Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Trend Watch: So Tiring For Librarians

Vampires, Werewolves, Fairies, Angels, Zombies, Dragons and now dystopian and/or post-apocalyptic futures are all the rage. And as each new trend is noticed and trumpeted by the press at large I roll my eyes. Oh really, New York Times? Dystopian lit is what all the kids these days are into? They've given up the sparkly vampires are going full force into a bleak future? They love the trend so much that get behind James Frey's "sweatshop" model and read shoddy second rate books* with vim and vigor?

I'm too tired to point out exactly what it is about the linked piece that bothers me so much, but it really does. Maybe it is the meandering tone and the implication that young adult authors don't know their audiences and conversely the about face the article does and implies that teens aren't smart enough to see through the crap some YA authors try to pull.

Blogging while tired (tired in general, and tired of big "watch out for this new YA trend" articles.)
*I haven't read I Am Number Four so anything I say about it here is Not My Opinion.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Caturday: primed and ready.

Because I just couldn't think of anything else to do for this Caturday how about a picture of Tux with Lasers primed.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Sweetness of Salt

Sometimes I think agree with the idea that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I know a little about the craft of writing. I tend to analyze books with what little I know about writing fiction in the foreground and it makes me a little hypercritical about things like character's following through on their motivations, and when I can actually see the editing process in the finished product ("You should add more about how she loved to bake as a teen right here," the editor says pointing to a innocuous chapter that previously had nothing to do with baking.) So I was probably a little harsher on this book than needed.

The Sweetness of SaltThe Sweetness of Salt by Cecilia Galante

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Julia has never really understood her moody (and much older) sister Sophie. She dreads Sophie's return for her high school graduation, and the experience lives up to her fears. Julia is underachiever Sophie's opposite in every way and has her whole life mapped out in front of her. Before Sophie leaves in as much of a whirlwind as she came in she gives Julia two gifts: a car and a place to drive the car. Sophie wants Julia to come up to visit her in the house she's renovating in Vermont (which will also be a bakery.) Julia refuses, of course, until she finds out her parents and sister had been keeping a secret from her for her entire life.

The rest of the story is about Julia's time in Vermont with Sophie helping her fix up the old house/bakery and her burgeoning but different relationships with two guys. Revelations and drastic personality/life shifts become almost common place in the last 1/4th of the book.

The writing is heavy handed. (Way way way too many metaphors serving as plot points and pretending to be character development. Please, you don't need to hit me over the head with your literary devices.) To be fair, the author knew what she wanted to do with the metaphors she chooses. The main problem is that very early on, I did too.

At the same time, it was an engrossing read. I wanted to know more about this family secret and more about the thinly developed romance between Julia and the boy across the street. Many times I found Julia to be an obnoxious and bratty narrator, but the methodically paced out revelations saved her from being unbearable. Julia is not the only one with character development problems. The parents in this book do some really loathsome and detrimental things to both daughters, especially Sophie. All of which is glossed over and given a shine during the unnecessary epilogue.

Who should read this book?

Realistic fiction readers who like some drama and a hint of romance will enjoy this book. Despite my criticisms this book would be popular with anyone who has a difficult sibling relationship to work through. What sibling relationship isn’t at least a little difficult at times? It also really was a very well paced and plotted novel with some lovely descriptions.

View all my reviews

Metaphors are kind of awesome, right? They are a way for us relate anything back our own experiences or at least experiences we can image having. Unfortunately Galante just got a little heavy handed with her metaphor shaker, and much like salt, too much metaphor is bad for your heart.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Another blog post about posting blog posts.

So I've been trying to come up with a schedule for this blog and of course I want to have fun names for everything, like my lovely friend Caitlin over at Out of the Loop who has "Mentionable Mondays."
I was thinking about "News on Tues" but I can't tell if the cheese factor is too overwhelming. Then I decided to just go for it anyway.

The plan is to post three times a week.

1x News on Tues
- will consist of me either reviewing an ARC (so new it hasn't even been released!) or something that just came out in the past month. Sometimes it might be news about the blog (like today!) or some noteworthy Library World thing that just happened.

2x Teen Services Thursdays
-mostly ruminations and reflections related to working with that tricky 13-19 demographic. There might be some reviews crammed in here too. Well, yeah, that's really likely actually. Put those reviews where ever you can fit em I always say.

3x Caturday!*
-by which I mean anything goes on Saturdays (including but not limited to pictures of cats!)

So since me talking about this is going to count as News for this Tues please be prepared for some aspect of Teen Services this Thursday.

*please note that Caturday may switch on occasion to Funday depending on how busy I am that weekend.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I, like many people, suffered through two of the worst years of my life with painful orthodontia. In addition to the usual braces I had a device attached to my top teeth that fitted over the entire roof of my mouth and made speaking clearly nearly impossible. The device was a palate widener. Once a day a member of my family would crank it twice and work towards breaking my upper palate so my overlapping front teeth would not overlap anymore. Luckily I only had that particular torture for a few months of the whole ordeal.

If you think my experience was bad (and it was, oh yes, it was) it was NOTHING compared to what dental hell Raina Telgemeier shows us in her awesome memoir "Smile."

SmileSmile by Raina Telgemeier

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Raina had just gotten braces on her teeth when a far more serious dental tragedy struck. After a Girl Scout meeting she tripped and fell. One of her front teeth was knocked out completely, the other one was knocked far into her gums. The rest of the memoir reflects on Raina's experiences with corrective orthodontia (and other specializations that will give the average reader dental nightmares) as well as chronicling her puberty and growing up processes. Raina isn't always brave about what is happening to her mouth, but she's always relatable. In fact, the art, the story, the characters are all so relatable (to someone with a middle class background and decent health and dental insurance, anyway.) Though dental drama and orthodontia seem mundane, what they really are are the things that those of us who've experienced them don't just forget, but actively push to the corners of our memories. Bravo to Raina Telgemeier for being able to pull the experience out and use it to flesh out her coming of age story into something recognizable to every kid who ever had headgear or remembers what it felt like to have a guy reach into your mouth, tighten a wire, and make eating painful to impossible for the next several days.

View all my reviews

Side Notes:
One thing I don't mention in the review is just exactly how hyper-aware I was in the reading of this memoir that as painful and awkward as the experience with orthodontia was as a child, it was a privilege to be able to experience it. Not a privilege in the "oh it has been an honor to share these years with these braces" but more of a "I was a privileged person whose parents had the resources to provide me with a lovely smile."

As a side note, I met Raina Telgemeier last year at C2E2. She was in the artists alley with her husband and I recognized the book she had piles of on her table as "Smile." I told her how popular the novel was in our Library and how nice it was to meet her. I noticed then, and you can see in her author photo, that her smile is really quite beautiful.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

90 Second Newberys

(This post is cross-posted to the Young Adult Services Forum's "So like YA know" blog.)
Let's face it, when it comes to encouraging literacy and promoting libraries through viral video the results are....mixed. But if we give patrons the chance to create videos out of their favorite stories I think the results have the potential to be amazing.
James Kennedy is the author of The Order of Odd Fish and from what I can tell an all-around stand up guy. We've been email introduced by a mutual awesome acquantaince and James will be coming to my Library for a presentation this summer. I also did a program proposal for ILA this year for a Tween/Teen Local Author Panel and James jumped right on board with that idea. Though we've only corresponded via email I think it is fair assessment that he is all about using his talents to encourage literacy for all.

And in that spirit he recently announced a contest on his blog!
Big news! I am pleased to announce, with the New York Public Library, the 90-Second Newbery Video Contest! Thanks to Betsy Bird at Fuse #8 for her help in getting this off the ground.

I think this is a brilliant idea and I want to see some stellar videos as a result (some already exist and you can see them on James' website or on the link to Betsy Bird above!)

Okay, so here are the rules
1. Your video should be 90 seconds or less. (Okay, okay: if it’s three minutes long but absolute genius, we’ll bend the rules for you. But let’s try to keep them short.)

2. Your video has to be about a Newbery award-winning (or Newbery honor-winning) book. Here’s a list of all the winners.

3. Your video must condense the plot of the book in 90 seconds or less. Again, exceptions will be made for something really ingeniously bonkers, but it has to be related to a Newbery winning book.

4. Upload your videos to YouTube or Vimeo or whatever and send me the link at kennedyjames [at] gmail [dot] com. Make the subject line be “90 SECOND NEWBERY” and please tell me your name, age, where you’re from, and whatever other comments you’d like to include, including whether you’d like me to link to your personal site. You can give an alias if you want; I understand privacy concerns.

5. Sending the link to me grants me (James Kennedy) the right to post it on my blog and to other websites where I sometimes post content (like Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and to share at public readings, school visits—and hopefully the 90-Second Film Festival at the New York Public Library in the Fall of 2011.

6. Deadline is September 15, 2011.

This sounds so awesome. I'm going to be encouraging every eligible person to create and submit an entry and I think you should too!

Friday, February 4, 2011

A hiatus I forgot to tell you about...

So 2 weddings (one of them my own) and a whole lot of blogennui while pursing interests outside of the Library World* has resulted in a lack of updates. But, the work/life balance is starting to head towards middle ground again and I'm going to get back to reviewing here soon. I've been reading lots of stuff and some of it I even liked. And a hiatus (even an unplanned one) is good because it means I've been doing a lot of thinking about my reviewing process and writing this blog and how I want to improve on it.

*Knitting is just one of the newish hobbies I'm pursuing! Yeah, just one of them! Photo on 2011-01-14 at 22.36