Wednesday, December 31, 2008

NYE: RESOLVED.

So one of my resolutions is to try and blog more. I have been sent a number of ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) of books for 09, and I'll be reviewing them as I read them here. Unfortunately the first one I read, which has the great title "No More Us For You", was a little less than what I would want from a novel, but it had it's high points too. The possible cover art is cool. The descriptions of the exhibits at the art gallery are awesome. The characters are detailed and have good but not overwhelming quirks. But, David Hernandez, the author, does a little too much telling and not enough showing in his writing. And the ending feels sort of clunky and unresolved (not that all novels need to be resolved, but this one needed something more than what it gave me, though I did like the very last few pages.) The characters though, all the females seemed to be the same person and I forgot who was who. All the guys also seemed similar, but a little more varied, and actually fairly realistic in the way they handled the WAY TOO MANY BAD SITUATIONS THROWN AT THEM AT ONCE. Not that life is necessarily a series of good situations with one or two thrown in...but man, what a rough two weeks to a year for these characters. And the most interesting character, the mysterious "Vanessa" REMAINS ENTIRELY TOO MYSTERIOUS. Which, whatever, when you know someone for 2 weeks you don't necessarily know everything about them. But in books when stuff is hinted at like that it feels like someone is angling for a spin-off or sequel (or, perhaps this book is the spinoff or sequel, this thought just occurred to my tiny peabrain.)

Anyway, something I like is a blog/email that I follow called "I heart daily." I <3 I heart daily because it is all optimistic and upbeat, and about liking things. And sometimes when you read a bunch of stuff you don't really enjoy, and you find fault even in stuff you do enjoy, and then you write about it on the internet (and by you, I mean me) it can feel like you never have anything positive to say. But the world needs criticism too. So reading and promoting I <3 Daily makes me feel like I'm making a contribution to liking things. Like a giant hug through the internet from me and I <3 Daily to you.

So, happy New Year kids. Tomorrow I'm going to try and post the good, the bad, and the OMG of 2008 lists for you. Oddly, I realized that I can't think of a single album in 2008 that I loved and had to have. I also can't think of a single movie that made me want to go back to the theater again and again. But, books man. Books. I have a lot of those I loved, and some I liked, and some that made me go meh.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Battle of the Labyrinth or "Please hurray up with the next book Mr. Riordan."

The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 4) The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
I should mention that this review, like all my reviews, may contain spoilers. On the other hand I don't know what you know about the books and what you consider spoiling to really be so...read at your own risk.



This book picks back up the pacing and adventure and general mythically proportioned deliousness of the earliest book. No big surprise there. What is surprising is the dark direction these books are taking. Each book has grown significantly more violent, scarier, and subsequently more interesting. Unlike Harry Potter, where there was no real death toll until the final book and even that seemed second thought and too strategic, these deaths are at random, and drive home that what these half-god mortals are doing is DANGEROUS. As you might expect, the Labyrinth plays a huge part in this book. All the while the Titan Kronos is growing in power and the monsters around the world are waking up and coming out to fight. Percy, Annabeth, Grover, Tyson, and a new totally mortal friend, Rachel Dare go into the depths of the Labyrinth to try and figure out a way to save Camp Half-blood, and to save the world from a destruction from the Titan who only seems to grow stronger and stronger. And the Gods are getting more and more directly involved. And it turns out that Hades has a son, and that son has some SERIOUS POWER. Lots of interesting new characters and ancient greek mythology keeps the last book just as much of a page-turner as the last. Well played Rick Riordan, well played indeed.


View all my reviews.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

4 of 5 Stars: A goodreads/readingsarah review of the 2nd book in Percy Jackson and the Olympians

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 2) The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan


Do you love greek mythology? Do you wish you could get apathetic youngins interesetd in it as well? The "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series is perfect for all your Epic Mythological needs! The second book in the series follows Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and a new addition; the homeless outcast Tyson, befriended by Percy at his new school. On Percy's last day of an otherwise uneventful school year his gym class is attacked by monsters, and Tyson proves invaluable in the world's deadliest dodgeball game. Then when they get to Camp Half-blood, there is more trouble as an enchanted tree protecting the camp has been poisoned. Questing must ensue! And, with a little help from his powerful Dad, Percy starts to understand his powers as a half-blooded hero. These books have the Harry Potter perfection of well mixed characters (I just can't get over Percy, Annabeth, and Grover as Harry, Hermoine, and Ron, but in truth the formula works.) The adventure, the cleverness, the harrowing escapes works so well to bring the actual greek myths to life for kids, and updates the stories for modern kids perfectly. My favorite example is the Circe story (remember her from the Odyssey? Oh, and the cyclops Polyphemus)runs a health spa where she shows men their true selves (guinea pigs, because regular pigs were too problematic and guinea pigs are, let's face it, cuter.)



Anyway, quite generally this sequel makes me happy. There is no floundering, no running out of steam. It is obvious that Riordan planned this series out well, and he knows his stuff, and best of all he knows how to make it appeal to kids (and, well, adults.) I will admit that I like the more subtle or maybe just more obscure mythology in Neil Gaiman's American Gods and Anansi Boy's (both of which are for an older reader anyhoozle.) And, for bloodpounding nonstop adventure and acton, Percy Jackson will take on anyone in the arena.


Honestly, I don't know what to tell you about finding read-alikes for these, except that I was reading Edith Hamilton's Mythology like it was the newest Stephenie Meyer (had Stephenie Meyer been writing blockbusters back then) at age 12 and 13. Maybe the logical next step is to get them into accessible mythology, especially greek, but think of all the amazing stories from around the world. I can't imagine reading these books and not wanting to know where these fascinating monsters and long ago gods came from originally.



View all my reviews.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Genre study

I have belonged to a genre study group for a year and a half now. I joined the one at IU headed up by Phil Eskew in the summer of 2007 after taking his Readers' Advisory course. Now that I work at a Readers' Services desk I take part in my library's own genre study group that meets, and I'm being honest here, way too early for an awkward librarian to fight the awkward.There is not enough coffee in the world. At this morning's meeting I tried to give an overview of Goodreads, a web 2.0 RA tool that I'm superpassionate about using (please notice the widget, woo! widget!), but I managed to ramble the topic into the ground.

And while Goodreads is awesome, that's not what I'm here to talk about today. I'm here to talk about the book that I realized-in the middle of my genre study discussion- I'm never going to finish it. The book was "Finder" by Emma Bull. But as I was discussing (or again, rambling on about) it as a "book I'm currently reading" this morning, I realized I had nothing exciting or glowing to say about it and though everything on paper about the book seemed to match up with Things I Like In Books and it was recommended via one of the numerous listservs I desperately scramble to fail at keeping up with...I couldn't get into it. Why does it take me so long to realize I won't finish a book, and that I shouldn't have to do so? Do you force yourself to read material you don't actively want to read? Check out the clever poll I devised for you! And riddle me this Batman, how do you RA 2.0 tag those books you just can't finish?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Never trust anyone over 25

I just finished "Little Brother" by Cory Doctrow and I loved it and will recommend it: it was one of the most fun and simultaneously most political things I've ever read. I felt the insane pressure of the past 8 years government pressing in, and then got to remember that it really happened, we really did away with that regime through the power of voting. It is the perfect novel for the perfect time. But, I have a few thoughts to organize about it as well:

-Marcus was a Mary Sue right? I mean that's fine, but it was like I was watching a Brad Pitt movie and afterwords I can't remember the name of Brad Pitt's character even though it was the title of the movie because all I could remember was that Brad Pitt was in it.

-I just got home from Thanksgiving with my family and all I can think is that I don't want my baby nephew, Zane, to grow up in a world like Marcus is living in. But it is too late. And it is our fault. And at the same time I feel like electing Obama might be a reversal in those fortunes, and for the first time in.so.long. I am truly and actually proud to be a member of this fed up nation.

-Long preachy interludes about the technical side of programming and hacking and math are sometimes fun to read in narrative fiction, too many of them and no matter how good the story is and how integral they are to the plot and I kind of want to throw the book across the room when I'm being told that I NEED to take up learning Python to be a complete person. Teenagers today already know so much of this stuff that I'm not sure how much of it really was integral to the plot. The much sneakier and better interludes were about history, the kind of history that the official textbooks "don't have room for."

-The novel did a good job of detailing both sides of the arguments (while definitely still favoring a side, and for which I'm afraid we are preaching to the choir when recommending), but the book also did a bad job of humanizing the people on the other side. Obviously the DHS shouldn't be, but the duped people who believed the DHS was actually trying to help, they needed more realistic faces. It isn't all just old stodgy people set in their ways. It isn't just your parents and business people and snotty kids you never liked anyway.



The ending was too abrupt. Like this one.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mysterious Benedict Society II: Even More Peril









The original MBS was an audiobook review I meant to do here but got distracted by life the universe and everything. I really loved MBS on audiobook. I think it is perhaps the best thing I've ever put in my car's stereo system. Better than the Cure's Disintegration, better than The Mountain Goats "best of" mix a friend made me, better than The Weepies, Josh Ritter, Stars, and Chris Crutcher's "Whale Talk" combined. I loved Del Roy's narration and the ingenuity and the villains and well, everything. I was hoping that I would love MBS II as much, but alas, it was not to be. I think Mr. Stewart got caught up in the classic blunder of "if a little is good, than a lot must be really good." But no, a million daring escapes and dreadful recaptures do not make for great listening or reading. By the second or third one I was bored, and since I was driving this is rather dangerous. I am as likely to fall asleep while driving and Benedict would be while watching "The Daily Show." I also felt that the pure evil one-dimensional nature of the villains stopped suiting in this book. Benedict was delving into his past as was Curtain, but only Benedict seemed to have learned anything about himself. The children were all growing up and becoming more complex. But in MBS II, even S.Q. Pedalian, so refreshing in the first book lost his luster when he didn't even start to question Curtain's motives and his own actions. No one, not even in this fictional world, is that dense. I do appreciate that both stories included both good and bad adults, helpful and dangerous older people, but relied on the childrens' talents and ingenuity to move the plot and to get themselves in and out of scrapes. MBS II definitely followed through with that idea, so kudos there. Still though, while this book needed some serious editing and logic applied liberally, but it comes out heads and shoulders above many other books published today.

Happy T-day everyone. I give thanks for the gift of Jay Asher and 13 Reasons Why, another amazing audiobook, and the new blog telling a version of the story.

Smorgsboard of Books

Here are the books I've started and am slowly but surely working my way through:


Ingrid Law's "Savvy", which is very very cute, but on the bottom of the bookstack because I bought it and Ingrid Law signed it so it isn't going anywhere.

Two historically accurate and interesting but also very very long mysteries. "Speaks the Nightbird" and "Mistress of the Art of Death" are the titles that should have warned me they'd be hard to get into (I've been reading both those since July.)

Emma Bull's "Finder",Someone on a list serve told me it was the saddest book they'd ever read. I haven't gotten to that part yet, but I like the premise so I hope to get the chance.


The Brothers Torres is a great book, but since it is not a part of the Mock Printz group I'm reading I also put it toward the bottom of the pile after getting a few delicious chapters into it.


Adam Rex's The True Meaning of Smekday. I really want to like you, Adam Rex, but you make it so DIFFICULT. Why are the characters so clever, but yet I just find myself putting down the book every time I make it only a few pages in?

Dear John Green,

You are brilliant. Everyone knows you are brilliant. Witty and clever and well read and musically compatible to the point that I believe you and I would make beautiful babies together if I were single and you were single and somehow we were to meet and I was actually able to speak in coherent phrases. But I'm pretty sure I read this book when it was "Looking For Alaska." I still can't put it down. It is the #1 book at the top of the pile. Still, I kind of think it is time to write a book not about a boy lusting and questing after an unattainable ideal of a girl while palling around with quirky friends. Just a thought.
xoxox The Awkward Librarian

Finally I just finished "Bog Child" by Siobhan Dowd which I really wanted to care about because in high school I got really caught up in the sheer dumbfounding craziness of the Irish conflict and also I majored in anthropology, specifically biological anthropology, at Indiana University. The writing was well done, but it felt like two separate stories instead of one coherent life. And the dream sequences were kind of ridiculous.
Also I have the copy with the cover bearing a ridiculous pretend photo shopped shirt. Who are we trying to fool here? And what exactly are we trying to censor?


Friday, November 21, 2008

I made a promise with myself.

I'll go see the Twilight movie at the 2nd run theater. I will not go see it tonight, this weekend, or possibly even in 2008. If it doesn't make it to the 2nd run theater in Logan Square then I will Netflix it. I am not excited about this movie. I am NOT excited about this movie. The power of cheese compels me! The POWER of Cheese compels me!
Actually, that bit about not being really excited is true. I'm so tired of the word Twilight and reading all the reviews, commentary, and talkityblahtalk that I actually am wishing the series had never been written. I wasn't a librarian at the time of the Harry Potter phenom and I wonder if I would have liked the books as well as I do had I been. *For those of you on an awkward watch:awkward sentence for the win!*

And just so this is not just another post about Twilight. I will pose the question, what is your favorite book made into a movie? And have you ever found a movie that you actually liked MORE than the book. I have, Last of the Mohicans for me is a killer movie, but when I read it I found the it to be a long tedious " classic (read: somehow we accept inherent racism because it is old?) book you read for school" type novel.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Another random thought about fans.

More musings on fandoms possibly brought to you by the fact I am fan who frequently gets made fun of for her major fandom (the band once know as A Fire Inside if you must know) because it is a fandom that seems to be mostly centered around a much younger crowd these days.And my fandom mostly ever centered around the online fan group The Despair Faction. But I was there for a long time, and a part of it. So I wonder, do S.R. Ranganathan's laws apply to fandoms as well.
1. Fandoms are for use.
2. To every fan their fandom.
3. Every fandom has its fan. (If Legally Blonde: The Musical has an active fandom, anything can.)
4. Save the time of the fan.(Perhaps by having links on our library website to fandom resources?)
5. Fanfiction.net (or fandoms generally) is/are a growing organism.

Actually these make sense to me. I like it. I think I might be stealing some or all of this from the fandom presentation I saw at YALS. But, I'm really tired and feeling weird after delving to far into Kafka on the Shore.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The real fans? or Twilight Poseurs

Everyone is talking about Twilight. Ah, duh. I keep awkwardly talking about it with other librarians and teenagers. At my first Teen Council meeting it was suggested that I do something "Twilight" themed. And, probably the next Twilight thing that gets released I will. It seems likely that more movies will come out. Based on this interview. Everyone has been talking about Twilight for years now and it doesn't seem like anyone is going to be stopping soon. I think I have plenty of time for a Twilight prom or party.
The phenomena first hit me while I was in Library School. In my kids' lit class no less than 6 students booktalked it as a part of our "booktalk two-three books to a selected audience" assignment. 6! Out of a class of maybe 15-20 people. I had to check these books out. So I put myself on the waiting list at my public library. And, I got swept up, because Jane Eyre was my favorite book at 13. Despite the fact that I think Bella needs to shut up about how not great she is already. Jane was the same way, and I grew up thinking that is what would attract the attention of broodingly handsome (and potentially insane)rich men. Guess what, self-esteem that low isn't attractive! It is cause for theraputic intervention to get to the root of self-loathing! Bella has issues! Jeez, you'd think at least Dr. Cullen would get that but he doesn't say a word. Maybe vampires just don't even notice whiny humans prattling on about how not good enough they are. Of, course I know (and it seems that most teens see through this as well) the device's purpose. It is to convince us all, no matter how not pretty and not special we feeel, that one day our brooding hot-as-icy hell vampire prince Rochester boyfriend will find us. Even those of us who are nearly 30 (or 40, or whatever) and already have perfectly stunning but normal relationships, get swept into this fantasy.
So I have to wonder about the director of the movie in an interview she did with MTV that went like this:

MTV: Did you enjoy taping "MTV Spoilers" the other night and doing the Q&A with all those die-hard Twilighters?

Catherine Hardwicke: Yeah, let's have the real fans! Those people were not faking it. They were into it.


I'm sorry, what? What do you mean "real fans" and "not faking it?" Is there a legion of teenaged "Twilight Poseurs" out there, pretending to love trashy vampire romance because their friends do? Because, I find that hard to believe. Not impossible, peer pressure is a powerful thing, but I find it hard to imagine it being powerful enough to generate this level of craziness. I'd like for other people to weigh in on this topic. Are thousands of people just pretending to love The Twilight Saga when secretly they think it is drek? Or is the idea behind the story and the tropes behind the characters so strong that all these fans are "real fans?" How are we even defining real fans? the ones who will buy into any promotion and marketing and merchandize that remotely stinks of vampire? The ones who love every second of the books and re-read them over and over again, but never buy another thing, never post to a forum, never engage in internet warfare over the Jacob/Edward debate? The ones who write involved fanfic but got the books from the library? I love fandom as particpatory culture, and I'm glad some fans got to meet the director and ask questions. But real fans versus fake fans seems alienating to me for any sort of fandom. And as a fan (and occasionally FAN) of many things, I resent the implications.

And thus ends my awkwardly long post about the nature of the fandom beast and the Twilight juggernaut.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Becoming the Awkward Librarian.

Is there already a blogger called the Awkward Librarian? If not I'm claiming that as my secondary title. In fact, there, I just did it. I am now Reading Sarah: The Awkward Librarian. I think that awkwardness has a place, and maybe librarians should be awkward. That is a part of the stereotype, right? But we should not be too awkward. The right amount of awkwardness puts people at their ease, but too much makes it impossible to help anyone with anything.

I may have found the balance accidentally while experiment in my Awkward Lab. Future experiments will be noted, possibly in all their gory stammering detail. First up was the time Gene Yang cut in front of me (politely) in the lunch line at YALS: in that particular case general social ineptitude= general social acceptance. However, this balance is delicate and tricky when working with young adults. Social ineptitude, while expected for most adults and authority figures, might still be a sign of weakness and may perhaps one day lead to my downfall. Only time and anecdotes will tell.

Unawkward but angering:
Today I saw a book that I'm not even going to bother linking to here. The title was something about how technology is making the youngins all stupid. The subtitle was the oh-so-clever "Never trust anyone under 30." I chuckled for milliseconds in wonder at age divides, generation gaps, and their misguided perpetuation through really trashy incendiary non-fiction. This book was a Harlequin "Blaze" romance of "researched" materials. Thanks for making my job harder, jerkface.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Audiobooks for the win. "Looking for Alaska" by John Green.

In the spirit of trying new things, I'm bringing over a blogged review from Goodreads, my new favorite site.
Looking for Alaska Looking for Alaska by John Green


My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book feels classic. The storyline is timeless and the characters brilliantly made real. The reader of this audio version does a great job of character voices that are different, but not distracting. The threads that weave the story and characters together are lovingly intertwined and all in all the whole effect is beautiful.


View all my reviews.

Yes, I was just a bit gushy there, but so what. I really loved listening to this book and looked forward to getting in my 45 minute commute every day because I felt like I was with friends.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Disconnect/Reconnect


I was feeling a bit disconnected from everything recently. It wasn't serious, but I think I needed some time to recuperate from Major Life Changes (even good ones are disconcerting) and so a little while ago I shut off from everyone a bit. Too personal? Sorry. There is a reason that I'm telling you this though. That reason is Sherman Alexie's "Flight." I have to say I wasn't expecting a book breach my disconnect, though it seems like when I crawl inside myself this way, books are how I usually find my way back out. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Though my experience in life is about as far away from the disaffected "hero" of Flight as can be fathomed. "Zits", as our hero is known, is an unreliable narrator.Though if he is lying to us, or lying to himself, it is hard to say. He's had a tough life, one of the toughest imaginable. His telling of his past, by the way, rings true...even played down a bit. But on the brink of doing something terrible Zits finds himself flying into the bodies of other people. He finds himself on numerous sides of a variety of issues and really feeling the connections of humanity in the worst/best way possible. And as he starts to trust people his connection to people outside of himself grows. Alexie is brutally honest, and brutally optimistic at the same time.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ring of fire.

This is amazing. If it is possible to be in love with a website I might be in love with this one.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Stephenie Meyer owns your soul


Okay, Stephenie Meyer doesn't really own any souls. But she does make a lot of money writing about vampires, werewolves, and annoyingly unconfident teenagers. (Seriously Bella, he's too good for you, we get it!) As a Teen Services Librarian I spend way too much time thinking about her and her books.
No real review of Breaking Dawn except to say; thank goodness so much of it is from Jacob's point of view. Generally though, the premise is wearing thin and the characters weren't all that well formed from the start. But, if your library is like mine, you likely can't keep any of Meyer's books on the shelves. Probably you won't be able to until well after December and the movie. Maybe even longer. So my thought was to have some read-alikes ready and for me the ALA's suggestion of their best paperback "dark books" list didn't quite cut it. These are the ones I've found that have some appeal in common with the Twilight series:

Vampire Fiction

Atwater-Rhodes, Amelia “In the Forests of the Night”
This novel was written when the author was only 13 years old! Like Bella, Rachel was a typical teenage girl, but unlike Bella, she was transformed against her will. Now Risika has been a vampire for 300 years and gotten used to the idea. But lately her past has come back to haunt her.

Kagesaki, Yuna “Chibi Vampire”
Karin is normal except she comes from a family of vampires. Kenta is suspicious of all of Karin’s mysterious nosebleeds. This series is a funnier and lighter take on teenage vampire romance in manga format.


Klause, Annette Curtis “The Silver Kiss”
Before there were Bella and Edward there was the intense vampire-human romance of “The Silver Kiss” ZoĆ« would have been a normal teenager if her life had not been torn apart by her mother’s illness. Simon is a vampire. They are brought together at a critical moment in both their lives.

Velde, Vivian Vande “Companions of the Night”
Kerry was like Bella and most other teenagers, until she meets Ethan, an enigmatic vampire, and must help him in order to help her save her family. She must also battle her own dangerous attraction to Ethan.

Westerfeld, Scott “Peeps”
The vampire’s in this novel are a little different from the norm. Cal looks and acts normal, which means he’s a carrier of the vampiric parasite, but it doesn’t drive him crazy like it does all of his infected girlfriends. Cal must track down his most recent girlfriend in this story about vampirism, parasites, and love stories that end very badly.


Vampire Non-fiction (I'll be honest here folks, this one didn't exactly fly off the display, but I still think it is really cool.)

Bartlett, Wayne and Idriceanu, Flavia “Legends of Blood” The Vampire in History and Myth”
Read about the myths and legends where Stephenie Meyer’s got her inspiration for the Cullen clan.

Werewolf Fiction

Cole, Stephen “Wereling Trilogy: Wounded, Prey, and Resurrection.”
In this twist on the paranormal romance Kate is from a werewolf family and Tom is a normal kid on vacation when he is “rescued” by her family. Thus begins their epic (and maybe even slightly romantic) adventure.

Creedon, Catherine “Blue Wolf” (Again, not a big hit on the display. But I think it sounds totally interesting. Maybe I need to change my blurb.)
Similar to Bella’s experience, Jamie Park’s life changes drastically when he moves to Washington State. Only instead of find another family with a big secrets Jamie starts finding secrets in his own family.

Klause, Annette Curtis “Blood and Chocolate” (Do librarians like this book so much because of Klause's other occupation?)
For older readers there is “Blood and Chocolate.” Vivian, a sixteen year old werewolf, sets her sights on a normal human boy, Aidan, probably because he is as forbidden to her as Bella was supposed to be to Edward. And much like Edward and Bella, there is another werewolf who is intent or winning her.


Overall my display worked out pretty well for the release of Breaking Dawn. I'm thinking about revamping (haha)it and bringing back something similar for the movie in December.

Next review: The Mysterious Benedict Society audiobook: SO MUCH FUN.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Past present future.

Hello dear unlikely but (still) potential readers. I am back from my hiatus. Life was hard there for a little while. I am now officially a librarian in a Northwest suburb of Chicago. Hooray! I also live in Chicago and so thusly have a commute. The commute, while it has its drawbacks, has one major perk: reading. I read on the el and I read on the metra and I listen to books on cd in the car and sometimes I even read or listen to story podcasts while I'm walking. I start and finish at least 5 books a week. I really enjoy my job too and I'm really excited about teen read week.

Today I'm going to mention a few things I really liked and a few disappointments. For more complete reading lists check out my goodreads or shelfari pages.

A short list of good things I've read lately:

Magnificent Pigs
Catherine Murdock-Dairy Queen and The Off Season: really well done character portrait of a girl who decides her life as a dairy farmer needs spicing up.
Mercedes Lackey-The Fairy Queen:A formula romance disguised as fantasy but well done for what it is.
John Green-An Abundance of Katherines: Intensely coming of age and coming into one's own story.
Judith Clarke-One Whole and Perfect Day: Serendipity at its finest. I almost cried.
Two books I absolutely loved:
Andrew Davidson-The Gargoyle: I was skeptical. I did not want to think this book would hold my attention but I couldn't resist the title. Instead I was propelled through love stories and the history of the book as well as modern day burn recuperation practices and a man who fights his many demons. I couldn't put it down.

Perry Moore-Hero: holy homosexual batman! I love the way this book plays with the superhero genre and at the same time is not illustrated. Instead Moore paints with words.

Finally, some disappointments:

Cohn and Levithan: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist was GREAT. However Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List left me wanting more. More defined characters, more crisply distinct voices. More plot and action. Just...more.
Barry Lyga-Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth girl. Unreliable narrators are fine, unlikeable characters all around leave me disconnected to the story. Speaking of the story, I'm not sure what was supposed to be astonishing there at all. Oh well. Maybe Boy Toy is better.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Videa games and robots.

A brief non-book related recommendation post.
So since I just got access to STL's public library system as of today (and boy, I was super impressed with their collections and super unimpressed with the level of service the employees provided) I have not been reading much in the past week. This week though I start my YALSA class on RA for teens so I've got to pick some books tomorrow and I'll be back in the reading groove.
In the meantime though I bought my first ever video game for the PS3 and I saw Wall-E. I am super dooper extra into the video game, Folklore.
The graphics and story are amazing and the general play/battles are easy enough that someone like me (read: someone who only plays Rock Band) can actually play without feeling inadequate and undergamed. The cutaway scenes have a couple of formats, some are little movies, and some are like lightly animated comic books, but as I said, all of the graphics are amazing. And the story is a mystery that you, as two different main characters (also an interesting twist, you get to go through the plot as two different characters)get to unravel. It is so similar to getting to actually be a character in a book I have completely fallen in love. With a videa game.



As I mentioned I also saw Wall-E and I absolutely loved how much character Pixar fits into robots, which are by our definition lifeless automatons. The storyline is great and has a wonderful cautionary tale feel to it, but not in a bad or condescending way. Rediscovering the joy of living on earth, of seeing with your own eyes instead of through a screen is never a bad plotpoint IMHO. I can't really say too much about it. It is cute and entertaining and funny and smart.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hiatus

This blog is briefly going to slow down on posts. My personal and professional life is exploding in the best possible of ways and as a result I'm all over the midwest for the next month. I'll try to update whenever possible. I just finished Edward Bloor's Tangerine and I'm in the middle of his London Calling.(Do recommend) I've got tons of great audiobook like Zadie Smith's On Beauty (a little long but a great character driven plot with excellent audio performance) and Joan Bauer's Peeled (so fun). I even tried an experiment of reading a Rex Libris (superhero librarian!) while listening to "Wrong Hands" (superheroic hands!) but it didn't go so well. So I'll still be reading and thinking on materials and I'll try to keep the Library Thing and Shelfari current if nothing else. I also just started a goodreads.com account so there is a lot of great stuff going to come the way of this blog, but for just now I need a little time to get everything else settled down.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The good, the bad, and the authors.

There are two authors (besides Meg Cabot who I've already reviewed here and can't take back) that I despise above all else, and despite their high reverence amongst the rest of the reading world I refuse to read another word they've written. Ayn Rand and Henry Miller are their names. It isn't that I think that either of them write filth or have horrible ideas. It is that their writing seems to me to be so utterly self-serving and full of self-worship that I can't wrap my head around anything else they are trying to say.

I'm not posting this to say that other people shouldn't read these two writers. I firmly believe there should be no judgment made on the reading tastes of others. What I would like is an argument convincing me of their high worth (and consequently why I should give them another try) from someone other than my high school AP English teacher, Bobby Y.

On a more positive note, a short list authors you may one day see reviewed here (in no particular order):
Neil Gaiman
Jennifer Weiner
Louise Voss
Richard Peck
Jennifer Cruisie
Michael Connelly
Nancy Martin
Sarah Waters
Melissa Banks
Dave Barry
Susanna Clarke
Junot Diaz
Stephen Chbosky
Chuck Palahniuk
Chris Crutcher
Kurt Vonnegut
Gregory Maguire
Nick Hornby
Michael Chabon
Zadie Smith
Caleb Carr
Sharon G. Flake
Craig Thompson
And so on...

Percy Jackson and the goblet of Greek Mythology


Riordan, Rick. The Lightning Thief. New York: Miramax Books, 2006.
Genre:Modern Mythology, Modern Fantasy, YA
Year: 2005
Series:Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Plot:Percy Jackson doesn't get along in any school, but he can't go home to his smelly stepfather and his loving but weak mother. When he temporary vaporizes his pre-algebra teacher (something I'm sure most 12 year olds dream of often) he starts to figure out that he is beyond not normal. So he gets sent to a summer camp where he learns that he's not normal, in fact, he's the son of a greek god! And he's not even safe at the summer camp, so he must solve a pretty big problem with a little help from his friends. Percy is only 12 years old but he travels the country on his very first hero's quest meeting a strange cast of characters every where he stops.

Appeal characteristics
: The book has some of the best modern characterizations of gods I've ever seen. Percy is the essential misfit superpowerful hero and his two best friends who aid in the quest might seem familiar too (a brainy girl and a awkward but loyal boy both roughly his same age and also misfitted in some way.) The actual character behind the characters doesn't need to be developed through a lot of exposition as it shows itself in ever step of the adventure. The book pulls you into the story and is a real page turner that makes a good start to the winding plot of what promises to be an epic series.

Red-flags:
Some god on god violence, also use of the term "half-bloods" to describe the half mortal/half god children which both reeks of Harry Potter and is also generally somewhat offensive. Some of the scenes could be scary to younger children.

Read Alikes:Neil Gaimon's American Gods or Anansi Boys and Mur Lafferty's Heaven are all in the same vein. Mur's takes place mostly off earth though, and both are more mature than Percy Jackson and don't have the advantage of series. Holly Black's "A Modern Faery Tale" series has a similar feel as well with mortals dealing more with all Irish Mythology than Greek. I haven't read Spiderwick Chronicles (also by Black with Tony DiTerlizzi) but from the reviews I think it has many of the same appeal elements of modern fantasy: misplaced person meets with mythological creatures much to the disbelief or disdain of adults for a ton of adventure. Fantasy is such an awesome genre, especially for YA readers. I also found a booklist on the Readalike.org page about twisted fairytales, which while not exactly the same, is in the similar idea of fantasy novels.

For some other thoughts I had about this book you can check out my Livejournal entry.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Making up words

I wonder if I should start calling this a "recommendation blog" instead of a "review blog". But who wants just lists of know it all recommendations and no room for badmouthery. I am opening this up to say that I will take recommendations or even just reading suggestions and add them to my giant list of books to read, movies to netflix, video games to play, and cds to listen to all the way through (at least once.I am the queen of listening to one song six times and then skimming through the rest of the cd.) There is debate about audiobooks being reading, and rightly so, listening to an audiobook is something that can be done while driving, working, mowing the lawn, and reading is not. Audiobooks can't be skimmed, they can't be put down for a moment while you babelfish that entire Spanish paragraph to get the gist of what the characters are saying (ever notice that authors most often switch languages while cursing or insulting or, on the other end, being extremely tender? Are they all saying that English lags in these areas? I tend to agree.)And audiobooks, when read well, give you voices for the characters you may never have come up with on your own and bring the story to life in a way that reading can't. But, when audiobooks are bad, they will kill the story faster than I can put down the latest Meg Cabot atrocity. Anyway since I'm averaging something like 500-1000 miles a week in the car over the past month I will say that audiobooks can save me from the mind numbing boredom of farmland scenery any day. I'll have more audiobook reviews coming up in the near future. In the meantime though I think I'm going to make some blanket and blatant recommendations with very little reviewing because it will only take you a second to check them out online.

First up a vegetarian/vegan food blog written by my favorite roller derby playing librarian. X libris does her best to show that English has its fair share of impressive curse vocab. She also makes a delicious sorbet and you can find out how at Cookcrazy

Second up is my only non-web 2.0 blogstyle entry: online banking. I don't know what bank you use, but I have two very local banks and both of them offer it. I love not having to find a stamp myself to pay my bills. And I also love knowing I can check my statement wherever the internet can be found.

Third we have Podrunner Intervals. These are great for the couch to five k program. The cues are easy to follow and the BPM are perfect for each point in the interval.

More Dead Cats is the blog of poet who wrote my favorite poem ever, Secret Playdate. I sent that poem in a letter that helped to win my boyfriend's heart and I find myself reciting it sometimes when I'm nervous or stressed out.

Similar to More Dead Cats there is Mimi Smartypants who tells stories about her intrepid superhero wannabe daughter Nora.More importantly Mimi writes everything with a heavy dose of the good funny.

God's Town

Ribeiro, Andrea Barata, et al. Cidade de Deus City of god. [United States]: Miramax Home Entertainment, 2003.

I abhor violence and like kids so this movie seems on the surface to be the opposite of everything that I would want to watch in a movie. The story is basically the timeless tale of a slum druglord's hostile takeover, his salad days, and the war for territory that ends up killing nearly every one involved. The story is told in a series of shorter tales by the observer, Rocket, who ends up building his career as a photojournalist off of the pictures he takes of the gangs and the violence. The movie is based off of a true story and it feels bloody realistic. No one important to the plot is much over the age of 18, and a number of key players are small children who seem to view the war as a game. The body count is immense, but the stories are like puzzle pieces that snap neatly into place. Though some might claim this to be a lack of subtlety, I say it is more an abundance of candor. Though all of the gangs and the warfare is compelling (as the ever growing number of bloody Grand Theft Auto franchise has taught us) the true heart of this story isn't the main druglord Little Ze, nor is it the opposition forces Carrot and Knockout Ned. No, the real crux of the story, the reason why the movie is compelling is the little peep show we get into Rocket's life and his somewhat detached involvement, his bit part in the greater story. All of the actors are beautiful and believable and deliver their lines with an appropriate nakedness that one would imagine comes with that sort of life. So even though I have to turn my head almost every scene to avoid watching another child get their foot shot or another woman get raped I think this movie was worth watching what I could of it. Because sometimes a good story told well is worth a little discomfort, especially when that story is true.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The absolutely true blog of a wimpy librarian.


Today's post is going to be a short set of reviews for two illustrated novels and one audiobook. After I review the books I'm going to give you a little comparing/contrasting action. Ohhhh, sassay!

Alexie, Sherman, and Ellen Forney. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New York: Little, Brown, 2007.
Genre:Realistic YA Fiction, Journal, Illustrated
Plot Summary: Arnold Spirit Junior is a poor reservation Indian. He was born with water on the brain and had seizures for most of his life. Both parents are alcoholics as are most the people on the rez. But, he's got a best friend named Rowdy and a dog named Oscar. Then one day he realizes he can't go to the poor rez high school anymore and switches to the white high school far past the reservation lands. And then Junior has to deal with all the usual problems of reservation life, plus not fitting in at a white high school, and not fitting in on the reservation, and the fact that merely getting to school every day is an epic adventure. Who knows if there is money for gas, or if he'll get a ride from a drunk relative, or if he'll be walking or just staying home that day? But despite all of the odds being stacked against him, Junior still manages to be (perhaps foolishly) optimistic and he FIGHTS. Interminable Arnold Spirit Junior.
Geographical Setting: Rural Washington State
Time Period: contemporary
Appeal Characteristics: The odds are so stacked against Arnold Spirit Junior that it would be easy for this book to come off as whining self-pity. The straightforward way the story is told combined with the humor and the general buoyant nature of Junior's outlook keep that possibility a distant one. The story is absolutely a page-turner. It has elements of first love, high school, basketball heroism, family, and friendship. Forney's drawings are simply funny and perfectly suited Junior's narrative voice. It is easy to forget this is a diary and just become enraptured by the story and the art.
Red Flags: Lots of people die, violence,alcoholism and the general unpretty picture of reservation life. Also 14 year old boy talks frankly about masturbation.




Kinney, Jeff, and Ramon de Ocampo. Diary of a Wimpy Kid Greg Heffley's Journal. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 2008.
Genre: Realistic YA/Children's Fiction, Journal, Audio Recording
Plot Summary:Greg Heffley is the middle kid in a typical middle class family. He's in junior high and struggling to shed his little kid image. The book chronicles some of the trials and tribulations of the school year, but it is NOT a Diary. It's a journal.
Time Period: Contemporary
Series:Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Appeal Characteristics: Ramon de Ocampo's reading doesn't detract from the story. Greg is a funny kid and shares his experience of being a somewhat trouble making middle child tween with awkward humor and defiance of authority. Nothing to big or serious ever happens in this book.
Red Flags: The full effect of the book is lost without the illustrations. There really isn't much done to make up for that loss in the audio book and it is way too bad. What seems harmless in the paper book version makes Greg seem insufferable and his parents seem reluctant at best.



Kinney, Jeff. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules. New York: Amulet Books, 2008.
Genre: Realistic YA/Children's Fiction, Journal, Illustrated
Plot Summary:The further adventures of Greg Heffley. More hijinks and shenanigans ensue. The overall plot is still not as important as the relationships and each individual story.
Time Period: Contemporary
Series:Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Appeal Characteristics:The artwork is the main draw of the book. The comic-like style is light and funny. Greg's exploits and family or school stories are a guilty pleasure told by a middle child who just doesn't quite get the real difference between right and wrong.
Red Flags: Don't let kids think that this story gives them permission for bad behavior. This series is mostly squeaky clean as far as parents are concerned.


Here's a video I found of some kids who really like "Diary of A Wimpy Kid"


And now for the part that is going to make me completely unpopular with the masses, as opinions sometimes do.


The comparison: if you have the gift of vision, please read Diary of a Wimpy Kid instead of listening to it. I know I'm particularly persnickety about audiobooks, but sometimes I have a good reasoning. At first glance Diary of A Wimpy Kid and Absolutely True Diary of A Part Time Indian have a lot in common. But, on closer examination that similarity ends at genre and format. Wimpy Kid is definitely for a slightly younger (read:immature) audience, doesn't deal with any serious social issues or even notices that other people might exist (therefore precluding social issues entirely), and is generally meant to be a short light hearted read not to be taken seriously. Except, it is the number one graphic novel on Amazon and that is something to take seriously. I understand the appeal of this book, but I'm not really fully on the bandwagon. It isn't that I'm opposed to purely escapist fiction where the most troubling incidents result in a light grounding from caring parents, but I do object to the fact that Greg doesn't ever seem to learn any life lessons, ever. And I think that is an important part of most YA and kids lit. They don't have to beat you over the head with the lessons, obviously kids are way to smart for that.I do think having Greg show remorse for some of the semi-terrible things he does instead of just remorse for being caught would occasionally be a good idea. On the other hand Alexie's book is so chock full of life changing events and Serious Lessons that at times the message would be overwhelming if it weren't for the saving grace of Arnold's outlook and narration.I shouldn't have read these books the same night;Alexie's right after Kinney's. Alexie's story is a cohesive story all geared to a more mature audience while Kinney's is geared towards the tricky age of middle school and each diary entry is its own short story. It probably wasn't fair to the Wimpy Kid series that I would hold it to such high scrutiny afterwards. Especially since the audiobook of the first one left such a bad taste in my mouth and I really like Forney's art better than Kinney's too. But, Absolutely True Diary of A Part-time Indian made me really feel for the characters and stayed with me after I read it. Diary of a Wimpy Kid just made me feel sorry for Greg's friends and family and I haven't really thought about it much since. But don't get me wrong! Any book that makes kids want to read is still marked as an amazing piece of literature in this blog.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Too young to die.


Crutcher, Chris. Deadline. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2007.


Genre: Young Adult Realistic Fiction
Plot Summary:Ben Wolf has a manic depressive mother and a brother who looks just like him, only much bigger. Ben has always known he was a "shrimp", but he just found out he is going to die within a year. He views the option to try and prolong his life as trading quality for quantity and decides instead to live this year as his best ever by not telling anyone. He joins the football team instead of cross-country, dates the girl of his dreams, works to cure social ills, and avoids makes friends with an alcoholic ex-priest with a really big secret. Speaking of secrets, what is Ben going to do when he can't hide his anymore?
Geographical Setting: Trout, Idaho
Time Period: Contemporary
Appeal Characteristics:
As with all of Crutcher's works this novel is first-person narrated by strongly-developed, ethical, and likable young man. The story is a tear-jerker by the expected end, but told in such a light humorous way. Despite good character development and complex relationships the story clips along at fair pace. The twist on the classic coming of age story is aided by the usual Chris Crutcher story elements of small town life, courage in the face of adversity, dysfunctional families, and the triumph of good over bad...even when things don't work out for the best.
Read-alikes:
Crutcher, Chris. Running Loose. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1983.

This book features Louie Banks, the football coach in "Deadline." In this story Louie is a high school football hero. He has a great girlfriend and an almost perfect life. But that perfection starts to derail after he stands up against his racist teammates. Again all the fearless and funny Crutcher elements are all here including courage in the face of adversity, dealing with death, humor, complex relationships, and well developed characters.

Downham, Jenny. Before I Die. New York: David Fickling Books, 2007.

Tess has lived battled her cancer for four years and thus missed out on important parts of childhood. This story really focuses on the death and dying by highlighting it against Tess's quest to enjoy her last bit of life before she dies. The book is funny and poignant. Characters are more important than plot and family relationships are complex. It is a book to be enjoyed slowly.

Leimbach, Marti. Dying Young. New York: Doubleday, 1990.

If Deadline had only focused on the love story and the dying it might have ended up being something like this book. Victor is dying and falls in love with his caretaker Hillary, who in turn is in love with a healthy friend of Victor's. Again, lots of deep characterization and complex relationships. Victor's defiance of medical treatment is also similar to Ben's attitude.

Krech, Bob. Rebound. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2006.

Crutcher's books, especially deadline, often focus on sports and team dynamics as catalysts for change and vehicles of empowerment. Rebound follows with that theme. This book focuses on Ray Wisniewski, who goes against the grain in his small racially-polarized town by playing basketball instead of wrestling.

Connelly, Neil O. St. Michael's Scales. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2002.

Keenan Flannery feels responsible for the death of his twin brother and plans on killing himself but is saved when he is forced to join the wrestling team and it gives him a reason to live. In the course of the book the complex family relationships and the idea of death are very fully explored.

Red Flags: Some adult themes, words, and phrases. There is the usual, sex, violence, and cursing, but also references to things that aren't really as familiar to today's teens as they were to the teens of the 70s and 80s. It sometimes seems that Crutcher's character's are well developed because he uses them again and again, and this book is no exception. Finally, the plot in this one is more of vehicle for the characters than usual for Crutcher.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Meg Cabot is not fat.


Cabot, Meg, and Justine Eyre. Size 12 Is Not Fat. A Heather Wells mystery. Westminster, Md: Books on Tape, 2007.
It is hard to suspend your disbelief when the main character of an amateur detective story can't seem to suspend her own. Heather Wells is a size 12, 28 years old, and a former self-proclaimed "teen pop sensation". Heather has been forced, due to dire circumstances, to take a job as an assistant residence hall director. But, just a few weeks after students move into Fischer Hall for the fall semester, two girls die in quick succession. Both are found at the bottom of the elevator shaft, but for some poorly explained reason, no one except Heather suspects their deaths are in any way suspicious. Heather just happens to also have recently moved with her philandering ex-boyfriend's older brother to save on rent. Conner is both conveniently a private investigator with connections all over town and also evidently so mouth-wateringly-delicious that we must hear about it every other paragraph. Oh, also, her ex-boyfriend is heart-throb superstar Jordan Cartwright and he wants her back, but by now she's completely in love with his brother, Conner.
The plot of the book starts of far fetched (because what police force really doesn't investigate two bodies in the same place in a one week span of time?) But, it could be believable, if only Heather would stop making so many asides all the time. Obviously the humor and sass that should drive a chick-lit mystery is supposed to be in the asides. And who doesn't love a sassy average sized woman who is proud of her size? Evidently, not Meg Cabot. Some of Heather's asides dwell for an absurdly long time about the slender beauty and intelligence of other women around her and how much she longs for junk food and abhors exercise. Heather also tends to believe any thought she has is ridiculous and constantly second guesses herself. Anytime someone objects to one of her ideas she folds like a bad hand in Texas Hold 'em. Cabot, skinny herself, could definitely use a lesson in "lush women psychology" from Jennifer Crusie or Jennifer Weiner. The characters are flat, predictable, and read without much shifting, differentiation, or faceting by Justine Eyre in the CD book. Though, to be fair, Eyre had 20 characters in the story and only 5 of them were significantly different from the others. I guess she did what she could. The most realistic relationships seem to be the twisted ones between Heather and her mother and/or her former record label. At least the love scene was mercifully brief. Too bad the book on CD lasts an excruciatingly long time.

For a more personal and less restrained review; click here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Promises, promises

The past few weeks have kept me busy and unable to update this site. I also realized that I started to stray some from the more professional reader's advisory purpose of the site with the quickfire review challenge. On the other hand I had fun with that so I'm not apologizing.

Anyway a quick preview of what I'll be reviewing here, on Library Thing, and on the Reading Sarah Livejournal.

I've been on a series Chris Crutcher kick here lately so Deadline, Whale Talk, and Stotan! are all on the list.
Harmless by Dana Reinhardt
The Hollywood Nobody series by Lisa Samson

I'll also be doing reviews of two illustrated novels and then comparing and contrasting them. This may not be fair, but I read them both over the course of one night and it really struck me how very different Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian is from Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Before I go I'd just like to say that Freaks and Geeks, a short lived tv series by Judd Apatow was much better the first time I watched. I can re-read the same book a thousand times, I have seen Princess Bride probably 200-300 times, and this is not an unusual trend for me. So it is very sad that other than the character "Bill" no one and no plot is truly holding my attention for a full second viewing.
Oh, and also, Kung Fu panda was adorable, energetic, and funny. I understand why it gets the criticism it gets, but I throughly enjoyed it. Skadoosh!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Library 2.0

You might notice that I'm pretty big on using web 2.0 for library or library-esque purposes. That all started with this:
kohafive: Review: The Time Traveler's Wife / Audrey Niffenegger

This link takes you to a review I did for a blogger application linked to a Koha open source integrated library system (the online library catalog for non-librarians.) This was set up for a Library Technologies class project during my MLS studies. (Though the review itself was written for another course.) Basically we had a blogger where we posted youtube video reviews/trailers, our own reviews, or other reviews and then we linked it back to the "url" line in the marc record. It wasn't always the prettiest but it worked. Also nice was the fact that we could link the blog to the item in the record and so doubling the usefulness of the Library 2.0 technology. I really liked the Liblime Koha platform, it was really librarian and patron friendly, and fairly intuitive. Blogspot has always been super-user friendly and easy to make professional-looking without devoting an insane amount of time to getting it running smoothly. I love my LibraryThing applications and how easy it was to link LT back to Blogspot and vice versa. That is probably one of my favorite things about the web and readers' advisory: once a good resource is found they often have a web (2.0) of other resources that are as useful and accessible.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Quick Fire Review Challenge

Movies
Christensen, Pernille Fischer, et al. Soap. [Culver City, CA]: Strand Releasing, 2006.

Charlotte is a beautician who just left her boyfriend and moved into her own place. Her downstairs neighbor is Veronica, a pre-operative transwoman who earns her living via domination. The two don't mix at all, but events seem to conspire to throw them together and a really sweet story develops between two strong personalities. The story is told in soap opera style with titillating narration breaks between acts. Veronica is a huge soap fan and knows exactly what she wants. Charlotte is prickly and strong-willed but waffles on her love life. The second viewing of this the movie was much slower moving then the first time, but the story retained its sweetness throughout. This movie contains scenes of sexual violence and harsh language. In Danish with English subtitles.

Albums
She & Him. Volume 1. Chapel Hill, NC: Merge, 2008

Ever since Zooey Deschanel sang the duet of "Baby it's cold outside" with Will Ferrell/Leon Redbone in "Elf" I have wanted her to come out with her own album. Fortuitously she was paired with M.Ward to make a song for a different movie and in the end they came out with a full album. Some of the songs are covers, some remind you of your parents music or their parents music even, but almost all are strong, and this is by far the best album involving an actress to come out in a long long time. Too bad her latest movie is "The Happening" which looks to be a movie I'll never see.

Webcomics
Questionable Content
The artwork in this comic improved exponentially in its first few years. It is, as Jeph admits, glacially paced, but not worth the ribbing it gets from his fellow webcomic author John Allison. One of the funniest things to me, being an avid webcomic fan, is the friendcestuous nature of webcomics. If you ever see a guest comic week at a webcomic you'll see some of it, or just read a few weeks worth of Overcompensating. Basically all the webcomic dudes know each other and alternatively tease, flirt with, and abuse other webcomic authors. Anyway, back to QC. At this point it is the one I've read the longest and most consistently and the only one I've been able to spread like a virus to friends and family. Despite the slow moving quality of the storyline, the jokes hit more often then they miss. Also it has the ingredient voted Most Likely To Ensure a Successful Webcomic: an adorable side character. In this one the adorable side character is an AnthroPC named Pintsize. Good stuff.

Anders Loves Maria
Anders <3s Maria, Maria <3s Anders but they both do stupid impetuous acts that constantly threaten their relationship. Often humorous and always very human, Anders <3s Maria is overall one of the best comics on the web. My main problems with the comic generally are that sometimes it is unclear who characters are or are supposed to be (especially when they are the same character but younger or older.) Also, she goes back to earlier threads and time periods with know warning or explanation making the story hard to follow, and of course the general fact that I want the lead characters to be a happy family. Also, I was a little outraged a bit ago when Rene was being harassed because of webcomic level celebrity status. She gave her harassers exactly what they wanted by putting Anders <3s Maria on indefinite (and possibly permanent) hiatus. But, I'm not Rene and I can't get too down on her for worrying about her safety and retreating to metaphorically lick her wounds. I don't know the details of the story, and since the comic is back up and running I don't really care that much. I wouldn't have cared at all probably, except for despite the problems pointed out earlier I really love the art and the story and atmosphere that Rene creates with each new installment and it became a bit of a web-addiction for me and I was angry to be cut off. So, I'm glad Anders <3s Maria is back and I recommend it to anyone over the age of 18 or at least mature enough to handle the sometimes explicitly sexual artwork and language.

Minus
This webcomic is pretty and makes me happy every single time I read it. It shines with muted innocent deviousness and stellar recognizable art.

YA book awards

I know it is impossible to read every book ever written, but it is possible to keep up a little with some booklists published by the ALA. I don't believe the ALA is the end-all be-all in book selection. Committees can be more hindrance than help when it comes to finding literature other people want to read, but I do look to them to always know what is coming out and have already whittled that huge number into a more manageable list.

Anyway, I may not review every single thing I'm reading on those lists here, but I will be writing mini-reviews as I read on my LibraryThing page.
You are welcome.

Oh and this is neither here nor there, but if I were going to review a place to go it would be the Botanical Gardens in St. Louis, MO. It is beautiful and above all, interesting. I took most of these pictures there. And evidently gas prices are cheaper in St.Louis than anywhere else in the country:

Feather and Bone


Martini, Clem. Feather and Bone triology: The Mob, The Plague and The Judgement.. Toronto: Kids Can Press


Genre: Animal

Plot Summary:
The Mob:The crow clans have met at the gathering tree for their yearly Gathering to find mates and catch up. Things are different this year. And three young crows manage to be the saviors of the families.
The Plague: A mysterious plague has decimated the flock and many others around it. The main characters from The Mob are back in different roles for this continuation of the series which involves crow on crow violence. Human interaction is becoming a key to survival.
The Judgement: The collective is still after Kyp and he chooses to take his motley flock and flee. As the Chooser all decisions and responsibilities fall to him and he must be wise beyond his years to lead them to the giant meeting known as Urkana which may only be a legend.


Geographical Setting: Where the crow flies.

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: Feather and Bone

Appeal Characteristics:This series is interesting because it is told only from crows point of view. Their distrust of humans, their old ways, their rituals and their conflicts are all somewhat alien how humans would approach them. The book is sometimes funny, often suspenseful, and full of myths and side stories.

Red Flags: The first book is the strongest of the three. The second book has some issues at the end with suspension of disbelief and the third book is convoluted and maintaining interest -especially with so many new characters- becomes difficult. Also some violence/death from natural causes.

Blink once for Yes and twice for No.

Kennedy, Kathleen, et al. Le scaphandre et le papillon. Burbank, CA: Touchstone Home Entertainment, 2008.

As this blog is mostly for reader's advisory purposes and not so much general media reviews I am only sneaking little tidbits of film and music and television in every once in a while to spice things up. And because as a librarian I am extremely interested in storytelling and good stories can be told well in a variety of ways.
Plot Synopsis
Anyway, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly as this movie is more often known is a great story of a man trapped in his own head. Literally. One minute Jean-Dominique is the editor of the French Elle, and the next he's had a stroke and can't move except to blink. He has something called "Locked-in syndrome." The consequences are interesting he is helped to "break out" by communicating through blinks by two beautiful therapists.
The movie was hard to watch at the beginning since everything was shot as though you are Jean-Dominique just waking up from a coma after the stroke. But later the interplay of his past and his present and his now vast internal world is beautiful and striking.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

People Loving Art In Neighborhoods

Castellucci, Cecil, and Jim Rugg. The Plain Janes. New York, N.Y.: DC Comics, 2007.

Genre: Graphic Novel, Coming of Age story
Plot Summary:


Jane is in the line of fire during a bombing in Metro City. Her parents freak out and move her to the boring suburbs. She was one of the popular girls in her old high school, but in the suburbs she wants a new identity. So she befriends a group of girls who all have names that are some variation of Jane and who all a bit socially misfitted.There's Jayne, the semi-goth avant garde art nerd, Polly Jane the tomboy sports nut who can't seem to actually make a team, and and Jane a brainy science geek. Main Jane (as our hero is known) has a great idea for a guerilla art initiative similar to the guerilla girls.

But instead of focusing so much on feminism the Plain group just wants people to appreciate art and to stop being so afraid all the time. Their work gets the entire town in a tizzy though and dire consequences are potentially awaiting them if they are caught.



Geographical Setting: Metro City, Suburbs, High School
Time Period: Contemporary

Appeal Characteristics: The art in this book is good, but simple and focused mainly on the characters and not impressive backgrounds. The message is uplifting and shows teenagers making a difference in their community. The story is told mostly through a series of letters from Main Jane to another bombing victim that she is connected to through his "art saves" sketchbook. There are serious moments and issues in the book, but the story is overall a story of coming into ones own and the tone reflects the story and characters. The ideas for the P.L.A.I.N stunts are pretty cute. The other characters are not as well developed as Main Jane, but the story, though character involved, is more idea driven then character-driven. As with most graphic novels it is a quick and gratifying read.

Read-alikes: Many of Minx's publications seem to be in the same vein. Though "Breaking Up" by by Aimee Friedman (Author), Christine Norrie (Illustrator) published by Graphix is similar in the fact that it is a group of four friends dealing with issues of friendship and high school and all of the group of friends have special talents.



Red Flags: Independent thinking teenagers bucking authority. Some language, implied violence. Somewhat flat characters.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I am Iron Man

Iron Man 2008
Directed by Jon Favreau
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwenyth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, and Jeff Bridges.
Rating: 4 of 5 sarahs approve

As comic-book superheroes go Tony Stark aka Iron Man is perhaps one of the less well known, but at least in this movie, one of the most interesting. In the first few minutes of the movie we see Tony in an envoy charming the U.S. army and then watching those same people die as the convey is attacked. The violence in this movie isn't too much for younger audiences, but might be more than small children can handle. The plot, while somewhat filled with thin pro-America propaganda, is well suited for a super-hero story with heart and character and lots and lots and lots of neat gadgets. The technology in this movie is outstanding and in many instances beautiful. Additionally it is sometimes the technology that adds character and heart to the script. In fact, a movie with nothing but the electronics and robotics would be worth seeing. As an added bonus the special effects are not super-obvious and extremely well done. Hurrah! A note about the plot going deeper than was perhaps meant. Tony Stark's father worked on the Manhattan project and founded Stark Weapons. Albert Einstein has been documented after Hiroshima as regretting his recommendation to start the Manhattan Project. Tony Stark after seeing that how the weapons he designed were being used by both sides and actually feeling the effects of one of them loses his naivety about weapon design, and that is one of the best moments in the film Robert Downey Jr. is completely well-suited to play pompous womanizing genius Tony Stark. Gwenyth Paltrow is wonderful as his poorly named assistant Pepper Potts. *BEGIN SPOILER* Kudos to the writers for not letting Pepper give into stark so easily. I love that they are not a happy couple, but a more complicated professional relationship at the end. *END SPOILER*
Bridges is so likeable that he's almost unbelievable in this film, and that almost makes it even better. Terrence Howard....is in this movie.

So this is generally a good movie for most audiences and really only has some language, violence, and mild womanizing/sexual situations to watch out for with the kids. Go forth and enjoy.
And for a more personal opinion see my livejournal.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

King Dork in a deck of cards.

Portman, Frank. King Dork. New York: Delacorte Press, 2006

Genre
: YA Fiction
Plot Summary:
Tom Henderson and his best (only) friend Sam Hellerman (they became friends from unbreakable Alphabetical order, and that's forever) spend most of their time avoiding the psychopathic normals and thinking of clever band names (instead of actually writing and practicing music.) When Tom finds a copy of his dead father's copy of "Catcher in the Rye" with a secret code found in the pages it turns his entire world upside down. There are some wacky hijinks, an accidental assault, a dangerous assault, and an actual useful therapist along the way.

Geographical Setting
: California (High School)
Time Period: Late 1990s
Age Level: 10th grade and up

Appeal Characteristics: Despite being a deeper character study and blatantly filled to the brim with 10th grade vocabulary terms this book is a fast-paced, (surprisingly)light, and humorous read. Tom Henderson is the anti-heroes anti-hero. The book deals with serious subjects, but humorously through the eyes of an introverted 14 year old. Tom parent's try hard, but fail to understand him. His best friend can't be trusted despite the sacred bonds of alphabetical order. Their band is never going to get off the ground and Tom has the worst and weirdest nickname ever. All of the elements of plot, setting, and style fit together nicely to form a brilliant character study. One of the best bits is character evolution, when new information or characters or settings come into play it is easy to see Tom integrating it into his character or the characters around him.

Read-alikes
: Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: Pocket Books, 1999.
Thematically and attitudinally these two books are extremely similar. The anti-hero coming into his own, the humor, the musical references, the first time sexual encounters are all very similar in these two books.

Red Flags
:language, sexual situations involving high school students, inept parenting, and violence. Don't look for any sort of actual conclusion to this book. Also, the now-trendy name dropping of 70s mod rock can be extremely tedious unless you are really into that era of music.

For more personal opinions on this book see my livejournal.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Things to come

This page is changing (again, as I try and work out my exact presence on the web). Soon this blog will be for me to give you professional quality reviews. And now not just of books but of other popular media as well. If you want to know about the more personal side of what I'm reading and how it affects me (and sometimes how I went about finding the material) you'll have to visit Reading_Sarah at livejournal.com
Thanks,
Sarah

Reviews Coming Soon


Books and Graphic Novels
Clem Martini's Feather and Bone Trilogy
Frank Portman's King Dork
Cecil Castellucci (Author), Jim Rugg (Illustrator) The Plain Janes

Movies
The Diving Bell and The Butterfly
Appleseed Ex Machina
En Soap

Albums
She and Him Volume 1

Webcomics
Questionable Content
Anders Loves Maria
Minus

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Zombiepocalypse!


Brooks, Max. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. New York: Crown, 2006.

Those of you who know me know I love a good zombie survival tale. In fact, I even made a "How to Survive the Zombiepocalypse" annotated reading list. Recently my library school reading group read Monsters Horror for our group meeting and the only two of us who showed up both had read Monster Island by David Wellington (which is not going to be reviewed here, for a number of reasons.) But prior even to that reading group announcement I'd checked out every zombie novel in the library, one of which, a YA novel called "The Boy Who Couldn't Die" will be reviewed here later. How do I have all these crazy buckets of time to read an review? Well, I'm graduating from my MLS program and don't have to read 300 pages of articles a week or write any assignments for class. Free to review what I want!
So here's my lastest review of one of my favorite books in one of my favorite genres.

The zombiepocalypse is no laughing matter. But Mel Brooks' son Max brings all the humanity, sadness, horror, and yes, even humor as can be found. As promised it is a "transcribed" series of different experiences from different perspectives and places around the world. In addition to being a great story it shows as much thought as the "Zombie Survival Handbook" in how to battle such a menace should the this tragedy become reality. My favorite story was the French catacombs with all the spookiness around, followed quickly by the story of a Japanese Otaku (outsider) who finally got off the internet and found himself surrounded by the undead. All in all a fantastic read. The book also does a great job of taking one character, one story and then circling back around to that character as the book goes on. Basically the book takes us through 10-20 characters all over the world in their fight for survival when the outbreaks first start, when full on zombie war is waging and we're losing, the turning of the tides, and obviously we both begin and end after WWZ. This book is great if you are a member of an Undead Survival Society. Personally I'm in the Zombie Squad. But even if you aren't there are plenty of other elements in this fast paced and engaging read to get the lovers of war stories, horror, histories, anthropology, or well-written fiction involved.


Warning; This book contains scenes of graphic horror and violence. May keep you up at night.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Library Thing

My SNS (social networking site) addiction has reached a new high (or low depending on how you feel about web 2.0) and I now have a Library Thing profile for quick reviews and keeping track of what I have and am reading. Longer reviews will still be published here.

My arms stretch wide across the net.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Kissing the bee


Koja, Kathe. Kissing the Bee. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.

I'm not going to tell you much about this book. It is so well written that it almost doesn't even matter what it is about. And after reading a bit of what I believe is her personal blog, I think Kathe Koja is someone I will be reading more of in the future and probably will wish sometimes that we were friends.

This is a book about the senior year of high school. It is about growing up or just getting older. There are friendships and there is love. This is a book about bees and butterflies. This is a book that you should read, especially if you are in high school, but even if you are not.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Twilight, New Moon,Eclipse

Meyer, Stephenie. Twilight. New York: Little, Brown and Co, 2005.
Meyer, Stephenie. New Moon. New York: Little, Brown and Co, 2006.
Meyer, Stephenie. Eclipse. New York:Little, Brown, 2007.



In my Materials for Youth class we had to give a booktalk to the class. The booktalking assignment fell on the two weeks around Halloween and I think seven people chose vampires/horror books as their theme, and all of those people tied in Twilight. Which is the least horrific vampire novel ever written.
So for my valentine's day post I'm giving you a review of the most absurdly romantic books ever written. Talk about giving people unrealistic expectations about love! As a side note I'd like to say that I don't think erotic/romantic vampire stories should count as horror, as my friend Adrienne likes to point out (repeatedly), "Dude, It's all just a metaphor for sex!"
Yes, yes it is Adrienne. One big giant cautionary tale about waiting until you are ready for sex and then you will get eternal life, or you'll die early from hiv/aids, I mean, depending on how closely you look at the metaphor. Just as a warning though, I wouldn't look at it too closely, judging from Stephanie Meyer's writing style I'd say she just read one too many sexy Anne Rice novels, and a few more of Laurell K. Hamilton's later Anita Blake books, had typical romantic goth high school fantasies about the Toreador clan.
Anyway, the book starts off with the main vampy dude Edward, and all his pale brethren trying to fit in as a normal family "The Cullens" in a small Washington town. Our heroine, Bella, is an annoyingly self-deprecating waif with divorced parents. At the beginning of the tale she's just moved in to a different state and school with her dad after her mom has a new exciting beau she wants to get to know better or something. Edward pretends to hate Bella when they are lab partners because he looks 17 and being normal means going to high school. The tale gets complicated because both characters are extreme and stubborn and generally given to making problems because their lives are too easy and fun except when other vampires happen by and want to kill Bella. Oh, and Bella wants to be a vampire because Edward is going to be immortal without her (does this make her a bug chaser?) Edward doesn't want her to be a vampire (shock.) Three (soon to be four) books of this with more plot twists, like a hot best male friend for Bella, oh la la!
Anyway, the best part of these books are that they are huge, but a really smooth easy read. And I did find myself wanting to read more and immediately reserved the second two books after finishing Twilight.. They are fun, fast-paced, have a great setting and side characters and follow an entertaining formula once you get to parts where Bella quits feeling sorry for herself because she's a nerdy klutz and not preternaturally beautiful (I like Anita Blake's, "I'm cute, but I don't compare...whatevs!" attitude much better.)
I'm looking forward to book 4, and possibly renting the movies when they come out, and if you like a good romantic vampire story (and I do) please feel free to indulge in this guiltiest of Young Adult fiction pleasures. Just, don't go thinking the preternatural creatures in these books are going to scare you. Unless you are scared of self-induced drama queen vampires, then they might.