Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Oh, my daughter and I can't wait until Divergent comes to theaters in March 2014!

I actually paid money for this book so it can sit on my daughter's shelf until she's ready to read it--she's listening to Insurgent right now.

Well, book #3.  I see what the fuss was about.  Here's my take. First, I didn't care about all the who's fighting who and oh-my-God-I can't-believe-they-did-that-Becky stuff.  I didn't get sucked into Book #3 like I did the first two.  So, when the ending came about, I was like, "Cool!"

Thinking ahead, I think the movie for Book #3 will suck.  And all the filming at O'Hare Airport will cause a lot of delays.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Yay for another kick ass female main character, but, geez, please edit some more and make it a tighter read.  549 pages? Really? And I didn't appreciate the extra spacing between the lines.  Give me normal spacing and a 400 page book instead please.

Ismae is a typical village daughter being sold to a nasty man for marriage when she is "saved" and taken to a unique convent.  The women there are daughters of death, St. Mortain, and learn how to kill and carry out his wishes.  Pretty cool, eh? I'm a huge fan of court intrigue, fancy dresses, dastardly men, and women who buck convention.

This is firmly in the high school YA section--she is trained vaguely in "womanly arts" and the truth about how women were treated back then is referred to often.  And who doesn't want to cure a man's poison by having sex? Or, wait, did she just lie on top of him? Ohhhh, we'll never know....

Dark Triumph, Book #2, is already published.  I haven't decided if I'm going to tackle it or not. It's only 385 pages though so maybe I'll appreciate it more?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

One Shot at Forever: a Small TOwn, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season

So happy that I finally got around to reading this 2013 Alex Award winner! I bought it for my dad for Christmas last year--it's about a baseball team in Macon, Illinois, which is about 10 miles from where I grew up.  In fact, my mom retired from Meridian High School a few years ago, so I recognize some of the names of the teachers in this true story about a baseball season in the early 1970s. I played volleyball against some of the kids of these players--how cool is that?

Chris Ballard can tell a story. In fact, I'm eager to see what's coming next from him.  This book reminded me of David Finkel--I became vested in the characters and the story--I wanted to hear how the tale ended. So many novelists have this problem, so I'm amazed when I get good storytelling from nonfiction authors.

How did a peace-loving hairy young English teacher turn out to be a respected coach in a small rural town? How did a team that couldn't afford matching uniforms beat one of the best Chicago baseball teams in a championship series that didn't include the class system yet?

Give this to sports fans, but also give it to fans of good nonfiction.  It's much more than a baseball book--great ideas about teaching, coaching, parenting, and growing up big minded in a small town.

The Sin-Eater's Confession by Ilsa J. Bick

The book is Ben's confession. He's over in Afghanistan now, but there was a chain of events that landed him in the military.  Back in his hometown of Merit, Wisconsin, a boy takes Ben's picture without his knowledge.  And Ben is shirtless and asleep in a hayloft. And hot.  Ben is the valedictorian and a bit of a social outcast anyway, and now the rumors are that he's gay.  And here lies in my problem with this novel.  I never felt Ben's voice believable.  So much waffling about whether or not he's gay and how concerned he is with people's perception of him.  I understand why he joined up to escape. But I don't understand that he never directly addressed any of his problems. So many secrets, but I never felt connected enough to Ben (or Jimmy, unfortunately) to care about them.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The King of Lies by John Hart. Performed by David Chandler

Well, I've just about exhausted my listens from John Hart.  I loved The Last Child and Iron House and wasn't too thrilled with Down River. This novel from 2006 falls somewhere between.  This is a good thing, right? The author kept improving with every title he published which is what readers love to see!

Work Pickens lives in the shadow of his father.  When his father's body is found with two gunshot wounds and Work inherits $15 million, all eyes are on him for the murder of his father.  Work, however, believes that his mentally unstable sister killed their father and Work will do anything to save her. So he's trying to keep her from going to jail, but also trying to figure out the crime himself.  Honestly, the end of the book reads much more smoothly than the beginning.  The main character is a real jerk at the beginning and I didn't care to know why he wasn't cooperating with the female police detective. This is one of those family secret mysteries and I was definitely surprised by one of them!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

Now I know why some people don't like sports books.  This Australian novel had a lot of play-by-play of cricket and I had NO idea what what going on. Something about batting?

I understand why this garnered some Printz interest--it's a mystery, but things are complicated.  Charlie is a typical thirteen-year-old, but everything changes when Jasper Jones, the town's troublemaker, knocks on his window in the middle of the night.  Thus begins their night journeys--cigarettes, alcohol, girls, and dead bodies.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Diversity and Inclusion Book Talk

Today I gave a book talk to Lake Land College faculty on the day's topic of Diversity and Inclusion.  Here's the booklist!

Book Awards Mentioned

  • Schneider Family Book Award (disability)
  • Printz Award (literature for  young adults)
  • Alex Awards (adult books)
  • National Book Award  (F, NF, Poetry, Young People)
  • Coretta Scott King Book Award (African American)
  • Pura Belpré Award (Latino)
  • Stonewall Book Award (GLBT)
  • Rainbow Book List (GLBTQ)

Going Mental.

  • It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
  • My Abandonment by Peter Rock
  • Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King

True Story.

  • The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Yeah, I’m different.

  • Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

What color? Human.

  • Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
  • Upstate by Kalisha Buckhanon
  • Tyrell by Coe Booth
  • Gardens of Water by Alan Drew
  • In Darkness by Nick Lake
  • The First Part Last by Angela Johnson
  • Finding Nouf  by Zoe Ferraris
  • Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose

I am not my disorder.

  • Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  • Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Love is love.

  • Donorboy by Brendan Halpin
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • Hero by Perry Moore
  • Luna by Julie Anne Peters
  • Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher

Back then.

  • The Night Birds by Thomas Maltman
  • The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

I’m sick. So what?

  • Stitches: a Memoir by David Small
  • The Fault in our Stars by John Green

I fight.

  • The Good Soldiers by David Finkel
  • War by Sebastian Junger
  • A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
  • Refresh, Refresh by Danica Novgorodoff

I’m a person, too!

  • The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Oh, Rainbow Rowell, I'm falling in love with your romances. I think you've knocked Dessen and Colasanti off the top of my best YA romances list!

This is book about identical twins, first loves, college, mental illness, college drinking, writing Harry Potter-ish fanfiction, the University of NEBRASKA, friendship, trying new things, moms leaving, sweetest make-out scenes ever, trying to ignore problems, and tons of other things.


Monday, November 25, 2013

The Hit by David Baldacci. Ready by Ron McLarty with Orlagh Cassidy.

Baldacci is always good filler when I'm waiting for interlibrary loaned audiobooks to arrive! Will Robie is still an assassin but starts to question his orders when fellow government operative Jessica Reel goes rogue.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ashfall by Mike Mullen

First of all, I was impressed when I saw the publisher of this book--Terre Haute? Tanglewood is in Terre Haute, Indiana? Close to me? Huh.  This led me to go to their website and see what else they have published.  It looks like this book is their huge YA hit, so good for them!

Alex is the typical teenage boy--arguing with his mom and full of angst--when the rumbles and storms hit. The gigantic volcano beneath Yellowstone has erupted and causes chaos through the United States and the world. There are a lot of apocalyptic novels out there, but I think what makes this novel stands out is that I kept thinking....really? This could happen? I remember watching some specials on TV about it (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SulM31nqaKw for more information) and wondering if it could happen during my lifetime. This book makes it happen and everything seems very realistic.  Riots ensue in Iowa, the government doesn't help things, and people are left to forage for themselves. Luckily Alex has been trained in tae kwon do, and the self-defense he has learned helps him survive. I also liked how this is a rural book (set in Iowa and Illinois)--the characters know how to hunt, butcher animals, etc.  Non-stop action keeps the reader fascinated, and beware that there are some scenes that make this a book for mature readers. The sequel, Ashen Winter, is already out. Sunrise, Book #3, is due out March 2014.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

Ezra is the tennis stud at school, but everything changes when a car accident leaves his leg injured. Now he's using a cane at school and doesn't fit in with his old friends.  He reunites with a childhood friend, and the cool "geeks" take him in--friends who score points for witty remarks and are on the debate team.  Ezra falls in love with the new girl, too, and she is about the exact opposite of the popular girls he used to date.  But things fall apart.  This is a young adult novel and people aren't always whom they are trying to portray.

Recommendations: Teenage angst boy novel. Give to fans of Nick Hornby and John Green.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore. Read by the author.

I was pleasantly surprised while listening to this adult memoir.  I remember seeing the juvenile of the book, Discovering Wes Moore, years ago, and not wanting to read it because of the cover.  However, this cover is more approachable for me.

Wes Moore is a successful black man who pulled himself out of a bad Baltimore neighborhood and created a successful life for himself.  Rhodes scholarship, traveling to Europe and Africa, US paratrooper, military school--Wes Moore was on a steep uphill climb to success.  Doesn't hurt when you look like him either (see pic at end of blogpost).

Wes's curiosity is peaked when he reads in the newspaper of a man named Wes Moore arrested for shooting a cop.  Both young men grew up in similar neighborhoods--how did they end up so different?  And so he began visiting the other Wes in prison, interviewing friends and family members, and the result is this book.

I never felt like I was being preached at, which is what I was afraid of.  Why did one man succeed and the other failed? Supportive family members? The one teacher who reached out? Through the telling of their stories, Wes doesn't make the judgements for the reader--but I kept noticing things.  As I heard about the other Wes Moore, I kept thinking, "Oh, no, don't choose to do that." I learned more about poor urban America--something I only see from the view of an elevated train in most cities.  This is a good nonfiction listen!

And usually I can't stand when authors read their own works--in fact, I usually shy away from those.  But Wes Moore has a voice like a professional--deep, smooth, and emotional.

Friday, November 8, 2013

After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick. Performed by Nick Podehl.

Way back in 2009, I read the first book in this couplet, Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie.  It won the Rebecca Caudill award in Illinois, and, even though it's for middle grade (and I'm usually not a fan), I loved it! It's written from Steven's point-of-view, and he's dealing with his younger brother having leukemia.

This book is written from Jeffrey's POV--he's in remission from his cancer, and ticked that his big brother is in Africa playing drums instead of helping him with the troubles of 8th grade--state testing, pretty California girls who become his lab partner, and a best friend who also has had cancer.

Just like the first book, this one is sweet, heart-felt, and a tearjerker.  Not something I should have listened to on my way to work! But I'm glad I did.  I'll be having my ten-year-old daughter read these soon--I think she'll like them!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Down River by John Hart

I loved Iron House and The Last Child, so I had to go back in time and try this author's earlier works.  I can tell this is an early novel--not as good as his recent ones, but still worth finishing.

Adam Chase returns home because his best friend mysteriously needs his help.  But Adam isn't welcome.  Five years ago, he was acquitted of murdering a fellow teenager and his own step-mother testified against him.  Now, on his return to rural North Carolina, the locals are stirred up about a new company possibly moving to town, and his family is smack in the middle of the controversy. Should they sell? Do they need to sell their land? And, of course, there is lots of family drama going on in the background.

Adam's gruffness didn't work well in this book, especially in contrast to Michael in Iron House. In fact, they really could be the same character--determined to do what's right, a man of few words, stereotypical cop attitude.  It worked in Iron House, but not so much in this title.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp, Read by MacLeod Andrews.

 I read a lot of books.  But, still, every once in awhile a book really tears at my heartstrings.  This is that book for me this year.  Whoa.  I finished listening to the audiobook last week and I'm still reeling from it.

Sutter Keely (you can tell he's cool by his name, right?) is a senior in high school who drinks too much liquor from his Polar Pop and has too much fun every single night. He's the life of the party, doesn't take much seriously, and lives in the moment.  Then one night he meets Aimee, a not-cool girl who likes science fiction and throws newspapers at 5 am every morning.  They aren't your normal couple.  But Sutter wants to "save" her and tries his best to use Aimee to get over his own lost relationship.

This isn't just a save-the-unpopular girl love story though. Sutter is troubled--he doesn't ever stop drinking. His dad is a loser. His step-dad is a jerk. His mom doesn't care about him. His older sister would rather forget he exists.  We learn so much about Sutter's family, and then we start to question his view of the people around him.  Are things really that bad? Has Sutter been dealt an unfair hand? Or does he need to grow up?

As I listened, I couldn't help but think of the Sutter Keely's in my life.  And not just in high school.  There are plenty of grown men and women in arrested development who live in the spectacular now and refuse to plan for the future.  So, so sad. But it's fun to be friends with a few of those people, right?

Kudos to MacLeod Andrews for the Oklahoman accent--great narration!

The movie The Spectacular Now never made it to theaters by me (of course) so I will have to wait until it's in RedBox or Netflix to watch it--can't wait! See the movie poster and trailer below.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Iron House by John Hart. Read by Scott Sowers.

Back in 2009, I read this author's The Last Child and stayed up too late reading it.  This time, I didn't want to stop driving because I had to keep listening to it!

Iron House is an orphanage straight out of a nightmare--bullying, abuse, and boys who aren't loved.  Michael and Julian, two brothers, are trying to survive living there.  Julian ends up being adopted by a Senator's wife, while Michael runs away for a reason I won't say.  Flash forward twenty years to their lives now--Julian is a successful children's book author with a troubled mind and Michael is a calculating, rich man with connections.  They are brought together again in a whirlwind of events that kept me glued to my driver's seat.  Sowers did a great job narrating this book, too!

Give this to fans of adventure, mystery, suspense, and non-stop action!

And now I'm off to reserve Hart's other titles.....

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King. Read by Kirby Heyborne

I loved this author's Please Ignore Vera Dietz. And I read Ask the Passengers and gave it 4 stars on Goodreads, even though I wasn't too thrilled with the whole talking-to-airline-passengers thread. For some reason, this 2011 title fell through the cracks for me, so I wanted to make sure I listened to the audiobook. I'm so glad I did!

Lucky Linderman is a high school kid who has been picked on his whole life by the school bully. The bully rarely gets in trouble though, and even the guidance counselors give some sorry excuse for the bully's behavior.  Getting his face shoved into a sidewalk is the last straw for Lucky's parents.  Lucky and his mother spend some time at her brother's in the desert heat, and the break is good for all involved.  Lucky meets some new friends, learns to respect himself, and learns that everyone has his/her secrets.

When I read the above paragraph, I feel like I'm making this book into some sappy after school special.  It isn't. It's a well written story.  I was anxious for the book to continue every time I got back into my car.  I wanted to yell at the characters and smack them around a bit.  It was AWESOME. Lucky is the kind of kid who I see in the library all the time--even at my community college.  Maybe librarians are just drawn to kids like Lucky--the ones that need a little bit of attention to kick butt in the real world.  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Hostage Three by Nick Lake

Reviewed from ARC received at ALA Annual.  I'll be upfront that I'm a bit biased toward this author.  I was on the committee that awarded The Printz Award to his book, In Darkness.  In his newest young adult title, Nick again transports us to a country that we don't know much about--Somalia.

Amy is a teenager trying to rebel against her father for abandoning her after her mother dies.  She's a classic case--piercings, getting in trouble at school, etc.  When her rich father decides to purchase a huge yacht and sail around the world with Amy and her new step-mother, Amy isn't exactly thrilled.  Then again, she doesn't have much keeping her in London either.  And so she goes, intent on tanning a lot, listening to dubstep loudly, and trying to just figure out what to do with her life.

And then come the pirates. It is odd to read a modern book that with pirates--these aren't swashbuckling heroes.  They are Somalians who want to redistribute the wealth they see floating off their coastline.  They carry AK-47s, people die, yet they have senses of humor. The pirates are people, and Amy gets to know one of them in particular, a handsome pirate named Farouz. There is a bit of Stockholm syndrome in this novel, and it's perfectly believable.

I was impressed with Nick Lake's ability to write from a female's perspective--it never felt awkward to me. But I was even more impressed that I felt sympathy for the pirates--their lives are hard in Somalia and the reader understands why they do what they do.  And then I felt guilty for thinking that kidnapping and holding people for ransom is acceptable!

I did read the Advance Readers Copy, so I'm not sure how much of the design will carry into the final book, but I love the white space and the ending.  It sure fooled me, even as I was thinking, "WTF?" It's pretty appropriate that Tom Hanks' new movie Captain Phillips comes out this month and is about an American cargo ship being taken over by Somali pirates in 2009. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzU3UJuV80w to watch the movie trailer.  I don't think this book is Printz worthy, but I really appreciated a modern adventure tale about Somalian pirates.  Because, come on, when was the last time you read a book like this?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz. Read by Christina Moore.

This is the 5th installment of The Spellman Files (released in 2007) and the series is getting tired. I didn't laugh out loud while listening to the audiobook, although I did cringe with Christina Moore's version of Rae's  and Isabel's voices in places.  Funny how the accents and obnoxious-ness changed throughout the reading.

Isabel is still in a love/hate relationship with her family and trying to stall herself from growing up in her relationship with Henry.  Her arrested development didn't seem to be funny in this book--just sad.  Rae is all grown up now, too--her antics weren't as extreme as usual and the entire family just seemed to be growing up and apart.  I felt like this book was the last in the series--but I know that #6 The Last Word has already been published.  I think I'll do the book justice and read it in print form to see if I find it funnier.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss, Read by Renee Maudman

I really don't remember how this book arrived on my To Read list, but I'm glad it did! Why? Because it's a sweet, gentle read about the West.  And life. And love. There aren't many words wasted on emotions, but there is plenty of description about how to break a horse, which I appreciated.

Nineteen-year-old Martha Lessen leaves home by herself in order to make a living breaking horses.  She doesn't get far from home when she finds new family--the owners of the horses she breaks. She sets up a circle--two horses per ranch that she works with, and she travels the circuit, gently training horses to stand still in barbed wire, take children in their saddle, and just be overall darn good horses.  Martha is quiet, shy, and unsure of herself around people, and her bumbling is adorable.  She isn't sure what do around affection and sarcasm because her family life was rough and mean.

My words aren't doing justice to this quiet read. It's just a sweetheart of a novel about farm life at the bring of World War I and trying to make it as female on your own in a man's world. So, so good.

And, yes. I like horse books.  I've reviewed mysteries like Tami Hoag's Dark Horse and years ago I read all of Dick Francis's jockey mysteries, the Misty books, and scores of other horsey kid books!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

Well, this wasn't quite what I thought it was going to be.  I remember when the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was caught and read everything I could about his story and background.  But, as I read this graphic novel written by someone who went to school with him, I couldn't help thinking that the author published it just to make money.  I didn't feel the story was that enlightening. Yes, Backderf did his research. He had to since he pretty much ignored Dahmer or teased him throughout school.  I never felt all that sorry for Dahmer--rather I found myself feeling sorry for the author and how he had to justify his bullying and exploitation of a kid who grew up to be a serial killer.

This has been compared to David Small's Stitiches (there's even an endorsement from Small on the book), but I just didn't see the comparison other than that it's a graphic novel and a memoir.

This book is a 2013 Alex Award Winner and I can see the teen appeal. I also understand how committees want to have a wide range of genres present on the list.  But I wouldn't have fought to keep this one on it.  I know, I know--I'm in the minority here because it won so many awards and has received praise from tons of people, including many of my friends.  But I just didn't see what the fuss was all about.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike. Read by the author Augusten Burroughs.

This is one of those self-help books that you can skim and scan to find the parts that apply to you--at least that's what I did. I didn't want to listen to the section about losing a child to disease or watching your spouse die of cancer. Some of those parts were just to depressing to take.  However, I LOVED the sections about dating, weight loss and shyness.  LOVED!!!!  I laughed, of course, but also had some serious stop and think moments. Augusten Burroughs is that guy that I wish I could hang out with--sure, he'd be a downer sometimes, but his sarcasm and honesty is something that I'd love to see in person!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Inferno by Dan Brown, Read by Paul Michael

Okay, Dan Brown, you're starting to be like all the authors who get famous and re-write the same book over and over. Once again, Robert Langdon is in Europe, needs the help of a beautiful woman, and runs around solving mysteries that have to do with art, history, and literature.  So, if you liked his other books, go for this one, too.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Sequel to Shadow and Bone

I was a HUGE fan of Shadow and Bone, and evidently other people were, too--New York Times bestseller! And now I'll have to wait to read the conclusion, Ruin and Rising, coming June 5, 2014.

Alina is still fighting the Darkling, but not sure she can handle it.  She has the help of Mal, of course, but even he isn't sure that they are meant to be together. Love is difficult when the fate of the world is on your shoulders.  Add in a dashing pirate, a few marriage proposals, and fights to the death, and this is one of the best "middles" of a trilogy that I have ever read.

Read this is you liked Daughter of Smoke & Bone, The Golden Compass, and other fantasy adventures.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Why I teach

Monday night I spent some late night minutes Facebook chatting with a former student. I never seek out conversations or online friendships with former students, but don't mind talking to those who contact me.  This student was in my mentoring group that I followed throughout their four years of high school and he graduated in 2010.  Everyday--for ten to thirty minutes--we talked a lot about nothing. Sure, I had to tell them about colleges and grades and life choices. And I had to take lunch count and read the announcements and take attendance. I believe I made them take a vow about not getting pregnant (or getting someone else pregnant) and graduating from high school on time. Some of the students humored me while others reached out and sought my advice on personal relationships, family problems, and school-related issues.

To be fair, I'm not exactly the the "close" kind of friendship person anyway, especially with kids.  I don't go around giving hugs (ewww--I want my three feet radius of personal space) or telling everyone that he or she is awesome when I don't mean it.

So when a former student hits me up on Facebook chat and tells me that he's on track to graduate from college soon, I'm thrilled. Especially when he tells me that I was the only high school teacher who believed that he could go to college and succeed. Some students don't thrive in high school (yuck--all that social crap), but I constantly told this boy that he needed to get out of Paris and find something to do that he loves. And I believe that he will.  I have a feeling his next step might even take him out of the Midwest.

And I'm so freaking happy for him.  This is why I teach.

I was afraid that with my new job as a community college librarian I wouldn't have this kind of connection with students. I've seen many students from my former high school here though. I even had one student give me a huge hug when he saw me. But in a few years I won't recognize Paris kids anymore.  However, I think that I'm forming my own kind of connections already. The library is a safe haven here, too.  Students work here when they have time between classes.  Already, I'm starting to recognize students who are here on campus every T/R or M/W/F.  Many have introduced themselves to me.  Already I have proofread emails, helped find paper topics, fixed printer jams, and demonstrated databases and online catalogs. The connections are starting here, and I'm so freaking happy about that, too. :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Magician King by Lev Grossman. Read by Mark Bramhall.

I had to attempt this sequel because the first book, The Magicians, was an Alex Award winner. I loved the first part of it, but was disappointed in the negative tone at the end.

I went into this sequel with open mind because I didn't remember much from the first book, other than that I called it an adult Harry Potter world!

Quentin still isn't happy in this book and he thinks that being on a quest will help. He's one of the king of Fillory now, but that just isn't enough. With the help of his friends, he searches for seven golden keys to save magic in his own kingdom.

I still love the occasional references to other fantasy novels that this author includes--Harry Potter, Narnia, and whatever else. But I won't be reading the third book in the trilogy--it just isn't my thing, even though I know some other dark fantasy readers will love it.

Monday, August 19, 2013

My 2013 Printz Experience

(This is a re-post from my school library blog. I'm switching careers this week and will be giving my library blog to the new school librarian. But I'll be keeping up with this book blog as I continue my new career as the Lake Land College Reference & Instructional Librarian)

Those ladies below were in constant contact with me over the past year. Why? Because we served on the 2013 Printz Award Committee for the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association.
Back row: Sharon Rawlins, Francisca Goldsmith, me, Krista McKenzie, Sarah Bean -Thompson, Assitant Laurie Bartz
Front row: Meghan Cirrito, Louise Brueggemann, Chair Sharon Grover
Not Pictured: Lexi Henshel , Booklist Consultant Dan Kraus

This committee has been a dream of mine since I learned about it back in library school at its creation in 2002. What? An award given to the best darn books in young adult literature? Let me at it!  

I've been reading young adult books since I was a young adult. In the late 1980's, I was lucky to see a shelf of teen titles at the Waldenbooks in my local mall, but at least I had a mother who bought "good" young adult books for her high school library. So even though my high school library was full of Michener and adult historical romances, I was able to get my hands on the good stuff. 

So, what's the purpose of the Printz and why was I so excited to be selected to serve on the committee? Because it's the top committee of YALSA's book awards--it's the Newbery of middle grade lit and the Caldecott of picture books. It's the one that people will be talking about--adults and young adults. It's an award that causes a book like The White Bicycle to jump from #896,262 on the Amazon sales list before the awards ceremony to #1,471 on the day after the ceremony. This award is important to school libraries and public libraries--it guides our purchasing and helps us shape our collection. Sure, we have the "popular" books like vampire romances and sports biographies, but this award assures us that we have books for our teen (and adult) readers who love a challenge. 

In this year's case, readers of In Darkness will be horrified at the brutal setting of the slums of Haiti, but incredibly moved by the gifted intertwining of historical fiction and contemporary ghetto. Honor winner The White Bicycle is a sweet tale of a 19-year-old with Asperger's Syndrome trying to become more independent. The simple narrative is more complicated than you may think on first read. Code Name Verity needs no introduction--it's a kick-ass World War II spine-tingler with female spies, friendship, and an ending that will make you cry. Dodger is a Dickensian tale of a street rat turned hero--think Aladdin without the Disney.    Aristotle and Dante Discover the Meaning of the Universe is a poetic tale of self-discovery for two Hispanic teens. This book is so awesome that it also won the Stonewall Book Award and the Pura Belpre Award

The Printz committee members aren't allowed to discuss what other books we looked at or what led us to create the list described above.  The paragraph above doesn't explain why the books won the award--it's just my descriptions of the books.   This year I read hundreds of books and hundreds of parts of books. For the first time since college, I read a novel with a critical eye--noting passages, quotes, and questions that I had as reading. I read books and re-read books. It was a lot of work, but so, so worth it. I feel like I'm going to have a difficult time turning off the "Printz critical eye" as I go back to just reading adult and young adult books for fun.  

There's been a lot of discussion this year about whether Printz should have teen appeal as a factor in its charge.  The word "popular isn't listed in the charge, but the term "literary merit" is.  That, my friends, is the whole purpose of the Printz Award.  There are plenty of other lists out there like Best Fiction for YAs, Popular Paperbacks for YA, etc., that help people find good, popular books for teens.  But the Printz is one-of-a-kind. You might not love some of the Printz books, but, if you read them, you'll have plenty to discuss with other readers. And that's the whole point.  These books should make you feel, think, dream, want--and that's why I'll always read quality young adult literature.