my words, not his) friends, and is basically having the teenaged version of a midlife crisis. Basically, Bobby has to decide whether he wants to end up a drugged out thug or choose a life that is productive. After some time in the country, he clearly has more food for thought.

Bobby’s struggle is very well drawn. His harsh reality of theft, substance abuse, violence, etc. is clearly set up. You understand what appeals to him about this lifestyle. The quick rush, the camaraderie, the way you can forget your troubles. What is equally clear is how Bobby is finding it less and less satisfying. The drugs leave him feeling worse, his friends abandon him without any second thought – the closeness he thought they had was not as substantial or deep as he believed.

Bobby’s progression is very subtle. Thompson makes it clear, but she doesn’t spell it out for you. It is in every regrettable thing Bobby does. Every time he gets drunk or high and then loathes himself for it. The anger and hatred he projects on his mother is clearly an expression of his hopelessness. Bobby’s psyche is a dark and unhappy place.

And don’t even get me started on the fairies. The fairy lady was totally ‘freakin creepy. *shudders* I’m sure there is some sort of amazing thematic parallels going on here, but they totally went over my head. I was, however, amazed that two totally divergent stories (city juvenile delinquent and countryside folklore) could be coupled in such a smooth and cohesive story.

And so despite all my reluctance, I was very glad to have spent another couple hours with ol’ Robser.


Book Source: Library Copy

Audiobooks or Audio Books

This year I listened to more audiobooks than I ever have. I've been trying to listen to CDs of books that I missed, namely past award winners and those that are perpetually on my TBR pile. YALSA has a new audio book committee (Odyssey) plus the Amazing Audiobooks list, and the industry group has The Audies. (this just in via Fuse #8 - the Grammy's spoken word category!)I have wondered what they do, how they judge what is a really good audio book. I think that after this year of listening I have some idea.

Take for instance the book I'm listening to now.
The Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd. I'm such a fan of her stories. This one is another supernatural thriller, but... I didn't realize the main character, Fergus, is 18. She makes him sound like he's 12. I couldn't figure out why he was so obsessed with college exams when he's so young. Now that I know, it's irritating. I have 3 CDs left and it's the strength of the story that's keeping me going. I'm amazed the producers let that happen.

This brings me to the
Neil Gaiman NPR story on audio books as reading. He interviews David Sedaris who hates hates hates when readers use voices for characters. At first I thought, that's true. But then some of my favorites do use voices well, like the Tiffany Aching series read by Stephen Briggs.

Books I've listened to this year:

Scat by Carl Hiaasen read by Ed Asner
Ed Asner? Yes he does different voices and his pre-teen Latina Marta hit my funny bone. I know people who hated this reading. We'll have to wait to see what the Grammy's think. Also, I love the audio coming out the same day as the book. Good plan, producers. Let's do more of that.

Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman read by Joel Johnstone
I listened to this classic on cassette, baby. Old school. And by the 3rd side I realized that it was so so familiar. Because I did listen to it 2 years ago.

The stories about Maine trilogy:

1. The Canning Season by Polly Horvath read by Julie Dretzin
2. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt read by Joel Johnstone
3. Madapple by Christina Meldrum read by Kirsten Potter
If you're going to dare this book, which if it were in bound form I would have chucked against the wall several times so instead I yelled "Arggh!!" in my car like a lunatic, check out the audio. I wouldn't have pronounced the names correctly at all.

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt read by Sam Freed

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz read by a full cast
Hello, audiobook perfection

Kit's Wilderness by David Almond read by Charles Keating
Wow, this book was nothing like I thought it was going to be.

So B. It by Sarah Weeks read by Cherry Jones

Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher read by Joel Johnstone and Debra Wiseman
Seeing that the book is a guy listening to a recording, worked really well as an audio. And Joel Johnstone is a great reader. If he's reading, I want to listen.

In this advanced day and age and all there are several ways to listen to books. I have not ventured MP3, downloadable or Playaways. I listen in my car on CD and sometimes on cassette if that's my only option.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Killer Pizza by Greg Taylor

Fourteen-year-old Toby gets his first summer job at "Killer Pizza" where all menu items go with the theme--for example, "Mummy Wraps," "The Monstrosity," and "Creature Double Feature." While he tells everyone he just wants to earn some extra cash, he really wants to become a famous chef and enjoys the chance to cook everyday. Then he finds out that "Killer Pizza" is just a cover for a secret organization that fights monsters and other creatures of the night. Now he must decide whether or not he wants to be a M.C.O. (Monster Combat Officer).
This book is full of adventure and somewhat campy monster craziness. I mean, what 14-year-old boy doesn't want to be an MCO? Heck, I want to be an MCO! And the end papers are great; it looks like the inside of a greasy pizza box.

I really liked the characters, although again as in many YA novels, the parents and other adults are barely there. Even the bad guys aren't very flushed out. But in this case, that kind of makes sense. It goes well with the B-movie, monster thriller vibe. Hey, and at least it's not vampires!

This is definitely a book that you want to talk up to your tween and younger teen boys. Not that some girls won't love it, too, but the boys are definitely the target audience. If they love R. L. Stine, Darren Shan, and all things monster, they will love this one.

Oh, and it's on the Lone Star List, too.

Reviewed from Library copy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

He began his new life standing up, surrounded by cold darkness and stale, dusty air.

And so begins Thomas’ journey in a metal elevator, stripped of his
memories, delivered to a place where boys are fighting for their survival.

I picked this one up because it is on the 2010 Lone Star List. A very big deal in our lovely state of Texas. It’s also made some best of 2009 lists (Kirkus for one). I can see why this book was chosen – fast paced, non-stop action, a mystery that keeps building upon itself little by little, terrifying odds, and teen boys who are incredibly resourceful and smart despite their shortcomings.

I enjoyed several things about this novel. I loved the way the author got around swearing by inventing new terminology. “ Klunk” and “Shuck” were satisfying alternatives and sounded believable. In fact, they even sounded rude and fun to say– exactly what curse words should sound like (because we all know there is nothing like a good swear to get a point across). I especially respected how the emotional life of the boys was portrayed. They were fearful and emotional; they cried quite a bit, and not just the wimpy ones that got killed off, all the boys were emotional. I was so impressed – we rarely get such a depiction – usually it is all macho tough-guy bullsh*t. So bravo for that!

However, I wouldn’t be Patti unless I had major issues with a book everyone else just loved to death. The book is very suspenseful, but I think it could have benefitted from some judicious editing. It was a bit repetitive, it tried too hard to ratchet up the anxiety level and so it sometimes felt manipulative and forced, and it did a lot of telling rather than showing. It clocks in at 374 pages and it could have easily told the same story just as effectively at 250 and been a tighter more effective piece of writing.

It isn’t until page 351 that they finally escape the Maze and come face to face with the “Creators.” That leaves 23 pages to explain what is outside of the maze and why they were put in it in the first place. Yes, this is the first in a series. Yes, I understand that it is meant to be a cliff-hanger. But after so many pages dedicated to lost memories and maze running, I thought the ending lacked the oomph it needed…like a good reason they are in the GD maze to begin with. No, I did not find the so-called “rationale” satisfying at all and found myself frustrated by the rushed ending.

I think there is much to commend this book, certainly many others have loved it. I do feel as though it will be popular with boys and even reluctant readers despite its size. I just can’t say that I loved it for myself. Which is too bad because I was fascinated by its premise.

Book Source: Publisher Review Copy