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.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed

After the success of Downton Abbey, I knew more books like this would be coming out. And I'll read them, even if they aren't the best.

This book has uppity servants and rich people who are lonely.  I do find it a bit odd that there is some interracial love, when I think that was very frowned upon at the time. Add in some homosexuality, too, for some real secretive intrigue. There's a lot thrown into this book and you never really connect with any of the characters, but I couldn't help but keep reading.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Now we all have to wait until October 22 for the release of Allegiant, #3 in this trilogy.  Ugh.

Tris and Tobias are back and the action never stops!

The Divergent movie comes out in March 2014--make sure you read these books before watching it!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Elizabeth and Lauren receive the "your freshman roommate will be..." email at the beginning of the summer and use email to get to know each other. Soon they're tellling each other secrets and family stories.

This is a great roomie story--all the questions and tension is there as well as the end of high school relationships and more adult relationships with the parents.

Carter Finally Gets It by Allen Carter. Read by Nick Podehl.

I forgot to blog about this title even though I finished weeks ago.

First of all, my 10-year-old is afraid to attend high school parties now because of listening to this book in the car with me while we were on vacation. I consider that a good thing! We had lots of great discussions about sex, boys, and boys and sex.  She hears so much at school that is WRONG, so it was nice to set her little mind straight.  I did fast forward through one little scene that I just couldn't listen to while she say bug-eyed in the backseat!

Carter is going into his freshmen year and can't stop thinking about girls. And what he's wearing. And how to be cool. And how to not get swirlies. And how to handle his ADD.  Basically he's like a lot of high school kids. But this book is hilarious! It reminded me of Stupid Fast--great for reluctant readers. There are two other books in the series.

Reality Boy by A.S. King

Reviewed from Advanced Readers Copy.  To be published Oct. 2013. 

Gerald is just your typical teenage boy who hates his family. But his case is different--everyone knows him because he was the star of a reality tv show about dysfunctional families and nannies. In his case, he was the star, but the producers never showed WHY five year old Gerald was always crapping in his mom and sister's room. There's a reason. With the help of a girl with her own problems, a stranger at a hockey game, a circus star, and a great BD teacher, Gerald discovers that he can make demands in his life and start to be happy.