Sunday, January 29, 2012

Room by Emma Donoghue

I couldn't stand the audio edition of this title--so please give the hardcover a chance if you're like me!

This book was on the 2011 Alex Award list, so it's supposed to be good for teenagers, even though it was published adult.  And I can definitely see the teen appeal!

Jack is 5 years old and lives in Room with his mother. And that's his whole world. His mother was kidnapped seven years ago, and she has tried to raise Jack the best that she can by sheltering him from Old Nick, the man who comes in the night.  The two escape, but Jack isn't sure that Outside is better than Room. Told from Jack's point-of-view, the story is sweet and poignant in the right places. Recommend this to Lurlene McDaniel or Jodi Picoult fans.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Alex Award Winners!

Yay--the Alex Awards were announced Monday morning! The Alex Awards are given to ten adult books that have teen appeal.  Most of you know that I served on the committee for three years, so I have a soft spot for the list now.  Many of my librarian friends are still on the committee.  This year I'm happy to see that I've read and liked a few of the books on the list--Robocalypse and Ready Player One.

The 10 Winners can be viewed at

The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon, Performed by Dion Graham

Whoa...Dion Graham has quite the voice for audiobooks--he's a name I plan on searching for in the next few months!

Roland Childs has grown up in the civil rights movement--his dad is a Chicago leader who is friends with Martin Luther King, Jr. Roland and his older brother Stick were raised as pacifists, but that's all about to change. It's 1968 and things are crazy in Chicago.  Roland and Stick's friend is accosted by the cops, beaten, and arrested for no reason.  The boys are angry and the Black Panthers seem to be more of an answer than the pacifists. The Panthers want free health clinics, good housing and food for African-Americans and aren't afraid to use intimidation to get it.

I could see this novel being used in the American history curriculum very easily--it's about family, ethics, history, and choosing to make the right decision.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard

I guess I'm on a kick reading books about wrong relationships between teachers and students--ewwww. This book was a 2012 Morris Award Honor book so I started it before my Dallas conference and then accidentally left it at home when I left! Oh, the horrors!

First, you can tell it was written by an English teacher--tons of literary references.  Secondly, it's one more book to add to your Boarding School list.  Third, it's the main character, Alex, who has a crush on his English teacher.  Miss Dovecott is just trying to help him with his writing, but Alex doesn't have anything else to obsess on, so she's the winner.  Alex is a messed up kid--he witnessed the death of one of his fellow students at the river.  (A Separate Peace, anyone?)

I'll recommend this to my more literary readers at know who you are!

Various Positions by Martha Schabas

So I thought the cover was cute and I love me a good ballet book so I grabbed this Advance Reader's Edition to read on the plane ride home yesterday. Whoa....did I misjudge it.  Honestly, I felt physically ill as I read this book.

Georgia is only fourteen, immature, and immersed in the world of ballet.  She jumps at the chance to join a Canadian ballet school and escape her house, where her mom is slowly going crazy and her dad is constantly absent. She's innocent, but her actions in the book just don't match her innocence.  She basically gives a friend the instructions on how to be anorexic and she's obsessed with sex.  And anything about sex. She watches it on the internet and wants to figure out why men want younger girls.  I mean, she was basically looking up child porn on her computer! I know teens are obsessed with sex, but Georgia's fascination with her ballet teacher is just plain disgusting.  This is one of those cases where the teen is the manipulator, but it seems to be okay! Okay, I could go on and on.  After reading this, I think....Georgia had to have been molested as a child, because her attitude toward sex and men is just messed up!

Book Lists Galore!

Over the next few days I'll be trying to post some of my favorite book lists of the year.  First up will be the Great Graphic Novels List published by YALSA.  My librarian peeps and kids know that I'm not a huge graphic novel fan, so I love looking at these lists so I know what to purchase for my library and what to recommend.

Some of my book club girls just read Zahra's Paradise and loved it, so I'm glad to see that it made the Top Ten. I've read Anya's Ghost, Americus, and Bad Island, so at least I've read three on the list!  PCHS students--let me know what ones look good and I'll add them to my next book order!

Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have by Allen Zadoff

Andrew is fat.  Really, like over 300 lbs fat as an underclassman.  So he's used to trying to not stand out and sticking with his smart kid status in high school.  But then he falls in love with a new girl who instantly shoots to the top of the social scale and Andrew feels like he has to compete.  She tries out for cheerleading, so Andrew decides to try football instead of the Model UN team. He's massive, and his asthma causes some problems, but he's determined to make April notice him.  Andrew likes the positive attention of the football team, too.

This book is a great example of guy lit--a YA Nick Hornby.  It also won the 2010 Sid Fleischman Humor Award, so I'm not just making things up!

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, inspired from an idea by Siobhan Dowd, Illustrations by Jim Kay

This little book is getting lots of Printz buzz so I wanted to read it before the award committee announces the winners on Monday. It's different in that a YA author, Siobhan Dowd, had the idea but died before completing the work. Ness completed it and made her idea his own. The illustrations are jarring, and a young boy dealing with a mother dying of cancer is always going to be a heartbreaker. I read the Advance Reading Copy, so I'm not sure how it differs from the final version. But, I wouldn't be surprised if this is a Printz honor book. It's different, graphic, and allegorical, all at the same time.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Fault in our Stars by John Green

Most of you know I'm a huge John Green fan. I've got quite the literary crush on the happily married man. I loved his Will Grayson, Will Grayson that he co-wrote with David Levithan. He started his literary greatness with Looking for Alaska, and continued it with An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns. But what I love about his newest book is that I'm proud because it seems like John Green is all grown up. :) Paper Towns was very similar to Looking for Alaska and I was afraid his books were starting to all be very similar.  The Fault in our Stars proves that John Green is one heck of a writer and has mastered the tearjerker better than Lurlene McDaniel.

Mr. Green handles a female narrator with grace, although I felt it struggled at the beginning of the novel.  He continues his streak of quirky characters with Hazel and Gus, two teenagers suffering from cancer. There's philosophy, religion, death, bliss, love, tears, laughter, great dialogue, and a trip to Amsterdam to see a drunk author.  I'm glad Green's doubters will have to eat their words now.  And I can't wait to eat lunch with him in Dallas Sunday!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Summer I Learned to Fly by Dana Reinhardt, Read by Shannon McManus

This sweet little audiobook was only 4 CDs and it didn't take long to finish. It's for tweens--Drew is a young teenager who falls in love with a boy who haunts the back alley behind her mother's cheese shop.  Drew is just learning how to be a teenager in the summer before 8th grade--starting to smart off to her mom, learning how to keep secrets, and falling in love. It's a quiet read.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

There's a lot of buzz in the blogosphere about this title as a Newbery contender and I understand why. It's beautifully written--poetic and pretty. But who is the intended reader? I could see a social studies teacher using this verse novel to teach about immigration or Vietnam, but I'm not sure many students would pick this up for fun.

Ha (with an accent over the a) lives in a war-torn Saigon and it's getting scarier. There isn't much food, her dad hasn't returned from the war, and her family is frightened. Their uncle gives the family a chance to escape on a boat to America, but is starting over the right thing to do? Ha doesn't know English, she doesn't know America--she just knows Vietnam. Taken in (sort of) by a family in Alabama, the young girl must learn to adapt.

It's a quick, powerful read.

"Chant, my daughter;
your whispers will bloom
and shelter you
from words
you need not hear (198)."

Beautiful, isn't it?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach

Like many high school librarians, I'm always on the hunt for good "guy books" and this one won't disappoint girls either. First, great cover and great name.  And I love that they put double zero on the jersey instead of 34. Felton Reinstein is a goofball that no one likes except for his best friend until everyone discovers that he is stupid fast. But mentally Felton may not be ready for sports. He false starts at a track meet regional and he doesn't want to lift weights with all the guys who tease him. His younger brother is crazy and his mom is the same. His life is falling apart, and the only bright spot is Aleah, the beautiful awesome pianist who moves next door.

This book is dramatic, in a good way. Sure, it's about sports, but it's really about how to survive a dysfunctional life. Felton makes it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading by Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance

I knew I was going to like this book. Why? Because I used to change after a scholastic bowl meet into a cheerleading uniform. My school was small enough that the  clique barriers were easier to break. Sure, I was still a straight-A geek who always had a book with her in class, but I also cheered. And we thought we were different and loved making fun of the cheer squads at camp and their darn spirit fingers.

Bethany and Moni are proud geek girls and end up daring themselves to try out for cheerleading.  They end up making the JV squad, and really are kind of hoping they become popular. As much as they deny it, they want to be part of the "in" crowd and date the popular athletes. But cheerleading takes a lot of time, and the two girls end up shirking the friendships of their fellow geeks.  Does the best basketball player really like Bethany? or is he just trying to win a bet with his best friend?

Best paragraph (page 222): (taken from an online chat between Bethany and Todd, her geeky friend who needs her help to run for class president)

Prez_Emerson: So, about tonight. We always have room for the prodigal daughter at Geek Night. We can watch Firefly *and* Serenity. If you want, I'll let you beat me at Scrabble. You can even play with my light saber.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Oh, this is a good one! Jill is dealing with grief--her dad was killed in a car accident. She isn't the best griever--she's lost her friends and her boyfriend is on-again/off-again. Her mother decides that a baby is just what their family needs and proceeds with an open adoption with Mandy, a pregnant teen. Mandy has her own problems--her mom is loopy and has raised with her a skewed sense of self. She isn't sure who the father of her baby is--her one-night stand at the fair? Or her mom's boyfriend? Either way, she knows that Jill's mom would be a better mother to the baby, so adoption is the only solution. Right?

This is the kind of chick lit book that's serious and gut-wrenching. The title is soooo appropriate--everyone in the book needs saving.

My Top Reads of 2011

I only gave 12 books five stars in 2011, so it makes my Top Reads list easy to compile. These are in no particular order.

YA Books


Adult Books

Children's Books

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Queen of Kentucky by Alecia Whitaker

I picked up this Advance Reading Copy at ALA Annual last summer and am just now getting around to reading it! I always pick up "rural reads," mainly to see if the author/publisher/editor got it right. I've lived in rural areas all my life, so it's a pleasure to see some YA novel that isn't set in a large city!

Ricki Jo is trying to re-make herself as she enters high school. She wants to be called Ericka, tries out for cheerleading, doesn't go out for band, and falls in love with the cutest boy in her school. She went to grade school at the local Catholic school and is determined to be popular. This story has been told many, many times before...I kept thinking of Miley Cyrus. However, I think all schools and libraries in rural areas should stock this cute novel. It's a perfect fluffy read for tweens.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Wow. I loved this book! Why? The main character, Cullen Winter, has the kind of voice I like in a YA novel. It's the Holden Caulfield/Will Grayson kind of personality. Cullen is the kind of boy who imagines zombies in his world and keeps coming up with interesting book titles that maybe someday he'll write. His world falls apart when his brother Gabriel disappears. It's a story of coping, family, friendship, and love.

In another tale told in the same book, Cabot Searcy is brought together with the woman of his dreams. But his obsession with the Book of Enoch leads him to become mentally unstable.

The two stories eventually collide, of course, with quite a twist at the end. I've read 3/5 of the Morris Award contenders, and I'm rooting for this one! (even though the hardback cover is horrendous)