Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge

Do you ever go into a book thinking it is one thing only to find it is something completely different? With this one, I was always on my toes!

On the island nation of Gullstruck, native peoples and the descendents of an invading race have attempted to live in peace for hundreds of years. They are assisted in this by the Lost, special people who can send their senses, separately or together, out of their bodies and communicate across vast distances. This is a world that is both familiar and strange....

When the Lost agents come to Hathin's village, she knows that her whole world is about to change. Her sister Arilou is a Lost, the only Lost among the Lace (the native people), and a Lost who can only communicate through her sister. But the village holds a secret; Arilou might not be a Lost and Hathin can't really communicate with her but gives her own messages from watching the weather and body language. And then the Lost agent dies during the test....

Hardinge has created a beautiful, vibrant, complex world full of the most interesting people. For me, the characters, all of them, are what made this story. They were so real, so heartbreaking, so believable. There were people to love, people to hate, and people who defied explanation.

And the just kept unfolding and changing. Just when I thought I had figured out what had happened to the Lost and where the story was going next, something would happen and change everything.

Hathin was amazing. Really this is her story--a story about how she rose above her station as her sister's keeper, how she discovered who she is and what her world really is, how she changed and how she changed her world.

For the fantasy lovers out there, this is the book. If you loved Dune, if you loved Nation, if you just love a really good complex story, read The Lost Conspiracy.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Best YA Titles You May Never Have Read, part 2

I loved Patti's previous post, so here's my take. I made myself stop at 5.

Toning the Sweep by Angela Johnson (33 collections on LibraryThing)
I have a warm place in my heart for this book. I don't know how I came to read it years ago, but I fell head over heels for this lovely story.
On a visit to her grandmother Ola, who is dying of
cancer in her house in the desert, fourteen-year-old Emmie hears many stories
about the past and her family history and comes to a better understanding of
relatives both dead and living.

Keturah And Lord Death by Martine Leavitt (196 copies)
This had better be on your "Twilight read alike" list. A National Book Award finalist the year it was published. Exceptional!

When Lord Death comes to claim sixteen-year-old
Keturah while she is lost in the King's Forest, she charms him with her story
and is granted a twenty-four hour reprieve in which to seek her one true love.

Green Angel by Alice Hoffman (246 copies)
I read this on a plane to my first ALA conference in DC a couple years ago. I wanted to hit myself over the head with the book for not having read it much earlier. Left me breathless.

Haunted by grief and by her past after losing her
family in a fire, fifteen-year-old Green retreats into her ruined garden as she
struggles to survive emotionally and physically on her own.

This Is What I Did: by Ann Dee Ellis (82 copies)
I found this to be a remarkable book, both for its writing and its design. I reviewed it here.

The Canning Season by Polly Horvath (60 copies)
Polly Horvath is an author I just started reading last year. Shame! The Canning Season won the National Book Award, but this title never took off. Perhaps because an old lady drops the F-bomb. For me that's a plus. (It did have a weird cover. A bad cover is hard to overcome.)
Thirteen-year-old Ratchet spends a summer in Maine with her eccentric
great-aunts Tilly and Penpen, hearing strange stories from the past and
encountering a variety of unusual and colorful characters.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Best YA Titles You May Never Have Read

When Kelly from YAnnabe posted about a Super-Secret-Blog-Project, my interest was piqued. Super and Secret? I was there.

Kelly explained THE WHY: "After seeing all the "best of 2009" lists lately, I've been thinking about how so many great YA books get published every year but don't make a splash. Most barely register a ripple. And of course, the vast majority of great YA books don't approach anywhere NEAR the fervor of The-Series-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. The goal is to highlight YA books that haven't gotten the attention they deserve. These books may not have made a splash when they were first released, so we're going to make a splash for them."

Then she explained THE HOW: Pick 25 books and use LibaryThing to see how many members have that title on their bookshelves. Those titles that appear on 500 or less members' bookshelves are your list.

I should mention that most of the books that appear below got a lot of attention when they came out. Many won awards or received starred reviews. There are a few Printz and NBA books here. Nevertheless, they met the criteria of less than 500 members, so they definately are in need of more attention!!!

So without further ado, here are my books (blurbs from Amazon because I'm sort of lazy mainly, but not only because I've got a virus. Yuck.):

Saenz, Benjamin Alire. Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood
The "Hollywood" where Sammy Santos and Juliana Ríos live is not the West Coast one, the one with all the glitz and glitter. This Hollywood is a tough barrio at the edge of a small town in southern New Mexico. Sammy and his friends, members of the 1969 high school graduating class, face a world of racism, dress codes, war in Vietnam and barrio violence. In the summer before his senior year begins, Sammy falls in love with Juliana, a girl whose tough veneer disguises a world of hurt. By summer's end, Juliana is dead. Sammy grieves; the memory of Juliana becomes his guide through the difficult year ahead. Sammy is a smart kid, but he's angry. He's angry about Juliana's death, he's angry about the poverty his father and his sister must endure, he's angry at his high school and its thinly disguised gringo racism, and he's angry he might not be able to go to college.

Rabb, Margo. Cures for Heartbreak
"IF SHE DIES, I'll die," are the words 15-year-old Mia Perlman writes in her journal the night her mother is diagnosed with cancer. Nine days later, Mia's mother is dead, and Mia, her older sister, and her father must find a way to live on in the face of sudden, unfathomable loss. But even in grief, there is the chance for new beginnings in this poignant, funny, and hopeful novel.

Resau, Laura. Red Glass
One night Sophie and her parents are called to a hospital where Pedro, a six-year-old Mexican boy, is recovering from dehydration. Crossing the border into Arizona with a group of Mexicans and a coyote, or guide, Pedro and his parents faced such harsh conditions that the boy is the only survivor. Pedro comes to live with Sophie, her parents, and Sophie's Aunt Dika, a refugee of the war in Bosnia. Sophie loves Pedro—her Principito, or Little Prince. But after a year, Pedro’s surviving family in Mexico makes contact, and Sophie, Dika, Dika’s new boyfriend, and his son must travel with Pedro to his hometown so that he can make a heartwrenching decision.

Shusterman, Neal. Downsiders
Talon lives Downside, that is, underneath New York City. There is a strict code of secrecy among the Downsiders. However, when Talon accidentally meets a young woman named Lindsay, who is a Topsider (from above the ground), the two worlds inevitably collide. They become friends and love blossoms. The punishment for Talon's lack of discretion could be death. What will happen to them? Will the entire Downsider community be discovered?

Freymann-Weyr, Garret. My Heartbeat
Ellen loves Link and James. Her older brother and his best friend are the only company she ever wants. She knows they fight, but she makes it a policy never to take sides. She loves her brother, the math genius and track star. And she is totally, madly in love with James, with his long eyelashes and hidden smiles. "When you grow out of it," James teases her, "you will break my heart." Then someone at school asks if Link and James might be in love with each other. A simple question. But the answer is far from simple, and its repercussions affect their entire lives.

Brooks, Kevin. Martyn Pig
With his father dead, Martyn has a choice. Tell the police what happened - and be suspected of murder. Or get rid of the body and get on with the rest of his life. Simple, right? Not quite. One story leads to another. Secrets and lies become darker and crazier. And Martyn is faced with twist and turns that leave him reeling. Life is never easy. But death is even harder.

Duey, Kathleen. Skin Hunger
Sadima lives in a world where magic has been banned, leaving poor villagers prey to fakes and charlatans. A "magician" stole her family's few valuables and left Sadima's mother to die on the day Sadima was born. But vestiges of magic are hidden in old rhymes and hearth tales and in people like Sadima, who conceals her silent communication with animals for fear of rejection and ridicule. When rumors of her gift reach Somiss, a young nobleman obsessed with restoring magic, he sends Franklin, his lifelong servant, to find her. Sadima's joy at sharing her secret becomes love for the man she shares it with. But Franklin's irrevocable bond to the brilliant and dangerous Somiss traps her, too, and she faces a heartbreaking decision. Centuries later magic has been restored, but it is available only to the wealthy and is strictly controlled by wizards within a sequestered academy of magic. Hahp, the expendable second son of a rich merchant, is forced into the academy and finds himself paired with Gerrard, a peasant boy inexplicably admitted with nine sons of privilege and wealth. Only one of the ten students will graduate -- and the first academic requirement is survival. Sadima's and Hahp's worlds are separated by generations, but their lives are connected in surprising and powerful ways in this brilliant first book of Kathleen Duey's dark, complex, and completely compelling trilogy.

Thomas, Rob. Rats Saw God
For Steve York, life was good. He had a 4.0 GPA, friends he could trust, and a girl he loved. Now he spends his days smoked out, not so much living as simply existing. But his herbal endeavors -- and personal demons -- have lead to a severe lack of motivation. Steve's flunking out, but if he writes a one-hundred-page paper, he can graduate. Steve realizes he must write what he knows. And through telling the story of how he got to where he is, he discovers exactly where he wants to be...

Hautman, Pete. Godless
Fed up with his parents' boring old religion, agnostic-going-on-atheist Jason Bock invents a new god -- the town's water tower. He recruits an unlikely group of worshippers: his snail-farming best friend, Shin, cute-as-a-button (whatever that means) Magda Price, and the violent and unpredictable Henry Stagg. As their religion grows, it takes on a life of its own. While Jason struggles to keep the faith pure, Shin obsesses over writing their bible, and the explosive Henry schemes to make the new faith even more exciting -- and dangerous.

Hidier, Tanuja Desai. Born Confused
Dimple Lala doesn't know what to think. Her parents are from India, and she's spent her whole life resisting their traditions. Then suddenly she gets to high school and everything Indian is trendy. To make matters worse, her parents arrange for her to meet a "suitable boy." Of course it doesn't go well -- until Dimple goes to a club and finds him spinning a magical web . Suddenly the suitable boy is suitable because of his sheer unsuitability. Complications ensue. This is a funny, thoughtful story about finding your heart, finding your culture, and finding your place in America.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Joanna and Patti React...To the Youth Media Awards

Patti: hello! where do we go to watch this thing? I forgot to forward the email and my work password has EXPIRED!!!


Patti: sweet, thanks!

Joanna: so we just wait here, i think.

Patti:: so it says 7:45 EST so 6:45 Central time right? Too early for this.

Joanna: yes.

Patti:: Excellent. Cdog had a total meltdown this morning. I think it was related to the fact that he ate nothing for the past two days and was starving.

Joanna: no! J is fussing right now. i can't believe he heard me make coffee. so this should be an interesting morning! thank goodness sesame st starts at 7.

Patti:: ha! Have you ever watched the Fresh Beat Band on nicolodeon? Hilarious

Joanna: no! and hey! thom has to announce the alsc/newbery winners since he is pres of alsc! just saw it on his facebook!

Patti: Really! that is cool! Well now I have to check out the facebook too

Patti: hey it is up! tell me when you see it and I'll click

Joanna: see the webcast?(out changing diaper)

Patti: Yes, refresh!No worries, let me know when you're back

Joanna: LOL on!

Patti: Let the announcements begin

Patti: There is elevator music. Should there be elevator music on the internet?

Joanna: heh

Patti: Ahhhh! Preannouncements have begun!

Joanna: we on on! coffee poured. baby on lap w/ bottle.we rule.

Patti: Super, moving to a room that does not include my son :)

[We are now talking about the Alex Awards. -jn]

Joanna: BRIDES SFAREWELL~!!!!!! I totally forgot about that. mmm. my coffee is good.

Patti: Cool! I'm back

Joanna: too bad i have no knowledge of audlt lit.

Patti: That Soulless sounds awesome

Joanna: STITCHES!!!!!

Patti: Just the top ten?

Joanna: (J is very entertained w/ my 3 open windows! he's laughing)can't be here all morning.

Patti: I guess the entire list would be mammoth

Joanna: Hi, Thom!

Patti: Thom! I like his tie

Joanna: me, too. mic isn't tall alison show alison show alison

Patti: I feel like we're listening to click, clack moo.just the feedback. The FEEDBACK!!!

Joanna: OMG. you are exactly right. president talk = coffee time

Patti: That is too funny, I was just reaching for mine. Glorious coffee.Reading is great, blah blah blah Let's get on with it!

Joanna: Marcelo?

Patti: Good guess

Joanna: Anything but typical?

Patti: (Schneider Award) Django? Never heard of it

Joanna: Djang - best young children's book.Djano Reinhart is a super. You'll love his music.

and you've heard it lots of times.Anything but typical!!!

Patti: Ha! You totally called it

Joanna: Nora Raleigh Baskin did a good job.drumm rolll

Patti: She really did. I liked it. Good god! You're good

Joanna: but it is Mar SELL O.Not Mar CHELL O

Patti: Interesting how there was 2 autism books awarded

Joanna: I didn't realize the Schneider Award was for autisim. That's what Camila said.

Patti: Oh Ha!

Joanna: So that limits it?

Patti: Well, that explains it. Although the first dude had burnt hands not autism. Or did he have both?

Joanna: Maybe she said autism and disability experiece.Hm.On too.. Coretta Scott King.

Patti: Cool how it is announced on MLK Day

Joanna: Happy Dr. MLK Day, indeed!whoops. who just won the lifetime achievement?

Patti: Have they announced it?Click Clack MOOOO,WALTER DEAN MYERS!!!

Joanna: Well, Walter Dean Myers! Of course. He's awesome.

Patti: Awesome. How has he not won this before?

Joanna: You know, he'd make a good children's lit ambassador!

Patti: Yes! he really would. He is such a nice man.

Joanna: 1st year they started the Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement award.

Patti: Well that explains how he hasn't won it before.

Joanna: Steptoe Award for New Talent: The Rock and the River

Patti: Makes a lot of sense, this one has gotten tons of buzz. We'll have to get more copies in our system.

Joanna: I want to read it.

Patti: Illustrator award: My People, Langston Hughes

Joanna: Iove that a photography book won illustrator!!

Patti: and the illustrator is gone! Wish I had caught his name.Nice! Mare's War for the honor

Joanna: (cute alert: J is clapping w/ the audience).WHOA! Here's a book I heard nothing about in the Mocks.

Patti: Author Award: Bad News and Outlaws.That one seems very cool.

Joanna: very.

Patti: Love the cover.(adorable about J)

Joanna: Me, too. Illustration looks fantastic.(S's up too.)

Patti: YALSA!!!

Joanna: Thom is back to announce YALSA.getting shivers

Patti: teen reading is good, blah blah blah... Oh hey,The Magicians made Alex too. Margaret A. Edwards Award...Jim Murphy...and I'm stumped.

Joanna: An nonfiction author! Bodes well for nonfiction in the awards.It's a nonfiction year!

Patti: that's nice, I have no idea who he is, but I'm sure he deserves it.

Joanna: you know his books.

Patti: (C is running up and down the hall screaming)

Joanna: I think he also wrote Truce w/ came out this year.

Patti: Oh, ok. That one seemed interesting. Alison talked about that one at our Liar book exchange.William C Morris: William was called Bill (aka unneeded factoid)

Joanna: quick! a guess to the winner!

Patti: Hold Still.ha.WRONG!!! Flash Burnout for the win

Joanna: So it's funny to see names of people I know.

Patti: I haven't read any. They all seem like good books.

Joanna: I've been a librarian for a looong time.

Patti: LOL.Nonfiction award up next.

Joanna: another guess for this one!Could it be Claudette Colvin?Hmm.

Patti: Claudette Colvin seems like a solid guess.(now C is banging on the door)

Joanna: How funny that I read almost all of those.

Patti: I've got to go for Written in Bone

Joanna: Couldn't fiish Charles & Emma.LOL!

Patti: Charles and Emma!

Joanna: Charles and Emma for the win!

Patti: Aren't they making a movie about this too? I believe I just read something about a movie about them. Based on this book? I don't know.

Joanna: (J's latest talent is to "paint" with his bottle's leftover milk.) A movie would be good.

Then I don't have to finish reading it?

Patti: (nice, hopefully on your wood furniture)

Joanna: (mm. and sofa)

Patti: I have no plans to read it, we'll just add that onto my list of not going to read.

Joanna: PRINTZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Patti: PRINTZ!!!!!! My heart is palpitating

Joanna: Honor: Charles & Emma

Patti: Charlies and Emma! That was on a lot of people's lists

Joanna: Monstrumologist!>!>!>!????

Patti: MOnstrumologist! Good choice.

Joanna: Totally off everyone's Radar!

Patti: Punkzilla = depressing.

Joanna: WHat are these books!??

Patti: Tales of the Madman Underground.

Joanna: Rick Yancy was great @ the Teen Book Fest.

Patti: Lots of surprises.NOT Marcello

Joanna: drum roll! HOLY SH*(&$&&!!!


Joanna: Libba Forever!!

Patti: Another one I couldn't read! But I love Libba Bray. How cool!

Joanna: I have it checked out right now.It's in my bag.

Patti: And out of left field comes The Printz Award. That is nice.

Joanna: See NO MARCELLO.I'm almost awesome.It was too perfect in it's ending.

Patti: And in Going Bovine the dude dies. See? Books are better when people die.

Joanna: Well hells bells, Patti:. I haven't read it YET. ;)

Patti: I haven't either. Sorry! On to Odyssey Award.

Joanna: Odyssey Audiobooks:

Patti: Love L.A. Meyer. Love her books

Joanna: Peace, Locomotion!

Patti: Nice, We are the Ship.WINNER: Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken.I haven't even heard of this, despite it being DiCamillo.

Joanna: Same here.

Patti: Click Clack MOOOOO

Joanna: Pura Belpré

Patti: Marcello? haha

Joanna: maybe Confetti Girl (J fic)

Patti: We Were Here by De La Pena

Joanna: Illustration: David Diaz - Diego

Patti: I didn't like that one. Oh well.

Joanna: My Abuelita - Yuyi Morales.LOVE this book. Sad itdidn't win. John Parra-Gracias Thanks

Rafael Lopez - Book Fiesta (dia de los ninos/dia de loslibro).Cute.

Patti: Pat Mora for the win, surprise surprise.

Joanna: Yes, but for illustration.

Patti: oh right haha

Joanna: But yes, Pat Mora.(diaper changing. brb)

Patti: Honor Books for Text:Diego Bigger Than Life and Frederico Garcia Lorca.Winner: Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez.I meant to read that one.

Joanna: so no marcello?

Patti: Nope!

Joanna: Now that is a shame.I loved that being Mex-American wasn't central to the theme. But maybe that is why?

Patti: (dang it cdog just came in the room. Thankfully for a book)

Joanna: Mex-Am is who he is. There is some stuff about his dad in law school at Harvard and racism in the law firm.(Cdog cracks me up.)

Patti: (he's crying that he want's mommy to read to him)

Joanna: (sorry he doesn't like TV)

Patti: (me toooooooo)

Joanna: (J&S are watching batman & scooby doo video)

Patti: (lucky lady)

Joanna: Arbuthnot Honor Lecture :

Patti: Ohhhh Lois Lowry to announce

Joanna: No, she wins!

Patti: oh! ha!

Joanna: Or is given he lectureship.Hee.

Patti: (I'm sitting here feeling guilty I'm not reading "Silly Goose" to C)

Joanna: (so this chattin is so dang fun)

Patti: (yes) That's nice. I really like Lois Lowry.(and I'm hungry and Lugnut is clawing at the door to be let out)

Joanna: I can get this one if you need to break.Batchelder Award: Honor: Big wolf and little wolf (picture book?) Eidi. Moribito 2 (Moribito 1 won last year)

Patti: You know, I thought Moribito would be a huge draw, it hardly checks out at any of our branches.

Joanna: A Faraway Island for the win.We should booktalk it more? To staff?I haven't read it.

Patti: Me neither, it just seemed cool and had a cool cover. I expected bigger things.

Joanna: SIBERT MEDAL - informational books

Patti: Written in Bone! I hope anyhow.

Joanna: heh. DAY-GLO Brothers from AUSTIN!!

Patti: fabulous.

Joanna: Almost bought Moonshot.WHOA! Claudette Colvin for the Honor.

Patti: come on written in bone for the win....


Patti: ALMOST ASTRONAUTS! Color me surprised.

Joanna: Oh fun times on blogs. People have strong feelings against this one.

Patti: Apparently the writers bias was not as important as we thought. Very interesting.

Joanna: I didn't think it was as bad as others. But noticeable.

Patti: Yes, lots of debate. I like these types of winners. Who wants something we've all expected?

Joanna: Interesting on how that editorial voice will be considered from here on out.

Patti: I'm glad, I did like this one. ontoVideo award, Andrew Carnegie

Joanna: I love surprises.

Patti: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

Joanna: Mo's first win of the night!Can't be an ALA awards w/o Mo winning something.

[note: a clip of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus is showing.]

Patti: LOVE IT! Maybe C would watch this. Love the voice.

Joanna: But it is narrated by Jon Scizeka.= awesome.

Patti: I bet your mom would let me. Best line of the book.

Joanna: This is really funny.

Patti: hahahaha Love the freak out.

Joanna: I love the Noooooooos!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! from the kids.Geisel Award: aka Mo Wilems?

Patti: ha! probably.Let's Do Nothing is my guess.

Joanna: Honor: I Spy Fly Guy.Little Mouse Gets Ready! GN by Jeff Smith and Toon Books!

Mouse & Mole...Pearl & Wagner.

Patti: cute!

Joanna: a graphic novel!Wins!No Mo!

Patti: CUTE!!!! Love it. Benny and Penny.Wait, this is a beginner reading award. Let's Do Nothing isn't a beginning reader.Get on the ball!It's good that Willems didn't win. You shouldn't win awards every year.

Joanna: Caldecott Medals. I finally read Lion and Mouse this weekend. ALL THE WORLD - another AUSTIN WIN!

Patti: Nice! ATX in the house

Joanna: Red sings from treetops (new book to me)

Patti: me too.

Joanna: MEDAL....IS....Lion and the Mouse

Patti: awesome!

Joanna: Jerry Pinkney

Patti: I bet a lot of people go home happy today. I haven't actually seen it. I'm sure it is wonderful.NEWBERY

Joanna: NEWBERY COMETH. 4 HONORS: Claudette Colvin!

Patti: Lots of love for Claudette.

Joanna: Well well well...Calpurnia

Patti: REALLY!!!! Race issues not an issue apparently.

Joanna: Where the Mt Meets the Moon! Still not finished. PATTI:!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For You!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Patti: HOMER!!!! Loved this book. Sooo funny!When you Reach me!

Joanna: Well, no surprise here. When You Reach Me for the Newbery.

Patti: No upsets on the Newbery, that's for sure. Everyone had talked about these books.

Joanna: Well, Homer Figg is a surprise. And I am shocked about Calpurnia Tate for the Honor.

Patti: me too. VERY.

Joanna: (hee hee. Thom is telling us to clean up!)

Patti: And we'll never know what their rationale was.

Joanna: Yep.

Patti: And cue elevator music.

Joanna: Ah, more elevator music!LOLSoothing guitar picking. Pseudo jazz?

Patti: LOL! well, it was lovely chatting! I will clean up and post.

Joanna: You are awesome. I had a great time. Same deal next year.

Patti: Definitely! Fun Fun Fun!

Joanna: Have a great rest of your MLK Day. Back to paying attention to my kids.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Last Minute Reads for 2010 Book Awards

Hello, Dear Readers! (all 15 of you *smooch*) Now that our Mock Newbery and Mock Printz have passed, I have been catching up on buzz books that I didn't get around to reading.

#1: The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis by Barbara O'Connor
I have big love for this small book. This is a prime example of an author successfully accomplishing what she set out to do - and by that I mean we hear about the small adventure and that's it. There are no back stories or tangents. I'm taking it as a good sign that I haven't seen this on many Mock lists. Had it come out earlier in the year, it would have been on ours. This would be a Newbery dark horse, but worthy of the distinction in my eyes. It also hits the younger end of Newbery which is often lacking on the list. If the winners are When You Reach Me and Claudette Colvin, it will be a higher-end Newbery age list. (Also a boy book in another year where the ladies may sweep the awards.)

#2: Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
This title kept escaping my reading pile. The blogosphere has been a-twitter with Printz buzz for this book so I sought it out. I really liked this novel. Really liked it. The Erin Brockovich legal plot is exciting and Marcelo is one heck of a fun and amazing guy who really made me think about my interactions with others and my belief of good in the world. I enjoyed reading his story. But.. I am not in the Printz camp. I may eat my words, but in the vast international pool of 2009 books, it could get passed over simply because the field is so competitive. Maybe an honor.

As to why I think it may miss the Printz, to me the ending was tied up too neatly. Perhaps I'm over thinking it, but it was too sweet and too perfect. I also had trouble with the final scene with Rabbi Heschel (another great, original character) where I thought "gee whiz. would this conversation really happen like this?". And is Jasmine too good? Too perfect? Again, a wonderful book, but, for me, these small criticisms could be a roadblock to Printz glory. (Marcelo has one of the best covers of the year. As my husband pointed out, it's by The Harry and the Potters artist Dan McCarthy.) To note: the catch phrase in my house has been "Don't let the a-holes give you shit."

#3: Stitches by David Small
Not published for YA so it won't qualify for the Printz, but holy cow. Excellent. Can't really add to what has already been said. Alex Award? For durn sure. Read it and then read all his picture books again.

#4 Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Now here is a fun little book. First, it's so pretty! Second, of course it's pretty it's by Grace Lin but being by Grace Lin means it's also very well written. BUT, I'm still reading this one. I'll update if I finish before Monday.

Exciting times, exciting times. I'll be up at 6:30 CST so I can get my seat for the webcast. Bring it!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Printz Speculation

Why? Because it's fun!

What I think will win:
Marcello in the Real World by Francisco X Stork.
Why? Because it is getting hella buzz and because I’ve never read it. Confession time: I will never read this book. Even if it wins. That’s right! Never! It is probably great, I just can’t seem to make myself do it.

Possible Honors:
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Why?Because it is really, really well written and compelling, even if it does make you want to eat the entire time you’re reading just to show that you can.
Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan
Why?Because the stories are wonderfully weird and touching and the art is amazing. This book is one of those special books that doesn’t come along very often.
Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor
Why?Because these were some great stories, even if the last was a little long.
Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
Why? Because it is the best ever ever ever and I love it. And it has won awards the world over. Because. It. Is. Amazing.
Liar by Justine Larbalestier
Why?Because it turns the unreliable narrator trope on its head. Yes, as someone at our Mock Printz mentioned the author may have gotten a little carried away with her cleverness. But dang it, It is clever! And extrememly well written, even if you hated the fact you don’t find out the truthiest truth. And because it won our Mock Printz and so we are clearly the smartest librarians on the planet (haha).
Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd
Why?Beautiful and understated writing. What will hurt it? Probably the road trip theme.

Long Shots:
All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg
Why?Do I really have to say? Soooooooo Goooooooood. What will hurt its chances are that the characters are a little idealized and perfect. But pales in importance to how wonderful this story is.
Burn My Heart by Beverly Naidoo
Why?Compelling and well written, if perhaps a little young. I’ve never read a children’s books where the ugliness of colonialism is so obvious without being didactic at all.
The Devil’s Paintbox by Victoria McKernan
Why?An unromantic western, gritty with terse humor. The ending was perhaps a bit rushed, and there was a prostitute with a heart of gold, but all in all very good.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd

Holly has finally had it. After years in foster care and a seemingly ill-fitting final placement she’s decided to run away to Ireland to reunite with her mother. A blond wig, some money, and a sexy new dress are all Holly needs to start her new life on the Road.

That sort of makes the book sound trite, which it isn’t in the least. Even though it is a wig that gives Holly the impetus to run way (when she puts it on she becomes Solace a brash, brave woman). This is a road trip book and so because of that does follow some of the same conventions. Holly meets a bevy of people who help her in a variety of ways which serve to help her on her personal journey. From a shop girl who gives her a sandwich, to a vegan truck driver who shows compassion, to a man with an eye-patch who picks her up at the bar. We aren’t short of characters that pop in and out of the narrative. My one worry was that something really bad was going to happen to Holly, because, well, Holly doesn’t always make the best decisions. Luckily, Holly gets out of scrapes and bad things that happen could always have been much worse (cue me sighing in relief).

Essentially, the closer Holly gets to her destination the more actual memories of her mother bubble up. From the beginning you can just tell that whatever happened was Not Good.

It is a dark novel, but I didn’t feel overpowered by sadness as I read. Even though I must admit I was scared it was all going to end very badly for Holly. Simply said, this was a beautifully written novel. I read it in one day, which is totally unusual for me lately. I could see this one being a Printz contender.

Book Source: Review Copy

Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher

Logan lives in small town Missouri, he’s a senior and headed to college the next year. Basically he spends his time brooding about his recent breakup. So Logan is pleasantly wowed when a new girl moves to town. Sage is tall, interesting, funny, and beautiful. She’s also got a secret that is going to change his life forever. Sage, beautiful, feminine, utterly charming Sage, had the misfortune of being born a boy.

The story is told from Logan's perspective and I think his voice is a great strength of this book. It seemed completely real. It seemed like everything actually happened and the author was just pulling things verbatim out of some boy’s brain. I believed it when Logan fell for Sage, I believed his uncertainty and frustration when he thought her parents were weird and probably abusive, and I sure as heck believed him when he was blind with rage and shame when he found out the truth. The range of emotion, the confusion, the navigation through a new world of sexual complexity was fantastically written. Does it make him gay? Is Sage truly a girl or guy? Does Logan care if she is? The depth of writing was sensitive without being pedantic or insulting to the reader.

Occasionally I felt like I was in health class getting a textbook explanation like when Sage and Logan discuss her transgendered nature and how hormone therapy works. Important information to convey, but perhaps a bit much when inserted directly into dialogue. Would it have been better if Logan read a brochure? I don’t know. And truthfully, it didn’t distract me too much – perhaps a teen wouldn’t even be bothered.

The book offered a range of reactions toward Sage. From family members who were divided between love and acceptance and deeply concerned with protection to others who were ashamed and wanted to have her committed. All in all, I thought it was a powerful portrayal of what a transgendered teen and his/her family and intimate friends might go through.

Book Source: Review Copy

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mock Printz Results

The Results:

Anderson, Laurie Halse – Wintergirls (Honor Book)

Burg, Ann E. – All the Broken Pieces

Chima, Cinda Williams – The Demon King (Honor Book)

Larbalestier, Justine – Liar (Award Winner)

Headley, Justina Chen – North of Beautiful

Ryan, Carrie – In the Forest of Hands and Teeth

Tan, Shaun – Tales From Outer Suburbia (Honor Book)

Thompson, Kate – Creature of the Night

So, since we're not the real committee we can tell you all about how the voting played out.

First Vote – Where we vote for the winner.
Title must receive five first‑place votes and must also receive at least five more points than the second‑place title. We had a clear winner on our first vote. In hindsight, we probably should have had people just vote for one title, but we had people vote for their top 3 for winner. Here’s how that played out.

(10) All the Broken Pieces

(1) Creature of the Night

(16) Demon King

(3) In the Forest of Hands and Teeth

(33) Liar

(7) North of Beautiful

(11) Tales From Outer Suburbia

(27) Wintergirls

Second Vote – Where we vote for the Honor books.
We could have up to 4 honor books. In our vote we had 4 clear top votes. Creature of the Night, In the Forest of Hands and Teeth, and North of Beautiful were removed from consideration due to their low votes. We could have stopped there. But…we had extra time so we decided to debate some more. Wintergirls clearly led the honor books, it was decided that we would make that an honor without further discussion.

Onto the 3 remaining titles. It became evident that we wanted to remove one. But which one? A heated discussion ensued. We couldn’t decide and those that felt strongly were not conceding their belief that one title or another was better. Duh duh duhhhhh…since we couldn’t agree that one clearly needed to be removed we decided put it to another vote. For this one participants would vote for their top 2 honor books out of the remaining 3 possibilities, the book with the lowest score would be removed.

(21) All the Broken Pieces

(1) Creature of the Night

(27) Demon King

(0) In the Forest of Hands and Teeth

(1) North of Beautiful

(18) Tales From Outer Suburbia

(31) Wintergirls

Third Vote – Where we vote on the Honor Books again.
Otherwise known as fantasy is fantastic.

(17) All the Broken Pieces

(22) Demon King

(45) Tales From Outer Suburbia

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Fforde is one of those authors that you either love or can’t stand. He’s just got such a strong writing style – silly, rather absurd, witty, that you’ll either enjoy or run away screaming. I fall into the first camp. I love me some Fforde and so I was so excited when I stumbled over an arc of his newest a few months ago. With all my Printz reading I could get around to it and then stupidly I forgot to take it on vacation with me. I remedied this by picking it up as soon as I got back.


That’s my review.

Not really, but it totally could be. This is the first in a new series that is completely different than the Thursday Next or Nursery Crime novels, at least in the sense that it is a different world. Fford has created a world, presumably far into the future time on earth, where people are placed into a hierarchy based on color – a Colortocracy if you will. Not of their skin, but of the color they can perceive. You can be a Purple (the best), Yellow, Red, Blue, Orange, or Green. Or a Grey. If you’re a grey you’re really sh*t out of luck ‘cause you don’t see any color at all and you have to do all the drudgery work for your entire life.

This Colortocracy was set up after Something That Happened. What that something was, no one knows…only that there have been several Leapbacks (where the government reduces knowledge and technology).

So, basically totally awesome. Fforde is always exceptional at his world building. Truth be known, I never really got it why the people could only see one color – but I assume it is because of genetic engineering or something. And the fact that I didn’t understand it didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the book at all. And it really set up some fabulous jokes. Like glimpsing specific paint hues to get high and such.

If you’re into the absurd, pick it up. You won’t regret it!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Holiday Reading

Well, I’m back from my lovely two week holiday. Vacations nowadays aren’t quite as self-indulgent and lazy as they used to be, but they still beat working, so I’m certainly not complaining!

I only had the chance to read two books, both adult, one fiction and one non-fiction. Both very good. I did spend a ridiculous amount of time watching the marathon of Income Property on HGTV at my parent’s house. And then I also caught part of a marathon of Property Virgins that was all in Austin. And I couldn’t help but think that those people would have been better off doing their own research. I mean if you have $300,000 and want to buy a house close in, there is absolutely NO reason to settle for a house in Round Rock. Nothing wrong with Round Rock, but come on. That’s a lot of house that money could buy you in a nice fabulous neighborhood right by downtown. I found the host incredibly annoying too. She was smug or something. Blech.

So the books…

A Boy of Good Breeding by Miriam Toews

I couldn’t contain my love for the author in a previous post. This one was still good. Lots of quirky Manitobans here, but I didn’t love it as much as the previous books I’ve read by her. I did love Hosea, the mayor of Algren, Canada’s smallest town.

Algren was Canada’s smallest town. It really was. Canada’s Smallest Town. It said so on a big old billboard right outside the town limits and Knute had checked with one of those government offices in the blue pages and they said fifteen hundred is what you need for a town. And that’s what Algren had. If it had one less it would be a village and if it had just one more it would be a bigger town. Like all the rest of the small towns. Being smallest was its claim to fame.

Hosea is obsessed with keeping the population exactly at 1500. So much so he’s started a notebook where he tallies the births and deaths, the moves, and the one farm that keeps jumping in and out of the town limits. Why is he so obsessed? The reason does come to light and is humorous and heart wrenching at the same time. So very quirky, but perhaps lacking some of the depth of character of her other books. I’d read The Flying Troutmans, or A Complicated Kindness before I tackled this one.

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

A little out of character for me, since this is an adult non-fiction, but it made some best of the year lists (’s maybe?) and it sounded intriguing. It tells the tale of the spectacularly interesting 1925 disappearance of British explorer Percy Fawcett who travelled to the Amazon in search of the fabled City of Z.

Honestly, it was fascinating. The author does a complete biography of Fawcett, goes over his previous explorations, and everything that happens after his disappearance. I really enjoyed this. I won’t tell you what the author deduces happened to Fawcett, but I really respected his research and his writing. It was exciting and breathtaking.


Book Source: Library Copies