Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reckless by Cornelia Funke

Jacob Reckless discovers a secret world behind the mirror in his father's office.  It's a world where fairy tales are real, from Sleeping Beauty to witches who eat children.  In this world, Jacob can escape from his depressed mother, missing father, and needy little brother.  This world is Jacob's alone, where none of his problems can follow him.  But then, after many years, Jacob's little brother follows him.  One mistake, and now it's up to Jacob to save his brother's life, and he doesn't have much time until his brother becomes a monster.

OK.  So, I didn't love Inkheart (please don't hurt me!).  I didn't not like it, I just...I kept saying to myself, "How am I on page 300 on nothing has happened yet?"  And yet, it was OK.  I just found it...slow.  Yes, I found it slow.  So I was interested to read this, what with it having some good buzz and I wanted to give Cornelia Funke another go.

It was not slow.  Not at all.  Great pacing.  Exciting, entertaining, and unusual in the fact that things do not work out very well for our hero.  He tries again and again to save his brother, and he fails again and again.  Nothing goes right.

I enjoyed the subtle blending of classical fairy tales in with completely new elements and creatures.  It would have been boring if we were just in a Snow White world, but there was just enough so you could easily grasp the feeling of where we were, while still being new and interesting.  It was a very violent world, which ties in nicely with classical fairy tales, because fairy tales, really, are not very nice.  The world is in the middle of a long-standing and very bloody war.

I found what Funke did with the war very interesting.  I didn't find myself identifying a "good" side and a "bad" side in the war.  The Goyle had been hunted and killed by the humans, because the humans disliked and feared their stone-like skin.  Now the Goyle retaliate.  Well, the humans shouldn't be killing others now should they?  But the Goyle retaliate by killing humans in mass.  Well...that's not very good either.  And back and forth it goes like that, getting some the Goyle perspective and some of the human perspective and realizing that there isn't a right or wrong side.  They're all wrong and they're just trying to trick and kill each other and get the upper hand and it will go on forever.

So I liked this very much.  Lots of intriguing, flawed characters.  No one was good or bad.  Adventure and love.  This is a book that will appeal to all kinds of readers.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden

Liza and Annie met at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  They are fascinated by each other and soon become friends, although their worlds are very different.  Liza lives in Brooklyn Heights and goes to Foster, a private school, while Annie lives in a rundown apartment building and attends a school where they need security guards at the doors. As Liza and Annie spend more time together, their feelings for one another go beyond friendship.

As the two girls begin to accept and explore their relationship, which for Liza is not always easy, they find that many people are not willing to accept them.  Liza is not sure if her and Annie's love is strong enough to overcome everything else.

This was really beautiful.  I felt that it was one of the more true portrayals of a relationship that I've read.  Of any kind of relationship, heterosexual or homosexual.  One of the things that annoys me about many of the YA romances I read is that I just can't understand why the characters are in love.  They're always just drawn to each other.  It's destiny.  They're powerless to fight against their love.  This was just so beautifully real.  And yes, they do feel drawn to each other, that's the physical attraction part.  But it perfectly captured the excitement that you feel when the person you have a crush on calls you, and then you realize you have absolutely nothing to say.  The nervousness when you get to see them, the slow developing of trust.  Telling each other things about your life, getting to know them, realizing you are falling in love.  It was so real

Annie on My Mind was written in 1982, and while a kid wouldn't be able to be expelled for being gay, or teachers be fired from their jobs because they live together, the intolerance the girls face still holds true in our current world.  Still people to tell them they're immoral.  Still people to say it's just a phase, that it their love isn't real, that if they would only try, they could decide to not be gay anymore.  It was also one of the most frequently challenged books of the 90s.


I really like the cover of this book.  Even though it's clearly a very 80s cover, it just captures the feeling so well.  There is a new cover, which I do not like.
It just seems so...glossy.  So generic.  Nothing special about it.  Do you know what I mean?  Someone who has read it back me up here.

I'm doing a jump so I can talk about the end.  Don't jump if you haven't read it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Zombies and airships and history; this book had everything!

There was gold to be mined, supposedly locked under the ice of the Klondike during the early days of the Civil War.  Russia commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a machine that could cut through the ice.  Levi created such a machine, but during the first test is took out a chunk of Seattle, releasing an underground gas that kills anyone who breaths it and turns them into the walking dead.  The city is evacuated and walls are erected to contain the gas.

16 years later, Blair Wilkes lives outside Seattle with her 15 year-old son Ezekiel.  Blair is shunned because she was married to Leviticus Blue, the man everyone blames for their troubles. Zeke is convinced that his father was innocent, that Levi didn't intentionally destroy the city.  Zeke sneaks back into Seattle, overrun by "rotters" and Blight gas to try and prove his father was a good man.  And now Blair must go in after him.

While I was reading this, I totally had a dream that I was bitten by a zombie and was slowing turning into one.  It was very unpleasant.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Yule Ball 2010

Last night, Anna and I attended the Yule Ball.  The Yule Ball, for those of you who haven't read Harry Potter (OMG, where have you been, go read them RIGHT NOW!), occurred in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and was a dance around Christmas as part of the festivities of the Triwizard Tournament.

The Yule Ball that took place in Cambridge, MA last night was a Wizard Wrock concert.  Yes, there is Wizard Wrock.  Wizard Wrock is music that is inspired by the works of J.K. Rowling.  It was begun in Massachusetts in 2002, by brothers Joe and Paul DeGeorge, who formed the group Harry and the Potters.  It has quite a following now, with many, many groups of all different kinds.  Wizard Wrock is awesome as it promotes literacy.  The motto of The Remus Lupins is "Fight evil, read books."  Wizard Wrock is also a strong promoter of social justice.  Wrock groups stand behind The Harry Potter Alliance, created by Andrew Slack of Somerville, MA, which encourages lovers of Harry Potter to fight real evil in the world.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder

Deo escaped from the genocide in Burundi and Rwanda.  He arrives in New York, speaking no English, with hardly any money, having experienced horrible atrocities and believing his family is dead.  After languishing for several months in a slum, Deo meets several people who begin to help him take control of his life in America.  As he struggles to get a green card, he dreams of resuming his medical studies and returning to Burundi to build a free clinic for his people.

I'm finding this hard to write about.  And it was also hard to read.  I didn't really know about what happened in Burundi.  I had learned about the genocide in Rwanda, but I didn't know about Burundi.  How many other things are happening in the world that I don't know about?  That we won't hear about until many years afterward, and wonder how we could have missed them.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

News

Excellent news!  Independent bookstores aren't dying out!  Thanks in part to e-books, go figure. From NPR.

And, speaking of e-readers, now that some are in color, they're making the move to picture books. From The New York Times.

It's a Book continues to cause people to clutch their pearls in distress.  From UPI.com.  And, interestingly enough, the YouTube version omits the controversial last line.

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction shortlist announced.  From SLJ.

Upcoming books from authors you know.  From SLJ.

The Pretty Little Liars television show is doing well enough that Sara Shepard will be writing four new books.  From EW.com.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Alternate Histories and Steampunk Week

OMG guys, I'm a day late posting this, but the week of December 13th is Alternate Histories and Steampunk week, started by Leila over at Bookshelves of Doom.  Lots of fabulous blogs are taking part of this, so look for great alternate histories and steampunk book reviews from such blogs as:
And probably many others as well.  I think I will read Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, for my contribution.  It is sitting on my bookshelf and I haven't gotten to it yet so this is the perfect opportunity.

Learn a little more about steampunk and alternate histories:

Steampunk: Full Steam Ahead from SLJ
Steampunk 101 from Tor.com

Censorship from the Library of Congress?

I was reading on Librarian in Black that the Library of Congress blocked access to Wikileaks on all of its computers.  The Library of Congress' official statement is “The Library decided to block Wikileaks because applicable law obligates federal agencies to protect classified information.  Unauthorized disclosures of classified documents do not alter the documents’ classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents.”  But the New York Times claims there was no order to block the web site on government computers.  Hmmm.  Library of Congress, this sounds a awful lot like censorship...doesn't it?  Thoughts?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

The Realm is ruled by Protocol.  Time stands still as no progress is allowed.  Everyone must adhere to an arcane code of conduct and rules.  The Queen wants Protocol to continue, but some, including Claudia want to see Protocol ended.  Finn has escaped from Incarceron, the inescapable prison.  Claudia believes he is the true heir to the throne, imprisoned in Incarceron and wiped of his memories by the Queen.  Finn is still not convinced he truly is Giles.  He is more worried about his oath brother, Keiro, and his friend Attia, still trapped in Incarceron.  However, since the Warden took both Keys and disappeared into Incarceron, there seems to be no way to get them out.  Time is running out for both Claudia and Finn and for the Warden, Keiro and Attia, trapped in Incarceron.  The prison itself wants to escape too, and to do so would most likely mean the end of both their worlds.

There was a lot of stuff going on in this book.  I was getting pretty confused at points actually.  What was going on with Claudia and Finn out in the Realm I was fine with, but the stuff that was happening in Incarceron I had a hard time following.  I think part of this has to do with the fact that I've never really grasped what the world of Incarceron is like.  This is in partly because it's constantly changing; Incarceron can pretty much do whatever it wants.  But as Kiero and Attia are running all over and all this crazy stuff is happening and suddenly they're in the middle of an ocean and suddenly they're on top of a cliff climbing through a hole...there were so many shifts.  It was hard to keep up at times.

Anna had mentioned how in Incarceron, Claudia kind of annoyed her.  I was fine with her in the first book, but man, did Claudia ever annoy me this time around!  She was so clueless!  She was so whinny!  She was totally incompetent.  Isn't she supposed to be really smart?  Why is she doing all this stupid stuff?  She was also totally doing all of this for her own personal gain.  She was using Finn just like everyone else was using Finn.  She tried to make herself feel better about this by saying it was for the kingdom or for Finn's own good and whatever, but no, totally all for herself.  Moreover, she needed her father and Jared to get anything done or make any decisions.  She was completely lost without them.

It was interesting, it was exciting.  I did want to know what happened next.  Sapphique ends with plenty of the story left to tell, so there will be another book coming no doubt, which I will want to read.  So while it's not going to be my favorite fantasy/dystopia book, I did enjoy it.

Sapphique comes out December 28th.

Friday, December 10, 2010

News

Scholastic's list of Ten Trends in Children's Books from 2010.  Like we didn't already know.

Brave New World will be kept in a Seattle school's curriculum.  From The Seattle Times.

Anita Silvey has a new blog!  The Children's Book-A-Day Almanac.  Now that's dedication.  Anita Silvey is magical.

Oh dear, Anna is about to be in a fight with Rockport.  They're barring It's a Book because it uses the word "jackass."  From Boston.com.

You go British writers!  British Children's authors protest library budget cuts. From SLJ.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Incarceron: The Movie


You guessed it! Incarceron is being made into a movie. There's not a whole lot of info yet, but I've discovered this: Taylor Lautner is going to be playing Finn. You might know Taylor from a little franchise called Twilight. No? Well then you need to get out more.

Gut reaction? NO!!! Sweet Moses NO! I'm not saying that he's a bad actor - young and inexperienced, yes - all out bad, no. But just not the correct physique, personality, or star power that Finn should be. Whoa, strong reaction to something not so terribly important. But a girl has to draw the line somewhere, and mine is Taylor Lautner. We are in an official fight.

Hearts for John Green

John Green talks about getting inspiration from community in a guest post at TeachingBooks.net.  John Green is fabulous.

Gary Busey is also sort of fabulous, in his way.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Trip to Narnia Please?


So you all need to check this out before the University of Washington takes it down. My favorite part? "Since Narnia is not connected to time here in the real world the program will last six months in Narnia but no time in the real world." Awesome, I salute the person(s) who did this.

Tracy Kidder

Tracy Kidder spoke at the school where I work the other day.  This was a pretty big deal.  It's Tracy Kidder!  Pulitzer Prize winning author!  I was looking forward to hearing him talk.

I have not read anything by Tracy Kidder, shame on me.  I actually have Strength in What Remains, his newest book, sitting on my bookshelf.  I totally meant to read it before I saw him speak.  Really I did.  But there was always a YA book I wanted to read first getting in my way.  I swear, as soon as I'm done with Sapphique, I will read it.  It's good to read an adult, nonfiction book every now and then.

The talk, I'm sorry to say, was a disappointment.  Tracy Kidder is not a good public speaker.  Not at all.  And I was surprised, which isn't really fair.  I guess I just assumed, that being Tracy Kidder, he must have to give speeches and talks and lectures and do interviews all the time.  And if he wasn't a good speaker, he'd take lessons and learn how to be one so he could present himself well.  This was not the case.  The speech sounded very canned.  He was reading off a paper the whole time, and despite this, it felt disorganized and confused.  He kept going off on tangents and then getting back to his shaky main point.  How could he be reading from a script but still be totally disorganized?  It just didn't make sense.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Year in Disturbing Celebrity Book Deals

Flavorwire has made an amusing list of celebrities who have written books that make us cry, "It's just not fair!  Why does Snookie get to have a book published but I can't even get someone to look at my literary masterpiece?"

There should be a Year in Disturbing Celebrity YA Book Deals.  It would start like this:
  • Lauren Conrad
  • Hilary Duff
  • Tyra Banks

Forever Young Adult recently had a post on celebrity authors they wish would write a YA book.

Friday, December 3, 2010

News

This Saturday is Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day.  If I had a child, I would totally participate.  From NorthJersey.com

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is going to be a movie, directed by Martin Scorses.  In 3D!  One must always say "in 3D!" accompanied by an exclamation point. From the Guardian.

In other book-to-movie news, Catherine Hardwicke, director of Twilight, will be directing The Maze Runner movie.  From The Wrap.

Learn a little more about Allen Say.  From the Oregonian.

Some interesting thoughts on being a bookseller.  From Publishers Weekly.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Murderous Procession by Ariana Franklin

Adelia, a doctor and mistress of the art of death (someone who performs autopsies) has been ordered by King Henry II of England to accompany his daughter Joanna to Sicily and act as her doctor. Adelia is devastated, as it means leaving her young daughter behind and such a journey could take months, maybe even longer. Adelia can't even say she is a doctor. A female doctor is unacceptable in England. Adelia must pretend that her trusted friend Mansur is the doctor, and she is only carrying out his instructions. However, Mansur often falls under suspicion as well, being an Arab.

The traveling party carries on innocently enough, until strange things begin to happen. First Adelia's horse is poisoned. Then a knight she was angry with is killed during a boar hunt. Then the washerwomen she fought with is found drowned. It seems that someone is trying to cast suspicion on Adelia. But who could it be?

Oh it was so good! So good! This is the fourth book in the Mistress of the Art of Death series, and they have all been this good. I would suggest reading them in order, but you don't have to, they stand on their own just fine. There's enough exposition at the beginnings to catch a reader up if they haven't read the previous books, but not so much it gets annoying for those who have read them all.

Besides being exciting and thrilling and you don't know who the murderer is (I was totally, totally wrong. I thought I had it, and I was SO wrong.), the language is beautiful and you get such a clear picture of what the world is like. Adelia is frustrated at having to pretend she isn't a doctor, when she knows she a better doctor than all the men. She knows she can save people by doing things that the Church forbids, and it drives her crazy.

I like that at the end of the book, there's information about each of the historical characters, so you can get some perspective on their actual lives and understand what was changed to make it work with the story. I think Ariana Franklin and Ellis Peters, who wrote the Brother Cadfael books would get along very well.

You're writing another one, right Ariana? We have to know what happens to Rowley. You wouldn't leave it like that, right? There has to be more coming. We share a name (although we spell it differently), help a girl out!

Libraries in Literature Quiz

Oh man, I did SO BADLY on this! To be completely honest, I guessed on all of them except the last one. I felt pretty confident on that one. I'm sure you will do much better. But let me know if you do badly, so I can feel better about myself. Libraries in Literature.

Oh all right, you can tell me if you do really well too.
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