Sunday, February 28, 2010

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

I'm continuing my streak of reading award winners and trying to catch up from reading adult books for the Alex Committee for the past three years. This young reader's title won the 2010 Newbery Award so I knew I needed to read it. And, once again, I'm disappointed with an award-winning title. But, hey, what's new about that? :)

Miranda is a young latchkey girl who lives with her single mom. She receives mysterious notes that tell her what's going to happen in the future, and the notes are correct. Strange, eh? Her mom does get on the $25,000 pyramid show. Shoes are missing and her apartment key goes missing. Miranda's readings L'Engle's time travel books don't help either. Is that what's going on? How else to explain the notes? Or the crazy guy living under the mailbox? Or the saving of her friend's life?

The clues and mystery just didn't cut it for me. Maybe I'm used to reading titles for high school kids and adults? I was bored and didn't connect with Miranda at all. In fact, I wanted more of Mr. Perfect, her mom's boyfriend. He was interesting. As was Colin, the boy who stole bread just to see their employer feel justified in counting the loaves everyday. I know I don't have to love the medal winners (especially from serving on an award committee), but I would like to know what made this book special.

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

I had a feeling I would love this National Book Award winner just by my impression of the cover. Gotta love the 1940's! This young adult fiction novel reads like a sexy soap opera--lots of drama, intrigue, mysterious characters, and unsolved disappearances.

Evie has always survived with her single mother, but, just before World War II, her glamorous mother marries Joe, and the family moves in with Joe's mother. Now the war is over and Joe is back, and the family of three escapes to Florida in the off-season. Evie is at the verge of being a young woman, even though her mother tries to keep her in kids' clothing and obedient. But Mrs. Grayson helps Evie escape her shell and Peter, a 23-year-old ex-private, draws Evie out, too. She falls in love with the older man, even though she isn't supposed to spend time with him. Her mother chaperones, so it's okay, right? But the mystery builds. Joe is angry. Mr. Grayson is kicked out of the hotel. Evie overhears disturbing conversations. And then Peter doesn't come back from a boat ride with Evie's parents. There's an inquest and Evie testifies--hence the title. Whoa. I'd love to see this book made into a movie!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Presenting the 2010 Alex Award Winners!

Some of you know that I've been serving on the Alex committee for the last three years and this past year I've been the committee chair. What a rewarding experience! Why? First of all, there are some freakin' awesome librarians on the committee. Such a great mix of public librarians, school librarians, system librarians and consultants, all focused on finding the top ten adult books for young adults. What can be better than that? Secondly, as chair I was the Oz-like voice that started the Youth Media Awards. You can't know how exciting it was to speak in front of hundreds of librarians about great books. I'm honored to have served on the committee and give a huge shout-out to the librarians, authors and publishers who make this award possible. And, of course, to the American Library Association and the Young Adult Library Services Association. I still can't believe "someone" trusted me to run a nation-wide committee. ;)

The 2010 Alex Award winners are:

Members of the 2010 Alex Awards Committee are: Chair Sarah Hill, Paris (Ill.) Cooperative High School ; Lana Adlawan, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Public Library; Hope Baugh, Carmel Clay (Ind.) Public Library, Carmel, Ind.; Beth Gallaway, Information Goddess Consulting, Hampton, N.H.; Liza Gilbert, Community Library, Salem, Wis.; Jennifer Hubert, Little Red School House & Elizabeth Irwin High School, New York; Karen Keys, Queens Library, New York , N.Y.; Betsy Levine, San Francisco Public Library; Ann Perrigo, Allegan (Mich.) District Library; Meghan Cirrito, administrative assistant, Queens Library, New York , N.Y.; and Ian Chipman, Booklist consultant, Chicago.

In addition to selecting titles for the Alex Awards, the Alex Committee presents a program at the ALA Annual Conference. The 2010 program will take place in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, June 27, 10:30 a.m. to noon, with authors discussing the impact the award has had on their careers.

Fire: a Companion to Graceling by Kristin Cashore

I loved Graceling and so I couldn't wait to read this "companion" novel. Some students had complained that the book wasn't about Katsa, the strong, KA female character in her first book, but I don't think author Cashore disappointed.

Fire, a teenage monster, can read minds, control people, and has great power. But she also has to hide in fear of other monsters and constantly keep men at bay because of her drastic beauty. Her father was a monster who used his powers for destruction and Fire must decide to use her powers for good or just run and hide. Similar to Graceling, the battle scenes and strong female character make the book, and the love story is pretty good, too. I'm still waiting for a sequel to Graceling though....

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy, Performed by Rupert Degas

This audiobook won the Odyssey Honor Award back in 2008 so I figured I'd give it a listen! The sound effects and voices were pretty darn cool. Stephanie is a snarky twelve-year-old who surprisingly is left a house and money from her recently deceased uncle. Next thing you know, a stranger at the reading of his uncle's will saves her life after some mysterious occurrences. Doors explode and strange creatures try to take her life. There's magic everywhere and Skulduggery Pleasant, her new friend, is, um, a skeleton. But a darn cool one. Stephanie makes the book (think a young Stephanie Plum) and the sequels ought to be just as good!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ash by Malinda Lo

Bonus points for an awesome cover on this finalist for the Morris Award! Makes you want to read it, doesn't it? I'm a fan of retold fairy tales, so I was looking forward to another version of the Cinderella story.

Ash's parents die and she has to live with her stepmother and two stepsisters. Of course, she eventually is forced to work for her room and board. A male fairy creature helps fulfill her wishes instead of a fairy godmother. And there is a quiet romance between Ash and the King's huntress, Kaisa, who takes a special interest in the displaced lady.

Overall, I'm still not quite sure how I feel about this title, so that usually means it will grow on me. I liked the plot and love the twists from the usual Cinderella tale. But the pace was slow for me.

Everafter by Amy Huntley

I'm working my way through the 2010 Award winners and this young adult novel was shortlisted for the Morris Award for debut authors. I must say though that it isn't my cup of tea. Like The Lovely Bones, the main character is looking back at her life after her death. Madison isn't sure where she is (dead? hovering somewhere? Is? Everywhere?) but she does know that objects keep appearing that have lost. So perhaps her job is to figure out what objects were lost in her life and how to find them again? And so she relives moments in her past where things were lost and then found. In doing so, her present/future changes, as does those around her. The stories are a bit convoluted to me and I found myself rolling my eyes at the Emily Dickinson references and philosophizing. Maybe I'm not emotional enough to read this one? I did want to figure out how she died though, so I was glad the author wrapped up the story at the end.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan

While I wasn't thrilled to see *another* young adult title with a main character who likes photography, I was anxious to read the Morris Award winner for this year. The voice of Blake is funny and refreshing and I giggled throughout the book, even as he has to deal with typical teenage stuff. His girlfriend Shannon is beautiful, tempting, and emotional. Another girl, Marissa, is interesting, easy to get along with, but suffering from all sorts of family drama. Blake is sucked into Marissa's world, and Shannon doesn't appreciate it. Mistakes happen and couples break up, but there's always hope. And I love the "Mad-sad playlist" and "Sad-sad playlist" of songs at the back of the book. Gotta go listen!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls, Read by the author

I was a huge fan of The Glass Castle so I was looking forward to this new book by Jeannette Walls. I heard the author speak at the Alex Award program a few years ago and enjoyed listening to her. In this "true life novel", Walls tells the story of her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, from stories she heard from her own mother. Most of the book is based on fact, but, of course, she claims it's based on storytelling, so some is embellished. Lily had a fascinating life. She was breaking horses on the ranch at a young age and at age 15 rode for a month on a horse to get to her first teaching job. She learned to fly airplanes, teach unruly kids, and hold a pistol up to anyone who confronted her. She was suckered into a bad first marriage and found a real man to love her with her second marriage. All in all, Half Broke Horses is a satisfying frontier tale about a strong woman who makes it, yet somehow fails in raising her daughter, who ends up being the author's mother in The Glass Castle.