Friday, June 29, 2007

Poetry Friday

It's Poetry Friday!

It's also homework day. Ergh. You know my challenge to read everything I had borrowed and I wasn't allowed to check anything else out? Not going so good. I mean, I've been better, but not great.

Anyway, here's TWO poems (I couldn't decide):

If along the highroad
I caught hold of your sleeve,
Do not hate me;
Old ways take time to overcome.

If along the highroad
I caught hold of your hand,
Do not be angry with me;
Friendship takes time to overcome.

From The Book of Songs: The Ancient Chinese Classic of Poetry, translated by Arthur Waley

Here's another, from the same collection:

By the willows of the Eastern Gate,
Whose leaves are so thick,
At dusk we were to meet;
And now the morning star is bright.

By the willows of the Eastern Gate,
Whose leaves are so close,
At dusk we were to meet;
And now the morning star is pale.

The Book of Songs, also called The Classic of Poetry is one of the 5 Confucian classics (it's believed he edited this classic, not write it). I prefer the Ezra Pound Translation, which isn't the most accurate, but retains a lot of the structure and poetry of the original. The Waley translation is acurate, but a can be a bit dry.

Shaken and Stirred has the roundup!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Books with the Pretty Pictures

I can't believe that I forgot to mention one minor highlight of my time at ALA. The one time I really, really wished that I had my camera on the exhibit floor was when I saw Matthew Lesko. And yes, he was wearing the question mark suit. It was kinda awesome. Times like that make me wish I had a camera phone, but for my birthday, I'm holding out for a hammock and a new messenger bag, because mine's lived a good life but is falling apart...

Me: I want a hammock for my birthday
Him: A hammock? All you're going to do is lie in the backyard all day with a cold drink, reading
Me: Exactly...
All laugh

Anyway, back on the topic of books? I'm over at Geek Buffet today talking about dumbing down the classics for kiddies.

And because what sparked the post was a graphic novel of Beowulf I thought I'd talk about some more graphic novels.

I've been really, really looking forward to the new volume in the Fables series, Fables Vol. 9: Sons of Empire, as regular readers are well aware. I got in on Wednesday night, and read it right away. I was not disappointed.

If nothing else, it's pretty long-- it might be the longest volume in the series and is definitely longer than the last few installments. The Adversary is trying to recover from Bigby's attack on the sacred grove. They have terrible plans to destroy Fabletown and the mundane world where it's found. Several of the small, tangent, one-off stories from the past are being worked into the main plot. For instance, Rodney (from "The Ballad of Rodney and June" from Fables Vol. 7: Arabian Nights (and Days), is now being worked into the main plot. Several of the back stories from Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall are now becoming important...

There are also several little short side stories-- not full plots, but a few pages here and there about residents of Fabletown we haven't quite met yet, and, it looks like another human might be gumming up the works. I'll be honest, the bulk of this book is short little asides, not the main plot. But it sets up a lot of tension for what's to come. This is the calm before the storm, but the storm clouds are there and the wind is whipping up...

There are a few Christmas stories (which pretty much meld into one long story arc). We find out why Santa lives at the North Pole and how he manages to hit everyone's house on Christmas Eve... and I have a feeling the Christmas stories are going to become very important later on-- something big is brewing.

At the end, we get a short little section where the writers answer some reader's questions...

My only complaint is that the last half of the Christmas stories and the reader's questions is drawn by a different artist than normal. It was a little jarring because it wasn't a reinterpretation of the characters like in Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall but everyone, especially Snow White and Bigby, just looked a little... off. A minor quibble though.

Fables continues to deliver high quality and smart stories. If anything, the series continually gets better-- now onto the agonizing wait for the next one.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

School Media Specialists...

Any school librarians out there?

School librarianship has never appealed to me. The certification process is so insane you end up only getting to take, like, 1 elective during library school. You have to deal with all the funding and NCLB bullshit like teachers, and, if listening to sections of my teacher-friends is any measure, you get no respect from the teachers. And we all know how much respect educators get from the world at large, especially in the elementary range. I couldn't do it.

The first letter in the June 2007 issue of School Library Journal broke my heart. Not only does the author bemoan complete lack of ALA support, she wonders:

So when I get phone calls from public librarians offering to do booktalks for me or teach my students how to use electronic databases, I have to wonder, when will the rest of the profession get a clue as to what school librarians do?

Ouch. I would like to stand up and say, as a public librarian who makes those calls, I know what you do. I also know how many hours are in the day. I'm just trying to offer a little support. Unfortunately, the only support I can offer is in the "fun" stuff. I can't write up your monthly reports. Also, sometimes the message gets across better when it's a special, guest speaker. AND! There aren't a lot of places for me to booktalk that isn't in the schools.

Plus, as a public librarian, I need to promote my collection as much as possible and you can give me a room full of captive people.

As for the lack of ALA support, is this true? I have very little interest in ever dealing with this headache, and there is way to much in ALA to entertain me, so I haven't paid attention. Does anyone else out there have thoughts?

And, on this topic, let me here give a big shout out to Jeff Carpenter, school media specialist at Edison Elementary, back in the day. You obviously warped my mind, because look at me now.


So... one of the highlights of the weekend was Mitali Perkin's book launch/bhangra party at DCPL. (See her page for the incriminating photos!)

In preperation for the party, I read the book that was being launched, First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover.

Tangent: I was excited for this book because when I was a kid, I really liked The President's Daughter by Ellen Emerson White. Did you ever read that one? It's awesome. And then, at ALA this weekend, I found out that there were sequels!!! Who knew?! AND! There's a 4th one coming out soon, Long May She Reign. I got that ARC this weekend, which is how I found out there were more.

Anyway, back to First Daughter. Sameera is Pakistani by birth and was adopted by a human rights crusader and diplomat. She goes to boarding school in Brussels where she writes for the school paper and is the coxswain on the crew team. When school gets out, she goes back to the US, where were father is campaigning for President.

She's poked and prodded and made over to be much more glamorous than she is. A consultant that's an expert in teen marketing writes a blog for her that makes her sound like a complete ditz. She's told to giggle more and to insert more "uh"s into her conversation. She's sick of her nickname, Sparrow, and wants to start going by Sameera-- it sounds more grown up. She's told that her new name is Sammy, because that sounds more American. Right.

At first, Sameera goes along with the changes. She wants to be a journalist and sees herself less as becoming a celebrity and more as going undercover as one. In the meantime, she has her myfriends page, which is closed to her intergalactic circle of 29 friends who remind her who she really is.

As the campaign gets closer, Sameera can't take it anymore. She starts dressing in her salwar kameez to sneak out into DC and hangout with the South Asian Republican club at George Washington. She buys a burka to better hide herself. Eventually, she can't reconcile her two selves and decides to break free and just be who she is. The political consultants will just have to deal with it.

Sameera is such a love-able character. I was slightly mystified at how her mother just let the consultants do what they want, but as the campaign wore on, I got it. I liked how Sameera takes charge and I liked her true voice--she was bright and interesting but still sounded like the sixteen year old she was supposed to be. Perkins perfectly captures the way the press hounds young and hott celebrities and really takes a stand at giving political kids a bit of space. I liked the fact that Sameera's dad was the Republican, not the Democratic, front runner. Also, when was the last time you saw crew as a main characters major sport? And coxswain? Nice touch. I hope she continues to do crew in the next book-- you can see them rowing every morning on the Potomac. I can see Sameera standing there, shouting at them as they go under the 14th Street Bridge. And there could be a great scene with some Secret Agent falling into the icky water. Just a suggestion.

My main disappointment is that when Sameera sneaks out to buy her clothes, Perkins is ambiguous about what neighborhood she's in. I like it when authors know corners of my city I don't that I can then explore. Oh well. It's a small thing.

Overall, this book is pretty fun, but it still touches on some bigger issues without being bogged down in teenage or political angst. I'm looking forward to the next one!

Monday, June 25, 2007

ALA fun

Holy Cow, what a weekend!

A quick madcap recap of the overwhelmingness of it all--

I have to say, when I got off the metro, I was struck by Chinatown being overrun by librarians.

I lost myself in the exhibits, happily getting ARCS for Kiki Strike: The Empress's Tomb by Kirsten Miller and Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, as well as a slew of others that look really good. The people at Bloomsbury especially were really nice.

I spent a really long time talking to the awesome people at :01 First Second. Did you know there's a sequel to Kampung Boy called Town Boy? There totally is and I have it. They hooked me up with great books and things to look out for. The Lost Colony is moving way up my to read list. Also, :01 ARCs? Awesome. French flaps and no note that they're an ARC. I didn't think they were, until I saw on Amazon that the titles I picked up aren't available yet... I also got a t-shirt. :01 are the good people who brought us American Born Chinese and their other books are awesome and you should check them out. I think it's a great publisher to turn to for people who turn their noses at graphic novels as literature.

Then I headed over to DC Public Library for the book launch and bhangra party with Mitali Perkins. She has some, um, "awesome" pictures of me shaking my white booty, Bollywood style. (I'm rocking out in the brown shirt and flower skirt).

While I was there I got to meet Genevieve and Sara of commenting-fame, Zee Says, Sheila Ruth, MotherReader, Betsy, Julie, Liz B and Kristin and I'm sure a few others.

I was so excited listening to Sara talk about her new book that I forgot to ask what her book that she already had out was, so I looked it up today. EEP! Letters from Rapunzel has been on my "To Read" list for awhile!

Then we headed over to the always fabulous Capital City Brewing Company for dinner. That poor waiter. We were joined by lots of people there and I'm not a good networker, so I didn't get to talk to most of them, but I did get to hang out with Trisha (who provided tasty tasty macadamia nuts) and Kristen. Plus, the Raspberry Hefeweizen? Tasty tasty.

Then, me and my heavy bags took our weary selves home. I got in the car to find a message from Dan saying that our friends were at Etete and I should join them there. So I drove back to town (I live, like a mile across the river so it's not as far as it sounds) and they finished up dinner and we had some chill drinks at DC 9.

The next morning I woke up quite early to run out to a meeting for a group project I'm working on for school. As much as I hate group projects, this is actually pretty good (and I'm not just saying that because my group members might be reading this.) It's a small group and we have super on-topic meetings and our project is about banned children's books.

Then I headed back downtown. I went to the ALA store and picked up the new Banned Books Resource Guide (why isn't ALA selling that online by itself?) and such exciting things as the Intellectual Freedom Manual. And an Orlando Bloom key chain.

Then I headed down to Graphic Novel land and talked to some really, really great people. Graphic novel people are the best. The really best part was unexpectedly seeing my college buddy Kasia manning the TokyoPop! booth. To show how useful specific college knowledge can be, we were in modern Chinese history together.

I talked to the people at Papercutz, which was exciting, because I'm a big fan of the Nancy Drew graphic novels. We had a nice talk about the movie, which the publisher had seen, but I haven't (yet)-- I think I might go this weekend.

Then, holy cow, the people at DC Comics? So awesome. DC also published Vertigo and Minx. I picked up an ARC of Good as Lily and a copy of The Plain Janes, which I really want to read. I also saw a copy of my long-awaited Fables Vol. 9: Sons of Empire. I asked them to sell it to me, but they didn't have any sale copies. I bemoaned how Amazon keeps pushing publication back. The nice lady at Vertigo was very confused because she said that it was out already. I was all AMAZON! WTF?! But, when I checked Amazon today? It's totally on my front porch, waiting for me to come home from class. Yippee! But we had a great talk about Fables, and, once again, I was told I need to read Y: The Last Man Vol. 1: Unmanned.

Then I wandered over academic land, and spent a lot of time looking at the Chinese language publishers. I fell in love with Companion. So pretty.

Then, I ran into my friend Ann.

Then, I went to hear Judy Blume read. I cannot believe she is almost 70! Also, be warned, Judy is a crier. I'm kinda PMS-y. I cried through the whole thing. She's writing more books, which makes me so happy. Her signing line was loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong. In line, I got to talk to the people around me and a really nice librarian GAVE ME her Deathly Hallows bag that I missed at Scholastic. GAVE ME! Librarians really are the nicest people in the world. Also, I got bonus points with Ms. Blume because I had her sign my copy of Forever, which is super-duper old skool.

The line was so long, and snaked around so much, I actually got 2 other books signed while in the Judy line! It was a pleasant surprise to go by the signing for The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears. I've heard such great things about it and am really looking forward to reading it. Plus, how can you pass up a book called It Hurts When I Poop!: A Story for Children Who Are Scared to Use the Potty. And, while I was in line, I ran into my friend Gillian, whom I grew up with.

THEN! I found out the Gene Luen Yang was signing, so I went over there. While in line, I found out from the good people at TOR, that there will be no more Yolen/Stemple Rock 'N Roll Fairy Tales. Very sad. (It just wasn't making enough money. Boo hoo hoo. They were really good.)

Then I ran into my boss. And I saw some pages from the new edition of Pippi Longstocking which is illustrated by Lauren Child! AND! THEN! I snagged an ARC of Seeing Redd, the sequel to The Looking Glass Wars.

This was all followed up by the delightful Book Cart Drill Team World Championships. I need to get involved in this. Fuse has some great video and pictures. Emcee and commentary was provided by Mo Willems and Jon Scieszka. Awesome.

Then I went home and collapsed.

My only regret? I didn't get to see Roger. He wasn't at the Horn Book booth by the time I got there. Ah well.

I woke up this morning very sore from lugging around all those books. But when I got to work, I got an email from Gail Gauthier, telling me I won her contest! Sweet!

Then, in class, we were shown Text Arc. Do you guys know about this? Check out Alice!

Monday, June 18, 2007


Abadazad: The Road to Inconceivable - Book #1 J. M. DeMatteis and Mike Ploog

Abadazad is a franchise of books, movies, action figures and tv shows...

Kate's brother Matt loved Abadazad, and even though she likes to act like she's too old for such stuff, Kate does to. One afternoon, Kate takes Matt to their fair where he goes on a boat ride but then, when the boats come around the circle, Matt's not on his. He's just... gone.

Five years later, Kate's mom is still looking for her missing son, but Kate knows he's dead and can't stand the way her mother won't face reality and the truth and start to move on with her life.

Then, Kate meets the old woman in her building. She claims that Abadazad is real, and she's been there. The books are based on the stories of her adventures she told to a family friend. Kate thinks she's crazy, but when the old woman dies, she leaves Kate a blue crystal-- the key to entering Abadazad.

And, wouldn't you know. The darn thing works.

What's great about this series is the mixture of mediums in Kate's enchanted diary. Not only to you have the pages Kate wrote, complete with the words she crosses out (some for spelling, some for changing her mind about what she wants to say about something), but you also have superb illustrations as well as graphic novel pages and pages from the original Abadazad books. Abadazad itself is rather reminiscent of Oz (as is the back story of it's role in modern culture) but it still makes me wish that the original Abadazad books exsisted in our world, because I kinda want to read them.

Next up is Abadazad: The Dream Thief - Book #2

Kate knows Matt is out there, somewhere, trapped in Abadazad. The lanky man has him, and is stealing his dreams. Kate has to find him. But how?

More of the same adventure, mystery, and wacky, original (and some very creepy) characters.

Here's my main question-- Where the Heck is Book #3, The Puppet, the Professor, and the Prophet?! We got the first 2 titles in late summer/early fall of 2006. I remember reading them and Amazon always telling me Book #3 was ready for pre-order (I remember it being out in December? Maybe?) but then it just kinda disappeared. I wasn't going to pre-order and instead wait for the library to get it. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Now I check Amazon and it's just not there. At all. Bye bye Book #3. The Official Abadazad Site and the Hyperion Site both list it as being out as of 3/31/2007 but I'll be darned if I can find it!

Interesting twist-- Powell's says that Book #4: Historcery is available this month. WTF?!

Does anyone know what's going on here?!

Along those same lines, whatever happened to the next Princess School book that was supposed to come out last December? Scholastic doesn't even seem to remember ever having a series called Princess School (everything except purchasing options have seem to disappeared from the site). And when o when o when are the next two Lady Grace mysteries hopping across the pond?

Seriously, I'm going to start writing some letters to publishers and demanding some answers. You can't get me hooked on a series and then just randomly stop publishing it in the middle. That's just cruel.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Today the guys over at Mugglenet.Com were in town giving a readng of their book (which I review below), but I couldn't go. I had to work. But, that's ok, see, I promised you big excitement and here it is:

Check out how I spent my afternoon:

That's my coworker and friend Becci on the left, me on the right. But, I have to say, that's a day of Harry Potter cruelty when you have to decide between the Knight Bus and a Mugglenet reading. It's a hard life I lead, I know.

Here's what the thing looks like on the outside:

This is the "front" side, which has the door and stuff.

This is the "back" side.

Here's the Harry Potter bookshelf, which is to the right when you walk in. Across the way from the bookshelf, is a big blowup of the Deathly Hallows cover art under glass.

Then, looking from the bookshelf down the bus, this is it.

Of course, in the gear up to the end of the series, there is lots of speculation about how it will end and how the big questions will be answered. Is Dumbledore really dead? Will Harry get his head out of the #$@ and take Ginny back? Will Ron and Hermione ever get their act together and snog already? Where are the the other horcruxes? Who is RAB? And, of course, the big one, just whose side is Severus Snape on?!

These books attempt to answer the questions...

Mugglenet.Com's What Will Happen in Harry Potter 7: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Falls in Love and How Will the Adventure Finally End by Ben Schoen, Emerson Spartz, Andy Gordon, Gretchen Stull, and Jamie Lawrence

This is an excellent book written by some hard-core Potter fans. So, out of the two questions they give their predictions on that have already passed (when will the book come out and what will it be called) they were totally wrong, BUT! their evidence is solid and their arguements well thought out.

Such questions they debate are is Dumbledore really dead? Is Harry a Horcrux? What is Neville's Destiny? and the role of prophesies. The great thing about this book is that even though the authors clearly state a side in the debate, they do offer both sides of the arguement. The authors think that Dumbledore is really dead (which I agree with) but they also make the most convincing arguement I've ever seen that Dumbledore lives.

I don't agree with all of their predictions and I think they ignore some crucial evidence. I really respect the book for sticking to a very strict set of sources-- the books, and interviews with J. K. Rowling. Also, they never present their conclusions as given fact, they are always very explicit about what their opinions are and what we know for sure.

Sadly, that is not the case with The Great Snape Debate by Amy Berner, Orson Scott Card, and Joyce Millman. (This is only available at Border's stores until after Deathly Hallows comes out.)

The concept of the book is great. One side of the book is the case for Snape's innocence--flip it over and it's the case for Snape's guilt.

Be warned, despite what the cover says, Orson Scott Card is NOT an author this book-- he has a 30 page essage on Snape, but the rest of the book is by Berner and Millman.

They make a lot of assumptions without any textual evidence--I can understand why people would assume that Lucius Malfoy took a young Severus Snape under his wing at school, but there is nothing in the "cannon" about this, yet the author's take it as fact and base their arguements on it. They say that Dumbledore isn't entirely trustworthy because he's made bad decisions in the past, such as letting Tom Riddle attend Hogwarts-- completely misisng the fact that Dumbledore wasn't headmaster at the time, so it really wasn't his decision.

In addition to faulty assumptions for which we have no evidence, they also use such things as the movies as evidence for what might happen in Book 7. Despite the fact that J. K. Rowling approved the movie scripts doesn't mean they can be taken as evidence because it's not like she wrote the scripts. Plus, they use the film career of Alan Rickman as evidence. I'm not entirely sure what that has to do with anything.

There are lots of sidebars that are supposed to be humorous-- like what's on Snape's iPod, or the fact that Snape's secret vice is really Dancing With the Stars. Where I appreciated the inclusion of The Best of the Smiths, Vol. 1 on Snape's iPod, the rest of it was just lame.

I bought the book because Orson Scott Card's name was on it. His essay is really good, but the rest of the book is just a crappy thing quickly churned out to make a fast buck.

Next Weekend

Next weekend, the circus is coming to town! By which, of course, I mean the ALA annual conference.

I'll be hanging out at the YALSA booth from 12-1, so stop by and say hi!

But! Even more exciting! Later that afternoon, I'm going to head over the DC library for a book launch and bhangra party with Mitali Perkins. Let her know if you want to come, too. I'm going to go and then meet up for drinks at Capital City Brewing with other kidlit bloggers! MotherReader is organizing this jaunt, so check out her blog for details!

I hope to see some of you guys there!

Also, there is big excitement this afternoon. Stay tuned tonight for more details...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Poetry Friday

So, this update is a little late, but it's been a really surreal day. I've been really impressed by the kindness of strangers. This is what happens when you accidentally hit a curb, resulting in two flat tires... because who the $%#& has two spares?

But, in honor of Poetry Friday, I thought I'd review some poetry novels, both by Sonya Sones

First on the list is What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know

This is the sequel to What My Mother Doesn't Know. Told from Robin's point of view, it picks up exactly where the first one left off, in the lunchroom. By choosing to date Robin, Sophie's social status plummets, making her an outcast--all of her friends ditch her. Robin can't stand it, but at the same time is amazed he is lucky enough to have her. As they navigate the bottom of the high school social ladder, Robin is also taking art classes at Harvard and making friends outside of school. Touching and humorous, this is my favorite Sones work to date.

That said, if What my Mother Doesn't Know is frequently banned (and it is) hooboy, What my Girlfriend Doesn't Know is going straight to the top of every one's list. In keeping with her hyper-honest teen voices, Robin has some very frank thoughts, mainly about his desire to touch Sophie's breasts. This will probably cause some brain hemorrhages amongst the crowd that can't handle What My Mother Doesn't Know. It's too bad, because Robin's views on this aren't only honest, but they're hilarious. (Check out the poem "I Do Not Have a One Track Mind" which is just the words" yeah, right" over and over again in the shape of two breasts.)

The best part about this book, and its predecessor, is that Sones manages, in a way very few people since Judy Blume have, to make the pain of teenagerdom both honest, true, and hilariously irreverent.

Read some of the poems

The next book is Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy which is a very heart-wrenching, true look based on Sones's own experiences when her own sister was hospitalized after a nervous breakdown at the age of nineteen. It's a very stark look at mental illness and the stigma is carries in our society. Because of the subject matter, it's not as funny as her other books, and the humour is where Sones's genius really lies.

Read some of the poems

I'm not sure how I feel about the poetry-novel genre/form in general. I think most of the content would have worked just as well had they been written in prose--the exact same words and lines...

Does Sophie's just standing there staring at me from across the cafeteria. Geez. Look at her. Have you have ever seen anyone so beautiful in your life? How could a girl like her ever have wanted to be with a guy like me? Even just for two weeks?

really work better when written as

Sophie's just standing there
staring at me
from across the cafeteria.

Look at her.
Have you ever seen anyone so beautiful
in your life?

How could a girl like her
ever have wanted
to be with a guy like me?
Even just for two weeks?

That said, I think the first poem in the above link from Stop Pretending has more poetic rhythm, especially with the repetition of "One day... the next..." and she plays more with visual form in What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know.

I haven't actually made my mind up yet on the genre. I'm just thinking out loud and wondering what you think...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


So, I was really, really, really looking forward to coming home from class tonight and reading Sons of Empire. But it wasn't waiting for me on my doorstep. Publication is getting pushed back to August. UGH. Don't the good people at Vertigo know that I was counting on that to hold me over until Love Is a Many Trousered Thing comes out in early July? Which was in turn holding me over until THE BIG ONE?


Well, to commemorate my misery, here's a post of graphic novels and similar...

Jack of Fables Vol. 1: The (Nearly) Great Escape by Bill Willingham

Jack is a new Fables spin-off series. Jack was too big for Fable Town and was living the high life in LA, but now he's been kidnapped and forced into retirement by Mr. Revise-- the head librarian. Mr. Revise doesn't like Fables that are too big for their britches and holds them in his compound until the Mundies forget them, thereby stripping them of their power. This is where Mother Goose now lives. But, we know Jack, and nothing can hold him.

If you like Fables, you'll like Jack. It's along the same lines with the same new spin and smart humor.

I also want to add that I spent the entire book trying to place Sam the maintenance main. It wasn't until the end, when he did his thing with the tigers, that it clicked.

Miki Falls: Spring Mike Crilley

I don't read a lot of manga. It tends to not be my thing, but there was a question about this at work, so I picked it up. Now I can't wait until Miki Falls: Summer

So, it's Miki's first day of her senior year in high school when she meets the new boy in town, Hiro. Hiro pushes everyone away and doesn't want to make friends, or fit in. Miki knows there's something behind his tough exterior and wants in. Slowly, she starts chipping down his walls, only to find a really deep, big secret.

I was kinda blase on this until I found out what the secret was. Which I can't say, because that would totally ruin the book. But it's a really interesting concept that has me enthralled. Definitely on the girly side of things, I'm hooked.

Chicken with Plums Marjane Satrapi

I fell in love with Marjane Satrapi's work this spring
. Chicken with Plums is a short book looking at an Iranian musician's final days. After his wife breaks his tar during an arguement, Nasser Ali Khan can not find a new one he likes the sound of. Eventually, being unable to find a new instrument to play, he loses the will to live, and decides to die. In the eight days until his death, Satrapi (his great-niece) chronicles his dreams and hallucinations, illuminating his past and the future of his family.

The same elements that make Satrapi's previous works great are at play here, with the element of mystical realism, and heartbreak. Her art tends to be stark, which adds to the bleakness that Nasser Ali, and the reader, feels as he waits for Death to come to him.

You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When It Monsoons - The World on One Cartoon a Day Mo Willems

Those of us who are hep to kidlit best know Mr. Willems from such fantastic titles as Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, and Leonardo, the Terrible Monster. That last one is one of my favorites for storytime-- especially that temper tantrum bit in the middle. I really get into that one.

Anyway, back in the day, before he started writing hilarious children's books that adults enjoy almost as much as children, but on a whole different level, back when Willems was just a recent college grad not entirely sure what to do with this life... he took a trip around the world. Instead of keeping a traditional travel journal, at the end of each day, Willems drew one cartoon. His cartoons tend not to cover the big tourist things, or the splendor of a country, but rather those little moments that make travel so awesome and perfect. Most cartoons had a caption and Willems has added modern day captions and commentary as well.

Some of my favorites were from December 9th, "While ordering lunch, make a mental note to learn the Thai word for 'chicken'" or July 3, "Old enough to smoke, young enough to play hide and seek."

Dave Barry's introduction is also hilarious and sets the book up perfectly.

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl Barry Lyga

Donnie's the geeky scrawny kid who's always getting picked on in dodgeball with the gym teacher never noticing, or caring. His best friend is a super-cool jock, so they can't hang out together at school (even though I got the feeling this is mor Donnie's imagining of an unspoken rule that his friend really didn't care about). His mother is pregnant and won't let anyone come over to the house, and he hates his stepdad. The only real comfort he gets is from reading comic books and drawing his own. Then, one day, the goth girl, Kyra enters his life and everything changes.

Boy meets amazing/weird girl who changes everything has been a trend I've noticed a lot in YA books recently. Maybe this is the boy equivelent of the girl story of girl cruches after hott popular guy and never realizes until the end that her best guy friend is her prince charming after all...

I liked this book. Donnie's voice is sharp and authentic. And Lyga's love of comic books shows through, which is why I'm including it in this post, even though it's not a graphic novel.

Also, I have 17 books checked out from the library and another 6 borrowed from other people. So, the first part of my "read what you own, doofus" challenge is to, well, read those 23 titles. I'm halfway through the biggest, slowest going one, Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France.

Spunky Girls

Well, I didn't win the challenge. Sigh. Now I know what the standard of competition is-- y'all better watch out next year, is all I'm saying.

I liked the challenge of it though, so I'm having a self-challenge. Feel free to play along. The challenge is this:

Read all the books I have checked out and borrowed. Don't check out or borrow anymore books until the end of the challenge. Read a as-of-yet determined amount of books that I OWN. I currently have 19 books checked out and probably about 8 that are borrowed.

I buy books that I think I'll want to own. I can't help it. But, they often get waylaid because dude, the library books have to go back. So the books I wanted so much that I bought them languish on the shelves, unread. Time to change that.

But here are some library books:

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

Clementine always pays attention, despite what her teacher says. She's just paying attention to what's going on outside the window.

Here we have heroine who is all heart, but doesn't always know how to show it. When perfect Margaret tries to cut glue out of her hair, all Clementine was trying to do was even it up. But then she's not allowed to play with Margaret anymore. Clementine knows Margaret's sad about having no more hair, so Clementine cuts all of her hair off, just to make her feel better. Why doesn't anyone understand this?

Marla Frazee's pen and ink illustrations make this story great, as does Clementine's pitch-perfect voice:

And then Margaret went all historical, and the art teacher went all historical, and nobody could think of anything to do except the regular thing, which is: send me to the principal's office.

Clementine is spunkier than Ramona and not as annoying as Junie B. Her voice is captured perfectly. It's hard not to fall in love with Clementine, which is why I squealed for joy when this came in:

The Talented Clementine by Sara Pennypaker

I think this one might be even more hilarious than the first one. The school is having a talent show, but there's just one problem-- Clementine doesn't have a talent.

I like this one partly because a lot of the adults that were flat characters in the first book (because, let's face it, in a kid's eye, most adults are flat characters) round out a bit more, especially the principal.

I really just want to cut and paste a bunch of quotations, or possibly the entire book, but you just read it yourself. I will leave you with this:

But he ignored me, which is called Getting on with the Day when a teacher does it, and Being Inconsiderate when a kid does it.

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little by Peggy Gifford

I'm not entirely sure who is narrating this tale, but the breathless excitement that comes across in punctuation-less run-on sentences leads me to believe it is one of Moxy Maxwell's fellow 9-year-olds.

But that is not part of this story and will sidetrack us and we must move on if we're ever going to get to the darkness now descending on Moxy's horizon.

See, Moxy has a bit of a problem. She has been carrying around her copy of Stuart Little all summer so she can read it during her in-between times, but, see, she didn't have many of those this summer. So, here it is, the last day of summer vacation, and she hasn't read it yet. This is a problem because there will be a test on it tomorrow, the first day of school.

So Moxy is going to go straight up to her room and read the whole thing before the daisy routine water ballet tonight. But, of course, she should probably clean her room first. And then she needs some food, for energy. And then, because the day has been such an emotional roller coaster, she should probably lie down. And then, she has a fabulous, stupendous, near-genius idea that must be set into motion immediately.

Of course, when the best idea Moxy has had in her life leads to an drowned, exploding dahlia garden, can she find a way out? And will she ever read Stuart Little?

This is a funny look at a kid trying to get out of doing her summer reading assignment. Perhaps not quite as funny as Clementine, but still funny and will appeal to the same people. Another thing I want to draw attention to is that Moxy's twin brother, Mark has been studying photography over the summer and his photographic illustrations (really those of Valerie Fisher) add a lot to the tale.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Challenge Wrap Up

I did the 48 Hour Challenge between 9pm Friday and 9pm Sunday.

During those 48 hours, I read and blogged for 26.5 hours.

During the time I wasn't reading, I slept, showered, attended a group meeting for school, and went over to a friend's house for dinner.

I finished reading 9 full books. I also read 2 chapters of my text book for school and started another book.

I read a grand total of 2,213 pages. That's 1.4 pages per reading minute! Or .77 pages per minute even including those I was sleeping for...

I reviewed the 9 full books I read, 3 other books that I read earlier and hadn't blogged yet but tied in with the books I was blogging about AND the 2 chapters I had to read for school.

I finished the following books:

The Mates, Dates Guide to Life, Love, and Looking Luscious Cathy Hopkins
The Year the Gypsies CameLinzi Glass
Heart and Salsa (S.A.S.S.) Suzanne Nelson
Now and Zen (S.A.S.S.) Linda Gerber
Spain or Shine (S.A.S.S.) Michelle Jellen
In the Cards: Love Mariah Fredericks
The Salem Witch Tryouts Kelly McClymer
Diary of a Fairy Godmother Esme Raji Codell
All I Want Is Everything (Gossip Girl, 3) Cecily von Ziegesar

I read 2 chapters of:

Discovering Computers 2007: A Gateway to Information, Complete (Shelly Cashman Series) Shelly Cashman

And the first 18 pages of:

Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent: How Daring Slaves and Free Blacks Spied for the Union During the Civil War Thomas R. Allen

The Year the Gypsies Came was the best book-- by far the most literary and well crafted...

but All I Want is Everything was probably my favorite...

I'll be cleaning up my weekend posts during the day!

I would have loved another vodka gimlet in that shot to celebrate the end, but sadly, we are out of vodka. After I took that, I made dinner. And had wine. And watched TV.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Hour 48

Well, I'm done. There will be a full recap tomorrow, as per the rules, but here are the totals:

Hours spent reading/blogging: 26.5
# of books read: 9 full, 2 partial
# of pages read: 2,213

My last full book was...

All I Want Is Everything (Gossip Girl, 3) Cecily von Ziegesar (215 pages)

I really like the Gossip Girl series. I didn't think I would, so I didn't read it for a long time until it showed up on the ALA list of most-banned books in 2006. I LOVE it. I wrote a post about it for Geek Buffet awhile back.

This is guilty, trashy reading at it's finest. You get hooked on the characters-- who cares that they're not good role models? Most of them are horrible people-- you're fascinated with them but you'd never want to be them. Kinda like Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan.

They're always drunk. Or stoned. When they're not air kissing each other, they're talking trash behind their best friends backs and sleeping with their boyfriends. I love it.

We have:

Blair, a bitch with perfect taste and dark hair who is majorly uptight, a bit neurotic, and slightly bulemic...
Serena, tall, blond, gorgeous and a free spirit who doesn't let a lot get to her...
Jenny, young, sweet, naive with a massic rack
Kati and Isabel are lower hangers-on in the circuit
Vanessa dark with a shaved head, hates the rich kids
Dan, Jenny's brother and a tightly wond, wounded artist tortued soul type who chain smokes and drinks way too much coffee
Nate, hott and always stoned, clueless
Chuck, slimey hornball
Anthony, Charlie, and Jeremy lower hangers-on

The frame of the stories is Gossip, a page 6 type online gossip column where Gossip Girl spills the dirt and answers emails from loyal readers with their tips. Gossip Girl is also the narrator of the series and you have to love her wonderfully snarky tone:

He had yellow hair. Not blond yellow, but yellow like a person's snot when they're seriously sick.

I feel I should review the first two though, even though I read them yonks ago. Well, as far as quality the first 3 books are all the same and I loved them, so really, plot summaries:

Gossip Girl Cecily von Ziegesar

Serena has just gotten kicked out of boarding school and is looking forward to hanging out with her friends again, especially Blair, and returning to her snooty school, Constance Billiard. But Blair has kinda enjoyed the spotlight ever since her taller, thinner, blonder, prettier best friend has been away and doesn't want to give it up. The rumors, and the fur, fly.

You Know You Love Me Cecily von Ziegesar

Ugh. So, Blair's mother is marrying her tacky, overweight boyfriend Cyrus. On Blair's 17th birthday, which everyone seems to have forgotten it is. Jenny's hanging out with Nate in the park. Dan's obsessing over Serena who's starting to get a little weirded out. And everyone's off interviewing for colleges. The college interviews are hilarious. All of them. Hysterical.

Gossip Girl #3: All I Want is Everything

It's Christmas! Jenny and Nate are still going strong. Maybe. Serena has a hott rock star obsessing over her. Vanessa wants sex. Dan wants it to be special. Aaron has the hots for his stepsister, Blair has attracted the unwanted attention of his best friend. And oh, do Blair's mom and Cyrus have a bombshell for the "happpy" family...

Then, I had a few more minutes, so I read the first 18 pages of

Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent: How Daring Slaves and Free Blacks Spied for the Union During the Civil War Thomas R. Allen More about that when I finish it.

But for now, it's dinner time, and I need to call my mom, because I totally blew her off this afternoon.

Hour 45 and a half

Hours into challenge: 45.5
Hours spent reading/blogging: 24
# Books Read: 8 total, 1 partial
# Pages Read: 1980

Diary of a Fairy Godmother Esme Raji Codell 170 pages

Hunky Dory is the at the top of her class in charm school. Her mother knows that she will grow up to be the wickedest witch wherever the four winds blow...

But then, Hunky discovers that what gives her the most satisfaction is granting wishes, and witches don't get satisfaction from granting wishes. Fairy godmothers do. What's Hunky to do?

Funny and smart, with a cast of familiar characters, this book was great. I especially liked spoiled Golidlocks. The illustrations by Drazen Kozjan add a lot. It contains a recipie for booger cookies at the end and an excellent supplemental reading list.

Also, check out Esme's awesome blog.

We're into the final stretches-- 2.5 more hours. I hope I can finish another book in the time!

Hour 44

Hours into challenge: 44
Hours spent reading/blogging: 22 and 1/2
# books read: 7 full, 1 partial
# pages read: 1810

The Salem Witch Tryouts Kelly McClymer

Pru, short for Prudence, has always known she's half witch and living in a mortal world in Beverly Hills. But when her younger brother can't control his magic, her parents decide to embrace their magical side and ship the family off to Salem, for a proper magical education. Suddenly Pru, who has been very good about following her mom's no-magic rules finds herself in remedial spell casting classes. She might have been the Queen Bee in Beverly Hills, but here she's a big, fat Zero.

She was head cheerleader back home, so making the squad here should be easy-peasy and up her cool quotient, right? Not when the routines are all done mid-air...

This is a fun book that looks like the first in a series BUT! Prudence is totally obsessed with whether she's cool or not. Except she says "kewl". Ew. When one of her mortal-obsessed friends says her cell phone is "neat" her response is

Another annoying trait of Samuel's is that he likes to use archaic mortal phrases

from the girl who says "kewl" and never once "cool". Argh.

Hour 41.5

Hours into challenge: 41.5
Hours spent reading/blogging: 20 hours, 55 minutes
# books read: 6 full, 1 partial
# pages read: 1550

In the Cards: Love Mariah Fredericks 270 pages

When weird old Mrs. Rosemont dies, she leaves Anna her deck of tarot cards and a cat. Anna and her best friends Eve and Syd do a tarot reading to see what the future holds for Anna and her crush object-- freak turned uber-cool Declan. What does fate have in store? And is it really all about fate?

There's a lot of stuff in here about navigating an iron-clad clique system and dealing with parents and balancing friends with boyfriends and dealing with bullies. It's not bad. I probably won't die to pick up the rest of the series though. Partly because they took the tarot cards way too seriously. The plot hinged on them obsessing over what this one tarot reading said, but... dude. They cared way too much.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Hour 39

Hours into challenge: 39
Hours spent reading/blogging: 16 hours, 5 minutes
# books read: 5 full, 1 partial
# pages read: 1284

Ok, man, I haven't been reading nearly as much as I thought, after 2 nights sleep, 1 group meeting, and 1 bbq with friends... but, I have gotten a lot read, I think...

S. A. S. S. (Students Across the Seven Seas)

This is a great series! Each book is by a different author about a different girl studying abroad in a different country. These books are actually... a lot better than I thought they would be. They're pretty fluffy but there's still a lot going on. They each contain:
1. Some interpersonal problem at home they're working through from abroad
2. Romantic fun in-country
3. Someone mean in-country
4. Lots of information and learning about the country and language

What I really like is that you do learn a lot about the country and city these girls are studying in, but each book finds a way to present the information in a way that's not obtrusive or disruptive to the story flow.

Also, each story isn't just the same semester abroad. Swede Dreams and Spain are Shine feature straight-up semesters at a foreign schools, but Heart and Salsa is a summer service project with field trips, but no actual classrooms. Now and Zen has a summer program on global outreach.

One thing I do wish is that there were some author's notes in the back with more information or further reading or something. There are maps in the beginning though-- of the country where they're studying and of the city itself.

Swede Dreams Eva Apelqvist

PLEASE NOTE: I did NOT read this this weekend, but I'm blogging about it now because I read the other SASS books this weekend.

Callie's twin sister is perfect and is amazingly busy preparing her Julliard audition. Last semester, Callie was dating Jonas, the Swedish exchange student at school so she decides to go to Stockholm for the semester. Can she survive her classes in Swedish? Why does the girl next door hate her so much? And why hasn't Jonas emailed her back yet?

I really liked the conflict between Callie and her twin-- Apelqvist has captured the relationship perfectly. AND! Lots of fun Swedish holidays I didn't know about!

Heart and Salsa Suzanne Nelson (214 pages)

Cal's parents are divorced. While she's still reeling from that change in her life, her mother marries Ted, a college professor she's only been dating for 3 months. As if that weren't enough, Ted then moves the family from Cal's home in Scottsdale, Arizona out to Boston. She's having a really hard time adjusting, so when her best friend from AZ, Sabrina, suggests that they both do a service project in Oaxaca over the summer, Cal jumps at it. But when she gets off the plane, she finds Sabrina has also brought along her boyfriend. And Cal's host sister automatically assumes she's a princess and won't even give her a chance...

Now and Zen Linda Gerber (214 pages)

This one was a little disappointing because I feel I didn't learn as much about Japanese culture as I learned from the other books. I think a big part of this is because Nori stayed in a dorm with other Americans (and some Japanese students) rather than living with a host family, which is how the other books work.

Basically, Nori's parents are growing apart and Nori's off to Tokyo for the summer for a Global Outreach Program. I think this is another part about why we don't get as much about Japanese culture-- the program has very little to do specifically with Japan...

Nori is Japanese-American and that does lead to complications as everyone she's studying with assumes she's Japanese. Also, the program draws students from all over the world so there are Germans and Brits. Erik's the hott German Orlando Bloom look-alike Nori's drooling over. He wants an authentic Japanese prospective on some things so Nori pretends, using nice-guy and genuinely Japanese-guy Atsushi in the process...

This book was better at the relationships and internal struggle, but not as good on culture, which has always been the high point of this series...

Spain or Shine Michelle Jellen (214 pages)

Elena is a dreamer in a family of focused achievers. Sick of teachers always comparing her to her siblings, she relishes the chance to study in San Sebastian, Spain. There, in addition to Spanish and Basque culture classes, her main class is in theater. Elena wants to write and direct movies and this is a chance to finally work towards that goal. For her class she has to write a full length play with a partner. The 2 best plays in the class are going to be produced at the end of the semester. Elena really wants to win...

Also, Elena's really, really shy, so how will she win the heart of her super-hott Spanish classmate, Miguel?

This is a fun one. It features a home stay so you learn a lot about Spanish culture. Despite some mentions of Basque culture, we didn't really learn about who the Basque people are or how their culture is different than Spanish culture or anything, which is too bad.

Hmmmm.... and I just now noticed that all of the titles are exactly 214 pages long. Weird. So far, Swede Dreams is still my favorite of the series, but I'm looking forward to reading the rest of them!

Hour 17

Hour of challenge: 17 hours, 45 minutes
Hours reading/blogging: 7 hours, 45 minutes
Books read: 2 full, 1 partial
Pages read: 632

The Year the Gypsies Came Linzi Glass 260 pages

I first picked up this book because it was on some YALSA list that a coworker friend picked up for me at ALA midwinter. She had scrawled "sleeper hit of the year" next to the title.

Emily is almost 13 and lives in the suburbs of Johannesburg in 1966. Her parents marriage is strained, and they often have long-term house guests so they can sweep their issues under the rug for the company. Her mother is a real piece of work with quick mood swings and constantly resentful that her husband cannot provide her with the type of luxury she grew up in. Her sister, Sarah, deals with the tension by keeping everything perfect.

One summer, an Australian family who live in camper come and live with them (in their camper, in their driveway.) The father, a friendly wildlife photographer, is violent towards his sons, especially his oldest, Otis, who reminds the reader of Lennie, without a George to watch over him.

What is striking about this book is the way Emily, the narrator, notices and tells of us the small details in her life:

There's Father's partner, Clive, beefy and large, sweating under his Panama hat. Cigar ash perched on his big toe. His naked fat feet in sandals. His wife, Ursula, her bright yellow hair piled high on her head in a beehive, laughs with Mother as they stand under the cool shade of the plum trees. Cherry-colored drinks in their hands. Mother's lime-green sundress is pulled tight into her waist to show off its small size. Sometimes Mother even checks with a tape measure to make sure her waist stays "twenty-four inches, Emily, never more." Ursula's waist is at least thirty-five inches, according to Mother.

Also, Glass grew up in South Africa during the apartheid era and this story clearly reflects that with the minor, but striking, details of day to day life of the privileged British children. There is much racism in the book, but it is not a major issue, rather a powerful backdrop of the story, which makes it all the potent because Glass does not bang our heads against the injustice of it.

The last few pages of the book contain a good glossary of the all the Afrikaans words and one of the Zulu words, but they're all defined well in context.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Hour 4

Hours into the challenge: 4
Hours spent reading/blogging: 4
# pages read:372
# books read: 1 full, 1 partial

The Mates, Dates Guide to Life, Love, and Looking Luscious Cathy Hopkins 241 pages

This is a companion volume to the Mates, Dates... series. You know the stuff they put at the end of each chapter in those books? Well, this is kinda like a compendium of that, but it's not. I mean, it reads like it is, and some of the material is taken from the chapter-end material, but a lot of it is new.

And, there's some great stuff in here. I actually liked this book better than any book in the series and I wish I had it when I was in junior high/ high school. It gives important advice on how to make your first kiss not suck, how flirt, and how to spot a love rat. It also deals with more serious issues such as what to do if you're being bullied and how to tell if you're ready to have sex.

I love the section on homemade face and hair masks for different skin and hair types-- I must try them out. AND! Who knew there was a cure for whisker rash?!

One of my main complaints about the series (besides how a lot of the books came off like a bad after-school special) was the lousy translation job-- they'd just translate words and forget the context. In one book, Nesta makes a pun about public schools. Now in a translation from British to American English, "public school" means "private school". So, they changed the public to private... completely ruining the joke and making the entire page make NO SENSE if you didn't realize that's what had happened. There's not a lot of translation here. I mean check out this sentence:

Boys tend to be more anoraky than girls

Would anyone besides a hard core Anglophile know what "anoraky" means as an adjective? Because that's something I never would have picked up on until I moved there.

But then, once again, the one time they DO translate, they forget context. It say if you're mugged to hand over your personal property and call 911. Now, in the UK, you call 999. So, they translated the phone number, but the illustration still says 999.

But what really gets me is what's left untranslated-- it gives some great hotlines and websites to check out if you're being bullied, but they're all British. Would it have been so hard for the US publisher to add a few pages in back with American resources?

Also, just a note, this was written before the series ended, so keep that in mind, other wise some asides they make don't make ANY sense in the context of the last book, but it makes perfect sense if you realize that the events of the last book haven't happened yet.

Ok, it's after 1. Off to bed and then a group meeting tomorrow and lots more reading! Stay tuned!

Hour 2.5

Hours into the challenge: 2.5
Hours spent reading/blogging: 2.5
# pages read: 131
# books read: 1 partial

Ok, I did my reading for class on Monday-- chapters 1 and 2 of Discovering Computers 2007: A Gateway to Information, Complete (Shelly Cashman Series) Shelly Cashman

I learned a lot. For instance, did you know that...

A blog, short for weblog, is an informal Web site consisting of time-stamped articles, or posts, in a diary or journal format, usually listed in reverse chronological order...Blogs reflect the interests, opinions and personalities of the author, called the blogger, and sometimes site visitors. According to a Web tracking company, more than 500,000 posts appear on blogs each day... Home users... use blogs to share aspects of their personal life with family, friends, and others...

I didn't either! And guess what!

You can use something called an e-mail program to create, send, receive, forward, store, print, and delete email messages.

I am shocked and amazed.

Fork, meet eye.

Much thanks to Ali for talking to me (using this amazing technology that you should try sometimes called instant messaging) to help me survive this. I was also going to do the reading for Wednesday, but that will not happen tonight. Maybe tomorrow or Sunday...

Onto fun reading!

Let the Clock Start... Now

This is a fancy post. My posts this weekend will not have links, nor pictures. I'll go back and add those in next week.

Well, when you start a weekend you have a mental list of all the things you want to do now that you have "free" time. I had to check a few things off my list after work tonight before I could begin my 48 hour challenge.

For instance, look at the guest bedroom when I came home:

And my dresser:

See, school started this week, so things just kind of, well, exploded. (Just kidding-- things always look this bad. :) )

BUT! Look at the guest room/office now!

Ooooo and my dresser:

And the part of the bedroom that was too messy for a "Before" shot:

But is that a vodka gimlet with a stack of books?

Yes, yes it is. The 48 hours has begun.

Friday, 9pm.


It's Friday!

I'm gearing up for a big weekend with Mother Reader's 48-Hour Challenge. I'm going to start sometime tonight. I haven't decided yet... I need to get some stuff done around the house, like cleaning the guest bedroom (I know, so exciting, but it's part of the bargain I made with myself to allow myself 48 hours of reading...)

I plan to catch up on all the YA stuff I have checked out and is due soon...

Interrupting my reading time will be a group meeting for school (I really hate group projects, luckily I managed to get a group that all live in my state, which is nice, because school is in a different state, on the other side of DC. I was once in a group where one member lived in a different state and one person lived in a different country. Yeah, he was only 1 hour away, but we couldn't call him, because we were students and that means we were poor and who can afford international calling rates to talk about a project no one wants to do anyway?)

On a better note, I'll also be hanging out with friends on Saturday night, grilling and stuff. I think I'll need to break on my brain. Other than that, lots and lots of reading. And blogging about reading. I'll post again tonight when I start, if my computer agrees with me.

But, also, because it's Friday, here's a poem:

Widow's Lament

It's not quite cold enough
to go borrow some firewood
from the neighbors.

-Richard Brautigan

Also, a quick blogger question-- if my template doesn't include a left sidebar, is there an easy way to add one? Because I want one, but I don't want to change my template.

Fairy Tales

Y'all know how much I love a good fairy tale retelling, so here's a slew of them that I can't believe I haven't blogged about yet. Plus, I'm just getting in the blogging groove for this weekend. That, and I've fallen behind on my New Year's Resolution to review 5 books a week or enough to keep up with current reading, whichever is less. After this post, I'll only be 9 books behind! Woo-hoo!

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

Wonderland has just survived a bloody civil war and an uneasy peace reigns, but on Alyss Heart's seventh birthday, her Aunt Redd storms the palace with a rebel army. Alyss's parents are killed before her eyes and the young princess flees through a lake to Victorian London where her stories of Wonderland brand her as odd. Eventually, Alice (her new family forces her to change the spelling of her name) thinks she finds a friend who believes her stories. But when Lewis Carroll publishes Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the details are all wrong. Alice knows she has been betrayed. Will she give up on Wonderland altogether? And what about the ragtag band of rebels, who call themselves Alyssians, who are fighting Redd's horror-filled regime?

Bador's action-packed adventure takes readers from Wonderland to England and back again, and shows us a different side of well-loved characters and places. An interesting (and bloody) twist on a classic story, this is the first in a trilogy-- I'm looking forward to the next ones.

This was also interesting because in Germany (where it was originally published) it was an adult book. My library has it in juvenile! It's also a great "boy book." Who would have thought to turn Alice into a bloody book about war and revenge?

Also, I won a Looking Glass Wars t-shirt that says "Wonderland Exists" on the back. It's awesome and really soft. I sleep in it all the time.

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

Did you like Ella Enchanted? Good. You'll like this one. Like Ella, this is a very loose retelling of a classic fairy tale; in this case it's Snow White.

Aza is not pretty. All of her life, people at her inn have made fun of her because her cheeks are too chubby, she is too wide, her hair is dull black, and her lips are too red. Although she is not pretty, Aza has a beautiful voice and in a country of singers, it sets her apart. Not only does she have one of the best voices in the country, but she can illusing--make her voice sound like it's coming from other objects and people. But when the new queen wants Aza to sing for her and deceive the entire kingdom, can Aza refuse? What will happen whens he gets caught?

Not only is this a creative and wonderful re-imagining of Snow White, but it is also an inspiring tale of self-confidence and inner beauty. I especially liked how Levine works in the dwarves.

Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley

This is a fantastic treatment of Cinderella that has drawn a lot of comparisons to the work of Gail Carson Levine. Bella's mother dies during her birth and the infant is sent away to be raised by peasants. Her best friend is a prince, a lowly 4th son. The class differences lead to an awful snub, and then Prince Julian is sent away as a hostage for peace. Bella is called back by her father and, for the first time, learns her peasant family is not her family. And here we get some evil steps.

The great thing about this story is that Bella has some real agency and there isn't any magic. I'll tell you know that the fairy godmother does not make an appearance in this book-- Bella does what has to be done for herself. It's lovely, really.

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley

I first got this book on book order in late elementary school. (Man, I miss book orders. Do they still have those? Am I going to totally embarrass my kid by ordering all the $2 books for myself?) I never read the book. I eventually weeded it or gave it away or something.

Two summers ago, my friend Elizabeth and I were talking in the post Half-Blood Prince funk. I was filling it by rereading the The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. She was rereading Beauty.

I still didn't get to it until September. Because I'm a freak (plus, dude, I read it in September and am blogging about it NOW?!)

Anyway, it's great and you should read it and I wish I had read it the first time around because I would be rereading it all the time now.

Beauty is not as pretty as her older sisters-- the name is ironic. She is gangly and awkward, but smart and quick-witted. Her father becomes financially ruined and the family must relocate to a small cottage in the northern countryside. There, in the forest abutting their lands is the Beast's castle. Beauty trades herself for her father because really, she doesn't have that much else to do. You know the story. McKinley writes beautifully and adds several layers of complexity and makes it much more real.

Beauty Sleep: A Retelling of "Sleeping Beauty" by Cameron Dokey

I had to read this for work. While not as good as Beauty, this is still a great one. Dokey has written several retellings, and they're all my to-read list.

We know the set up-- Aurora's parents invite fairies to her christening. The bad fairy isn't invited but shows up anyway and curses Aurora out of spite. Her parents coddle her and keep her away from sharp things but she pricks her finger anyway...

But in this story she doesn't prick her finger. She doesn't fall asleep and weird things start happening. Aurora knows she has to cut herself to save her kingdom, but how? Enter the magical forest...

I'm most looking forward to Dokey's The Storyteller's Daughter which retells Scherezade's story from Arabian Nights.

The Witch's Boy by Michael Gruber

I didn't like this one as much. I didn't like any of the characters. In the end, I think Gruber just tried to work too much in, which just didn't work, because they felt crammed in, like when I put a tiny sliver of a Kraft single into the lasagna just so I can claim it has one more cheese in it... Also, the ending felt really rushed.

What it does have going to for it is the fact that it's a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, and how often do you see that? And, it's more of a "boy book" than most fairy tales re-tellings are. If he had stuck just to Rumpelstiltskin and didn't try to work in every other fairy tale in the Western cannon, I think the book would have been a lot tighter and then the ending wouldn't have to rush so much. Gruber adds a lot of very interesting detail to Rumpelstiltskin's story-- to the point where I didn't realize it was actually a fairy tale retelling and that's where it was going until really deep into the book.

Also, the fact that I didn't like the characters is not the fault of faulty writing-- I wasn't supposed to. On the other hand, if you have a cast of unlikeable people, there has to be something else going on to make me want to finish your book. Lolita has great prose that kept me going, this one... I don't know. The cover's pretty cool though.

I was also going to talk about Jack of Fables: The (Nearly) Great Escape, but the new Fables, Sons of Empire, should be on my doorstep on Wednesday, so I think I'll review the two together then...