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Move to Tumblr? February 14, 2011

Posted by Katie in reviews.
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Well, as you’ve noticed — or maybe not noticed — I haven’t posted on the blog since September. I’m still reading just as much as I used to, but haven’t really felt like I needed to blog. Part of that is because I’ve got so many librarian contacts and friends, and now I follow so many bloggers on Twitter that I talk about books ALL THE TIME. I’ve lost that need to use the blog as a vehicle to share my love of reading.

I’ve also taken on way more responsibility at work, and am finding that I lack the time to dedicate to a blog. Or at least, I want to spend more time blogging than I currently can.

(And I’ve started blogging about storytime, which is easier to update and really makes me very happy.)

But, I do miss blogging about YA. So, a few weeks ago I started a Tumblr account here and I just wanted to let everyone about it. I don’t know what it will become, or whether or not there will be reviews there, but the core principle is still the same — I’m sharing things I love about reading and books.

speak loudly. September 21, 2010

Posted by Katie in community.
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These days, I’m a quiet presence in the book blogging community. I still interact with y’all on Twitter. I still read all of your entries, but I’ve taken a step back from updating here as often as I used to.

When news surfaced late last week that Laurie Halse Anderson’s book “Speak” was under fire again in a town in Missouri (along with Sarah Ockler’s “Twenty Boy Summer” and Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five”), I struggled to give words to my reaction. After days of reflection, I am sad and I am angry still.

“Speak” had a profound meaning in my life. It was published when I was in ninth grade and was one of the first books that I recall ever really being written for contemporary teens. It was a book that, I believe, led me to becoming a librarian by showing me that teen literature existed.

“Speak” has also had a profound meaning in the lives of the teens that I work with. We have three copies (a lot for my small-medium sized public library — we only have three copies of “Twilight” too), and they are constantly being checked out. And of course, many teens have shared with me their personal “Speak” stories. Stories that are always about finding strength through this work of literature.

It’s hard for me to sit here and know that this book banning is going on around me, and for me to have nothing to do, for lack of a better term. I struggle with not being able to squelch this challenge, with not being able to stamp out the fire that it is causing. I struggle to know how to help a community that I am not a part of.

Instead, I focus on the little bits that I can control. Tonight was Teen Book Club and I set aside five minutes to remind my teens how lucky they are that they have the freedom to read. I told them about this challenge, and reminded them that no one [other than their parents/guardians, of course] had any business telling them what was appropriate for them to read. And I emphasized that I will always be here to help them if a challenge happens to them.

Twenty teens are now reminded that I am their ally. And maybe I will be able to sleep just a little bit better tonight.

why we have book embargoes. August 15, 2010

Posted by Katie in shoptalk.
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Obviously, if you haven’t heard by now, copies of “Mockingjay” have been spotted on bookshelves, and in libraries, and the feverish tweets of “OMG, I HAVE IT” have started.

But the official release date of August 24th is nine days away.

I spent the greater part of my day driving to four different bookstores in the area looking for a copy of the book on shelf.

Not because I needed to have the book first, not because I am dying to know what happens next (although…), not because I was planning on reading it today.

But because I am very afraid of logging onto Twitter sometime this week and seeing a tweet very much like this one, “OMG _____ DIES. (pg. 33)” or “Katniss chooses _________. (pg. 300)”

Book embargoes are in place so that fans of high-profile books (Harry Potter, Twilight, and now The Hunger Games) get to experience reading the books at the same time and so spoilers are not leaked. Book embargoes create the possibility of equal access.

I am particularly upset to hear that libraries are breaking embargo and releasing their copies to the public ahead of time. (I have already checked my library’s system and so far, none are checked out.)

While I don’t begrudge the people who have managed to obtain their copies of “Mockingjay” beforehand, I am nervous on the Internet now.

The only way to protect myself right now is either to log off the Internet until I’ve read the book (impossible as a librarian), or to get a copy. Neither options are feasible.

So, I will wait until the 24th and hope that my experience will not be tainted by someone else’s.

review: “wayfarer” August 10, 2010

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Wayfarer by R.J. Anderson.
HarperTeen // ARC // 304 pages.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Traveling ARC Tours.

Linden, a fifteen-year-old faery, has always lived in the Oak with her fellow faeries. But when the faeries of Oakenwyld are threatened with extinction, Linden is trusted with the last of their magic to go out into the human world to try and find faeries to help the Oak survive. Timothy has just been suspended from school and is staying at the house next to the Oak. Two worlds collide when the two teenagers meet and begin a race throughout England to find a cure for Linden’s people.

I thought that Wayfarer was a great companion novel to Spell Hunter. I think that it’s hard for the second book in a series to live up to the first most of the time, but I was pleasantly surprised by Wayfarer. However, it’s hard to write a review without comparing the two books. Where Spell Hunter has stronger characters, I felt like Wayfarer’s world building and general plot was much heartier than the first book.

(In other words, these two books complement each other perfectly, and when read together give readers the best of both worlds. I was lucky enough to read them on the same day, one right after another.)

Even though this plot had a lot more at stake (the Oak’s survival), I wasn’t as invested in Linden’s story as I had been with Knife. Linden’s character was almost at arms-length for me, and I had trouble relating with her. (It might have been because she was so innocent – which is not a fault; just not my personal preference.) Timothy, on the other hand, was so interesting and I loved watching his development throughout the story. He really changes drastically, but realistically!

I’m kind of at a loss about who to best sell this book to. I think it would work for younger teens reading at a higher level or for sensitive older teens who want faery stories outside of the urban/dark fantasy genre.

Amazon
IndieBound
SWAN catalog
R.J. Anderson

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review: “life, after” July 17, 2010

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Life After by Sarah Darer Littman.
Scholastic Press // ARC // 288 pages.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Traveling ARC Tours.

Dani lives in Argentina with her family – father, mother, and little sister. She has friends, and a boyfriend but her life is nowhere near perfect. Seven years ago, a terrorist attack took the lives of her aunt and unborn cousin. Right now, her family is struggling financially since they lost their family store and Dani’s father is depressed and angry. Many people are leaving Argentina and Dani’s family soon plans a move to America, for a new chance at life. But Dani and her family aren’t the only ones suffering from the aftermath of a terrorist attack – some of the students at Dani’s new school have personal ties to the recent September 11th attack in New York City.

I really enjoyed “Life, After.” I thought that it was a fairly realistic portrayal of grief and the struggle to return to normal after such catastrophic events take place. The story has great layers – parallels between the AMIA building in Buenos Aires terrorist attack and the more well-known (coming from a United States perspective) 9/11 terrorist attack that will really have readers relating to both teen’s struggles.

This novel covers a lot of difficult subjects (terrorism, immigration, poverty, autism spectrum disorders, grief, depression) without coming off as heavy-handed in terms of lessons or morals. And even though it might seem like those are a lot of topics to cover, the novel has great rhythm and flow. I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the subjects at all.

My favorite parts of the novel were actually the scenes in Argentina, and I was sad to see us move from an unfamiliar place and setting to the very familiar contemporary United States. (My suspicion is that teens will have the opposite reaction.) I’m not sure how accurate the portrayal of Argentina is (just looked it up and the author has never been to Argentina, but did a good amount of research) – but I absolutely loved the setting and thought it came to life. I could see the streets and trees. I could imagine Dani’s apartment.

The characterization was awesome, and I thought Dani was full of life. Definitely enjoyed this one and can see a lot of different kinds of angles to sell it to teens. Looking forward to reading more of Darer Littman’s books! (Like “Purge” which is already on my TBR pile.)

Amazon
IndieBound
SWAN catalog
Sarah Darer Littman

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review: “everlasting” July 13, 2010

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Everlasting by Angie Frazier.
Scholastic Press // ARC // 336 pages.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Traveling ARC Tours.

Camille Rowen has always been a shipman’s daughter, sailing with her father on his ships. But in 1855, a woman’s place is not on a ship — it’s with a husband and Camille is engaged. Allowing his daughter one last voyage before her wedding, Camille sets off towards Australia. But what awaits Camille is not what it seems – beyond her sights there are secrets, a mysterious curse, despair, and a different life than she ever imagined.

I don’t really read a lot of historical fiction, but I was willing to give this one a go when I heard that it had paranormal elements in the story. Largely, I would say that this is adventure-romance even more so than historical or paranormal though.

Camille was a narrator struggling between duty and what she really wanted. I think a lot of teens can relate to that struggle and will be able to identify with the narrator. As an adult, I thought that the answer to Camille’s struggle was a little obvious and there were times that I just wanted to shake the girl. But – I did keep in mind that Camille wasn’t a modern girl and that she had more social implications to address than a girl today would have.

My biggest issue with the book was that I didn’t feel enough tension throughout the plotline. I was interested enough to keep reading, but I expected to feel worried for the character’s safety, especially after Frazier shows us (through a character’s death) that her world is dangerous and isn’t safe. But I didn’t feel like Camille or her companions were really facing their deaths.

Overall, I did enjoy the book. I know this will work well with younger teens and tweens – I can imagine them re-reading this several times. I know I would have back in the day!

Amazon
IndieBound
SWAN catalog
Angie Frazier

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nerds heart ya: results! June 23, 2010

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So very excited to have this bracket’s result for Nerds Heart YA today. Heather from Book Addiction and I judged these together, emailing back and forth until we both wound up on the same side. (It wasn’t too hard though — we came to a decision pretty quickly!) You can go read Heather’s post and reviews right here.

In the Path of Falling Objects by Andrew Smith.

Two brothers – Jonah and Simon – are on the road trip from hell. Their brother Matthew’s in Vietnam in the army, their mother’s deserted them, and they’ve just hitched a ride with Mitch, Lilly, and a metal statue of Don Quixote. Lilly’s pregnant, and Mitch just isn’t right – he’s quick to anger, and Jonah is worried for all of their safety. But Simon doesn’t see Mitch as a threat. As tensions rise and the brothers continue to butt heads, Jonah is determined to get both Simon and Lilly away from Mitch.

I’m kind of on the fence about this book. Overall, I enjoyed the read and think that it is a deserving title and one I will be adding to my library’s collection for my teen boys to read.

My biggest problem was the pacing of the novel. It was billed as a suspense novel from the descriptions, and I was not in suspense for a majority of the novel. The first half of the novel is a slow build, and I really struggled to continue the book. I kept waiting for Mitch to snap and for the action to start – but with that complaint, let me say, when the action starts, it doesn’t stop. I devoured the last 100 pages or so of the book, and was actually late getting back to work because I needed to finish the book.

Mitch is a fully realized sociopath. Every scene with him had my stomach pitching to see what would happen to the characters around him.

Jonah’s relationships with both of his brothers are what really sold the book for me. As much as this book was about suspense and Mitch, it was really about being brothers. Matthew’s letters home were my absolute favorite part of the novel and I looked forward to them, even as everyone’s situations were getting worse.

Smith’s writing is refreshing, and incredibly layered. This is a gritty read that I know will be a good book to sell to older teens looking for suspense/action.

Four stars.

Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick.

After being injured in the war, Matt wakes up in an army hospital in Iraq. He’s been awarded the Purple Heart, but Matt’s amnesia prevents him from remembering why he’s being honored as a hero. As Matt struggles to put together the missing pieces from his last time in combat, he’s haunted by an image of a local Iraqi boy, Ali, being shot in front of him. And Matt has a hunch that he was involved in Ali’s death.

I had a personal reaction to this book – my cousin has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan in the air force. Although my cousin is older than 18-year-old Matt, I couldn’t help but picture my cousin in Matt’s situation.

That being said, I thought that the book was a realistic portrayal of a teen struggling with a mystery. I really felt for Matt when he was trying to figure out what happened to him. I have no idea whether or not the book had an accurate representation of military life in a war zone, but I was definitely impressed by the amount of research that McCormick mentions in the acknowledgments portion at the back of the novel.

While Matt was a strong protagonist, he didn’t have all his memories. I felt a little bit of a disconnect from his character at times because of that. However, the rest of the people in Matt’s squad have such personality and I really loved getting to know those characters, along with Matt.

I don’t want to say much about what really happened during Matt’s injury and Ali’s death, but let me just say that I was surprised when it was finally revealed. I did not see it coming, and let out a small gasp at the end.

McCormick is such a solid writer – I’ve already read “Cut” by her for my Teen Book Club – and this novel shows off both her writing, and her research skills. I eagerly look forward to discussing this one with my teens.

Four and a half stars.

Discussion

So, let’s talk about the decision process. The books were nearly a dead-heat tie. I had minor problems with each of the books, but nothing that would knock either of them out of the competition.

In my opinion, Purple Heart was more relatable and was a book that I could see a majority of teens reading and enjoying. In the Path of Falling Objects also had definite merit to it, but the chilling end scenes would have me recommending the book for teens 16+. But, I think that In the Path of Falling Objects may have a longer shelf-life in YA because of the suspense element. Purple Heart may not last on shelves after the war has past.

For me, personally, it came down to which book I would want to re-read and re-discover. And that book was Purple Heart.

still swamped! June 20, 2010

Posted by Katie in shoptalk.
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I don’t know how else to word how truly busy public librarians are during the summer other than to point you towards this fabulous post written by Abby (the) Librarian.

Just this past week alone, I ran our weekly movie day, a grade-school mural painting program, Teen Book Club, a Bubble Party for our 3-7 year-olds, a family program with fish crafts, a packed storytime, and our weekly Wii gaming day. Our Saturday storytime didn’t happen (mostly because Illinois was racked with power outages this weekend), and I will be adding a second storytime program because this week’s was so packed.

We love seeing our kids and teens on a regular, daily basis — but it is truly exhausting.

Things should settle down this week. (We have likely gotten most of the sign-ups out of the way, and our teen volunteers have all have a full week of training/working.)

Look for my portion of Nerds Heart YA results this week, and a lot of reviews that I’ve been holding until the books were released to the public!

48 hour book challenge! June 4, 2010

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It’s about that time again. I am so excited to be participating again in MotherReader’s 48-Hour Book Challenge! This was my kick-off event in the book blogging community, and it is still one of my favorite events.

Last time, I didn’t post a starting line post — this time I am playing by the rules!

I have a general plan for reading:

- Read my two judging books for Nerds Heart YA.
- Tackle some ARCs from BEA. (Yes, I will also have a BEA post up when I find my camera cord…)
- Read a galley I got from a publisher from *before* BEA.

Other than that, I have no hard plans. I’m such a mood reader that I can’t plan out my reading ahead of time! That being said, I probably will read a lot of ARC sequels that I got so that I can pass them on to my teens in a timely manner. (And, you know, before the book is out.)

And my writing goal is to write reviews for every book I complete during the challenge so that I don’t get increasing behind in reviewing!

(I’ll be using Bloggiesta next weekend to catch up on all my reviews from before 48-Hour Book Challenge.)

I plan on reading from 9:00 p.m. CDT tonight (Friday) to 9:00 p.m. CDT Sunday.

Wish me luck, all! And let me know if you’re participating so I can cheer you on as well!

debut book battle. May 11, 2010

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Alyssa from The Shady Glade is hosting an amazing book battle for debut authors. You can find out more about the debut book battle through this link, if you want to! I was lucky enough to be a judge for Round I and I was assigned the following books:

Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas VS. Eighth-Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich.

I was really excited to read both of these books (and very pleasantly surprised that I hadn’t read either of the books already), so I got them from my library immediately.

First impressions: “Because I Am Furniture” really struck me as a cover image. I loved the use of negative space on the cover and really felt like it was an image that gave me an idea of the book’s themes. “Eight-Grade Superzero” looked immediately like a middle-grade novel to me, rather than YA. (Actually after reading it, from a librarian perspective, the book could be shelved in either section. I chose to shelve it as YA in my library.)

I read “Because I Am Furniture” first, because it had a sooner due date at the library. Anke is a fourteen year old girl whose family is being abused by her father — everyone but her. “Because I Am Furniture” struck me as powerful, both in terms of subject matter and in terms of writing. The story is told as a novel in verse. This style absolutely suited the book, letting me know exactly how Anke was feeling and allowing me little glimpses into her situation.

After I finished, I wasn’t sure how to judge this novel against another, because of the subject matter.

But I launched into “Eighth-Grade Superzero” right after that. Reggie is an eighth-grader striving to be invisible at school after puking at an assembly on the first day — that is until he gets involved volunteering and discovers a reason to be visible again. “Eighth-Grade Superzero” was a hilarious, touching book and I not only fell in love with Reggie, but with the writing of the novel.

I promise to talk more about each book when I review it later on the blog, but when it came time to decide between the two, I was struck at just how similar the books were to one another. Without spoiling either ending, I can safely say that these two books were about teens struggling to find their voices — to speak up for people around them who cannot or do speak up for themselves, for whatever reason.

So, it was with a heavy heart that I chose between them and I chose to pass on “Eighth-Grade Superzero” to the next round. I do believe that both books are fabulous additions to YA literature, and I know that both will find their teen audiences. I just wound up enjoying “Eighth-Grade Superzero” more on a personal and a literary level.

And now I can’t wait to see how the rest of the YA Debut Book Battle turns out. Stay tuned at The Shady Glade for the results of each round!

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