Mar 27, 2013

Every Day

Every day, "A" wakes up in the body of another teenager.  Never in the same body twice, "A" lives each day as someone else, filing through memories to pass with friends and family, never forming attachments or making wild decisions that will ruin lives.  Then "A" falls in love with Rhiannon and that lifestyle changes.  He finds himself doing whatever possible to get to "A," ultimately causing Nathan, one of his "stolen identities," so to speak, to catch on to the situation.  "A" has to make the choice either to go back to his detached way of life, or continue to disrupt countless lives for his first taste of his own happiness.

I did like the juxtaposition of "A" chasing an unrealistic dream alongside Nathan chasing the answers to his conundrum.  Nathan can't let go of the idea that a demon is targeting and possessing helpless souls just like "A" can't let go of his need to chase Rhiannon and keep her in his life.  However, my major gripe with this David Levithan novel was that it didn't establish it's purpose clear enough until late in the book. The awkwardly placed interjections about "A's" reactions to Rhiannon not being okay with being physical with a girl led me to believe that this book would be about LGBT rights. The book's premise would have made for an interesting exploration of these issues. It ended up though, being about not holding onto and obsessing over things that are unattainable. There's a difference between chasing dreams and chasing outcomes that hurt you and others. As a result, the repeated inclusions of A's faulting Rhiannon for her aversion felt forced.

All in all, I thought it was a quick, interesting novel that would make a great recommendation for a teen looking for more of a dramatic, insightful read.

Mar 24, 2013

March Madness Round 4

It's official!!!! It's a Hunger Games vs. Harry Potter showdown!!!

We, the librarians, are happy about this. Why? Well for starters because it's two well-written, popular series going against each other. But it's also an older series against a modern series and it shows how long-lasting good quality book series can hold up over time. I know I'm being a hypocrite here because I often voice my distaste for the reverence that the "classics" receive, but that's more of a distaste for relying on them for education. It is important because it means that these books are holding up in popularity despite the fact that kids can now just watch all of the books in movie form. That is the power of a well-written book, people.

Now, the students are not happy about this. There have been many complaints about how it's impossible to choose which series they like more. They love Harry, but they love so many others as well. Hunger Games has actually received the majority of the votes in the past 2 rounds. Harry held strong over Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus, but those books had more weight in the voting. There might be an upset in this round, but I'm not worried. Overhearing the students complain about the difficulty proves to me that they love both.

Also, my bracket may sway them towards Harry Potter without them realizing. A student pointed out to me that the bracket color choices are clearly Gryffindor propaganda! Oops :)

Mar 13, 2013

Titanic: Voices From the Disaster

As part of my quest to read more nonfiction, I picked up this award-winning book about the Titanic.  For some reason, I expected it to read like the James Cameron movie, and I was surprised the majority of the book concerned itself with the crash and the sinking.  But I'm kind of an idiot because the title obviously makes it clear that it's about the disaster angle and not the what happened before fun.

Anywayyyy, the text isn't pedantic, helping to make the information easy to digest, a quality always appreciated amongst the younger set (and older, let's be honest).  It's always interesting to learn about all the safety regulations that went into effect as a result of the tragedy, but you can't help but read this book and wonder how no one had the common sense to think of these things beforehand.  Also, it's obviously heartbreaking at times when you read about the tales of families ripped apart and selfish rich men taking the spots of the designated women and children (oh how times have changed...).

I felt like I had already been exposed to the majority of the information via past textbooks.  Also, the "Unsinkable" Molly Brown is only mentioned TWICE in passing.  That is shameful, in my opinion.

However, the book is definitely worth picking up for the sake of the amazing photos and images. For the teens and children who didn't experience the 1997 film that my generation was inundated with, I think Voices from the Disaster will prove to be a great nonfiction quick pick or school resource.

Mar 12, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: 2013 Spring TBR List

So many books. SO MANY BOOKS.  Here's my top ten of books to read this spring:

Top Ten Books To Be Read This Spring:

1. Game, by Barry Lyga

It's the sequel to I Hunt Killers and it's coming out next month. CANNOT WAIT.

2. The Madness Underneath, by Maureen Johnson

Another sequel, this one to The Name of the Star.  Also CANNOT WAIT

3. The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame

It is the next on #TheList according to my randomly generated list.

4. The Diviners, by Libba Bray

I tried reading Going Bovine once, but it's about 1000 pages long (I exaggerate) and I had only one day to read it (it was for class and writing the 3 papers that were also due in that two day span took major precedent) and I couldn't quite make it through (solid effort though).  The Diviners is on the Hub Reading Challenge, so I'll give it a whirl.

5. Legend, by Marie Wu

It's checked out already and sitting on my shelf waiting for me to finally get through the books I checked out prior to it.

 6. Wonder, by R.J. Palacio

A few weeks ago, I put a bunch of ebooks on hold and they've, of course, all come in this week.  Now I'm rushing to get through them all in the 2 week period.  This is one of those books.

7. Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick

I'm head over heels in love with The Invention of Hugo Cabret, so it's kind of ridiculous that I haven't read this book yet.

8. Janie Face to Face, by Caroline B. Cooney

CBC was one of my all time favorite YA authors growing up and the Janie series was my second favorite of her works (Twenty Pageants Later holds the top spot for anyone who's wondering).  When I saw that a 5th book in the series came out, my mind was blown.

9. Son, by Lois Lowry

Same as above.  As someone who pretty recently found out that The Giver was the first in a series, I finally finished Gathering Blue and The Messenger, allowing me to finally read Son.

10. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

I own it, so I may as well read it this Spring.  I just have to work through the mountain of library books with due dates.

More awesome books to be read at The Broke and the Bookish!

Mar 11, 2013

March Madness Round 3

It's coming closer and closer to the predicted Hunger Games vs. Harry Potter showdown.  Tensions are running high.  Students are upset that they had to pick between HP and Percy Jackson: "How could you put those two against each other?!"  But there can only be one winner...

The Final Four are:

Uglies, by Scott Westerfield vs. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

Heroes of Olympus, by Rick Riordan vs. Harry Potter, by JK Rowling

#TheList, No. 434: The Secret Garden

I've gotten away from #TheList for awhile in order to play some much needed catch-up with more recent titles.  But this past week, I made use of the free books on iBooks and finally read The Secret Garden, by F. Hodgson Burnett.

Old-fashioned racism aside, I enjoyed the tale of the young orphan Mary growing out of her spoiled bratty ways alongside a garden (symbolism!).  After the death of her parents, Mary moves from India to England to live with her emotionally distant uncle (played by Mandy Patinkin in the Broadway musical version!) - a hunchback so heartbroken over the death of his wife, that he forbids anyone to open her garden and also refuses to spend time with his sickly son.  This book really brings out the happiness.  Anyway, Mary of course stumbles upon the garden. With the help of her new-found friends, is able to bring life to the garden, the sickly son, and herself.

The Secret Garden is definitely a novel you have to approach through the eyes of a child, otherwise it just seems kind of bland and full of forced enthusiasm.  But through the eyes of a child, it's obvious how the uncovering of a secret garden and the use of "Magic" to revitalize said garden (and people) is wondrous.

Now about the racism.  Cracked covers it in more detail, though I disagree that the book is "secretly" racist. It was pretty clear from the get go to me.  I think even children (today's children) would pick up on it rather fast, especially with this quote:
 "a lot of blacks there instead of respectable white people."

Now, if you were using this book as a school lesson or library activity (though I think it's best used as a read aloud at home or for a college paper on children's lit), the obvious activity is to make your own secret garden.  Either real or in diorama form.

Mar 8, 2013

Friday Five: Rejuvenated Book Covers

Nostalgia is huge.  Just look at Buzzfeed.  Nearly every other item they post is about how the 90s were incredible.  Series that had been assumed complete years ago are now coming back (The Giver Trilogy became a Quartet and The Face on the Milk Carton Janie series reemerged) and this is both a good and bad thing.  The good thing is that they're introducing children/teens to read-worthy series they have yet to encounter.  The bad news is, the older books have little visual appeal. 

I know the adage tells us not to judge a book by its cover, but the students in my library frequently check out books that look like this:

All are great reads and they also have distinct visual appeal.
Janie Face to Face came out earlier this year.  It looks wonderful:
So many students have come to the circulation desk to check it out.  I've asked all of them if they've read the 4 books that precede it.  The answer is no every time.  So I give them the name of the first book in the series, they see that this is the copy the library holds:

and they immediately lose interest (but also ask about why faces are on milk cartons because that is before their time).  Fortunately, there is a redesigned cover available:

It looks amazing and I guarantee the students would pick this up in a heartbeat.

Obviously, no library can afford to continually replace books with dated covers.  But in a magic world where budgets aren't an issue, these are the five series I'd recommend updating in libraries to up circulation numbers*.

1. Anastasia series, by Lois Lowry
Anytime one of the students asks for a fast, funny read, I think of this series.  Yet, they always leave with a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book (which is also awesome). That's because nothing I say can overcome this cover:

Nothing against the girl on the cover, but everytime I show this to a student they just give me an "Are you kidding me?" look. 
2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Same story as above.  Someone wants a fast, funny read and they've said no to Anastasia.  They see this:
They say no.  But if we had this 2011 edition, I'm sure they would love it:

3. My Side of the Mountain series, by Jean Craighead George

This looks like a memoir about the struggles of gardening:
This looks like a cool adventure:

4. Song of the Lionness, by Tamora Pierce
To be fair, this one still gets checked out a bit because the word of mouth about the series is so strong. Still, the students are always skeptical when they look at the book until their friends reassure them that it is "SOOO worth is." This is the copy in the library, which makes the story seem cartoonish:

This newer edition might make the process easier:

5. Hatchet, by Gary Pauslen
I know, I know. We all have fond memories of this series that are ignited when we see this cover:

But today's youth see this and wonder who decided to use Microsoft Word to paste images on top of each other and make a book cover.  But when they see this:

they can't look away.
*Despite my love of these rejuvenated book covers, I am still 100% against the publication of classics with "Twilightified" covers.  There are ways to modernize covers that still make the artwork relate to the story.  A random red and white flower against a black background screams werewolves, not Emma.

Mar 6, 2013

March Madness Round 2

Within 2 hours of the Round 1 ballot going live, over 90 students had submitted votes.  #Incredible.  There's talk of this becoming an annual tradition and I'm really excited about this idea.

The clear favorites in the first round were Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Divergent, Heroes of Olympus and The Hunger Games, each receiving at least 70% of the votes.  When it comes down to the Final Four, it could get interesting.

After the final tally, the new showdowns are:

Uglies by Scott Westerfield vs. The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter vs. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Divergent by Veronica Roth vs. Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan
Harry Potter by JK Rowling vs. Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

Hex Hall, The Maze Runner, The Selection Trilogy, Matched, Gone,  The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy, Heist Society and Delirium are all out of the race.  But not to fear, because they're now part of this display:


I Hunt Killers

In Barry Lyga's thriller novel, I Hunt Killers, Jasper Dent lives out his days constantly reminded that he's the son of a the notorious serial killer, Billy Dent. As if that's not bad enough, a new serial killer has emerged and he's following the footsteps of 'ol Billy.

There are the standard suspects and nerve-wracking scenes customary of murder mysteries, but Lyga adds quite a bit of depth to his main character.  Jasper grew up learning the tricks of the trade.  He knows how to evade the cops, erase evidence, drain the life out of a woman.  His lessons come back to haunt him repeatedly through his father's voice.  Jasper constantly fights the urges to give in to what could be a biological need to kill, but he still acts like a serial killer to mentally overpower the people, mostly women, around him and get his way.  Jasper's wrestling with his inner demons and his father's past, in my opinion, is more gripping than the murder mystery.

I happened to be reading this and Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City at the same time.  Devil is an account of 1893's World's Fair in Chicago and the work of serial killer "Dr. Holmes" who operated in the same area.  It was interesting to compare Dr. Holmes' behavior to that of Billy and Jasper Dent.  The information about the Fair was mostly interesting, but I'll be honest, I was more interested in the serial killer happenings.

Game, the sequel to I Hunt Killers, is due out in April 2013.

P.S. #SpoilerAlert The ending to I Hunt Killers floored me.

Mar 5, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I Would Like to Start But Haven't Yet

Series are all of the rage now thanks to the movies (but really thanks to the awesome writing of the least most of them).  But there are just TOO MANY. 

I try to read as many as possible, but once I read the first book in the series, I need to move on to the next one and the other series just sit waiting impatiently on my nightstand. There just isn't enough time to get to all of them.  But I need to get moving on some of these series, because my students get mad when I don't.  Really.  Really really mad.

Top Ten Series I Would Like to Start But Haven't Yet

1. The Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien

I read the Hobbit in the 6th grade for an assignment and just absolutely hated it.  Everyone keeps telling me that you should read LOTR first in order to appreciate the Hobbit, but I just can't get past the utter boredom I experienced.  It's on the "List" though, so I'll get to it one day.

2. Gone, by Michael Grant

I have this one sitting in my iBooks app, so I guess I bring it with me everywhere I go, but continue to ignore it in favor of the new books I keep checking out of the library. 

3. The Selection Trilogy, by Kiera Cass

Really I want to find out about this series because the coverwork is just beautiful.  I honestly have no idea what the series is about.  But the students are constantly checking this bad boy out, so I need to find out eventually.

4. Guys Read, by Jon Scieszka

Working at an all girl school can certainly hinder your knowledge of books that boys enjoy.  Also, I love Jon Scieszka (and company) so I really need to pick this up.

5. The Eva Nine Trilogy, by Tony DiTerrlizi

I promised a student that I would absolutely read this and every day when she asks me if I've started, the guilt inside me grows.

6. The Sandman, by Neil Gaiman

I really enjoy graphic novels and this series gets nothing but the highest praise from all around.  Plus, it's Neil Gaiman.

7. Legend Series, by Marie Lu

A few months ago, I had to decide to read either Graceling or Legend.  I chose Graceling.  Hence, the Legend series is still waiting on the shelf for me to begin.

8. Heroes of Olympus, by Rick Riordan

I only just finished Percy Jackson and the Olympians this past year, so I need to give myself a breather before I dive into this series. But everytime I see the books, I get the urge to grab one. 

9. Time Quintet, by Madeline L'engle

Okay I have, of course, read A Wrinkle in Time.  But here's a confession that could get me blacklisted: I've never read the rest of the series.  I know, I know.  But if it counts, I've read and loved Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me.  It doesn't count? *Hangs head in shame*

10. Redwall, by Brian Jacques

It's been sitting on my shelf FOREVER (like so many other books). I suppose I should feel extra guilty because it was a boyfriend recommendation and I force many a book upon him.  I also have a bag of Ender's series books from him that I have yet to tackle...yikes.

Alright, this exercise has taught me that I need to remove myself from Netflix (currently watching Cheers for the first time and I am in love) and just read 24/7. 

More to-be-read series over at the Broke and the Bookish!

Mar 4, 2013

March Madness Round 1

For this month's library display, we're playing March Madness with YA Series!  I'm so excited about this project.  As I was putting the board up this afternoon, the students passing by were already starting arguments about which series should come out on top.

I took 16 popular (amongst our students) YA series, assigned them a number, and put the numbers through a random number generator to figure out the pairings.  We've got:

Matched by Ally Condie vs. Uglies by Scott Westerfield
The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare vs. The Selection Trilogy by Kiera Cass
Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter vs. The Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins vs. Heist Society, by Ally Carter
Divergent by Veronica Roth vs. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy by Kristin Cashore vs. Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan
Harry Potter by JK Rowling vs. Gone by Michael Grant
Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan vs. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

We've set up an online ballot for students to vote each round.

So far the prediction is that we're looking at a Hunger Games vs. Harry Potter showdown.  However, the students are significantly dedicated to the other represented series and there's a solid chance of a Cinderella story!