Monday, November 30, 2009

Nonfiction Monday: Civil Rights

We've had 3 books nominated in the MG/YA nonfiction category that deal with Civil Rights, and they're all pretty awesome.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice Phillip Hoose

Here's a book that deserves every drop of hype. This is how children's nonfiction should be done! A story written at level without being dumbed down (bonus points for being about a young person), beautiful book design with with great pictures, good informational sidebars, and excellent back matter. Not only are all the sources listed with a good index, but there is an excellent author's note about how the book came to be. The only thing one could want is a specific list of further reading at the same level as the book.

Claudette Colvin cuts through many myths of the Montgomery Bus Boycotts. I grew up learning that Rosa Parks was the first person to refuse to give up her seat and go to jail for it. That she did it because she was tired after a long day of work. Later I learned that it turns out that Rosa Parks wasn't an accidental hero, but a badass deliberate one. She was very involved in the civil rights movement in Montgomery and was tired not from a long day, but tired from a life of being a second class citizen. Then I learned that Rosa Parks wasn't the first, but the other two women were unsuitable. One was a pregnant teen. The other was equally as bad.

Then I read this book. Colvin wasn't pregnant until later. The real reason is because Colvin, and later, Mary Louise Smith were poor and from an famously "bad" part of town. They were young and inexperienced. Colvin's acts led her classmates and friends to shun her. Her act was also a deliberate one, a protest against what she saw going on around her. The book also goes into great detail about how the boycott worked, Colvin's personal story, and the court cases and legal actions that finally declared bus segregation illegal. (Did you know it was a lawsuit that finally did it? Yeah, me neither. I thought the city caved to economic pressure.)

I really appreciated how the text alternates between Hoose's history and Colvin's memories, with the two working as duel narrators. Overall, an inspiring story that is told very well and beautifully pacakged. An excellent example of what children's nonfiction should look like. I cannot say enough good things about this one.

Book Provided by... my local library

Marching For Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don't You Grow Weary Elizabeth Partridge

How is this for an amazing first sentence? The first time Joanne Blackmon was arrested, she was just ten years old.

The opening photograph is of a young boy being arrested for protesting the lack of voting rights for black citizens in Alabama.

The story just goes from there, telling the story of the voting rights struggle, particularly the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, through the eyes of the children. You really get the sense that this was a children's movement. The children didn't fear losing their jobs. No one was depending on them to put food on the table. They could fill the jails day after day. The cut class and marched and organized and tried to change their lives and their future. They faced horrific violence and they won.

This is a perfect pairing with Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice. This one's even more beautiful. The book really uses photography well and the result is visually stunning. The back matter also has a great additional reading list and more information on the author's webpage.

Every January and February, I'm scrambling to find interesting books to show the kids at work about the Civil Rights movement. These two show what kids just like them did to change their world in a way that is truly inspiring.

Book Provided by... the publisher, for Cybils consideration

The Civil Rights Movement: An Interactive History Adventure (You Choose Books) Heather Adamson

Ok, this one isn't as pretty or inspiring as the other two, but it's really fun. Each chapter is a different story in the Civil Rights movement. There's a general introduction and conclusion and then in between? It's history. CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE style. No, I'm not kidding. You can be a white adult in Little Rock during integration. Do you help guard the students walking into school? Or do you join the crowds jeering them? Or do you just stay home? You can be a college student. Do you join a sit-in? Are you a freedom rider? Which bus do you get on? When attacked, do you run or help you injured friends? You can be a black child in Birmingham. Do you march or stay home? At church on Sunday, do you go outside for air or go down to the basement to see if your friends are there?

Interspersed are photos and real events. It's another one for excellent back matter. This is one for your kids you don't want to read about history or Civil Rights. A great pick for a reluctant reader.

Book Provided by... the publisher, for Cybils consideration

Nonfiction Monday Round up is over at The Book Nosher.

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

Music Time!

Hey all. I'm now going to blatantly and shamelessly promote my friend Joel's Christmas album, Christmas and Glowsticks. It's all electronic dance versions of Christmas songs. It may not sound like your thing, but it's AWESOME. Trust me, "Once in Royal David's City" is a dance number.

Plus, he used to teach high school English in the Atlanta area before he moved to Vermont and we've had a lot of conversations on how to get kids to read and what they should be reading in school. He took my recommendation for The Hunger Games liked it! How can you not like him?

So, go check out his album, and dance yourself into the holiday spirit (you can also dance off all that irresistible gingerbread!)

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

A Slightly Different Alice

Intensely Alice Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

I've talked before about my love/hate relationship with Alice McKinley. On the one hand, Alice is one of the most real characters in YA lit. On the other, her voice is no where near real and each book is an after school special. It's a really weird mix.

And the latest installment is no exception. I won't say what the After School Special is, because, like in most of the books, it happens at the end. They all tend to follow this formula: life-life-minor conflict-life-minor conflict-life-life-minor conflict-life-life-BAM! MAJOR WTF EVENT!

It's the summer before senior year. Patrick's off to University of Chicago. Carol's getting married. Alice is trying to figure out what to do after school...

Minor things-- Naylor seems to think that campus fliers are day specific-- "Everytimg we made a turn, it seemed, there was a poster of a bulletin board promoting an organization or a lecture, a concert, a play. Being Sunday, there were notices about religious services and discussions..." Um, no. They'd be there all week long.

Major things-- after Carol's wedding, Alice refers to them as Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Swenson. REALLY?! Only Aunt Sally would think that's appropriate. Why would Alice, who has spent previous books so obsessed with the "Sisterhood" say something so outdated?! Especially in relationship to CAROL of all people?!!!!!! ALSO, Alice lets Patrick order for her, because "I wanted to try whatever he liked best." I mean, just ask him and then order dude. When did she get so... subservient?

While the book was fine, I do not like who Alice was when she was in Chicago. And I don't think it's that Alice changed, but that Naylor just really lost touch with things when writing this and thought it was 1950 or something. While the voice issues usually just annoy me, this just made me angry.

Copy from: the library

Book Provided by...

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Salon

Well, I joined The Sunday Salon. Kinda, I mean, I signed up with my info. It's something I've been meaning to do for awhile. Even though I'm not officially a member yet, I thought I'd do a post anyway, because I have several blog-related things that I'm thinking about and wanted to share, and it is Sunday, so I might as well, right? Right.

First off, in a non-blog related vein, I hope you had an excellent Thanksgiving, for my American friends who celebrate such things. I had oral surgery last Friday to fix a blocked saliva gland that resulted in 8 stitches, several of which are on the underside of my tongue. While it's not nearly as painful as it sounds like it should be (and the full description of events sounds rather painful) it does mean that I started eating solid food again... today. So my Thanksgiving involved Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream. And pumpkin pie filling. The rest of my week has involved me surviving on pudding, ice cream, jello, and apple sauce. Who knew that was a diet I would grow tired of really quickly? What is wrong with me?! But, given that today's breakfast involved toast (TOAST!) Dan's ordering me pizza for dinner. I think I could live off pizza. I've seriously considered making a pizza smoothie this week, because I missed it sooooooooooooooo much.

In the annals of geekdom: One thing I love about my neighborhood is that we can walk to a second-run movie theater that serves food! While you watch the movie! It's located by the local branch of our library, so last night, while walking to a late show, I made Dan and our friend Curtis detour so I could return a bunch of library books. Why yes, I do return my books at 10pm on a Saturday night!

In blogging news, this week will be Cybils week! Instead of only posting my Cybils reviews on Nonfiction Monday, I thought I'd post at least one a day this week. And probably the week after that, too, but I don't want to promise anything I won't be able to deliver on.

Are you excited for my birthday party next weekend? I AM!!!! Seriously guys, awesome prizes await. Dan's already tried to steal the Starbucks gift cards, but I told him to put them down and back away very slowly. Plus, I have a ton of cool things from Tartx, piles of books that need to no longer be in my house, and some bookmarks. And maybe some other things. And Dreadlock Girl is hosting a 24-hour Read-a-Thon that weekend!!! Maybe I'll do both? You can definitely do both!

Now, some new reading challenges that I've signed up for!

Marg from Reading Adventures is hosting a Terry Pratchett 2010 Challenge. I loved Nation and read my first Discworld novel this fall, which I also loved. I want to read many, many more and was thinking of hosting a Terry Pratchett challenge myself, so I was happy to see that Marg beat me to it! I've signed up for the Death's Apprentice Level, which has me reading 10-12 books.

The Marple Poirot Holmes Challenge. Pretty simply, read 2 Miss Marple Mysteries, 2 Poirot Mysteries, and to Sherlock Holmes Mysteries in 2010. I've never read any of them, so why not give it a try?

My Friend Amy's Christy Awards Challenge. I've only read a few Christian fiction books and feel like reading some more. It's a popular genre where I work and I want to know more about it. Plus, I've been really into issues of faith lately. I'm signing up for the Baby Steps level, which has me reading 3-4 books that have been nominated for the Christy Awards before December 1, 2010.

Deborah's Nancy Drew Challenge. Can I read all 56 yellow-spined Nancy Drews in 2010? Let's find out!

RYOB (Read Your Own Books) Challenge. Every year I vow to read 50 books I already own, so why not make it a little more formal?

I'll also be signing up for the TBR Challenge again, but I need to wait to see what I get read before the end of the year before I make my list.

Now, there were some other challenges I found that I knew that I could easily do. Things I'd do without needing a challenge. I mean, some will be knocked out in January. Did I still want to sign up for something that wouldn't even be a challenge? Didn't that defeat the purpose? But on the other hand, reading challenges are about fun and community and all that, so why not join the ones I'll do anyway?! So, I've also signed up for these:

Becky's Young Readers Challenge, which has me reading 12 books for kids (so, middle grade in the confines of this blog) in 2010.

J. Kaye's Young Adult Reading Challenge-- I signed up for the Super Size Me level, which has me reading 75 YA books in 2010.

J. Kaye's Support Your Local Library Challenge-- I signed up for the Super Size Me level, which has me checking out and reading 100 library books in 2010.

Bottle Factory Disaster

The Bottle Factory Outing Beryl Bainbridge

Freda and Brenda are two (English) women working at a wine bottling company in London. The rest of the workers are Italian, plucked from rural Italian poverty by the factory's owner, the near-mythical Mr. Paganotti. Freda is big and loud and in love with Paganotti's nephew, Vittorio. Brenda is small and dumpy and uptight, but doesn't want to make a fuss so lets the factory manager, Rossi, molest her. In an attempt to set the perfect scene for Vittorio can confess his love (for surely he loves her!) Freda organizes an outing to a Stately Home for the factory to take together.

Of course, nothing goes right and in fact goes horribly wrong. Bottle Factory Outing is a macabre twist on the classic British bedroom farce/comedy of errors type. And... it didn't really do much for me. I didn't connect with or particularly care about any of the characters and was only mildly interested in what happened to them. Freda's over-dramatics annoyed me, but not nearly as much as Brenda's spinelessness did. I just didn't understand Brenda. At all. I had no idea what made her tick and why she did the things she did and reacted the way she reacted. There's something about this book that I just can't put my finger on. I was to say it reminds me of Bottom and Benny Hill with a bit of Alan Partridge (all shows I don't particularly enjoy) but it's not that madcap slapsticky and those seem like really bad comparisons, but they just gave me that vibe for some weird reason. It's hard to put my finger on. Anyway, overall I give it a "meh" which is solely based on me on the reader and nothing to do with the book itself.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

The pounding is the pounding of the heart...

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano: But She Does Love Being in Recitals Peggy Gifford

Moxy's back! She's playing a "Heart and Soul" duet with her sister Pansy at the big piano recital. Of course, first she has to put fake ermine trim on the cape she's wearing and practice bowing with her crown on, and she should probably warm up in case she's also asked to sing.

What Moxy *actually* needs to do is practice stopping with the song is done instead of continuing on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on...

While it retains much of the spirit and humor of the previous Moxy books, this one falls a little short. Moxy's schemes are a little less madcap and the crazier ones (like wearing a cape) aren't really hers at all (yes, Moxy comes up with how to add the fake fur trim, but Granny George was the one making the capes in the first place.) Most of the craziness isn't Moxy's special brand of craziness, but kinda standard for precocious 10-year-olds.

What I did really like was the way Gifford uses text as illustration, such as when talking about how the dog keeps barking and barking and barking and barking and barking and barking and barking and barking (and on and on) all of those "and barking"s are arranged to look like a dog.

While it's not the strongest title in the series, I do think fans will like it.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Friday, November 27, 2009

A Woman in Her Prime

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Muriel Spark

Miss Jean Brodie is a teacher at an Edinburgh day school in the 1930s and is best explained on page 62: There were legions of her kind during the nineteen-thirties, women from the age of thirty and upward, who crowded their war-bereaved spinsterhood with voyages of discovery into new ideas and energetic practices in art of social welfare, education or religion. The progressive spinsters of Edinburgh did not teach in schools, especially in schools of traditional character like Marcia Blaine's School for Girls. It was in this that Miss Brodie was, as the rest of the staff spinsterhood put it, a trifle out of place... it goes on in for another three pages...

Miss Brodie is a woman in her prime, full of new and unconventional ideas, hemmed in by the conventional and conservative school. She admires Mussolini. She takes a lover. She has great passion for the arts. She is forever under suspicion from the headmistress who constantly looks for things to use against her. She takes five girls under her wing and they form the Brodie set, girls that she holds close all through their years at the school and that she attempts to mold in her own image. One of them will betray her.

What we get is a darkly (and subtly) funny character study of a woman who is convinced that she is in the prime of her life and invincible. The narration jumps all over the place in terms of time, but never in a confusing way. We know what the girls will do in bits and spurts and find out slowly how they get there. Spark reveals one piece of the mystery of the betrayal and one piece of each character as a whole, slowly building complete characters and plot into completion. Along the way, she explores loyalty and manipulation.

I initially wanted to read this because Jenny Davidson mentions it in the back matter of The Explosionist (are we getting a sequel to that any time soon?!), and then it appeared on the list of 1001 Novels to Read before you Die and the Guardian's list of 1000 Novels to Read Before You Die.

It's a wonderful story with hidden depth. I've been puzzling over it and thinking over it for quite some time before I was able to write this review. It seems rather basic (although the unlinear narration was a novelty at the time of publication) but the depth of the character study, and not just for Miss Brodie, but for many of the girls in her set, comes out upon further reflection.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

3 half-baked wishes, comin' up

My Fair Godmother Janette Rallison

Savannah is not happy after her boyfriend dumps her for her older sister and leaves her with a $350 prom dress and no date. Enter in her fairy godmother, who's doing an extra credit project to get her grades up. Chrysanthemum Everstar isn't a very good fairy godmother and doesn't fully listen to Savannah's thought processes and wishes. So, Savannah gets zapped back to the middle ages as Cinderella, months before the ball. Then, she gets zapped into Snow White. Then, she has to go back once again, but this time to help a classmate who has also fallen victim to Chrissy's haphazard magic.

I thought this was going to be a funny and fun light book, a perfectly enjoyable book to read on a summer afternoon. I did not expect to fall so in LOVE with it. Yes, it's funny and fun, but there was a lot more substance there than I expected. Savannah grew much more as a character than I expected, and the relationship between her and Jane was rather complex. I also appreciated how much of the "ick" factor that is daily life in the middle ages Rallison managed to work in. This book was so much more than I thought it would be and so much better than I was expecting. Fantastic!

Book Provided by... my local library

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ancient Girls Kicking Butt

Nobody's Prize Esther Friesner

Helen's back, and this time she's sailing with Jason and the Argonauts as they search for the fabled Golden Fleece. Not only does Helen have to hide herself from the brothers, but hiding her gender is becoming harder and harder as she has to start dealing with the joys of puberty.

I liked this one a smidge more than I like Nobody's Princess. I had hoped this one would cover Helen's life during the Trojan War but, alas, no. It's still a good adventure. I do wish Helen had been able to discover more about Medea and offer some more explanations to her erratice behavoir besides being crazy. I also like that, while, never explicitly discussed, hints in not-at-all subtle ways that some characters are homosexual. It would be weird (and inaccurate) to have an Ancient Greece without any gay characters.

Book Provided by... my local library

Sphinx's Princess Esther Friesner

Following in the same path as her Nobody's Princess and Nobody's Prize, Friesner this time looks at the early life of Nefertiti. Like Helen, Nefertiti is a strong female character. She cajoles a scribe to teach her how to read and write and comes to understand the horrors of slavery. But, when she is brought to the royal palace by her aunt, the queen, Nefertiti realizes that her strength is all she has to survive many court intrigues.

Nefertiti has a common problem of heroines of historical fiction in that she sounds and acts like a modern woman, but in a different time period. This may not be as large of a problem in this case because we know from history that Nefertiti was an uncommon woman. But, another one of my historical fiction pet peeves is there as well. Often, books about the early life of a famous person, the story starts when the narrator is very young, but the narrators observations of the world and voice don't change as the narrator ages. So, Nefertiti at age four sounds the same as Nefertiti at age fourteen and older. The ending was rather abrupt, so I was glad to see that there is a sequel, Sphinx's Queen coming next fall. All that said, while it might not be the greatest work of historical fiction, it was a very enjoyable read, with great intrigue and adventure and I did really like it. Fans of Friesner's stories about Helen of Troy shouldn't be disappointed by her take on Nefertiti.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

When a Dance Date Goes Sour

Zoe and Chloe on the Prowl Sue Limb

Zoe and Chloe have no dates for the upcoming Earthquake Ball and have lots of hilarious hijinks while trying to get some. Zoe's older sister Tamsin is also having difficulties at university that she wants Zoe to solve. There are caddish boys, naked toddlers, and some cameos from Jess Morgan to round out the story.

I didn't like this one near as much as I like Limb's Jess Morgan books (Girl, 15, Charming but Insane.) To be fair, I wasn't overly fond of the first Jess Morgan book but ended up loving the series. Zoe and Chloe wasn't nearly as funny and they drove me a little up the wall. Also, Tamsin just appalled me! I couldn't believe what she wanted Zoe to do! I saw the sequel when I was in England and while I did pick it up, I couldn't bring myself to buy it. Zoe and Chloe just didn't do it for me and their mad-cap adventures were mostly due to their supreme silliness, which I have a low tolerance for. If your main character is just silly, there has to be something else to pull me into the book. I mean, it was a fun and enjoyable light read, but not as strong as Jess Morgan.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Monday, November 23, 2009

I fulfilled my awkwardness quota today.

For today's Cybil nominee Nonfiction Monday Roundup, I give you books about teens, by teens. Teens telling their own stories to other teens, some more successfully than others.

I Can't Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous & Obscure Ed. Smith Magazine

I Can't Keep My Own Secrets is a collection of six-word memoirs from real teens. The cover says "famous and obscure" but only 5 pages out of 182 (16 memoirs) are by famous teens. The rest are "obscure." There's bound to be someone every reader will recognize in this book, as well as someone with a completely different experience, as the range is so wide. Some of these teens are what we would define as "regular," some aren't. There are celibates and teen moms, academic superstars and dropouts, teens from happy homes and sad ones. The memoirs are silly, they're deep, they're flippant, they capture something bigger, they made me laugh, they made me cry, they made me so glad I'm no longer that age, and they made me miss high school. The book manages to really capture the range of American experience, the range of the teen experience, and all the while being a read that teens will love.

Some of the ones that caught my eye as I was reading:

Would be a slut, given a chance.

Lost my virginity, it was fantastic.

I need out of Ohio. Bad.

Family night is secretly my favorite.

We are banned from Wal-Mart forever.

We're the family you gossip about.

Model and sci-fi geek. Gotta problem?!

Started forgetting about life before Katrina.

Holden caught me in the rye.

Afraid I'm crazy, Bell Jar style.

I don't rock. Guitar Hero lies.

Too many colors, hair now brittle.

Virgin is not a dirty word.

And, my favorite one, and the one that I most relate to, even as an adult:

I fulfilled my awkwardness quota today.

Book Provided by... my local library

Episodes: My Life as I See It Blaze Ginsburg

Blaze Ginsburg is a highly functioning autistic teenager. In his autobiography, he's structured his life as if it were a multiple series of television shows. Some series have multiple seasons, some are holiday specials, and some are mini-series. The chronology can be a bit confusing, as the series often overlap in time. "My Freshman Year of High School 1" runs from September-December 2002, with the second season running from January-June 2003. Meanwhile, we have the Thanksgiving Special 2002 and then the series "Blaze, Courtney, and Amber" which overlaps and runs from December 2002-June 2003. The setting of life events as TV episodes, while an interesting idea, really separates the readers from the action, giving us a very brief glimpse at this guy's day-to-day life. I wanted more depth. The book was too much style and not enough substance for my tastes. While it was interesting to see why he reacts in the ways he reacts, you know he's not the most reliable of narrators and there are things going on around him that he's missing.

Most distressing is how his lack of social skills and obsessive nature combine when it comes to girls. Blaze, like most teen guys, wants a girlfriend. Sadly, the way his mind works, he sees every girl as a potential girlfriend. If they already have a boyfriend, he takes this as a personal slight and then "hates" them. This pattern is also repeated with his celebrity crushes. Luckily, Blaze is surrounded by people who care for him and try to temper these reactions and tell them it's not ok. However, as you're reading through Blaze's voice, after awhile, it just gets creepy.

An interesting book, but more as a first-hand document looking at how an autistic mind works than as a pleasurable read about one boy's struggles to succeed.

Book Provided by... borrowed from another Cybils committee member.

Chelsey Chelsey Shannon

This is part of Health Communications, Inc. new series, Louder Than Words, which gets teen girls to write their own life stories.

Chelsey's mother died from cancer when she was in first grade. When Chelsey was in junior high, her father was murdered during an attempted robbery. Her story is follows her as she deals with her grief and tries to find her identity as a bi-racial orphan, being raised by her aunt.

Chelsey's voice is strong and measured, but she also includes some of her writing that was written in the immediate aftermath of her father's death. Several of her poems are sprinkled throughout the text. The poetry, and the aftermath writing, sound like they were written by a junior high/high school student. They're not great in the grand scale of things. And just so there's no confusion, I LOVE that. I love that she writes like a gifted teen. Too often "teen" poetry reads like an adult trying to write like a teen, or a teen trying to write like an adult. Chelsey is a gifted writer, but still coming into her own in her craft. Chelsey studies Creative Writing at the Cincinnati School for Creative and Performing Arts and you can see her grow as a writer from those early day to the text of the book. She also really uses writing to help process her grief. She also explores her religion and spirituality, eventually turning away from the Catholicism she was raised in and becomes an atheist. It's a long process of self-examination that was very interesting to read about.

I think teens will really like this new series.

Book Provided By... the publisher for Cybils consideration.

Emily Emily Smucker

Another Louder Than Words entry. Emily's always been sick on and off, dealing with some severe food allergies (she's allergic to chicken! and apples! and lots of other things!) so she's annoyed and not happy, but not overly concerned when she starts getting sick (again) summer before her senior year. The thing is, she doesn't get better. She just keeps getting weaker and weaker. Eventually, she's diagnosed with West Nile virus.

You can tell that this book is mostly based on the blog Emily writes. A lot of the sections jump randomly from topic to topic in every paragraph, much the way a normal teen MySpace/Xanga/Facebook entry would. It's a little odd in the book context, but it also helps give a sense of who Emily is as a person and how's she's dealing (or not) with her illness.

One thing that really struck me is her anger. Emily is Mennonite and lives in a deeply religious community and is deeply committed to her faith. (But she doesn't talk about God as much as you'd think she would. At one point she says she feel like she should talk about Him more because He is such a big part, but "why does it feel like it would cheapen an unbelievably beautiful relationship if I blabbered on and on about Him?" I'm really fine-tuned to religion in books these days, and that sentence really struck me.) She keeps expecting that if God gave her this disease, He'll also give her the grace to handle it, and He doesn't. She's angry and feels cheated, while still trying to find a way to make it better and to live her day-to-day life. As she says at one point, "I always believed before this sickness that God would never give me more than I could handle. But then I realized during this time that the big flaw in that is we can handle anything if we're not given a choice. We think there are things we can't handle... we'd just go crazy. But if something is handed to you, you just get through it if you think you can or not, because going crazy is a lot harder than it sounds."

I have some friends who have things going on in their lives where I wonder how they can handle them. Emily's words finally clicked something into my brain on that. It's not easy, but you just get through it, because what other options do you have?

Emily may sound pessimistic, but the book does end on a good note. I appreciated the candidness of how she describes her struggles and I think a lot of teens will, too.

Book Provided By... the publisher for Cybils consideration.

Nonfiction Monday round up is over at Practically Paradise. Be sure to swing by and check out the other offerings!

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

Alvin Ho: Totally Awesome

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters Lenore Look

Yay! Alvin's back! Alvin Ho, scaredy-cat supreme, has to go camping. His older brother Calvin has helped all he can by ordering tons of survival gear off the internet.

"Will this cost a lot of money?" I asked.
"None," said Calvin. "I'll use Dad's credit card. He said it's for emergency use only--and this is an emergency."
I nodded.
"This way no one has to spend any money," Calvin explained, "you pay with plastic."

My favorite part was the fact that Anibelly talks herself onto the trip. Anibelly might be the greatest 4-year-old ever. Anibelly's not afraid of anything and says whatever she's thinking which leads to some fun unrelated thoughts: I thought hiking was where you beat back the bushes with a sword and you get all sweaty and look like you're about to die... oh, how I wish I had a guinea pig!

But, she ends up being extremely useful to help Alvin pull himself together in time to save the day.

There's good use of changing font size to express volume without being too confusing for newer readers, and LeUyen Pham's illustrations are (once again) a delightful addition. I love Alvin as a character, how everyone accepts his extreme fear as part of who is and just rolls with it. These are great books for transitional readers!

Book Provided by... my local library

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

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Most Excellent Book

My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park Steve Kluger

Letters, texts, journal entries, emails, IM Conversations, fliers and other ephemera make up the narrative of this most fantastic book.

I do love a story told in "stuff." That's what I wrote my final paper on when I took YA lit in library school. Stuff is how we live the stories of our lives, it's how life happens, so it makes sense to tell a story with it. Interestingly enough, books in stuff tend to appeal to your reluctant readers because it's seen as less stuffy than traditional narrative. BUT! Telling a story in stuff means the reader has to connect dots that narrative usually connects for you, making it actually a harder read, you just don't notice it, because it's just like connecting the dots of our day-to-day lives.

This novel tells the story of the freshman year of Augie, TC, and Ale. Augie and TC are more than best friends, they're brothers. Augie doesn't know he's gay, even though everyone else does. TC loves the new girl, Ale, who thinks she can't stand him. She's more concerned about hiding her love and talent for musical theater from her diplomat father. Along the way, they fall in and out of love, create new families, and stalk Julie Andrews.

Everyone gets a say as the story unfolds. Mostly laugh-at-loud funny, there was one spot where I just cried and then cried for the next week as I thought about. Parts of the plot are over-the-top, but I loved it and just want to read it over and over and over again.

I don't want to say that it's heartwarming (even though it totally is) because I think that will send the wrong impression because it's more like a comedic romp with deeper layers.

I especially loved that Augie and TC's parents got their say as well and were totally believable while doing it.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Bunnies are a sign of EVIL

The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse Robert Rankin

Jack has come to the city to seek his fortune. Little does he know that the city is actually a Toy City, inhabited by hard-drinking teddy bears, promiscuous dollies, and tin toy bartenders. He soon teams up with Eddie, one of the hard-drinking teddies to solve a series of murder cases of the city's most prominent members--Nursery Rhyme characters. They're not toys. They're meat and they're being murdered in horrific ways. Jack and Eddie seek to find out in this noir crime fiction with a madcap and zany twist.

Obviously, this will draw comparisons to the work of Jasper Fforde (who is one of my favorite authors). Rankin is less zany and weird, and much darker, keeping more in line with the conventions of pulp crime fiction. However, if you have a dark demented sense of humor (like me) this is really funny and rather well done. I loved exploring the divide between toy and meat, and the politics of the different types of toys. I also loved the different toy religions and how they differed and how they came about. I'm looking out for other Rankin books now.

Book Provided by... a friend of mine who thought I'd like it. She was right!

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Why are believable books about guy friendship so hard to find?

Two Parties, One Tux, and a Very Short Film about The Grapes of Wrath Steven Goldman

Mitch has three main problems:

1. Girls are confusing and he can't figure them out, let alone get one to make out with him.
2. His best friend is gay. Mitch is ok with this, but their friendship has been different ever since David came out. Also, Mitch is the only one who knows.
3. He couldn't be bothered to read The Grapes of Wrath and write his paper for English, so he instead turned in a clay-mation film that didn't have much to do with the book. He might now be failing English. And may get suspended.
4. Prom. See #1, above.

Hilarious! A great look at high school, girls, sisters, and male friendship. It remains hysterically funny while not trivializing the meat of the book--Mitch and David's friendship. This is one of the rare books where I believed that this was a friendship between guys. Too many times, male friendship to me reads like female friendship, but with guys instead of girls. I loved the exploration of how Mitch's issues with finding a date and David's coming out changed their friendship and how they dealt (or didn't) with those changes.

I also really loved Mitch's little sister, who had a way of telling him what was what.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

When Magic Kills

Bones of Faerie Janni Lee Simner

Its been a generation since the war between Faerie and us. Although humans won, magic is still everywhere around. Trees attack and crops fight back at harvest time. Magic kills. Magic is dangerous and those born with hints of magic are immediately destroyed. That's what happened to Liza's sister. She had clear hair and silver eyes, so obviously touched by magic.

After her sister is left on the hillside to die, Liza's mother disappears. Then, Liza starts to fear she has abilities and notices a few clear strands in her own hair. She runs away and finds that not everyone deals with magic the same way her town does and that what she has always held as true might not be so.

I loved the idea of a post-apocalyptic dystopian America caused by faeries, though their fate was so much worse. In addition to a great concept and good adventure/quest story, the writing is what truly makes this one special. I'm odd in my fantasy reading and don't always enjoy the genre, and an adventure/quest story isn't something that will automatically draw me in, but the language in this! Oh! The lyrical writing just drew me in and held me there. This was one of the rare books that I slowed down to read, so I could savor every page.

The opening has been quoted several times throughout blogland, so here's something from the second page.

We knew the rules. Don't touch any stone that glows with faerie light, or that light will burn you fiercer than any fire. Don't venture out alone into the dark, or the darkness will swallow you whole. And cast out the magic born among you, before it can turn on its parents.

Towns had died for not understanding that much. My father was a sensible man.

But the memory of my sister's bones, cracked and bloody in the moonlight, haunts me still.

Copy from: the library
Book Provided by...

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ways to laugh at the pain that is Junior High

Flashcards of My Life Charise Mericle Harper

Emily is trying to navigate a mother who is always on a diet and fighting with her father, and friends who don't get along. Add in a major crush and... well, it's not easy. She never manages to keep a journal like her Aunt Chester thinks she should, so Aunt Chester (not really her aunt, and not really named Chester, but... it's a long story) sends her "Flashcards of my Life" flashcards with headings like "friends" "kisses" "embarrassments." It's a project Em thinks she can handle.

Harper perfectly captures the awkward horribleness of junior high, and with great humor. Em illustrates her story and the flashcards with drawings about how her friends get along like "tuna fish and ice cream" and charts to map out levels of friendships, "Things Your Friends Might Do to Crush-Test You" and things she wished came in potion form, like not getting a red face or always saying the right thing. It's a funny read, but one that does deal with the real angst-issues of the age range. I really, really enjoyed this one and have been throwing it at tween girls ever since reading it.

A great one for your female fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Getting Ready!

Holy cow you guys! It's only 2.5 weeks until my blog birthday party! Y'all are coming right?

I really hope so! I know you need to supply your own cake and champagne, but I've been working madly on getting the goody prize bags together for the people who come. I can't wait until the giant bag from one of my favorite stores, tartx, arrives! That's just a small teaser (plus, there will be mountains of books being given away! Including audio books!) I'm hoping that EVERYONE who comes to my virtual party will get something, but I can't say for sure until I see how many people show up.

I'm still trying to decide what to read. I have about 5 books that have come out in the last few months that I haven't read yet! I couldn't wait to get them and I haven't even opened them. Life's been pretty busy lately and these are books that I want to savor, that I want to read slowly in one sitting. But how will I decide which one I read at the party?! Maybe, because it's my party, I can read for more than 5 hours? Hmmmm...

When Cheerleader Zombies Aren't Just a Metaphor

Zombie Blondes Brian James

Hannah and her father are always on the run, but their new town seems different. The popular girls, the cheerleaders, are all a little too perfect and too matching. The weird kid, Lukas, says it's because they're really all part of a zombie cult and that Hannah should stay away. Lukas says it's the zombies, not the economy, that's killing the town and are responsible for all of the empty houses that are for sale. But then Hannah's given a chance to join the squad...

Excellent concept, poor execution. Most of the book is aiming for mystery "are they really zombies or aren't they" but I couldn't bring myself to really care. The entire story is Hannah's narration, there isn't a lot of dialogue and it's lots of tell, no show. Frankly, until the final climax, it's just... boring.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Two by Laurie Halse Anderson

Fever 1793 Laurie Halse Anderson

In the early days of the United States and a yellow fever epidemic is raging through Philadelphia. Mattie quickly finds herself alone in a city that's been decimated by disease. She has to protect herself not only from the yellow fever, but also the thieves that stalk the streets, taking things from deserted houses. While trying to survive, she desperately tries to find out information about her friends and family and if they still live.

It's not often I'd recommend historical fiction for reluctant readers, but this is a pretty fast-moving story with just enough gross pus to keep reluctant readers engaged. I liked it.

In June, for Weekly Geeks, people asked me about books I had read, but not reviewed yet.

Eva from A Striped Armchair asked Have you read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson? If so, how does it compare to Fever?

I have read Speak (and reviewed it here). I think Speak compares much more with Wintergirls (reviewed below). This is very different than speak, as it's more straight-up historical fiction and while still moving and gripping, it's for completely different reasons.

Book Provided by... my local library

Wintergirls Laurie Halse Anderson

Lia's ex-best friend is dead. She's been in treatment twice now for her anorexia. Her parents are worried that Cassie's death will trigger a backslide into starvation. What they don't know is that Lia has been starving herself ever since she left treatment.

A stark and unflinching look at the subterfuge Lia goes through (sewing quarters in the pockets of the robe she wears when being weighed, tampering with the scale, faking cooking smells) to starve to death. More than that though, it's a look into the very messed-up mind of someone who would want to do that. Someone who knows that once she meets her next weight goal of 100 lbs (at 5'5") she won't be happy until she's 95 lbs and when that happens, she won't be happy until she's at 90 lbs and on and on until she's dead.

Horrifying and amazing. I can't really add much to what's already been said by everyone else who has read this, except that I agree! I especially liked how Lia censors her thoughts, which we see through frequent use of words being crossed out and some teeny-tiny font. I like it when authors play with design to help tell their story.

Book provided by... my local library

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Coffee and Shakespeare = YAY!

Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty Jody Gehrman

First things first-- this is Much Ado About Nothing, but set in Sonoma County and told from Beatrice's (renamed Geena) point of view. There's no wedding, but a giant sweet sixteen party. No one fakes their death, but they might return to boarding school earlier than planned. The evil Don John is just the bigshot local guy whom everyone worships. The coffee is hot, but the revenge is cold.

A fun and excellent summer read, and a really well done retelling. It stays true to the plot and elements, but if I hadn't known it was a retelling before reading it, it would have taken me a really long time to get it, because it keeps the source material in the background (much like Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason). I most enjoyed the subplot of Geena and her father. The sequel, Triple Shot Bettys in Love which I'm very much looking forward to reading, is a retelling of Cyrano De Bergerac.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Evil Step Mothers!

The Poison Apples Lily Archer

Despite references to various fairy tales, this is NOT a fairy tale retelling, which is really hard to tell from the product description.

Once I got over that disappointment, I was very much able to enjoy this book for what it is. Alice, Reena, and Molly are three very different girls with one thing in common-- a totally evil step-mother (and apparently whackjob dads that let their stepmoms just treat them like utter crap). The three are exiled by these (metaphorical) witches to boarding school, where they meet and form an unlikely friendship.

Chapters switch POV between each of the main characters, allowing them to flesh out as we see their inner monologue and everyone else's take on them. A great and funny twist on the boarding school/friendship/learning to accept change type story.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Scary Zombies!

The Forest of Hands and Teeth Carrie Ryan

The Return happened generations ago and now Mary's village is isolated, with its fortified fences and ruling Sisters. Mary has always known that no one believes her mother's stories of the ocean, passed from generation to generation, because to venture beyond the village is death. They are the only survivors.

Mary has questions and dreams that extend beyond what she knows, but the Unconsecrated (that means ZOMBIES) keep her at bay. She will marry a man she does not love, she will do what the Sisters tell her to do. She will believe in her mother's ocean and buildings so tall they touch the sky.

Then, when the fences break, she and her friends are forced to run through the forest and confront what they have been told and what they have dreamed of.

Gripping and chilling. It alternates between being a love story, a survival story in this post-apocalyptic landscape, and straight-up horror. Mary (and so, the reader) never fully learn all of the Sisterhoods secrets or reasons. I also like how you're not overly sure which religion the Sisters and the villagers practice (or even if it's one we'll recognize in our pre-zombie world). The name Sister implies nuns, but there is a spot on the outer doorways that Mary always touches that has religious significance, something that made me think of a Jewish muzuzah.

The end of the story is a little abrupt, but overall, I liked it, and I don't like horror or survival stories!

Why are there so few serious zombie books being published for teens? Everything I see is of the lighter variety.

Book Provided by... my local library

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

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Booking Through Thursday

Today's Booking Through Thursday question is...

Do you read everything all the way through or do you feel life really is too short to read bad books?

Well, I do believe that life is too short to read bad books. When I'm helping kids find books, I always make them check out 3. This does more than help our circ stats. I tell them "Life's too short to read bad books. Take three, because that way if you don't like one, you're not stuck with reading it."

That said... I'll sometimes put down a boring book (if it's not required reading) but I'll rarely put down a bad one. It's like really bad TV, I get sucked into the horribleness and I can't turn away. Even if a book is boring though, it's hard for me to admit that I don't want to read it and put it down. It's like being mean to the book, and you shouldn't be mean to books!

Using your psychic powers to read high school social cues...

Golden Jennifer Barnes

All the women in Lissy's family have some sort of psychic ability. Lissy can see auras, and as she starts life at a new high school, she knows her math teacher is up to no good. Meanwhile, she's trying to navigate the crazy social scene. The most popular kids are the "Goldens" the rest are "Nons" and the school takes the distinction very seriously. Luckily, the students realize that it's weird, it's not that Barnes thinks high schools are usually like that. Lissy has to pay even more attention to it because the Queen of the Goldens is her uncle's girlfriend's daughter, so they're often thrown together.

Barnes wrote this book at the age of 19. It's really good for someone who was 19 when she wrote it, but it's no where near as good as her Perfect Cover or Killer Spirit. Being a huge fan of those books, I was disappointed with this one. BUT! I do like that she set it in Oklahoma and Lissy has to quickly realize that Oklahoma is not full of hicks.

Book Provided by... my local library

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gossip Girl Meets Nancy Drew in Ugly, Ugly Clothes

The Celebutantes: On the Avenue Antonio Pagliarulo

The Hamilton Triplets are top of the top. But, when a fashion editor turns up dead at a charity event, all three are suspects, for different reasons. The triplets need find the real murderer before it's too late--both for their reputations and their lives. Along the way, there's nothing like using a media circus to your won advantage.

I almost liked this. I liked the premise (Gossip Girl meets Nancy Drew) but a few things bugged me too much. One was a really big one--the inconsistency of the triplets. We're told they're poised to take over their father's business empire and we see this in action, but when it comes to dealing with the cops, they're whiny brats. If they really were as media, business, and socially savvy as the narrator says they are, and how they often appear, then they would know how to deal with the police without suddenly turning into petulant children. The two sides don't match. Also, their opulence was just... kinda tacky. They're named after streets! Their clothes, their decorating style, everything about their wealth screamed noveau riche in all the wrong ways. And the clothes just sounded pretty ugly to me. The wealth factor just failed for me. Those two things combined won't have me picking up the others in the series.

Book Provided by... my local library

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Vacations from Hell

Repossessed A. M. Jenkins

Kiriel is a demon who's sick of Hell, so he steals a body and goes on vacation. The only problem is, he has a hard time being as self-absorbed as Shaun, the 17-year-old boy whose body he's inhabiting. So, his friends and family are a little worried. Plus, Kiriel knows that he's going to be in so much trouble when he gets caught, and that he'll get caught soon. But, what are they going to do? Send him to Hell?

Jenkins's Hell is heavily influenced by Milton and it wasn't as funny as I was expecting. While I did enjoy reading it, it's not a book that overly stayed with me. Hmmm... it's been awhile since I read this and all I can remember was "not as funny as I expected." Eh.

Book Provided by... my library

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Nonfiction Monday

For today's nonfiction offerings, I'm giving you a slew of books that are Cybils nominees. They're all under 100 pages, which I normally don't review, but they're Cybils books, so they get a pass.

Sacred Mountain: Everest Christine Taylor-Butler

Basically, this is a book that talks about Mount Everest and the people who live on and around it. Taylor-Butler tells of the expeditions to the top and the perils involved therein, but spends most of her time talking about life in Everest's shadow, particularly for the Sherpa people and their culture. Personally, I would have loved more information about life on the northern Tibetan/Chinese side of the mountain and how it's the same or different from life on the southern Nepalese side of the the mountain.

Beautifully laid out with great pictures and a lot of side bars and pull-out boxes, I especially appreciated Taylor-Butler's focus on how the Sherpa people and traces their initial interactions with foreign climbers who needed them to succeed while but looked down on them as backwards natives up through today, where they claim much of Everest's glory for themselves and are working to keep it a high-stakes tourist spot (good for the economy) while not letting too many people come and destroy their mountain and way of life.

Book provided by... the publisher, for Cybils consideration

The Vermeer Interviews: Conversations With Seven Works of Art Bob Raczka

A very interesting idea. Raczka interviews the subjects of seven paintings by Jan Vermeer. The people in the paintings tell of their lives, of what Dutch culture at the time of the painting, and how to read the painting, pointing out details of the painting that give clues to what's going on, and details that show why Vermeer was so good.

This is a really fascinating book that's going to be a quirky sell to kids. It's not one they're going to pick up on their own, but I think they'll really like it once they start reading it. It's getting them to read it that's going to take a stealthily guiding hand.

My one complaint is that, while the printing is high quality, there were times when areas we pointed out that had been painted over. While I'm sure these things are visible in the originals, I couldn't see most of them in the book. That might just be me, but it was frustrating.

Book provided by... the publisher, for Cybils consideration

The Anne Frank Case: Simon Wiesenthal's Search for the Truth Susan Goldman Rubin, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth

Simon Wiesenthal, a Holocaust survivor, made it his life's work to track down Nazis and bring them to justice. Despite the title, the book doesn't focus much on Anne Frank. Wiesenthal's search to find the man who arrested the Franks provides an interesting frame to tell of Wiesenthal's life and work, but his overall mission, and not that particular case, are the focus.

While I can't find information in the book itself, the illustrations look like oil paintings and are done in an almost impressionistic style. While I prefer photographs to illustrate nonfiction, I appreciate that Rubin was trying to tell this story like it was a story, and a unified illustration approach helps that.

There are photographs, as well as more biographical details, further reading (some of it even for kids!) and source notes in the back of the book.

An interesting look at what people did after the war to help deal with the affects of the Holocaust.

Book Provided by... my local library

Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Abridged by Chris Van Wyk (original by Nelson Mandela), Illustrated by Paddy Bouma

This is a picture book version of Mandela's adult autobiography. The picture book version makes the material and Mandela's life accessible to 2nd-4th graders. It has a nice timeline in the back, as well as a glossary.

I have a few complaints about this book-- one is that it is fully illustrated with absolutely NO photographs. Not one! It's not like there aren't a million photos of Mandela out there! Not even one in the back matter? Really?

The book also doesn't explain the term "colored" in the South African context. In the US, colored is a term that meant African-American and we often see it in books for children about the Civil Rights Era. When explaining apartheid, it says "It classified every person in South Africa according to race, for example, as 'black,' 'colored,' or 'white.'" Later on it says "Thousands of colored, Indian, and white South Africans were against it [apartheid], too." (sorry, it's an unpaged book, so no page numbers.) It was confusing and even I had to look it up to see what it meant. (People who were of mixed race, but not "black enough" to be considered black under apartheid.)

Also, in editing the book for children, the reader fails to really grasp the full sense of what Mandela did, especially before being sent to prison. There's not a great sense of why Mandela is the hero he is, which is sad.

Book Provided by... my local library

Round up is over at Abby (the) librarian!

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I think Dan has a parking talent fairy. Mine involves breaking myself.

How to Ditch Your Fairy Justine Larbalestier

Charlie has the worst fairy ever-- a parking talent fairy. Sure, it sounds great, but when everyone wants you to sit in their car while they go to the grocery store just so they can get a good spot? Stupid. It gets worse when the star water polo player starts kidnapping her for good parking. Charlie needs a new fairy, and pronto. Her best friend Rochelle has a shopping talent fairy--amazing clothes at low prices. Her crush Steffi has a never-get-in-trouble fairy. Sadly, the world's biggest fairy experts are the parents of Fiorenze Stupid-Name, possessor of the every-boy-likes-you fairy (so unfair!). Charlie's not going down that road for help, but she does need to get rid of her fairy. Disaster and hilarity ensue.

Lots of fun and a good read, but what really strikes me Larbalestier's world building. Fairly close to ours, but you know, with fairies. Beyond that though, the concept of a magnet high school for sports, where you study PR and statistics along with your chosen athletic areas. But Larbalestier has seriously thought this through to the point where they are examined medically on a regular basis and have their nutrition closely monitored. Building further out, race seems ambiguous, with everyone being a shade of brown (and it only comes up when doing a complete physical description as is standard when talking about how hotttt someone is) and sexual preference is no big deal, but plenty of students are gay or bi. It's just a matter of who you have a crush on. It's not a thing. And, you have the conceit of those who live in New Avalon and think their city is the center of the universe and how they look down on the rest of the world. But, this world building never gets in the way of the story. It's there seamlessly. When you can do that much world building in a light frothy story? Sweet.

Book Provided by... my local library

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

You're Invited!

I promised you a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT today, and here it is!:

One month from today, on December 9th, Biblio File is turning 5 years old! So, I think a party is in order, don't you agree?*

In the beginning, I thought this would be a reading journal, where I would more actively talk about books as I was reading them, but that only happened in the early months. I took the last half of 2005 off. I didn't start actively trying to blog every book I read until 2006 (although I did try to review everything I read in 2005) which is 2 months after starting the job I still have. I found the book blogging community. I grew as a reviewer. I moved from Michigan to Maryland to Virginia. I bought a house and adopted a dog. I started and finished library school. I've made great friends and have read some absolutely wonderful books.


The details are simple:

On the weekend before my blog birthday (Friday, December 4th- Monday, December 7th) find five hours to read a book you want to read in one of your favorite reading spots.

(1)They should be consecutive hours
(2)You need to read it someplace you love reading. If it's the hammock (if you live someplace warm) or curled up on your couch or in the tub (but maybe not for all 5 hours-- the water will get cold) or the local coffee shop... pick one of your favorite reading spots for this!
(3)Practice your other favorite reading rituals-- do you love to curl up with a cup of tea? You better do it then!
(4)You can only read something you WANT to read-- not something you HAVE to read. No catching up on ARCS or Cybils reading (unless there's a title in those stacks you've been saving.)
(5) When you're all done, blog about it. Tell us where you read and what you read. If you don't have a blog, don't fret! You can tell us all about it in the comments section.

It's a good time to take a break just for you as the holiday madness gets ramped up.

AND! It's not a party without presents, right? But the presents are going to you! Lots of presents to be drawn randomly from everyone who comes to the party (as evidenced by the wrap-up post. I'll have a Mr. Linky up that weekend.) No need to sign up before hand, but I'm telling you now so you can clear your calendar!

Tell your friends, because everyone's invited.

*Sadly, you'll have to supply your own cake. And yes, I know that picture is from my 3rd birthday and not my 5th...

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Stretching my boundries...

The Coldest Winter Ever Sister Souljah

Winter Santiaga lives in the Brooklyn Projects, but still lives the high life. It all crumbles when her father is thrown in prison for his gang activities. The Feds have seized all of her family's wealth and her possessions, so Winter starts every scam she knows, trying to get a piece of the game so she can stay on top.

Urban fiction is not a genre I normally read and I read this (a classic of the genre) because I felt I should know what everyone was talking about. Winter's voice is crude and vulgar, but I believed it 100%. I actually got into the story, even if I didn't like the characters (it's more plot focused anyway.) I also liked how Sister Souljah was a character in the book and Winter HATED her. My only complaint with that is at one point, Sister Souljah uses her own voice to say some pretty ignorant things about AIDS (she's afraid to touch people who have it, or even be in close contact with them.) And, even though the book whacks you upside the head with a "crime doesn't pay" message, it was a really fun ride.

I don't think I'm going to be reading a lot more urban fiction (some though, because it is really popular at my library and that's part of my job!) but this one did pleasantly surprise me. I liked it a lot more than I like teen urban fiction.

Book Provided by... my local library

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

Saturday, November 07, 2009

China Challenge

I want to recommend that all of us doing the China Challenge read this thought-provoking article on Chinese literature in translation--what gets translated and how it's marketed. How are these issues affecting our perceptions about China today? Thoughts?

Leave your links to your November reviews below!

Guardian Challenge!

First off, some prizes! Yay! I entered all the May-October reviews (into a random number generator to get...)

A Paddington Bookmark and button (from Paddington Station) goes to Becky for her October Review of Of Mice and Men

Another Paddington bookmark and button go to Steven for his June review of The Mandarins. STEVEN! Blogger can't find your blog! Where'd you go?!

A Winnie-the-Pooh bookmark goes to Madeleine for her August review of Ingenious Pain.

And, a Wallace and Gromit bookmark goes to Rebecca from Sequestered Nooks for her July Review of Smilla's Sense of Snow.

So, if you won, email me at kidsilkhaze at yahoo dot com with your mailing info so I can get those in the mail.

If you didn't win, don't fret, there will probably be more to come! Leave your November links below!

Something totally unexpected

I Want Candy Kim Wong Keltner

Hello. This was SO NOT what I was expecting based on Keltner's other works. Candace Ong is a young teenager (14) in the 80s, right on that verge of being last year's "Say Say Oh Playmate" hand-clapping playground champ and loving Where the Wild Things Are but at the same time hoping the Cars are singing directly to her and spending most nights masturbating with her stuffed animals.

Enter Ruby, Candace's best friend who is cooler and more grown up and ready to leave Candace behind. As Candace tries to prove to herself and to Ruby that she's just as grown up, she finds herself in way over her head.

So, technically an adult book, published by Avon, which specializes in romances and more chicklit (which this is NOT) this could be a YA novel. I think it was published by Avon as an adult title because Keltner's other books are Avon (and definitely fit in more with what they usually publish.)

What we have here is a coming-of-age book that happens FAST and in way the main character isn't necessarily ready for. It also takes a weird magical realism twist towards the end. This is gritty and full of sex as Candace tries to not let Ruby leave her behind.

I didn't really like this book. I never really connected with Candance and didn't really care what happened to her and Ruby was just a bitch. BUT it gets points for two things:

1. Keltner is very angry about the fetishization and eroticization of Asian women in Western culture. And she's not afraid to hit back in her books, and hit back HARD.

2. This was a total different departure for Keltner from her other books. She gets props for stretching and telling a difficult story in a real voice.

Book Provided by... my local library

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