Feb 20, 2014

#HubChallenge: Maggot Moon

I'm starting off my Hub Reading Challenge! If you want to follow my progress, I'm compiling all of the entries over here and if you want to read more about the Challenge, you can do so over at The Hub.

Title: Maggot Moon
Author: Sally Gardner
Award/List: Printz Honor

This is going to sound weird, but I really wanted to read this book and get it out of the way.  I hate the word maggot.  So much.  It's bizarre.  Growing up, it was very difficult to watch Cadet Kelly when it aired (all of the time) on Disney.

Sadly, I read this as an ebook and for some reason it did not contain the illustrations that accompany the story.  I actually didn't even realize there were illustrations until I looked at the ALA description of the book.  I did enjoy the story without them, but now I'm worried that I missed a lot of insight and story. But, I did jump into this book blindly and was pleasantly surprised.

The story as I read it: Standish and his grandfather live in the lowest of the sectors of a totalitarian Motherland, just barely getting by. Oppression surrounds Standish at home, school and the playground. After being subjected to extreme violence on an almost daily basis, Standish and his grandfather take action to shine a light of truth on the Motherland's projection of reality. Soon everyone will know what's beyond the wall.

It's a story about friendship, trust, and rebellion.  Definitely worth picking up.  It was a fast read, but then again, I read it without the pictures which I'm really sad about! Has anyone read it with the pictures? AKA how it's supposed to be read? Should I stumble into a bookstore and flip through a book?

Feb 4, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Will Make You Cry

How fitting that this week's Top Ten Tuesday is books that will make you cry, because I was holding back tears this morning on the commute to work.  It was only partly because the train was grossly overheated and stuffed with people refusing to acknowledge that my lap was an inappropriate place to put their foot.  I wasn't even seated.  No, I was finishing a tearjerker this morning so I will use that to start my

Top Ten Books That Will Make You Cry:

1. If I Stay, by Gayle Forman

Mia and her family are in a fatal car crash. While the rest of her family dies on impact, Mia is the only one still holding on. Mia's spirit moves outside her body, wandering the hospital where doctors struggle to save her life and watching her remaining loved ones try to cope with the huge loss.  She struggles with the decision to continue her life without her family or move on to be alongside them.  A film version is being released later this year.

2. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

This is the book that everyone says makes them cry.  I wanted to prove everyone wrong and not cry when I read it last year, but it was absolutely impossible.  Again, the film version is out later this year (YA lit is pretty trendy, eh?)

3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by JK Rowling

Dobby.  That is all.

4. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher

Hannah committed suicide two weeks ago and left behind thirteen cassette tapes detailing the reasons why she decided to end her life. The tapes are passed from one person to another, so they can listen to what they did that resulted in her ultimate decision.

5. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

Set during the Holocaust, Liesel shares the books she steals with her neighbors and the Jewish man her family is helping to hide.  Narrated by death, it's a very powerful book that offers a new perspective on a terrible time in history.  I know a movie was released last year (again, trend), and it is still upsetting to me to this day.

6. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

When my 7th grade teacher read the first page aloud to us in an effort to booktalk it, it came across as an hilarious book. And while it is humorous at times, it doesn't shield the reader from the horrific experiences Melinda goes through in one year of high school.

7. Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls

I read this for class in 5th grade.  I believe it's my first encounter with the phenomenon of "dogs on the cover usually die inside the book."

8. The Five People You Meet In Heaven, by Mitch Albom

I mean, this book is designed for that purpose, no?

9. Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White

The message of this book, as so delicately put by Phoebe from Friends: "The spider, she dies, she dies. She has babies and dies. It's like, you know: Hey, welcome home from the hospital. Thud."  Okay, not the message, but it definitely brings on the heartache.

10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chobsky

I didn't actually cry the first time I read this novel.  The second time through, though, I started picking up all of the clues foreshadowing the ending and it really had an emotional impact on me.  Such a great book. 

Check out more tearjerker lists over at The Broke and the Bookish!

Jan 26, 2014

Review: Bumped

Before I get into my feelings on Megan McCafferty's dystopia Bumped, I'm working at the library right now and the teens here just taught me a neat trick. If you smash your phone's touchscreen, something many people are prone to do, you can put tape over the crack and the touchscreen will still function.  As someone who fears breaking touchscreens, this is fantastic information.

Moving along.

Bumped. A dystopia where teen pregnancy is a blessing, even encouraged by the adult population.  Why? Because due to a virus, practically no one over the age of 18 can procreate. As soon as a teen girl becomes fertile, she is to get pregnant ASAP and hand over the baby to the highest bidder. Teens are even hired as "pros" and essentially pimped out for their highly esteemed genetic qualities. Within this universe, there lies a religious community who is against this way of life, preferring their infants to be born into families. Identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth, each living in a different area.  When they meet, the entire "bumping" system is set to come crashing down around them.

If I didn't already know this before, I certainly know it now. I am officially tired of the dystopia trend.  Having thoroughly enjoyed McCafferty's Jessica Darling series, I assumed that I would enjoy her dystopia.  I was wrong.

There's a chance that my overexposure to dystopias is what caused me to dislike this novel so much, especially because there are positives to consider.  For instance, the reader is immediately thrown into the universe. There's no long explanation of how the nation got to this point (as evident in dystopias like The Hunger Games and Divergent - where it's even more out of place as their first person narration should deem the background unnecessary).  Instead, the Bumped reader dives right into the strange lingo and new concepts and must fill in the blanks as they progress through the story.

Unfortunately, the plot not only tends to run in place to fill up pages, but also relies on cliche characterizations of religious people to forward the action. It was a struggle for me to get through the entire novel and I think I may just read a summary of the sequel (because even when I dislike a series book, I still need to know what happens).

If you're interested in a dystopia that focuses on reproductive rights, I would suggest that you instead try Neal Shusterman's Unwind or Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.

Jan 17, 2014

Review: A Mango-Shaped Space

A Mango-Shaped Space, by Wendy Mass, is a title that I have consistently recommended to students but, as of December 2013, had never read myself.  I knew that it was realistic fiction about a girl who saw letters and numbers in color (synesthesia), that the novel made many people cry, and that there was a cat named Mango (three guesses as to why everyone cries; hint: my theory about books with dogs on the cover).

After recommending it so many times and consistently getting positive feedback from the readers, I decided it was time to actually read it myself. I loved it.

At the start of the novel, Mia reflects on a traumatizing third grade experience when she tried to explain the proper colors for each number to her math class.  Ridiculed by her teacher and classmates when they did not follow along, Mia was forced to keep her visions a secret. But when she starts algebra, the combination of numbers and letters makes her secret too much to bear. Mia learns that her condition has a name, synesthesia, and dives into a world of information.  Mia must balance her new appreciation of her colorful life with her classwork, friends, family, and her cat Mango, whom she believes contains a piece of her grandfather's soul, a man who had always understood her in more ways than she could have known. 

I really welcome stories that offer new perspectives.  You can never really see what another person sees, especially in Mia's case. What I enjoyed most about this novel was the emphasis on trust.  Mia experiences so much disbelief from others: her teachers, classmates, parents, even her best friend, that it's heartwarming to see her remain so trusting as she works to educate both herself and others about her condition. It's also important for the child and young adult readers to experience the distrust and teasing that Mia encounters in her quest for the truth.

I think the only aspect of the novel that bothered me was the fact that she never got caught for falsely going to acupuncture to heighten her synesthesia. If you've read it, did that bother you?

Jan 10, 2014

Happy (Belated) New Year!!

Happy New Year! I hope you're all having a great start to this year.  It's been quite an interesting start to my 2014, book wise. 

For starters, I rang in the new year in Las Vegas of all places with Britney Spears of all people (and it was no less than fantastic!) Now I know that Vegas doesn't seem like a bookish place, but for this non-gambler it was a great chance to fly through a bunch of books (reviews on those later). 

Secondly, a pipe burst above my apartment in the middle of a blizzard.  I woke up at the wonderous hour that is 5:30 a.m. to a waterfall in my bedroom, closet, and bathroom.  After moving my possessions out of harm's way, yet another waterfall burst through the ceiling just one inch from my bed.  I kid you not, I turned to my roommate, shrieked "WE HAVE TO GET EVERYTHING OUT OF HERE!," grabbed all of my Harry Potter books and ran down the hall.  Then I returned for my library books.  I think the TV was the last thing I removed.  Priorities!!

Lastly, a group of students recently noticed my Shelfari and have become obsessed with creating their own to-read-lists.  In their efforts to come up with lists, they've started a new game called "Miss P. what is this book about?" At first it was an honest attempt at creating lists, but when I kept knocking quick book talks out of the park, it became their quest to find a book I couldn't describe off the top of my head.  It's actually a lot of fun and thanks to this new game, I've added books to my list!

Now for my bookish resolutions:

1. Read more books that I'm unfamiliar with.  Last year was full of me catching up on series that I had never finished.  While I still plan on pursuing finishing various series, I want to explore more, especially in graphic novels.

2. Be better about blogging!

3. Read recommended titles faster.

4. Read at least one "adult" book a month.  Maybe.  We'll see about that.  I do love living in the world of children's and YA literature, but sometimes it's nice to know what the grown-ups are talking about. Plus,v many teens have a taste for the older books.   

Dec 24, 2013

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

Remember when Harry asks Dumbledore what he sees when he looks at the Mirror of Erised? Dumbledore lies (we assume) and says that he sees himself holding thick socks, because another Christmas has come and gone with him only receiving books.  Putting aside the fact that Dumbledore should be grateful that people are purchasing him gifts with love rather than complaining, I understand how he feels.  People obviously know that I love books, but have a hard time figuring out which books I would actually want and not already own.  Regardless, I LOVE getting books (and socks too, to be fair) so here are my

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

1.  Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh

Every time she posts on her blog, my news feeds explode.  I can't wait to read this. 

2. The Long Way Home, by George Jeanty and Joss Whedon

I own every volume of Buffy Season 8 except for the first one which I can never find anywhere! I don't want to buy it from Amazon (even though I know I could), because I like supporting comic book stores.  My addiction to The Big Bang Theory contributed heavily to my feelings on the matter.

3. The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!, by Mo Willems

Without question, my favorite picture book of all time is Don't Let the Pigeon Ride the Bus, and this sequel is a close second.

4. Chopsticks, by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

This graphic novel that is completely up to the reader's interpretation is so beautiful and one of my all-time favorites. 

5. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

I'm a bad librarian when it comes to my personal collection.  In my efforts to push my favorite books onto friends and family, I lent this copy to a friend, who then lent it to a friend, who then lent it to a friend (or possibly a frenemy) and now it's gone for good.  I really should charge late fees.

6. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

See above.

7. A boxed set of the Molly: American Girl series

I have the complete Samantha collection (who is my favorite) but I don't have the entire Molly set (my second favorite).  Also, earlier this year I learned that both dolls were retired and it really broke my heart.

8. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

I collect picture books and for some inexplicable reason, I don't have this book.

9. Broadway Musicals, Revised and Updated: The 101 Greatest Shows of All Time, by
Frank Vlastnik and Ken Bloom

I love musicals and I would get lost in this coffee table book in a heartbeat.

10. Finishing the Hat, by Stephen Sondheim

Again, I love musicals, I love Sondheim musicals, and his interview on The Colbert Report really sealed the deal on me wanting this book.

Check out more over at The Broke and the Bookish!

And Merry Christmas! (if that's your thing)

Dec 22, 2013

#TheList, No. 431: The Wind in the Willows

Kenneth Grahame's 1908 classic, The Wind in the Willows, tells the tale of four animal friends - Rat, Mole, Badger and Toad.  Toad is the reckless animal of the bunch - always coveting the latest trend whether it be horse drawn carriages or motor cars (note: this was written towards the end of the second industrial revolution).  His three friends worry that he will get himself into trouble with his impulsive behavior and, lo and behold, Toad is caught stealing a car and thrown into jail for 20 years. He escapes and after indulging himself once again with irrational behavior, teams up with his friends to reclaim his old home from the animals who have overtaken it.

If a middle or high school student asked me for a nostalgia-based book they could incorporate into a history/literature project, I would say "you got it dude" and hand them The Wind in the Willows

Looking for a riveting read? I would tell them to look elsewhere.

In terms of its historical significance and reflection of people resistant to change, it's a great read. Toad stands for the new and exciting industrial age, while his friends represent the fondness for a simpler time.  While I may find it boring to read through (and some agree and many disagree), I really do appreciate the symbolic aspects of the story.  For me, the analysis of the characters and action is more entertaining than the actual story. Plus, who doesn't love anthropomorpized animals?

Dec 17, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: New to Me Authors in 2013

When I was surrounded by fellow bibliophiles in grad school, I realized that there were so many children's/YA/fiction books I had yet to explore.  Thus began my adventure to read everything on #TheList, every title mentioned in the classroom, every amazing book I passed in a bookstore (I take pictures of every book that looks interesting so I don't forget), etc.  So there are always "new to me" authors I encounter that already have established fandoms.  Here are some of my favorites from this past year:

Top Ten "New to Me" Authors in 2013
(Titles I read in 2013 in parentheses)

1. John Green (The Fault in Our Stars, An Abundance of Katherines)
Okay, my first on the list and I'm cheating.  I read Looking for Alaska a few years ago.  BUT, The Fault in Our Stars really got me hooked on Green's writing and also led me to his vlogs which are both insightful and hysterical.  I've added the rest of his works to my "To Be Read" short list.

2. Marie Lu (Legend, Prodigy, Champion)
I read all three of the Legend series books this year, which I'm sure most people will do now that they're all available. I felt I had to take this crash course in them because my students were utterly obsessed with this series.  I hope she writes a non-dystopian in the future; I'm curious about where she'll go as an author.

3. Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard Book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane)
I've always known that Neil Gaiman is practically worshipped as a literary god by most of the internet world, but had never really gotten into his works.  I picked up Ocean on a whim and ended up reading it in one sitting.

4. Megan McCafferty (Sloppy Firsts)
After hearing so much about Jessica Darling throughout grad school, I finally experienced the character for myself.  Needless to say, I will be reading the rest of the series ASAP, as well as McCaffertys Bumped series.

5. Sherlock
Okay, this doesn't count as an author, but alongside Buffy, this show is all library school students (and professors) talk about.  I crossed it off my list this year and eagerly anticipate Season 3.

6. Frances Hodsgon Burnett (The Secret Garden)
I'm positive that I tried reading The Secret Garden and A Little Princess as a child, but couldn't finish them because I was am a brat that stays away from classics. But I enjoyed and appreciated this novel this time around, so perhaps there's hope for me yet!

7. Carolyn Mackler (The Earth, My Butt & Other Big Round Things)
I'll admit I believed that Earth would be a bit of a fluffy read, but Mackler took a frequently used trope (teen upset with body image) and added a twist.  I'll definitely be reading more of her works in the future.

8. Emily M. Danforth (The Miseducation of Cameron Post)
Cameron Post is one of my top 5 books of this year.  It's also Danforth's debut novel and I can't wait for her next.

9. Sarah Dessen (Someone Like You)
For years, I've passed the shelves filled with her (very pretty) books and I finally got a chance to see what all the fuss was about.

10. Robert Galbraith (The Cuckoo's Calling)
Wow this author was really terrific.  I hope he's written other books...

Check out more over at The Broke and the Bookish!

Dec 13, 2013

Friday Five: "Little Girl Books"

I haven't posted a good rant in what seems like ages, so it seems almost fitting that I write one on a Friday the 13th.

Earlier this week, a coworker mentioned that she was reading an Oprah book selection and asked if I had read it yet (I believe it was The Two Hotel Francforts).  I said that I had not and when I reached for the book to read the description, she responded with "Oh that's right. You only read 'little girl books.'"

I've had a fair share of people making fun of my preference for reading children's and young adult literature (as well as my preference for working with children and young adults), so I smiled and laughed it off, but on the inside I felt like:

Why? Because it was a fellow library coworker who voiced this insult.  I can semi-understand when people who aren't well versed in the land of YA and children's lit think that it's a little strange.  But a fellow librarian?  Hurtful!

She probably thought it was harmless and maybe it is; maybe I'm overreacting.  But to me it's a sexist, insulting remark to casually toss around.  It suggests to an entire gender and age group that their book selections are meaningless. What exactly makes a book a "little girl book?"  Are they restricted to featuring only "little girl" activities? Are boys even allowed? Do they require less mental capacity to understand? Do they have stickers? Are they height based? Did she mean Thumbelina?

What would have been unoffensive:
  • "Oh that's right, you prefer to read young adult books."
  • "Oh that's right, you prefer reading different types of books."
  • "Oh that's right, this book might not have crossed your radar."
  • "Oh you should give it a try, I think you'll like it."
But no, she went with "Oh that's right. You only read 'little girl books.'"

So, under the assumption she meant that "little girl books" are dainty, easy to digest, and not intellectually or emotionally stimulating*, here are my

Top 5 "little girl books" that I read this year:

1. Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein
The story of two young women during WWII - one a pilot and the other a spy captured by the Gestapo and held as a prisoner of war.

History, spies, torture: Definitely a "little girl book".

2. I Hunt Killers, by Barry Lyga

Jasper Dent investigates a series of murders taking place in his hometown. Why? Because they're copycat versions of the murders his serial killer father committed years ago.

Murder, psychological manipulation: Definitely a "little girl book".

3.Does My Head Look Big in This?, by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Amal, a Muslim Australian attending a rather non-diverse school, decides that she wants to wear a hijab (head scarf) full-time.  She is met with criticism from her family, friends, classmates, and strangers.

Religious prejudice, sexism, cultural identity: Definitely a "little girl book".

4. The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily Danforth

A young teen coming to terms with her sexuality believes that she is the reason her parents were killed in an airplane crash.  She is forced to attend a gay conversion camp by her aunt.

LGBT, guilt, suicide: Definitely a "little girl book".

5. The Earth, My Butt & Other Big Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler

A teen battling body issues and constantly hoping for acceptance from her family, must now cope with the shattered images of those closest to her.

Rape, eating disorders, coming of age: Definitely a "little girl book". 

*Is there anything wrong with those types of books? NOPE.  Have I read books that may fit that description? Absolutely.  But to merely classify all of children's lit and YA as "little girl books" and act as if that is somehow beneath you is what's wrong.

Dec 10, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: My Winter TBR List

It's so hard for me to pick out what books to read next.  But here are 10 that I know I'll be reading this winter:

Top Ten Books on my Winter TBR List:

1. The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer

A student made me promise I would read this ASAP because it's her favorite book of all time.

2. Cinder, by Marissa Meyer

Another recommendation from a student.  She was so excited about this book, so I had to add it to my list.

3. The Strange Case of Origama Yoda, by Tom Angleberger

Every time I see a book from this series, I'm curious.

4. A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin

Alright, this one is a lofty feat for me because I love books that I can read in one day, or at least over the span of a few days.  But everyone keeps telling me to give it a try, so I think I will.

5. Liar and Spy, by Rebecca Stead

I loved When You Reach Me and have been meaning to try Stead's other novel.  

6. Bumped, by Megan McCafferty

I'm a dystopia addict, what can I say?

7. Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger

This book has been on my list for far to long.  It's time to add this to my "already read" pile.  

8. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Graphic Novel, by Ransom Riggs

I was unbelievably excited when I saw this book in a store earlier this month.

9. Jane, the Fox, and Me, by Fanny Britt

I read a review of this graphic novel, and it looks incredible. I can't wait to read it.

10. Always Alice aka Now I'll Tell You Everything, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

The last book in the Alice series came out earlier this year.  I will have to do some refreshing reading of earlier books, but I look forward to reading the ending of a series I grew up with. 

Check out more books over at The Broke and the Bookish!