Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cuba: My Revolution by Inverna Lockpez and Dean Haspiel with Jose Villarrubia

It is 1959 and Fidel Castro has just taken over the government. Sonya is seventeen and has thrown in her lot with the socialist movement. She believes that the equality and independence that Cuba needed under Batista has finally arrived. But Cuba must still fight off U.S. military, and Castro calls for people to join the army and protect their home.

Sonya's political ideals drive her to put aside her art in order to serve the Cuba's new regime as a surgeon. Castro controls everything, nothing happens without his approval. This must be done in order for Cuba to become a great country. It's 1961 and Sonya volunteers to be a surgeon on the front-lines. She is confronted by the horrors of war, and works heal all regardless of their background. Unfortunately this gets her into trouble when she tries to save a young American, he dies in her arms after giving her his rosary. She is taken by the police, tortured, and questioned for espionage. It is only through bribes and political connections that she is released into her father's care. Sonya's shaken, but her belief in Castro and the revolution remains firm.

Over the next four years, Castro's authority becomes more apparent as Russian Communist are seen more frequently patrolling the streets. At first Sonya's ideals remain intact, she believes that Castro is working to make Cuba a great country, but as her progressive artwork makes her a social target, her fellow Cubans begin to start, and her friends start to disappear, only then does Sonya realize that the ideals she had for Castro and Cuba are not coming to fruition. After being forbidden to exhibit her artwork and feeling that no one will speak the truth about the state of affairs of Cuba does Sonya decide to move to America; leaving behind friends and her husband.


Librarians who Lead. From DistrictAdministration

New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award Finalists. From GalleyCat.

How publishers can attract young boys. From GalleyCat.

HarperCollins, imbee and NFFTY are having a national film contest. The contest "tasks aspiring filmmakers with executing their film vision of select chapters from author Michael Grant's The Magnificent 12 book series for tweens." From HarperCollins.

Does having online abbreviations in the dictionary mean they're OK to use in formal writing? Also, did you know that OMG first appeared in a letter in 1917? Fascinating.

People are still challenging Catcher in the Rye? Also, it's the "strongest material" the district representative has ever read? He must not read very much. From Crossville Chronicle.

Hold the phone. Jennifer Garner is going to be Miss Marple? But...what...that just doesn't make any sense. From

Now that we know who Katniss is, who oh who will play Peeta? Also, Suzanne Collins says she's quite happy with the choice of Jennifer Lawrence. From

The Children's Choice Book Awards finalist are in. Don't forget to vote.

Happy Birthday to Us!

Yay!  It's our birthday!  We are 1 today!  Oh glorious day!  We have mastered crawling and perhaps are working on the whole walking thing.  We can understand "no" (although we probably ignore it) and are delighting people by saying things like "ball" and "mama."  We're also beginning to develop fear of strangers, so I hope you'll understand if you're new and we act a little anxious.  We're looking forward to another fabulous year full of travels and book reviews.  Thanks for coming along!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: A Flight of Angels

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release that we're excited about.  This week I'm waiting on the graphic novel Flights of Angels.

Angels, like fairies, are mystical creatures that fascinate people everywhere.  The bestselling YA author Holly Black of The Spiderwick Chronicles teams up with Bill Willingham of Fables fame, Alisa Kwitney (The Dreaming, Flirting In Cars), Louise Hawes (The Vanishing Points, Black Pearls), and T. D. Mitchell (The Traitor King) to explore their diverse mythology in A Flight of Angels. From tales of the dangerous to the all-powerful to guardian angels and angels of death, A Flight of Angels is a gorgeous graphic novel lushly painted by Rebecca Guay. 

I couldn't find a cover for this one, probably because it isn't coming out until winter, which is terribly upsetting because it sounds SO GOOD!  So many awesome authors all together!   So excited!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Moose's father works as a guard for Alcatraz prison, and the whole family has just moved to the island to live so they can save some money and Moose's sister, Natalie, can go to a special school.  Moose is NOT happy about this.  Now he's separated from all his friends for another one of his mom's crazy plans that probably won't even help Natalie at all.  Moose has to deal with the prison warden's daughter's schemes to meet Al Capone, babysitting his older sister, making new friends, and just trying to be a regular kid.

This was pretty great.  There are so many things to love about.  The humor, the family dynamics, the look at life in the 30s.  Let's talk about the family first.

Natalie probably had a form of Autism, but in 1935, no one knows about Autism yet.  Moose's mother is desperate to help her and has tried everything possible.  From different kind of doctors to voodoo dolls.  That might sound kind of extreme, but the alternative was putting your child in an asylum, which has also been suggested, and has refused to do it.  Moose's mother will try anything she can possibly can, no matter how far fetched it might sound.

Black Pearls: A Faerie Strand by Louise Hawes

More fairy tales!  These fairy tales take on familiar stories, but look at them from an unexpected perspective.  We learn what was really going on with the "witch" from Rapunzel, what happened after Cinderella married the prince, and many more.

Like Red Spikes, these stories were dark, violent, and often sad.  They weren't as dark, violent and sad though.  I preferred these to Red Spikes.  I liked having a base for the story already, and then reading a new interpretation of them.  This has been done many times before, certainly, but I still enjoyed these.

Different things were done for each story.  For Dame Nigran's Tower, we learn about the witch, who really isn't a witch, and how she ended up with Rapunzel.  We understand he fierce love for her, and Rapunzel's ultimate betrayal.  In Ashes, the prince falls in love with Cinderella because she's so unlike all the other highborn ladies, but after they're married she changes.  She demands the death of her stepsisters and stepmother and the prince doesn't know what to do.  Not all the stories changed very much.  Pipe Dreams, which was about the story of the pipe piper of Hameln, was told by the boy on the crutch.  We got some different perspective, but there wasn't really a whole lot different about that one.

I liked that most of the stories show how what "really" happened got twisted into the story that we've come to know today.  There was also some really beautiful illustrations.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Days Like This by J. Torres and Scott Chantler

It's the 1960s and Anna Solomon is looking expand her horizons after her divorce from music mogul Abe Solomon. She's decided to start her own record label and has already found her first group she wants to sign, three seventeen year old black girls that go to the same school as her daughter. The only problem is the lead singer's father doesn't approve. With everyone taking big risks on these rookies, will they be able to prove themselves?

This book was like the sweeter, nobody gets addicted to coke, version of Dreamgirls. It's super idealistic and the focus is on the battle of the sexes, it doesn't even touch the racial aspect which I had initially played a larger role considering this is supposed to be the 60s but no. I get it though, this standalone book is about how women overcome the setbacks and pessimistic opinions of the men in their lives. It would be difficult to delve into all of the class/racial issues that would realistically take place. And anyways this was a pretty light-hearted, so I don't think that J. Torres and Scott Chantler wanted to be Debbie Downers and leave it with a postscript saying, "Let's face it. Tina and the Tiaras will probably face years of discrimination not just because of their sex but also because of the color of their skin. Their agent quite possibly will rip them off because she's able to with her better education and higher social standing. There's a good possibility that none of these girls will go on to be anything special, especially considering that the 1970s are trucking along with its free love and drugs." Not good times. Regardless, I liked the focus of the book. It did what it could with the space it had. It's a tight plot line, uplifting, and some nice artwork. Not a ton of depth, but for some reason it's ok.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Red Spikes by Margo Lanagan

So this was...weird.  Did you read Tender Morsels, also by Margo Lanagan?  I had the same feeling after reading this that I did after reading Tender Morsels.  A feeling of, "Huh.  Well.  That was...weird.  Is this really YA?  Whom would I recommend this for?" 

It's a collection of original fairy taleish stories.  For the most part, the stories were quite dark.  And, much like Tender Morsels, many of them had sexual undertones.  Some of the stories seemed to be from the perspective of animals, showing the violence of their lives.

They're hard to describe.  I don't really know what to say, which I know doesn't make a good review.   Let me try describing one in more depth.  "Under Hell, Over Heaven" was inspired by Lanagan's Catholic primary school education in the 1960s about Limbo.  Four children are stuck in Limbo.  It's being told from Leah perspective, who's in Limbo because she wasn't baptized.  The four children earn Brownie points with Heaven by taking those who have accidentally gotten into Heaven to Hell.  The children bring the Miscreant to Hell, where there is an incredible graphic and disturbing description of Hell opening up and the screaming and the burning flesh and the Miscreant getting dragged in.  The other three children are disturbed, but Leah wants to hold on to the feeling.

If ever you were part of a book club that wanted to read something dark and weird, this would give you SO MUCH to talk about.  Whoa.  So if you like the dark and creepy, take a looksy at this one.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Kissing Kate by Lauren Myracle

Lissa and Kate have been best friends for years.  Then one night at a party, Kate kissed Lissa, and Lissa kissed her back.  Now Kate and Lissa aren't speaking to each other and Kate got herself a boyfriend that same night.  Lissa is hurt and confused.  What do her feelings for Kate mean?

This was just OK.  Things were kept very surface level, no deep examinations.  Lissa is trying to figure out what her feelings for Kate mean.  Kate doesn't want to talk about it.  Lissa has to decide if she's willing to go back to how her relationship with Kate was before and forget about what happened.

When Lissa finally gets Kate to talk about it, Kate tells Lissa she's "not like her."  Lissa is sad and hurt and still hasn't even really worked out for herself how she's feeling.

What I didn't really love was when Lissa finally tells another friend about her feelings for Kate, the friend's response is "Well, have you ever liked any other girls before?  Maybe you're bi."  This was supposed to be the supportive friend and I felt like even she was hinting at "Well don't worry yet.  You might not really be a lesbian, maybe you're just bisexual."  Her friend than takes her to meet her cousin who lives with her girlfriend.  Lissa doesn't really talk to her about anything, they just all hang out and she sees home comfortable the cousin is being with another girl, and the cousin says if Lissa ever wants to talk about anything she'd be happy to listen.  We're left with Lissa thinking, "I might be a lesbian," and then the book is done.  So yeah.  Very surface level.

There are better books exploring the same topic available.  I'd definitely recommend Annie on My Mind over Kissing Kate.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Girl Genius by Phil and Kaja Foglio

Agatha Clay had never invented anything that worked.  All her attempts either didn't work at all or exploded.  If only she didn't get horrible headaches when she tried to concentrate!  After a particularly strange day, which started off with the locket she's been told never to take off getting stolen, she ends up on board the airship Castle Wulfenbach, controlled by the Baron who rules the land.  Could Agatha be a Spark after all?  Why would anyone want to hide it from her?

I have mixed feelings about this one.  I'm not sure if I'd add it to the Great Graphic Novels for Girls list.  It had a lot of potential, and it got better by the third volume, but still...

So I don't think I'm giving anything away by saying that Agatha's locket kept her from becoming a Spark.  You'd figure it out like three seconds in.  A Spark is an engineering genius.  Unfortunately, most of them end up going mad.   Once Agatha's locket is stolen, she has a tendency to fall asleep than wake up in her underwear having built some crazy amazing engineering feat.  Which means there's a fair amount of time she's running around in her underwear.  She's certainly clothed more than she's not, but yeah, a lot of underwear time.  And then people making comments about her being in her underwear.

This is an omnibus edition, so it has the first three volumes.  The first volume is done in black and white pencil style, and the following volumes are in a greyscape style.  As soon as we switch to greyscape, Agatha's chest doubles in size.  And it was super noticeable what with her hanging out in her underwear.

So there was that.  While Agatha does consistently stick up for herself, she's not much of a character.  She's a pawn for most of the first three volumes.  Aside from that, I found the world very confusing.  The story itself is not, but trying to work out what was happening (What is everyone afraid of?  Why are there Sparks?  What are the wasps?  What is the Baron protecting people from?) in the world was quite convoluted.  Maybe this was on purpose.  Things didn't start coming together for me until the third volume.  Then I started to piece things together and Agatha started to become more of a character and it got better.  Perhaps in later volumes it gets better still, and Agatha starts doing some engineering when she's fully conscious and clothed.  That would be nice.  I generally like steampunk a lot, but this is not one of my favorites.

Waiting on Wednesday: And Then Things Fell Apart by Arlaina Tibensky

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release that we're excited about.  This week I'm waiting on And Then Things Fell Apart by Arlaina Tibensky.
 Keek has an adulterous dad, an unstable mom, and the chicken pox. She’s stuck in bed with no TV or Internet—just a typewriter and, mercifully, plenty of paper.

I know that's not much of a description, but I heard Arlaina read a section of this book at the NYC Teen Author Festival and it had me laughing out loud.  It doesn't sound like it's going to be an especially funny book, but Keek is unintentionally hysterical (she's also writing while she has a fever and chicken pox).  She's stuck at her grandmother's house who believes all technology is evil, hence the typewriter.  Keek is dealing with her parent's divorce, boyfriend issues, and is obsessed with Sylvia Plath.  I'm really looking forward to reading this one. 

And Then Things Fell Apart will be available July 26th.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

It's not just an online game.  Complex economical systems have been created in the gaming world, and people don't just play for fun.  Some people work.  The gold farmers gather virtual gold and jewelry and other valuable items and then sell them.  In the real world, the gold farmers work in sweatshop like conditions.  In China, Matthew has defied his boss.  In India, Mala leads an army of gold farmers.  In America, Leonard and stays up for hours playing with friends from Asia.  All across the world, virtual workers are joining together under Big Sister Nor to challenge the sweatshop owners and unionize.

So I'm not a gamer.  Never have been.  I found early on I just didn't have the patience for that kind of thing.  This was not the book for me.  If I had been reading it instead of listening to it on audio I don't think I would have finished it.  I think this might just be how I feel about Cory Doctorow books.  I like Cory Doctorow.  I respect him very much.  I like how he makes all his books available online.  But I felt the same way when I read Little Brother, only more so this time.

Monday, March 21, 2011

NYC Teen Author Festival: Part Two

I thought maybe the second day of the Symposium would be more crowded, it being on a Saturday and all, but there weren't any more people there than the day before.  There were, however, more teenagers, which was nice to see.  And they were all excited to see the authors they liked, which warms my heart.

There were four panels the second day as well, plus one tribute.  The first panel of the day was "The Ties That Bind, Part One: The Struggle Against Darkness," with Kim Harrington, Lisa McMann, Maggie Stiefvater and Robin Wasserman and moderated by David Levithan.  Each author chose a passage from her upcoming novel where a character is coming up against darkness.  Three out of the four books were fantasy or sci fi.  David asked how much the characters were shaped by the darkness they experienced.  Kim Harrington, whose upcoming book Clarity I've been hearing a lot of buzz about, said her book looks at truth versus family loyalty and because her main character had been through years of torment it formed the young women she became.  Robin's books, the Skinned series, looks at a girl whose world was free of darkness, and what happens when that darkness seeps in.  Robin had the most thoughtful things to say on this panel.  She talked about how in writing about darkness, writers often focus on very small things, not the larger darkness of the world.  She's like to try to do that and see other writers do it as well.

NYC Teen Author Festival: Part One

This weekend I went to a portion of the NYC Teen Author Festival. The Festival was all week long, starting on Monday and running through Sunday. I went for the Symposium on Friday and Saturday, which consisted of panels of YA authors speaking on different topics. The Symposium was held at the main branch of the NY Public Library. The one with the lions out front. Despite having gone to undergrad in New York, I had never been to the main branch of the library. I know. Shame on me. I'd been to other branches though. Just not the main one. The main branch is a purely research, none-circulating library. It is very pretty. And large.

I was expecting the Festival to be like the Boston Book Festival. Tons of people. Crazy long lines. Having to get there two hours early or you wouldn't be able to get a seat. It was NOT like that. Not at all. I got there an hour early and there was no one. I could have gotten there five minutes before with no problem. The auditorium wasn't even half full (it sits 177 people). What's up NYC Teen Author Festival? Where are all the people? Certainly since it's just YA authors that narrows down the field of interest, but still. It's New York. It's free. I think part of it was that it isn't publicized especially well. I wouldn't have know it existed if a friend hadn't mentioned it.

Accio Books!

I'm a little late (as in almost missed it) with this but there's a non-profit I'd like to give a endorsement to. You might remember back in December Arianna and I went to Yule Ball where we were introduced to The Harry Potter Alliance which fights real evil in the world. It's pretty awesome. Anyways, during March they're having a book drive to create an entire library for Bedford-Stuyvesant New Beginnings Charter School in Brooklyn. It's only going on through March, so I would hope anyone who reads this would at the very least go and check out the webpage for 'Accio Books,' which let's you know more about what this organization is doing to improve the world around us.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hunger Games Movie: BAH!

I'VE UPDATED THIS POST. If you haven't heard, the Hunger Games series (you can read Arianna's review of the third book here) by Suzanne Collins is being made into a movie. I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of film adaptations of books because I feel that it's rarely done well, e.g. Twilight, Eclipse, New Moon. It's important as a start off point that you get the actors right, or so I'm told. But here we are again with another young adult book being made into a movie with another actress being put into it that just doesn't fit. Jennifer Lawrence from Winter's Bone is going to be Katniss. Wrong! I hate to say this but she's just too old! Old and tall and blonde. Do I think she can pull off the whole drama thing? Mostly. Do I think it's not going to help in general though? Yes. There's also a rumor that Alex Pettyfer from I Am Number Four and Hunter Parrish from Weeds are both looking to be Peeta. Bah.

Let's be honest, I'll go see the movie. I'll probably make Arianna, Jamie, and Alanna go with me. The only expectation I have is to giggle throughout the entire thing. My assumption is that it's going to be bad, maybe it'll surprise me but I doubt it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Clary's mother has disappeared, and Clary has been pulled into the world of the Shadowhunters, warriors who fight to rid the Earth of demons as she searches for her.  Clary knows her mother doesn't have anything to do with this world, but then why would the enemies of the Shadowhunters want her?  Clary is realizing she can see things that other people can't see, and perhaps she isn't as normal as she thought. 

I liked Clockwork Angel better, is that weird?  Maybe because when I read Clockwork Angel it seemed fresher.  Maybe if I'd read all the Mortal Instruments books first I wouldn't feel like that.  As it was, it felt like all the characters were just copies of each other (which was probably on purpose).  Will was Jace.  Tessa was Clary.  Jessamine was Isabelle, and so on.

City of Bones was one part Harry Potter and one part Star Wars.  I think this was also done knowingly, there were a number of Star Wars references.  We have an evil villain everyone who fears who wants pure bloods to rule over all.  Boo to the werewolves and vampires and fairies and so on.  Boo to Shadowhunters who marry mortals and weaken the bloodline.  It was very Voldemort.

Spoilers coming.

What is a Feminist Reader?

So remember the whole kerfuffle over Bitch Magazine's 100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader?  If not, take a look at Chasing Ray's summary.  In short, Bitch Magazine put out a list, in the comments some people felt that several books should not be on the list because of triggering concerns, and the Bitch Magazine staff removed three books, Tender Morsel by Margo Lanagan, Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce and Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott.  Then the trouble really started.  People were furious that the books had been removed, and questioned Bitch Magazine's reasoning behind that books that were on the list and those that had been removed.  This was in January.

This evening, Simmons College held a conversation entitled, "What is a Feminist Reader?"  It was moderated by Kelly Hager, Chair of the Women's & Gender Studies and there were opening remarks from Christy Lusiak, certified domestic violence and sexual abuse counselor and Lecturer in English and Women's & Gender Studies and Amy Pattee, Associate Professor of the Graduate School of Library an Information Science.  I had Amy for a number of classes and she's excellent.  Incredibly knowledgeable about the world of YA literature and whose opinion I really respect.

Waiting on Wednesday: Sign Language by Amy Ackley

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release that we're excited about.  This week I'm waiting on Sign Language by Amy Ackley.

 Twelve-year-old Abby North’s first hint that something is really wrong with her dad is how long it’s taking him to recover from what she thought was routine surgery. Soon, the thing she calls “It” has a real name: cancer. Before, her biggest concerns were her annoying brother, the crush unaware of her existence, and her changing feelings for her best friend, Spence, the boy across the street. Now, her mother cries in the shower, her father is exhausted, and nothing is normal anymore. Amy Ackley’s impressive debut is wrenching, heartbreaking, and utterly true.

I wonder why it's called Sign Language?  I'll have to wait to find out.  This sounds like a realistic look at how hard illness can be on an entire family.  It's not just that someone you love is sick, but all the effects of that as well.

Sign Language will be available August 18th.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown

Alex's mother died in a car accident when she was young, and her father's been distant ever since.  She isn't close with either of her sisters.  Luckily, she has two wonderful best friends, Zack and Bethany, and now, in her senior year of high school, Alex has met her soul mate.  Cole is sweet and romantic and understands her.  So what if he gets jealous sometimes?  So what if he likes to have her all to himself?  It's only because he loves her so much.  And then he hits her. Now Alex doesn't know what to do.

This was hard to read.  But it was hard to read because it was well done.  I was upset as I read it.  I couldn't read it before I went to bed because I couldn't stop thinking about it.  I wanted to help Alex, to rescue her somehow.  To give her a hug and say, "You poor baby."

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch

After Alex Lee's mother dies, she's forced to leave her home on a communal farm in California and move in with her wealthy grandmother who lives in Savannah.  Alex's grandmother is the head of the Magnolia League, a debutante society.  Alex is expected to join the League, but debutante societies aren't exactly her thing.  And there's something weird about the Magnolia League.  Even the women who are in their 70s look like young girls.  They're all beautiful and rich and powerful.  The Magnolia League has made a pact with a hoodoo family.  They can have all the money and power and beauty they want, but they can never leave Savannah.

So this was fine.  It is what it is.  Nothing super special, nothing super new.  An enjoyable read if you like this genre and it will be series so you can keep on reading them.  The pacing was a bit slow.  It takes Alex forever to figure out what's going on and for her grandmother and friends to clue her in.  We as the reader know what the deal is in the second chapter, and then we have to put up with Alex not figuring out what's going on until chapter 20.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How I Made it to Eighteen: A Mostly True Story by Tracy White

Stacy has some issues, which is probably why she's at Golden Meadows mental hospital. She has self-esteem issues, drug issues, trust issues, self-image issues, eating issues, relationship issues... In other words she has a lot to work on. Delving into Stacy's past through 'interviews' with her friends, flashbacks of Stacy's memories, and seeing her progression with actual nurse and therapist notes, you slowly see through the walls that Stacy has put up to keep others out and find yourself caring for a deeply troubled young woman. And bear in mind, as Tracy White puts it, all of the stories in this book are at least 95% true.

It took a while for me to get into this. You might have noticed that I'm not a 'serious issues' reader. I'm more than a little OK with admitting I generally like my stories fluffy. But this one I felt that I needed to plow through (probably to keep up with Arianna), I'm glad that I did. Stacy/Tracy's story sneaks up on you, while at first she comes across as just an angry angsty teen with ridiculous amounts of issues you slowly see how these things developed and the environment that allowed them to fester. It makes you want to sit and listen to her story for a little longer, not because you are wishing for a happy ending but rather because you care and want to sit with this character and listen as a friend. I kind of felt like the character of Stacy weaseled her way into my psyche and made me empathetic to her experience. I guess I have to give the 'serious issues' genre another chance.

We Are On Our Own by Miriam Katin

Lisa is Jewish six year old growing up in Hungary on the eve of WWII. Her mother Esther goes to great lengths to ensure their survival while Lisa's father fights in the Hungarian army. While much of this is told from Lisa's perspective, this story is really Esther's.

I find that I'm having a hard time summarizing this book. I think it's such a different perspective of the war and yet so encompassing of what people would go through to survive. Miriam Katin has done something very special with this. The character of Lisa is actually based off of Miriam Katin's own experiences during WWII, and she builds this memoir off of her own memories, the stories that she was told by her mother, and the letters shared between her mother and father. Esther was obviously a remarkable woman, which comes across so strongly through the illustrations. This is one of those times where you can't envision the book being told any other way and it having the intense impact that comes across through this book. I've read many different biographies and memoirs of WWII, and this one is definitely up the ranks with Maus by Art Spiegelman and Night by Elie Wiesel.

Festering Romance by Renee Lott

Janet is a bit socially adrift. She's not really close to anyone and doesn't choose to engage with anything around her. And really why should she? Her best friend Paul lives with her and is always there to make sure she has all the company she needs. The only problem is that Paul is a ghost, he died when they were eight and he hasn't moved on. It isn't until Janet is forced on a blind date with Derek that her perception of how she lives changes. All of a sudden she wants to connect with another person that's alive! The only problem? Derek has a ghost of his own, Carol, and Janet is having a problem confessing that Paul's still hanging around.

This story was rather sweet. I was truly drawn in to the relationship between Janet and Derek and Janet and Paul. I didn't much care for Carol, but I don't think I was intended to so that's fine. Generally this was a rather cute romance, with some actual emotional depth (shocking!) in regards to relationships romantic and platonic and how we deal with death. This could have been a rather simplistic and boring story, but it had some great little character traits, Derek is a guide on a night-time ghost tour, and the ghosts were pretty wonderful. Quick and adorable.

Waiting On Wednesday: The Lovely Shoes

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release that we're excited about.  This week I'm waiting on The Lovely Shoes by Susan Shreve.

Franny is constantly embarrassed by two things in her life. One is her right foot, which curls in from a birth defect, so she has to wear ugly, heavy orthopedic shoes. And the other is her mother Margaret: beautiful, extravagant, flamboyant -- *mortifying*, in their small Ohio town.

Franny's first school dance is a disaster, so Margaret announces her latest crazy plan: They will travel to Italy to meet Salvatore Ferragamo, who will sculpt a pair of slippers especially for Franny. The idea is outrageous. The trip is expensive.

And the experience changes Franny's life forever.  

This sounds like it will be very sweet.  The main character also has a physical disability, something that is underrepresented in middle grade and YA literature.

The Lovely Shoes will be available in June.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fray by Joss Whedon

This stand-alone story takes place in the same setting as Joss Whedon's well known series Buffy. Mel Fray has grown up in a dystopian world where social outcasts and anomalies live on the outskirts of society. Mel makes her way through life as an accomplished thief for the amphibious Gunther. It is only after the demon Urkon explains to Mel that the 'lurks' that are becoming more dangerous that Mel comes to realize her background as the Slayer. There's a problem though, Mel doesn't have the psychological characteristics that Slayers usually grow up with because Mel had a twin, a brother that was killed by vampire.

As a unapologetic Buffy and Joss Whedon fan, I really loved this. It was kind of great to see what Mr. Whedon would dream up next for the universe that he created. If you've watched any of the television series that Joss Whedon has directed/written/produced you'll recognize some of the plot and character devices that he has used in the past. Good action, great dialogue, excellent secondary characters. I also appreciated the fact that Joss Whedon requested that the main female character wasn't overly-sexualized. Good choice.

The Time-Traveling Fashionista by Bianca Turetsky

Louise Lambert loves vintage clothes.  When she gets a personal invitation to a traveling vintage fashion show, she's thrilled.  It will be the perfect place to get a dress for the 7th grade dance!  Much to Louise's surprise, when she tries on a beautiful pink dress she finds herself back in the time-period of the original dress owner.  Now Louise is on board a ship in 1912, and everyone thinks she's a movie star.  Louise is having a great time, until she discovers she's on board the Titanic...

This was very cute.  At first, I thought it was going to be another book about a tween or teenager yearning after expensive clothing and lots of brand name dropping.  It wasn't though.  Louise like vintage clothing because of the uniqueness of each individual piece.  She doesn't want to shop at the mall and buy a dress that hundreds of other people could also get.  She wants to search and find something special and think about what went in to making it and who the person was who wore it first.  So it was kind of nice.  She wasn't after what was the fanciest of most expensive.  Louise cared about the individuality and the story.

We do get some vintage clothing history, and learn some names of designers.  On board the Titanic (actually, she was really there) was designer Lady Cosmo Duff Gordon.  Louise gets to meet her and is very excited since she's read about her.  Lady Cosmo Duff Gordon is famous for saying to her secretary, as she watched the boat sink from a lifeboat, "There is your beautiful nightdress gone."

Louise has fun wearing beautiful clothing and hats from the early 1900s and having people think she's a movie star, but she learns that really she just wants to be herself.  Louise gets off the Titanic safely, don't worry.

This is going to be a series.  In the next book Louise will be going back to the French Revolution.  How far back does "vintage" go?  Louise taught me that it starts in 1980, but didn't say where it ended.  Aren't we getting into "antique" by the time we hit the French Revolution? *

The Time-Traveling Fashionista
will be available April 5th.

* tells me that "vintage" is anything that is between 20 years to 100 years old.  Anything older than that is "antique."  If it's more recent than 20 years, it's not vintage yet. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Nerds Heart YA Nominations Close Today!

Today is your last chance to nominate a book for Nerds heart YA 2011.  It must be punished between January 1 - December 31, 2010 and be written by or include a character that falls into one of the following categories:  person of color, GLBTQ, disability, mental illness, religious lifestyle, lower socioeconomic statues, or plus size.  So nominate those awesome books that don't get the attention they deserve!

Huntress by Malinda Lo

In this prequel, we return to the world Ash took place in, but many, many years before.  The world is out of balance.  Winter will not change to spring, and people are beginning to starve.  The King receives an invitation from the fairy Queen to go and speak with her. The King sends his son, Con, sage-in-training, Taisin, and the chancellor's daughter, Kaede on the journey.  Kaede isn't sure she belongs on this journey, as the only reason she is going is that Taisin had a vision that Kaede was there.  Taisin will not elaborate on her vision, and acts very strangely toward Kaede.  There seems to be something she's holding back.

I read Ash when it first came out, and it was fine but I wasn't blown away or anything.  It was interesting.  It was loosely a Cinderella story, but not completely.  Malinda Lo's worlds are full of Chinese influences and draw on the I Ching, The Book of Changes, which is a classic Chinese text.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Julia and Valentina Poole are twins and completely inseparable.  Their lives are forever changed when they receive a letter from their mother's twin, Elsepth, who they've never met.  Elsepth has died, and has left her London apartment to the twins, under the conditions that they live in it for a year before they sell it, and that their parents never set foot inside it.  Julia and Valentina settle into the apartment, and find that Elsepth is perhaps not as gone as they thought. 

This was way weird.  I didn't realize it was going to be a ghost story, so when Elsepth finds herself as a ghost floating around her flat I was surprised.  I was interested though, I wanted to know what the secret Elsepth was keeping and what the Poole twins' deal was.

Those girls were odd.  They're 21, and they still sleep in the same bed and dress alike.  They do everything together and have never been apart.  They went off to college, but Julia didn't like it and dropped out, so Valentina did too.  And then this happens twice more until Julia decided that they just weren't right for college.  Valentina clearly wanted to finish school, but she couldn't say no to Julia.

They had an interesting dynamic.  Julia was the physically stronger of the two.  She was bossy and commanding and never got sick.  Valentina was delicate and didn't like to fight and let Julia make all the decisions.  However, it was really Julia who couldn't bare to think of being apart from Valentina.  Valentina comes to realize she wants to go do her own thing; she wants to go back to school.  She wants to be a fashion designer.  But she can't figure out how to leave Julia.

Spoilers ahead.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie

Luka's father, the legendary storyteller Rashid Khalifa, has fallen asleep and no one can wake him.  The longer he sleeps, the less likely he is to ever wake up.  Luka must journey to the Magical World and steal the Fire of Life, the only thing that can save his father.  The only problem is that stealing the Fire of Life is impossible.  Luka knows he has to try though.  There isn't any other choice.

I was disappointed by this.  It's Salman Rushdie.  I was expecting something amazing.  And I was feeling kind of guilty that I wasn't enjoying it.  But now I've decided that no, I don't HAVE to like it, just because it's written by Salman Rushdie and he is awesome.  It doesn't mean that EVERYTHING he writes will be awesome.

It's All About the Money

Tell it like it is Jon Stewart.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


It's almost time for the Third Annual Battle of the Kids Books.  From SLJ.

Will Hailee Steinfeld be our Katniss?  The answer's still to early to say.  I haven't seen True Grit so I don't know how I feel about it.  Thoughts?  From Hollywood Crush.

Author Anthony Horowitz wonders What Can We Do With Children Who Don't Read.  For the most part, surround them with books, read to them, and leave them alone.  From

I didn't even know I had to worry about the YA Mafia.  But Holly Black tells me I don't need to worry at all.  That's good.  Although a lot of those YA authors do seem to be pretty tight...

Goodnight Dune.  Thanks

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

Ever since she was a little girl, Becca's grandmother, Gemma, has told her the fairy tale of Briar Rose.  When she was dying, Gemma told Becca that the story was her story.  After her death, Becca and her family realizes how very little they knew about their mother and grandmother.  They didn't even know where she'd come from, for Gemma would never talk about it.  All Becca has is a box with some pictures and newspaper clippings.  Becca is determined to find out if her grandmother was really the fairy tale princess Briar Rose.

If you're not familiar with the story of Briar Rose, it's the Sleeping Beauty story.  So you know the deal: Princess is cursed at birth to die, but instead of dying she and all her kingdom fall asleep for 100 years until a prince wakes her up with a kiss.  Roses grow around the kingdom, keeping everyone out until the 100 years are up with their thorns.  In Becca's grandmother's story, only the princess wakes up, and the rest of the kingdom keeps sleeping forever

This is a story of family and the Holocaust.  No one in the family knew that their grandmother had survived the Holocaust.  She never spoke of it.  Becca tracks her grandmother back to Poland, and the extermination camp Chelmno, where supposedly no one ever left alive.  Through a lot of luck, Becca finds someone who can tell her the story of her grandmother, and finds that her grandmother's story is the story of Briar Rose as she told it.

There are many fictional accounts of the Holocaust.  Some of them are very powerful, and others less so.  This was powerful, and approached in a very different way.  The story of Briar Rose was used as a framing device to look at the history.  It looked at regular people, not heroes.  There weren't really any heroes in this story, just regular sacred people trying to keep themselves alive.  There's little background history of the Holocaust or what was happening in Germany.  It's very focused on one single aspect.  We see resistance fighters as frustrated, suspicious and struggling.

This book that could be read in multiple ways.  There's a lot too it and a high school student could read it more deeply.  It could also be appropriate for an older middle school student, to read at face value.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bad Move, HarperCollins

Oh HarperCollins.  I'm afraid you have made a terrible, terrible mistake.  Because now you are in a fight with every single library that buys your e-books.  HarperCollins has changed its policy so that when a library buys an e-books, it will vanish after 26 check-outs.  Then the library can purchase the book again, at a slightly lower cost.  To be blunt, this is stupid and a step back.  The 26 check-outs were apparently reached as the average number of times a book circulates before it has to be withdrawn.  I would have loved to be in the room when they were working through the complex mathematical equation they used to work that one out.  A hardcover book can withstand more than 26 check-outs just fine.  Maybe not a paperback.

Also, this is dumb.  Has HarperCollins not realized yet that libraries also purchase Kindles and Nooks and whatevers and download books to them and then circulate them?  Many, many times?  More than 26 times?  What do you plan to do about that?  Or is that somehow OK?

boingboing declares that libraries shouldn't purchase HarperCollins ebooks, but also not to buy any DRM (digital rights management) media (ebooks, videos, games). This can be hard, I know.  A good start would be boycotting HarperCollins until they realize this was NOT a good idea.

I don't think this particular situation will last long.  People are pissed, and HarperCollins will probably pull back.  It was a stupid move.  Maybe it will prevent other publishing companies for making similarly stupid moves?  Only time will tell.

Waiting on Wednesday: Bumped by Megan McCafferty

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to spotlight an upcoming release that we're excited about.  This week I'm waiting on Bumped by Megan McCafferty.

  When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. Girls sport fake baby bumps and the school cafeteria stocks folic-acid-infused food. 

Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and have never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Up to now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend, Zen, who is way too short for the job. 

Harmony has spent her whole life in Goodside, a religious community, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to convince Melody that pregging for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from. 

When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common. 

Whoa.  This could be fascinating.  I really, really hope this is done well.  It could be so good.

Bumped will be available April 26th.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I am J by Cris Beam

I'm reposting this because it comes out today and it was excellent.

I got I am J, which is narrated by a trans boy, over the summer, and hadn't gotten around to reading it yet because it didn't come out until March I had plenty of time.  Then, as it got closer to March, I happen to come across a post from Megan Honig's blog.  Megan expresses her disappointment in Almost Perfect by Brain Katcher winning the Stonewall Children and Young Adult Literature Award.  She was disappointed because she felt that while Almost Perfect did some things well is giving a voice to transgender individuals, ultimately it played right into the stereotypes that surround trans men and women.  Her point was that acceptance is not enough.  I have not read Almost Perfect so I can't judge, but it made me realize that I knew pretty much nothing about transgender individuals, and if I was going to be able to truly review a book about a trans boy then I better start doing some background reading ASAP.  So I did.

Luckily for me, Megan Honig had a number of helpful links from the above post I could explore, and I picked up the book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Women on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano, which was kind of amazing.  Through it I was able to gain a better understanding of trans men and women.  None of the "man trapped in a woman's body" stuff.  People are assigned a gender at birth, and luckily for most of us that assigned gender matches our subconscious gender (these people are referred to as "cisssexuals").  It doesn't work like this for everyone, and when it doesn't there is a feeling of dissonance and wrongness.  Serano talked about her own transition, but also looked a femininity itself and feminism.  I'm not going to explain it all here, first because I want to focus on I am J, and second because I don't think I'd do her argument justice.  And so with mildly better understanding than before, I read I am J.
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