Monday, December 31, 2007

2006 Bloggin' Blast

First off, if you want to waste some time by seeing what happens when LOLcats take on Presidential Politics, check out Ron Paul Can Has Cheezburger? After all, the American Dream is for every person to have a bukkit of their own...

Anyway, it's the last day of 2007, so let's talk about all the books that I read in 2006 and haven't talked about yet. La la la la la la la la.

First off, a book I really, really loved.

CHERUB: The Recruit Robert Muchamore

James can't catch a break. His mother is awful (and a major dealer in stolen goods) his sister's father isn't any better. Then he gets suspended for fighting in school and his mom dies.

Enter CHERUB. Founded over 50 years ago, CHERUB is a division of MI5--British Intelligence. No one ever suspects a kid, so that's who they send--kids.

James will be a spy and receive a top-notch education, but only if he can survive the training period.

And then, if he does, the real work begins.

A fun and gripping adventure story, I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the books in this series...

College Girls: Bluestockings, Sex Kittens, and Co-Eds, Then and Now Lynn Peril

This is a well-done, not overly academic look at the history of women's high education. It's a pretty balanced account with a lot of pull-out boxes about various aspects of female college life and lots of "Femorbilia" looking at different items marketed to the college girl. I especially enjoyed the "College Girls Book Shelf"-- a running thread of literary treatments of college girls throughout history.

I Am the Messenger Markus Zusak

I liked this book.

Ed is a slacker cab driver with no future. After foiling a bank robbery, he starts to recieve playing cards with messages on them.

With nothing to lose, he starts following them, discovering problems to be solved, some are easy and heartwarming, such as a church with no congregation and some are dangerous and chilling, like a woman being raped every night by her drunk husband.

Through solving these problems, he starts to find direction in life.

Zusak is an awesome writer. It's about as different from The Book Thief as can be, but that just shows his range.

White Is for Magic Laurie Faria Stolarz

A fun guilty-pleasure type read.

Stacey has nightmares about people being murdered--nightmares that have an awful habit of coming true. It's been a year since she saved her best friend last year (in the first of the series, Blue Is For Nightmares. Now the target of her nightmares is... herself. Luckily, she's a witch with an arsenal of spells to help her find the strength and courage she needs.

I couldn't put it down, but I also have no desire to read the rest of the series. The spells felt really, really hokey.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic Alison Bechdel

This is a graphic novel memoir of small town America, literature, coming out, and family secrets.

It was really, really good, but the amount of literary allusion and quotations got old after awhile--that aspect was a bit overdone.

Mermaid Park Beth Mayall

Amy hates her family--her jerkwad of a step father, her perfect sister... so she is very much not looking forward to a long weekend on the Jersey shore at her mother's godmother's motel.

But, she finds a boy, and a waterpark of mermaids. (A forbidden waterpark of mermaids.) She talks her mother into letting her stay for the summer, and talks her way into a job at Mermaid Park, unraveling a few family secrets along the way.

A perfectly lovely book, although it didn't stay with me for long.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Julius Lester (plus a few)

I do love books by Julius Lester.

Day of Tears? Fantastic! I had to read it for a lit conference and was extremely disappointed by the discussion we had on it. No one could get beyond "Gee, Slavery really sucked" to discuss why Lester's tale of it was such a powerful stand out in a sea of stories about the same general subject. No one brought up that it was one of the few stories to really explore the emotional impact instead of the physical one... powerful stuff.

In the hands of a lesser storyteller, The Old African would have been absolutely dreadful instead of being as wonderful as it is.

Most recently, I read Cupid: A Tale of Love and Desire. This is classic Greek Myth, but told in a vernacular, Southern African American story telling style.

Because of Lester's great skill, it totally worked and I loved it.

Psyche is beautiful to the point of it being a burden. Cupid is the son of Venus and a total mama's boy. When Venus (who is aging) is jealous of Pysche's incredible beauty, she orders Cupid to poison her with destructive love. (I have to say I was reminded of that exchange in Love Actually "I have say I'm a bit relieved, I thought it was something worse." "Worse than the total agony of being in love?!")

Anyway, of course, Cupid falls in love with her. He enlists Apollo's help. Apollo is not a fan of Cupid, so tells Psyche's father that she will marry a great monster.

In the end, Venus attempts to seek revenge and true love--both Psyche's love for Venus and various other deities' love for Psyche is put to the test.

I know some readers will (and are) annoyed by the storyteller's voice and his meditations on story, beauty, love, and lust, but I really really enjoyed it. I especially enjoyed the comments on how much work love is. You don't get that truth a lot in YA literature.

Shout out to Bookshelves of Doom for bringing it to my attention.

Now, to catch up on something I read last year, I didn't like Time's Memory nearly as much.

And here's where Lester's genius is more of a burden than a blessing-- I simply expected more from him.

The nyama spirit embodies Nat, a young man who is a slave on a Virginia plantation. He's in love with the Ellen, the plantation owner's daughter. Nat's father is the leader of a bloody slave revolt.

Highly mystical and spiritual, it just didn't work as well as it should have and ultimately left me dissatisfied. However, there is a lot going on in the book, so I would highly recommend it for book discussions.

Another I read at the same time, which won the Coretta Scott King Award is Sharon Draper's Copper Sun.

This is another fantastically written story about slavery. There isn't as much under the surface, but it tells the story of Amari, from her time in Africa through the middle passage and slavery. It also tells of her friendship with Polly, an indentured servant. The two run away--but instead of going North, they go South, to Spanish controlled Florida.

What I really liked about this book was the unflinching look at many things we usually don't see. We usually don't read of the coastal slave castle before being put on the boats, or how other Africans helped round people up to be sold.

We know of, but usually don't see in fiction, the rape of women by lonely sailors every night.

I also really appreciated how nuanced the characters were--there were good people and and bad people and people who were good and bad. Some of the good people where white, some of the bad people were black. Many authors, when telling a story of slavery, go the understandable route of making all white people bad. Or really, really good. Draper writes people as she knows them. No one's all good or all bad. And goodness doesn't fall on color lines.

By doing so, she writes a very accurate and incredible tale of slavery that covers what we learned in history class, and a whole lot more.


These are the things that are keeping me busy:

1. Dancing for joy at the fact all my grades have now been posted and, yes, it was a mad dash at the end, but not only did I pass the semester, I aced it. Boo-ya.

2. Reading as much as possible before the New Year.

3. Tallying 2007's reading statistics. (Well, getting ready to tally. I'm still making them.)

4. Thinking about my 2007 best-of lists and what will be on them.

5. Trying to figure out my New Year's resolutions--both in reading and in the other bit of my life. I do know it will involve graduating from my master's program and reading a bunch off this list.

In the meantime, I have set some silly month-by-month goals, starting with this month (which is almost over) that I have set for myself.

So, at the beginning of the month, I was to read all the books I had checked out from the library. I did manage to read a whopping 11 out of 32 (so far, I still have a few days.) I also wanted to blog all the unblogged books from 2006. I started with 15 and am down to 8!

So, progress is at least being made. Stay tuned to this space. More is a'coming.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


So, this is all a Jane Austen-y post. But in YA land.

Did you know that Shannon Hale is having a Princess Contest? Time is running out (it's one of those things that require thinking and entries are due on Monday!) (This is totally relevant because she wrote the chocolate cake of book Austenland: A Novel which is NOT a Jane Austen wannabe book (so please, don't judge it as such) but a fun little romp about those of us with an unhealthy Jane obsession. Or rather, an unhealthy Colin Firth obsession.

Another fun book about unhealthy Jane obsessions?

Enthusiasm Polly Shulman

Julie's best friend, Ashleigh, is an enthusiast. When she becomes interested in something, it goes a little overboard. So, when Ashleigh decides to become obsessed with Jane Austen? Julie sees her high school career ending up in the toilet. Ashleigh is speaking rather properly now and refuses to "bare her lower extremities" aka show her ankles. Or wear trousers. Oiy.

To top it off, in order to find her own Mr. Darcy, Ashleigh has decided to crash the fall formal of the snooty boys school up the road. Not only does Julie thinks this is an awful idea, she can't help but wonder why Ashleigh gets Darcy and she's stuck with the perfectly fine, but a bit boring, Mr. Bingley.

Of course, at the dance, they both find Mr. Right and an unfortunate communication error means Ashleigh claims him first. Ashleigh would never move in on a guy Julie likes, so Julie stays mum, her heart breaking.

Meanwhile there is the school musical, other friends, extra-curriculars, a boy who can't take a hint, mysterious poetry, and messed up step-families.

NOT a Jane Austen wannabe, but a fun romantic romp about friendship, high school, and boys, and an overbearing best friend whose heart is completely in the right place.

A big thank you to Tiny Little Librarian for the recommendation!

One that was not done so well is

The Dashwood Sisters' Secrets of Love Rosie Rushton

This is a retelling of Sense and Sensibility set in modern day England

It was light and airy and fun, but not nearly as lovely as the original. I think I would have liked it more if I wasn't familiar with the source material.

Now, I like some remakes... Clueless was a wonderful look at Emma. It made fun of itself.

Bridget Jones's Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason? Really well thought out and hilarious takes on Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion (the worst part about the movies was that they stripped out a lot of the parallels.)

The adaptions that work work because (a) They know what they are and are able to stretch the story within those confines (b) Are hysterical. They also, in their own way, (c) Retained a bit of the subtle commentary on society.

Dashwood Sisters' Secrets of Love is lukewarm. It is so strictly worried about faithfulness to the original material that it doesn't add anything to the story. If you're not going to add, then why retell?

If you've never read Sense and Sensibility then this would be a fine, if not memorable, teenage brit chick lit about girls dealing with divorce, a new town, and boys. It strips away the commentary.

Read the original. Skip this. Unless, you have to read Sense and Sensibility for school and totally don't understand it and have access to this and not access to the movie. This book won't help you pass the test, but if you read it first and then go back to the Austen, you might understand the basic plot of the Austen a little more.

Oh, and completely unrelated, here's a great site for wasting some time and learning your geography-- check out all the challenges.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day

I hope everyone's holidays are going/went well. I hope that Hanukkah Harry, Solstice Sam, Santa, and Kwanzaa Kofi were good to you and yours and that now you're all full of cookies and goodness and curled up with the parts of your family that don't drive you crazy and a good book.

I had to leave Wisconsin much too soon, but it was a lovely time even if the Packers totally sucked in Sunday's game. (ouch. seriously. ouch.) It even snowed...

Also, I got a lot of reading done. I now have 21 books to read before Monday turns to Tuesday. I can totally pull that off, right? Yeah, I know. But, it will be fun to see how far I get.

Anyway, here are a few of the books I read in various airport lounges, airplanes, and my parents' living room.

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period by Gennifer Choldenko

Someone remind me to stay away from really well done non-humorous realistic fiction about junior high. They make all the memories I've worked so hard to repress come up.

Anyway, Kirstin's best friend is hanging around the mean girls they used to hate. Kirsten could maybe be included if she just tried a little harder to fit in. That's what her mom wants--to the point where she'll call up the other mothers. Kirsten's not dumb. She knows that Ms. Queen Bee doesn't want her there. She also knows she doesn't want to be there, so she starts hanging out with some other people.

Boys. Scholarship students.

Walk is one of those scholarship students-- one of a very few non-white students at this exclusive private school. He wishes he were back at his old school, with his friends...

Choldenko could have had a beautiful story, just on that. But there's also a deep dark looming secret. I'm not sure how I feel about that. It wasn't really necessary.

I did, however, love Kirsten's little sister, Kippy.

Thanks to Kelly for turning me onto this title!

You Are SO Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah! Fiona Rosenbloom

This was the very last book I read in 2006. I remember racing to the end so it would be done before we went out for New Years Eve so it would firmly end up in th 2006 pile.

Anyway, it's Bar and Bat Mitzvah season in Westchester County. So, 13 year olds dealing with the opposite gender, social ranking, friendships, divorced parents and geeky little brothers.

It's true to life while still being funny enough that it doesn't send me back into therapy.

It's a very nice coming-of-age (literally!) story.

My one complaint is that the time line is really screwed up. There are a few things that happen where the times of various events are mentioned, but it doesn't make any sense when you try to reconstruct the day. Plus, geeky little bro undergoes big changes over the book. But the book only takes place over the time span of 1 week, so that also doesn't make sense.

But this old review leads us to a new review!

We Are SO Crashing Your Bar Mitzvah! Fiona Rosenbloom

In this sequel (which I just read) Stacy and Lydia have a whole new look and can't wait to show Kelly.

Only Kelly's full time hanging out with the Chicas (mean girls!) and Stacy and Lydia aren't invited.

Literally. Queen Bee Kym's cousin Eben is having the Bar Mitzvah to end all Bar Mitzvahs and everyone else is invited.

So, Stacy and Lydia do the only sensible thing-- crash. Coupled with the outlandish lies they've been telling to make themselves seem cooler, they've spun a web that's about to catch them.

I think I liked it even better than the first one!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Poetry Friday

Well, I've turned in all my work. In the next three hours I must (a)clean the guest room (b)clean the bathroom (c)shower (d)pack (e)leave for the airport. There is something very important missing from that list my friends. It's called SLEEP.

That's what the plane is for, right?

Anyway, I'm off to Wisconsin to celebrate Christmas with my family. I love going home for Christmas because I love the Christmas Eve service at our church. (Although last Christmas Eve at my in-laws was pretty great. In case they're reading this: This one goes out to my amigos at Table #5. But 2 years ago, it was a Planes, Trains, and Automobiles type scenario to get me home in time to get to church. And we made it. Our luggage went to a different local airport, but we got home in just enough time to eat some food, steal a nice outfit off my sister and go to service.

I was raised Unitarian Univeralist and every Christmas Eve there are two readings that remain consistent, each read by children in the congregation (I will never forget the Christmas Eve I read.) The first is the opening to Luke: And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed...)

We also read this, which is my Poetry Friday offering:

Each Night a Child is Born

For so the children come
and so they have been coming.
Always in the same way they came—
Born of the seed of man and woman.

No angels herald their beginnings.
No prophets predict their future courses.
No wise men see a star to show where to find
The babe that will save humankind.
Yet each night a child is born is a holy night.

Fathers and mothers—
Sitting beside their children’s cribs—
Feel the glory in the sight of a new life beginning.
They ask “Where and how will this new life end?
Or will it ever end?”

Each night a child is born is a holy night—
A time for singing—
A time for wondering—
A time for worshipping.

--Sophia Lyon Fahs

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

To keep you entertained...

Well, I took the final and my homework is 3/4 of the way done... so... one more assignment and term paper and then I'm done. In the mean time, here's a round-up of things you should be looking at:

Still need to do your Christmas shopping? Books! Kelly has the round-up of this month's Carnival of Children's lit-- all about gift books. (And, the first carnival I've participated in! Woot!)

Have you always wondered who was richer-- Mom or Monty Burns? (Answer: Mom) and how much is Lucius Malfoy really worth? Check you this year's most hilarious Forbes 15 Richest Fictional Characters. The article is a little annoying to read due to layout, but hilarious. (And, can I just cheer for the inclusion of Mom! Yay! Mom! Man, I do love Futurama. A few months ago, I read a Playboy interview with Groening in which he said that Futurama is going the way of Family Guy-- it's coming back! Speaking of Family Guy, Mr. Pewetershmidt is totally on the list.)

And here's some YouTube-ery to keep you entertained and distracted:

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I am going insane. Rapidly. You know how people go slowly insane? Nope I'm hurtling towards insanity in the form of undone cataloging assignments and a term paper.

I really wanted to be done by today. Nope. When I take my final tonight, I'll go home (it will be late) and... I'll do more homework. I cannot wait until this class is all done, except, I can. I mean, I have to have everything in on Thursday, and now I'm really really really freaking out that there isn't enough time...

But, Friday I go home and my sister comes back with us.

So I should probably clean the bathroom first, right?

Anyway, I read another book. (I can't do homework and eat, I can read and eat though.)

Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians Brandon Sanderson

I have yet to be inducted into the Evil Librarian cult. This makes me sad. I'm hoping that really, they're just waiting until I get my MLIS.

Alcatraz Smedry grew up in a slew of foster homes in the Hushlands (that's the known world to you and me. We're also Hushlanders and are stuck with primitive technology and not knowing there are three other continents on this earth. Blame the librarians, they control all the information, they keep us in the dark.)

On Alcatraz's thirteenth birthday, his grandfather shows up because it's time to step up and fulfill the Smedry role of saving the world from Evil Librarians.

Full of Alcatraz talking directly to the reader about how awful authors are (himself included), it's hilarious and well thought out. You'll never look at the central downtown branch of a library the same way again.

(Also, I would like to point out that MLK branch of the DC library? Perfect place for librarians to have evil lairs. That building is weird.)

(And for those counting at home, every book I've ever reserved has just come in, so... I now have 26 books to read. Before January... um.... that's what 4.5 hour long layovers in Detroit are for, right? Right.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Love in a Foreign Language

There was a line from a poem written by a short blond girl who read once at a poetry open mic hosted by the college literary magazine. The line, which I don't remember exactly, was along the lines of, "I broke his heart in English, because I couldn't be bothered to translate."

There are many beautiful meditations on language, and losing your language, and living and loving in a foreign language in Chang-Rae Lee's fantastic Native Speaker.

I have tried and failed to date outside English. Conversation sticks to pleasantries like the weather and we never really get to know each other.

These were the thoughts running through my head as I read Xiaolu Guo's A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers: A Novel

I think it is telling that it is dedicated to "The man who... knows how a woman lost her language."

Z (no one can pronounce Zhuang, just call her Z) is sent to London to study English. There she meets a man, older and a drifter, and falls in love with him.

She talks to him as she learns English. Each chapter is short vignette, starting with a word and definition. As the novel, and time, wear on, Z's English improves, but never reaches fluency.

It's a doomed affair, you can tell from the beginning, the way he has a conception of China and expects her to be a good communist and Buddhist because she is Chinese and those are aspects that fit in with his aging-hippie drifter persona, never realizing that China has changed drastically. You can tell by the way she doesn't understand privacy.

More than a chronicle of a doomed love affair, it is a story of subtle and wry cultural misunderstanding. It is a coming-of-age story, both emotionally and sexually.

It is beautifully written, at times switching between terse and broken, to evocative and sensual, to moments of clear truth.

One of my favorite books of the year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I'm so sick of being... sick. Stupid head cold that won't go away and in fact, just got worse. Worse enough to keep me grounded yesterday and I couldn't even do my homework that desperately needs to get done because my brain was so foggy from the snot and the medicine trying to deal with the snot.

So I slept, and read a little, but mainly slept. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

So much of the country has a snow/ice day today. I hope if you do, you have some hot chocolate and a stack of good books to get you through it.

So, new book! (But I checked a new one out, so that's still 23 left to read.)

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers

I wanted to like this book, and I liked large portions of it but... there was something about it that kept me from loving it, but I can't quite figure it out.

Basic Plot: Theodosia's parents run the Museum of Legends and Antiquities in early twentieth century London. A lot of the artifacts her mother brings back from Egypt are positively broiling with evil curses. Only Theodosia seems to notice, so it's up to her to break and nullify them. Then there's something really cursed that lots of people want and gets stolen and there's intrigue and pre-WWI politics afoot.

The good: I liked the different societies vying for the Heart of Egypt. I liked the different countries vying for various digs in Egypt. I liked how it touched on Egyptian nationalism, was true to the time period and thought it was bad, and how there weren't over-arching lessons about colonialism that would have been totally anachronistic. (There were plenty of places for them.) At the same time, it shied away from the issue enough to not be totally offensive to the modern reader (Theo's parents are pretty focused and were most concerned about how it would mess up their digs.)

The bad: The historical-ness just seemed... off. As did the British-ness, but I can't say why exactly. Something about Theo's voice just seemed... off...Hmmmm... (I know, that's totally descriptive!)

Now, for an old review (9 more to go!)

Emako Blue by Brenda Woods

So, the book opens at Emako's funeral and then flashes back from the beginning of the school year to her death. Emako was a charismatic girl from the wrong side of the tracks that touched everyone she met. But, the book was way too short. You didn't get a good sense of how she touched these people and right when you were almost starting to care about her, she dies. 50-100 more pages and I think I would have really liked it, but it just ended too soon, before I was emotionally invested, so eh.

Friday, December 07, 2007

New Books--Lots of Reviews

So, last we checked in, I had 25 books checked out from the library that had to be read, and 15 books from 2006 and that to be blogged. As it stands now, I have checked out 2 more books, but read 4, so, now I have 23 to read. I blogged 5 unblogged books, so now I have 10 to go.

So the 4 new books, in the order in which I read them:

The Wednesday Wars Gary D. Schmidt

Holling Hoodhood is the only Protestant in his class, so every Wednesday, when everyone else goes to Hebrew School or Catholic School, Holling is stuck at school school, with Mrs. Baker, who we get the feeling was really wishing that she'd have Wednesday afternoons off and not be stuck with Holling.)

Mrs. Baker, who's husband (Tybalt) is a soldier in Vietnam, teaches Holling Shakespeare, which he likes, because Shakespeare really knew how to curse. In the meantime, there is baseball and running, hippies and the war, love and some giant rats in the ceiling.

Schmidt has written a wonderful book that has been raved about all over the blogosphere. I had one quibble with one little part of the ending, but I'll talk about that here.

Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff by Jennifer L. Holm, pictures by Elicia Castaldi

Ginny is starting middle school, hoping to have a father and a lead in the Nutcracker and Swan Lake by the end of the year. And maybe her sweater back from her ex-best friend. In a story told through notes on the refrigerator, school assignments, IMs, postcards, report cards, bills, bank statements, and cartoons, we follow Ginny's year. She gains a father, but loses her brother who's juvenile crime sends him to military school. Funny and heartbreaking, a very amusing take on junior high and the graphic novel.

Sold by Patricia McCormick

I really wanted to read this after hearing McCormick speak and read at National Book Fest this fall.

Lakshmi is a peasant girl from a small village in the Nepalese Himalayas. After a horrible dry season comes a horrible monsoon season that washes away her family's crops. With the promise of a good job in the city, as a maid, Lakshmi's step-father sells her.

Only, they don't go to the city, but rather across the border into India, where she is sold two more times, ending up in a brothel as a child prostitute.

A novel in verse, Sold is told in vignettes, the sparse language lending to the Lakshmi's terror and confusion. There are moments of utter horror, and the beauty of everyday kindness.

McCormick tells this story well, matter of factly, but with beauty, never letting Lakshmi's voice stray into too much self-pity or the story go into emotional manipulation.

The Princess and the Hound Mette Ivie Harrison

If you liked The Goose Girl or Wildwood Dancing, you'll like this one.

George is a prince raised in duty, terrified that it will be discovered his posses the illegal and feared animal magic.

Beatrice is a princess trapped by her father and circumstance, resigned to marry for the sake of her kingdom.

More alike than they know, or will let themselves find out, they have to learn to trust each other to save each other.

And I know that sounds really lame, but it's a great story. I seriously thought about calling into work late so I could finish the last 100 pages.

Old Books--Lots of Reviews

Unblogged books, in order of reading-- we have 2 left from October of 2006... (short and pithy, because I don't remember these books very well.)

The Last Book In The Universe Rodman Philbrick

Spaz is an epileptic living in a post-apocalyptic world. There are no books, just mind probes that leave people empty shells of nothing. In order to save his sister, he has to cross several border lands, dealing with their gangs and security to get to the land of the "proves"-- the promised land populated by people who have been genetically improved.

An excellent adventure.

Wait for Me An Na

Yawn. Mina has lied about her academic prowress and that's about to come bite her in the butt. Her mom's a total bitch. She's been stealing from the family's dry-cleaning business. She likes this guy. Her little sister's deaf and depends on her for everything.

It could have been good, but... eh. It dragged and was boring and Mina was totally unsympathetic and so I didn't really care.

Woo-hoo! Unto November!

Pop! Aury Wallington

This was fun, nothing fantastic, but a nice little book about losing your virginity. Marit wants it gone, but freaks out when things get physical. Enter best friend Jamie, who isn't really a good choice for sex without attachment, because Marit still likes hot-boy Noah.

While the plot is a little unrealistic and happy-go-lucky, it's the kind I like in fun, sunny afternoon reads.

The sex scenes are hilariously accurate.

Lowji Discovers America Candace Fleming

A funny little book about a young boy trying to fit into small-town Illinois after growing up in Bombay. Moving just after school gets out, Lowji is bored and wants a pet. He quickly convinces his grouchy land-lady that a cat would help with the mouse problem and a dog would be a good burglar alarm, Lowji wins over the neighborhood.

Cute and written in the formal, slightly stilted English of a non-native speaker.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Old Review!

Um, I read this in October of 2006.

Dixie Storms by Barbara Hall

Meh. So, it's the end of a summer with no rain, and the oppressive heat is used as an obvious metaphor for the tension in the Peyton household. Dutch is 14, not coping with the divorce of her brother and her city cousin Norma is in town, ruining everything.

Realistically, Dutch alternates well between hating/resenting Norma and wanting to be just like her.

There's some boy drama thrown in.

Overall, I didn't really like any of the characters, so I really didn't care what happened to them. They all annoyed me.

A plea

Pfssss... look at me, where I'm all like I'm going to review review review! And then, what do I do? Carry around a stack of books to review and build muscles, but no reviewing.

But first, SNOW! YAY!

Second, I was writing a post on Puffery on products I wish they'd bring back. When researching it, I found that British LUSH will bring back the World Piece ballistic if enough people order it. Shipping and handling is stupidly expensive, BUT this is the greatest bath bomb ever. Order here. Help me out--you only have 3 more days and 8 hours...

In book-related news, the new the Edge of the Forest for November/December is out! There's lots of super cool stuff in it (one of my favorite issues this year!) and I review Martin Bridge: Out of Orbit! (Martin Bridge) by Jessica Scott Kerrin, illustrated by Joseph Kelly (good middle grade boy read), Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn (lots of fun!), Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier (fantastic fairy tale), and Babymouse #6: Camp Babymouse Jennifer and Matthew Holm (not my favorite, Babymouse #7: Skater Girl is much better.)

So, go check those out to get your reviewing fix and I'll be back shortly with more reviews. Hopefully today, but I can't promise anything... :)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Gifts gifts gifts

In preparation for this month's Carnival of Children's Literature (check out Kelly's post). Everyone's blogging about gift books. I thought about blogging my choices to give this Christmas, but there was a really big problem with that.

See, the people who would be receiving such books? Would be reading this blog (Yes y'all you're getting books for Christmas. I'm sure you're shocked and amazed because you know, that's all I ever give anyone.)

So, I thought I'd turn it on it's head a bit and blog about books that people have given to me!

There's always a problem when giving your favorites to someone else. I'm not entirely sure my mother ever forgave me for not loving Trixie Belden the same way that she does.

On the other hand, I (and my classmates) will always love my parents for shipping a box full of John Steinbeck and Kurt Vonnegut novels to me when we ran out of English-language novels in China.

Now, my favorite books that have been given to me are cookbooks. This is interesting, because usually when I open them, I'm a little less than enthusiastic, but 3 of my top 5 cookbooks? Were presents to me. Desperation Dinners was given to Dan and me by my parents. It has the basis for my awesome Chicken/Tortellini/Pesto soup. (Um, add some tortellini.) Also, Dan's awesome white chicken chili is from here.

Dan's dad gave us How To Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food and when Mark Bitman says everything, he means everything. So, it not only contains the recipe to awesome pie crust, killer mocha butter-cream frosting, what to do with random chicken breasts or or how to make a good, basic marinara sauce, but when I didn't believe that whipped cream only involved cream and a wire whisk? Bitman proved me wrong (although he did suggest a smidge of sugar). When I realized I hadn't boiled an egg in a decade and didn't remember how long it should be in the water? This book told me. It also suggested that a medium boiled egg is much easier than a poached one with the same results. (My suggestion is to serve them on toast finely spread with Boursin cheese. Or on toast with crab cake.)

The third was a wedding present from our friend Alden, The Naked Chef which has some great recipes for various things and ways to do things the completely from scratch and where you can take shortcuts. I like this one because Oliver really gives you the freedom to experiment and really just provides base recipes and lets you run wild, for, as I've always said, one must approach love and cooking with reckless abandon. (In case you were wondering, my other top two cookbooks are Joy of Cooking (older editions are better) and Betty Crocker Cookbook which I DO NOT have. *hint hint*)

One gift I really remember from childhood was receiving a copy of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret from a family friend for my birthday. (Maybe 10? 11? 12? Somewhere in there.) Not only did it open my eyes to a lot of things (we must, we must, we must increase our bust) but it was the first Judy Blume book I read, but far from the last one. I now have teary-eyed moments over this book with mothers at the library.

Something about having an 18-page wish list on Amazon is that people tend to buy you things of it, which is, well, the point. But some of my favorite gifts are the little spur of the moment ones. Dan gave me 501 French Verbs when I was taking French in England and mentioned that I missed having it as a reference. The next week, we went out of coffee and he pulled it out of his bag for me. Similarly was when I was reading The Guns of August and had no idea what pre WWI Europe looked like... a few days later, he brought me home a copy of the Rand Mcnally Historical World Atlas. And then there was the supreme silliness when, right before we went down to Houston to spend Passover with his family and presented me with My First Passover Board Book...

For Christmas a few years ago, Dan's mom gave me a copy of the hysterical Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About. (MotherReader agrees that this book brings the funny). She got it off my amazon wishlist and promptly forgot about it. Until we gave her a copy this year because, really people IT BRINGS THE FUNNY.

And who doesn't love going to the bookstore with parents who pay for their books? Everything from mama buying my copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at the midnight release party (she bought one for herself and one for me... when it comes to Harry, there's no sharing.) And most recently, Hardboiled and Hard Luck.

I love getting books and hope people never stop giving them to me!

Saturday, December 01, 2007


As part of me catching up on things, there are going to be a lot of short one-book reviews with not a lot of me babbling before them...

Death Note, Volume 8: Flight Tsugumi Ohba

So, we have a battle of the wills between Light, Near, and Mello. I can't say much because we're really deep into the series. So, a few things
1. Light's a jerk.
2. Mello looks like a girl, and it would be cooler if he was because all the other girls in this series suck.
3. I hope light kills Misa, because then I won't have to deal with her anymore. He'll probably do it soon, because, well, see point 1.

The library has volumes 9,10,11, and 12 on order. I'm getting antsy.


In November I... did way too much, essentially. My November included:

1. 2 papers (including a term paper)
2. 1 midterm
3. More homework than I want to think about
4. New doggy
5. 33,000 words of my NaNoWriMo novel (well short of the 50,000 word goal. Ah well.)
6. Hosted Thanksgiving
7. Helped my mom make my sister's Save The Date cards
8. Read13 books.

In December, I'm attempting to do 2 major things:

1. Read the 25 books I have checked out from the library
2. Blog the 15 books that I read in 2006 and haven't blogged yet. (And make a dent in the 41 books that are unblogged from 2007.)

So, stay tuned for (hopefully, probably) multiple posts a day. Because I also have to

1. Do lots of homework
2. Take a final
3. Write a term paper
4. Stop Dog from destroying my kitchen
5. Do my Christmas shopping
6. Go home for Christmas

Speaking of Christmas shopping, here's a plea. There are a lot of links on this blog. A lot of them lead to Amazon. If you click on one, and order from Amazon? Even if you buy something that is different than what you clicked on? I get a wee kickback. How much depends on how much gets ordered (the more items ordered, the bigger the kickback.) And, let's face it. Librarian isn't really a big money career. Plus, I'm a grad student, plus, I have a nasty book habit that I'd really rather not kick... so... if you want to help out, that's a good way to do it. (Or, if you order some of my gear from the "cool book stuff" link in the sidebar, that works, too.)

Anyway, I got tagged for a meme by Hilary.

So, here we go:
1) Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself.
3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

So, 7 things about myself...

1. The term paper I wrote last week was about CIPA and internet filtering in public libraries. It's something I've been thinking a lot about. On one hand, information wants to be free and filtering is a form of censorship, especially some of the things that get filtered. On the other hand, kids can't spell and often the filter blocks porn they didn't mean to get to. But, filters often block a lot of legitimate, non-porn sites and lets a lot of porn through. In fact, this post will probably be blocked because I said porn so many times. PORN PORN PORN.

2. I use both Napster and iTunes. (Napster is totally legal now guys. I pay for it and everything.) Napster is a vastly superior product, because you pay $10/month and can download and listen to as much music as you want. If you want to burn it onto CD, it's an extra .99 BUT you can buy "track packs" which let you buy credits for a bunch of tracks at a discount. And, if you're buying a full album, it's usually cheaper than buying each track off the album. With iTunes, you can only listen to about 30 seconds of a song before you buy it, and albums cost .99 x # of tracks. I wouldn't use iTunes at all, but it's the only thing that works with my shiny pink iPod.

3. I really hate the use of putting "i" in front of everything information-related. I can understand "e" because it's short for "electronic" and I guess the lower-case "i" can mean information, but, really? You just sound like you're trying to buy into Apple's popularity. My library program is thinking of re-branding itself as an iSchool. It makes me want to scream. Not even getting into my issues with information schools vs library schools but to call us an iSchool?! Ew. Good luck ever getting money from me.

4. I love winter. I hate that it doesn't really snow in the DC area. I miss snow and extreme cold. I know I'm crazy, but I like a day so cold that when you breath in, the cold pierces all the way to the bottom of your lungs and your snot freezes.

5. I've never mailed out Holiday cards. Every year, I say I'm going to do it, and every year, Nada. This year, I have a great idea on cards to make. I know all the supplies I'd need and how to do it. I'm putting lists together in my head, but it won't happen. (As I typed that, I heard Dan saying "no no no no no no no no no" because he knows it would just be one of my projects that didn't go anywhere, and then I heard his giant sigh of relief when I said I wouldn't do it.) So, I'll share my idea with you:

1. Get a bunch of these navy blue cards.
2. Stamp them all over with silver snowflakes. I really like this one and this one.
3. Emboss a few of the snowflakes with this stuff, but I'm not sure which color. One of the silvery/white ones. (Mom and I embossed my sister's save the date cards--awesome and fun and easy once I figured out how to not set stuff on fire.)
4. Using double-sided type, put a bunch of these shiny white cards on the inside (ok, I totally know that they them with scalloped edges, which I'd use.)
5. Then I'd stamp the insides with a greeting. Probably Season's Greetings.

So now you can make them. And mail one to me.

6. I like Christmas carols and the Nutcracker music. My favorite carols are "O Holy Night" and "Psallite." "Psallite" is in Latin and German and is pretty, plus? Two foreign languages in one song? AWESOME.

7. For Christmas, I really want jewelry. Especially necklaces and earrings that I can wear to work. Some great stuff can be found at Tartx (especially the domino necklace with the Red Queen and a monocle necklace with the cards flipping over Alice) and Mytypewriter (especially the snowflake one) or the Cherry Blossom pearl necklace from the Sundance Catalog. (*cough* *cough* *hint* *hint*)

And now I tag Sara, Pam, Miss Erin, HolyKnitter, Kristin, Julie, and Susan and really, anyone else who wants to play.

In Which I do not do Justice to a Genius

Hi! Today I'm going to talk about John Green. I've been putting this post off, mainly because I don't have anything interesting to say besides he rocks! If you doubt me, just check out the hilarity that is Brotherhood 2.0.

Go ahead, check it out. I'll wait.

Yes, I realize you won't come visit me for a week after watching that, but hey. It's worth it. You'll come back to me, if anything, because I turned you onto Brotherhood 2.0.

So, anyway, John Green is like, my age, which really isn't that old, despite what I may tell you. He already has 2 books published. His first one won the Printz and the second one was a Printz honor. I feel like such a failure.

His work is characterized by main characters with odd things (in the first, knowing the last words of everyone, in the second, being a genius who has only dated girls named Katharine) and quirky side-kick characters.

Yes, there is some sex. But nothing worse than what my dog does to random dogs at the dog park. (We've decided she needs to know a few basic commands--come, sit, lie down, and stop bringing shame upon the family.) And there is some language. I talked about this with Molly over at Bittersweet.

Anyway, so his first one is Looking for Alaska

I like this book a lot more now than when I first read it. The problem is that it's the basic boy meets girl who fascinates him and then she dies plot. And I read it right after reading As Simple as Snow, which has a similar basic plot, even though the two books are very different. (And when I say right after I mean, I read Snow, went to the kitchen and made a fresh cup of tea and read Alaska. I had to read a bunch of books for work (those two titles being two of them) and so I did read the entirety of both of them on the same day.

After the intricate puzzles of Snow I just wasn't ready for the intelligent humor of Alaska

It was Green's second book, An Abundance of Katherines that I came around to appreciate everything that was going on.

In Katherines a child genius who has just graduated from high school and his best friend go on a road trip. Their car breaks down and they end up spending the summer in this small little town that's dying, because the factory (which makes tampon strings) employs almost everyone and it's not doing so well.

Trust me, it's hysterical, and no one dies, so it's not depressing like Alaska was.

Green has an excellent sense of the plausibly absurd. (I mean, a factory that makes tampon strings?! So bizarre, and yet, someone has to do it, right? These factories must be out there somewhere.) Coupled with his quirky characters (Yes, I know I used that word already, but really, it just fits well), especially the best friends are wonderful.

Check him out.