Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thanks, New Orleans

Well, we've all made it home.  We've had a fabulous time in New Orleans, not only at the conference itself, but also wandering around the French Quarter,

listening to jazz and Cajun music (this picture is from the piano bar at Pat O's),

eating interesting food (Steph is holding up her alligator sausage),

and getting to shake our heads in amazement while saying "Only in New Orleans."


Now we all need some time to recover and start reading.  Thanks for coming along with us, and you can expect lots of reviews of new and exciting books in the future!

Closing Session: Molly Shannon

The last day was yesterday! Kind of couldn't believe it. The only ALA event was the closing session, which was with actress, comedian, and now writer, Molly Shannon. The reason she was speaking at ALA is because she recently came out with a children's book called Tilly the Trickster. She didn't talk about her book right away though. First she just talked about her life.  Her mother and younger sister died in a car accident when Molly was very young, so she grew up with her older sister and her father.  She spoke very highly of her father, praising him for letting her be herself.  She had a love for singing and dancing and theater early on, and in 6th grade she joined a theater group.  She loved how affectionate the theater people were.

The Exhibits: Final Day

Oh I was good on Monday, the last day of the exhibits.  I didn't come back with a single book.  Not one!  We still saw a number of authors.

Lauren Myracle, author of many books for teens and tweens, including Love Ya Bunches.

Ingrid Law, author of Savvy and Scumble.

Waiting on Wednesday: Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

"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 Goliath by Scott Westerfeld.

Alek and Deryn are on the last leg of their round-the-world quest to end World War I, reclaim Alek's throne as prince of Austria, and finally fall in love. The first two objectives are complicated by the fact that their ship, the Leviathan, continues to detour farther away from the heart of the war (and crown). And the love thing would be a lot easier if Alek knew Deryn was a girl. (She has to pose as a boy in order to serve in the British Air Service.) And if they weren't technically enemies.

The tension thickens as the
Leviathan steams toward New York City with a homicidal lunatic on board: secrets suddenly unravel, characters reappear, and nothing is as it seems in this thunderous conclusion to Scott Westerfeld's brilliant trilogy.

So I'm not really waiting on this one, because I got the ARC from ALA, but I'm really excited about starting to read it!

Goliath comes out September 20.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The OTHER Science Fiction and Fantasy Panel

 So there were two science fiction and fantasy panels, and we went to them both.  The second one was with Brandon Sanderson and Nnedi Okorafor, who wrote Akata Witch, which I just read.  Susan Chang was moderating, and she started off talking about her personal experience with reading science fiction and fantasy and asked the writers if they thought the genre was a genre of outsiders.  Nnedi said she never thought about genre.  She read whatever was a good story.  She said she saw herself as a bit of a nerd because she liked to read so much, but she was also an athlete.  She moved between two worlds.  Brandon said he felt like an outsider until he found science fiction and fantasy and then he found a home.  He was a reluctant reader, but only because he hadn't found the right books yet.  Once he found books he loved to read, read he did.

Next the writers were asked if they thought that with the rise of Harry Potter,The Hunger Games and Twilight, were we currently in the Golden Age of fantasy?  Nnedi said it's always been the Golden Age of fantasy, but there is a strong trend right now.  Brandon talked about writing epic fantasy, and how that's actually been down while Harry Potter took off.  He hopes they'll be a rebound in epic fantasy at some point.  A reason epic fantasy might be on the decline is because it's become very generic.  It's white kids running around a sudo-medieval European country on some kind of quest.  He hopes to show readers that it doesn't always have to be the same story.

Megan asked about how heritage influenced their writing.  Nnedi grew up in the U.S. but is of Nigerian heritage and would visit Nigeria with her family.  When she writes, she writes from her roots.  Brandon tried to answer the question of why there are some many Mormon science fiction and fantasy writers.   He wasn't really sure.  He guessed that maybe it had to do with a science fiction class at Brigham Young University.  Many published science fiction authors came through Prof. Smith's class.  So perhaps it's less Mormon, but that many have this core class where there is a community of science fiction writers.

The author's talked about how libraries feature in their books, and what they're working on next.  Nnedi is working on an adult novel, two YA books, and a movie script for Who Fears Death.  Brandon is working on the final volume of The Wheel of Time series and a new YA series that will be coming out in 2012 or 2013.  I gave up on The Wheel of Time at volume seven, I think.  It started out so strong, but I felt it just got too meandery along the way.

YALSA Klatch

Arianna and I decided to go to the YALSA hosted coffee klatch on Sunday. It's kind of like speed dating authors. We sat at a table and an author would come sit with us for about five minutes. The authors included:

Alden Bell, Ilsa Bick, Franny Billingsley, Selene Castrovilla, Lucy Christopher, Cassandra Clare, Amanda Cockrell, Matt Dembicki, Sarah Dessen, Beth Fehlbaum, Alex Flinn, Chris Grabenstein, Claudia Gray, John Green, Julie Halpern, Steve Hamilton, Jenny Han, Jeff Hirsch, Valerie Hobbs, Ellen Hopkins, Maureen Johnson, Brian Katcher, James Kennedy, A.S. King, James Klise, Cynthea Liu, Joe Lunievicz, Carolyn Mackler, Lish McBride, Catherine Gilbert Murdock, Lauren Myracle, Jim Ottaviani, Bobbie Pyron, Cheryl Rainfield, Leila Sales, Marcus Sedgwick, Medeia Sharif, Maggie Stiefvater, Paul Volponi, and Blythe Woolston

Anna makes an impression...

On Saturday I woke up with no voice, it was COMPLETELY GONE. This was quite a conundrum as Ari and I were supposed to be giving our presentation on Sunday. We tried not to panic and I because a mute for the next 36 hours.

We went to a session with William Joyce speaking, which Jamie is writing about, afterward we were given his new book and he signed it. I had spent the last eight hours mouthing words to Jamie, Alana, and Arianna. Or snapping, clapping my hands, tapping on tables, or trying to 'shout' psst at them to get their attention. So we waited in line, me with Arianna (who happened to be the worst at reading lips), and let her know prior to us getting up to William Joyce what I wanted to say. We get up to William Joyce and I wave at him and he gives me a strange look. So I start snapping at Arianna so she can translate. William Joyce then proceeds to giggle at me for the rest of the time that I am standing in front of him. I wish I can giggle with him, except for my vow of silence. All I can say is that I hope I was memorable for him.

I was super excited to have Gail Carriger sign my book. Once again, if you haven't read her series I strongly suggest you do . As in I am commanding you to stop reading this blog and get her books and read them until you are finished with them all and then come back to this post. Go. Ok so we got in line and one of the publishers remembered me and had talked to Gail about me! How exciting! I proceeded to mouth things to her, fortunately Alana was there to translate. She then told me that she hoped I found my voice, which I am sure is why I got my voice back in time for the presentation. Thank you Gail.

So at least my lack of voice made me memorable. Though it caused some undue stress and panic. William, Gail, and I are now BFFs. Kind of like how I am Lane Smith's biggest friend.

Speaker Series: William Joyce

William Joyce, children's author/illustrator, gave a great talk on Saturday afternoon basically promoting his latest project.

Joyce is probably most famous for his book and television series Rolie Polie Olie, but at ALA he was talking about his latest series, which will not only be a series of picture books it will also be an animated film. Joyce is working with Dreamworks on the production. The Guardians of Childhood are the stories and mythologies behind some major childhood legends. The characters who are the "Guardians" include Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny (E. Aster Bunny), the Tooth Fairy, Jack Frost, and the Man in the Moon. They band together to protect the world from their and every child's nemesis, the Boogeyman.

The premise of this picture book series and film is not only precious, but brilliant in my opinion. These are the characters that so many of us grew up believing in -- and for Joyce to want to create and tell the stories of the origins of these characters is truly imaginitive. He said that he wanted to answer the myriad of questions kids ask about the why and how of Santa, the tooth fairy, Easter bunny, etc. that parents just don't have answers to in many cases.

He told endearing stories about painting tiny footprints in his kids' rooms (proof that the tooth fairy entered and exited according to the family's myth) and about digging a hole in the back yard each Easter because how else would a giant bunny travel from house to house leaving baskets for all of the children?!

Joyce also showed a preview of the Guardians film and gave us all a copy the first picture book, The Man in the Moon. It seems like an excellent project and these wandering librarians were certainly impressed by Joyce's ingenuity and his creative comeback (he hasn't published in more than 10 years), mostly, according to him, because he must have been developing these characters. Well done, Mr. Joyce.

Science fiction and fantasy panel

LITA (Libraries and information technology association) hosted a panel with the theme of the role of technology in the future seen through the lens of fantasy and science fiction. David Weber, Bill Willingham, Carrie Vaughn, Jon Scalzi, Orson Scott Card, Jim Ottaviani, and Gail Carriger were going to be speaking. We were SUPER excited that Gail Carriger was going to be there, she was adorably outfitted and was a visual delight.

I'm going to go through the speakers as they spoke and give a quick overview.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Newbery Caldecott Wilder Awards Banquet

The second our presentation was done, I had to do a quick change and dash off to the Newbery Caldecott Wilder banquet.  It was at the New Orleans Marriott.  There are so many Marriott's in this place.  In the morning I was at the JW Marriott, and then our presentation was in the Marriott at Convention Center, and banquet was in the New Orleans Marriott.  Very confusing.

First there was cocktails, where there was some quality people watching to do.  Just before 6:45, people started lining up at the door to the ball room, which I thought was odd because you have an assigned table.  Maybe teachers and librarians just naturally make lines.  Unless there are free books involved, then there's a riot.

The banquet was nice, although in the future, I'd really be fine skipping that part and just coming to listen to the speeches.  I keep Kosher and am lactose intolerant, so I needed a vegan meal BUT I'd neglected to check in at the table by the door, which I hadn't even noticed, so I didn't have a colored piece of paper that said "vegan" on it so they refused to give me a vegan meal.  So that was annoying.  I had to go find someone in charge (along with a whole bunch of other people who also hadn't realized you needed a color piece of paper) to get a colored piece of paper so I could have dinner.  It was nice dinner once I got it, it was just a pain.  Then I had to go through it all again for dessert.  I ended up with a fruit plate big enough for five people.

But what it's really about is the speeches.  First up was the Caldecott Medal, which went to Erin E. Stead for A Sick Day for Amos McGee.  She was adorable and totally overwhelmed.  She talked about how she had lost faith in her drawing, and hadn't done anything in three years.  Than her husband introduced her to this project, and she started again.  It was a very sweet speech.

Winner of the Newbery Medal was Clare Vanderpool, for her very first book, Moon Over Manifest.  She was very funny.  She talked about how a sense of home was very important to her, and that's reflected in her book.  She talked about her struggles as a writer, and all the novels she wrote before she got this one published.  It must be something to have your first ever book win the Newbery or Caldecott.  It was Erin's first book too.  Clare told us about her reaction to winning the award. "Someone recently asked me if winning the Newbery is like having a baby.  It's like having a baby if you didn't know you were pregnant."

Every two years, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Lifetime Achievement Award is given.  This year, it went to Tomie dePaola.  He talked about his life and how from a very young age he knew he want to be an artist and draw picture books.  Also to sing and dance on the stage.  Tomie dePaola is so warm and funny.  It was just wonderful to hear him talk.  He was having a party when he got the phone call that he'd won the award.  "I told the committee their taste was impeccable.  Then I had to keep it a secret until the next day.  I wanted to run back to the party and say 'drinks on the house!'"

School Library Journal did a nice write up on the banquet if you'd like some more details. I had a very nice time, but I think next time just speeches.

Great Graphic Novels for Girls Presentation!

We did it!  After a million years of preparation and Anna LOSING HER VOICE the day before, it was time for the presentation.  It went awesome.  I'm really happy with how it went and so happy that Anna was able to talk!  She's a trooper.  Things were a little disorganized, although it is the first time that YALSA was doing anything like this.  Hopefully next year things will be a little better.  There was something going on in the room we were supposed to be in right before, so they were still setting up at 4.  We started 15 minutes late, and there was some confusion as to where our handouts and things were.  Don't worry, they found them. 

Once things got going, it went very well.  We gave our presentation four times, and we had a group all four times and people were interested and receptive.  We got cut short during the fourth time, since we'd started late and someone else was using the room right after us.  A lot of people picked up our handout and business card, even though they didn't have time to hear us speak.

Yay us!  Man, I can't believe that we did it and it's over!  We will continue to add to and update our Great Graphic Novels for Girls web site, so let us know if you have suggestions!  We're thinking about starting one for middle grades too.

Exhibits: Day Three

I did MUCH better at the exhibits on the third day.  I have way too many books already, so I went after specific things I wanted and didn't take anything else.  I was very good.  Really. ARCs I'm excited about: Steampunk!  An anthology of fantastically rich and strange stories edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant; Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham; Wisdom’s Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock; Wonder  Struck by Brian Selznick; A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness; The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson; The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler.  OK fine.  I still got a lot of stuff even when I'm being systematic about it.  I also stopped by the graphic novel area, where Dave Roman was, author of Agnes Quill.  I told him how Anna and I were going to do a presentation on graphic novels for girls and his book was our mystery pick.  He was very pleased.  And then he gave me a copy and signed it!  Very sweet.

Author run down!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Random House Fall Book Buzz

Anna and I attended the Random House Fall Book Buzz to hear about upcoming titles that will be out this Fall. There were a number that I thought sounded good:

Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto. A widow is surprised when a man who looks exactly like her husband shows up at her door. She goes on a journey to find that she might not be a widow after all.

The Twelfth Enchantment by David Liss. This one sounded like lots of fun. It takes place in Regency England and sounds like a great mix of historical fiction and fantasy.

The Language of Flowers by Venessa Diffenbaugh. A young women who lives on the street and knows the Victorian language of flowers helps others with the flowers she chooses for them. Then a stranger helps her to question what's missing from her life.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. A circus arrives in town without warning. It will soon be the site of a dual between two magicians. They don't know it, but only one can survive. And they've fallen in love.

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel. Steampunk! Zombies! Dystopia! I will definitely have to check this one out.

Marzi by Marzena Sowa. An autobiographical graphic novel about Sowa's life growing up in Poland.

So it was good, but then it ended and they had a bunch of ARCs in the corner and a crazy swarm of librarians descended upon them. The only one I wanted was Marzi. But I found myself trapped against the table and I couldn't get out. It was starting to hurt and I decided that being crushed to death at the Random House Fall Book Buzz was not how I wanted to die. So hopped up on the table, crawled down the length and climbed off at the other side. Sometimes drastic steps must be taken to get away from crazed librarians around free books. Scary.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day Two: The Exhibits

We came in with a plan.  The plan was to be VERY CHOOSY when we were in the exhibit hall, because we have to fly home and there's only so much we can take.  Guess how well that worked?  Yeah.  Not very.  We have no self control when it comes to new, shiny, free books.  None at all.  I didn't do so badly yesterday.  I kept it to seven.  This morning...well.  I don't want to talk about it.  Anna and my prized ARC, much like last year, is Goliath by Scott Westerfeld. 

Author run-down!

ALA: Opening Session

After an hour of thank yous, we finally got to our opening speaking, who was Dan Savage. He spoke about the It Gets Better Project, which he said relates to libraries because it's about information and access, things that are near and dear to our librarian hearts.

Dan explained why it was difficult for his parents when he came out. It didn't just mean he was gay. It meant he would never marry, never have children,never be a marine. Although he noted that he could be a marine now, but has no interest in it. He does a lot of speaking at universities, but realized that where he really needed to be speaking was at middle schools and high schools. Places, of course, he would never be permitted to speak. Dan then realized that in the age of YouTube,he didn't NEED to wait for permission. He could just do it. So he and his husband decided to start a YouTube channel that would tell young people not about the bullying, but about the joy. That there was something to look forward too.

Dan spoke some about how joy isn't always easy to talk about. First of all, he's Catholic, and if God hears you tailing about joy he'll take it from you. Dan and his husband found how difficult it was to focus on the joy when they did their first take of the video. They found they were talking about their bullying experiences, not the joy. So they tried again. They asked other people to make their own it gets better videos, and hoped they would get 100. By the end of the week, they had 650, which was the limit for a new YouTube channel user. Then a Google engineer dumped it up so they could have 5,000, and more and more came in of people sharing their stories.

Dan has an It Gets Better book coming out. He said, "I'm a print guy. I think books are magic." He knows how to get librarians to applaud. He wants to challenge schools with the book, to have it on the shelves, to talk about it, since schools are the sites of most of the bullying that goes on.

Librarians are doing something very similar to what Dan did. We help kids find the books they need, whether their parents want them to read those books or not.

Dan was really excellent. He was funny and engaging and sincere. A good start to the conference!

Friday, June 24, 2011

We have landed!

We are finally here in New Orleans. After being awake since five this morning we have made the hike to the conference hall(though it's really more like a small city), and are now sitting at the opening session. We are listening to the ALA president thank pretty much the entire world for making this happen. We walked in on a weird music video that seemed very creative but kind of crazy. More later!

P.S. Send out good karma my way, it seems I am losing my voice and Arianna and I have our presentation Sunday! Eep!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Sunny was born in New York, but when she was nine, she and her family moved back to Nigeria.  Sunny loves Nigeria, but she doesn't always fit in well.  Sunny is albino.  She can also see things others can't.  When Sunny is 12, she learns from her friends Orlu and Chichi that she's a Leopard Person, a person with magical abilities, like they are.  Not only does she have magical abilities, but she's also a "free agent," which is very rare indeed.  Sunny must keep her powers secret from her family, even as she learns how to control her magic.  It becomes difficult when the elders send her and her friends on a very dangerous mission.

Harry Potter in Nigeria!  OK, not exactly like Harry Potter, but you kind of can't help noticing the similarities.  Sorry, all other fantasy books with kids discovering they have magical powers.  You will forever be compared to Harry Potter.

The magic, however, was totally different from the world of Harry Potter.  Remember how excited I was when I read The Shattering because it took place in Australia and hurray for a book being somewhere other than the U.S. or U.K.?  Same deal here.  We're in a completely different culture, and the magic fits with the culture and history of the country.  So instead of wands, they have juju knives.  They have spirit faces, that show their true selves, and the good and the evil are all based on Nigerian and African stories and folklore, so that was really cool.

It was also interesting to see how children are treated in different cultures.  Harry and company would have gotten into such trouble in Nigeria.  Children are expected to be seen and not heard.  They are not suppose to question their elders.  When they do something against the rules, they can be beaten.  Very, very different.  I totally understood Sunny's frustration, when she's trying to figure out what on Earth is going on, and no one will tell her anything!  So annoying!  The older people seemed to have very little regard for the children, even when they're asking them to do dangerous things that no one else can do.  You're sending children off to almost certain death, the least you can do is give them a little background.  Damn.

There's a section in the middle when Sunny and friends go to see a Leopard Person wrestling match, and then play soccer that I didn't feel like connected to the rest of the story and slowed things down a lot for me.  Otherwise, moved right along with the magic and danger and kids saving the world.

Steampunk Prime: A Vintage Steampunk Reader edited by Mike Ashley

Steampunk stories from before the age of computers and spaceships.  And electricity, in some cases.  This is book of short steampunk stories written between 1880 and 1914.

In the introduction, Mike Ashley talks about how we think of steampunk as a more modern creation, a reimagining of history.  But steampunk was being written during the time period that modern steampunk so often reimagines.  It was fascinating to read these stories before all kinds of scientific advances had been made.  And it's funny, what we imagine today really wasn't all that different from what was being imagined in 1880.  Space travel, flying cars, robots (only they weren't called robots, they were called automatons), being able to preserve people and then wake them up hundreds of years later. All that stuff that steampunk and science fiction write about to this very day.  Hmm.  Maybe we haven't come so far after all.  Oh, and airships.  There MUST be airships, it's an unwritten rule.

Some of the stories I found totally boring, and some I thought were more straight science fiction than steampunk, but all in all it was really interesting to read.  If you're a steampunk lover, I'd definitely say check it out.


It's finally been revealed what J.K. Rowling's new website is all about. The first 1000 people to sign up get a first chance peak at the end of July and it will be opened up for the rest of the world in Oct. I guess she's going to be self-publishing and selling the series online as e-books and the website will also be a cross between a social network and an interactive game. Huh. Obviously I'll be checking it out. I hope you will to. Here's an article to find out some more information.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

"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 Always a Witchby Carolyn MacCullough.

The adventures of Tam and Gabriel continue with more time travel, Talents, spy work, and of course, the evil Knights.

Since the gripping conclusion of On
ce A Witch, Tamsin Greene has been haunted by her grandmother's prophecy that she will soon be forced to make a crucial decision—one so terrible that it could harm her family forever. When she discovers that her enemy, Alistair Knight, went back in time to Victorian-era New York in order to destroy her family, Tamsin is forced to follow him into the past. Stranded all alone in the nineteenth century, Tamsin soon finds herself disguised as a lady's maid in the terrifying mansion of the evil Knight family, avoiding the watchful eye of the vicious matron, La Spider, and fending off the advances of Liam Knight. As time runs out, both families square off in a thrilling display of magic. And to her horror, Tamsin finally understands the nature of her fateful choice. Summary from Goodreads.

As you might have remembered, I reviewed Once a Witch, the first of this series a while ago. It was engaging, entertaining, and simply put ridiculously well done. I'm interested to see what's going on with Liam Knight and how her choice plays into all of this. I'm pretty sure that it's going to be awesome regardless. Side-note, I love this cover. Always a Witch comes out Aug. 1.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

ALA 2011 Annual Conference: NEW ORLEANS!!!

Who's got eight thumbs and is going to New Orleans? WE DO!!!!

There's only a few more days until the four of us are going down to the conference and having a fabulous time in New Orleans. We're very excited. Bring on the speakers, book cart drills, and ARCs. Especially the ARCs.

Heads up! If you or someone you know is going, make sure that you stop by the YALSA Tabletalks on Sunday from 4-5:30pm. Arianna and I are going to be doing a presentation on graphic novels for girls. It's called "Beyond Wonder Woman: Great Graphic Novels for Girls." I think we're going to try and get someone to record us, so we'll try and post it on here at some point.

Anyways, try to check us out. There's a couple other great sounding presentations going on. We'll be in the Marriott at Convention Center, in the Blaine-Kern Room from 4:00 pm-5:30 pm on Sunday. I wonder if they know what they'll be getting themselves into?

Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter

Kat has been busy since the Henley job. She's been single-handedly stealing back the pieces of art that were taken from Jews during WWII. She's left behind her crew, her family, and the boy. It's all so much easier when she has to rely solely on herself. That is until she gets back from a job in Moscow, and is conned by another thief. Suddenly she must not only try and steal a cursed emerald twice but also deal with all the emotions that she thought she had outrun.

Have I mentioned that I have an abiding love for witty heist television? Really like Hustle and LOVE the show Leverage. I just can't help myself, they're so exciting and funny! Which is why I've loved this series so far. This is the second book in a series call Heist Society. The first was called Heist Society, and it was generally about Kat getting back on the thieving horse after being out for a while, and doing an impossible job while staying ahead of Interpol and a shady business man. Awesome. This is about her dealing with the issues of getting back in the game and with the people that know her best. Because even as Kat builds a reputation of being able to pull off the impossible and forbidden, she's really a very emotionally stunted girl. So it's good she has family to rely on to steer her in the right direction and save her when she can't save herself.

This is kind of a short review, mostly because there really isn't anything to say about this book other than it's fantastic and you should go read it now. BECAUSE IT'S AWESOME! It's summer, this book is entertaining and won't make you think too hard. So go. Do it. Read this book.

Spell Checkers by Jamie S. Rich, Nicolas iItori De, Joelle Jones

Jesse, Kimmie, and Cynthia have rules the school for as long as anyone can remember. They are perfect, smart, and have enough attitude and hate for their fellow man to make most superhero villains seem like amateurs. This could be because these three girls are witches, and they use their black magic to live the easy life. Until one day a graffiti artist starts tearing apart the girls' reputations. They are losing control of the sheep that some would call their peers and their powers are diminishing. *GASP!* As the bullying of the bullies gets worse, the girls start to turn on each other and things start becoming less perfect.

The characters in this book remind me of the characters in the Gossip Girl books (I haven't watched the TV series so I can't comment if they're similar, I know I can't believe it either). They are mean, spiteful, hateful, and beyond redemption. And they don't care, which perversely kind of delights me. They don't care that they've done horrible things, they don't care that they step all over the little people, the only thing that they care about is that they've got it made. No apologies. It helps that they happen to be clever, not book smart but clever. So when they eventually figure out what's going on, their revenge is kind of awesome.

I'm not going to say that I loved this, it had some things that were fine. The whole bitch thing got kind of old though. No qualities that made me like them enough to share in their gloat at the end. Do I think some people will read it and become addicted to it? Yes. Was that me? No.

J.K. Rowling has an announcement!

The author of one of the beset series in the history of books has decided to make an announcement. There's a countdown video on her YouTube channel. Go for the announcement, stay for the owls.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Nerds Heart YA: The Decision

Anna and I had no trouble deciding between A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend and Summer Song.  We both LOVED  Love Story, and were disappointed with Summer Song

Summer Song told the story of a romance between two boys, but almost exclusive focused on their sexual relationship.  While I certainly see the value in depicting a realistic and honest sexual relationship between two boys, I wanted more than just that.  There was little plot outside of them meeting and then beginning their relationship.

Love Story also told the story of a romantic relationship, this one between two girls, but there was so much more depth to it.  The characters were complex, and there was much more to the story then just their romance.  It dealt with love and loss, forgiveness and hope. 

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend moves on to the second round!  I hope it makes it to the finals!

Nerds Heart YA: Summer Song by Louise Blaydon

This is the second of two books Arianna and I are judging for the Nerds Heart YA contest. Stay tuned for our decision!

Billy is the epitome of awesome: remarkably handsome, smart, charming, and captain of the football team. He liked the ladies, and the ladies loved him. That is until the summer before his senior year 1955. His best friend Kit is gone for the summer, and he's filling this void by befriending the new kid in town, Lenny. Lenny is introverted, intellectual, and has a certain flair that draws Billy. And as the summer progresses, the two boys realize that what they're experiencing goes beyond friendship, they need one another. This is especially true when the school year starts and they must strive to hide their budding relationship from everyone.

I need to make this statement before we start the overall review: I did not think this was a young adult book. If it had been a young adult book there would be different critiques and accolades. I'd like to remind everyone just because teens are the main characters, doesn't mean it's a young adult book. I explain myself later in the review. So now let the rest of the review commence:

Nerds Heart YA: A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner

This is one of two books Anna and I are judging for the Nerds Heart YA contest. 

Cass has never been one of the drama people. She only hung out with them because of her best friend Julia. But Julia died in a car accident, and the drama people are determined to put on the show Julia was working on: Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad. Cass is working on the set now, but she wasn't on board from the start. First it took a cross-country bike trip with Julia's ashes to figure out what she needed to do.

Loved. This. So much. I loved the story, I loved the characters, I loved the voice it was told in, just loved it. I loved the idea of going on a cross-country bike ride to find yourself, with your dead best friend's ashes because you just can't work on her Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad musical, which, by the way, is the most awesome title of any musical. Heart.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Britney Spears and The Hunger Games

Luke Conard and Whitney Miam mashed up  the Britney Spears' “I Wanna Go” with the plot of Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games in a parody song.

Happy Father's Day!

In honor of fathers everywhere, I'm writing a review of a book that's very near and dear to my heart. Reading with Dad was published a while ago, it's kind of hard to find now, but I love everything about it. You see, it was written by my dad.

Obviously it's about the experience I had reading with my dad while growing up, it's written entirely in verse, and it makes me smile every time I read it. If you can get your hands on it, flip through it or better yet buy it! A little nepotism never hurt anyone, right? So any and all fathers out there who happen upon this blog, I hope you read to your kids. They'll probably end up being awesome librarians who plug your book.


If you've been checking out our blog the last week you'll have noticed that we've taken down two posts. Unfortunately Arianna and I posted our reviews for the Nerds Heart YA contest early. They'll go up again on Monday with our pick.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Shattering by Karen Healey

Keri's brother killed himself.  There was no warning and there was no note.  Keri and her family are devastated, but then Keri's childhood friend Janna tells her that her brother's death was murder, not suicide.  Janna and her friend Sione also lost a brother to suicide under similar circumstances, and Sione has noticed a pattern.  Every year, a boy dies.  He's always an older brother, and each boy spent New Year's in Summerton, Keri and Janna's home.  Keri, Janna and Sione begin to search for the killer, and doing so they discover the reason why things in Summerton always seem so perfect.

I liked lots of things about this one.  First off, it's set in New Zealand.  It was so nice to read something that wasn't in either the US or the UK.  It made me realize that's where almost every single YA book takes place.  It was refreshing and interesting to have a setting someplace I wasn't familiar with.  Someplace where it's summer on New Year's and things that are regular to the characters are new and exciting for me.  So that was really fun.

The book switched in perspective among the three main characters, which is some books is confusing and annoying but in this case worked very well.  Interestingly, Keri was the only one whose sections were in first person; the others were in third person.  That was a little jolting sometimes, but it emphasised that it was really her story, even though all three characters are dealing with the deaths of their bothers and trying to figure out what happened.

I also really liked that the book told me what happened after all the dramatic stuff was over.  And that things didn't magically fix themselves.  There were the everyday struggles that had to be gone through that come with loosing someone loved, and I'm glad that that was there.

It's hard to talk about anything else without ruining the book, so you've been warned.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Because Harry Potter News Should Never Die...

Anyone hear about the new website that J.K. Rowling has posted? It hasn't been launched yet, but there's rumors floating about and there's some feedback from a couple of fan websites who got a preview. What could it be? I have to admit that I'm hoping it'll be something of a summary of what happened to all the characters after book seven. That would be nice.

P.S. I got this image from Harry Potter's Place. I think this is a fantastic pic and couldn't post it without letting you all know.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

"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 Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare.

In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.

With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that
shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.

Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, but her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will—the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?

As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.
(Summary from Goodreads)

I LOVE CASSANDRA CLARE. She can do no wrong for me. I was absolutely bowled over with her first series, The Mortal Instruments, and was even more impressed with Clockwork Angel. She is a force of nature. I know this isn't out for a while, but I need to make sure that if you haven't read her first series, that you catch up before this one comes out. (I'm not so secretly hoping I get it an ARC at the ALA Conference)

Clockwork Prince comes out Dec. 6, 2011. YAY!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson

It seems as if things are coming together for Claire, she's just turned sixteen, her birthday party is setting her up to actually be semi-popular/normal, and her long-time crush Matthew seems to be interested in her. Of course just as things seem to be going so well, it all goes to hell in a hand basket. Claire discovers that she's a werewolf and her emotionally distant mother now has high expectations for Claire's entry into the pack. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad if there hadn't been the recent murders committed by a werewolf in the town, maybe Claire could cope if she weren't dating the son of the scientist saying he is going to 'cure' the werewolf and rid the city of its menace, maybe she would feel better about this new phase in her life if her mother weren't keeping secrets. But let's be honest, probably not.

I love a good werewolf romance. The general balance between violence and love. Good times. And here I was with a book that had a new spin: the werewolf was a girl in this book and that she seemed to think for herself. There were a ton of elements that could've made this original. But it kind of wasn't. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't awesome. It kind of felt like eating fast food, it sounded like a good idea at the time but afterward you realize that it didn't really satisfy you and now you feel like you could've found something better.

Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

Lissa is tired of being second to her football playing boyfriend's rivalry with the soccer team.  So are all the other girlfriends.  Lissa has a plan: a sex strike.  The boys won't be getting any make-out time from the girls until they officially end the rivalry.  It seems like a great idea, until the boys fight back.

So it was like Lysistrata, only instead of ending the Peloponnesian War, it was sports.  I really liked it.  And I appreciated that Lysistrata is mentioned.  Lissa didn't get the idea from reading the play, but one of the boys, Cash, brings it up.  And it wasn't a clunky reference either.  It was well integrated. 

While for the most part this was pretty light, as the sex strike goes on, the girls have some good discussions about what's expected of them, and how they feel about sex.  They don't come to any dramatic conclusions, but I think it's good for those kinds of things to be voiced. 

Lissa's best friend, Chloe, has a reputation as a slut because she enjoys sex and isn't shy about letting people know it.  There's a boy counterpart to Chloe, Shane, but he isn't looked down on and called a slut.  Why can boys have lots of sex and it's OK but girls can't?  Girls aren't suppose to want to have sex, but if they don't, then they're a prude or a cock tease.  So girls can't like it too much, or initiate it, or admit that they want it, but they also can't...not want it.  Yeah, it's pretty confusing girls.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec

There is a monster terrorizing Paris. With the masses in uproar, journalists are providing a heft reward for proof of the pterodactyl that is killing at random. Adele is on her way to take a picture of it and claim the reward... or is she? As allies are turning up dead and no one is as they seem, will Adele get what she wants or will her hopes be crushed?

I really enjoyed this graphic novel. The plot is super fast paced, and nothing is as it seems. I've only really given the summary of the first volume Pterror Over Paris, but the story continues in The Eiffel tower Demon. Adele is a driven, hard, and a bit of a bitch (in a good way), I love the fact that she's completely in control of what she wants and how she'll get it. Everything is so frenetic! Everything is connected, which just makes the mystery even better.

I have two complaints about this piece:
1. I had a hard time identifying who was who because the men all tended to look the same. Big nose, squinty eyes, 50-50 chance of mustache.
2. This is originally published in France, so the next two volumes aren't out until August. Lame. I want to know what happens next NOW.

Get it. Read it. Love it.

Lenore: Noogies by Roman Dirge

As a child Lenore was quite adorable. Unfortunately she grew quite ill and died. Fortunately she rose from the dead, but was quite changed by the experience. It seems that whatever crosses her path meets an unfortunate demise - intentional or not.

is a compilation of the first four issues of this series, which was written seventeen years ago. It starts out as a 'series of short character gag stories' and progressed into a fully developed storyline. (I'm essentially spitting out exactly what I've read in Roman Dirge's introduction)

I have to give warning that this is not for the faint of heart, or at least a heart that doesn't have a bit of a twisted sense of humor. If you're into dead baby jokes you'll find this quite hilarious (and I know of a few people that do so don't scoff). But honestly this is a very funny book, dark twists on nursery rhymes and funny random vignettes. This is pretty awesome.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Because I Love a Good Kerfuffle...

And also love any excuse to use the word "kerfuffle."

This just in!  YA literature is destroying the children!  Again.  It all started on June 4, when Meghan Cox Gurdon of The Wall Street Journal wrote this amazingly ill-informed article.  In a nutshell: YA literature is too dark and violent and actually encourages children to self-harm.  Will no one think of the children?!

The Internet struck back in full force!  Mary Elizabeth Williams of Salon wrote a thoughtful rebuttal, as did Vulture and lots and lots of bloggers and writers.  Bookshelves of Doom has a nice roundup of posts.  And Judy Blume, ever adorable, tweeted this reply to being named a symbol of virtue in children's writing.  Judy Blume is, of course, one of the most banned writers ever.

Waiting on Wednesday: First Day on Earth by Cecil Casterllucci

"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 First Day on Earth by Cecil Casterllucci.

A startling, wonderful novel about the true meaning of being an alien in an equally alien world.

We are specks. Pieces of dust in this universe. Big nothings.

I know what I am.

Mal lives on the fringes of high school. Angry. Misunderstood. Yet loving the world -- or, at least, an idea of the world.

Then he meets Hooper. Who says he's from another planet. And may be going home very soon. 

Intriguing!  I like the juxtaposition of a kid being an outcast because he's different and someone who may be an actual alien.

First Day on Earth comes out November 1.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Changeover by Margaret Mahy

Bopping around different blogs from "Waiting on Wednesday," I stumbled upon a delightful post on Anna Reads where Cassandra Clare wrote about her top five literary crushes. I love that she has a bit of a running throughout the list: blonde, sarcastic, and emotionally fragile. The Changeover fascinated me as I had never heard of it before, and it took place in New Zealand.

Laura Chant is a fourth year former (meaning she's fourteen) and gets through life with her scatterbrained mother Kate and adorable baby brother Jacko. While times are always financially lean and Laura is dealing with the emotional backlash of her father leaving the family, she is also relatively happy. The three of them have a system that makes Laura feel secure, and allows her to brush off her 'inklings,' i.e. premonitions, as something to hunker down for but otherwise survive. Everything seems to be following its usual course until Kate meets a nice Canadian, and things start progressing quickly. Added onto that a scummy antiques dealer Carmody Braque stamps her little brother and starts sucking the life force out of him.

As life seems to be falling apart Laura turns to Sorry Carlisle, a boy she doesn't really speak to yet has a hypersensitivity to and happens to be a witch. Laura hopes that he will be able to save Jacko, but it seems that to save her little brother she must be willing to become a witch and all the mysteries that entails.

I really really really liked this book. It took me a little while to get into. I didn't know it was set in New Zealand at first, and therefore the different slang and terms took a little getting used to. I think I loved the reality of how certain themes were dealt with, such as sex and divorce, perfunctory and yet also with care. The plot was sometimes a little spotty, and I'm not 100% sure why Laura and Sorry have decided that they are definitely getting married in the future, but truth be told I don't care. The emotions rang true for me and I really loved the characters. As in I hope someday to have a son and he will turn out just like Jacko.

The emotions were all dealt with so well: the nuances of anxiety about Jacko's impending death, Laura's unmade feeling at the beginning and her slow completion at the end, Sorry's obvious love for Laura and his hiding it behind sarcasm and wit. Fantastic! Does it make up for the fact that some plot things felt a bit rushed and I wasn't all that aware of Carmody Braque the villain? Yep. The one major complaint I have is the cover. Ew. They did redo it to something more palatable, but I had to show you this one because I thought it was kind of hilarious. Now go forth and read.
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