Monday, April 27, 2009

Nonfiction Monday--China Edition!

Well, we seemed to have maybe skipped spring and gone straight to summer. Seriously, we already turned on the AC at home. IN APRIL. It's crazy.

Also, just a head up, I might not be doing the 48-hour-challenge this summer, due to possible vacation plans. As much as I want to, that's the only weekend available for me to take advantage of dirt-cheap plane tickets to see my parents. And I want to see them more! We're still waiting to see if I can get the time off work though, so maybe, maybe not. Hopefully not.

Anyway, it's Monday! So that means it's time for a little nonfiction. Both are adult books, but I think the first one in particular will appeal to teens, as the protagonist is rather young for most of the book.

"Socialism Is Great!": A Worker's Memoir of the New China Lijia Zhang

When she was 16, Lijia's mother gave up her factory job so Lijia could have it. It was a practice known as dingzhi where a worker could retire and his or her child could have the job. Lijia's mother worked at a large factory, considered an excellent choice by everyone except Lijia. She wanted to graduate from high school and go to university and become a journalist. She didn't want to be a worker in the factory.

Covering most of the 80s in China, the reader gets an immediate portrait of life inside a Chinese factory, a changing China, and mostly a young girl growing up and coming of age all while trying to roll with the punches that life delivers in her quest to go continue her schooling and become a journalist.

I was looking most for the changing China shown in this book (because that's what I'm into) and it was there. However, there are also wonderful scenes and descriptions of office politics, both in the day-to-day things we all deal with world wide, and in the larger context of Communism and Political Meetings and Ideology. Lijia also ages nearly a decade, starting at the age of 16 so we see her coming of age as she tries to find balance between daughter and primary wage-earner, worker and student, and where is the time for romance?

My one complaint is that we know Lijia succeeds. I mean, she wrote the book! Also, her jacket bio says "Her articles have appeared in numerous international publications including South China Morning Post, the Japan Times, the Independent (London), the Washington Times, and Newsweek. She is a regular speaker on BBC radio and NPR."

BUT when the book ends, Lijia is still a factory worker, leading protests in Nanjing, in conjunction with the ones happening in Tian'anmen Square in Beijing. We know she'll be OK, and we know her dreams come true, but I would have *loved* an epilogue or something showing how she made that final leap to get to where she is now!

Very readable and enjoyable, I think even for the non-Sinophile.

The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories: China from the Bottom Up Liao Yiwu

I was disappointed by this book, which I don't think is fair, because I thought the book would be something that it wasn't, and I had a hard time judging the book on it's own merits instead of my preconceived notions.

Corpse Walker is a series of discussions with members of China's lower classes. Some are actual interviews and some are reconstructed later after the conversation took place (often without the aid of notes or anything.)

Many of the interviews focus on the past-- a lot of memories of the Cultural Revolution. I thought it would be more modern people and modern stories, but seems to largely be interviewing elderly citizens about their life stories. There is nothing wrong with this, but it's not what I was expecting.

Also, Liao is not a journalist. These are not impartial interviews. He lays into some of these people when he disagrees with them, he offers a sympathetic ear to others. There were a few people that I wanted Liao to push back a little more on and he didn't.

These are dialogues, written in script-form, so they're easy to read. One translation quirk is over use of 'by the way.' Everyone says it ALL THE TIME in these dialogues. In Mandarin, this is fine, but it sounds really weird in English. It's interesting, but my favorite parts were ones that focused on contemporary issues, and they were a minority in this work.

Roundup is over at Picture Book of the Day!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Introspection Gets Boring

After the blow up about cool blogs and loser blogs and how the literary blogosphere is like high school, we're now all mumbly and slightly whiny about ARCs. Who gets them, who doesn't it and wasn't the blogosphere so much better before them? (Which baffles me, I've been book blogging for 4.5 years now. There have always been ARCs, but maybe because most of the blogs I started reading were by librarians who were getting the ARCs through other venues and then blogging about them as well.)

I don't want to get into it. Y'all know that when I read an ARC, I mention it in the review. If you actually want to know more, ask me.

Can we stop talking about ourselves and blogging in general and get back to talking about actual books?!

If you want to be introspective, here's what I want to know--how do you discover books to read? What made you pick up the last few books you read?

Here are the books I read so far this month and why I picked them up (you'll notice most come from the library. I work there. It's an occupational hazard):

Wild Orchid Cameron Dokey-- this is the latest installment of the Once Upon a Time series, which I love, so I put a hold on it at the library as soon as it showed up in the catalog, which is when the order was placed.

Being Nikki Meg Cabot-- this is an ARC that I requested when Cabot mentioned on her blog that the she had some for blog reviewers. I saw Airhead at the library last summer and it looked good and I like Cabot so I read it. I really liked it and have been looking forward to the sequel for awhile, so I jumped on the chance to get it a little early. I will review this in a few weeks, closer to the release date. I will tell you right now that it's better than Airhead.

The Corpse Walker Liao Yiwu-- books about China always catch my eye. I frequently check out the history section of the new bookshelf over in the adult section at the library. That's where I got this, but I might have read some buzz about it on the China blogs I follow.

Best Friends and Drama Queens Meg Cabot-- I got this when it came in at the library. I have read and enjoyed the earlier Allie Finkle books, so grabbed this right away.

Tales of Famous Americans Peter and Connie Roop-- I know Connie Roop personally. She once almost gave me detention! She was my homeroom and science teacher in junior high. When I found out she and her husband had a new one out, I scooped it up. I ILL'ed from another library.

The Secret in the Old Attic Carolyn Keene-- my friend Dana collects original editions of Nancy Drew, Bobbsey Twins, Dana Girls, Judy Bolton and other old-skool mystery series. She loaned me a few and so I read the original side-by-side with the current edition to see how they compare. The current edition was checked out from the library.

No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row Susan Kuklin-- this is one of the titles on the reading list for our upcoming Teen Notables book discussion at work. I got it from the library.

Socialism is Great Lijia Zhang-- I read about this book, including an interview with Zhang on a few different China blogs. So when I saw it on the shelf at the library, I checked it out.

Lady Grace Mysteries: Gold Lady Grace Cavendish-- I really enjoy this series, but they stopped publishing them in the US after the 6th volume. When I was on vacation in England I saw that there were 5 more volumes available. So I bought them.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle Shirley Jackson-- I bought this last spring. I liked the cover and had been meaning to read some Jackson because she seems to be a favorite among some bloggers I really like.

Sisters Grimm: Everafter Wars Michael Buckley-- I love the Sisters Grimm series and had pre-ordered this on Amazon months and months ago. I started reading as soon as I opened the box.

I Want Candy Kim Wong Keltner-- I enjoyed Keltner's other books as fun chicklit so when I saw this on the new book shelf at work, I picked it up. It was very very different than her other work.

Racketty-Packetty House and Other Stories Frances Hodgson Burnett-- Burnett is a childhood favorite of mine. When I saw this at the library, how could I resist? I COULDN'T!

Fade Lisa McMann-- I loved Wake, which I had to read for the Teen Notables discussion, so I put a hold on the sequel right away at the library.

Moon Opera Bi Feiyu-- I saw this on the new bookshelf at work and it was about Chinese Opera! And really short. And was an author I wasn't familiar with.

Bog Child Siobhan Dowd-- Lots of people in blogland loved this book. So when I was trolling the shelves at work, I thought I'd pick it up.

Dead is a State of Mind Marlene Perez-- much like with Fade, I had to read the first in this series for the Teen Notable book discussion and loved it, so I snatched up the sequel as soon as it was available.

Lost and Found (Bluford High) Anne Schraff-- I'm doing a presentation at the Maryland Library Association conference next month about what's popular in YA. This series is super-hot at my library-- I was surprised to find a copy on the shelf!

Got Fangs Katie Maxell--So, for the above presentation, I need to read some more vampire books that are so popular thanks to Twilight. I got it at the library.

Beacon Street Girls: Worst Enemies/Best Friends Annie Bryant-- I thought I could use this for my presentation, so I checked it out of the library.

Jellicoe Road Melina Marchetta-- While this got good blogbuzz, I really picked this one up because it won the Printz. I checked it out from the library.

Repossessed AM Jenkins-- checked out from the library for use in my presentation. I knew about it because it was a Printz honor (last year? year before?)

Oh.My.Gods Tera Lyyn Childs--checked out from the library for use in my presentation. I originally heard about in from blogland, and it's been on display at the library, so I haven't forgotten about it.

The Celebutantes: On the Avenue Antonio Pagliano-- this was on my radar due to blogbuzz, but when I wanted more titles for "Gossip Girl with a twist" for my presentation, this one was one of the recommended titles. Checked it out from the library.

Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Kingdom oo the Waves MT Anderson-- This is the book I'm currently reading thanks to a huge confluence of events. A friend picked up the ARC for me at ALA a while back, but sadly, I haven't been able to get to it until now. (She had it autographed for me too, and apparently Anderson and Mo Willems MOCKED ME for not being there! This makes me sad and happy all at once.) Anyway, I'm reading all the Printz books this year for this presentation AND the Octavian books are what my book club is discussing next week.

You'll notice most come from the new book shelves at work. Before you accuse me of being a mean-new-book-hogging-librarian I will point out a few things in my defense:

1. As soon as I can place a hold, members of the public can as well. In fact for a few of the "placed on hold before it came in" books, I actually placed the hold at home via the public catalog.

2. Books are on the new bookshelf for 6months to a year. Several of these, while still new, had been checked out a few times before me.

3. Yeah, I might be a new book hog. It's what happens when you're the one putting the new books on the shelf. I do try to get them read and back into circulation fairly quickly.

What about you? How do you choose books?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Afternoons

I have a great Poetry Friday post pre-written. I always discover it *after* I post on Poetry Friday and then I forget. Next Friday, too, I probably will write a new Poetry Friday post and then see this other one I have, waiting for me to post it. D'oh.

BUT! Tonight! I'm going to go see Megan McCafferty on book tour for Perfect Fifths, which is now out. As you may recall, I loved it.

Last night I stayed up waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay past bedtime to finish reading a book. As in 2am-past-bedtime. Can you just see me, sitting in my kitchen at 2 am with a cup of tea, bawling my eyes out? (really, I haven't cried over a book like that since The Book Thief, which was sad in a different way.)

Anyway, the book in question is

Jellicoe Road Melina Marchetta

It won this year's Printz. It totally deserved to. HOLY COW. What an awesome book.

There are two stories going on--one of a group of kids surviving a horrific car crash and their friends, and one of Taylor who has been chosen to lead the Jellicoe School in the annual Territory Wars against the Cadets and Townies. Her heart's not in it though, as Hannah, the closest thing she has to a mother, has disappeared. Also, the head of the Cadets happens to be a boy she hasn't seen this they ran away together 6 years ago, the last time Taylor tried to look for her mother.

It soon becomes apparent that the story of the survivors is the manuscript that Hannah has been working on for a long time. You then start to get the sense that the story isn't a story, but history, and you start to wonder which of the girls is Hannah and how Taylor fits into the puzzle.

At first, there is something off about Taylor and I seriously wondered about her reliability as a narrator, but the choices she makes, along with the leader of the Cadets and the leader of the Townies make this year's Territory Wars very different than years past, and in a way that made me really like Taylor.

The most devastating section is the end, when Taylor, and the reader, come face to face with what has happened between the two stories--after the end of Hannah's manuscript and before Taylor is sent to Jellicoe school, what happens between injects a sense of realism into the story and shows how special Jellicoe school really is.

I was blown away by this novel. Completely and utterly blown away. Parts are mystery, part drama, part heart-breaker, part hilarious, part realistic teen life, it rolls together in a package that is unbelievable. These characters should seem unbelievable, but their reactions to tragedy, to loss, to grief, to life, make them real. And that's the real story--how they cope (or don't) and how they survive severe loss. Some characters are a testament to the human spirit, and some are a warning sign of what can happen. Marchetta throws everything she can at her characters and their reactions are what makes this book so amazing, as we piece the story together...

Last night I dreamt of Webb.


You oughta meet Danitra Brown
the most splendiferous girl in town.

This is just a little post on Poetry Friday to say that you oughta check out Meet Danitra Brown by Nikki Grimes, as well as the sequels.

They aren't verse novels, but a collection of poems told in the voice of a young girl, almost all about her best friend. The language and rhythm and rhymes are catchy, but the situations and feelings are raw and real, both sad and joyous. All in all, it's stuff kids love while, at the same time being GOOD LITERATURE. (Am I the only one who says "GOOD LITERATURE" in a booming doom-and-gloom voice?)

I also love the pictures by Floyd Cooper. These girls looks real, like the ones on my library. Hair slightly messed from running all over the neighborhood, crazy fashion choices, and entirely realistic.

It's another great book for those of us looking for books featuring characters that just happen to be African-American, but the book doesn't focus on race.

Also, isn't splendiferous the greatest word ever?

round up is over at Under the Covers!

Which Lunch Table do you Blog At?

I'm slowly catching up on all my Blog Reading after vacation. I seemed to have missed a spate of self-reflective angst amongst he book blogging community. Cool kids vs. non-cool kids and why we blog... My Friend Amy discussed it, Becky did too. I'm sure a ton of other people did and I'll discover them.

I won't get into all my navel-gazing feelings on this BUT can I just point out the absolute hilarity of cool and not cool kids in the book blogging world? Yes, I know there are the cool blogs and the loser blogs and but... holy cow guys, WE BLOG ABOUT BOOKS. We read and then talk about books on the internet FOR FUN. You don't get much nerdier than that. ;p

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sequels are Fun!

Rainy rainy rainy. I feel bad for my poor puppy that had to suffer through the scariest thing in the world ALL BY HERSELF today. (Scariest thing in the world? Thunder.) But, every so often, I see a glimpse of sun. Huzzah!

Also, there's a new Students Across the Seven Seas book out, Great Call of China! Not only a new book, but it's about CHINA!!!! Why o why doesn't my library have this yet?!

Anyway, today we have the second book in 2 series that I think are going to be trilogies. Not that I know they are, but that's what my gut is telling me. I listen to my gut, especially when it says "I WANT PIZZA."

Dead Is a State of Mind Marlene Perez

I loved this for all the reasons I loved Dead Is the New Black. Silly and fun, this time Nightshade has some serious werewolf issues. Even worse, Ryan seems to be pulling away from Daisy and spending an awful lot of time with the absolutely stunning newcomer, Elisa. Not that Daisy doesn't have her own new guy--Duke's a gorgeous fortune-teller that just won't leave her alone. At least she doesn't have to go to cheer leading practice, right?

Also, the best part? One of snarky-waitress Flo's t-shirts says "SCROTUM IS JUST A WORD" Big props for random The Higher Power of Lucky references thrown into fun YA lit!

Dead Is So Last Year is out now! (According to Amazon) Huzzah!

Fade Lisa McMann

Wake really surprised me, by being the opposite of what I thought it would be. Fade doesn't disappoint.

The police suspect that there is a sexual predator among the teaching staff at Janie and Cable's high school. The two are on the case. This involves Janie basically using herself as bait to catch the creep, which is something Cable has very big issues with and is straining their relationship. Janie's learning how to control her catching talent to make it useful, but there are starting to be some pretty bad side-effects and when she reads through Miss Stubbins's old notes, she finds out some truly shocking and horrible things.

This is definitely darker than Wake. The mystery is more immediate for Janie and the dreams she delves into for clues are worse. Plus, Janie has to use more than her dream-catching abilities to help catch the bad guys, which may be more than she can handle.

I'm really looking forward to Gone which will come out next February.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Voices from our pre-historic past

I read Kit's Wilderness by David Almond for my YA lit class last summer. I didn't like it.

I read Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd this weekend and absolutely loved it.

But, when I was finished Bog Child on Monday morning and was thinking about it (because it is a book that stays with you) I was struck by the similarities in the stories, and how one was so much more successful than the other.

Kit's Wilderness is the story of Kit, who moves to an English mining town to help take care of his elderly grandfather. He and his friends play the game of Death, to scare themselves. His grandfather tells him the stories of the mines, of his family. He develops a relationship (not friends, but almost) with the school troublemaker. He writes a story about a pre-historic cave family that's woven in throughout the main story.

Look, Kit's Wilderness is a Printz winner and I haven't liked the other books by Almond I've read. The story was good. But... it was heavily layered and full of symbolism and parallels. I don't mind that--it usually makes a good story, but the craft of the story was just so obvious. I could see what Almond was doing as I was reading it. When the craft of a story is so blatant that I notice it as I'm reading? Then I can't enjoy the story. I don't want such things to be obvious until I put the book down and start thinking. In this, the parallels were SO OBVIOUS. The book should come with a frying pan, because it kept hitting you over the head.

Now, Bog Child is completely different.

Fergus lives in Northern Ireland, near the border with Ireland in 1981. One day he finds a body in the bog and assumes it's a victim of the increased violence since Bobby Sands died. But, the body in the bog turns out to be from the Iron Age. Fergus must navigate life in Northern Ireland with a hunger-striking brother in prison, being recruited into IRA activities, and the archaeologists trying to discover the story of the body he dreams about at night.

So the similarities are:

Mood--Kit's Wilderness gets its bleakness from the winter season and mining landscape. Bog Child's is from the political undercurrents and family tension.

Pre-historic Story--Kit writes a story about a cave family that's woven through, Fergus dreams the life of the Bog Child leading up to her death.

Parallels--Both have several parallel stories and layers.

The story Kit's writing in English class parallels what is going on in his day-to-day life in a way that's so obvious I couldn't handle the book. Bog Child is subtler--Fergus's brother is starving himself in prison, the Bog Child is living through a time of famine, and there are subtle hints that Cora might have an eating disorder, starving herself for another reason (although this is NEVER said and might be me reading more into the text, but I'm willing to write a pretty strong paper on why I think this is so.)

All in all, Kit's Wilderness left me cold, while Bog Child haunts me. I had to force myself to finish the first (hello homework!) and couldn't put the second down.

Monday, April 20, 2009

More Literary Fun

Ha! I've actually read Olive Kitteridge, which won the Pulitzer Prize today. I loved it. I reviewed it last winter.

Also, I forgot some literary highlights of my trip.

Like this:

Or the middle-aged business man, in pinstripe suit, sitting across from us on the Eurostar from London to Brussels, reading H├ęsitation. You might recognize the English title as Eclipse.

Belgium looks like Tintin exploded all over it. Obviously, they're very proud of their international comic fame. It's cute. Also, Brussels has huge comic-murals all over the place. It's pretty awesome.

Even better, I talked about my trip to the book district earlier, right? Well, I forgot to mention what I took away with me. How about a signed first (British) edition of The Faceless Ones? (That's the new Skulduggery Pleasant. It comes out in August here. Hopefully, I'll give away my copy before then. I just have to read it. Stay tuned.)

ALSO, you know how much I love the Grace Cavendish Mysteries. Sadly, it looks like Feud is the last one to be published in the States. BUT! I now own Gold-Keys! Ha! (The series is going alphabetically.) So excited.

I also got prizes for those participating the Guardian Book Challenge, so be sure to get your reviews in.

I'm back to London (and also Paris!) in September, so I'll pick up the Lady Grace that comes out in August then. Also, more prizes.

Here are some more literary pictures:

The building on the left is Chetham's Library, the oldest public library in the English-speaking world! (It's in Manchester, city-of-my-heart) It's also where Karl Marx researched and worked on a little book called Das Kapital. In a delicious turn of awesome, the glass building on the right is Urbis, the museum of urban life.

OH! And of course we saw The Globe in London!

And here's another bit of fun:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hour 15.5

And... the fact that I got up at 5 this morning is catching up. Especially when you take into account that 5am was 11pm last night in the time zone I'm currently hanging out in. Text is swimming before my eyes and my bed looks pretty damn comfortable, even if I rarely ever go to bed this early. Ah well.

Anyway, I'm off to bed. I'm going to sleep until I wake up, so probably until well after the read-a-thon, but jetlag is an odd mistress, so maybe I'll be around for the last few hours.

It was fun!


Another Mini-Challenge!

Tammy's Book Nook is hosting this one.

What is you favorite non-fiction book and why? What genre(s) do you enjoy and are there particular writers that you would recommend to others? If you don't read non-fiction, why not?

I have a really hard time trying to come up with my favorite nonfiction book. Some of my favorites include Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler, Last Days of Old Beijing by Michael Meyer, and the Zipes translation of the Complete Tales of the Brothers Grimm.

I tend to read a lot of history, especially Chinese history and a lot of books about Modern China and the vast amount of change that is happening on the mainland right now. I'm sure you will be shocked to learn that my BA is in History, with a minor in Chinese. Some of my favorite authors are Peter Hessler and Shuyun Sun. I also like nonfiction about food. I've been reading a lot of that lately.

Hour 13.5

Ok, I just finished the new Sisters Grimm book, The Everafter War. Wow.

I'm about to start I Want Candy by Kim Wong Keltner but here's this hour's mini-challenge, the midway survey!

1.What are you reading right now?

I'm about to start I Want Candy

2. How many books have you read so far?

3 full books, about 200 pages of 2 other books.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

I don't know what I'm going to read. I have a huge stack and am just picking through them as the mood strikes. No idea which ones I'm going to choose.

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?

As much as I love Read-a-thon, I wasn't about to cancel my vacation or end it early! So, my entire day wasn't free. Luckily reading is easy to do on airplanes and in gate areas. And, as I had to grab my checked luggage to take it through customs, I even got to switch out which books were in my carry-on.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

All my interruptions have been travel related (time to get off the plan! time to get on the plane!) I didn't really have a choice, so I just kinda went with them.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

Well, this is far from my first one. So nothing so far.

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

Nothing is coming to mind...

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?

I would plan my books better. I usually do plan my read-a-thon books, but with me being gone all week, the new system at work, and the piles and piles of required reading to do as well as an absurd number of books that need to be returned to the library, that just wasn't going to happen this time around.

9. Are you getting tired yet?

Right now, I am 5 hours behind GMT, but when I woke up this morning, I was an hour ahead of it. I'm not entirely sure what day it is. Jetlag, however, seems to be working in my favor or something? I don't know. I'm just going with it.

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?

Music to dance to!


Here are my responses for Jessica's mini-challenge.

  1. What is the name of your local library? What city is it located in?
My local branch is the very creatively named "Columbia Pike Library" in Arlington, VA.
  1. How often do you go to the library? If you're a regular, do the staff know you?
Well, see, this is my local library. I work at a different library. I go to the my workplace 5 days a week, so I tend to only go to my local branch when they have something that the system I work for doesn't. Or if there's a long wait for a book at work, but not in Arlington. I probablygo every other month or so. The staff doesn't know me. I'm a quick-in-and-out type of girl, especially as the dog is usually waiting for me outside!
  1. Do you browse while you're there or just pick up items you have placed on reserve?
I might do a quick look-through, but it's usually just to pick up reserves.
  1. What is your favorite thing about your local library?
I can walk there! It's super-close and my favorite coffee shop is on my way home.

Hour 10

Well, it's Hour 10.5 of Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon. I've been participating this whole time! I've read about 7.5 of the hours so far. The 24 hours started half-way through my flight from Brussels to the US, so I had about 3 hours of passport control, baggage claim, customs, connecting flights and randomly falling back asleep.

I finished reading Socialism is Great! By Lijia Zhang and read all of by Grace Cavendish and Gold! A Lady Grace Mystery by Grace Cavendish and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. That last one counts for about a billion reading challenges I'm participating in. I also started Octavian Nothing Traitor to the Nation: Kingdom of Waves by MT Anderson. I'll get back to it, but my latest Sisters Grimm novel was waiting for me when I got home, so I'm going to read that instead!

Some literary highlights of my trip:

While flying into Manchester, we TOTALLY flew over Lyme Park, aka Pemberly.
I saw the Georgia Nicholson movie, which was quite well done, if not entirely faithful.
Went to a book store and on the way walked by 84 Charing Cross Road in London. It appears to be a Pizza Hut. Also, in London? Theatre District is also the Book District is also China Town. It was 85 shades of awesome.
King's Cross is under renovation so platforms 9 and 10 no longer share a barrier! But they still have the sign up, just around the corner. It was full of adults, all looking rather sheepish as they took their pictures.
I'm sure there was something literary in Belgium, but I was too focused on chocolate, waffles, frites, and beer to notice.

Overall, a great trip. I'm back to reading!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Kidlit is taking over the world

Did you see the list of the top 20 bestsellers in the first quarter of 2009?

GalleyCat was amazed at Stephenie Meyer's market share (16% of all books sold in the first quarter were written by her!)

But here's what amazes me. Of ALL books purchased Jan-Mar of this year, the top 5 sellers? Were kidlit. Twilight took the top 4 spots and Diary of a Wimpy Kid took #5. The rest were written for adults.

Kidlit's gonna get you!


Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.

When this book was first announced, I said that if the text melded zombie warfare with Jane Austen's story half as well as the cover did, I was sold. And it does, just as well as the cover.

This is... pretty much exactly what it says--Pride and Prejudice, with some key words changed from Austen's text and some scenes added in to create much zombie mayhem along with the other romantic entanglements. Not only is Darcy a man of consequence because of his wealth, but also because of the amount of unmentionables he has killed.

Some was a little over the top. I'm not sure Lizzie's "warrior code" really meant she had to eat the hearts of those she killed (that weren't zombies). Sometimes she went a little too hard core for me. On the other hand, kicking Darcy in the face after his first proposal? RIGHT ON.

Also, it's illustrated! I like the fact it's illustrated more than the illustrations themself--but with a list of illustrations in the front? It really plays into the older editions of Pride and Prejudice.

It's silly and fun and, if you're like my friend Marie, whose two favorite things are Jane Austen and zombies? This is for you.

I laughed the whole way through it and am hoping that Quirk classics mixes up a few more of my favorites. Jane Eyre with vampires? Faerie mischief mucking up War and Peace? Robotic monkeys wreaking havoc in Great Expectations? Oh wait, that was a South Park episode.

What do you hope to see in revamped classics?

Ok-- I would like to state that I bought this book and I'm really, really liked it. This letter from the publisher however, kinda ruins it for me. (Also, do you really want to accuse one of your distributors as "stealing your thunder"?) As someone who used to work in marketing and PR, epic fail. There's a way to be light-hearted and funny without talking to people like they're 5.

PR reps need blogs more than bloggers need review copies. The majority of the books I review are ones I got from the library or purchased. Yes, I review books that publicists and authors give me and I like that. But free books? That's just extra icing and sprinkles on the cake. I was here years before people started giving me books, and if that well dried up tomorrow, I'd still be here. Free books is not why I'm here, and that's not why most of the blogs I read are here either.

And I'm doubly disappointed, because I strongly felt the need to comment on this letter with my review of the book. I've seen the article mentioned a few times today out there in blog land and felt that if I reviewed the book, I also had to comment on the letter. I wanted this post to be about Elizabeth Bennett kicking some zombie ass. And it's not. Boo.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I will stalk Meg Cabot and make her my new BFF

I'm going on vacation next week. I will be OFFLINE. I'm trying to decide if I want to pre-blog some back reviews and then just set them to post or if I just want to leave it and see you when I get back. It will probably depend on what I have time to do. It won't be tonight because it's the first night of Passover! There's a strong chance that I will, once again, be the youngest person at Seder (Ok, I know I won't be the youngest, but the baby can't talk yet!) so I should probably brush up on the 4 questions...

Anyway, how much do you love Meg Cabot? Reading one of her books is like laughing with your best friend until your stomach hurts. Also, you should totally check out the advice videos that she is doing with Michele Jaffe? They're chock full of good advice. (Like, don't trip boys to get them to notice you) Also, hysterical.

I recently read Cabot's upcoming book, Being Nikki, the sequel to Airhead. I'll review it around the time it comes out (May 5th) but I'm telling you now, it's crazy good and I liked it a lot more than Airhead and that if you haven't read the first one yet, you should go do it now, so it's all nice and read by May 5th.

Also, if you've already read Being Nikki, email me, because I want to talk about it. Especially the ending. OMFG.

So, here are two other Meg Cabot books that I've read and haven't reviewed yet.

Forever Princess

It's the VERY LAST Princess Diaries book!

About 2 and half years have passed since we last saw Mia, and not much has changed. For some reason, she's still with icky JP. She's not friends with Lilly, and Michael's still in Japan. After her "wait, Genovia is a democracy" bombshell, her dad's running for Prime Minister, but Prince Rene might beat him!

Graduation is coming and Mia got into every one of the schools she applied for. She's certain that this has less to do with her merits and more to do with her royal status. None of her friends got into their top choice schools, so she's told EVERYONE that she didn't get in anywhere. She also told everyone that her senior project is a history of Genovian Olive Pressing. Which it's not. It's a romance novel. A lot of the story centers around Mia trying to publish her romance novel under a pen name, so she knows it will be published because the book is good, not because it was written by a princess.

OH! And then, to make matters even more complicated? Michael's back from Japan. And even hotter than ever. But Mia's still totally in love with JP, right?

Cabot's own publishing career started in romance. I have to wonder how much of Mia's tribulations mirror Cabot's experiences, especially the crap people give Mia once they find out she's written a romance. JP's a total jerk about it (SURPRISE) and tells her she shouldn't be wasting her talents writing such trash and she should be writing literary fiction that will change the world blah blah blah.

I spent most of the book wanting to put corn in JP's chili and then pushing him. And then wanting to smack Mia for being so totally clueless that she doesn't see that JP is evil and slimy and gross.

When I was reading the book, I had to stop and write the following:

Why do I love this series so much when I have such a love/hate relationship with Mia? When will she get a spine? Why JP? and why for 2 years? Ew... I just cannot forgive [Mia for dating] JP. To the point where Mia, for choosing him and STAYING WITH HIM [that was underlined 4 times] is no longer funny, if mildly annoying, but just DUMB [also heavily underlined.]

So why do I love this series? Because Mia, as annoying as she is, is funny:

When I go to college the first thing I'm going to do is pick out all new friends. Because the friends I currently have are psychotic.

Also, because of how it ended.

Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: Best Friends And Drama Queens

See, where Mia annoys me, I love Allie. Because Allie has spunk and a spine is a lot less neurotic than Mia. I'm sure when Allie hits puberty, she'll get a little more neurotic, because that's what happens when you hit puberty--YOU GO INSANE but she'll keep her spine and kick a little more ass. Because that's what Allie is--KICK ASS.

But I shouldn't say that, because this is a Middle Grade book, and so I shouldn't use swear words when describing it. (Too bad, KICK ASS)

There's a new girl at school and she comes all the way from Canada! Too bad Cheyenne thinks that playing pretend is babyish. And she has high heel zip-up boots like Allie wanted, but her mom wouldn't let her have. But Cheyenne's also not that nice. She starts the kissing game, where packs of girls chase down unsuspecting boys on the playground and then kiss them. (Ok, so we totally played that in my elementary school, too. But if a pack of guys did that to a girl, it would be BAD NEWS. Why is it ok for girls to do to guys? I mean, they eventually get in trouble, but we never did.) She also starts "going with" boys and wants EVERY GIRL to go with a boy.

Allie doesn't want to go with a boy. And Caroline and Sophie aren't talking to each other to talk about. When Allie stands up to Cheyenne, she has to face her full wrath.

I love that Allie doesn't know how to handle situations but not in a "I'm so helpless!" type of way. I love that she knows some things--she doesn't want to "go with" anyone but doesn't know others--how to tell a boy that without being mean.

This is an excellent series for middle grade girls. It's funny and affirming without being cheesy or message-y. I think Allie might be my favorite Meg Cabot character.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

So, did Nancy have that fight with Ned? Or not?

Over at Geek Buffet, I'm comparing two different editions of

The Secret in the Old Attic Carolyn Keene

The original was written in 1944, the current edition first came out in 1970. Excitingly, there are big differences between the two! Many differences occur because of the passage in time. In 1970, it’s a bit of stretch for an elderly, but still active, gentleman to be so old that he fought in WWI. Not so in 1944. Also, a soldier who recently died in 1944 probably died in WWII. You also see things like rayon getting switched to poly and more phones in the 1970 edition.

Another thing that changed is race. In 1944, the house with the old attic has “old slave quarters” and Bess utters a horrible line idealizing happy slaves. All this is cut in the new edition. Additionally, the maid, Effie, speaks in a poor, lower class dialect in 1944. In 1970, she speaks “normally.” Effie’s race is never mentioned though.

Overall, 1970 is just much tighter. 1944 tends to have a lot of cliff-hanger scary chapter endings that are explained away as really being nothing in the first few sentences of the next chapter. The 1970 version cuts most of this out. Thankfully.

The biggest change is that 1944 contains a mini-mystery of a romantic subplot with Nancy and Ned. (Ned didn’t ask her to the dance! And some icky guy is really putting the pressure on Nancy to go to the dance with him instead.) This entire subplot is cut from the current edition, which is sad. It was my favorite part of the story and it was rather refreshing to see Nancy have some doubts, even though you knew it would all work out in the end. For a deeper comparison, check out the chapter-by-chapter play-by-play over at Geek Buffet!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Famous Americans--and not just the standards!

Big events this week! New ILS! Passover! VACATION!

Plus, it's spring break, so the library's a little crazier than normal during the day.

But, it's Monday, so how about some non-fiction?

Tales Of Famous Americans Peter and Connie Roop

Yay for a collected biography book for the 2nd grade and under set. We need more of these. This book offers covers 17 different famous Americans. Your usual suspects are here--Ben Franklin, Abe Lincoln, Davy Crockett, Martin Luther King Jr. There are also some that don't get covered as often--Chief Sitting Bull, Madam C. J. Walker, Delores Huerta and some modern ones--Mia Hamm and Yo-Yo Ma.

Lots of color and pictures make the design kid-friendly, as do the mix of people.

It's a fun one that's a good addition to collections.

Full disclosure: The Roops are friends with my parents. Also, Connie Roop once almost gave me detention.

Roundup is over at Scrub-a-Dub Tub!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Reading Journals

How do you track your reading and reviews and everything? What about your to-read list?

I have a pretty good system--a notebook. The only problem is, it's almost full. If I write small, it should last through the end of the month, which would be really nice because not only does it give me time, but this particular reading journal started with May 2006, so if I can get to the end of April, it will be 3 complete years.

My system is, when you open it one way, it's my "have read" list. I write down the name of all the books I read. When I post the review, I put in a little check mark. This is how I ensure that I review everything I read. If you flip the book over and open it the other way, it's my to-read list and then I just cross off titles as I read them. Eventually, the two lists meet in the middle.

Reasons that I love this notebook:

Unruled paper. Seriously, I do not like lines.

You can't tell which is the front and which is the back. The front and back covers are identical and there's no upper margin on the paper, because the paper is unlined.

The size. It's only 5 x 3, which means it doesn't take up any room in my bag. I like doing this on paper instead of online (notice how I haven't touched GoodReads in months? Yeah.) I find titles I want to read everywhere and the book is handy for jotting them down. Also, I read everywhere, so I finish books everywhere. I get an abnormal amount of pleasure from adding them to the list as soon as I finish.

The spiral things are plastic so they don't get bent out of shape the fact it's spiral allows me to keep the book open when I'm doing housekeeping stuff for the blog.

The reason I'm asking is... this notebook is discontinued. I can't find another Roll-a-bind book that's the same size with all blank pages. Yes, they make slightly bigger ones with "blank" pages, but there's this little bit at the top to label the page, which means it will be at the bottom when I flip the book over. (Yes, I'm anal. DUDE, I'm a LIBRARIAN. We put stuff in order for a living.)

The first 2 reasons (indistinguishable front and back, blank pages) are the most important qualities, which rules out my usual favorite, Moleskine. (The back cover has a pocket and is embossed. Even though they do come with blank pages.)

The spiral, while nice, isn't a deal breaker. I do want it to stay small, but I'm not stuck on the 5 x 3, but I will say, no bigger than 5 x 7.

I have a closet full of lined Moleskines left over from school that I know I will suck it up and use, but, what's your system?

The first picture is of one of the covers, my "have read" side. The second is of my "to read" side. The third is showing a page spread from the "have read" side, the last picture is a page spread of the "to read" side...

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Another Challenge

I've posted my list to the Fill in the Gaps Project!

Basically, you post a list of 100 book-gaps you have in your reading. You know that list of books that you know you should have read, but haven't yet? Yeah, that list. That's what we're posting. And then you have 5 years to read it. A 75% read rate = success.

Come play!

I Squeal for Sequels!

Happy Saturday to you all! How's life treating you? I am anxiously counting down the days to my vacation. (Where will I be next Saturday? MANCHESTER!) And, before vacation Dan's going to Guatemala, Seder, and some friends are coming from out of town. It'll be a busy week, but an AWESOME one.

Anyway, for books today, I bring you some series titles!

The Last Apprentice: Wrath of the Bloodeye Joseph Delaney

In the fifth book of the series, Thomas has been sent to spent time with a different spook. Studying under John Gregory was a walk in the park compared to what Bill Arkwright has in store, and Gregory's secrets are nothing compared to Arkwright's. But the study Tom must, for the Fiend is alive and well, and his children, including the evil witch Bloodeye are out to get Tom.

Exciting and scary, fans of the series will definitely want to pick this one up. New revelations about Alice, a different look at what a spook needs to know, and lots of scary water witches. PLUS! An examination of good and evil and if it's ever ok to use dark magic, and if the ends ever justify the means. I love the way this series looks at BIG ISSUES without it being like "Hi! We're discussing BIG ISSUES now!"

This series just keeps getting better and better.

The Last Apprentice: Clash of the Demons comes in August!

Alcatraz Versus The Scrivener's Bones Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz is back, this time looking for Grandpa Smedry and his father, who seem to be hiding out in the Library of Alexandria, which is just full of the evilest of all librarians.

I liked this one better than the first. We have several of the same characters, plus some new Smedrys to hang out with. I really enjoy the way Alcatraz talks directly to the reader and the general meta-ness of it. I know this annoys some people. If you liked that aspect of the first one, be sure to pick it up. If it annoyed, stay far away, because there's even more of it in this book. I saw that as a good thing, some people I know disagree.

I'm looking forward to the next one!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Cherry Blossoms are poetic!

It's cherry blossom time in DC! So, here is a poem about cherry blossoms. I took this picture during a rare bit of sun today, these trees are at the end of the block and I love the way the look reflected in the office building.

By A.E. Housman

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride,
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow. has the round up!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Challenges Updates

Well, I've entered myself into 85 bajillion reading challenges this year. How am I doing so far?

Banned Books Challenge
--Read 10 by June 30 (nothing so far)

The 1% Well Read Challenge--13 books by December 31 (nothing so far)

Becky's Do Re Mi Challenge--do 4 things off a list by May 17 (I've done 2!)

The TBR Challenge--read 12 books off your TBR list by December 31 (I've done 1!)

The Buy Books Challenge--buy, read, and review 12 books by December 31 (I've purchased 7, read 3, reviewed 1)

The Chunkster Challenge
--read 6 adult books over 450 pages by November 15 (1 done!)

The Guardian Challenge--read 10 books by February 1 (none so far, which is sad, because I'm hosting this!)

And, how am I doing on the List O' Doom? 6 out of 50, with a bunch that will be read in the next 1.5 months.

And all of Silvey's 100 best that I hadn't read yet? 1 out of 26

And, I may not be doing great on challenge reading, but I have read 74 books so far this year.

April Reviews!

Well, it's another month, so leave all of your April reviews for the Guardian 1000 books challenge in Mr. Linky down below.

Also, just a friendly reminder that all reviews for February, March, and April will be entered into a drawing for very special prize (or prizes) that will be purchased on my upcoming trip to England (10 more days! Woot!) and maybe something from the Belgium portion of the trip as well. Now, every review is eligible, so if you've read and reviewed more than one book for the challenge during this time span, you get multiple entries!

Also, if you haven't signed up yet, go right ahead. Sign ups don't close until the end of the challenge!

So, get your read on!

All that glitters is literary gold.

Yesterday, Amanda over at A Patchwork of Books made the statement "I think glitter should be reserved for picture books, but that's just me."

I just left the following comment:

Glitter is a magnet for girls 2-6th grade. I could get them to read anything if a glittered up the cover.

By which I meant "if I glittered up the cover."

It's a statement I stand by, but which books would be most hilarious if we glittered them up? Glitter it to the point where, to quote MotherReader, "By the time I had finished reading the book, my hands looked like I had bitch-slapped Tinkerbell."

Get your thinking caps on and send me your most hilarious responses! It has to be something at a 2-6th grade reading level and really shouldn't be glittered.

I'm thinking maybe glittery Hatchet? (Which would be easy to do, because you just make a picture of the Hatchet all silver-glitter.)

What about Adventures of Tom Sawyer? (Glitter up a river? Or white glitter on the white-washed fence?)

What do you think?