Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hold Me Closer Necromancer by Lish McBride

I first heard about this book back in May when Michelle wrote about it. She loved it, Sherman Alexie loved it, it had a fantastic cover. I was sort of foaming at the mouth to read it, but you know how it goes, life gets in the way...people keep forgetting to send you their arcs to borrow (Michelle and Jenn H. I am looking at you. Ahem.), all that sort of stuff.

So I finally got to read it and man, I loved it. Totally hilarious everyman main character that gets into a situation way over his head, a la evil necromancer, and finds out maybe there was a reason that it all happened. It had a great ensemble cast (and I say cast because honestly, this would be a fantastic hour long TV show). If this doesn't turn into a series I am going to scream bloody murder. I want more! In fact it is the first thing in a long time that tore me away from watching Dr. Who and Torchwood on Netflix. I think that says a lot to recommend it.

There are necromancers, werewolves, ghosts, witches, and just about every other paranormal person/thing thrown into the mix. It works because the author doesn't take it too seriously. This book, above all else, is a comedy.

Adults are going to love this as much as the teens.

Book Source = ARC borrowed from friend

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Top 100 YA Novels

A while ago Patti and I came up with our Top 10 YA Novels. Here is the first half of the grand list complied by Adele at the always interesting Persnickety Snark.











Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Accomplice by Eireann Corrigan

Two girls, life long best friends decide that getting into college is too hard. They've got the extracurriculars, they've got the grades, but they don't feel like they'll stand out in the sea of applicants. After watching a T.V. special on a girl who goes missing, they start to plan. What would happen if one of them went missing? Would that give them the edge they need? What would they have to do? How much would they have to plan? How exactly could they get away with it?

This novel reminded me a bit of Harmless by Dana Reinhardt, only taking the premise a step further. In Harmless the lie wasn't premeditated and was just to get them out of trouble after staying out too late one night. In Accomplice it is a deliberate act by two girls to achieve national attention. In both the lies spin out of control in ways that neither sets of girls anticipate. It is fascinating to watch the psychological issues that arise out of living a lie. And in particular a really, really big, world changing lie.

What is interesting to me is that Finn, the friend left to spin the lie as her friend hides didn't anticipate how difficult it would be. Correspondingly, it is perhaps even more interesting how little Chloe seems to care. I was left wondering exactly who Chloe was and who she had always been.

The arc of their friendship is the real strength of this novel. It explores the dynamics of friendship, its inequalities, its complexities, and what happens when people stop being polite and start being real (Ack! Forgive me! I couldn't help myself. This book is nothing like The Real World).

Anyhow, its a book that leaves you thinking. I enjoyed it.

Book Source: Publisher Review Copy

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

HeLa and NPR

So I've been trying to work up the energy to write a review of the adult nonfiction book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and can't seem to find the time. These last dog days of summer programming are getting to me. Busy. And then more busy. With a heaping side of busy.

Needless to say it was freakin' fantastic. I am not a huge nonfiction reader, but I remember hearing an NPR story on this book and thinking it sounded fascinating. And it really was. All about biology and science and family history. The author seamlessly wove all of that into one interconnected narrative that was funny and interesting and sad all at the same time. I can't recommend it enough.

And then again from NPR, a neato blog post called, "Why the Next Big Pop Culture Wave After Cupcakes Might be Libraries."

Book Source = ARC snagged off of staff shelf by Joanna who then sent it to me. Thanks J!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Walden Award Winner

2010 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award were announced this past week. This award is presented by the Assembly on Literature for Adolescence (ALAN).


Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancy

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander


Fire by Kristin Cashore

Courtesy of the Goddess of YA Literature.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Library of the Early Mind

Taken from the fantastic Book Moot.
A documentary film exploring children's literature


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman

Ye toads and vipers! I love a heroine with a bad temper. Meet the newest in this latest book by Karen Cushman.

"I grew up in an alehouse, you wart-necked mammering clap dish." (p. 55)

Ah, that's our Meggy. It isn't easy being a country girl sent off to live with a father she never knew existed because her granny died and her mother doesn't want her around. Turns out her alchemist dad doesn't either, especially because she isn't a boy and apparently no help to him in his endeavors to transform metal into gold. Meggy is left to fend for herself in the big (and filthy) city of London. Meggy also walks using canes because of a physical disability from birth. All her life her granny took care of her. Now Meggy must figure out how to do it for herself.

In early Elizabethan England (1573) there are some who view Meggy's disability kindly and many others who thing she is cursed by God, possessed by the devil, or to be ridiculed. Meggy wears a tough skin for the heckling (and has some hilarious comebacks) so it turns out that being friendly and being a friend challenges her. She realizes that she needs friends since she has no family and this journey drives the story. One part of Meggy's character that I admire is her feelings towards her parents. They are not good people but Meggy comes to terms with who they are and what they did. A very mature response, but I also think it is in step with the time period.

This charming book clocks in at a slim 159 pages without the Author's Note. Hallelujah for short books! Cushman earned the Newbery and an Honor so she knows her craft. Alchemy and Meggy Swann is a solid, satisfying book. Perhaps someone will find errors with the historical accuracy or maybe think Meggy too lucky. I found the historical aspects interesting and Meggy charmingly more snarky than plucky. Plus it's funny and sad and suspenseful (did I mention the murder plot?)

The Author's Note provides more information on the time period, Meggy's disability, alchemy, ballads, and language. I think this would make a great book discussion selection for 5th - 8th graders.

For you keeping score at home, Joanna - 1 ; Librarian Confessions - 11.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Nothing by Janne Teller

Thanks to Trisha of the Ya Ya Yas for the recommendation. Her review is here.

This, my friends, was an effing weird book. Enjoyable? Hmmm, I don’t think I could say that. I will say it was really well written and a totally compulsive read, no doubt about it, but enjoyable? I’m leaning to no. I am going to pass it on to my Mock Printz committee members because of the quality of the writing (a few strange quirks aside. Beside. Astride.) This is a story that will keep you thinking. I kind of loved it. It was a Lord of the Flies type of book, complete with a pig's head on a stick (don't take that as a literal example).

So the book…Well, the kids are in grade seven. An author’s note says that in Denmark this would mean they are 13 or 14, which makes a lot more sense than 11 or 12, believe me. Basically, a guy climbs into a tree because he has decided nothing matters. So if nothing has meaning, why do anything? Why indeed Pierre Anthon, why indeed?

This really bothers his friends, mostly because they think he’s really onto something. First they just try to pelt him with stones to get him to come down, but although he falls out of the tree, the next day he’s just back up there. So they decide that they have to prove to him that things do have meaning.

Dennis is first. He surrenders his D&D books, but he holds back some favorites. The group makes him sacrifice them all. This obviously leaves a spark of resentment, and since Dennis gets to pick who gives up what next, he makes sure that person gives up something near and dear to their heart too. Things escalate quickly, as you can imagine. It gets ugly people. Really, really ugly. Really, really, really, shockingly ugly.

The chapters are short and the author uses a device where sometimes only a single sentence is written on a page. It is like the author is telling us, “this is an important thing – so important I am only writing this one thing on this page.” It is super effective. It makes the sentence jump out at you and also manages to set the tone for the story.

Whew. I’m glad I’m done reading, but I can’t wait for my committee to read this so we can talk about it. The one thing I wonder? Didn't any adults notice Pierre Anthon was in a tree for like an entire year?!?

Book Source = Publisher copy

Monday, July 12, 2010

I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

So it must be said that Pittacus Lore is a pseudonym (and I’m sure you figured that one out for yourself) but you may not have known it is a pseudonym for a very well known author. One might even call him infamous. In fact, thinking about it, that is exactly what one would call him. Readers, it is none other than James Frey of manufactured memoir fame. What is even funnier is that he name checks his book. One of the characters smashes something (a mirror) and I kid you not, it smashes into a "million little pieces." I could have just died. Was it intentional? Perhaps not. But a funny coincidence, no?

There are a few other similarities. The main character is full of tough guy machismo, which isn’t entirely unearned as he is an alien with developing super-powers. And I am not implying that our main character is a jerk – he isn’t. There is just a certain macho-confidence-type-thing that is similar to Frey’s memoir (which if you haven’t read it is full of puking and toughing it out – none of which really is pertinent to this post, but I wanted to share). Also short, terse action sentences are peppered throughout the book, just like in the memoir.

As for the story? I thought it was really fun. The writing was sometimes a bit clumsy and repetitive, the romance a bit melodramatic, it could have been edited down some, but I thought all in all the story made up for that.

So what is the story about? 9 aliens, the last of their kind escaped to earth ten years ago. The aliens that destroyed them are hunting the 9 down. They must be killed in a certain order due to a protection charm and three are already dead. John is number 4 and this is his story. Full of action and super-powers and conspiracies.

And boy is it cinematic, it reads like a movie. I don’t think it is any accident that this has already been picked up to be filmed.

Book Source = ARC snagged off of a staff shelf

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBride

I really wanted to read this book because the professional reviews were quite different, PW gave a really nice review and BCCB gave a positive, but more critical one. I was also intrigued by the subject matter. Noelle was kidnapped when she was 14. It is now two years later and she has escaped and managed to have her kidnapper arrested. Now she’s back at home. I was interested in how it would play out.

The story is told through Tess’s voice. Tess is the life-long best friend of Noelle. While she wasn’t the one subjected to abuse, her whole life changed the day Noelle didn’t come home. She’s been in counseling ever since and she’s essentially cut herself off from other people because it feels disloyal to Noelle. She is frightened of strangers, even ones around her own age. Tess has essentially cut herself off from life.

Noelle, now Elle, is naturally angry. She is undergoing intense therapy and writing everything down in a journal. However, she didn’t seem to be suffering from PTSD and she was not self-harming. So yes, Elle drinks. Yes, Elle sometimes gets high. Yes, Elle is chasing after unsuitable boys. But to me, these seemed very mild compared to what she could be doing. In fact, Elle seemed to have a better grip on what is going on than anyone else in the story (with the possible exception of her lovely brother Cooper).

The interplay between Elle and those who were left behind was well done. Tess has lived the last two years in a protective bubble and to see how the protected and the abused interacted was really powerful. I liked how the distance between them seemed huge at first and that it slowly narrowed until they had made their way back to real friendship.

I did want to comment about something that BCCB brings up about the “vicious ex” Jessie of the boy that Elle chases. I felt like Jessie was a lot of hype. And by that I mean that as a popular girl her toughness and other attributes were exaggerated and hyped by the other girls. And to me that felt like a high-school reality. Jessie is nowhere near as devastating or tough as Tess makes her out to be – but to Tess that is how Jessie would seem - All-powerful. As Elle points out, Jessie pales in comparison to the other things that she’s experienced. It makes total sense that Elle is not worried about her at all. Jessie does say some things that were extremely nasty and at first I cringed and thought WHO WOULD SAY THAT??? No one would ever say that! But then I decided that is exactly the type of thing someone who is angry and spiteful would say. It is the sort of thing you say and then immediately wish you could take it back. It is the sort of thing people say and then feel ashamed for the rest of their lives.

My one quibble is that Tess occasionally pushed the boundaries of friendship with her “need” to know what happened to Elle. She really felt she had some sort of right to know. It seemed gross for her to press Elle to tell her the dirty details. So my quibble isn’t that it wasn’t realistic, but just that I found it a distasteful. I’m not sure why I’m even including this other than it bothered me a lot.

Book Source = Library Copy