Friday, January 28, 2011

Girl Parts

Girl PartsGirl Parts John M. Cusick

David and Charlie are two students at an elite boys school. They have a new guidance counselor who thinks all the boys have an associate disorder and wants them to try an experimental treatment-- they get a robot from Japan. A girl robot.

Charlie doesn't go for it, but David does. Rose is beautiful and programmed to live David. She has an arrow that points straight to her man. Her entire artificial existence is for him. It's a little creepy. It's like a perfect 1950s ideal stereotype housewife is what's going to teach boys how to interact with real people?

But, when things go wrong, Rose discovers pain and heartbreak and Charlie.

I really started liking this book when things went wrong and Rose started becoming almost human. I liked her discovery of feelings that weren't nice, of vodka, and of life without a database to fill her in on the background. I'm still not sure how the robot is supposed to teach about real-life relationships, especially when the girlbots are so perfectly aligned to do everything to please the man they were built for. So, I got really confused at the end when the treatment seemed to actually work.

I read this one a few weeks ago and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. There were parts that made me really angry and seemed rather anti-feminist, and then there are parts I really, really liked. It gave me a lot to think about, but the way it ended leaves me on the fence. I'm still not sure how I feel about the final point that the therapy worked. I don't think it would have. So it loses points for a possibly anti-feminist message, but it gains a lot of points in that I'm still thinking about it and what it may or may not be saying.

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, January 26, 2011


RecklessReckless Cornelia Funke

Jacob and Will grew up with an absent father and a mother who slipped into deep depression after her husband disappeared. Shortly after his father's disappearance, Jacob found the mirror that led him into another world. However, this world is changing from one populated by fox spirits, gingerbread houses, and other fairy tale tropes. Our world is coming in with trains and machinery. To top it off, the Goyl have come from the underground and are fighting a war with the Empresses--a war she can never win.

As the years have passed, Jacob has spent more and more time in the mirror world, leaving the pain and misery of his life in our world behind. Until, one day, Will follows him. Before Jacob can get him back, they're attacked by Goyl and now Will is turning into one of them. Jacob, Will, Will's girlfriend Clara, and a fox spirit called Fox are now on a mission that will take them to witche's houses, faerie islands, dwarf cities and the heart of the Goyl kingdom itself, all in an attempt to save Will before it is too late.

It's an exciting adventure with many recognizable characters and settings, but Funke manages to make them different than what we'd expect. There is a princess asleep in a tower, but she's covered in dust, her dress is faded and old-fashioned, and her skin has gone dry and papery over the centuries.

But, what I really appreciated about this book was the structure. We get to Will in the mirror-world very quickly (page 8). The back story of how the boys grew up, of how mirror world is changing, of the Goyl and their war, of Jacob's exploits, they're all told in bits and pieces strung through the adventure. It's a life we get to piece together with deeper meanings as we follow Jacob's quest to save his brother-- the only thing tying him to our world.

It was dark and wonderful.

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.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Misguided Angel

Misguided Angel (Blue Bloods, Book 5)Misguided AngelMelissa de la Cruz

The plot has now split, so this gets a little Lord of the Rings-y with the first part of the book focusing on one plot line with some of our characters and the next part focusing on a different plot line with some other characters. And yes, I just compared Lord of the Rings with Blue Bloods. I meant only in structure. There are no orcs here.

The first part of the book gives us the next installment in the lives of Jack and Schuyler. After being offered the Countess's protection, they discover she's still in league with the Morningstar. Her protection, while luxe, is a prison. They escape to continue the Van Alen work of securing the gates, only to be chased across Italy by Venators. Lots of daring escapes and shaky alliances as the pair try to save the world and themselves.

The second third focuses on Mimi, who is now acting Regent and finding herself in way over her head. She finds a video of a vampire teen being held hostage and being threatened with black fire, which will destroy blue blood forever. Mimi must try to find the culprit, save the girl, and disguise the videos as teaser trailers for a new movie. Not to mention school.

The last part of the book focuses on Deming Chen, a Chinese blue blood and Venator who comes in to help Mimi catch the culprit as more vampires go missing and are threatened.

Through it all, we get snippets of vampire life in Florence in 1482 and something about to go horribly wrong. This part isn't totally fleshed out, but you can tell it will be big later.

Overall, I really liked this one. I liked the sweetness of the first part (let's face it, I just really like Schuyler) but I really got into the second and third part. I loved seeing a different side of Mimi and getting more of her inner voice. I think she grew a lot as a character and was given much more depth as she struggled with real responsibility and leadership instead of her vacuous life as an over privileged vampire brat/jilted lover. I also liked the introduction of Deming.* I think it's interesting how Deming is the spirit of Kuan Yin, the Angel of Mercy and her twin, Dehue, is Xi Wangmu, the Angel of Immortality. Until now, the mythology of the series has been very Miltonian and Christian. Kuan Yin (also spelled Guanyin) is from the Buddhist tradition-- she's the Bodhisattva of compassion. Xi Wangmu is the Chinese Queen Mother of the West (usually used in Daoist tradition, but she actually predates Daoism). She's the Goddess of Immortality and is in charge of the Peach Garden (where the peaches make you immortal. I now have a desire to track down a college reading I hadd on the Peach Garden. So this is a shift in the world we've seen so far. I get to interview de la Cruz in a few weeks and will be asking her about this!)

Overall, I really liked this book-- it's one of the best so far. I like that even though it's still exciting and moves very quickly, plot-wise, we get more character development and growth, which I appreciated. BUT! I really missed Bliss. I know she's getting her own spin-off series now, but... :(

*Ok, she showed up for a few paragraphs in Masquerade, but she's actually a character now! I wonder if we'll see more of her and get to meet her twin?

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, January 20, 2011

Keys to the Repository

Keys to the RepositoryKeys to the Repository Melissa de la Cruz

This is a Blue Bloods novel, but not part of the current story arc. However, it fits between The Van Alen Legacy and Misguided Angel if you want to beware of spoilers (and there are some.)

In it, we get repository files on our main characters. A lot of this information is review for fans of the series, but I could see it being useful for readers who don't have a memory for character detail like I do. One thing that was fun in these files was the redacted information (and guessing why it had been redacted) and some of the notes in the files from the scribes to each other.

Interspersed in these files are stories that fit into the regular Blue Bloods story arc. Many are "missing scenes"-- how Schuyler and Jack first started their clandestine meetings and how the ended, where Dylan went after fleeing New York, and more of the conversation between Mimi and Kingsley at the bar in The Van Alen Legacy. There is also a story about Bliss and how she first meets up with the Hounds of Hell (we'll FINALLY get this series in April!)

There is a lot of character and plot recap that was a bit boring as I tend to remember small details from stories (but where I put me keys? Who knows?!) BUT, I did really like the short stories that helped flesh out the story and characters and their relationships. Fans will skip portions of this, but looooooooooove the other parts.

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.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Behemoth (Leviathan)Behemoth Scott Westerfeld

I loved Leviathan. I even took a risk and recommended it to a patron that I talk to a lot* but usually don't recommend books to, as he and I read very different things. (Ok, not too big a risk. He's a steampunk kick and last year was on a huge WWI kick.) We were both very excited for Behemoth. I was even nice and let him put a hold on it before me (but I was #2 on the list, so it's ok!) And we waited. And it came in. Two days later he came in shouting and raving "JENNIE! DID YOU READ IT YET? IT WAS AWESOME! IT WAS SO AWESOME IT MAKES LEVIATHAN LOOK LIKE A PILE OF CRAP!" He was so excited that I didn't have the heart to tell him that he shouldn't (a) shout in the library (b) shout the word crap in the children's room.

But guess what dear reader, HE WAS TOTALLY RIGHT. Compared to Behemoth? Leviathan, which used to get a "love love love OMG love" out of me now gets a mere "meh"

AND! No sucker punch cliff hanger ending. THANK YOU Mr. Westerfeld. You clearly know how to write a second book in a trilogy. It didn't just serve to further the plot and set up the next book. NO. It is it's own perfect book that will lead nicely into the next adventure.

Deryn and Alek are headed towards Constantinople, with the lady boffin's beastie peace offering. But, of course, nothing goes according to plan. When they land, the two are soon separated as we're thrust into an Istanbul where the 1908 revolution was unsuccessful. I also loved how much of the conflict between England and Turkey wasn't of Westerfeld's making. Turkey is upset because it ordered a warship from England, but when WWI broke out, instead of shipping it to Turkey, Churchill (as head of the Admiralty) kept it "temporarily" so the Brits could add it to their navy. Turkey is caught in a between great forces on a strategic point of land** and where England failed, Germany is more than happy to give Turkey what it wants. All that is true. The twist Westerfeld adds is that in addition to a warship, the Brits also kept a beastie...

Lots of adventure and building relationships and tension***. I loved seeing a Clanker Istanbul, but one where the machines were built to look like animals. I loved how the characters worked things that are special to Istanbul into their plans (oh! the spice! so wonderful!) It was very exciting without being totally plot-driven, which is hard to do. I love how Westerfeld is writing an alternate steampunk history, but is still very true to historical detail and sense of place-- a very hard balance to strike, I imagine.

So... why is this better than Leviathan? Part of it is that the world and characters are established so they are free to grow and fill out even more. Part of it is that they are now in the middle of things, action and intrigue-wise. And part of it is just that certain je ne sais quoi.

Also, a shout out for Keith Thompson's illustrations. We need more illustrations in novels for older readers. His black-and-white pictures add a lot to the story and Deryn's facial expressions are priceless. AND! I love the endpapers (I did with Leviathan, too.)

So, if you haven't read Leviathan yet, GO! And if you've read Leviathan and not Behemoth, WTF? GO!

*Things that make me happy-- when the children grow up and leave me for the teen section, but still stop by the children's desk just to say hi and have a chat. I FEEL SO LOVED WHEN THAT HAPPENS.

**Seriously, if you ever play Diplomacy, start a large portion of your force in Turkey. It's the BEST starting position.

*** While I'm mainly referring to the political tension, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the sexual tension that is there, but isn't because Alek doesn't know that Dylan is really Deryn and Deryn's worried about Alek's desire to not marry common and OH! It's not the main focus at all, but I love that it's there and I love the plot line.

Book Provided by...

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.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: After Ghandi

After Gandhi: One Hundred Years of Nonviolent ResistanceAfter Gandhi: One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance Anne Sibley O'Brien and Perry Edmond O'Brien

After Ghandi offers brief introductions to famous incidents of nonviolent protest around the world, and brief biographies of some of the people involved in those protests. It starts with Ghandi leading a protest in South Africa in 1908 in which many Asian residents burned the registration papers that made them register as foreigners. It ends with the February 2003 global protests against the war in Iraq. In between it covers the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Tiananmen Square Protests, the Velvet Revolution, and work done by such groups as the Peace People and the Mothers of the Disappeared.

It's a striking design-- mainly black and white with large pull quotes highlighted in dark red. Most sections end with a black-and-white pastel portrait of one of the highlighted leaders done by Anne Sibley O'Brien. While the portraits are beautiful, I would have preferred photographs.

I liked that it didn't tell the story of Rosa Parks as a woman who got caught up in history, but rather as one who knew exactly what she was doing. (Lets give Parks a little agency, ok? It makes her more awesome.) It mentions that she was not the first person arrested but that her arrest was the one that got the bus boycott going.

I was a little taken aback by the section on the Tiananmen Square protests. Even though it ends with the tanks moving in, it contains several phrases such as "At the time, China was run by an oppressive, corrupt regime that was intolerant of criticism" or "At the time, Chinese citizens had no choice in the election of their leaders." Yes, that's all true. But it's still true. Starting the sentence with "at the time" makes it sound like there's been a radical shift since then, and there hasn't been.

Overall though, it's a great introduction to the ways people have, and can, stand up to injustice peacefully. They're great stories of courage and standing up in the face of fear. I also loved that they included stories of nonviolent protest that didn't always work-- it highlights that just because they didn't get results, people tried and we remember them for trying and we can continue their work for a better world.

It's a great book to highlight on a day dedicated to a man who used nonviolence as a way to dramatically change the world we live in.

Round up is over at NC Teacher Stuff.

Book Provided by... the publisher for Cybils 2009 consideration.

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, January 15, 2011

YALSA Candidate Info

I get excited about things like source notes and good design. I love a book that engages and teaches at the same time; I love one that shines a light on who we are, who we’ve been, and who we may one day be. I love a good read.  It is because of these things that I’m running for the selection committee of the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction. I am extremely honored to be nominated for a selection committee position this early in my career, and I feel that my passion for quality nonfiction, commitment to teen literature and librarianship, and experience as a reviewer and awards committee member will make me a valuable asset to this committee. 

In my five-and-a-half years as a public services librarian, I have taken as many opportunities as possible to learn more about the field and to contribute to it. I served three years as a member of the CYBILS awards in the Middle Grade/Young Adult nonfiction category. I have also served on the Maryland Blue Crab committee and have judged other writing competitions for teens and adults, including the Aspen Gold Romance Competition in the YA category of the PASIC Book of Your Heart competition. I review books here on my blog and for School Library Journal. I’m a member of the DCKidlit book club. I studied YA literature in grad school and taken online classes through ALA. I have attended several trainings and conferences on YA lit. I’ve even organized and presented at a few. (Including MLA this May-- if you’re going to be there, please stop by!)

I am lucky enough to have been able to travel to several countries and around the US. I spent a semester studying in Nanjing, China and spent a year living and working in Manchester, England. I grew up in the Midwest and now live on the East Coast. If I had so much money that I’d never have to work again, I’d spend my days sitting in the various cafes of the world, reading and talking about books. My experience with other cultures and places gives me a broader perspective on the world that makes me a more thoughtful reader and a better evaluator, and is extremely beneficial when working with a wide variety of people. 

This is an exciting time to be a fan of nonfiction for young adults. In the last few years we’ve seen an explosion of titles coming out-- both original work and young reader editions of adult titles. As with any publishing boom, there exists considerable variation in the quality of titles coming out. I am excited about the opportunity to serve YALSA and help honor the best titles for teens in this field. Long time readers of this blog know that I am a voracious reader, not only in terms of quantity but also genre and age-range. I love reading broadly in a field to help pick out the best titles. I love discussing and debating titles with other people just as passionate about this as I am. I feel my professional, educational, and life experience will make me a valuable asset to this committee.

I hope you’ll consider voting for me. If you have ANY questions for me, please leave them in the comments or email me (kidsilkhaze at yahoo dot com) and I’ll answer them here. 

Nitty Gritty details:


Grinnell College, BA, 2002 Major in History and Chinese Studies
CIEE Nanjing University, 2000 (study abroad program) Chinese language and Culture
University of Maryland, iSchool, MLIS, 2008

Relevant Work:

Library Associate II, Youth Services, Prince George’s County Memorial Library System 2005-present

Other interesting jobs I’ve had:

Sales person and teacher at Knit A Round Yarn Shop (Ann Arbor, MI)
Cataloger for the MathSciNet database (Ann Arbor, MI)
Cashier Manager at the People’s Food Co-op (Ann Arbor, MI)
Marketing Department Assistant, The Bridgewater Hall (Manchester, England)
Costumer Shop Stitcher for the Grinnell College Theater Department (Grinnell, IA)

Awards I’ve Been Involved With:

The Maryland Library Association Blue Crab Young Reader Award, which honors the best in beginning and transition fiction and non-fiction for children, 2008-2010.
The Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards (CYBILS), judging committee for Middle Grade and Young Adult nonfiction, 2007, 2008; nominating committee for Middle Grade and Young Adult nonfiction, 2009.
Selection Committee for the National Endowment of the Humanities/ALA We the People Bookshelf, 2008.
PASIC Book of Your Heart Competition, Young Adult Field Judge, 2008.
Aspen Gold Romance Competition, Final Round Judge, 2007.

Presentations and Trainings:

The Prince George's County Memorial Library System Notable Teen Books Committee, 2007, 2008. This is an in-system training and discussion on notable teen books that librarians should be aware of. In 2009, this stopped being organized by committee. This spring, I am co-organizing the discussion.

Panel discussion "It's All About the Blog: Approaches for Book Reviewers" at the 2009 Kidlitosphere Conference in Arlington, VA.

Invited to present at the Maryland Library Association Annual Conference in 2009 on the topic, "What's New in Young Adult Literature." (see page 7 for an article about the presentation.) The first half was part of the YALSA roadtrip; the second half looked at popular trends in teen literature. The hour-long presentation introduced the audience to 175 current teen titles. This presentation was very well received by the standing-room only crowd. Based on the positive feedback, I was asked to give the presentation again for in-system training.

Developed and moderated a panel discussion at the Maryland Library Association Annual Conference in 2010, "The Millennials Turn 30." (see page 13 for an article about the discussion)

This year, I was invited again to give a presentation on a Teen Literature topic at the Maryland Library Association Annual Conference. This May, I will be presenting “Windows and Mirrors: Multicultural and International Literature for Teens.”

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Grimm Legacy

The Grimm LegacyThe Grimm Legacy Polly Shulman

After writing a paper on the Grimms for history class, Elizabeth gets a job as a page at the New York Circulating Repository Library. This library circulates objects instead of books-- Elizabethan clothing or Marie Antoinette's wig. It's an odd assortment of collections, but what's really interesting are the special collections on the lowest level. There lies the Grimm collection-- with the magic mirror from Snow White, mermaid combs, seven league boots, or twelve sets of worn out dancing slippers.*

The problem is that many magical items have recently been flat-out stolen or replaced with fakes. A large bird is stalking users and employees of the Repository. When suspicion starts to fall on the pages (although the pages themselves are starting to go missing) Elizabeth and her new friends are out to uncover the mystery because it becomes deadly.

I loved the library and the mystery. I liked Elizabeth's friendship with Anjali and while I found Aaron's jealousy of Marc a bit annoying (especially how it spilled over into everything Aaron did) I liked that it was there. If that makes sense. I liked the real-world applications of many of the fairy tale items (using seven league boots to get from school to work to day care to pick up your brother? Excellent!)

I also really liked how Elizabeth had an distant father and a horrible step-family, but it didn't play up the Cinderella parallels. It was more there to provide context as to why she was so gung-ho about her job (before discovering the Grimm collection, I mean, once you discover that, that's enough reason to spend all your time at work, right?)

It's a great adventure with a bit of romance, an awesome little sister, and a lot of magic. Very much love.

*It's also where you have such things as the Wells collection (shrink rays and time machines) The Gibson Chrestomathy (computer viruses, artificial intelligence) and the Lovecraft Corpus (it's just bad news. Don't go there.)

Oh, a note on tags. Usually if something is "YA" or "Juvenile" I just tag it with where it's shelved at the library I work at. Many libraries have this in the kid's section. SLJ and Booklist both list this as Grades 6-9, which I very much agree with, so I'm tagging it YA, even though that's not where any of my local libraries shelve it. Not that it's inappropriate for kids (there's some kissing) but the main characters are all in high school and I think it'll just appeal more to the younger end of YA, rather than the older end of J.

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.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares

Dash & Lily's Book of DaresDash & Lily's Book of Dares Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

You know what my biggest pet peeve about this book is? Everyone says (including the flap copy!) that Lily left a red Moleskein notebook tucked in the shelves at The Strand. Dash found it and followed the instructions.

But Lily's brother left the notebook. "I thought the notebook was seriously Langston's stupidest idea ever until Langston mentioned where he was going to leave it..." (p21)

Yes, my biggest pet peeve is that everyone gets a minor plot point wrong when *talking* about the book.

Because the book itself is pretty much perfect.

Lily's alone for Christmas as her parents are on a second honeymoon and her brother is holed up in his bedroom with his new boyfriend. The notebook is his way of trying to find something for Lily to do so she'll leave him alone.

Dash hates the holidays, so he told his dad he was spending Christmas with his mom, and told his mom he was spending Christmas with his dad. Free of Dash, both parents conveniently left town.

The notebook has a dare. Dash followed it and leaves Lily a new dare. And the friendship, and romance begins.

It's New York in the snow*, in the Christmas crowds. It's just as wonderful and zany as Cohn and Levithan's previous joint ventures (Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List) but better. It's sweeter without getting saccharine. I loved loved loved Lily. I loved how vulnerable and slightly immature she was. As much as she hated that side of herself, I really liked "Shrilly" I loved her family scattered across the boroughs and how they had no problems helping her in her crazy schemes.

And most of all, I loved the Washington Square list-serv Moms because... that's just true.

This is a book with deep thoughts and substance that still leaves you feeling happy and refreshed-- the perfect mix of LITERATURE and fluffy fun.

Love love love love love love love love love.

*I've really only been to the city once, on a last-minute solo week-long vacation last February where I got caught in a blizzard. I feel in love with the city as seen through a veil of flakes. (Even if I did have to take all my souvenir money and use it to buy a pair of boots!)

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.