Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Some Fairy Tales

Bebel Gilberto's new CD, All in One, came out yesterday! I'm a big fan and the disc doesn't disappoint. And I'd like to sincerely thank everyone who bought something from Amazon by clicking first on one of my links, because it was this summer's commission that bought me the CD.

Princess of the Midnight Ball Jessica Day George

You know I love a good fairy tale retelling and some of my favorites (The Night Dance, Wildwood Dancing) have been based on "Twelve Dancing Princesses." So, I was both really excited and kinda nervous about Princess of the Midnight Ball.

Luckily, it was awesome (I'll admit I was a lot less nervous after reading George's Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow). Based loosely on pre-unified Germany, the kingdom of Wesfalin has just finished a long war against Analousia. Galen grew up in the army and is glad to be done with that life, finding work with his uncle, the head gardner at the palace. There, he meets the twelve princesses, bound and cursed to dance every third night for the legendary and evil King Under Stone. Their binding is the price their mother paid to ensure the Wesfalin victory in the war. And, as the story goes, the Westfalin king is disturbed to see his daughter's dancing shoes worn out so often (especially as how can he be expected to buy new shoes when his country is in such poverty after the war?). Things get even worse as the princes cannot find out where the girls go and rumors of witchcraft spread, prompting drastic action from the Church.

One of the things I really liked about this book is that we got a lot of Galen's side of the story. In fact, most of it is Galen's point of view, with some chapters focusing on the princesses thrown in. Also, Galen knits! After living with the army, he had to learn to knit if he wanted his own socks and hats, and it's something he continues to do to calm his nerves (and keep his feet warm.) Such knitting ends up playing a large role in the story and there are even knitting patterns at the end of the book, which is awesome. And more knitting patterns at George's website, which is more awesome. A most excellent retelling.

Tender Morsels Margo Lanagan

I read this book five months ago and I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about this retelling of "Snow White and Rose Red".

Liga retreats to a magical heaven (her heart's desire) after bearing two children--one the product of repeated rape by her father, one the product of gang rape by some neighborhood boys. While she is safe and content there, her daughters long for more and eventually they come back to the real world.

This isn't an easy book--lots of plot lines and a lot of sections switching to first person narration without telling us who the narrator is (and who the narrator is switches from section to section.)

It moves a little slowly and while I cared deeply for Liga and her daughters, it was a hard read for me. I had to put it down often and go do something else and then come b ack to it and I don't know why. It wasn't the complexity of the novel and it wasn't the content, something about it... I don't know. It's really well written and crafted, but it just didn't do it for me on a lot of levels and I didn't like it.

I also didn't like the gender politics that exisited in the real world. Really, really, really didn't like the societal rules and how much they were unquestioned by everyone else. This is probably really true of a certain time and place, but it annoyed the hell out of me.

And then the end! ACK!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Do You Believe in Love?

It's a weird day. Taking a Monday off, especially when not everyone else at work does leaves me slightly off-balance for the rest of the week. But, Yom Kippur was good and a ton of kugel before Kol Niedre services meant I didn't almost pass out during day services, which is what usually happens. Also, I'm blessed to have an awesome group of friends here in DC to celebrate Jewish holidays with.

Meanwhile, I'm rocking out to the music we used to dance to in college, thanks to my friend (and physics partner extrodinaire) Kat.

Also, this weekend, I did a bunch of work on The Reading Challenge Clearinghouse. Most of it is stuff behind the scenes that will make things run much more smoothly for me, but in addition to the blog, you can follow the blog on Twitter @ReadChallenge and be our fan on Facebook. All the more ways to find out about reading challenges!

My favorite thing about the Reading Challenge project is a surprise benefit. I find out about reading challenges three ways---things I come across in my surfing, things people tell me about, but mainly through a few Google alerts I have set up. These Google Alerts have turned me on to so many new book blogs out there. I've discovered so many new blogs! It's great! And, it's something that never occurred to me when I was designing the project.

Also, I'm still looking for questions/topics that you would like a panel of bloggers to discuss at the KitLitCon next month!

And now, a book review of an extraordinary book that everyone should read:

Emil and Karl Yankev Glatshteyn

Vienna in the late 1930s. Karl's father is long dead and the story starts with the men coming to take away his mother. He runs to his friend's house. Emil is his best friend, but Jewish, so Karl hasn't been able to see him lately. Emil's father was taken away by the men, too. He was killed and the ashes returned. They've just had the funeral. In the morning, his mother has lost her mind, the rabbi takes her away.

Emil and Karl are orphans in a city gone mad, where no one knows who they can trust or what's going to happen next.

Most books about the Holocaust are about the tension, the waiting, the hardships. This is a horrific madhouse hallucination of a city turned on its head. It takes the same confusion and horror, but tells it in a way I've never read before in a holocaust story.

What's amazing about this book is that it's one of the first holocaust stories ever written, especially for kids. It was published in Yiddish in 1940, to let Jewish-American kids know what was happening to their European counterparts. In 2006, it became available in English for the first time. It is one of the most terrifying holocaust stories I've read, and not even the author knows what's going to happen next and how much worse things are about to get. It just boggles my mind.

The story of the book itself makes Emil and Karl important, but the unique take on a tragic event that has been extensively covered in children's literature makes it even more important.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Before the End of the Year

Rosh Hashanah was last weekend and Yom Kippur starts tonight. School started (but not for me! Huzzah!) at the beginning of the month. With the beginning of this new year, I start thinking about what my goals are and what I want to do in the next year. I won't finalize them until the January, when the calendar year begins anew, but I start thinking in broad plans now.

And in this gap between the two New Years, I also start thinking about what I need to do to finish up last year's goals...

So, in that vein, I've decided to sign up for 2 more reading challenges. The first is S. Krishna's Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge. I'm aiming to read 10% of my unread books between now and November 30. That's 38 books.

The next is Callapidder Days's Fall into Reading Challenge. This one involves a list. I need to make a list of the books I want to read between now and December 20. The following list, while long, is by no means complete. I have a lot of required reading on the horizon with titles that haven't been announced yet. The titles here are

1. Books I currently have checked out from the library
2. Books I am currently reading (this might be cheating. I hope not.)
3. Books from other challenges that I told myself I'd read by the end of the year.
4. Other random things.

Al Capone Shines my Shoes
All the Broken Pieces
The Kind of Friends We Used to Be
Peace, Locomotion
City of Bones
Claudette Colvin: twice toward justice
The Eternal Smile
Manga Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet
Keena Ford and the Field Trip Mix-Up
Marcelo in the Real World
Piper Reed Gets a Job
The Princess Plot
Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: Stage Fright
Senator Joe McCarthy
Street Love
Chop Suey
Confetti Girl
Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
How to be Popular
Life as We Knew it
Lucy Long Ago
39 Clues: Maze of Bones
Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg
Queen of Babble
Nature of Jade
Queen of Babble in the Big City
Queen of Babble Gets Hitched
Ready or Not
The Roar
Written in Bone
Atlas Shrugged
Life and Death are Wearing me Out
The Host
Book of Lost Things
Life and Death in Shanghai
Hardboiled and Hardluck
Ballet Shoes
Cold Comfort Farm
Brideshead Revisited
Midnight Pearls
Adoration of Jenna Fox
Anatomy of a Boyfriend
Ballet Family
Ballet Family Again
Cathy's Key
A Certain Chemistry
Cybele's Secret
Everyday Life
Fire in the Blood
General Winston's Daughter
Girl From Golden Horn
Clockwork Orange
Oliver Twist
The Sound and the Fury
Brave New World
1 Judge Dee Mystery
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Color Purple
Mr. Grumpy's Outing
Swamp Angel
John Henry
Snowflake Bentley
Seven Blind Mice
Morning Girl
Stone Fox
Misty of Chincoteague
Grandfather's Journey
The Incredible Journey
Humbug Mountain
The People Could Fly
Rabbit Hill
The Great Fire
Island of the Blue Dolphins
Cricket in Times Square
Behind the Attic Wall
Out of the Dust
Johnny Tremain

I've also been putting some more work into The Reading Challenge Clearinghouse. There's now a twitter feed, and you can become a fan on Facebook, so I hope you'll fan us and follow us and get your challenge on...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Poetry Friday

It's Poetry Friday! Yay!

Today's poem is a song written by Philip Cunningham, who was an American student studying in Beijing during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. He includes the song in the prologue of his memoir, which I review below. Round up is over at Susan Writes!

Midnight moon of Tiannamen,
When will I see you again?
Looking for you everywhere,
Going in circles around the Square...
Riding with you down Chang’an Jie,
Memories I'd like to share...
Shadows dancing in the dark,
Lovers talking in the park...
Follow you here,
Follow you there,
Bathing in your
Sweet moonlight everywhere...
Midnight moon of Tiananmen,
When will I see you again?

Tiananmen Moon: Inside the Chinese Student Uprising of 1989 Philip J. Cunningham

Here's one that doesn't count for my China Challenge because I started it in August, but it is one that could count for your China Challenge reading, and it is one that I recommend.

Cunningham was in a unique position in the spring of 1989. He was an American studying in Beijing. His role as a student gave him many Chinese friends and acquaintances who were caught up in the student movement and Cunningham was caught up in it to. His skills in Chinese language and his knowledge of Beijing made him a valuable asset for the BBC and he started freelancing for them. Cunningham was then caught in this odd in-between of participant and observer.

The book he wrote, nearly twenty years after the fact, isn't a book about what happened and why although we get some glimpses of that. It isn't history. It is a deeply personal memoir about one man's experiences with being a foreigner in Beijing in the late 80s, and his experiences marching, protesting, and dodging bullets. It's a look at the pitfalls of international news. It's a book where one man tries to make sense of what he saw and what he did and what it meant. Along the way, he offers great insight into what happened from the point of view of the people on the ground, the ones who made it happen. We have so many books from the prospective of the historian, and even a few from the prospective of the government official, but we don't have many from the point of view of the students who were involved, especially the ones who weren't part of central command or in leadership. The fact that Cunningham is American helps him explain it to a Western reader.

It will be an easier read for those with some background of the Tiananmen movement (and it's fascinating to read against the Tiananmen chapters of Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang). You can read several excerpts at China Beat.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Random Review from the Vault of pre-written reviews...

The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls Elise Primavera

Ivy has just moved to town, hoping that after she broke that mirror 7 years ago, her run of bad luck is finally over. On Gumm street, she meets three girls whom all hate each other, and the delightful piano teacher Mr. Staccato. When he disappears in the middle of a hurricane, he leaves Ivy a treasure--the silver slippers. The real ones. The ones that fell off Dorothy's feet when she left Oz. Then Cha Cha Staccato shows up, bearing an uncanny resemblance to a wicked witch, demanding her shoes back.

The girls have to band together as they find themselves exiled to Spoz, the land under Oz.

Zany and weird, this is full of references to Oz and I would have really liked this in late elementary school. For some reason though, it just didn't click with me as an adult.

Booking Through Thursday

Today's Booking Through Thursday asks:

What is the saddest book you've read recently?

This was a harder one for me. The last book that made me cry was Intensely Alice, but it wasn't an overly sad book, just one part of it was. While ultimately hopeful, Wanting Mor, was much sadder on a deeper level.

Monday, September 21, 2009

KidLit Conference

Are you super-duper excited for the 3rd Annual KidLit Conference? I am!

What conference you say? DUDE! THE KIDLIT CONFERENCE! Bloggers! Authors! Other Awesome People! With panels and talks and lots of just hanging around and talking to all of these people we know from the internet. It's going to be AWESOME. At least, that's what I'm told, because it's my very first one. I cannot wait. You should come, because then I can meet you.

Also, because MotherReader asked me to be on a panel with some other awesome bloggers (shhh-- they're all much more awesome than me. I'll be the imposter, but don't tell.) We'll be talking about issues in blogging and possible solutions. To make things easier (and to give us time to really think about our answers) we're soliciting questions before hand. Like, now.

So, lay 'em on me. We've had lots of good discussions lately about things like accountability and arcs and what constitutes a review and should we use ratings and what to do about all the bloggers that are cooler than you and how do you organize everything and should we focus more attention on the books that aren't getting a lot of mention and on and on and on and on. Or you could just ask me about my insanely large TBR pile. Or my insanely cute dog. I'm open.

What do you want us to discuss?

Also, if you can't come, feel free to submit questions anyway. I'm sure someone blog it, so you'll still get your answers!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Booking Through Thursday

It's my first Booking Through Thursday! Hurrah!

This week's question--

hat’s the most enjoyable, most fun, most just-darn-entertaining book you’ve read recently?

(Mind you, this doesn’t necessarily mean funny, since we covered that already. Just … GOOD.)

It's a toss up between Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? by Louise Rennison (which was laugh-out-loud funny) and anything from the slew of Meg Cabot I read a couple of weeks ago.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

And Puff that Mighty Dragon, He Ceased his Fearless Roar

My freshman year of college, my friend Ross was in my room and saw my copy Ten Years Together: The Best of Peter, Paul & Mary and asked to borrow it.

The next night he told my friend Laura, "Well, I'm going to fail history and am about to be sexiled from my room for the fifth night in a row, but I have Peter Paul and Mary, so it's all good."

I thought it captured everything perfectly.

Mary Travers's voice has been major part of the soundtrack of my life. Peter, Paul and Mary were often playing in the house growing up. Peter, Paul and Mommy (on vinyl) was one of the first albums I ever had. Leaving On A Jet Plane got played on repeat over and over during more than one year of teen angst.

It's her voice I hear singing when I see Dylan lyrics.

When Dan bought a copy of Around the Campfire, I knew I had found a keeper. Our first weekend getaway was when he took me to see them in concert...

I could go on and on.

Mary Travers died today at the age of 72. I have been listening to her voice all night. I will miss her music more than I can even fathom right now.

To Quote Chairman Mao...

Book review time! This one doesn't count for my China Challenge because I actually read it in August. But if you wanted to, you could read it for your China Challenge!

Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party Ying Chang Compestine

This is an autobiographical novel of Chang's childhood during the Cultural Revolution. Starting in 1972, it tells of 8-year-old Ling, who watches in horror over four years as neighbors disappear, food becomes scarce, and suspicion rules the land. Throughout it all, she clings to a hidden picture of the Golden Gate Bridge and her surgeon father's stories of American Freedom.

While the story is a gripping account of a turbulent time aimed at middle grade readers (not really YA, despite the marketing) I have a small, but major, historical bone to pick. One which utterly ruins an otherwise wonderful novel.

If Ling was untouched by the Cultural Revolution until 1972, which is what happens in the book, she was truly blessed. In 1967, Wuhan (where the story takes place) erupted into full scale civil war with Red Guard fighting Red Guard. (While I'm sure such fighting continued in Wuhan sporadically throughout the Cultural Revolution, it seems strange to miss the 1967 fighting all together and instead place such events in 1976). The fact that her family's lifestyle--pearl necklaces, Voice of America broadcasts, English lessons, foreign novels, even celebrating Christmas Eve, survived the turmoil of the late 1960s (when Cultural Revolution furor was at its highest) until the early 1970s is, frankly, unbelievable. So is the fact that neighbors don't disappear and no one gets sent to the country side until 1974, which is when things were starting to wind down. Most of the action that is described in the book would have made much more sense in 1966-1968 ish. The fact that Ling somehow missed the first 8 years of the Cultural Revolution and was only aware of the last 4 is a bit like having a Holocaust novel set in Warsaw and nothing bad starts happening until 1941. The only thing that rings true for the the mid-1970s period is the scarcity of food and near starvation.

I was reading this and then flipped back to check the year again and I knew it was wrong. So, I put it down and looked some stuff up in Jonathan Spence's The Search for Modern China. I even ran to the bookstore to finally purchase a copy of Mao's Last Revolution by Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals. As I was reading an ARC (provided by the publisher at ALA a few years ago in my role as librarian, not as blogger) I double checked the dates against the published copy and still... yeah.

Also, they were celebrating Christmas? The only reason you would celebrate Christmas in the middle of the Cultural Revolution is if you were deeply Christian, and then you'd think that would come up in a first-person narrative about it, but it didn't, so it was just... odd.

I would have really, really enjoyed this book if it started in 1967 or 1968. It would have been a wonderful book if it didn't have these timeline issues. I would be throwing this book at people, demanding that the read it, if the years at the beginning of each section were different. Sadly, they aren't, and so I have serious reservations about it and will instead point you to Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I'm Back

Wait! You say. You were gone?

Yes, yes I was. Awhile ago, Author2Author's Tip of the Day was about how grown-ups need to listen to the advice we give to kids online. We tell kids all the time not to give out too much personal information, but then we blather on and on about when we're going on vacation. It's not that hard to Google where a blogger lives, and then they'll ROB YOU. And, that's actually happened. So, I kept a little mum. Not a full lid (and I did tweet about watching Obama's speech from the airport. I didn't tweet how nice the toilet in the Air France lounge is though. I'm telling you know, because it had a heated seat! With a control pad in the wall. Also, a built in bidet) but I pre-scheduled some posts and didn't say "HI! I'M GOING ON VACATION." Even though Dan did post a picture of me with the name of the city where I was.

So, where was I?

Well, we flew to Paris! Were we spent 5 hours running around the city. They had an entire bookstore of just manga!

Here's a gratuitous shot of Notre Dame:

Then we visited friends in Bristol before taking the train over to London. Guess the station:

That would be Paddington.

We spent the weekend in Croydon, where Jen and Rich got married!

I wore a fascinator! Because that's what British ladies do at weddings:

They got married at the Croydon Clocktower in a beautiful old library room:

With beautiful stained glass:

But, the Clocktower has the actual public library in it, too:

It was awesome.

Then, on the way home, at Heathrow, I saw a display of something and just couldn't resist and had to buy and read...

So, more reviews to come this week, as soon as a I figure out what day it is.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Saving Fairy Tales from Themselves...

Reviews of two fantastic books!

Into the Wild Sarah Beth Durst

Being the daughter of a refugee from the Wild isn't easy. Julie's mom, Rapunzel, is nice and all, but she only hangs out with other refugees--escaped fairy tale characters. Julie feels like she doesn't belong anywhere, she's the only non-character who knows what's going on in town, but because she didn't escape the Wild, the characters don't truly accept her either. All Julie knows is that for some reason she and her mom are the ones to guard it, and her dad died in the escape.

But one day, the Wild gets loose and takes over town. It's not just that there are trees and vines growing everywhere, but once you're in the Wild, it wants you to be part of a story and it will force you in. Once you're in a story, there's no escape, you just live your days and then, when the story ends, you forget everything and start over again. FOREVER.

Only Julie can save her family and the town.

Really, really well done. I loved this. I'm a sucker for fairy-tale characters in new settings, but this one is above the cut. I loved Julie's adventure and how the familiar characters were more bit players and Julie got to take center stage as she worked to save the day. I also the loved how the Wild took normal townspeople and warped them to a fairy tale standard.

Out of the Wild Sarah Beth Durst

It hasn't been that long since Julie had to defeat the Wild. Northboro is still cleaning up the mess. Then, one day, the Wild spits out her dad, for no apparent reason. Prince Charming doesn't know our world and isn't willing to learn. Before Julie and her mother can explain everything to him, Sleeping Beauty is whisked off in a coach made from an apple and Zel and Gothel are turned into pumpkins. The Prince is off after Sleeping Beauty and Julie can only follow him and try to help. Unfortunately, he recreates fairy tale moment after fairy tale moment, causing the Wild to grow like never before. There is someone who wants the loose and is causing this to happen, but why?

I liked this one even better than the first. As Julie and her dad go on their cross-country adventure, they meet new fairy tale characters that we didn't see before. We also have the mystery of who is doing this and why, and what Julie can do to stop it, as well as the complex feelings of having her dad back, her dad who's more into saving random princesses than being Julie's dad.

Such a great couple of books! Fairy tale fans need to check them out!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Luxe parts 2 and 3

Well, here are two mini-reviews for your enjoyment.

Rumors Anna Godbersen

This follow up to Luxe certainly doesn't disappoint. Caroline continues her social climbing. Penelope doesn't understand why Henry won't look at her, now that Elizabeth is out the picture. Diana must carry all of her mother's hopes. Meanwhile, Rumors are flying everywhere about every thing and every believes what they read about themselves in the papers and acts accordingly...

Did you like the guilty pleasure decadence of the first one? Good. You'll like this. Everything I said about the first one holds true for this one as well.

Envy Anna Godbersen

Everyone's off to Florida for a winter holiday as Penelope tries harder and harder to keep Henry in her clutches and he pulls further and further away. Liz has to deal with some, uh, consequences of her relationship with Will. And Carolina's position teeters further...

This one didn't hold quite the same magic as the first two. Maybe it's because the word "clavicle" keeps occurring. ALL THE TIME. Every dress shows off or covers someone's clavicles. Men are entranced at the sight of a pair of stately clavicles. Really? CLAVICLES?! It got annoying.

But, that won't stop me from looking forward to the October 27 release of Splendor!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Meg Cabot is awesome

So, I have long wished that Meg Cabot and I were BFF. Earlier this summer, she wrote a blog post about why she writes the types of books she writes:

When I began writing, one of the reasons I chose the genre of romantic fiction was because romances were what saved me from being so incredibly depressed (even suicidal) about my life as a teen (that, and eventually our mother getting us all into Al-Anon, of course).

I just can’t imagine writing (or reading) a book that wasn’t romantic fiction, or at least was funny. Romantic fiction was the only thing that helped me escape when my life was the worst it ever was (and the worst I hope it ever will be).

And I vowed then that if I ever became a professional writer, I’d write books that I hoped would give readers like me a fun escape from whatever awful thing they were going through.

Yes, there are “lessons” in my books (you have to hunt for them because I hate books with heavy-handed “messages.” I try to make my “lessons” subtle, but believe me, they’re there).

But mostly, my books are written to make people feel better about their lives while not reminding them of their own horrible problems.

In the past few weeks, I've had some really rough days at work. Some were just the normal rough day of people being mean and grouchy and you know, one of those days. Some days were way rougher and included people being so mean I ended up having to give witness statements to the police.

On bad days, I have discovered that a Meg Cabot novel will pretty much instantly make me feel better. On bad days, I run over to the teen and adult side and check a bunch out, because I know they will work. And they do. That and the fact Dan makes a wicked cocktail.

The Boy Next Door Meg Cabot

Told entirely in email, this is the story of Mel, a small time girl who's landed in New York. She's a gossip columnist trying to break into real news. Meanwhile, someone attacked her elderly next door neighbor and left her in a coma. Mel's taking care of her neighbor's pets until her only living relative shows up. Max Friedlander is a selfish playboy photographer who could care less about his great-aunt's cats and dogs so he calls in a favor... John Trent was just going to walk an old lady's dog to get Max off his back, little did he expect to fall in love with the girl next door. Mel likes him, too, but what will happen when she finds out that Max is really John and not Max at all?

Meg Cabot always puts me in a good mood. This is a fast, fun, totally hilarious chick lit read. Everyone gets in on the action--John's 8-year-old nieces, random people at Mel's office, and even a supermodel. Within 5 pages, I was feeling better from my horrible day. My only complaint is that the email header didn't have a time stamp. Other email books (such as e) make good use of the time stamp for added hilarity, and I think Cabot could have done the same. Ah well, it's a minor issue.

Boy Meets Girl Meg Cabot

This is a stand alone sequel to Boy Next Door. Kate is works in HR at the New York Journal, under the Tyrannical Office Despot, Amy (who kept sending Mel all the tardy notices in Boy Next Door.) Kate's been forced to fire the ever popular dessert lady Ida, who then sues the company for breach of contract. Amy and the paper's slimy lawyer are in love, and if Kate's not careful, the same could happen with his brother, the other lawyer representing the paper. How could she like a lawyer who's against Ida and her to-die-for cookies?!

This one is told in more than just email. We get IM transcripts, receipts, journal entries, voice mails, and notes passed back and forth during meetings. We even get Ida's recipes (which I haven't tried out yet.)

I'm a big fan of books in "stuff" even if there isn't a time stamp on the email. While this isn't a sequel per se, we do find out bits and pieces about how Mel is doing. We also see more of Stacy because she's the lawyers' sister.

Every Boy's Got One Meg Cabot

Once again, a related book that tells us "what happened next" from the previous book, but isn't an actual sequel.

Jane's best friend Holly is eloping to Italy to marry her boyfriend Mark and Jane's coming to be a witness. Unfortunately, Mark's best friend Cal is also coming and Cal's a classic Type A modelizing jerk who doesn't believe in marriage and will do all he can to stop the wedding from actually happening. Unless Jane can stop him.

Like Boy Meets Girl this has a lot more than just IM. More journal than anything, because even though all four main characters are connected to the New York Journal and the other characters we know and love, they'll all in Italy and removed from the situation.

Even better was the back material which tells us that the elopement to Italy and the hilarity that ensued was highly based on Cabot's own elopement to Italy, with a full run down of what was real and what wasn't.

All-American Girl Meg Cabot

Sam is a goth girl in DC who is wallowing in loserville (which is made worse by the fact her sister is super-popular). To make matters worse, she's completely in love with her sister's boyfriend. One day, while cutting the stupid art class her parents are making her take as a punishment for getting a C in German, Sam ends up saving the life of the President and is now a national hero. Sam doesn't feel like a hero. She just acted, she didn't think, so it wasn't even scary at the time. There was no bravery, just instinct. What she really needs bravery for is dealing with the complications that come from her friendship with the President's son. He's pretty obviously into her, but she's in love with her sister's boyfriend, right?

I love how many of Meg Cabot's heroines are total dorks, but awesome at the same time. Well yes, you can be awesome and still write Battlestar Gallactica fanfic, even if your hair is a nightmare and the popular girls hate you. At least, you can in Meg Cabot's world. Her books might be light and fun and fluffy but she still does have some really strong female characters (ok, not Princess Mia, but the others!) and sneaks awesome girl power messages in under the wire.

In this book, I most loved Sam's other sister (not the one with the boyfriend) who is 11 and definitely lacks social skills, so she has been reading romance novels in an attempt to learn some. Hysterical!

Minor complaint? As someone who drives across DC twice a day, I do not see nearly as many motorcades as Sam does. Especially Presidential ones. I only saw the Presidential motorcade once. The most extreme motorcade I ever saw involved the Queen of England and First Lady Laura Bush. Then there was the really weird one I saw a few months ago that involved a lot of coach buses filled with senior citizens. They had more police protection and black sedans than the Queen! But then again, they shut down the entire highway for the Queen. They didn't do that for the coach buses.

Most annoying are the small motorcades of people going to the Capitol during morning rush hour. They don't stop traffic, but you can't cut in the middle of a motorcade and they drive soooooooooooooooo slowly. I always want to know who's inside so I know to NEVER VOTE FOR THEM AGAIN. If you're important enough to get a motorcade, then you wield enough power to be all "you know what? Why don't we not meet until 10, so then the regular people trying to get to work won't be caught in this." Jerks.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Mount TBR/ where I blog

So, Greg over at The Happy Accident wanted pictures of our TBR piles. It took me a few days to gather mine and move it up to the guest room bed (which was the only place in the house large enough that I could take over for a few days).

These books fit into the following categories:

1. Books I have purchased or otherwise acquired but haven't read yet.
2. Books Dan has purchased or otherwise acquired that I would also like to read.
3. Books that have been sent for review that I want to read and review.
4. Books I have checked out from the library.

There are about 400 books...

Here's a closer shot of my book headboard:

And here's a closer shot of the books along the wall:

Also, a few weeks ago, Abby (the) Librarian asked us for pictures of where we blog. Everyone has such nice blogging spaces! Technically, there is a desk in the guest room and that's where I should be blogging. But, then I'm away from the general action of the house, so most blogging takes place at my kitchen table:

To the left is my pile of books to review and my all-important cup of coffee. Then my lap top, a tube of aloe vera (because I stupidly forgot to wear sunscreen to the Nationals game yesterday and am now bright red) an empty bag of sugar snap peas (blogging requires nutritious snacks!) my currently-reading pile, my date book, and my reading logs and notes I made while reading the help the reviewing process. Also, random computer cords.

We'll get back to book reviews soon!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Atlas Shrugged

So, in my Challenge Update post, I mentioned I'm reading Atlas Shrugged.

Essentially, on Sunday, Dan dared me to do it. He said that if I read it and talked about it with him, he'd take me to one of my favorite restaurants. I think he was pretty surprised that I agreed right away!

You can follow our adventures as the aptly titled Dan and Jennie's Randian Adventure.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Challenge Update...

Now comes the monthly post where I list all the reading challenges I'm participating in and how I'm doing...

TBR challenge, where I make a list of 12 books (and 12 backup) and read at least 12 by the end of the year. I've done 3:

Octavian Nothing II, Kingdom on the Waves
Frog Princess
High Fidelity

For the 1% challenge, I need to read 13 books by March 31. I've done 1:

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle

For the Buy Books Challenge, I need to buy and read 12 books by the end of the year.

I've purchased 34, read 11, and reviewed 7!

Turning Pages
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Forever Princess
Frog Princess
Dead is So Last Year
Don't Judge a Girl by her Cover
Living Dead Girl
Diamond Secret
Harry Potter Should Have Died
Fables: Dark Ages

Also, I purchased a copy of Mao's Last Revolution but I read and reviewed that last year, so does it count? Does it not? I'm going to say no, just because I've purchased so many other things...

For the Chunkster Challenge, I have to read 6 adult books of 450+ pages by November 15, 2009. I've done 1.1

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

That .1 is Atlas Shrugged which is something you'll hear more about soon. It's a thing.

There's the Fill in the Gaps challenge, where I came up with a list of 100 books and commit to finishing 75 of them within 5 years. 4.5 years in, I've done 5.1!

Julie of the Wolves
Whale Talk
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
The Dark is Rising

Once again, that .1 is Atlas Shrugged.

And then there's my own Guardian Challenge, which has me reading 10 books by February 1.

Nada. I kinda suck.

There's also my goal to read at least 50 of the books I owned but hadn't read as of January 1 by next January 1. I've done 15.1

Octavian Nothing II
Crazy Lady
Frog Princess
A Girl, A Boy, and a Monster Cat
A Girl, A Boy, and Three Robbers
Glass Castle
High Fidelity
North of Beautiful
Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies
Rapunzel's Revenge
Revolution is Not a Dinner Party
Rouge of the North
Story of Sushi
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Whale Talk

Once again, .1 is Atlas Shrugged.

Then there is me trying to finish Anita Silvey's 100 Best Books for Children, of which I had 26 left. I've read 3!

Millions of Cats
Julie of the Wolves
The Dark is Rising

Now, since last month, I've joined the

Japanese Literature Challenge
so I have to read one book of Japanese literature by January 30.

Nothing yet.

The Random Reading Challenge has me taking my TBR pile (or a segment thereof) assigning a number to each book, and then using a random number generator to pick my next book. I have to read 12 this way by July 31. I've read 2! Both were chosen from a list that had all by TBR books that were ON HAND (so books that I own, review copies, and books that were currently checked out from the library.)

A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers
Rouge of the North

And, last but not least, there is my own China Challenge. I'm going to read 12 books and do 3 China-related activities between now and September 1, 2010.

So far, nothing, but the challenge has only been going for 2 days!

Guardian Challenge

Now that Mr. Linky and I are friends again, enter your September reviews below.

ALSO! I'm going back to England next weekend, so there will be another round of random Britishness to be given away! Every review gets you an entry!

The Worst Part About Graduating

Ok, slightly off topic. Usually I blog about books and not about librarianship, mainly because if, for some odd reason, I ever stop being a librarian, I'll never stop being a reader. Also, when I started Biblio File, I was a database cataloger, which is a library job, but not that exciting to blog about.

BUT, there's something bugging me about the field of library science and I want to talk about and well, it's my blog.

Three things--

1. I have to pay all of my own membership dues to various professional organizations. My workplace does not do this for me.

2. I graduated library school in December.

3. I worked full time while going to school part time. Now that I'm done with school, my income situation hasn't changed AT ALL, unless you take into account the fact that I'm now paying back my student loans. (And the fact that this recession means I'm not getting raise or cost of living adjustment this year and am being furloughed for 5 days and was furloughed for 3 days last year.)

So, this leads to...

I am no longer a member of any professional organizations. This includes ALA. It's not that I don't want to be, but I've graduated and I'm no longer a student. My ALA membership dues DOUBLED. Is it still worth the price... eh. ALA itself doesn't really cut it for me and I was really only a member because their divisions, mainly ALSC and YALSA, are well worth the price. (Which is dues plus an extra division fee.) They're even worth the new price. I may still renew, but this is something I've been debating all summer, when my first renewal notices came. Membership fees were already something I had to save up for due to the number of divisions I'm in. In reality, what's going to do it is that the doubled price is still smaller than the difference between member and non-member prices for the annual convention, which I'll be going to because it's here in town.

And then there are my state library association dues... it makes a lot of sense for me to stay in MLA. If anything, I attend a lot of their their training and there is a big difference between member and nonmember prices. More than that though, I am much more involved at the State level. I'm currently serving on an awards committee and the association in general does a lot of interesting things that I'd like to be more involved in but... my membership dues more than QUINTUPLED. They're now more expensive than the ALA dues, even when you add in all my divisions!

Looking at the big picture, is it worth it for me to pay the money and join these organizations? Yes.

Does that make them any more affordable looking at my day-to-day budgeting? No.

Solutions? I really think they need some sort of mid-level membership level to ease you into paying full dues, especially is there's going to be a larger jump.

What say you?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

China Challenge!

Well, on your marks, get set, read! About China!

The China Challenge starts today, so get reading and then come back and leave your links for any reviews or blog posts about your activities this September so we can all see what people are reading and discovering.

Have fun!