Thursday, April 03, 2014

You

You Charles Benoit

You're a largely misunderstood kid that everyone thinks is a troublemaker. You know better but they don't, so sometimes you just go with it. It's what they expect of you anyway. It starts with the blood, something gone horribly wrong. It ends there, too. The in-between is the girl you like. The in-between is the new kid who likes you for some reason. You like him too, until it's all gone wrong. So very wrong.

Overall, it's an enjoyable read. The quick pace of the plot and the second-person narration help drive the reader to turn the pages quickly and draw you in. I liked it but didn't think it was anything special. And then someone pointed out that's a retelling of Othello and my mind exploded. Because it totally is. It's a Shakespeare retelling that will appeal to struggling and reluctant readers-- a fun read with some source material that's really subtly woven in (and then once it's pointed out to you, all you can do is shout OMG DUH and feel stupid for missing it.)

Book Provided by... my local library

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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

State of the Onion

State of the Onion Julie Hyzy

Last month, the library had an edible books contest. For prizes, I gave away books about food and asked Twitter what were the best food-based cozies out there. A lot of people voted by Hyzy's "White House Chef Mystery" series, so I picked up the first one as a prize. I was intrigued enough by the title that I couldn't resist reading it, too.

Olivia Paras is an assistant White House chef. The Executive Chef is about to retire, and Olivia is one of the final candidates for his job. Her main competition is a TV celebrity chef that Olivia's worked with before-- and does not want to work with again. If she gets the job, Olivia knows she'll be leaving the White House. But the drama and pressure is soon pushed to the side when Olivia is walking back to work and sees a guy fleeing from the Secret Service and clocks him with her frying pan. Suddenly, she's trying to figure out a massive conspiracy that may end up in someone assassinating the President. Before she can solve it, she gets a glimpse of the world's most feared assassin and then she's no longer trying to save the President's life, but her own.

This was a fun one. I liked the behind-the-scenes look at the White House staff and the kitchen-- the differences in preparing a simple lunch for the first family versus a major state dinner and all the planning that happens. I liked the tension between Olivia and the new head of Culture-and-Faith-based Etiquette Affairs (he's such a jerk!!!)

I also liked her secret Secret Service boyfriend and the tension between them as Olivia got herself more involved with the case that he kept trying to push her off of. Overall it was very enjoyable and I didn't guess the ending. The bad guy was on my list of possible bad guys, but there was enough in there that I kept guessing on my choices. It was also often funny-- I especially liked when we finally meet the celebrity chef that Olivia is competing with. I think this is a series I'll continue reading.

Also-- do you have any good cozy recs? Mysteries, especially cozies are HUGE with the adults at my library, and now that I'm the adult librarian, I need to up my reader's advisory game. Leave 'em in the comments if you've got 'em.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Two Boys Kissing

Two Boys Kissing David Levithan

After Tariq is beaten for being gay, Craig comes up with an idea, and his ex-boyfriend Harry is the only one who can help. Craig wants them to break the world record for kissing.

Tariq is filming and live-streaming it from multiple angles, so no one can question it. They’re doing it in public-- on the lawn of the high school.

We also have other stories woven through-- Peter and Neil, who live a few towns over and have been dating for over a year, Avery and Ryan, who meet at a gay prom the night before the kiss begins, and Cooper, who is closeted and struggling when his parents find out.

The kiss itself is the central plot-point, but what I found most powerful about the book is the narrator-- a generalized “we” of the gay men who died of AIDS in the 70s/80s. It was devastating and made me unexpectedly sob. I wonder if teens will find it as moving as I did, as they leave a lot unexplained. They mention how no one cared until a movie star and teenage hemophiliac died. When talking about the hate and violence, they mention the 19-year-old strung up along the highway. These are small, passing references to things I know and remember. Ok, I don’t remember Rock Hudson dying and he never meant much to me, but I do remember Ryan White. I remember his advocacy and his death. I most definitely remember Matthew Shepard's murder. I know what a huge effing dealPhiladelphia was when it came out. Do teens? And this isn’t to say they won’t “get” the book, or enjoy it, but just that the emotional impact readers of a certain age are getting won’t transfer over.

I love love love love that there’s a trans character. I love that while it creates fear and uncertainty in his life (well, I don’t love that bit, but it’s realistic) it’s not a big deal for the narrators. They never question that Avery is a boy, that he’s a gay boy. They just feel for him that much more because he’s carrying around that much more. Handled so well.

And, let’s just talk about the cover, shall we?

Two boys kissing. You know what this means.

For us, it was a secret gesture. Secret because we were afraid. Secret because we were ashamed. Secret because it was story that nobody was telling.

But what power it had. Whether we cloaked it in the guise of You be the boy and I’ll be the girl, or whether we defiantly called it by its name, when we kissed, we know how powerful it was. Our kisses were seismic. When seen by the wrong person, they could destroy us. When shared with the right person, they had the power of confirmation, the force of destiny.

If you put enough closets together, you have enough space for a room. If you put enough rooms together, you have space for a house. If you put enough houses together, you have space for a town, then a city, then a nation, then a world.

We knew the private power of our kisses. Then came the first time we were witnesses, the first time we saw it happen out in the open. For some of us, it was before we ourselves had ever been kissed. We fled our towns, came to the city, and there on the streets we saw two boys kissing for the first time. And the power now what the power of possibility. Over time, it wasn’t just on the street or in the clubs or at the parties we threw. It was in the newspaper. On television. In movies. Every time we saw two boys kissing like that, the power grew…

Every time two boys kiss, it opens up the world a little more. Your world. The world we left. The world we left you.

And now there are two boys kissing on the cover of a major release book aimed at teens.


Book Provided by... my local library

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Spell it Out

Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling David Crystal

Much like he does in The Story of English in 100 Words, Crystal has made language history exceedingly accessible. This is a basic history of English spelling and how it developed over time, and why it’s so darn wacky. (Short story-- trying to use the latin alphabet for a non-Latin language, scribes changing spelling to make things easier/prettier on the page, French influence after the Norman conquest, and the Great Vowel shift.)

But, for a book that could easily be boring, short chapters and a conversational style make this one an easy read. I also love love love love that Crystal doesn’t decry texting and the internet as ruining spelling. He also makes wonderful arguments as to why spelling is more important than ever. There's also an entire section for early education teachers with his ideas about how to teach spelling to make it more relevant, easier, and fun.

Very fun, and an Outstanding Book for the College Bound that I think teens will really enjoy.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Graphic Novel Week: Pluto




Pluto by Naoki Urasawa, based on work by Osama Tezuka.


I'm going to review the entire 8-volume series as one, because that's how I think about it, because that's how we looked at it for inclusion on the Outstanding Books and College Bound list for Science and Technology.

Urasawa takes a story arc from Osama Tezuka's classic Astro Boy series and retells it for an older audience. The first volumes really focus on Gesicht, a top European detective who's looking into the horrible murders of some of the world's leading robots. It's soon evident that the serial killer is targeting the seven most powerful robots in the world. This troubles Gesicht for many professional reasons, but many personal ones as well--most of the seven are his friends, because he is one of them. This killer is unlike anything they've ever seen before--he's too fast to be captured on film, so he can't be human, but he doesn't show up on any robot sensors, so he can't be a robot.

As the mystery deepens, we meet the other robots, get backstories-- many are haunted by what they saw and did in the last great war and many live their lives today as a way to atone for their actions then. There are flickers of something at the edges of Gesicht's memory that he can't quite place, but he thinks it's important.

And through it all it raises questions of what it means to be human and where the line is between Artificial Intelligence and humanity--if we get too good at designing AI, will there be a line any more? Can there be one? What about an injured human with robotic parts? How much robot is too much robot? And through it all, it's just a damn good, engaging story that has many heartbreaking moments. An early one that stands out is the story of North, a robot who is known for the death and destruction he brought during the war. He's now a butler to a composer who loathes him because everyone knows robots can't feel. All North wants to do is make music, to play piano and bring beauty to the world, but the composer won't let him, because robots are emotionless and can't understand or play true music because of it. It perfectly sets up the prejudices many have against robots, while showing that many of these AI systems are so advanced that robots may not be that emotionless after all. It's a tender story that sets up a lot of the larger issues and dynamics in the series.

I love the world Tezuka and Urasawa have built, and it's eerie to realize that the geopolitics read as super-current, but were in the original text from the 60s. As someone whose never read Astro Boy, I'm not familiar with the source material, but that's ok. The story is amazing on its own, but I do like the touch that each volume has a bit of back matter--an essay, an interview, another comic-- from a variety of people--Tezuka's son, manga scholars, other artists-- that help give both works a context to each other and to the larger manga world. It was very interesting and helpful. (Plus, I just love that Japan takes drawn books so seriously that there are a lot of manga scholars out there.)

I highly recommend it.

Books Provided by... my local library

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Graphic Novel Week: Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms

Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms Fumiyo Kouno, translated from the Japanese by Naoko Amemiya and Andy Nakatani

This isn't currently in print, but many libraries still have it and it's seriously worth tracking down a copy. It's two stories, in one book. "Town of Evening Calm" deals with Minami, a young woman who, 10 years prior, survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. She's still haunted by that day, and has intense guilt about the fact she survived when so many didn't. (Including many members of her immediate family.) "Country of Cherry Blossoms" is in two parts and takes place in 1987, the second part in 2004, and on one hand is a story of changing friendships and aging parents, but on the other is a look at how the bombing still lingers in Japanese society and thought. They're connected, but I won't tell you how.

This is an Outstanding Book for the College Bound, on the History and Cultures list. I didn't read it when we were working on the list, because I was on different subcommittees, but hearing the History and Cultures people talk about it, it was on my list of ones to pick up immediately.

The author's note at the end explains why Kouno wrote the story. She's from Hiroshima, where they avoid the subject. When she moved to Tokyo she discovered that the rest of Japan (excepting Nagasaki) don't talk about it because they don't understand it. They don't the scars those cities still bear, and how they're different than the ones the rest of Japan has.

The result is beautifully drawn book. "Town of Evening Calm" is rather heartbreaking, but "Country of Cherry Blossoms" is often very funny. It's a fascinating look into a time and place and effects events still have decades down to the line.


Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Bloggiesta!

It's Bloggiesta time! That wonderful time when we set aside a few days to do the nitty-gritty work on our blogs. I almost missed it.

I'll be honest. Last week, after 8 years, I almost pulled the plug on Biblio File. You'll notice posting's been... sporadic. I just haven't been feeling the review bug lately. I haven't felt connected with the blogging community in a while. All my work last year on YA Reading List, plus Outstanding Books, plus a pretty major career shift might have broken me. Not to mention the Kung Fu Princess will be 3 in June and needs/wants a lot of attention that I need/want to give her.

And then I realize I don't think I ever officially announced my career shift here on the blog. At the beginning of September, I went from being the half-time youth services librarian to being the full-time Acting Branch Manager of my branch, which also includes being the adult services librarian. In February, I got to drop the "Acting" from my job title. It's super-exciting, but a major shift, not only in time spent working, but in my focus and what I'm doing. It's really fun and I'm loving it, but there's definitely a learning curve.

Blogging just seemed... like a chore. I don't want it to be a chore. But then, I read Snow White and wanted to talk about it. That's why I started blogging in the first place--to find my book nerd people. And I miss the blogging community. SO! Let's throw myself back in headfirst and see if it sticks. Let's try again and Bloggiesta just perfectly coincides with that. Join me by signing up here.

Here are some bloggy things I want to accomplish between now and Sunday:

1. Write a #$@#-ton of reviews. I'm so far behind on reviewing. I'm so far behind, I don't even know how behind I am. Obviously, in a perfect world, I'd write ALL the reviews and catch up. That's not going to happen. Let's aim for 30 (doable, but insane) and be happy if I write 10. Which leads to...
2. Record-keeping. On of the reasons I don't know how far behind I am is because my back-end planning spreadsheets haven't been updated in 6 months. Let's fix that.
3. Work on my new interview project--reach out to potential interviewees, come up with a set list of questions.
4. Write a "state of the blog" post for YA Reading List.
5. Before #4, I should probably figure out what the "state of the blog" IS for YA Reading List.
6. Sort the bookshelves.
7. Read some blogs. I'm really behind on this.
8. Update the professional blog lists. I've officially moved from children's/teen to adult services/management, so I need to find some new ones and weed out some others.
9. Research my spam comment problem.
10. Do some mini-challenges and have fun.


Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Graphic Novel Week: The Unwritten--Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity

Unwritten Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity Mike Carey and Peter Gross

This is one that’s been on my radar forever. Like since Leila reviewed back in, oh 2012.

I *finally* got around to reading it, and it’s so good! Tom’s father wrote a series of highly popular fantasy novels (think Harry Potter), but made Tommy the lead character (think Christopher Robin.) People have a really hard time realizing that Tom the man and Tommy the fictional character aren’t the same person.

Coupled with this is the fact that when he was younger, his father disappeared without a trace, leaving the series unfinished and his estate was very complicated, making it so Tom can’t get any of the money. Tom makes a living by signing his father’s books and making public appearances-- this doesn’t help people separate the two identities, and it means constant questions about his father’s abandonment.

Only, at this con, a fan points out that Tom Taylor, the real person, doesn’t actually exist--which is how Tom learns that most of his identity is fabricated. Then, as he tries to trace his past he discovers that the line between fiction and reality might be thinner than he ever imagined… maybe there Tom the man and Tommy the character aren’t that different…

This one is obviously a lot of set up for the greater story, which I can’t wait to delve into. I like how the book incorporates a lot of the Tommy Taylor novels, interweaving them with the main story, as well as lots of flashbacks from Tom’s past.

Tom’s father was also very into literary geography-- knowing where people wrote things, the real places that inspired fiction settings, and the trivia behind it all. It’s a slightly annoying party trick of Tom’s-- reciting all of it as he travels, but it’s fun to read and it looks like it’s going to be important to the larger plot, which I find very intriguing.

The next volume is on its way to me-- I can’t wait to read it and see what happens next.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Graphic Novel Week: Fables

So, I think the last two volumes of Fables really work together, as they have overlapping timelines for the main story, so I'm going to review them together.

Fables, Vol. 18: Cubs in Toyland Bill Willingham

Fables Vol. 19: Snow White Bill Willingham

Cubs in Toyland starts in the with main story right away. Therese has a toy boat that takes her to be the Queen of Toyland, but Toyland is a dark, twisted place. It's the island of Misfit toys-- toys that were all involved in the death of a child. They have hopes for a Queen that will restore them, but there is no food to sustain Therese. Meanwhile, Snow, Bigby, and Therese's brothers and sisters are frantically searching for her. One will find her, with devastating consequences.

It then moves onto some back story on Bigby Wolf, and destiny.

The first third of Snow White takes place in Oz, wrapping up the storyline of Bufkin. It's a good end to the story, and it was dragging a bit there and needed to be wrapped up, but I will miss him greatly in the lost business office of the Fabletown.

The last part of the book is where the "Snow White" title of the Omnibus comes from and covers the same amount of time, showing what's happening in New York when Therese goes missing. Now, here's a very cool thing-- the magical car that we got out the end of Fairest: Wide Awake has appeared-- so Bigby and Stinky are off through worlds, tracking the missing cubs. Meanwhile, the fencing instructor from Castle Dark? The one that Mrs. Spratt/Leigh was into? Turns out, he's Snow White's fiance, pre-Prince Charming days and he's come to claim her. Snow's having none of it, but he has some powerful magic working there. This, too, has devastating consequences.


So, I wanted to look at these together, partly because I'm super-behind on reviewing, but this time it works out, because these volumes play out so well. The main storyline in each volumes actually ends with more-or-less the same panel. (The "camera angle" is a bit different, but the scene, and dialogue, are the same.) Both storylines are heartbreaking and they both bring back some of the magic that's been lacking a bit. I wasn't a huge fan of the whole Mr. Dark storyline (I just don't think it every really got going or had the same gravitas as the Empire in terms of the Big Bad.) I think this hits at a much deeper, more emotional level in a way I think is a first for the series.

I read Cubs in Toyland a full year ago, and Toyland is so creepy, it still gives me the heebie-jeebies. I love the way the storylines play on each other-- ending Snow White with that same panel is the ultimate gut punch in a gut punch of a book. I don't know if this series has every really made me cry, but both of these did.

Also, let's give a shout-out for Ambrose Wolf. He's obviously the "loser" or the pack, but adult Ambrose plays a large narrator role in these stories, and it's great to see a glimpse of who he's going to grow into. Maybe not a hero, but a pretty great stand-up scholarly guy (with a wife I have suspicions about. Check out the color of her skin--is it because it's nighttime and it's shadow? Or is she actually green, and quite probably the Lady of the Lake?)

And, I love that the Fairest series is weaving in a bit right now. In general, I like that Fairest is about stuff outside of Fabletown, but it's weaving in in small, interesting ways. I'm intrigued.

Anyway, this whole set is super powerful and moving and I need to TALK ABOUT IT. Hit me up if you want to discuss.

Question-- the cover artwork for Snow White looks a lot like it was probably an alternate possibility for the cover artwork for the new edition of Legends in Exile (aka, Fables #1). What is the symbolism there?

Also, I had forgotten about the end story in Cubs of Toyland until I started working on this review. I have some hope about things now. If you haven't read them yet, it's very relevant to what happens in Snow White. I think. I hope.



Books Provided by... my wallet

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Graphic Novel Week: Buffy Season 8: The Long Way Home

The Long Way Home Joss Whedon.

I know I’m totally late to this party, but Buffy didn’t end when the show did! Buffy lives! In comic book form!

So, now that all the potentials are slayers, they’re all divided up into different teams, working different parts of the world, killing baddies. But Willow’s missing, Amy’s back, and so is a gross skinless Jonathan. Plus, Dawn is a giant. And the Army thinks Buffy’s the enemy. All in a day’s work for a slayer!

But, this is a comic book with many over-reaching plot threads, and it jumps around a lot, which is a bit different from the show and took some getting used to. Also, while the characters look like the actors who played them, they’re still drawings and it’s a bit hard to get into. Luckily, the voice is still there, so I can "hear" it properly in my head. I’m really excited to see where this is going. I should have gotten a few volumes at ones, because I have to waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaait for the second one. It’s checked out. And I’m not the first person on the holds list for it! (Which is awesome, given these books came out in 2007 and they’re still popular!)

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Eye of Minds

The Eye of Minds James Dashner

Michael’s parents are often traveling and like most serious gamers, he spends most of his time in his coffin-- the next step in virtual reality equipment that affects all the senses very realistically. All of Michael’s friends and hang-outs are in the VirtNet. He can usually afford what he wants, but he’s good enough he can also just look at the code that makes up his world and hack his way in.

But something weird’s going on -- a gamer named Kaine has driven gamers to suicide-- cutting out the device that acts as the shield between reality and virtual reality-- so when they die in the VirtNet, they die in the real world, too.

The police are after him, but they need the help of Michael and his friends. They go on a terrifying adventure to stop someone who is always a step or two ahead--someone who knows the code better than they do, better than anyone.

And, what they find is beyond what anyone expects.

It’s a fun action sci/fi thriller where the VirtNet setting allows for some very fun settings and landscapes that Michael and his friends have to work or hack their way through. Of course, it all leads up to a big twist reveal ending, setting up the second book perfectly. Now you just have to wait for the second book.

I probably won’t pick it up-- I enjoyed the book, but it’s not really my thing, so I’m not the right reader for it. (Although I liked it enough that I will probably make one of the teens at work tell me what happens, like I did with the Lockdown series.)

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.