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.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

So, my time in library school is drawing to a close and I am reflecting on what classes have taught me the most that I'm actually going to use. Readers' Advisory is one of those classes (do you see this blog? what do you think I'm trying to do here? oh yeah.)
I just wanted to highlight a resource that I currently take a lot of advantage of, partially because I'm a contributor, but also because I know that in addition to reviews, booklists, and bookmarks there is also a comprehensive list of other readers advisory resources by genre. Joyce Saricks even sent the creator and maintainer of this website an email commending the work. I'll put the link on the "links list" as well, but for general purposes, let's just note that is a good place to go for all your SLIS reading group and other readers' advisory needs.

Extremely loud and incredibly close

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.

Pre-review thoughts.
I'm writing this about two weeks after finishing the book and about two minutes after reading Harry Siegel's rant/review. The book is neither as good as Harry claims it is touted to be, nor as vile as he claims. Harry's point is that Foer steals stylistically from other authors. And? I tend to believe people always steal from each other, especially ideas. I'm always hearing about how nothing truly new can be created anymore. It's all been done before. But I, like so many others of my age, find amusement and comfort in the appropriation and recontextualization (or the stealing and making your own) of words. We quote the Simpsons ("D'oh!")and The Princess Bride with alarming frequency ("You keep using that word! I do not think it means what you think it means!") We title our blog entries with song lyrics. Our myspace "who we want to meet" reference last night's "The Office." And when we feel really creative we interweave other people's poetry into our own prose, and we do it almost as an automatic response, like blinking in the sun when you walk out of a building.
Actual review.
Oskar Schell lost his dad in the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. He spends all of the book trying to figure out the last living puzzle his dad put together and by doing so work through all of his issues with his dad's death. The entire book is this sort of personal journey, a bit overblown and occasionally too detailed and slow. There are extremely enjoyable bits (the fan-mail responses are some of my favorites.) And some incredibly not enjoyable bits (the stream of consciousness letters got old after a bit. I stopped caring about Oskar's grandfather five minutes into his first ravings.) I liked the puzzling bits, and Oskar's determination. The turn of phrase, which Siegel seems to despise (or at least dismiss offhand), are now a part of my vocabulary ("Heavy Boots" means I'm sad, and now when I like something I describe it as being "100 dollars.") I like the omniscient mother who let's Oskar be Oskar (though I do agree with Siegel here that in real life I would find Oskar a small but too precious and tiring prat.) The story is best unfolded slowly. It took me several weeks to finish, just taking it in chapter by chapter as a soothing bedtime story. I like the wrap up of the book. It ends bittersweetly. This book and a book I reviewed earlier, Maynard and Jennica, both make me have somewhat warmer fuzzier feelings then I ever have had in the past about New Yorkers and New York in general.