Greetings! Are you a book lover, a teenager, a school librarian? If you answered “Yes” to any of these, then this is the place for you! I am a middle school librarian, a book lover and a fan of teenagers of all sorts. As a book lover and librarian, I read and read and read all kinds of young adult novels. As a fan of teenagers, I want to impart the love of reading by sharing the books that I’ve read…the good, the bad and the ugly! On this, my home page, you will find my rants and ravings about books, my favorite (or despised) characters, and confessions (see below) about my reading habits. I hope you find something to enjoy on my page!
Want to be come a reviewer for a magazine?
VOYA, Voice for Youth Advocates, is a journal that librarians and other educational professionals use to order books that their students will enjoy. They are always looking for young reviewers, aged 12-18, to write reviews of young adult novels. There is some training you need to do but, once that’s complete, you are on your way to becoming a professional reviewer!!! It’s a great feeling seeing something you write in print and know that others are reading your work! I used to review for Library Media Connection journal and it was a thrill to see my name in right there in black and white! If you are interested, head over the the VOYA teen reviewers page and read the instructions for contacting the magazine. If you are accepted, please let me know and I will feature an article about you on this wiki!!! BTW, you don’t have to be from the U.S. to participate! Many YA authors are from all over the world so having teen reviewers from other places would make sense, as well!
Some really great teen writing!!!
To carry on with a theme…I ran across another article in VOYA about a county in Washington State that hosts a Teen Arts Contest. Teens from grades 7-12 submit poetry, short stories, drawings or Manga and are judged by local professionals (artists and authors). There are first, second and third place winners that are featured on the web site and published in a book, which is available in pdf format. I read through them all and was blown away by the quality of the student’s work! It was powerful and some of these kids could easily have a future in their chosen art. If you are a teenager and want some encouragement to write or draw, read through these entries and be inspired!
More Interesting Stuff…
If you’ve read my stuff before, you know that I am not a great fan of nonfiction, particularly biographies but I’m reading one now that I just have to rave about!!! I’m about 3/4 of the way through Delivering Happiness: a path to profits, passion and purpose by Tony Hsieh and I am absolutely loving it. For those of you who don’t know, Tony Hsieh is the CEO of Zappos, one of my favorite shopping spots. His journey to Zappos is documented in this, his autobiography. It’s an amazing story and I found myself laughing out loud many, many times. Tony’s and Zappos philosophy could easily be adapted tp any business or, in my case, any school, if they were serious enough about customer/student satisfaction. I especially love the story of how their core values list came about and how it became a way of life for Zappos. It’s not just a list to be posted on the office wall. It morphed out of conversations with their employees and amongst their leadership. They have created and become a culture in and of themselves. That culture is all about growth, but not just for the company and its bottom line. For example, “Be adventurous, Creative and Open-minded” is core value 4 and is great advice for personal development as well as for a company. Core value 3 is another favorite…”Create Fun and a Little Weirdness.” I appreciate anyone who extols weirdness and fun as a core value!!! The example for this one is a instant message conversation between a customer and a Zappos phone operator (p. 166-168)…if you aren’t laughing by the second line of the conversation, you should get your funny bone checked ’cause something’s wrong!!! If you are looking for an inspiring read, this is it! Now, go visit Zappos for an awesome shopping experience!!!
In this week’s People in the “5 Things to Watch This Week” they’ve chosen a Disney show based on one of my favorite books, Lemonade Mouth. It was on our Summer Reading list for several years and has now found fame in Hollywood. I’m sure the characters in the book would love that! The premise is that a group of dissimilar high school students find themselves in detention one afternoon. It’s pretty boring so when one of them starts tapping out a rhythm on the desk, without realizing it, the others join in and a band is born. There’s much more to the story than that…like how they take on the school when their favorite soda machine is removed (which is also how their band name came about…). Anyway, if you want a great read, check out Lemonade Mouth by Mark Hughes then watch the television version on April 15, on Disney channel. Btw, does anyone know what station is Disney on Direct TV?
I just read in People that they’ve hired Jennifer Lawrence to play Katniss. I am not sure I’m excited. Why didn’t they hire Hailee Steinfeld to play her? She has the right look and she’s not 20-years-old!!! Perhaps it’s the whole child labor thing that they want to avoid. If they mess Katniss up, the movie is ruined. I guess I’ll have to go see Winter’s Bone, in which Lawrence starred and see if I could believe her as the strong heroine. It is possible that the picture in People is just the wrong one. I looked her up somewhere else and the picture to the right is younger looking. People readers voted on the following 4 boys to play Peeta: Hunter Parrish (Weeds), Liam Hemsworth (claim to fame??? He’s Miley Cyrus’ ex), Chord Overstreet (Glee) and Josh Hutcherson (The Kids are All Right). Out of these, I think Chord might be the best but who they hire for Gale, Hamitch, & Cinna are equally important! I’ll be watching closely for developments!
Image from Britannica Image Quest
Maximum Ride: The End is (FINALLY) Near
I just finished reading the latest in the Maximum Ride series, Angel, and it looks like Patterson (et al) will be wrapping up the series with the final book in 2012. This is both good and not so good. Max and her flock have certainly had a long and fruitful run (or, in their case, flight). The first three books will stand as the best and James probably should have stopped then but, what with their popularity and all that $$$ to be made, book 4 came and was the worst of the bunch…totally skip-able! Books 5 and 6 have redeemed the series somewhat but ending it and moving on is a good thing. In Angel, Max is her old snarky self, if more than a little devastated by Fang’s desertion. I still have not reconciled myself to them being apart and I’m hoping that they get back together (James Patterson, I’m talking to you!!!)…I’m a sappy, old romantic and I really am not a fan of Dylan! Anyway, Angel is well worth the read, especially since the next book is the last one. By the way, the cover is pretty cool! Read on and enjoy!
Fang is gone but Dylan is ever present. The rest of the flock is walking on egg shells trying not to make things worse. But, as things often do when dealing with genetically engineered kids who can fly, things get worse anyway. There is a new group in town and it’s not playing around. The Doomsday Group targets human children and brainwashes them into believing that the only way to save the world (yes, we’re still trying to do that) is to wipe out all the humans. If that weren’t bad enough, Fang has formed his own flock of genetically modified teens and they are on the track of the DG as well. When the two flocks get together the fireworks are constant and not the good kind, either. Will they be able to put their differences and hurt feeling aside long enough to save the world from itself? An explosive show down is on in Paris but who will survive it is anyone’s guess.
I have a new trilogy to obsess over (thanks a lot Kelly)! Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go is absolutely amazing. It’s a futuristic novel about settlers who travel to another planet so that they can have the freedom to live a simple, less technological lifestyle. Not long after their arrival, they discover that they’ve been exposed to a native organism that enables everyone to hear the thoughts of everyone else! All creatures, both human and animal are affected…except women. The germ kills them; or does it? Todd lives in Prentisstown, the last settlement to survive the war with the Spackle, a native species that is humanoid in form but with moss and lichen growing on their skin and no verbal communication. Todd is the last child born in Prentisstown, before the women died. He will turn 13 in less than a month which is when he will participate in the highly secretive ritual that will make him a man. A lot can happen in a month! Read more…
This is one of those books I just couldn’t put down. Thankfully, I had 4 hours of only occasional interruption to read all 519 pages of book 1!!! Patrick Ness is an author to watch. His characters are charismatic and some are downright frightening! Todd is an excellent narrator and Ness’s use of phonetically spelled words portrays the dialect perfectly. Ness also has a great sense of the dramatic as the ending of the book may cause you to let out a verbal exclamation of some sort…I did and got some very strange looks from the folks around me! Anyway, the trilogy is complete, thankfully! I have mentioned before how much I dislike waiting for the next installment. A warning, though…if you’re anything like me, it’s a very stressful read; kind of like watching a REALLY suspenseful movie and you have to hide your eyes when the scary part comes. I had to shut the book a few times before I could read on. However, are probably braver than me. Read and enjoy!!!
UPDATE 3/1/11: I’m reading the second book in the series, The Ask and the Answer and it’s going to take me forever because I keep having to put it down when the stressful parts come…every 10 pages or so! It’s unnerving. If it were a movie/tv show, I’d have my hand covering my eyes most of the time. Who’s going to win? In war, there are two sides but it’s too simple to call them “good” and “bad” because both do unconscionable things. “It’s hard being caught ‘twixt two devils” observes Todd and he’s right. Whoever said “War is hell” knew what he was talking about. Even reading about it and it’s fictional, is really hard!
UPDATE 3/3/11: Well, I survived the trilogy. I just finished Monsters of Men and the title is very appropriate; war does make us monsters! It was a very intense ride. I’ve never read anything so riveting and emotional and frustrating and exciting and sad and hopeful and, and, and..It’s difficult, even now, to do justice to any real description. I’ve tried to tell my students about it but there aren’t enough words. There’s something to be said about the way that the Spackle communicate; by opening up their consciousness to everyone. It would certainly be easier to stop bad things from happening but then there’s the whole privacy thing and the fact that there are those in the world who are exactly like Mayor Prentiss who would like to control what people think and do. Anyway, I cannot recommend this trilogy highly enough. If you’re doing a book group, this would be an excellent one to read because of all the discussion points and because it’s just really well written.
A prison the size of a Pea!!!
Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron and Sapphique bend and warp reality like nobody’s business. Imagine a prison with thousands of inhabitants, buildings, wards all the size of a pea that hangs from the Warden’s watch fob? It would be easy to keep track of people, for sure, but how do you get into and out of that dark world? Through a portal, of course. Escape is not supposed to be possible but one man did it and the prison resents it. “How”, you ask? Read on…
Incarceron has always been and always will be. It is inescapable, incomprehensible and intolerable. There is a legend, though. A legend that says one did escape. Finn is one of its prisoners but he is different. He believes that he has come from the Outside, a place no other inhabitant even believe is real. He has fits and sees things. One horrifying day, Finn comes to possess a crystal key. It’s a special key that initiates communication with a girl named Claudia who claims to live Outside!!! Claudia, in many ways, is as much a prisoner as Finn. She is being forced to marry a prince whom she despises. Her cell, while luxurious and comfortable, still confines her. Neither Finn nor Claudia realize that there is far more to Incarceron than a simple prison and the truth of who they are is hidden in its depths. But Incarceron never gives up its secrets and will do anything to hold onto its sons and daughters. You see, Incarceron is alive. And in Sappique, Incarceron wants out…no matter that all of it’s people would be left to die. But the real question is, what is waiting on the outside? Is it the beautiful world that Sapphique describes or is it another kind of prison? The characters and atmospheric setting make these two books impossible to put down!
Music, poetry, the voices of angels, a cloud, a storm, all of these things are mysterious and beautiful and incredibly difficult to capture with mere words but Conrad Wesselhoeft is a magician. His book, Adios, Nirvana, is all of those things rolled into a great, sad tale. It is the story of Jonathan, a poet, musician and lost soul. His twin brother, Telly, was killed in an accident and has left a hole the size of Texas inside. Both boys played guitar but Telly was the better musician and Jonathan was the wordsmith, a poet who won a state contest when one of his pieces was entered by his English teacher. Now, Jonathan just plays the guitar and works on his opus, “Tales of Tellemachus”. When he bothers to come to school, he sleeps through class and it’s very possible that he will flunk his junior year. Thankfully, he has his thicks, friends who refuse to let him fail. As a last-ditch effort to pull him through, his principal and English teacher have come up with a project that will allow him to pass. He will write the memoir for David Cosgrove, a World War II veteran who is blind and very close to death. To say Jonathan is reluctant the understatement of the century. There’s been too much death in his young life but his future depends on this book. As he listens, David’s words open something up inside of him. Soon, words and music are pouring out and through the haze of Red Bull and NoDoz he touches a little bit of heaven. His principal has given him one last assignment…to play her favorite song at graduation. A song that might just be the mushiest song in the world. How is he going to be able to play this in front of a crowd? Telly was the front man, Jonathan always played in the shadows. Because of David’s vision, his favorite guitar, Ruby and some rather unlikely characters who drift into and out of his periphery, when the time comes, Jonathan makes the song his own and soars over the crowd, literally, as he finally begins to let go of his pain. The notes from the famed guitar bequeathed to the school by Eddie Vedder in honor of Telly, begin to fill the hole and all the people who wouldn’t let him go are there to witness the performance of a lifetime.
I cannot express how powerful this books was. Wesselhoeft is a poet, himself. The words written by “Jonathan” are deep and mesmerizing. They resonate as strongly as the music, which I would have loved to hear, for real! This is the second book about a musician (Revolution/Donnelly) that made me ache to be musical. Sadly, I can only listen and admire. Musicians or those who love music and are willing to be just a little bit sad, will find nirvana here.
Have you ever been talking to a friend about a book or movie that you liked except for that horrible ending and a heated discussion about what you would have done ensues? Well, the last few years has seen a surge is just such conversations on the internet. It’s called fanfiction. People take characters from their favorite movie, book, etc. and create new story lines for them. It all starts with a “What if…” question. Some popular published novels that are, essentially, fanfiction are Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and March by Geraldine Brooks. In the August 2009 School Library Journal, the article “When Harry Met Bella” discusses the phenomenon. Some of the big questions are whether or not these stories are plagiarism and whether it’s ethical or even legal for the fanfiction authors or the host web sites to make money off of the stories. The two stories mentioned earlier didn’t cause much controversy (except to purists) because the original stories are considered public domain and do not have copyrights. However, such is not the case with fans of Twilight, Hunger Games, Harry Potter and other popular current fiction. Other issues are literary ones. Opponents say that these stories are poorly written spin-offs. However, there are those out there who support creativity in all it’s forms and encourage teenagers to write their own versions of their favorites. It’s just like letting kids read comic books as a way to encourage them to like reading. Allowing them to use their favorite characters to inspire them to write creatively has the same effect. There is no way to dispute the fact that there are really bad fanfiction stories but the great thing about many of the fanfic web sites is that they invite others to edit the work. Most people who post stories on these sites expect criticism and most of the sites ask that the criticism be constructive. It’s sort of like peer reviewing 101 and a great way to perfect writing styles. The fundamental reason behind most fanfiction is that the fans just want more. Authors tend to take a really long time to write the next book in series or may have only written a trilogy. When that happens, fans take over and continue the tale. Whether you are a fan or not, fanfiction is here to stay so try it…you might be surprised at how good some of it is and even more shocked when your mind starts thinking “What If…”
A Few Fanfiction sites:
The Archive at the End of the Universe
Chilling Effects Clearinghouse
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and the Victorian era is one of my favorite time periods to read about (have I mentioned that I’m a closet steampunker?). I just finished a fictionalized tale about Princess Victoria and her time at Kensington Palace. The title is Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl. I don’t usually think about royals being prisoners, except in the Tower of London, when they’ve done something perceived to be wrong by someone. Victoria was, by all accounts, a prisoner of her mother and Sir John Conroy. They were plotting to make Victoria a puppet queen. This probably happened a whole lot more often than we know. I think that the lives of royalty, regardless of the country, were the very first soap operas! I liked the involvement (fictionally, of course) of her ladies maid in getting her to the throne with no strings attached. I also appreciated the subtle romance in the background (I got a kick reading about Victoria’s first encounter with Albert, her future husband). Fans of historical fiction should definitely pick up this one!
I am such an incredible wimp when it comes to suspense! Yes, I’m one of those people who covers her eyes while watching movies or television shows and peeks only between her fingers when the scary parts come. Unfortunately, there’s no equivalent when I’m reading!. When I get to the part where the scary music intensifies (in my head), I have to put the book down for a while then go back and read that part really fast, like pulling off a band-aid. If it’s not too bad, I can go back and read it more carefully. This rant is actually a diversion for a suspenseful part in the book I just started reading called Firelight by Sophie Jordan.
Jacinda is not like other girls. She is even different among her own kind, the draki…descendants of dragons whose strongest defense and greatest secret is that they can assume human form. When she breaks the pride’s cardinal rule and flies during the day, she is very nearly captured by hunters who have decimated her people. But one of them, handsome Will, saves her. But why? What does he really want?…I don’t know but I won’t tell you once I finish. Now, I might be able to handle going back and reading the suspenseful part where Jacinda is about to get caught by one of the hunters who doesn’t know who or what she is. AAGH, maybe not.
The Fallen 1: The Fallen and Leviathan
Those of you who know me will understand pretty quickly why I bought this book, initially. I do appreciate beauty in all it’s forms…Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised when the story actually ended up being pretty good, as well. It is all about the latest trend in ya lit…fallen angels. It’s obvious that Sniegoski has done quite bit of research on angels and on Christian beliefs in general because it wasn’t offensive to me as some of these types of stories can be. There’s nothing new about the choice of characters…the reluctant hero, the beautiful girl he loves but isn’t what she seems to be, the evil guy and, of course the other fallen angles and the offspring, the Nephilim.
It all starts on Aaron’s 18th birthday. Suddenly he is able to understand all languages, not just the English he’s always known. Weirdly, those languages include being able to understand his dog, Gabriel! He also hears voices and is convinced that he’s going crazy. When a strange man confronts him with who he really is, the son of a human woman and an angel and that he’s the one prophesied to redeem the angels who fell so many thousands of years ago, he goes into serious denial. Soon, however, he must accept his heritage because powerful forces are aligning against him and they want him destroyed and will take out everyone he cares for in the process. Read more…
My new favorite Series
Gone by Michael Grant is a fabulous Sci-Fi series and, best of all, three books are out! I don’t know if it’s a trilogy or not (I’ve just started the third one, Lies, so I’m hoping that it’s a trilogy so I don’t have to wait for another installment) but it’s amazing!!! ADDENDUM: So, frustratingly, Lies is not the end of the series and now I have to WAIT (until April 2011 when Plague comes out)!!! Have I mentioned that I really hate waiting!!!!!!! But boy, the series just keeps getting better and, with each page comes something new that keeps you turning…you just can’t put it down!
Imagine being in class, minding your own business and suddenly your teacher disappears! Great, right? Especially if you were in the middle of a test! However, not so great is the fact that ALL adults have disappeared as have the juniors and seniors at school, some in your class…poof. By the end of the day, you realize that everyone over the age of 15 is just gone. At first, as you might imagine, it’s a candy and junk food free-for-all! Then it sinks in…there are no adults around to take care of things! What do you do about the tiny children and babies at the day care center? What happens when the real food starts to run out? Who’s going to stand between you and the bullies? What do you do when your 15th birthday is only days away? To add to the terrifying strangeness is the fact that lots of the children have developed strange powers and one of them caused everything!
An Awesome Trilogy
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld is a unique alternate history of WW I that combines historical facts with science fiction creations. The Clankers are the Germans and the Austro-Hungarians and they create war machines that resemble animals (click here to see one). The walkers might be mechanical elephants or giant spider-like creatures. The Darwinists are British and they mix and match animal DNA to create fantastical creatures that make up their war machines. Leviathan is an airship that is mostly whale-like but runs on hydrogen which is created by other animals living inside the beast and there are bats used as weapons because they eat metal spikes which they release on unsuspecting armies below. It’s an amazing, fantastical story that is well worth reading, especially for fans of historical fiction and Sci Fi! To read more, click here.
Me, Reading Nonfiction???!!!
Normally, I really don’t read much nonfiction. As a librarian, I should love all types of books but I just have a hard time with nonfiction. That said, I just read an amazing nonfiction book that made me laugh and cry and not just because I’m a cat person! Dewey the Library Cat: A true story by Vicki Myron (this is the young adult version of the #1 NY Times bestseller of a similar title) is the tale of a little kitten found in the book drop box of a small Iowa public library on the coldest night of the year. The little kitten was dirt gray and nearly frozen. Vicki and a coworker took him in, gave him a warm bath and fell in love. Turns out, Dewey was a long-haired orange tabby and from that first day, he belonged in the library. Dewey also has super powers! Nearly single pawed, he saved his little town from being crushed under the weight of recession! He even managed to touch the hearts of people, young and old, the world over! If you want to know how such a huge feat was accomplished by such a small animal, you’ll just have to read it! Regardless of whether you like cats or not, it’s an uplifting story about the relationship between love and hope.
WIMPY, WIMPY, WIMPY
So, my new pet peeve…female lead characters who are super wimpy, as in Bella (Twilight) and Luce in Fallen and Torment. I’m not Wonder Woman by any stretch of the imagination but, seriously, I don’t want to be rescued ALL THE TIME!!! Okay, when faced with an army of (insert monster here), I will do the wise thing and either hide or run away (which, neither of these gals do, by the way). And even though I loved Clockwork Angel, Tessa’s just a bit too passive for me. She has magical powers for goodness sake! USE ‘EM!!!
Give me strong girls like Katniss in The Hunger Games, Katsa in Graceling, or any of Robin McKinley’s female characters (Beauty, Marion, etc.)!!! Tamora Pierce also writes strong gal characters. Anyway, that’s my rant for now.
Speaking of Hunger Games, It just read a great write up in this week’s Entertainment Weekly magazine (p.17-18). They even have a “dream cast” section. The actors they have selected would be PERFECT, if they were cast for the movie version!! I especially like who they chose for Haymitch (wouldn’t Robert Downey, JR. be fantastic?) and Gale (Kristin Chenoweth as Effie Trinket; Cillian Murphy as Cinna, etc.). If this cast were real, the movie might not stink, unlike Twilight!