Friday, April 5, 2013

What We Are Reading at Our House - YA/Adult Edition

Batting last and playing right field, I present YA/Adult books.

Messy (Spoiled #2) by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Because I just finished this last night, I have to put it first. I am a fan of the Fug Girls and read their website almost daily. I appreciate their wit and I love that they infuse their fashion work with literary references, oftentimes YA from Anne of Green Gables to Sweet Valley High and the Hunger Games. As fans of YA I was so pleased when I learned they were writing their own series. I thoroughly enjoyed their first book, Spoiled (2011) and finally got around to reading last year's equally hilarious sequel, Messy.

For a series that is set in the world of Hollywood extreme fame, celebrity culture, and wealth, the teenage characters are refreshingly well rounded and interesting. Don't let the glossy, teen magazine-like covers turn you off. What's inside is pop culture gold. And laugh-out-loud funny. Seriously, they are comedy team that rivals Pohler/Fey.

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
And another book by one of my favorite writers! That I follow online! And Twitter! Okay, and Pinterest! Because she. Is. Terrific.

Sequels are tough acts and this one, while excellent, suffered the usual pitfalls of having to move things along without resolving too much. There are still unanswered questions from the first book and new mysteries. Plus, there's lots of the great Zuzana for much needed comic relief because it is heavy stuff in here: Bodies for Karou to rebuild, lost underground villages, bloody revolution, murder, and that whole chilling Thiago deal. And, of course, the tortured love story of Karou and Akiva. C'mon book #3.

I had a bit of an adult book trend. One with unhappy people in unhappy relationships. Not really fun at all. I only really liked the poetry collection Stag's Leap and its foundation of an ended marriage still wrecked me.

Good Kids by Benjamin Nugent
A friend recommended this 2013 title and it sounded like potential Alex material. Unfortunately, I had a difficult time keeping interested in both the story and the characters. Josh and Khadijah, high school acquaintances and kind of outsiders, witness his dad and her mom kissing in the grocery store. The ramifications from this affair follows them through early adulthood where they reconnect while both engaged to other people. Josh in particular can't move on, although his life as an accidental bassist in a pop/alternative band was a nice surprise.

The other adult 30-something relationship book I read was Zadie Smith's NW. It was ... okay.  I liked some parts but mostly it was another book where I just didn't like the characters as people and so I had difficulty finding their stories worthwhile.

My favorite adult book was Karen Russell's Vampires in the Lemon Grove. She is a wonder and she is from Florida. I'm so proud.

This is another collection of short stories and I think this is really where Karen Russell shines. The stories all contain an element of the fantastic and she works it all so well. And she is funny in "Dougbert Shackleton's Rules for Antarctic Tailgating", for instance. But she always infuses a layer of the mysterious. Of strangeness on the brink of somewhere. Of odd tastes and unusual sounds you can't quite place but sense their presence. And a little fear. Okay, sometimes a lot of fear. So Deliciously Good.

My favorite story, the one I think about all the time, is "Reeling for the Empire" about teen girls forced/tricked to work in a silk factory. A close second would be "The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis" about bully teenage boys.  Okay, and "Proving Up" about families settling the American West. With a twist. Ack! *shivers*

Hello, Alex Committee, this is for sure one for the list.

What We Are Reading at Our House - Award Winners

And now I present the Award Winner section of my post.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
AKA 2013 Newbery Award Winner
I'm not naturally drawn to talking animal books, but this one is really special. Coincidently, I'm located not too far from where this story's real life inspiration resided. This would make a terrific read aloud and I am pleased that the Newbery went to such an accessible and younger audience novel. As Patti said, she's come a long way from the Animorphs!

And I officially read all the Newbery award books! I'm rather amazed that this was the only one I had not read before the announcement. Unlike the Printz, where I only read Code Name Verity out of the five. Until..

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
AKA 2013 Stonewall Book Award, 2013 Printz Honor, 2013 Pura Belpre Author Award

A fast read and deserving of its accolades. I loved Ari, his voice, and his family. I also checked out the winning Printz title, In Darkness, but I just never got around to reading it.

In addition to the YMA there were our two state awards this spring.

Florida Book Awards:

The children's winner this year was the excellent, wordless GN/picture book Unspoken: a Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole. This got quite a bit of Newbery buzz so I'm glad to see it acknowledged here in Florida.

Bluebonnet Award:
The school children of Texas voted on their favorite Bluebonnet titles and chose Sim Taback's Postcards from Camp as the winner. It's hard to compete with a picture book about fun camp adventures that includes interactive letters in envelopes that kids can take out and read. Not much fun for libraries, but a terrific father/son story. Good choice! Runners up were Zita the Spacegirl (9 year old loves this series) and Being Audrey (which was nice, but rather surprising that it came in 3rd.)

What We Are Reading at Our House - Kid Edition

Friends, I have been reading and enjoying books (and so has my voracious reader 9 year old) but have neglected to muster the energy to write. Since there's so much to cover I'm breaking it up into 3 parts: Kid Edition, Awards, and YA/Adult.

The 9 Year Old:
Discovered and loved Dan Gutman's Genius Files and N.E.R.D.S.
Finally received The Familiars books 2 & 3 from the library holds. He loves this series of animal magic. If you are unfamiliar, check it out. It has been optioned for a movie.

For his historical fiction project I brought home a selection of titles and while he leaned towards Avi's True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, he went with The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg.
For his required non-fiction reading he read and loved Escape!: The Story of the Great Houdini by Sid Fleischman. For his poetry requirement he read Love That Dog. Three of my all-time faaaaavorites.

The 4 Year Old:
"Does it have Batman? Or Superman? Or Wonder Woman or Super Friends or The Flash or Green Lantern or Legos? Or Kipper? Because that is all I like to get these days. I know exactly where these books are kept in all three of my storytime libraries so I will just go and help myself."

Children's Books I Picked Out:
3 terrific early chapter book series!
Lulu series by Hilary McKay, Penny series by Kevin Henkes, Bink and Gollie #2 by DiCamillo, McGhee, & Fucile

Picture Books:
Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Tom Lichtenheld.
Holy  moly, I love these two. AKR is back with another playful look at ordinary things. She is the master of quirk, pun, and double meaning. A must for classrooms! The 9 year old thought it was great.

Oliver by Birgitta Sif
I finally got this book in at my library and thought it was very charming. Oliver is an introvert. He's completely content to play make believe with his toys and shy of company. He accidently meets another child and realizes that playing with another child can be fun, too. Sharp readers will see that we have seen this new friend all along - on the street, in the library, at the pool. Very clever and very sweet. And Oliver wears glasses, another plus in my house. Both boys thought this was terrific.