Sunday, May 1, 2011

Rosebush, by Michelle Jaffee

Ah me.  I'm not sure I have the energy to do a book blog.  I guess I'll continue to limp along for now.

Jane wakes up in the hospital the day after the party and finds that she is paralyzed.  She can't remember the events that led up to her injuries--was it really an accident, or did one of her friends try to kill her?  And if so, what if that person is still trying?

Pros:  Just a good, trashy mystery.  No well-developed characters (mainly because there are so many of them), but a really fun whodunit, of which there are too few in YA fiction.  Was it her semi-abusive boyfriend?  His best friend who never liked her?  Her bitchy friends?  Maybe even her stepfather, who she's never liked for some reason?

Cons:  Jane kind of sucks as a human.  I developed a sneaking sympathy for the would-be murderer.  
She's also sexually attracted to almost every single non-related character.  I get the teen hormone thing, but sheesh.   Jaffe fans may be disappointed, because this book ain't funny.  No Bad Kitties here.

Recommended for:  Fans of the Pretty Little Liars series and other gossipy, secret-filled books like that.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Across the Universe, by Beth Revis

In the very near future, the economy is bad and things on Earth aren't looking so good.*  Amy's scientist parents have been recruited to go on a mission to a far distant planet, but it will take a while to get there, so they will be cryogenically frozen for 350 years.  Amy's dad gives her the option to back out and live out her life on earth with other family members, her boyfriend, etc.  But Amy decides to be frozen, too, because she is a daddy's girl.

And then she wakes up.  And guess what?  They're not at the new planet yet!  Turns out, there is a whole weird civilization onboard this giant ship, and somebody is going around unplugging (and killing) the frozen scientists--and also Amy (but she doesn't die).  She meets a boy named Elder, and surprise suprise, a romance is born.

Pros:  Murder mystery in space is good.  And so booktalk-able.

Cons:  Even I figured out who the murderer was, and I'm terrible at stuff like that.  Also, the Amy-Elder romance didn't work for me AT ALL.  I think mainly because I didn't really buy Elder as a character.

Recommended for:  I'm not really sure who this book is for.  I think romance and mystery fans would both be disappointed. It does have certain elements of dystopian sci fi (what doesn't these days?), so I guess this is really for the sci fi fans.  Though I doubt a boy would read it with that cover.  Which is misleading, because believe me, the romance is so not the highlight of this book.

*Linked to Amazon because the Powell's site is down right now.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Recent rejects

The Cruisers, by Walter Dean Myers

The deal:  I wanted so much to like this book. It's the first in what will apparently be a series, and it's about smart African American kids in Harlem.  There aren't enough books about African American kids who are really succeeding, especially for this age level.

How far I got: p. 46 (of 126)

Why rejected: The narrator--a black kid living in Harlem--doesn't have a believable voice.  He says things like, "I simply had to do my homework."  Who says that?  Even I don't say that and I'm lame. 

I often wonder if kids notice that stuff as much as I do, though.  It's a dealbreaker for me, and yet I can imagine recommending this book to some middle school kids.

Room, by Emma Donoghue

The deal: Boy is raised entirely in a single room because his mother is the captive and slave of a horrible, horrible man.

How far I got: Maybe about ten pages.

Why rejected: I didn't really reject this book, I just couldn't take it.  Sometimes I over-identify with book characters. I skipped to the end and read the last few chapters, then asked a friend what happened in the middle.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


This is so awesome.

Books make you feel less dead inside

Teenagers!  Science demands that you put away your iPod and pick up a book.
Those who read most were one-tenth as likely to get down as those who read least. (No word on whether the young respondents were reading the Twilight series.)
Haha, Globe & Mail.  Good one.

They cast Peeta and Gale

And, ew.  Right?

Via Bookshelves of Doom

Monday, March 28, 2011

Girl Talk with God

This book is amazing.  It just came in to the library, and at first I assumed that it was sort of a prayer guide or prayer prompt sort of thing.  But no:  it is a 230-page dialog between God/Jesus and Some Girl. A couple of excerpts, for your reading enjoyment.

God: Now take a moment to think this through.  What does the Cross mean?
Girl: Well . . . it means I should have been the one beaten beyond humanness.  And I should have been the one who was tortured, disfigured, and killed.  But You love me so much, You took my place.
God:  Right.

Girl: You know, Father, I hear the word hell a lot.  I mean, kids at school toss it around so casually.  Is that right?*
God: No.  They're using it as a cuss word.  They've reduced an actual place to a mere slang term.  And you're right, it's a word you hear often--on TV, in the hallways, at work--but again, remember the truth.  Hell is not simply an expression to use when you're angry.  It's an actualy place where people who don't know me will spend eternity.
Girl: Whew! That's strong.
God: Yes. Hell is heavy.

Girl talk is fun!

*Suck up.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

You be the librarian

I need something to read.  My hot streak of good books is sputtering and dying. 

Be a dear, won't you, and leave me a book recommendation in the comments section?  I'm up for just about anything--Nancy Pearl says we must strive to read outside of our comfort zone, so give me your best shot.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pink, by Lili Wilkinson

"When I first told my parents I was a lesbian, they threw me a coming-out party.  Seriously.  We had champagne and everything.  It was the most embarrassing thing that'd ever happened to me."

Ava is tired of being the best student at her crumby public school, wearing all black all the time, and being a Sophisticated Lesbian.  So she's made the case to her parents to let her attend a chi-chi private school, and has secretly purchased a pink cashmere sweater.  Her intellectual parents and her insanely sophisticated girlfriend, Chloe, are not sure what to make of all this.  Secretly, Ava is hoping to date boys.

This book is Australian, but I think the publishing housed washed all of the Aussie stuff out of it to make it go down smooth for the North American audience.  It could be anywhere.

  • Does a good job of accounting for the fluidity of sexuality and sexual orientation without stooping to writing homosexuality off as "a phase" or "experimenting."
  • Sometimes funny.  Not John Green or E. Lockhart funny, but a mild chuckle here and there.
  • Spoiler alert.  See below if you don't mind spoilage.*
  • The characters didn't feel real to me.  Except for Ava, pretty much everyone is a placeholder--the Too Cool For School Lesbian, The Perky Blonde Popular Girl, etc.  Also, some of them pull some crazy hairpin turns, not just in mood but in personality.  It was jarring.
Recommended for: Hmm.  It is nice to have a book that deals fairly honestly with the messiness of sexual orientation.  I just wish it were a tiny bit better.  Still, I can imagine recommending this book to a teen who is questioning their sexuality, or adding it to a LGBTQ list.

*She doesn't end up dating the dude, as I had assumed from the beginning that she would.  Instead it was a more "things are messy and I'm just not sure who I am yet" kind of conclusion, which seems more realistic, if perhaps less satisfying to some teen readers.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mercury, by Hope Larson

Mercury is a graphic novel that combines two interwoven stories about young girls in small town Nova Scotia.  The first takes place in 1859, and involves a girl who falls in love with a possibly shady character who wants to dig gold with her father.  The second is contemporary, about a girl whose house recently burned down.  How are they connected?  A magical necklace!

I liked this.  I think I'm a little disappointed because I thought I would looooooooove it.  I just like it.

Pros: I do love the art. 

Cons:  I was a little bit confused by the ending of the historical story.  If you've read it please help a sister out.

Recommended for: Teen girls and grown-ups who read graphic novels.  The switching back and forth could be confusing for a beginning reader of graphic novels.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Grace, by Elizabeth Scott

So you know, there's this future world.  And it's bad.  There's an evil authoritarian dictator who rules with fear and puts his face on cigarette packs.  Grace is a young girl who was raised by The People to be an Angel--a suicide bomber. Only she decided she didn't want to die.  And now she's on this train.

Pros:  Short chapters, short sentences, short book.  One review I read said something like, "If you found The Hunger Games overly light and cheerful, this is the book for you."  So it's got that going for it.

  • The beginning is really confusing.  I like books that just plop you down in a new world, but give me a compass or something. 
  • It's told in flashback, which can be really suspenseful, but here just isn't.  I think because Scott doesn't do a great job of putting you in the action those flashbacks refer to--Grace just tells you about stuff.
  • I never connected with the characters at all.  Not that they weren't likeable or pitiable or whatever, I just didn't know them well enough to care.  The "real time" action of the story takes place on one train ride, and despite all the flashbacks, I felt like I got to know the characters about as well as I'd know anyone I'd ridden a train with. I wished them well, but whatever.
Recommended for:
  • Honestly, I probably won't recommend this much except for the die-hard dystopia fans who must read them all.  I was hoping that the short chapters and stuff would make it a good sci fi pick for reluctant readers, but it's too confusing for them.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

They picked a Hunger Games actress

but I don't know her.  Anybody see Winter's Bone?  Thoughts?  I guess I should be grateful it's not Miley Cyrus.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Infographic: Books Everyone Should Read

Look at the size of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy!  A victory for nerds everywhere. 

I can't believe 100 Years of Solitude is so huge.  I'm a fan of Love in the Time of Cholera, but 100 Years is so confusing, what with the multiple generations of people with the same name.  Of course, I think I was 20 the last time I tried to read it, and I was kind of a dumbass at 20.  (Who isn't?)  I guess I could give it another go.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Good to be bad, etc.

I have been meaning to write a post about all of the YA Mafia hubbub, but as it turns out, I can't care quiiite enough to go to the trouble of creating a thorough recap for you.  Should you care, you can follow the link above, which links to about seven thousand other posts/comments/plaintive wails on this topic. 

Basically, I guess this madness all started because a YA author or two were blogging things like, "If you review books, and you ever hope to publish one yourself, you should never, ever write a negative book review.  Because you will never get an agent or a publisher, and authors will scorn you forever.  Plus, we will more than likely kill you in your sleep."  Or something like that.  I'm paraphrasing.

To her credit, Justine Larabalestiaejiraieryasder wrote a pretty awesome blog post in response, called I Love Bad Reviews.  My favorite part:
I think it’s inappropriate for an author to go to someone’s blog and argue over a review, especially when the author brings hordes of their friends and fans with them. The best response to bad reviews is to ignore them, not to attack or threaten the reviewer. Get over yourself already. Your book is not your child. You are not the boss of the internets.
Seriously.  Every time I see an author fighting with readers on Goodreads, my first and only thought is, "You, Author, are a giant tool."  I myself have been attacked by an author, and in my humble opinion, the author in question came off looking not so great. (You don't get the full story from that link. Goodreads removed her further comments that were personal, ad hominem attacks on me and my profession.  GR also had to remove the dozens of glowing reviews that the author had written of her own book from fake accounts. What a loser, right?) 

Of course, professional reviews are a little bit different.  I review for School Library Journal, and I think it's fair to say that I'm one of their meaner (more critical?  less kid-glove-y?) reviewers.  In some cases, I have felt bad about the possibility that I might be crushing an author's dreams with my review.  In others, I might have wished that the dreams of the author in question would be crushed, but I knew for sure that the support of a huge publicity machine meant that no review of mine could do much damage. 

When reviewing for SLJ, I feel like my first ethical responsibility is to the librarian reader of my reviews, who may have very limited funds to buy books for his or her library.  If I were that librarian, I would want brutally honest reviews so that I'd know exactly how to spend my money.  And of course, as just a regular old book reader and avid consumer of reviews, I want and expect real reviews, not bland pablum, from reviewers. 

Don't sugar coat it, baby.  Give it to me straight.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

That is correct, I am a superhero

Just had a teen request a book I'd had on display . . . sometime last year.  And I figured out what book it was!  Please, no autographs.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick

So, if the weather has got you down?  And you've got cabin fever and you want a book that will take you away to a magical imaginary wonderland of the mind?  This might not be the book for you.

On the other hand, no matter how bad your life sucks right now, there is no effing way it sucks as bad as it does for North Koreans. 

Pros:  It may be a bit of a bummer, but this book is fascinating. 

For example: 
  • North Koreans are required to have two state-issued portraits on their walls, one of Kim Jong-il (the crazy guy currently in charge) and one of Kim Il-Sung (his crazy dead dad).  No other wall hangings are allowed.  Also issued by the state is a special dusting cloth for use on the portraits each day.  Dusting police come by periodically to make sure you're not slacking on your portrait tidiness.
  • Doctors are expected to donate their own blood and skin to their patients.  And they do.
  • There is no electricity.  At all.  They still have the aging infrastructure, and they turn on the lights when visitors come to Pyongyang (the only place visitors are ever allowed to see).  But nighttime satellite photos show a totally black void over the whole country.  They can't afford power.
I could go on and on.  You guys.  It's crazy.

Cons:  It's just so sad.  1984 does not have a patch on North Korea.  It's been a while since I read that book, but as I recall Big Brother at least provided the spied upon with enough food to eat.  The Dear Leader has let MILLIONS of North Koreans starve to death. 

Each person profiled in the book tells their story in chronological order, but you know all along that they've managed to defect (otherwise, Demick wouldn't be able to talk to them).  You hope that they are now living in a land of unicorns and rainbows, but that's not exactly the case.  As Demick points out, it's hard for most of us to figure out what to wear every day, and what to be when we grow up.  It's a hell of a lot harder when you're an adult who never even imagined the possibility of being allowed to make those decisions.

Recommended for: I'm really interested to hear what fans of dystopic science fiction think of the real thing.  I'd talk it up to high school students.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Slob, by Ellen Potter

Owen is really smart--just one IQ point away from "genius."  He's also the fattest kid in school.  He mostly tries to stick to a diet, but every day his mom puts two Oreos in his lunch. Those Oreos represent his one daily moment of joy, and when a bully begins stealing them, Owen begins plotting his revenge.

That's the kind of book you THINK this is going to be.  But it ends up being so, so much more.  Without being preachy, Slob is all about how truly mysterious people are, and how deceiving appearances can be.  Even your trusty, brainy narrator may be hiding a secret or two.

Pros:  Too many to list, but here is an example.  Owen's little sister, Jeremy, is a member of a club called GWAB.  You eventually learn that GWAB stands for Girls Who Are Boys, and that Jeremy's actual name is Caitlin.  But Owen doesn't explain all of this to you right away, because that's not how kids do.

Cons: I've got nothin'.  My love affair with Ellen Potter rages on.

Recommended for:  Fans of When You Reach Me and other great funny/sad J literature.  I would put this in the hands of just about any 5th or 6th grade boy.  Girls too, but especially boys.

Teens rule, babies drool, etc.

"While the total number of fiction books for children rose by 26 per cent between 2000 and 2010, this growth is down to the explosion in "young adult" (YA) fiction. The market for pre-teens has contracted, making up only 63 per cent of the total revenues for children's fiction in 2010, as against 85 per cent in 2005."
Also some discussion of how Stephenie Meyer ruins everything.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Banished, by Sophie Littlefield

Wheeee, look at me!  I read a contemporary fantasy! 

This is not my best genre.  I know the kids love it but I am so, so sick of the forbidden human/creature romance. The next vampire I meet is getting kicked in the teeth (fangs).

But anyway, I quite liked this.  Hailey lives with her evil, nasty, abusive grandmother, who deals drugs for a living and has no noticeable redeeming qualities.  She loves and takes care of Chub, a developmentally delayed 4-year-old boy that her grandmother adopted, took a brief interest in, and promptly discarded. 

Hailey discovers she has healing powers.  An unknown aunt shows up out of nowhere.  Can she trust the aunt?  Her powers?  What the heck is going on?

  • Contains no vampires, werewolves, fairies, demons, zombies, etc.  Romance is suggested at the end, but is not a major theme.  Also, romantic interest is a real live human boy! 
  • Suspenseful.
  • First in a series.  I know, I know, I just have to learn to accept it.
  • The villains are very, very villain-y.  No gray areas here.
Recommended for: If there is overlap between fans of A Child Called It (and other stories of abuse) and fans of contemporary/urban fantasy--and I think there is--this is the perfect book for them.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

PCL takes the GRC*

I know most of you probably already read The Pop Culture Librarian, right?  You're no fools. 

Now she is taking the Global Reading Challenge, so be sure not to miss that.

*Librarians love acronyms.  Or maybe that's library administrators?  Somebody loves them, anyway, because we are swimming in them.

Cold outside

So many of the teens who hang out at my work are homeless.  I'll think I know most of our current homeless population, and then one baby-faced kid that I never suspected will yell to another, "Hey, is Orion open tonight?"  "Nope, just the shelter."  "Sucks, man.  It's cold outside."  "Yeah."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

And today in teen movie news

Selena Gomez is going to be in the Thirteen Reasons Why movie.  I am only vaguely aware of who she is, although that link makes it pretty plain that she is Disney Affiliated ™.

I never got around to reading that book, but the kids love it.  It's about a teen who commits suicide and then leaves behind a bunch of cassette tapes explaining, well, you know. 

Does any teenager still have access to cassette tapes?  That's where my willing suspension of disbelief fails me.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is being made into a movie

and Hermione is going to be in it!  Poutily so.

Recent rejects

Happy Valentimes Day!  On this day of love I give you a post of hate.  Or, more accurately, a post of rejection.

Nancy Pearl says you should give every book you read fifty pages to make sure it doesn't suddenly become wonderful.  (She also has an algorithm based on how old you are, so that if you're old you can put books down faster.  I approve.)  I'm a great admirer of Nancy Pearl, and I'm sure I would be a wiser, more well-rounded person if I always read at least fifty pages of each book I picked up.  But I don't. 

Here is the first installment in what will be an ongoing series of rejects.

Stork, by Wendy Delsol

The deal:  So I guess this girl moves from L.A. to Minnesota and discovers that she is part of an ancient order of mystical ladies.  But I don't really know, because . . .

How far I got: pg. 2.

Why rejected:  "Clutching my Juicy Couture velour jacket to my throat, I hurried across the road." --pg. 2

Okay.  It's not just the Juicy Couture name dropping that bugs me.  Does anyone's internal monologue actually note the brand and material of your coat each time you "clutch it to [your] throat"?  (Which, p.s., get a scarf.)  We're probably supposed to realize that this character* is still a superficial L.A. gal right now, but will soon become a mystical Minnesotan who cares little for such frippery.  I just don't care to take that journey.

Found, by Margaret Peterson Haddix

The deal: Thirteen years ago, a plane showed up on a runway, filled with babies!  And no adults!  Weird.  Now, a couple of middle school kids--both adopted--have gotten notes saying "You are one of the missing."  And their parents don't seem to want to answer their questions.

How far I got:  pg. 53!  Yay me.

Why rejected:  This book isn't bad.  I like Margaret Peterson Haddix in general.  The writing seemed a little more stilted than her usual stuff (I wonder how old she is now?), and I didn't find myself desperate to find out the deal with the babies on the plane.  I've already booktalked it to middle schoolers using the few sentences above, and that's enough to get them interested.  Also, I'm balking at getting involved in series these days.

Do you read at least fifty pages of every book?  Or even--gasp--finish every book you start?  How do you decide when you've given a book a fair shake?

*Her name is Katla. Is it me, or is there a rule right now that every fantasy/sci fi protagonist girl has to have a name beginning with "Kat"?  Katsa, Katniss, etc.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I like your dress

First interaction of the day.

Library Patron: This is New Moon, but I think I need Breaking Dawn.  That's the last one in the series, right?  I've read the other three.

Me:  Right!  Let's go get that for you.

LP: They wanted us to read a lot of books in prison, so I read those books.  I thought they were pretty interesting.

Me:  Yup, they're really popular.

LP:  I also read a book in prison called Women Who Love Men Who Kill.  They had a little quiz in there?  And I scored really high on it. 

I like your dress.

Revolver, by Marcus Sedgwick

I'm on a hot streak of good books right now.  Revolver was a Printz Honor Book, and I can see why.  Actually, I think it's a better book than Ship Breaker, though I liked that one too.

It's 1910, and teenaged Sig is alone in a small cabin in the frozen far north.  Well, not quite alone--his father's frozen body is slumped in a corner.  His sister and stepmother have gone to get help.  There is an ominous knock on the door.

I don't want to tell you much more about the plot because it'll give too much away.  It zigzags back and forth in time between Sig's drama in the cabin and his father's past.

Pros:  I'm all pro on this one, baby.  It's super suspenseful, an easy read (but with lovely, spare language), and nice and short--200 pages.  It grapples with God and the nature of faith, the question of when violence is justified, and has a lot of the elements that fans of survival stories look for. 

Cons: Just one:  the cover.  I've never read Sedgwick before, mostly I think because his covers are always boring.  This one is no exception. 

Recommended for: Just about everyone.  Maybe even my dad.  Horn Book says, "will appeal to fans of Gary Paulsen, Jack London, and even Cormac McCarthy," and that seems right to me.  There are a couple of violent scenes that some might say are too much for middle school students, but they are certainly more tame than your average episode of Crime Scene: The Scene of the Crime.  I'm going to try to make all the boys in my teen advisory group read it.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It's kind of amazing

how many adults request Choose Your Own Adventure books--and then get all kinds of put out when I direct them to the children's department. 

Where are the Choose Your Own Adventure books for adults?, they want to know.

Hush, by Eishes Chayil

The Hassidic communities of Brooklyn (and elsewhere) are so fascinating to me.  More fascinating than the crazy polygamists in the desert, more fascinating than the Amish.  Because they live right in the heart of 21st century industrialized urban culture, but they are completely separate from it.  They never speak to the goyim.  (That's us.)  They have never heard of Oprah.  They don't know how babies are made until the day before they get married. 

The protagonist of this book is Gittel, whose best friend Devory died when they were both nine years old.  Eventually you realize what had been happening to Devory--she was being raped by her older brother, whose Torah learning was praised by everyone.  Therefore, Devory must have been lying.  She ends up hanging herself in Gittel's bathroom.

You find that out about 1/3 of the way through the book, and the rest of the book is Gittel trying to make sense of what happened while the entire Hassidic community does everything possible to keep it quiet.

Pros:  This is a book about child abuse, but more than that, it's a peek into a culture that most teens know nothing about.  And unlike most teen books about ultra-religious sects, it's not the story of one teen's escape from that culture, which I liked.  The author is still a Hassidic Jew, writing under a pseudonym that means "Woman of Valor" in Yiddish.  It's not quite clear from her author's note if this story of abuse is hers, or of other children she knew.  But she makes it plain that many of the details are real.

Cons: Since the actual abuse isn't dwelt on, this probably won't be a hit with most of the teens who ask for A Child Called 'It' read-alikes.  (Not really a con for me personally.) 

The sexy pout "shut up so I can kiss you" cover is stupid.

Recommended for: High school students (probably girls, let's face it, although it wouldn't kill a boy to read a book like this)--maybe those who are fans of fantasy and historical fiction, and so have the patience for fairly elaborate world-building.

Monday, February 7, 2011

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, by Sarah Glidden

In this graphic memoir, Sarah Glidden tells the story of her birthright trip to Israel.  I was vaguely aware of the existence of birthright trips, but didn't know much about them.  Basically, if you can prove that you are a young Jewish adult living on the planet Earth, you can get a free trip to Israel.  While there, you will be taken to various locations and given background on the history of the land, both ancient and recent--from the Israeli perspective, of course.
Glidden embarks on the trip with very strong sympathy for the Palestinians.  She leaves with more questions than answers.

Pros: Strong storytelling.  Glidden is really good at drawing stuff that shouldn't really be drawable, like her internal struggle over whether or not the tour she is on is trying to brainwash her.  Also I love the watercolor illustrations.  If you are a lame-o like me who is interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but too lazy or lacking in attention span to read a Very Serious Book on the subject, give this one a whirl.
Cons: None really. 

Recommended for:  Grown-ups.  Maybe grown-ups who've read Maus and/or Persepolis.  There might be one or two older teens who would like it, especially those with a particular interest in the subject matter.  It would also make a good curriculum tie-in for high schools studying recent Middle East history.

Last blabbing about Bitch's booklist honestly I swear

The controversy over Bitch's "100 Books for the Feminist Reader" list rages on and on.  I've blabbed about it here and on Facebook and elsewhere, but since (let's face it) mine is the definitive opinion that everyone has been waiting for to decide this issue once and for all, I'll blab about it a little bit more here as well.

Basically, I agree with Brandy's assessment.  Librarians and YA authors love to get their knickers twisted up about censorship--me as much as anyone--but I just don't see the censorship issue here.  Bitch isn't banning or even challenging any books.  These books are still available everywhere!  Just like before!  So I think we should all take a deep breath on the censorship thing and let. it. go.

Bitch has the free speech right to make whatever kind of list they want, and to add and remove books from it willy-nilly if that is what they are into.  Unfortunately, they are total crap at making lists.  Good book lists, as nerdy librarians everywhere are aware, are made according to clear criteria and stick to them.  Obviously, Bitch isn't doing that. Thank you, Bitch, for demonstrating that librarianism is not as easy as it looks!  I have a soft spot for you and your righteous feminist raging, but maybe you should stick to what you're good at.  (The raging.  In case that wasn't clear.)

All of the garbage about "triggering" makes me want to barf.  It's patronizing and idiotic.  Don't let girls who've had [x problem] read about it, or oh my heavens, they will immediately be plunged into the depths of that very problem, never to return!  That is just the dumbest.  I think a lot of readers gain mightily from reading about experiences similar to their own.  Of course, a lot of the "triggering" talk came from commenters on Bitch's website.  If I stopped reading all of the websites with obnoxious, malicious, and feeble-minded comments, I would just have to turn off the intertubes and go home.  So I can't fault Bitch for that.

BUT still they handled it terribly.  And it's not a good list.*  And they didn't read any of the books on it.  You have my permission to ignore it.

Case closed!  You're welcome.

*I didn't notice at first that Rampant by Diana Peterfreund is on that list, and I'm here to tell you, that book is about as unfeminist as they come.  In it, there is a rape which everyone--the victim, her friends, her teachers, her friend's mom--blames on the victim.  That's what you get for being out alone with a guy in Europe, ladies!  What did you expect?!  It's EUROPE.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


I was just chatting with a teen who was deeply bummed because she failed to do her algebra homework and got grounded . . . from church.  It started out sounding so much like my teen years, and ended up sounding so very, very different.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A patron just tried

to take her "service cat" on the escalator.  Judging by the cat's reaction, I'm guessing escalator training is not a big part of the official service cat curriculum.

Whoa dude

Somebody deleted my personal (not professional) library card from the system.  Gone without a trace. 
Somehow this makes me feel vaguely paranoid.


My card is back in the system . . . but with some older settings.  It was definitely gone before, though.  A glitch in the system?  A wishy-washy nemesis?  Hmm . . .

Feminist YA list update

This is fascinating.  Apparently some commenters argued that some of the books weren't feminist, so Bitch removed them from the list.  Then authors like Scott Westerfeld got pissed off and asked for their books to be removed from the list in protest.

I happen to be a Scott Westerfeld fan, and I'm as anti-censorship as they come.  But I kind of think Scott is being a big baby here.  I mean, Bitch isn't banning or censoring or in any way telling people not to read those books--they just decided to take them off the list.  And to my mind, they can put whatever books they want on their list, whether the authors like it or not.  They could make a list of the 100 Worst YA Books of All Time if they wanted to. 

I say suck it up, YA authors, and save your vitriol for actual book challenges.  They are plentiful enough.

Thanks for the link, Brandy.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A teen in my neighborhood

is a famous authoress.*

*The word "authoress":  sexist or not sexist?  Discuss.

Monday, January 31, 2011

YA ghostwriters

I guess I should find it refreshing that Hilary Duff admits she can't spell.  Lauren Conrad expects us to believe that she writes her books all by herself. 

Actually, maybe she does. I give you the first sentence of Sweet Little Lies:
Jane Roberts sat up on her white chaise longue and gazed at the horizon between the vast blue ocean and the vast blue sky.
Inspiring, yes?  I would kind of love to be a celebrity ghostwriter.  Hook me up, Hilary.

100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader

What a fantastic idea for a book list.  Thank you, Bitch Magazine.  I'm especially impressed by how many current titles are included.  There are lots that I haven't read, so I better get cracking.

A couple of their choices surprise me, such as For the Win, by Cory Doctorow.  I haven't read it yet, but I must admit that although I found Little Brother to be many things, feminist was not amongst them.  Maybe Cory is stepping up his lady game.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty, by Greg Neri and Randy DuBurke

Based on the true story of an 11-year-old Chicago kid who accidentally killed a young girl in the 1994.  He was trying to impress the older members of his gang.

Pros:  Does a really good job of reminding you that Yummy was only 11 (he got beaten up all the time in juvie because he had a teddy bear) without completely letting him off the hook.  Neri did a lot of research, and it shows.

Cons: The fact that the (fictional) narrator is a boy Yummy's age who is outside the gang life might make this a little less appealing for some older teens.

Recommended for: This is definitely intended for teens--middle school students, really. It's tragic, but not graphic. I would try it on kids who ask for hard knock stories, urban lit, etc. Not a bad read for grown-ups either.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Comics for English majors

You're already reading Hark! A Vagrant, right?  If not, please begin right away.  Not surprisingly, the nerdier English major ones  are my favorites, although I am also a big fan of the adventures of the mystery-solving teenagers.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Found on the teen bookshelves

by our teen volunteers:  one whole egg.  I'm pretty sure it was hardboiled, but I didn't test it to make sure.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes

What a lovely, heart-breaking little poem of a book.  Lanesha lives in New Orleans with Mama Ya-Ya, the elderly midwife who took her in when her own teen mother died in childbirth.  Lanesha loves math, wants to be an engineer, and is happy with her life and her neighborhood.  This, despite being ostracized at school and abandoned by her mother's compartively wealthy relatives, who live Uptown. 

Also, she sees ghosts.  But that's not really what the book is about, so please do not be distracted by the seeing of dead people.

Before Hurricane Katrina hits, Mama Ya-Ya sees signs that it is going to be bad.  But she and Lanesha have no car and no money to leave the city.  So they prepare as best they can, and wait.  Lanesha has to be braver than she ever thought she could be in order to survive.

I admit, I have not read any of the Newberry nominees this year.  Still, I can only assume that Ninth Ward was not nominated for a Newberry because it takes place after the Great Depression.  (Seriously, can a contemporary children's novel catch a break these days?  I think the kids get it about the Depression.  Times were tough!)  I'd recommend this book to just about any 4th-7th grader, but especially to bookish girls.  It's a beaut.

The Spy

The serious library thieves rip the RFID tags out of books.  That way, the books don't beep as they're being smuggled out the door.  When I find the tags lying around, I scan them in as lost. They usually turn out to be comic books or maybe erotica.  Today? 

A Clive Cussler book in Large Print.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

This guy's heart seems to be in the right place

but what year is it where he lives?
Our young adults are devouring this stuff. YA Lit is the only growth sector of the publishing industry these days. To parents, it can be disturbing that this ghoulish subject matter is what our eighth or ninth graders consider "reading for pleasure." It may even make you long for the days of Saturday morning cartoons.
Really?  You long for the days when our 14-year-olds avoided those scary, scary books and watched Bugs Bunny instead?  Ooookay.

There is a certain amount of overlap

between library regulars and patrons of comic book stores.

What I should be blogging about

If I were a good book blogger, I would blog heavily on topics such as the ALA book awards.  Also, I would have blogged about them a couple of weeks ago, when they were topical. 

Here is my question:  Does anyone besides librarians (and possibly booksellers) care about these awards?  Maybe just the Newberry and the Caldecott?  I feel like if anything, a Printz seal on the cover of a book (awarded for fanciness in writing for teens) is the kiss of death for getting a teenager interested in a book.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ellen Potter, please be my friend

I am doing a pretty amazing job with this book blog so far, yes?  You are amazed?  I thought so.

One thing about me and blogs is that I suck at staying on topic.  I intended for this blog to follow my thrilling adventures in teen literature, but lately even teen literature has been too much for my overtaxed brain.  So I'm reading middle grade fiction.  When I get down to easy readers I'll start to worry.

My latest and most fervent author crush is on Ellen Potter.  Even her website is fun.  I have long loved her (underappreciated) Olivia Kidney books, and I just finished The Kneebone Boy.  It's got everything a kid could want:  mystery, adventure, a mysterious castle with a kid-sized castle right next door (!), secret passages, royal children locked in tower rooms, exiled sultans--seriously, I  love this book and want to marry it. Look at the cover!  Judge it by that, and ye shall judge wisely.

(Not for nothing, but Ellen Potter is only three years older than I am, which makes me feel terrible about myself.  It is only when I read bad books that I think I could write one.  It's probably not good to feel more inspired by garbage.) 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cover story

There are so many young adult novels that might be great, but will never be read by a teenager due to their terrible covers. Case in point, Allison Whittenberg's new book:

I've read a couple of Whittenberg's previous books, and they were good-if-not-amazing African American tween fiction.  This one is a romance. I personally like the cover, but the intended audience is just not going to go for it.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Boy Books

Since my other blog is mostly just complaints and random information about my child that is interesting to almost no one, I decided to start an actual book-and-library-related blog. We'll see how it goes.

Nothing drives me battier than teen and children's librarians wringing their hands and begging for somebody to please think of the boys.  Plenty of people are thinking about the boys.  The boys are fine.  But I'm willing to concede that there are probably more good girl books out there, especially for teens.  This is mostly because publishers feel more confident marketing to girls, I think.

So I've been trying to read more boy books the past few weeks with, I must admit, not a ton of success.  Here are some recent failures.

Finnikin of the Rock, by Melina Marchetta
This must be a good book--all the reviews are glowing.  But I can't seem to get past chapter two.  Soooo booooring.  Maybe I'm just not a good fantasy reader, because any fantasy book that opens with "And then this people slayeth that people, and lo, there was despair across the land, and then many eons passed" leaves me cold.  Actually, Saving Francesca is the only Marchetta book I've been interested in enough to finish, so maybe I just don't get this author.

I Am Number Four, by "Pittacus Lore"
As you have probably heard, James Frey of A Million Little Pieces fame is now spending his time preying on desperate, impoverished MFA students.  In a nutshell, he has them sign away all their rights to their work, then he throws a giant marketing push behind their work.  I felt like I should read this, because the premise--alien teen on earth is our only hope for survival--was interesting, and the teens are reading it.  But I thought it was pretty bad.  Repetitive and bad.  Bad, while at the same time being repetitive.  If you know what I mean.

Borderline, by Allan Stratton
I wanted to like this book, about a Muslim Canadian--I mean, American*--teen whose father is taken away by the FBI under suspicion of planning a terrorist attack.  But the resolution was a little far fetched, and the subplot about bullying kind of dumb.  Still, it wasn't bad, and I'll probably recommend it now and again.

Clearly, I need help.  Have you read a great boy book lately?

*Stratton is Canadian, and he set the book just over the border in New York, I guess to entice the larger American readership.  But these kids are so Canadian.