Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Oh My!

You know how sometimes, in our little kidlit corner, we have dustups between reviewers and authors?

Luckily, I've never seen anything like this before.

Read the comments. The author is cray-cray. If you're sensitive to language though, beware: after awhile her entire rebuttal turns into "F--- off." But you know, without the dashes.

The Daughters

The DaughtersThe Daughters Joanna Philbin

So, I read the second book in the series first, liked it so much that I went out and got the first one.

Lizzie, Carina, and Hudson have been best friends forever. As the daughters of the rich, famous, and powerful, they have their own rules on how to get by in the world.

Lizzie's mother is one of the world's most famous supermodels. Lizzie, however, looks more like her academic father than her glamorous mother and resents always being pulled into her mother's spotlight.

But, when her mother is in Paris, Lizzie's discovered as a fresh face of "real beauty" realizes that when she's not overshadowed by her mother, she actually enjoys the spotlight. But she quickly learns that there is more to modeling, and her mother's career than she ever realized.

To top it all off, Todd, the guy she shared her first kiss with when she was 12, right before he moved to London, is back in town...

What I really like about this series that Lizzie, Hudson, and Carina are super rich, yes, but their lives aren't all about the money. It's not a lot of catty, backstabby drama. There's no drugs or sex and their friendship is pretty solid. I hate to say that they're good role models, because that's a bit kiss of death-y, but they are. It's refreshing to read a book about nice people with lots of money.

Plus! Lots of Manhattan-y goodness and private school drama (just because the main characters are nice doesn't mean all of their classmates are!). It's a really fun read and I'm enjoying the series.

Book Provided by... my wallet

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, March 28, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Sugar Changed the World

Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and ScienceSugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos

Human tongues have to be trained to enjoy salty flavors, but we are born craving sweetness.

Starting a few thousand years before the Common Era and moving through to the modern day, most of the book focuses on slavery and the large sugar plantations of the Caribbean.

In tracing the brutality of life on the sugar plantations, as well as a growing taste for it among the lower classes in Europe, Aronson and Budhos make the argument that sugar was responsible for the rise of slavery as well as it's eventual abolition and played a vital role in the Industrial Revolution.

While I do not dispute these arguments, for the sake of conciseness, the book doesn't look at the other factors involved in these movements, which makes it sound like sugar was the main or sole reason for them and that's not right, and weakens the overall argument about the very important role that sugar did play.

I most enjoyed the section that traces the spread of sugar with the spread of Islam-- that was a topic I could have read much more about.

At the end, it talks about this rise of sugar from non-cane sources (such as beets and corn) and mentions a bit about the health controversies surrounding this, but doesn't focus on it. I think a little more exploration of the role of US sugar tariffs and the rise of high fructose corn syrup would have been really interesting and fit in well with the main points of the book in showing the effects that sugar had beyond sweetening our food and drink.

Lots of pictures and a few pull-out boxes with further information. The illustrations are in black-and-white, but there are links to see the pictures online in color (in addition to the links in the text, the authors have gathered all of them on their websites.) There are also extensive source notes (and comments on the reading levels of various sources so students can decide if they want to follow up with something, which is very, very, very cool) and a bibliography. I really appreciated the multiple time lines for each strand of the sugar story-- these really helped show how the multiple narratives meshed together. There's also a note for "teachers, librarians, and other interested parties" about how they researched the book. That's the kind of thing I geek out over and thought it was interesting, but I remain a bit confused as to why they thought they needed to explain the difference between primary and secondary sources to teachers and librarians!

Overall though, I think this is a really interesting book for junior high and high school students that looks at something so common and explores the role it played in some major historical shifts.

Round up today is over at Practically Paradise.

ARC Provided by... the publisher at ALA.

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.

My Baby Needs a Place to Sleep! Week 7

Sorry I'm getting this week's giveaway up a little late!

Fill out the form below by midnight eastern on Sunday, April 3 for your chance to enter! The books are a little heavy, so US entries only, please.

You get a copy of...

Rockville Pike: A Suburban Comedy of Manners by Susan Coll (hardcover, ex-library copy)
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (paperback)
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler (hardcover, ex-library copy)
Charms for the Easy Life by Kate Gibbons (paperback)
A Theory of Relativity by Jacquelyn Mitchard (ARC)

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.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Caught up!

Or, at least I'm caught up in 1 thing.

I'm not caught up in blogging, but I AM caught up in blog reading. At least until someone posts something else.

I have a huge mental block against hitting the "mark all as read" button in my Google Reader. I just can't do it. Plus, I mean, it's not like a book review stops being timely or an animal stops being cute or bookshelves stop being pretty. (And those types of posts make up about 90% of my feeds.)

Two weeks ago, I had nearly 2500 unread blog posts. The oldest were from February 23rd.

I finished reading them this afternoon.


Poetry Friday

It's Cherry Blossom Time! Not only is it the prettiest time of year here in DC (at least when the weather cooperates) but it's my second favorite time of year to drive to work.* I spent a lot of time stuck in traffic on the 14th Street Bridge, but it offers a great view of all the cherry trees lining the Potomac.

(that's me at the festival last spring ETA Photo taken by Dan, who is awesome and should not have been left out of the original post!)

Here's a haiku I wrote while stuck in traffic in 2008:

Cherry blossom rain
Makes way for unfurling leaves
The river sparkles

Today's Poetry Friday round up is over at A Year of Reading!

*My most favorite is August, when Congress and the rest of the government go on vacation so there's very little traffic.

Invisible Things

Invisible ThingsInvisible Things Jenny Davidson

I loooooooooooooooooooooooved The Explosionist. As soon as I finished, I wanted more. I loved the alternate-history world that Davidson had built. I loved the mystery and the tension. IRLYNS creeped the hell out of me.

I had been waiting FOREVER for the sequel. I was so excited when my hold came in!

Sadly... it fell short. Really, really short.

I've been sitting on this review for awhile, to see if I could temper it a bit. How many of my problems are the actual fault of the book and how many are just "it's not the book I wanted?"

Sadly, I've come to realize that my major issue with the book had nothing to do with my expectations.

Mikael and Sophie have successfully made it to Denmark. War still looms and there are shocking developments in Sophie's back story (the explosion that killed her parents wasn't an accident! Aunt Tabitha has scandalous secrets!) It starts with a terrorist attack on Niels Bohr's birthday party. We then jump back a few months to Mikael and Sophie's life living at the Institute for Theoretical Physics. We know the attack is coming and that Sophie and Mikael will be there. Plus there's a beautiful femme fatale Russian Weapons Dealer that might be masterminding the whole thing...


It overall just felt really flat.

This should have been just as gripping and tension filled as the first. There are certainly enough exciting plot points and developments but it just never got to the same level as the first book. Also, certain things that I loved about the first book get dropped. The whole spiritualist movement is only mentioned occasionally, almost in a "oh yeah, we should talk about that because it was so big in the last book" sort of way. But it was such a huge part of the world Davidson built in the first book and isn't a part of the world in this book at all. Also, I missed the creepy IRLYNS subplot. I know that they couldn't do a lot about it because Sophie was no longer in Scotland but... it just gets the occasional mention because, well, it's not like you could completely ignore what was going on there.

There are a few good things-- I did love how science-y this one is. I liked the conversations between the physicists. I also liked the food. Sophie sure does love cake, and I sure do love reading about it. (Cut me some slack, I'm almost 7 months pregnant. There is nothing in the world more important than cake.)

BUT BUT BUT the last 100 pages turn the whole thing into a retelling of The Snow Queen (although in doing some poking around to see if there will be a sequel, I discovered that The Snow Queen was Davidson's original title.) But, I found the shift to fairy tale retelling jarring and odd, especially if you couple the story of this book with the first book. (And you know how much I love a fairy tale retelling!)

And then the end, OMG WHAT?! (Spoiler filled rant here) It ends at a weird spot with a complete shift in character and tone and left most of the plot just dangling and unresolved.

I loved The Explosionist so much and there is still so much unresolved that I really hope there's another book, but this book just went in a weird direction that I don't understand. It actually angered me.

So, I really hope there is another book, one that's closer to The Explosionist than this. I loved that first book so much that I'm still very interested in what happens next even though this one just left me colder than the creepy ice palace.

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, March 24, 2011

Alcatraz versus the Shattered Lens

Alcatraz Versus The Shattered LensAlcatraz Versus The Shattered Lens Brandon Sanderson

This is the 4th book in the Alcatraz Smedry Series. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, start with Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians.

Alcatraz, Bastille, Kaz and Aydee are off to Tuki Tuki, where the Mokian kingdom is fighting its last stand against the Librarian invaders. There are giant robots, a Librarian sect that hates all types of glass, coma guns, teddy bear grenades, and worst of all, Alcatraz's mother.

This is the fourth book in a projected five book series (I think five. I'm often wrong on such things) And as such, most things go completely pear shaped (even more so than usual.)

But, it's a solid entry in the series. I love Alcatraz's voice, especially when addressing the reader. In this book in particular, he orders us to act everything out. He also numbers the chapters very oddly, to make Hushlander librarian's heads explode. And, there's still the same mad cap zaniness the series is known for. I mean! TEDDY BEAR GRENADES! An entire chapter where the dialogue is all quotations from Hamlet.

In short, if you like the series, you should like this book. If you haven't read the rest of the series, this is not the book to start with (it won't make any sense). If you don't like the series, this one won't change your mind so go read something else!

And beware the teddy bears. And the librarians.

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, March 23, 2011

Artemis the Brave

Artemis the Brave (Goddess Girls)Artemis the Brave (Goddess Girls) Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

Artemis has never understood her boy-crazy friends (especially Aphrodite) but when she meets Orion, a new exchange student at school, watch out! Suddenly she's ditching her friends and even forgetting archery practice with Apollo just to follow Orion around. The problem is, Orion's an egotistical jerk. Artemis is sick of having to defend him to her friends, and her friends are sick of having to listen to her go on and on about how great he is. But... even when Artemis realizes that Orion does stuff wrong, she can't help like him.

While this is the longest of the Goddess Girl series so far, it ties in the least with actual mythology. In this version, Orion (last name, Starr) is a mortal actor who does things like spray his body with something called "God Bod" to make him shimmer like his immortal classmates. He's not a hunter by any means, nor does he do anything heroic. The closest we come is that the fact he has a dog named Sirius. In another odd mythological quirk, the school play is the story of Eros and Psyche. With Aphrodite playing Psyche. While there is much mention of the "vengeful goddess" who causes all the harm, it never states that the goddess is supposed to be Aphrodite herself, because well, that wouldn't make sense in the context of the Mount Olympus Academy world. Also, let's just mention this-- BOY CRAZY ARTEMIS. What? Artemis?

While the mythology is thin in this one (and, with the school play, strained, and with Artemis chasing boys, laughable) it's still a good addition to the series, and it's a series I've been enjoying quite a bit. It's light and fun, showing good friendships with light romance. It's a good one for early middle grade and I'm very much looking forward to April's release of Athena the Wise and August's release of Aphrodite the Diva.

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, March 22, 2011

Rot and Ruin

Rot & RuinRot and Ruin Jonathan Maberry

Benny Imura couldn't hold a job, so he took to killing.

How's that for a kicker of a first sentence?

When you turn 15, you have to find a job, of your get cut down to half-rations. Benny tries everything, but nothing fits so he reluctantly takes his brother up on the offer to be his apprentice as bounty hunter.

Benny will never forgive his brother, Tom, for what happened on First Night. Benny remembers his mother screaming from the window as Tom took Benny and ran while their father, already turned, attacked her from behind. Everyone thinks Tom is brave and fearless, a hero, but Benny knows. Benny knows Tom is nothing but a coward.

But as Benny journeys into the Rot and Ruin with Tom, he soon realizes that everything he thought he knew-- about who were the heroes and who were the monsters is completely wrong.

I'm over zombies. Really, another zombie book? Is that really necessary?

In this case, HELLS YES.

I've never been one for horror or zombies, but this is just so much more.

While there is certainly a lot of zombie action, at the core it's a coming-of-age story as Benny realizes there is more to the world and the people in it than he realized. As he realizes that maybe it's not the zombies that are the real monsters.

I loved the tension between the Benny and his generation and the adults. Benny was two on First Night. He remembers flashes from that night, but not life before. The adults remember that First Night wasn't a single night, what life used to be like before the dead rose and started biting. They don't like to talk about it much, want to save the younger ones from the horror of what happened, which means that the teens don't necessarily respect what's going on. I think it's something that often happens as communities try to move on from societal tragedy and Maberry explores this really, really well.

I loved how much this was more about the people in the community rather than us vs. zombies.

While the zombies are definitely important, this is a much meatier, deeper book than it appears on the surface.

There's a reason why it's a Cybils winner!

Also, bonus multicultural points-- Tom is Japanese-American and Benny is half-Japanese, half-Irish. It's not a huge deal in the series but for everyone looking for a hotttt Asian male in teen lit? TOM IS YOUR GUY. Swoony.

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, March 21, 2011

Nonfiction Monday-- Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside ShortyYummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty G. Neri, illustrated by Randy DuBurke

In 1994, Shavon Dean was gunned down in gang-related violence. She was 14. The boy who shot her was 11.

Robert "Yummy" Sandifer was trying to impress his crew, but he couldn't shoot straight. Being a minor, the gang used him to commit their crimes, knowing that he couldn't be tried as an adult or sentenced to life. Due to his age and age of Shavon, the manhunt for Yummy became national news and even after laying low for awhile, the heat never died down. Wary of the amount of attention law enforcement was paying to the neighborhood, Yummy was eventually killed by The Black Disciples.

This graphic novel is told by Roger, a (fictional) classmate of Yummy's. When school starts up in the fall, his class is assigned to write an essay about how they feel about what Yummy did. Roger talks to the people in his neighborhood on their conflicting views of the troubled boy. Roger himself doesn't know what to think-- Yummy beat him up regularly for his lunch money, but he also carried a Teddy Bear and got excited over finding a toad. Roger searches (and never finds) the answers he's looking for, mainly why.

And the book doesn't tell us why. But the book does paint a community and the people both good and bad and how such tragedy shook it. It's moving and powerful and extremely thought provoking.

Told in graphic novel format, the book is based on news reports, public records, and interviews but portions are definitely fictionalized (conversations, some characters). The author discusses which parts are true and which parts aren't and there's a source list in the back.

Neri won a Coretta Scott King Author Award honor for this book, which was also included on the YALSA book lists for Top 10 Great Graphic Novels for Teens and Top 10 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers. It also won the Cybils award for Teen Graphic Novels. It's an amazing book that deserves such honors. However, due to the amount of fictionalization (which is what makes it SUCH a powerful and well-done book) I'm not heartbroken to see that it didn't win any nonfiction awards.

Speaking of Nonfiction Awards (awkward segue. Sorry.) I am running for election for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction. If you're a YALSA member, I hope you'll vote for me! You can read more about the election and my views on things here and check out my interview with GreenBeanTeenQueen here!

Today's Nonfiction Monday Roundup is over at The Children's War.

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, March 20, 2011

My Baby Needs a Place to Sleep! Week 6

You have until midnight next Sunday night (March 27th, Eastern time) to enter this week's giveaways. YES! PLURAL!

You can win the YA Thriller Pack

What Happened to Cass McBride? by Gail Giles (autographed, hardcover)
The Creek by Jennifer Holm (autographed, hardcover)

Or the Middle Grade Adventure Pack:

The 100-Year-Old Secret (Sherlock Files) by Tracy Barrett (ARC)
Red Dragon Codex (The Dragon Codices) by R. D. Henham (ARC)
STORM: The Infinity Code by E. L. Young (ARC)
Magickeepers: The Eternal Hourglass by Erica Kirvo (hardcover)

Just fill out the form below! These giveaways ARE open to everyone, no matter what country you live in.

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.


Every year, ALA gives the Printz Award to a "book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature."

But it's not the whole of ALA that does this-- it's a committee of librarians, some elected and some appointed that read through mountains and mountains of books and work together to find the best ones.

If you are an ALA and YALSA member, you get to vote for committee members.

I think one of the people you should vote for Sarah Bean Thompson. Many of you may know her as the very cool and awesome force behind GreenBeanTeenQueen.

I asked Sarah a few questions about the Printz and books to help you get a better feel as to why she should be on the committee.

What makes a book truly Printz worthy?

I think for a book to be truly Printz worthy it has to be a book that will engage readers and get them talking. It has to be a book that librarians can pick up and be proud of (although there will always be disagreements!). But I think it has to be a book that librarians can read and say "this is why I do what I do-why I serve teens, why I read YA, and why I advocate for teens and YA lit." I also think it should be a book that best represents YA lit-that shows non-YA readers the value of YA literature. And I do think there should be some reader appeal too, although that's not the focus of the award or even mentioned in the criteria. But you want teens to read Printz books and hopefully they love them. But even if they don't, at least they can have a great discussion about it.

What's your favorite Printz winner or honor?

I have so many that I really love, but I think my favorite would have to be A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. It's historical, it's mystery, it's coming of age, and all woven together so well that you don't even realize the author is mixing everything in.

What books got overlooked by the Printz committee?

Funny books get overlooked by all award committees-not just the Printz! I think sometimes we forget that funny books can teach us just as much as a literary drama. I also think it's harder to pull that off in a funny book, so maybe that's why they so often get overlooked. But I love the fact that Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging is a Printz honor-I'd love to see more books like that make the list!

What excites you the most about the possibility of serving on the Printz committee?

I'm most excited about getting to talk about YA with other librarians for a year! We get to analyze, discuss, fight, argue, and praise books-how awesome is that??

It's super awesome! Remember to vote and remember Sarah when choosing people for the Printz!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Poetry Friday: The Dreamer

"I am Poetry" by Pam Munoz Ryan

I am poetry,
waiting to seize the poet.
I ask the questions
for which all answers
I choose no one.
I choose every one.
Come closer...
...if you dare.

I am poetry,
lurking in dappled shadow.
I am the confusion
of root
and gnarled branch.
I am the symmetry
of insect,
and a bird's outstretched wings.

I am poetry,
prowling the blue,
tempting my prey
with fish, shell, and sky.
From beneath the eyelids
of the deep, I seek
the unsuspecting heart.
Look at me.

I am poetry,
surrounding the dreamer.
Ever present,
I capture the spirit,
the reluctant pen,
and become
the breath
on the writer's only road.

The Dreamer (Ala Notable Children's Books. Older Readers)This the poem that travels throughout The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan and illustrated by Peter Sis.

The Dreamer tells the story of Pablo Naruda's childhood, when we was Neftali, the middle child, weak and prone to day dreaming. His father is a harsh man, determined that his sons do the family proud and go into medicine or business. He makes Neftali's older brother stop studying music. He often publicly humiliates Neftali, hoping to turn him into a stronger "more normal" boy. Neftali finds support in his stepmother and his uncle, the publisher of a controversial newspaper.

Overall, while I enjoyed this book, it didn't stand out for me in any way. I read it because it won the Pura Belpre award this year and was one several Newbery lists I saw this winter, so I was surprised by the overall lack of... something. I can't put my finger on why, but this one just really didn't do it for me.

BUT! I did like parts of it. I liked the background conflict of the Mapuche people with developers. Not that I liked the conflict, but I like how Ryan worked it in, over the course of time, here and there. It was always in the background, but showed Neftali's growing social consciousness and showed how his uncle and father disagreed. I also liked that the book was printed in green ink (the reasons why show up in the author's note.)

Poetry Friday round up is over at A Wrung Sponge.

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, March 17, 2011

United States of Arugula

The United States of Arugula: The Sun Dried, Cold Pressed, Dark Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food RevolutionThe United States of Arugula: The Sun Dried, Cold Pressed, Dark Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution David Kamp

I do love to eat. I love giant fried turkey legs at the state fair. I love Shanghaiese xialongbao (soup dumplings). I love buffalo mozerella with fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, and some extra-virgin olive oil. I love a good Double Glouster/Stilton layer cheese on a slice of Asian pear. I love Peking Duck and Pad Thai pizza.

In 2004, I went to the American History museum and was wandering through an exhibit on globalization. One by-product of globalization that I had never realized is the fact that you can now get sushi at almost every grocery store in the US. Later on, I was in the Julia's kitchen exhibit watching an episode of her original cooking show. She had to explain to her audience what garlic was. GARLIC.

So, when I saw this in the bookstore, I had to scoop it up. Kamp starts with James Beard, Julia Child, and Craig Claibourne. He takes on a journey that introduces French cooking (both through Child and some high end New York restaurants) to the American palate. We see the rise of California nouvelle and local cuisine and touch on other global food trends and the rise of the celebrity chef and the Food Network. Along the way, there's some information about Dean and Delucca and Whole Foods.

Most of the book focuses on high end restaurant food the changes we've seen over time in that. There's a sense that what's popular in the country's best restaurants trickles down to the dining room table, but we don't get much of it. My favorite chapter was the one on Dean and Delucca, because how food gets from high end to my table is what most interests me. I think the marketing of the book (including the subtitle and jacket copy) made it seem like it would focus more on home-eating than restaurant eating, but the book skewers heavily to the celebrity-chef side of things and stays rather coastal in focus. However, while I wasn't as interested in the history of fine dining and the character sketches of the people who shaped it, I found the dishy, gossipy, who-hates-who, style of writing very enjoyable and a fun read.

I also enjoyed Kamp's argument that even though we currently live in a world where they've replaced the burger bun with fried chicken, we are living in a golden age of food. Despite our fast-food calorie/fat/sodium laden wasteland, there's also raw milk cheese and local cured meats and imported craft beer.

And frankly, as someone who once drank a bottle of Lafite-Rothschild with a grocery-store brand frozen pizza, I appreciate both.

Book Provided by... my wallet

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, March 16, 2011

Battle Royale

Battle Royale: The NovelBattle Royale Koushun Takami trans. Yuji Oniki

So a while ago, Leila put together a list of Hunger Games read alikes that included the following:

Okay, so Koushun Takami's cult classic Battle Royale comes up every single time The Hunger Games is mentioned within a three-mile radius of anyone with even the slightest leaning towards hipsterism:

"Blah blah blah Hunger Games blah blah."

"Excuse me. Just give me a moment to adjust my skinny jeans and Elvis Costello glasses. Now. Why on earth would you want to read that YA tripe when you could just read Battle Royale?"

"Um. Because despite the broad similarity in premise, they're actually completely different books, and were written with completely different audiences in mind? And maybe you should think about how ass-y it makes you sound when you dismiss an entire genre without even attempting to explore it?"

And yes, that made me kinda want to read the book.

In the Greater Republic of East Asia, every year 50 third-year junior high school classes are chosen for the program. Ostensibly, it's a a research program for the military. In reality, it's a form of control. Students are given a pack with water, food, a weapon (weapons vary from a fork to a machine gun) and the last one standing wins a salary for the rest of their lives and a signed card from the dictator.

Battle Royale follows the fate of Third Year Class B, Shiroiwa Junior High School.

Overall, I found this a very engrossing, fast-paced read (even though it's almost 600 pages long). It starts with a bus full of students who think they're on their way to a study trip and ends shortly after the Program does. There is a bit of info-dumping in the dialogue, usually when describing what happened in the various students' lives before the Program began. There's also some weird voice/word choice things that I can't tell if it's the author, cultural, or a translation issue. Like, a 15-year old popular girl with a rebel aesthetic refers to someone she's been "buddies" with for a number of years, but she's talking about a very close friend. I'd stumble across a few weird things like that and it would take me out of the story a bit.

BUT! I did really like it. It follows all 42 students and shifts who it's following pretty frequently, although it mainly focuses on three students trying to find a way to escape the island. There's a student list in the front and I found it pretty useful to photocopy it and then cross off students as they died. There's also a map (score!) and various zones become forbidden at different times, and it was useful for me to photocopy that and mark of the zones on the map, just like the characters were doing.

My real complaint is with book design. At the end of every chapter, in bold it says "X Students Remaining." It's really hard when you turn the page in the middle of a battle for your eye not to be drawn over and see how the battle ends. But, it was also helpful information to have, especially with so many students competing.

It's a great book that shouldn't be compared to the The Hunger Games because it's fundamentally different, even though the basic premise is similar, BUT, with Hunger Games so fresh in our minds, it'll be hard not to, so let's cave to temptation, ok?

One big difference is that while there are messages in the book on governmental control in a oppressive society, it doesn't explore these issues in the same way, or same depth. It instead focuses on the psychological toll of fear, and what makes classmates turn against classmates. It's more Lord of the Flies that way.

Also, there's a lot more blood. I noted in my review of Hunger Games that Sara thought the violence was more MG than YA and I more or less agreed. Battle Royale is high YA/adult on the violence scale.

I found Hunger Games chilling because of the government control aspect and just the general culture of Panem. Battle Royale is scary because everyone in the Program knows each other-- many of known each other for most of their lives. Also, it uses weapons and machinery that already exists* so you don't have things like trackerjackers and mockingjays that need explaining. You have guns. We know what guns are and what they can do.

While there is some romance in Battle Royale, it doesn't hijack the plot because everyone's a bit more concerned with survival than the objects of their affection. Or how to use them in order to win.

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, Battle Royale has a HUGE cast. It's written in 3rd person narration and the focus changes frequently. This makes it a bit harder to read (especially if you're not familiar with Japanese names, because some names look very similar in English.) But, more importantly, if someone blacks out in a critical battle, the focus shifts so we can see the battle through someone else's eyes, not just get a summary of the action once the person who blacked out wakes up later.**

So I loved it. Was it better than Hunger Games? It was different. It won't appeal to all Hunger Games fans, but it's a great peace of dystopian fiction and I do recommend.

*The main exception is the collar they all have to wear so the teacher can hear them and track them and kill them remotely if they wander into a forbidden zone. Or just piss him off.

**And that's what I haven't reviewed Mockingjay yet. It's been 6 months and I still just want to say "GAH!"

Book Provided by... my local library

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ninth Ward

Ninth WardNinth Ward Jewell Parker Rhodes

Lanesha can see spirits. Living with Mama YaYa, who reads signs and sees things, she's teased at school for her witchy ways. But Lanesha sees things-- not just the dead, but other people who try to be invisible.

But something's coming and Mama YaYa can't read the signs-- they keep telling her different things. A storm's coming. Katrina.

Just as Lanesha meets a new teacher who inspires her to build bridges. Just as a popular girl doesn't mind that Lanesha's a little weird and befriends her. Just as... the neighborhood boards up and clears out. Lanesha does what she can to prepare, but as adult readers know, it's not the storm itself that causes the most destruction and the worst is something that she couldn't prepare for.

I have one major complaint about this book. In the book, the Katrina hits on Sunday night. Lanesha and Mama YaYa spend a tense night in the dark listening to the wind and the storm. Lanesha wakes up on Monday morning to a new day and cleans up a bit and then the water starts rising. It's really well done and very dramatic, but... Katrina made landfall at 6am on Monday morning and by 9am the flood waters were already 6-8 feet in the Ninth Ward.* It draws out the drama to mess with the timeline but surely it could have been done without that?

Especially because I loved this book. I loved Lanesha and the people in her neighborhood. I loved how she dealt with the bullies and the ghosts. I loved her strength in the storm and the aftermath. I loved her resourcefulness and power. I loved the touch of magical realism. I loved the terror and tension of the storm and flood.

It's beautiful and I'm glad it won the Coretta Scott King honor award. It deserves recognition.

But... the timeline nags at me. I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere else. Am I totally offbase on this?

*I'm getting my timeline facts from this pdf timeline put out by Brookings. I looked it up because I remember that the hurricane hit on Monday morning but wanted to double check.

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, March 14, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Unraveling Freedom

Unraveling Freedom: The Battle for Democracy on the Home Front During World War IUnraveling Freedom: The Battle for Democracy on the Home Front During World War I Ann Bausum

While American soldiers fought abroad, making the world safe for democracy, they steadily lost freedoms on American soil. Labor leaders and peace activists were shunned and even jailed for voicing anti-war sentiment. It became illegal to teach German in the public schools (and foreign language instruction in the US has never recovered) and many immigrants were treated with suspicion and derision.

Bausum explores these issues and more (I never thought about Prohibition gaining traction because of anti-German sentiment and the amount of German-American ownership of the brewing business...) in her beautiful book on free speech and other civil rights on the homefront during WWI.

My only complaint is that it's too short. (Including notes, bibliography, citations, etc, it's still only 88 pages.) As such, it fails to provide some necessary context. In the afterword, it discusses that one of the lasting effects of WWI was that "residents began to think of themselves as American's first, immigrants second (if at all)." (page 73) but it never really discusses the way the American landscape looked before WWI for readers to fully understand what a cultural change this was. It also draws frequent parallels between our WWI and our current situation. After the sinking of the Lusitania, we were pulled into a large war and lost many freedoms. After 9/11, we were pulled into a war and lost many freedoms. While these parallels are interesting and make sense to adults without much explanation, the target audience of this book (upper middle grade/tween) does not remember a pre-9/11 world. In a year or two, the target audience of this book will have not lived in a pre-9/11 world* and so these comparisons are more confusing than useful.** And the book doesn't provide the pre-9/11 context needed.

These are issues that would have been easily solved by adding in some more material, and it wouldn't have bogged down the book or made it too long.

Visually, this book is very stunning. It makes good use of a faded red, white, and blue color scheme and very consciously mimics WWI propaganda posters. There's even a lengthy design note which discusses this and other design decisions included with the CIP data on title verso. Am I such a geek that a design note gets me overly excited? Yes, yes I am.

So overall, I really liked it, I just wanted (and I think younger readers will need) more.

Round up is over at Chapter Book of the Day.

*yes, I feel really old now, too.

**A few years ago, a 9-year-old asked me if I had heard about this time "a long time ago, when some guys flew airplanes into some big buildings." And this was a kid who had lived his entire life within 15 miles of the Pentagon.

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.

My Baby Needs a Place to Sleep! Week 5

Here's the latest prize pack in my giveaway series!

You have until Midnight (Eastern) next Sunday night (March 20) to enter. Just fill out the form below. Once again, this is a bigger prize pack, so I can't send it to anyone outside the US. Next week's giveaway will be smaller and open to international entries.

You get...

Elvis & Olive by Stephanie Watson (ARC)
Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace (paperback, ex-library copy)
Seeing Sky-Blue Pink by Candice Ransom (ARC, autographed)
Secret in the Tower: Time Spies, Book 1 by Candice Ransom (paperback, teacher's edition)
Rapunzel, the One With all the Hair by Wendy Mass (paperback)
Sleeping Beauty, the One Who Took the Really Long Nap by Wendy Mass (paperback)
May (Daughters Of The Sea) by Kathryn Lasky (hardcover)

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.

Love is the Higher Law

Love Is the Higher LawLove Is the Higher Law David Levithan

As the song says "Love is a temple, Love is the higher law"

It follows three teens as on the morning of 9/11, the days after, and then a week after, then months, then a year. It focuses on the confusion and the changes in New York City and how each teen reacts-- needing to be around other people or cutting themselves off...

What got me was how well Levithan captures that morning and the fear and the confusion as the events unfolded, and the unreal surreality of that day and the days that followed. I forget those immediate feelings, but this book immediately put me back in a smoke-filled dorm lounge where the only sound was Peter Jennings's voice. (And I have to say that I love that the characters in this book also settled on Jennings as the best coverage of that day, just like we did. Because for some reason that was important-- finding the best channel to watch with the least annoying commentary.)

It was a hard book to read, especially when I look back and see not only what has changed, but what hasn't changed at all. But, I think it's a great one for the kids who where too young to remember, or realize what was happening, or in just a few years, the ones who weren't born yet. There are events in our past where if we weren't there, we see them in the history textbook sense and understand their significance on a mental level, but don't understand the emotional gutpunch of those moments that throw everything onto a different trajectory. This is an excellent work to show that gutpunch, especially of an event that has since, in how it's used in rhetoric and how the US as a government responded in the longterm, has become a divisive catchphrase.. We've forgotten the horror of that day, and we've forgotten how we drew together that day and cried on the shoulders of strangers and held our loved ones that much closer as we stared at the looping images that we imagined would be burned into our eyes and brains forever.

I want to have faith in strangers. I want to have faith in what we're all going to do next. But I'm worried. I see things shifting from United We Stand to God Bless America. I don't believe in God Bless America. I don't believe a higher power is standing beside us and guiding us. I don't believe we're being singled out. I believe much more in United We Stand. I have my doubts, but I want it to be true. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we really came together, if we really found a common humanity? The hitch is that you can't fund a common humanity just because you have a common enemy. You have to find a common humanity because you believe that it's true. page 111

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, March 09, 2011

Moon Over Manifest

Moon Over ManifestMoon Over Manifest Clare Vanderpool

Abilene's father has a new job and so he sends her to live with a preacher in Manifest. Abilene quickly learns that Shady isn't your average preacher and that Manifest holds secrets that may point to her father and why he sent her away. While working for Miss Sadie, a Hungarian fortune teller, Abilene starts to hear the story of Manifest 20 years ago.

It's two stories in one-- Abilene's story in 1936 as she makes friends and searches out the past, and Manifest's story in 1917.

This is going to sound weird, but... Abilene's story reminds me a bit of Pollyanna (and I mean that in the BEST way possible. Hot damn did I love that movie as a kid. Even more, I loved the Disney TV movie, Polly.) But it has that same sort of "abandonded child comes to town and heals it of past hurts" feel to it. I loved Abilene's friendship with Lettie and Ruthanne. I loved Shady and Miss Sadie and, most of all, Sister Redempta. I loved how, even though the Depression is there, this isn't a book about the Depression.

The 1917 story has a bit of "orphan saves town!" feel to it to, but it ends with the hurts that Abilene has to fix. I loved the way the town banded together, how they bonded over their immigrant status instead of letting culture and linguistics divide them. I loved the Temperance society and the bootleggers, and the running gag of Miss Velma T blowing up the chemistry lab mixing her elixirs. Also, WWI doesn't hurt. Although... there's one point where Ned is saying that he doesn't know what country he's from, and he could be French or German or even from Czechoslovakia. Except that in 1917, Czechoslovakia didn't exist yet-- it was part of the dismantling of Austria-Hungary after the war. I know that's being nitpicky, but errors like that pull me right out of a story. Because I see that and think "wait, what? no... that's not right" but then I spend the next 30 minutes researching that bit of information and not reading the story. It takes a very strong story to let me fall back in after something like that. This one did.

While I got into right away, it took me awhile before I stopped demanding that it prove itself to me. Prove to me why you're worthy of the Newbery! Prove to me you're more awesome than One Crazy Summer! PROVE IT! PROVE IT NOW! One Crazy Summer still gets my vote for Newbery, but I know why Moon Over Manifest was chosen. It made me laugh and broke my heart and left me with one lingering questions... did Abilene ever get the compass back from Miss Sadie? Did she want it back, in the end?

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, March 08, 2011


Demonglass (A Hex Hall Novel)Demonglass Rachel Hawkins

So, I *loved* Hex Hall. Luckily, Demonglass didn't disappoint!

Sophie has decided to go through the Removal. She can't handle the risks of turning out like her great-grandmother. Before her father will allow it, she has to agree to spend the summer with him at Council headquarters in England.

So, with Jenna and Cal in tow, Sophie's off to England where she learns that the Council is in deep trouble-- the Eye and the Council are at war. Someone's raising demons they can't control. And well... Archer's in England and has a habit of popping up at inconvenient times. Plus, Sophie has to take lessons from her father to learn to control her powers.

As the politics and twists get bigger and more sinister, the stakes and danger get higher.

It has all the wit and humor, as well as the sexual tension of the first, but with a lot more suspense. I still love Sophie's voice and I loved discovering that she gets her sarcasm from her father. I liked how their relationship grows over the book as they learn to trust each other. I also really liked the intrigue of the shifting politics and alliances as the war progresses.

AND! I like that it proves my suspicion that I'm down with paranormal as long as it's not angst-ridden.

And the surprise revelations!!! HELLO!!!!

Now, this is the second book in a trilogy, and the seconds in trilogy's always end at a !!!!!??!!!!! moment (Catching Fire and The Empire Strikes Back, I'm looking at you! It's hard to leave a story right when you discover that the Seam doesn't exist anymore, or with Han frozen* and given to Boba Fett and Luke discovering that Vader is HIS FATHER!) And yes, this ending is the same. AIY! And we have to wait at least a year to see how it all ends!!!!

So, in case you couldn't tell by all the exclamation points and random Star Wars tangents, I loved the book.  It was more awesome than the first one and I cannot wait until the third comes out.

*Ok, this is totally unrelated to ANYTHING besides my undying love for Han Solo. But check out all these cool things you can get of Han frozen in carbonite. I want the Lego.

ARC Provided by... publisher at ALA midwinter, because I squealed when I saw it.

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, March 07, 2011

Let's Make Some Noise!

So... I have a new project.

At ALA I was talking with other bloggers about an idea I had kicking around in my head and they all said "DO IT! DO IT NOW!" and then I asked about it here and I got more "DO IT! DO IT NOW!" responses so...

I would like to introduce you to Library Noise, my new blog about programming in the library. It mainly focuses on my story time plans, as those are the programs I do most regularly, but there will also be information about special events and book club meetings and school visits... Any programming I do at the library will get covered!

So, please check it out, comment, use ideas, and enjoy!

Nonfiction Monday: The Good, The Bad, and the Barbie

The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll's History and Her Impact on UsThe Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll's History and Her Impact on Us Tanya Lee Stone

Barbie-- blank slate for girls to project their dreams onto or "the number #1 most destructive force on the self-image of women all over the globe?"*

Covering Barbie's creation, history, and the reactions to her (good and bad), Stone gives us a brief overview of this cultural icon (and no matter what your feelings are on her, she is a cultural icon.

Overall, Stone ends up in the pro-Barbie camp. She agrees with Ruth Handler (Barbie creator and founder of Mattel) that Barbie was a blank slate for girls to project their dreams and fantasies on. Barbie can be whatever you want her to be-- a princess, a racecar driver, a surgeon, or a mother, or all of the above.

She doesn't deny that some people don't like Barbie and she doesn't think that's wrong, just that Barbie in and of herself isn't inherently bad. But, she does see Barbie as one facet and a scapegoat of larger societal norms forcing unrealistic expectations of beauty onto girls. Getting rid of Barbie wouldn't get rid of airbrushing magazine covers...

Despite Stone's ultimate pro-Barbie take, she does give a lot of space and credit to those who disagree with Barbie and doesn't spend a lot of time negating their arguments.

There are also fun chapters on how kids warp Barbie when playing with her (popping off her head, running her over, dying her hair...)** and how modern artists use Barbie in their art. 

Overall it was a very fun book and a pretty quick read. Although it's marketed as an adult title, the length (130 pages) and layout (picture book size with so many pictures and pull-out boxes) would make it right at home with many tween and teen nonfiction titles. I think many teens would also enjoy reading it. Women of all ages, including several teens and tweens are quoted discussing their feelings on Barbie and her impact on them and their friends.

In fact, it turns out that this project started when Stone suggested to her editor that the next book she wrote for the tween/teen Up Close biography series would be about Barbie. Ultimately they decided that while Barbie did meet the series's criteria of being about an American icon that kids and teens are familiar with and has made a significant impact on American culture, she didn't quite fit in with the other people featured in the series. 

*So sayeth psychiatrist Dr. Carole Lieberman, as quoted in this book

**Mine frequently got thrown off a cliff (the staircase banister) by My Little Pony, because Barbie was too big to be riding My Little Pony so My Little Pony would buck and AAAAAAAA! There went Barbie onto the rocks and swirling ocean below (aka, down the stairs and into the front hall.)

Today's Nonfiction Roundup is over at Picture Book of the Day!

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, March 06, 2011

My Baby Needs a Place to Sleep! Week 4

There's still a few more hours to enter last week's giveaway here.

This week's giveaway is full of YA goodness.

Here's what you get:

What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones (hardcover)
Plastic Angel by Nerissa Nields (hardcover with CD)
What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones (paperback)
Long May She Reign by Ellen Emerson White (ARC)
Haters by Alisa Valdes-Rodrguez (hardcover)
Leap by Jane Breskin Zalben (hardcover)
Keesha's House by Helen Frost (paperback)
Something to Blog About by Shana Norris (ARC)
Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? by Louise Rennison (hardcover)

Due to the number of books in this giveaway, this week it's only open to people in US.

All you have to do is fill out the form below by midnight (Eastern) on next Sunday, March 13.

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, March 05, 2011

My kids are AWESOME

No, David!Best idea ever, which just came from one of my regular customers.

"They really need to make a pop-up book version of No, David!"

And yes, yes they do. Just think about how AWESOME that would be, and oh, the possibilities with those pull tabs...

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.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Poetry Friday

Frank Buckles passed away last week. He was the US's last living WWI veteran. Today's Poetry Friday offering is in honor of Mr. Buckles and everyone who served in WWI.

My Boy Jack

“Have you news of my boy Jack?”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind —
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!

--Rudyard Kipling

Roundup is over at The Small Nouns

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Plain Kate

Plain KatePlain Kate Erin Bow

Plain Kate is a wood carver of extraordinary skill. After her father dies, a witch-white man comes to town and wants Kate's shadow. Kate knows it's not a thing to be given up, but times are tough and the fear of witches is on the rise. The witch-white man knows magic and knows how to make Kate look like she is what the townspeople fear the most.

In the end, it's an offer she can't refuse. As her shadow grows weaker, Kate flees and joins with a band of Roamers. Meanwhile, times are getting harder, the rain won't stop, and a mysterious sickness is taking over the land. As events unfold, even Kate's new friends can't trust her and she's on her own again, needing to regain her shadow and the stop the witch-white man.

I picked this up after so many people raved about it. Oh! So good! I loved Kate's story, her determination, and her refusal to give up. How much did I love this story? IT HAD A TALKING CAT. Talking animals are usually a death sentence for me liking a book. NO TALKING ANIMALS. But not only did I not mind, but Taggle was wonderful. I LIKED A TALKING CAT. That should tell you something right there.

Now, I am by no means an expert on Slavic culture, so I can't comment if they were done well, but I did love the Slavic influences on this story, both in location but also elements from folklore, like rusalka.

It's atmospheric and spooky, but heartwarming and brave and just... oh.

I can't really be more coherant than: Gush gush gush love love love.

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.