Friday, April 30, 2010

Top Ten Favorite YA Books, part 2

I just submitted my list to Persnickety Snark for the Top YA Titles Poll. I'll admit that this took me forever. I started off fine, but hit a snag around book 5 and then didn't look at the list again until this week when I realized I was running out of time. Patti's list is here.

First of all, I'm indecisive. Compiling a best list is a tough task for me. Another part of my delay is the problem of not having read/reread a lot of older YA. I read YA as a teen, but I can't really say I remember too much. I remember loving Dicey's Song, but dang if I can tell you much about it now. I also couldn't pick one Judy Blume. Tiger Eyes? or Forever? Argh! There's so much missing from this list so I'm hoping that some of my just missed titles were not passed over by others. (e lockhart, WD Myers, Louis Sachar, Polly Horvath, Angela Johnson, MT Anderson, JK Rowling, Rick Riordan, Suzanne Collins, Marcus Zusak, Terry Pratchett...)

So with that rambling, here's my contribution.

Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
I am a huge Anne fan. Like when I meet Annes-with-an-E I wonder if it is because of Miss Shirley. My mom gave me a copy of this book when I was in 7th grade which coincided with the time that I was really developing into a voracious reader. Middle school mostly sucked. I know, shocking. Like Anne, I was trying to figure stuff out and usually remarkably lousy at it. Smarter is better than being pretty, it is … but couldn’t I just be a little bit pretty? Couldn’t I be a little more popular and have nicer clothes and hair? I loved that Anne wrestled with this and wasn’t a saint. She is mouthy and angry and also loyal and loving. She reached out to me, across time and culture, to be my kindred spirit when I really needed it. And she got the hot, good guy in the end. Hello! I know people recommend Anne to younger readers, but I think middle schoolers are a better choice.

Weetzie-Bat by Francesca Lia Block
The YA book that I read as a real young adult – my freshman year in college. Sassy Magazine gave a short, enthusiastic review of it and somehow I got myself to a bookstore to purchase it. Rocked. My. World. In a time when I was reading “serious college literature” (even earlier in high school) this book jumped in to shove it in my face that the book that will change your world isn’t a classic written by a dead person. It may just have a hot pink cover and be about an LA pixie punk you would love to cruise around town with and look for plastic palm tree wallets.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Anderson has a way of making the problem novel literary. An important book for being about date rape and one of the groudbreakers for the golden age of YA.

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
I think This Lullaby is the first book of Sarah’s that was the most fully realized. Her books since all follow a rather reliable narrative and to me This Lullaby was the turning point in her career with the smart-girl voice and the boy with a heart stories. Sarah is one of the most reliable writers out there for contemporary YA. When I read her books, I know what to expect (pretty much) and that is exactly what I want.

how i live now by Meg Rosoff
Another book that completely knocked me off my rocker. Achingly beautiful. Completely different from everything that came before.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
John changed YA with the publication of Looking for Alaska. Practically a YA when he wrote it, Looking for Alaska was full of literary geek love that equally appealed to both sexes. Katherines appeals to me more because I am not a fan of "girl who changed my life then dies" stories. Alaska is great, but Katherines is more fun. When the world was all about Harry Potter, John brought back brainy contemporary realistic fiction. He dares the reader with mathematics and obscure history, and also introduces one of the greatest literary BFFs ever.

Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner.
My favorite of the four because I just love Attolia. She is a fascinating character, equaled only by Gen, and thus their ridiculous joining was the best. pairing. ever.

Make Lemonade by Virigina Euwer Wolff
As I was combing my stacks for favorites, I noticed this book. It's one of the grimiest books in my collection so it really stands out (my library got a completely new collection 3 yrs ago). One of the first YA I read as a new teen librarian and my very first novel in verse. Love it.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
I debated this one, but in the end I love a funny book.

Sabriel by Garth Nix
As you can see, my list is heavily realistic fiction. I was never a fantasy or scifi reader and Sabriel was probably one of my first ventures. So beautiful in all its horror and it scared me silly.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Crafty Crow Contest

I follow a couple of craft blogs to get ideas for crafts that I can do with the kiddos at work. One of my favorites is The Crafty Crow. And they are having an amazing contest right now. Leave a comment on the post to have a chance to win:

The artwork is hand drawn and painted (in watercolor) by the very talented Louise Pfanner, a childrens book author and illustrator. The winners can choose the name that they would like and also choose their color preferences.

How cool is that? I totally entered. My niece would be most deserving of this!

And one day soon I'll actually read a book and start reviewing things again. Oh Arrested Development. How you keep me from reading lately.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Oh. My. God. Becky look at her books. They are SO big.

This is the Round Rock Library System. "Don't be such a bummer...just give me your call number."

Might be the most awesome thing ever.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Worst Storytime EVER!

A little known fact is that most (all?) of us teen librarian posters on here also do storytime. Honestly, this is one of the highlights of my week. It is just fun. I do an all ages storytime, but I have a great group of mostly under 3's that are regulars. Tonight, I had quite a few newcomers. Tonight, all hell broke loose.

It started out fine, I did my opening of a hello song, Six Little Ducks, and finished with The Wheels on the Bus. So far so good. I lost them at the very first story. They started wandering. They started chasing. I finished my story as fast as I could. Not that anyone could actually hear it.

Next up fingerplays, action stuff, more songs, all good. They loved it. I feel my confidence come back a bit. Then my next book. Starts out fine, but I look over and there is a kiddo under my flannel board. I was going to let it slide, but another kid joined him. I made them move saying it wasn't safe and made one of them cry. That sucked, especially since he is a regular who shook his sillies out for the first time ever! Agh! Anyhow, I tried to finish the story over the talking and the running and the general mayhem.

I was now pretty rattled. I started in on my next group of songs and couldn't find the O to my flannel BINGO set. Where was it? Oh some kid had it. I got it back after. I attempted to sing without and messed up my clapping once, not a big deal, but I know that I have a tendency to do this, which is why I have the ding dang flannel letters. Next up, Old MacDonald. I forgot the tune and lyrics. That might have been the lowest point! My only consolation is that I knew this embarrassing thing had once happened to Joanna (sorry for sharing that Joanna!).

Next story? BOMB! Honestly? There were children climbing on the tables!!! And their parent's weren't stopping them! At that point I knew that the nice new people who decided to give my storytime a try were never ever ever coming back.

After my goodbye songs I said for the kids to put their hands on their heads and come up and get a stamp for the craziest storytime ever (i said this with jazz hands. OK, no I didn't). One nice mom said that she had enjoyed my stories. Then she proceeded to tell me that she and her son go to a lot of storytimes and mine is his favorite. Ahhhhh. That made me feel better. My storytime is a bit rowdy, but this was over the top craziness that was not normal.

Can't wait to see what excitement awaits me next week!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Post TLA Reading

At TLA I was finally shamed into rejoining my awesome co-workers on Oops! I am thrilled to be back! TLA as always was awesome and as usual inspired me to get it together. But first, a shout out to the lovely Delacorte Dames and Dude group for making me look good moderating their panel! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Ok so post TLA readings. Jenn H. got all of the good stuff on the exhibits floor this year and I stole this one out of the bag she left in Nichole's car.

Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell

This one's for all the girls who LOVED Little House on the Prairie growing up. Which definitely included me!

And Gen's mom. Gen is 13 and her mom has the whacked out idea to sign her family up for 2 months of 1890's frontier camp living. The only way she convinces Gen to go is to show her the cell phone she will get as a reward when they come back from camp. Tricky, tricky mom. Gen can't help herself and sneaks her new cell phone into camp where she secretly texts her friends back home. They turn her texts into a blog, Little Hell on the Prairie.

And a little hell it is too! On the first day Gen accidentally pees on her bloomers because she can't really figure them out in the completely dark, disgusting outhouse! She has to sleep in the same bed as her 10 year old brother! In the same tiny loft as her parents! This vacation from hell brings a whole new meaning to family togetherness!

Gen's blogs and her descriptions of farm life for the modernly clueless are hilarious! Her previously Martha Stewart-esque cooking mother can now only make beans and grits. And that's all they eat for weeks! But of course there are lots of fun parts too - there are other families at the camp; kids get into mischief, not everyone is obeying the rules, and did I mention a potential love interest?

This book book has everything I love in a chick littie novel - heart, humor, and other people's suffering. 4 1/2 stars. It comes out from Bloomsbury in May.

Images from TLA

Strategies! Where are we going, what should we do? L-R: Jenn, Rach, Patti, Michelle, Jenn H.

The polka band at the President's Welcome Party. They were awesome.

Patti & I met Kathleen Duey. We talked for a good while and it was great to have that kind of opportunity to talk with someone we admire. So go read Skin Hunger & Sacred Scars NOW! (The man in the back is Justin from S&S.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

TLA Update

Several of us Oops posters attended a fantastic pre-conference "This Ain't Your Mama's Library! Reaching a New Generation." It was wonderful for its focus on promotion and programming. And wonderful because we got to do a group project!

The project was to use the book Killer Pizza (a 2010 Lone Star title) as an influence to design our own killer pizza. Each group was given something to create. Our group got Wolf Tongue. Here's what we came up with. Awesome, no?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

TLA 2010

Happy Naitonal Library Week! The ladies of Oops are celebrating... by leaving our patrons and libraries and going off to party in San Antonio. See ya!

We'll be at the Texas Library Association Annual Conference Wed-Saturday. So many great programs and authors, so many good times. That is, when we aren't working for the conference. Not only are we fans, we are also active members helping out the Young Adult Round Table (YART). Hey, someone has to moderate the panel for Patricia McCormick, Ryan Smithson & Marc Aronson. That's one of my lucky jobs. Patti has some behind-the-scenes publisher contacting, Michelle has to wrangle the panel of Delacorte Dames & Dude, and Jenn H will be making her first foray into TLA as a Lone Star Reading List member. Jenn F and Rach are Team Exhibit Floor Divas where no booth will go unplundered. (But they are very nice and polite. None of that grabby grabby garbage that we unfortunately see. It ain't all giveaways people!) Take me to the air-conditioned, pollen-free convention center. Lead me to the flavored popcorn. I heart TLA.

I'll post some pictures if I can.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Manga Minis

Manga book club is bad for me. I can't just start the series for that month's club; I have to read every bit of it I can get my hands on. So, yeah, manga seems to have taken over my life. Really, though, I am trying to read novels, too....

xxxHolic by CLAMP

In honor of the month of April, APL's manga book club is reading both xxxHolic and Tsubasa, intertwining, world-shattering, self-referencial comic series by the manga-ka group that brought you Cardcaptor Sakura, Magic Knight Rayearth, and Angelic Layer.

In xxxHolic Watanuki is a very unusual high school boy--he's an orphan, somewhat of a loner, very high-strung, oh, and he can see ghosts and spirits. And they really like him. To the point where he is flailing in the street and screaming at what appears to be nothing. Then he finds a mysterious shop and meets the equally mysterious Yuuko. In this shop the merchandise is wish-fulfillment and the currency is your most valued possessions. Yuko can grant almost any wish, but are you sure you want her to?

The things that really makes xxxHolic work are characters and the mood. While mysterious, Yuuko is also very down to earth, loving to drink alcohol, lounge around, and play all day. She is the voice of wisdom but also of insanity. Watanuki appears to be all energy, comedy, and simplicity; and yet, as we learn more about his life and his wishes, we realize that he is much more than a clown. And often, what he says isn't really what he means. Doumeki, Himawari, and Mokona are more than they first appear, also. Their parts extend beyond just foils and side characters. As the story continues, they become vital to understanding what is truly going on at Yuuko's shop.

The shop itself creates much of the eldritch atmosphere. It only appears to those who need it; if you don't see it today, you might tomorrow. Together with Yuuko's cryptic proclamations and Watanuki's strange visions, all of these things conspire to create a strange and beautiful world--the butterfly's dream.

Tsubasa by CLAMP

In the second volume of xxxHolic, the characters of Tsubasa visit and request wishes from Yuuko. This is the first instance of intertwining but not nearly the last. Sakura is the princess of the Clow Kingdom, a simple desert land with sweet and secret magics. Syaoran is her childhood friend and love interest; he is an orphan who was raised as an archeologist working on the ancient ruins of the Clow. When Sakura visits the dig, something happens to her and her memories are scattered throughout multiple dimensions in the form of feathers; if Syaoran can collect them and return them to her, she will live; if not she will die.

His two companions have opposite but mutually grantable wishes. Kurogane is a ninja from a feudal version of Japan, whose princess has banished him to another dimension to teach him that having great strength does not necessitate killing. He wishes to return to his home. Fai (pronounced like eye) is a magician who has imprisioned his king and wishes to travel dimensions and never return to his own.

Yuuko grants all of there wishes by giving them a small, white creature called Mokona Modoki. Mokona is one of only two creatures, one of which stays with Yuuko. The black Mokona is for communication; the white, for dimension travel.

And so the travelers begin their journey....

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott

I needed to clean my palate of science fiction and picked up this teen romance. Clean my palate it did.

Sarah likes Ryan. She has always liked Ryan. And she still likes him even though he is now her best friend’s boyfriend. Sarah is basically a big old steaming pile of want.

At first I really related to Sarah. Man, I know how tough it is to have a best friend who shines brighter than the sun. They’re prettier than you, they’re more confident than you, they can step into a room and not immediately want to blend into the wallpaper. Girl, I totally sympathize. But somewhere along the way Sarah lost me. I still felt bad for her, but I wanted her to do something, anything other than sit around mooning over a dude. Sometimes I felt like she was on the verge, she’d pick up a blank sneaker and start to think about designing it (she designed shoes which is a fun, interesting, quirky, artistic hobby), but then she’d just be overwhelmed with her want of a guy and she’d have to put it down. Nothing could distract her. Honestly? It was a lot to take. Had she occasionally gone for a run, or put on record, or actually worked on a darn sneaker, I think the book would have been stronger for it.

I absolutely get the awesome overpowering nature of teen love having been there myself (you know several decades ago hardy har har), but being subjected to it non-stop was tiring. Made me wish I was reading a little Frankie, if you know what I mean. I think what it boils down to is that I just wanted her to act instead of constantly being acted upon.

Brianna, on the other hand, is Sarah’s polar opposite. She’s brash, she’s confident (at least outwardly), she’s not afraid to go after something she wants. She’s also the master of the back-handed compliment and almost vampiric in her talent for suckage. She just sucks Sarah dry of energy, confidence, and general will to live. What a terrible friend. And Ryan isn’t too much better. He wants to break up with Brianna, but never seems quite able to do it – despite telling Sarah that he wants to. If you’re finding it that hard to find a quiet moment (and all signs point to yes it was impossible to do so) give the girl a phone call. Send her an email. Leave her a voicemail. Ideal? Never! But extreme situations call for extreme measures. I kind of wished that Sarah had told him to stuff it.

Do I think teen girls will like it? Yes indeed! And after all, that is who it is written for. You should definitely stock this one in your library. There is a lot of fun wish fulfillment in this story. So even though I would have liked to have seen more sparks of independence and decisive action, Sarah does come into her own. And you know what? The shy girls are going to really enjoy seeing Sarah get the guy while the mean girl ends up friendless. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a good comeuppance?

Book Source: Publisher Review Copy

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Darkling Plain by Philip Reeve

Coming in at 559 pages, this final book in The Hungry City Chronicles clocked in almost 200 pages longer than any of the other books in the series. It was incredibly dense. Not a page went by without something important happening. Many times it was a small side comment that would later prove important, or an incredible “aha” moment. I had to force myself to read it slow so I could savor every moment. And boy was it worth savoring. This, my friends, was one hell of a series closer.

Our story begins a few months after Infernal Devices ends. The action starts on page 8 and pretty much doesn’t let up for the entire story. All the massive plot machinations that Reeve put into motion in the first three books come together in a way that will have you holding your breath waiting to see where the next page takes you. It is beautiful and heart wrenching, and, luckily, filled with lots and lots of explosions.

One of the major strengths of this series is that the characters are so wonderfully developed and every character is a mix of good and bad rather than just being one or the other. There is Tom, mostly good who has courage, but is fearful. There is Hester who wavers between the two, becoming darker as the series progresses, but always holding onto a shred of decency (except for that dang third book where she veers off into the purely psycho). There is Pennyroyal, who at the end proves that even a self-absorbed ass can rise above himself on occasion. There is poor Fishcake who made my heart ache more than anyone else in this series, so driven by fear of rejection that it almost consumes him entirely. Surprisingly, the stalker Grike’s character also develops. In this final installment, he no longer has the ability to hurt people. He believes it is because Dr. Zero programmed him this way, but in fact, due to his extremely long life, he is evolving. He’s no longer human (nor has he been for centuries), but he shows that even strikers can have souls.

There are more, but for me, these are the characters I really loved. There are also a host of secondary characters that pepper the pages with their wonderful presence. One of which is Chudleigh Pomeroy, a London historian who proves his mettle in the first book and then graces us with an appearance in the finale. What a warm, wonderful character he is.

And, oh yeah, that’s right baby, after being gone for two whole books, London is back.

Reeve goes out of his way to show that there are no positions in life that can’t be taken too far. One might be “progressive” as our Municipal Darwinists are, or “regressive” as our Mossie Anti-Tractionists are – but most are probably some sort of mixture. I truly enjoyed how neither side was in “the right.” The Green Storm may have been right about how traction cities were ruining the earth, but their militarism and hatred of townies soon showed that might never makes right. And London, previously a voracious traction city, showed that even the most dedicated tractionists do not have to be anti-environment. Good and evil co-exist in all of us and whether we turn to one or the other rests with a million small decisions which lead to more important decisions which determine the course we choose to take.

I found the ending to be incredibly emotional with Grike discovering that his heart’s desire, that which has kept him going, is not to be his, “If Stalkers could cry, he would have cried then, for he knew all at once that this was the right end for her, and that she would not want him to take her from this quiet valley, or from the Once-Born she had loved.” And then, (darn it I’m tearing up as I’m writing this – it just packs such an incredible emotional punch) he sits down and watches over Hester and Tom as their bodies deteriorate, as they turn into bleached bones, and then finally into dust.

Sigh. I’m not sure it gets more bittersweet than that. A completely, and I mean that in every single way, satisfying ending to a most excellent series.

Fever Crumb

Book Source: Library Copy