Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Younger books

Ok, for those who don't work in a library, there is a little thing called the ILS, or Integrated Library System. As a patron, you'll see certain aspects of this--the public catalog for instance. It's also what we use to check books in and out. It's also the librarian catalog and the back end catalog (yes, these are different), and really, it's the thing that tracks all of our materials and our patrons. It does all of our library-specific things.

The one our library has is from 1983. So, we're getting a new one. We've been all trained and it goes live next week. But, we had to take the old one down this week so they could transfer all the data over to the new one.

We're kicking it old skool this week--circ is being done by hand and will be entered in when the new catalog goes live. For finding books, we're playing "how well do you know the collection." It's fun. And exhausting. And more than a little insane.

2 days after the new catalog goes live, I'm going on vacation-- excellent timing on my part, even if vacation was planned before the change-over dates were announced.

So, anyway, that's what my life is like these days. :)

The Frandidate Jim Benton

This is the first Franny K. Stein book I've read and it's quite a treat! Franny is a mad scientist with her own laboratory. In this book, she decides she wants to run for class president, because if people CHOOSE her as her leader, than she can rule the world and it will be ok. Sadly, the kids in her class don't like her platform of chalk that explodes if you write the wrong answer or robots that will force-fed kids a healthy lunch. So, Fran goes into her lab and builds a candidate suit--specially designed to appear to a person just as they want them to appear and to say just want they want to hear!

But, why stop at school elections? Why not run for president? But will Franny be able to tell where she ends and the candidate begins?

Timely and funny with excellent illustrations. Kids will love Fran's dog cum lab assistant and appreciate her struggles with the truth.

Stink and the Great Guinea Pig Express Megan McDonald

When the local pet store rescues some guinea pigs from lab, Stink and his friends set out to find homes for all 101 of them! They try everything they can think of, including a traveling van full of guinea pigs.

Filled with lots of fun facts about the little critters, it's a funny and sweet story that fans of Stink or his older sister Judy will surely enjoy.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Nonfiction Monday! More Cybils

Tee hee hee! I just won My Friend Amy's giveaway for the first two seasons of Buffy the Vampire slayer! SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET.

Anyway, it's Nonfiction Monday and I'm reviewing another short-listed Cybils book.

Lincoln Through the Lens: How Photography Revealed and Shaped an Extraordinary Life Martin W. Sandler

Have you read Russell Freedman's Lincoln: A Photobiography? Good. You don't need to read this.

While the visual design may be more appealing than Freedman's book, Lincoln Through the Lens is the same concept, with less depth. The concept of the role photography played in Lincoln's life and presidency is a great subject for a kid's book. However, it's going to be very, very hard to top the Freedman book.

I mean, I liked this one, just not as much as Freedman. Then I got to the end.

When discussing Lincoln's broader legacy, we get the following passages:

At the time, most of the land in the United States west of the Mississippi, amounting to millions of acres, remained unsettled... By 1900, thanks to the the Homestead Act, more than eighty million acres in the west had been settled and more than 372,000 farms had been created.

In an entire page on Westward expansion, that is the picture given. Vast open stretches of land that we went and settled. Only, of course, that land did have people living on it and the Homestead Act and the westward expansion it created has some severe issue surrounding displacement of Native Americans. It would not have been overly difficult to rewrite the section saying that people saw the land as unsettled and moved West. It couldn't even mention the displacement of Native Americans? Instead, they're just missing entirely--ignored completely. Sad.

Round up is over at Tales from the Rushmore Kid.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Perfect Fifths = Perfect Ending for a favorite character

Today's poetry selection comes from Megan McCafferty's upcoming novel, Perfect Fifths. One chapter is told entirely in senryu (a form similar to haiku, but more about human nature, than nature-nature), written between two characters.

XII. He writes

I like the way you
Fingertip-tap the paper
To count syllables

XIII. She writes

I like the way you
Silently lip-synch the words
To count syllables

XIV. He writes

So you've noticed, then
(I wonder what else you see
When you look at me)

XV. She writes

How about those Mets?
(Only what my heart can handle)
How about those Mets?

This is the final installment in the Jessica Darling series. Three and half years have passed since the end of Fourth Comings, and three and half years since Jessica and Marcus have seen each other, or spoken, or written.

Jessica is running through the Newark airport, trying desperately not to miss her flight down to St. Thomas for Bridget and Percy's wedding when she plows right into Marcus Flutie, which fulfills a voodoo prophecy he had received the week before. As Jessica tries desperately not to miss the wedding, Marcus tries desperately to not appear to desperate in front of Jessica, to not let on how he still has not gotten over her.

Perfect Fifths is not even a day long, tracking the time the two spend in awkward conversation at the airport, perpetually stalked by the also-stranded Barry Manilow International Fan Club. They try to catch up, but dance always around the issue of their romantic past, which is even more complicated than usual, given that the current 87th most-downloaded song on iTunes is something called "My Song Will Never Mean as Much (as the one he sang for you" which was written by Len Levy and, well, about them.

The only characters we really see are Jessica and Marcus, but we get updates on almost every character we have ever met in the series, as they fill each other in on the people they once knew, and those they still know. Marcus is very different than I remember him. This is not surprising, as he wasn't really in the last two books, and has just spent over three years at college. I would be worried if he hadn't changed. But, we didn't watch him change, so it took a little getting used to. I mean, he's still Marcus. He's just gotten over himself and is... acting like a grown-up. (Shocking at 26, I know.)

Even better though, we get a few chapters from Marcus's point of view. (The narrated sections of the book [so, not the senryu chapter] are all with an omniscient narrator, but they follow the actions and thoughts of either Jessica or Marcus.)

All in all, this was a most satisfying conclusion to the series. Jessica and Marcus are still the perfect foils for each other. Jessica's tired and worried, but her thoughts and tongue are as sharp as ever.

Fans need to read this. If you're not a fan, I'll just assume you haven't read them yet. Go pick up Sloppy Firsts and read it!

What I most loved about this, and about Fourth Comings, is that I long for books about 20-30 year olds that are above the usual chick-lit fare. Many people classify the Jessica Darling series as "chick lit", which I feel is not entirely accurate. Maybe it is, but it's smarter and more literary than most books in the field.

Anyway, a while ago, I posted about how I wished my favorite YA authors would write for my age group. The last two books in this series are what I'm wishing for. Books that are about people like me, women with careers and relationships, who aren't ridiculous caricatures of my darkest neurotic moments. Do you have any other recommendations for me? This is the type of book I long for.

Look for Perfect Fifths on April 14. And if you're in DC, come see Megan McCafferty in Tyson's Corner a few weeks later (just let ME ask the first Barry Manilow question, ok?)

Poetry Friday round up is over at The Drift Record.

UPDATE (3/28): I forgot to mention this yesterday, but Perfect Fifths was provided by the author, at my request. Also, I quoted the senryu from the ARC, so it might change in the final edition.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ai Ya!

Ok, this week has been a little crazy.

Including yesterday where all day I played the "do I have serious allergies? OR PINK EYE?" (Allergies *phew*)

And today, which is super rainy, so the after-school kids were extra hyper because they didn't get recess today.

BUT! I'd like to point out that I did write a blog post over at Geek Buffet today, all about the Kindle.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Historical Fiction

Ok, I try not to gloat too much but I have two things to say that I can't hold in:

I just finished reading Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty, the very last Jessica Darling book. It was perfect. I feel like doing a little dance. I'll write a full review later this week. Just be sure to look out for it when it comes out next month!

And, for another book that's not supposed to come out until next month, my local Barnes and Noble had Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! on display already (I've noticed they often have books available early. I wonder if that's where Dan scored my early copy of Deathly Hallows?) How could I not pick it up?

Ok, gloating done.

This week's Weekly Geeks is all about Historical Fiction. I haven't answered the questions yet-- I'm still thinking about the answers, but here are 2 reviews of historical fiction.

The Porcupine Year Louise Erdich

In the follow up to Birchbark House and The Game of Silence, this is the year of travel as Omakayas and her family move from Madeline Island to the North West, facing weather, disaster, and moving into hostile territory. This is almost more episodic than the previous two, due to the ever-changing location. There is great tragedy and heartbreak in this book, but parts of very funny, and Erdich carries through the richness, closeness, and importance of family and sticking together, no matter what. I recommend starting with the other two to get a sense of everything they had to leave behind, but this is my favorite of the series so far and I think it would stand alone, just carry less impact.

Ten Cents a Dance Christine Fletcher

After her mother loses her job, Ruby drops out of school to take support the family. Like everyone in her Polish neighborhood in Chicago, Ruby takes a job at one of the packing houses. After a night dancing, Ruby runs into local bad by Paulie, who tells her that she can make a lot more money by being a dance instructor at the Starlight Academy. The Starlight, however, is a taxi-dance hall where lonely men pay tent cents a dance to hold a pretty girl close until the song ends. Not a respectable job, Ruby tells her mother she’s working as a telephone operator. Between her new job and her relationship with Paulie, she soon finds herself over her head.

Through Ruby’s eyes, the reader travels from Chicago’s white slums, to after hours clubs and all-night chop suey joints, to the fringes of the city’s underbelly in the early days of WWII. Fletcher explores Chicago’s race and class tensions with a sensitive hand, never making them the focus of her story, but using them to paint the world that Ruby inhabits. Ruby’s voice is peppered with period slang and references, but just enough to give her authenticity, but not to the point of overwhelming the text. Readers will sympathize with Ruby’s drive to help her family coupled with her desire for excitement and freedom.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Productive! PRODUCTIVE!

Sometimes, on a good day, I sing the "Productive" song, to celebrate my productivity. The productive song is to the tune of "Tradition" from Fiddler on the Roof, except you sing "Productive! PRODUCTIVE!" instead of "Tradition! TRADITION!" Today was productive in odd ways. I still have a mountain of things to do, but I did some SCARY things that paid off, so I feel good.

Also, a bleg-- a friend of mine wants to tap into/connect with the kidlit scene in Chicago. I passed on a few names that I already knew, but if you're in Chicago, let me know so I can play matchmaker.

And now, a review.

Nation Terry Pratchett

Lately, I've been reading a lot of books because I have to for work. Upcoming book discussions come with reading lists! Also, I'm preparing my presentation on Trends in YA lit for May's Maryland Library Association conference. In general, this is a good thing, I've had to read a lot of books that I otherwise wouldn't have and, in general, have really enjoyed them.

One such book is Nation, which I just finished at lunch today. It absolutely BLEW me away. I hadn't read any Prachett before this, and I'll have to look for more of his stuff.

Mau is returning home, to Nation, when the tidal wave hits. Daphne is on her way to where her father is governor on the other side of the world. Mau finally arrives to see that the wave wiped out his entire village and left a shipwrecked beast, the only survivor being the ghost-girl.

Together they survive. Mau questions the Gods who took away everything--how can Gods exisit if they make such things happen? He rages. Daphne, confined to a woman's place in upper class repressive society finds herself suddenly useful and smart and it's liberating.

The smoke from their fire draws in other survivors of the wave from other islands and a new community forms.

Initially heartbreaking, Nation ends up being laugh-out-loud funny. It's not often you have completely enjoyable works on the nature of culture and religion and international relations.

It completely deserves the Printz honor that it won and I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Catch me if you can

I have me a slew of written reviews, to hold in stockpile for days when I can't write a new review. Today's big decision was which review to run out of the 20-or-so in my "working ahead" folder? I chose the one on top.

I Love You, Beth Cooper Larry Doyle

Dennis Cooverman’s high school commencement speech is your standard fare until the end, when he confesses his undying love for Beth Cooper, the head cheerleader. Little did he know that she has a beefy coked up army boyfriend who’s in town for graduation. And oh, the chain of events that is unleashed! Hilarity ensues.

The book only covers the long night after the ceremony and is a love letter to every silly teen movie you’ve ever seen and secretly loved. But smarter. The cheerleaders have depth and you both love and loathe and Denis and his best friend and the plot is ludicrous and crazy, and yet strangely realistic?

Anyway, it’s hysterical and I recommend it. It was an adult book but is one of those where you wonder “why is this adult and not ya?” I’m guessing that all of Doyle’s New Yorker cred landed him the more lucrative adult contract?


Y'all know how I feel about reading as a competitive sport (I will wipe the floor with you. Grrrrrrrr.)

Anyway, it is almost time for Dewey's Read-a-Thon. Dewey passed away this winter, but many of the projects she started in the blogging community are still going strong. As someone on the internet said, Dewey would kick us if we let the Read-a-Thon disappear.

This read-a-thon is going to start at noon GMT on April 18th and run until noon GMT on April 19th, so check your time zone chart to see when it starts for you.

I will be participating, but for more than 24 hours, given that on the 18th, I'm flying home from my European vacation, so that 24 hour period will last a lot longer in my world than in the normal world. I'll be reading on the plane anyway, so I might as well read-a-thon read! Expect bigger, thicker, books from me for this one, because I'm not lugging all my usual read-a-thon stack around England and Belgium. No siree bob. That's just not a good idea.

I hope you sign up, too!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Beauty and the Beast

So far, Beauty and the Beast is the only story that the Once Upon a Time series has covered twice. And with good reason--it's first effort was definitely not up to snuff.

Their first attempt was

Spirited Nancy Holder

Holder's other title in the series, The Rose Bride, was my least favorite so far. Until I read this one.

The basic premise in this one is that Isabella Stevens is captured and held hostage by Native Americans during the French and Indian Wars. She's the beauty, her captor, the tribe's shaman, is the beast. Do I even have to discuss how problematic it is to set up Native Americans as Beasts? I get the whole over-coming-prejudice-and-falling-in-love thing, but... there are several stories like that where the guy isn't actually an animal, and given the way we have treated Native Americans like animals, maybe this wasn't the best way to go.

Jennifer Mo has a most excellent review of this book and I kinda just want to be all "yeah, what she said" because she words it better than I can. I won't quote the entire review (I urge you to go read it yourselves) but I will quote this passage that I agree with whole-heartedly:

Holder has clearly done some research into Native American names and traditions, and Isabella's initial prejudice towards the natives as savages is understandable. However, the fairy-tale parallel that makes Wusamequin (the quintessential noble savage) the beast is a disheartening echo of colonial ideology. Holder's portrayal, while sympathetic, is not sensitive.

I have other problems beyond just that. Isabella is so helpless. I don't understand why anyone thinks she has spirit and is a fighter. All she really does is scream and faint. Actually, she reminds me a lot of another Isabella in the worst way possible--Bella Swan from Twilight. She's weak and whiny and always hurting herself for some reason people really like her and always come to her rescue. But look! She has such spirit and energy!

Excuse me while I go puke.

The fantasy elements were weird and unnecessary and felt like a complete perversion of Native American beliefs, even though I do not know enough about the tribes of upstate New York to say one way or another. At best, they seemed like an over-simplification of something more complex. Holder does admit in her author note that "I have put my own twist on the beliefs of the Algonquins in the afterlife." Ugh. Why?!

She does get credit for pointing out that despite her inspiration from the book and movie The Last of the Mohicans (which I haven't read or seen, so can't comment on parallels there) that the Mohican nation has NOT died out.

Luckily, to clean this taste from my mouth, the series released another version of the tale,

Belle Cameron Dokey

This is a more traditional telling of the tale. It sticks rather close to source material, and as such is sure to draw comparisons to the classic (and frankly, stronger title) Beauty by Robin McKinley. (I have heard some say that Belle is a rip-off of Beauty, but having gone back and read the early versions of Beauty and the Beast, they're just both really close to the source material.)

I do like how Belle's sisters in the this version weren't mean at all, especially once everyone adjusted to country life. They were the most complex characters in the book. I also liked Dokey's addition of the wood-carving and the Heartwood tree.

While it doesn't add anything really new to the story, it is a perfectly enjoyable retelling that fairy-tale fans will like.

The next 3 titles in the series are by the strongest writers, Cameron Dokey and Suzanne Weyn:

Wild Orchid: A Retelling of "The Ballad of Mulan" is out now, it's just still "in processing" at the library, so I don't have it yet

The Diamond Secret comes out in June--any guesses on why story this is? Based on the cover, I'm guessing Swan Maiden?

Winter's Child comes out in September. Again, any guesses? I'm thinking Snow Queen? Because really, that's the only one I can think of with winter. Unless it's Snow White? But they have done Snow White already. (I'll get to it eventually, I promise!)

Funny TV talks about kidlit! Huzzah!

I work the afternoon/evening shift today, so I was able to stay up and watch this. If you weren't as lucky, then I give to you Stephen Colbert interviewing Neil Gaiman:

But first, to give a little set-up, a video in which Stephen laments not winning the Newbery:

It comes up again here:

Yes, there's an ad, but it's totally worth it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-10: OH! MY EYES! Edition

This week's Weekly Geeks asks us:

Worst movie adaptations: The recent release of Watchmen based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore got me thinking about what I thought were the worst movie adaptations of books. What book or books did a director or directors completely ruin in the adaptation(s) that you wish you could "unsee," and why in your opinion, what made it or them so bad in contrast to the book or books?

This is such an easy one for me to answer, but I think film buffs might hit me.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

I know it won every Academy Award Ever (including Best Adapted Screenplay). And you know what? It might be a great film, but it is an absolutely HORRIBLE adaptation of the book. And I love that book.

My entire junior year English class agrees with me. We all read the book, and then we got to see the film so our brains could recover after the AP exams. Afterwards we were all like "wait, WHAT WAS THAT?!"

To be fair, it's hard to create a movie based the narration from a character who never talks and keeps going to shock therapy, but... still. Everything that made the book totally wonderful didn't really exist in the movie. They got the plot right but they forgot the magic.

Compared to the book that movie absolutely SUCKS.

--I would like to point out that I haven't read the book or seen the movie since junior year. That was 11 years ago. Plus, my brain was recovering from the AP exams. Some finer points might be fuzzy.

My Heart Still Pines for Harry

So, Graphic Novel week isn't totally over-- I have a few more reviews to do. But, it's nonfiction Monday, so it's time for some nonfiction!

Do you remember the first time you read Harry Potter?

I do. I was going to tell you the story, but, well, it was really, really long. And probably boring to everyone who isn't me, so I deleted it.

As you are probably aware, I am a massive Harry Potter geek. Last Friday morning I was in a sad mood. To snap out of it, I made a pot of coffee and starting blasting wizard rock. I instantly felt better. I am the Queen of Harry Potter trivia on Facebook, and have read the books and seen the movies way too many times.

So, I was excited to read Harry, A History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon Melissa Anelli (webmistress of Leaky Cauldron.)

You have to love a book with phrases such as this: Bellatrix Lestrange, the Death Eater who made Lady Macbeth look like June Cleaver. (page 80)

This is a history of how Harry came to be and how he changed the world, and how a the rise of Harry and the rise of the Internet came together to create an unheard of fan response. Fan sites, conferences, a music genre and more fan fiction than any other story, and all for a series that was still being worked on.

With the exception of some good background journalism in the publication history of the series, This isn't a book to analyze the series, but rather to analyze the fans. Why did they gravitate towards it? Why did they form such a community? What are the facets of the community? Why did we go so insane? And just how delicate is that balance between fan love and copyright legal issues? (Very, very, very fine)

Did you know that Harry and The Potters didn't write the first wizard rock song? Nope. They might be the first wizard rock band, but the band that wrote the first wizard rock song? That would be Switchblade Kittens. (Their latest release, Rebel Princess, is all about books by Meg Cabot.)

An excellent book for the total Harry nerd. I am amazed at how much Harry really did change children's literature. Yes, I knew he got kids reading, I knew he kick-started fantasy back up. And while I knew that the length of the later novels opened the door for other longer novels to be published for kids, I didn't know that Sorcerer's Stone was twice as long as what publishers were looking for in those days. Now, it's a totally normal length.

Have your books ready, because I know that when Anelli would discuss a scene, I had to go reread it. My geeky heart was well-satisfied by this.

I leave you with this quotation:

He [Barry Cunningham, who acquired Sorcerer's Stone at Bloomsbury] knew what he wanted: books children hugged, books they loved, books that made them feel like the author was their best friend. Not the books that were prevalent at the time, "books dominated by 'issue,' or 'problems,' which were very popular with teachers and adults but I felt didn't have the sense of fantasy and adventure that children really responded to." (page 45)

(emphasis is all mine)

Nonfiction Monday round-up is over at L. L. Owens!

Friday, March 13, 2009


I need to take this as an entire series, instead of a volume by volume look. So, this is probably going to be full of spoilers.

I'm looking at the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman, as I read it in these volumes:

The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes
The Sandman Vol. 2: The Doll's House
The Sandman Vol. 3: Dream Country
The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists
The Sandman Vol. 5: A Game of You
The Sandman Vol. 6: Fables and Reflections
The Sandman Vol. 7: Brief Lives
The Sandman Vol. 8: Worlds' End
The Sandman Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones
The Sandman Vol. 10: The Wake
The Sandman: Endless Nights
The Dream Hunters

The first 10 make up the Sandman series proper, while the last two are more companion volumes.

So, for those not in the know, Sandman is this ground-breaking comic that changed comics as we know them.

It's about Dream of the Endless. He has 6 siblings--Destiny, Death, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium (who used to be Delight). His stories are populated with fairies and Norse Gods, Greek goddesses, and Biblical characters. There are references to older comics I'm sure I didn't get (like that bit about the Justice League) and references I'm sure I missed altogether. 1 big one is Lyta Hall. I

guessed she was from something else (and Wikipedia tells me it's Infinity, Inc.) and I wonder if I would have gotten more from her (and she's a big one) if I knew her other stories. (Comic book geeks, what say you?) Dream is the King of all Dreaming. He was imprisoned, then escaped. Was stuck with Hell for a time. Saved a few people. Didn't save a few people. And, in the end, was unable to change, and died.

Initially I felt about Sandman the same way I feel about Pet Sounds. Slightly dated, but perfectly enjoyable and not really understanding the

pure genius of it. Eventually, I learned more about pop music history to understand why Pet Sounds is quite possibly the greatest album ever (because even if it now seems like dated bubble-gum pop, everything I love now would not be possible with out Pet Sounds...). I understood the ground-breakingness of Sandman early on, and why it was so new and different, but coming at it from this point in time, it's no longer new, even if I could appreciate the fact that I what I like now is more easily done because of what was done then.

If that makes sense.

Overall, the first half of the series or so, while enjoyable, wasn't my cup of tea. They were a little creepy and violent for my tastes. I didn't see an over-reaching story arc. They were taking me forever to read-- I just wasn't getting into them that much.

At several points, I thought, eh, maybe I should just give the whole series up as not for me and read something else. But, every time I thought about this, Death or Delirium would make an appearance and so I'd keep reading. I liked Death and Delirium. Death especially. (Most people like Death. She's funny.)

I didn't really get into the series until the very end of World's End, which is the 8th volume. In the very last page spread, when there is a funeral across the sky, I knew what had happened. I sat there and counted and saw who was missing from the procession.

And I was stunned. How could Dream die with 2 more volumes to go, plus companion works?!

But he could, and he did. The Kindly Ones and The Wake are pure brilliant genius and I loved them. BUT. The only reason I understood them, both on the basic level of "what is going on in this plot" and level of "yes, this is why this series is So @#$%^$@#@$@#$$%^* Awesome" is because I had read what come before.

Everything that seemed random, or yawn-worthy, or just not that interesting, tied back in during these final volumes. Ah yes, well played sir. Well played.

You know how I have to keep eating my hat about stuff with the Fables series? Sorry, Jack's jaunt around Americana might have been relevant after all. Sorry, the Ballad of Rodney and June really isn't just a one-off that won't come back later. Yeah, well, Willingham worked on Sandman. He learned a lot.

I should just learn to keep my trap shut.

There were a lot of different artists, so Dream kept looking slightly changing his appearance. You know how I feel about my comic characters looking different. It's like the new Darren. Ah well. When a comic runs over a decade, artists will come and go I guess.

There is a lot I'm still digesting with this series. I expect I will be digesting much of it for years to come. I will say that it is messing with my dreams though. In the past 2.5 months, I've read all of Sandman (which took most of that 2.5 months), listened to The Graveyard Book and Coraline (both of which are read by him), saw

Coraline in 3-D and have been following his Twitter feed. Plus, he's been discussed widely in the professional literature and there's a giant picture of him on my desk in the guise of the March issue of SLJ. It can't be a huge surprise to find that I've been dreaming about Neil Gaiman, but he looks like Dream in my dreams. It's very weird. A few nights ago we wandered around Mumbai looking for a good burrito. We never found one.

Poetry Friday, Shakespeare Edition

Welcome to Poetry Friday! As I have been reading of dreams (as I shall hopefully review later today) I thought I'd share a bit from Romeo and Juliet.

Mercutio: O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep;
Her waggon-spokes made of long spinners' legs,
The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
The traces of the smallest spider's web,
The collars of the moonshine's watery beams,
Her whip of cricket's bone, the lash of film,
Her waggoner a small grey-coated gnat,
Not so big as a round little worm
Prick'd from the lazy finger of a maid;
Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o' mind the fairies' coachmakers.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers' brains, and then they dream of love;
O'er courtiers' knees, that dream on court'sies straight,
O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees,
O'er ladies' lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are:
Sometime she gallops o'er a courtier's nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig's tail
Tickling a parson's nose as a' lies asleep,
Then dreams, he of another benefice:
Sometime she driveth o'er a soldier's neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
Of healths five-fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
And being thus frighted, swears a prayer or two
And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
That plats the manes of horses in the night,
And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which once untangled much misfortune bodes:
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage:
This is she--

Romeo: Peace, peace, Mercutio, peace!
Thou talk'st of nothing.

Round up is over at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Check it out!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Jack is Back

This is how sick I was on Tuesday: I left work early and when I got home, I new that the new Jack of Fables had probably been delivered. I didn't even go into the kitchen to check, I didn't even ask Dan. I just went to bed. 20 hours later I located the box.

I'm feeling much better now and have the book all read!

Jack of Fables Vol. 5: Turning Pages

First, we get a 3 issue arc with Jack's Wild West adventures in 1883. The Jack Candle gang is wreaking havoc and Bigby has to come out from New York to stop him and drag Jack back to Fabletown. A fun adventure featuring my man Bigby, and helps to explain why the two don't really get along.

Then, we get back into the present. I think I was wrong in my previous review--the Bookburner is going to play a bigger role and the randomness of the last volume is maybe not so random. And, I have hope that what is coming will be part of the post-war story line for the regular Fables! They might meet back up again! I hope so!

This is me, eating my hat. OM NOM NOM NOM NOM.

I have a lot more to say about it, but it's spoilery, so read it here. I also figured out who Emily Wall is. Y'all probably got it right away, but it took me until the last frame. I'm slow sometimes.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Comics for Kids!

Alrighty, Graphic Novel Week is not over yet, because I still have some graphic novels to talk about!

Today, it's Graphic Novels for the 12-and-under set.

Anyway, normally I don't review Babymouse books, because they fall under my 100 page rule and don't really meet any of the exceptions to that rule (books that pack a huge literary wallop so I feel like the 100 page rule doesn't matter, books that I have to review or discuss critically for something else, books I have something interesting to say about and that I feel compelled to talk about.)

Anyway, BUT! It's Graphic Novels week! And the new Babymouse is about musicals, so it totally fits under the parameters of Becky's Do Re Mi challenge.

Babymouse: The Musical Jennifer and Matthew Holm

It's the musical and Babymouse and Felcia are going head-to-head for the lead. Plus! New British boy!

There's not much story to this one, but lots of references to other musicals-- Chorus Line, High School Musical, Lion King, My Fair Lady, Pirates of Penzance, American Idol, Grease, Annie, West Side Story, Cats, Fiddler on the Roof, Chicago, Les Miserables, Sound of Music, Evita, and some that I know I'm missing.

Plus, the squid in her locker is totally playing the role of the Phantom of the Opera (or, rather, the Phantom of the Locker).

I don't think kids will get all the references to the different musicals, but it is fun. Fans of Babymouse will like this one (who else literally breaks their leg?)

Fashion Kitty and the Unlikely Hero Charise Mericle Harper

Fashion Kitty is meeting disaster--they need school uniforms! How will Kiki and her friends cope with everyone looking the same?

Plus, no choices in fashion mean that Fashion Kitty is no longer a super-hero in demand! So, when Fashion Kitty does get a call, she's more than a little dejected when her helpful advice is rejected...

Can Fashion Kitty save the day? Or will someone else end up solving this problem?

I really like Fashion Kitty. While the story is light and fun, there is some meat on it. It is mainly a graphic novel, but their usually is a sentence or two on every page offering some narration. The back of this book features a fashion fortune teller, as well as paper dolls of Kiki and June (paper dolls end up being rather important in the story itself.) I also like that the glitter on the cover STAYS on the cover and does not dust off all over the place.

Rapunzel's Revenge Shannon and Dean Hale, Nathan Hale

You know how everyone says this rootin'-tootin' old west take on Rapunzel is awesome? It is. I don't have much more to say than that, it's all been said before. There's a reason this bad girl won the Cybil!

Books Coming True

Ok, so you know how there are cloned Neanderthals in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series? And Neanderthal rights and culture are a rather interesting subplot?

Yeah, it looks like creating Neanderthal clones is actually a possibility these days.

Hat Tip to The Agitator for linking to the article...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Bigby Wolf is my HERO

The song for today is I Don't Care (Live) by Draco and the Malfoys. Yes, it's a wizard rock song! And today, it makes me happy.

You look like a fool
No you don't look cool
When you're running around, caring about stuff

I don't care about the world
(some line I can never understand)
I only care about myself
And my family, 'cuz they give me stuff.

So, that's not related to my post today, but I wanted to share it.

Anyway, welcome back to Graphic Novel week! Today, we're going to catch up on the Fables series (and its spin off, Jack of Fables) by Bill Willingham. I have a lot to review. I'm mixing the 2 series up, reviewing in order of publication.

Jack of Hearts (Jack #2)

Um, I read this like, a year and a half ago. We start with a story about how Jack seduced the Snow Queen and became Jack Frost. Then a story arc about Jack's adventures in Vegas. Lots of gambling and women. Jack loses his money, regains it. My favorite part was Lady Luck, personified.

The Good Prince (Fables #10)

Oh, this has to be one of my favorite volumes so far, after 1001 Nights of Snowfall. This is King Ambrose's story (you may know him as Fly Catcher. After Santa made him remember, he knows what he has to do, and shoulders the burden. I don't want to get too much into it, but... oh. It's wonderful and heartbreaking and if you like this series at all, you must get at least as far as this volume! I also really liked the page borders in this story arc--very well done, especially the candy canes and cookies whenever Frau Tottenkinder was on the scene!

The book does take a break in the middle for an interlude with Snow and Bigby's kids turn 5. It was a cute story that comes up again in the next Jack volume, but... my characters look a certain way. This issue was drawn by Aaron Alexovitch. It threw me at first because that's now what Snow White looks like! (Although I did like her curls...) I'm a big Alexovitch fan, but I do get set in my ways. What I did like though, is this story made me expose my first symptom of comic book geekery-- I knew Alexovitch drew it as soon as I saw the first few panels. After becoming familiar with his style for what he drew for Minx (Kimmie66, which wrote and drew, and Confessions of a Blabbermouth, which he drew) I can now spot his distinctive style at 20 paces.

The Bad Prince (Jack 3)

Given the parallelism in titles, I did want more parallelism in stories between this and The Good Prince, which came out around the same time this omnibus did. But, this does tie Jack back into Fables. Something minor that happened in the birthday party issue has major consequences for Jack.

Even better, remember a really long time ago (Volume 5, The Mean Seasons) when there was that guy who remembered the invasion of the wooden soldiers? (Not the reporter that thought they were vampires, the other Mundy who seems to have a clue) Well, he's back, with back story.

Anyway, I'm still trying to figure out the significance of the tie-in (I don't want to spoil it--sorry for being cryptic). I still haven't figured out how I feel about the Jack spin-off yet. It's not as strong as Fables, but I think it has hope, but I'm afraid that might just be wishful thinking.

War and Pieces

After being built up for so long, even though it takes a full volume, the coming war finally came and was... a little anti-climactic. But, I think the only way they could have made it not so would be to stretch it over several omnibus volumes, which means a million individual issues (Fables, is, after all, still published as your standard comic book.)

I'm glad though, now that the war is over, that this isn't the last of the series, I want to see what else happens to these people.

Also, one word on one of the casualties, here at the spoiler blog.

Americana (Jack #4)

So, after the promise of the last volume of Jack, I thought this would be full of the war. Nope, just Jack running around various pockets of American mythology and urban legend, trying to stay ahead of Revise. Babe the Blue Ox, however, was quite hysterical.

New volumes of each series are coming!

Jack of Fables Vol. 5: Turning Pages is scheduled for March 10th (That's Tuesday!)

Fables Vol. 12: The Dark Ages is scheduled for August!

Way back in July, Weekly Geeks was having people ask questions about our unreviewed books. Jack of Hearts was on my unreviewed list, and I got some questions!

Nymeth asks:
What did you think of Jack of Fables? Do you recommend being up to date on the Fables series before picking it up?

I'm still torn on it. For the first few, it's ok if you're behind on your Fables, but don't read The Bad Prince without being up to The Good Prince!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Graphic Novel Tuesday

Well, here we are, continuing our week of Graphic Novel reviews! Here I have 3 reviews of totally unrelated books. Enjoy!

Garage Band Gipi

Giuliano’s father has loaned them a garage to practice in, as long as the guys stay out of trouble. Alberto, the bassist spends his time worrying about his father. Alex, the drummer is obsessed with Hitler and his aunt scorns Giuliano’s family’s wealth. Stefano, the singer, is the trouble maker, but his father has him in contact with a record label. They have the garage, they have the contacts, they just need to cut their demo tape when their amp blows. When they steal a new one, their troubles really begin.

Painted in a muted watercolor palate with frenetic black line work, Gipi’s artwork captures the bleakness of their lives along with the energy of their music. There are several full page desolate landscapes composed mostly of brown sky to show what these young men are trying to escape. The back pages contain several preliminary sketches and character studies.

Skim Mariko Tamaki, drawing by Jillian Tamaki

After reading Emiko Superstar, I was really excited to read this.

The book explores depression, love, friendship, and finding yourself (or not) in a small tale about a high school that overreacts when the popular girl is dumped by her boyfriend who then commits suicide. The details of the plot are really not important, because it's the characters, the dialogue, and the art that really make this book pack a punch.

Black and white drawings (pen?) that appear to be hand drawn without computer help are evocative of the early 90s era of the story. I especially liked the full-page panels and the ones without borders. Excellent use of negative space.

Kin (The Good Neighbors, Book 1) Holly Black, art by Ted Naifeh

Rue's mother has been missing for three weeks and her father has just been arrested for murdering one of his students. Meanwhile, Rue is pretty sure she's going crazy because she keeps seeing weird things, like... faeries. Faeries that claim to be her mother's family.

I really wanted to like this, but I feel like the entire volume was just setting up the story that's going to happen in the later volumes. It was a little disappointing, but I have great faith in Holly Black, and there are a lot of interesting story lines to play with and I'm really hoping that it goes somewhere, because I think the later volumes could be really cool.

Also, I thought it was going to be in color. I don't know why I thought this, but I did. It's not.

Later this week: Fables, Jack of Fables, Sandman, and Rapunzel's Revenge! Stay tuned!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Even old New York was once New Amesterdam

It's Graphic Novel week here at Biblio File, because I have a lot of graphic novels to review...

First up, is a nonfiction one, because it's nonfiction Monday!

Journey Into Mohawk Country Harmen Meyndertz van den Bogaert, artwork by George O’Connor, color by Hilary Sycamore

You know, I had to read this (not the comic book version, just the text) in high school. I could barely get through it. I think having pictures would have helped. Here's the review I wrote for school when I read this book this summer:

In 1634-1635, Bogaert set out from New Amsterdam’s Fort Orange to talk to the local Native American tribes who have starting trading their beaver pelts with the French. With the exception of translating, the text is unchanged from the journal Bogaert kept on his travels.

O’Connor's artwork brings out many things barely touched on in the text. His backgrounds add several elements to the story that are not included in Bogaert’s dry narrative—-traveling companions turn into comic buffoons and stolen glances add romantic intrigue. Sycamore’s color work helps establish Bogaert’s mood—-panels of trudging through the snow or being unable to start a fire are shown using only black, white and pale blue. Crowded longhouse scenes are reflected in the flames of the fire using palettes of oranges and reds. Includes a glossary and historical notes.

Round up is over at Books Together Blog!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Snowy Days

Well, I just finished making a mix CD. It's the latest installment in my "cold and gray" series. I wanted to post to Project Playlist, but the first track of the latest installment is in Chinese and no one has it on their lists of songs. A few other tracks on the mix are also slightly obscure. *Sigh*

So, I thought I'd post the latest installment here instead (is that ok Becky?)

1. 小事情 April&Box (listen to the song here or click here to download the entire compilation album for free, legitimately.)
2. Ships In The Night Brazilian Girls
3. Make You Feel My Love Adele
4. Wake Up Alone Amy Winehouse
5. Warwick Avenue Duffy
6. You belong to me Carla Bruni
7. Bruises Chairlift
8. Étrange Dobacaracol
9. I Will Possess Your Heart (Radio Edit) Death Cab for Cutie
10. Mentirosos Pistolera
11. Oh My Heart James
12. Sober Driver Dengue Fever
13. Life on the Moon Erin McKeown
14. I Hate Everyone Get Set Go
15. The Hat Ingrid Michaelson
16. Secret The Pierces
17. Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want The Smiths
18. Sleep (Instrumental) Kimya Dawson
19. Taya Tan Pink Martini
20. Cameland Puffy Ami Yumi (from the album Splurge)
21. Superstar Sonic Youth
22. Red Hair The Weasel King (which you can listen to and/or buy on his MySpace Page)
23. Taalu Pohjantahden Alla Tapiola Children's Choir (off the album Joy: Hits From World Famous Children's Choir

Challenge Update...

So, here's a little update in how I'm doing on all my reading challenges, including ones I've just signed up for.

The new ones:

Banned Books Challenge-- I will read 10 banned books by June 30.

The 1% Well-Read Challenge-- I will read 10 books off the 1001 Books to Read Before you Die list by December 31

Becky's Do Re Mi Challenge
-- A little complicated, but lots of music-y stuff by May 17

Challenges that I'm currently working on:

TBR Challenge-- I've read 1 book so far (out of 12)

Buy Books Challenge
-- I've bought 6 or so, but I've only read 1 and haven't reviewed any yet.

Chunkster Challenge-- I've read 1 out of 6.

Guardian Challenge-- I've read 0 out of 10.

And let's see how we're doing on the List O'Doom... 5 out of 50. Hmmm

Well, I'm off to get back to the books! I have more than enough to read, and we're in for some big snow tonight and tomorrow... time to make some hot chocolate, I think.

March Reviews!

Well, it's month 2 of the Guardian Challenge. People are still signing up and there's lots of time if you still want to participate!

And here's a sweetner to get you reading. I'm off to England next month for vacation. As The Guardian is a British paper, I thought it fitting that the first random prize would be something that I pick up over there. I don't know what it will be, or how many there will be (depends on what all I find.) BUT! Anyone who has entered a review in February, March, or April will be eligible. One entry for each review! (If you don't Mr. Linky your review, but let me know about it, I will Mr. Linky it for you, unless you tell me not to.)

If you review a book in March, leave the link below and don't worry... there will be more prizes to come...