Monday, December 31, 2012

The Turning of the Year

I feel like I've neglected my blog a bit lately. There are, of course, reasons for this.

Part was my work on the nonfiction committee, as I decided it was easier to not blog about the books I was reading than try to separate the review from my feelings from the book in relation to the award. Plus, I read a lot of the same books over and over and over as we narrowed down our list.

Part of it was adjusting to my new job. I went from being part of a children's (0-12) team at a large and busy branch to being a department of 1 for youth servies (0-18) at a tiny and less-bustling branch.

Part of it was my brain needed a break this fall.

BUT. A really big part was my TOP SECRET BLOG PROJECT. It required a ton of research and prep work. IT DEBUTS TOMORROW. Stay tuned. I'm really excited by this.

And, of course, I'm busily reading and reviewing so things should be back in swing here very soon!

I hope everyone has a wonderful new year and is looking forward to all the possibilities that a new calendar brings...

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012


NW: A Novel Zadie Smith

I don’t know why I’m having such a hard time writing this review. It’s taking me longer to write about than to read, and it took FOREVER to read this book.

We start with Leah, who falls for a scam, who doesn’t want the kids her husband is desperate for, who thinks that if she still acts like she’s 18 (because she still feels like she’s 18) then she won’t have to grow up. Leah’s section of the book is choppy, much like Leah’s mind. Part is in poetry.

Felix’s section is next, told in more traditional narrative style, covering a day in his life as he visits his dad, buys a car, and attempts to finally end things with an old girlfriend (because things have gotten that serious with his current girlfriend.) And then it goes horribly wrong.

The final section is Natalie’s, Leah’s best friend from childhood. Natalie is the most successful, having left behind the council estate and gone to college and law school and now leads an upper middle class life. But she leads her life the way she thinks she’s supposed to, and can’t find herself in there anymore, and starts looking for ways to feel something. Natalie’s section is mostly told in very brief vignettes, covering most of her life until the present.

All three stories overlap, timeline-wise. There isn’t much of a plot, it’s more like three character sketches, where most things are shown, rather than told.

I say this book took me forever to read, and it did. Part of that had to do with my discovery of a certain game called Tower Madness. Part of it had to do with the fact it wasn’t a rush-through-breathlessly-to-see-what-happens next type book. I did, however, like it. I liked it a lot. I enjoyed the shifting narrative styles. As they changed with character, it didn’t seem too much like “uh-oh, your craft is showing!” It’s also a refreshing challenge to read something where so much is left unexplained, left for the reader to figure out by reading closely. As someone who reads a lot of fiction, where this isn’t done as much, it took a while for me to get used to that. It was a difficult book for me, and I enjoy a challenge. Most of the stuff I read tends to make sure you know what's going on. Sometimes a little too much. I read a lot of plot-heavy books (and nonfiction, where everything should be spelled out.) I'm hoping with my Outstanding Books for the College Bound, I'm going to step out of what I normally read. This book reminded me that I like being challenged in my reading by craft/form. (I don't enjoy as much when I'm challenged by content.)

Book Provided by... my local library

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Fairest: Wide Awake

Fairest, Vol. 1: Wide Awake Bill Willingham

A new spin-off series, this one focusing on the princesses. The main story arc picks up with a character who's been asleep for many, many issues.

Part of Fabletown's plan during the final showdown with the Adversary was putting the Imperial City of sleep with an ancient curse. All Sleeping Beauty had to do was prick her finger and the entire city would fall asleep until she was awoken with true love's kiss.

Enter a Bottle Imp with a master plan, a master thief (Ali Baba), a newly awoken Princess, and a newly awoken Snow Queen. The Snow Queen likes stories, and the Bottle Imp has one-- Sleeping Beauty's.

Y'all know how much I looooooooooove back story. And so much back story! I love how this one ties Sleeping Beauty's backstory with her newly awoken life. I love the mix of the Snow Queen with Ali Baba and the Bottle Imp. I love the look at what true love can mean in different circumstances--it's not always the fairy tale ending we wish for. And oooooo.... all the fairies! A great addition.

I also just really love what Willingham has done with princesses in general in this universe. Snow White is the tough as nails administrator who tamed the Big Bad Wolf. Beauty can't quite fill her shoes, but is no slouch. Cinderella seems all beauty and nice, but is a kick ass spy. Ozma looks like a child, but was able to step into Frau Tottenkinder's roles. So far, Sleeping Beauty has fallen asleep (but was willing to do so when strategically necessary). This one fleshes her out a little more.

And then, something that looks like a fun 50s comic noir, but turns into a SHOCKING revelation about one of our princesses.

I am looking forward to see where this series goes-- it's gotten off to a wonderful start.

Book Provided by... my wallet

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Werewolves of the Heartland

Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland Bill Willingham

Bigby is looking for a new place for Fabletown, someplace away from too many Mundys. On a tip from King Cole, he checks out Story City, Iowa, a place where Blue Beard had many investments. As he gets closer, he smells something in the wind that he recognizes, but can't place, which is troubling, but not as troubling as what he's about to discover.

Werewolves. Werewolves that are built from a Nazi experiment and faces from Bigby's time in WWII.

Ugh. Guys. I ordered this book over two years ago, as the release date kept getting pushed back. I had HUGE hopes for a hardcover one-off special story, all about Bigby.Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall is the only other hardcover one-off, and probably my favorite book in the entire Fables world. I was hoping for something of that caliber.

Sigh, it was not to be. The art is very pale and washed-out and that reflects the story, too. The political situation is not fleshed out enough, nor is the culture of Story City. There's lots of shape-shifting (werewolves!) so lots of nudity. To the point where it gets excessive. Overall, I just wanted so much more from this, and it failed to deliver. Maybe if it had been part of the regular arc, an omnibus of a 5-issue story arc with some other issues thrown in, it would be "not my favorite" in the series, but as a separate thing, it was disappointing, especially with all the build-up to it.

Book Provided by... my wallet

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cinderella: Fables are Forever

Cinderella: Fables Are Forever Chris Roberson

Yay! More adventures in Cinderella's double life as one of Fabletown's spies! I love this other side to her!

As I mentioned on Monday, the closing scene of Inherit the Wind sets up the story for this one (although we start with a flashback, so it doesn't appear right away.)

The person who killed Kadabra is an old, old nemesis of Cindy's--one she thought she buried a long, long time ago. We start in the USSR, in the early 80s. Lots of sexy ladies in hot tubs. That was the last time Cindy met her old advesary.

Remember how I said we were going back to Oz? Meet Dorothy Gale, mercenary. We get some good backstory on her, too.

With Mr. Kadabra's death, many old secrets and enemies are coming home to roost, with issues involving the other Fable communities around the world. I like the backstory that flushes out these characters that don't quite fit into the main Fables narrative. I also love the deeper look at the international Fable politics.

PLUS! Anansi! ANANSI! What a wonderful surprise to see him turn up as a character.

I hope we see much more of Cinderella's adventures, as she really does open up the the Fables universe.

Plus, she knows how to fight.

Book Provided by... my wallet

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Jack of Fables

I always wanted to like this series so much more than I did. It just never clicked and I kept reading out of loyalty. I did like the Page sisters and the crossover battle and the metafiction, but... that was just a part of the overall series. Jack never met an adversary like the Fabletown authority and it just never worked as well.

Luckily (?) it's done. And I have to say, I do really like the way it ended.

Jack of Fables Vol. 8: The Fulminate Blade Bill Willingham

At the end of Book 7, Jack had turned into a dragon and Jack Frost was still off being a hero. This book has no Jack, and it's all Jack Frost being a hero in a weird space/sci fi world. With your Babe the Blue Ox episodes (which I've never appreciated.) Anyway, I'm not entirely sure what this volume has to do with anything. I can't explain it into the larger plot besides pure filler.

That said, it is really fun and I do like Jack Frost, so I'm not complaining too hard about it.

Jack of Fables Vol. 9: The End Bill Willingham

Ok first off, I'm not entirely sure what's up with this book cover from Amazon, because that's not what I have.

ANYWAY! It's the last one! We have a dragon in the US! And a newly minted hero! Heroes slay dragons! But this hero doesn't know that the dragon is really his father!


And that's all I'm going to say, because, well, SPOILERS.

BUT! I did like this one. I think it's a pretty strong ending to the series and one that I really like. It's fitting for all the characters (especially Jack of Fables) and it's fitting for the Fables universe in general. As much as I struggled with this series, I did not struggle with how it ends.

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, December 10, 2012


It's Fables week! I am horribly behind on reviewing this series. There are several spin-offs in this sprawling universe, so we can cover a different aspect every day this week. We're starting with Fables proper, and I have four omnibus editions to look at, so let's get started.

Fables Vol. 14: Witches Bill Willingham

Fabletown is destroyed by Mr. Dark. Some are trapped in the business office, but most have evacuated to the farm. The first issue focuses on Mr. Dark and a bit of his backstory. The main story arc involves the witches trying to find a way to defeat Mr. Dark. We get into the witches politics and there's a lot of Frau Tottenkinder, which is always WONDERFUL. Ozma and Buffkin also play a big role, setting up the rising role of Oz coming up. (It's kinda fun reviewing these books so late, because I've read other books in this series and other spin-off series, I can see the set up and how odd things come into play later... Willingham is a master at the slow, twisty plot that eventually all ties together.

The end is a story in about a baseball game in Haven. We get some of Fly's personal life and the tough choices of justice that a leader has to make. I love Fly so much. So very, very much.

Fables Vol. 15: Rose Red Bill Willingham

Things are getting complicated. More Dunstan and Bellflower. Promises between the Beast and the Blue Fairy that's going to cause MAJOR drama in the future (not that we've seen yet, but it's going to come 'round.) But the main focus is Rose Red. She's spent the past few issues in bed, depressed and guilty and unable to lead when the farm and the community needs her most. We get A LOT of backstory on Rose and Snow. I love backstory. There's a throwaway about a world in a teacup on the back of a turtle-- remember this.

There's so epic battling. I really like how this battle ends. A lot of little stories, a new enemy made AND! some fun bits at the end-- fan questions, a prose story, a game... lots of fun little bits for fans (because let's face it, if you've made it this far, you're a fan.)

Fables Vol. 16: Super Team Bill Willingham

This is pretty light-hearted compared to the last volume. Pinochio thinks he has the answer, found in the comic books he loves so much. Too bad he's more into the costumes and names than an actual plan...

But, the Dark storyline wraps up, but how it ends opens up a new can of worms, and we're brought back the heart of the Empire, to wrap up some sleeping ends that were left there in the war. And here's something that happens in the master plotting-- one of these storylines picks up in the next issue of Fables. The other picks up in the new series, Fairest, which I'll review in a few days.

Fables, Vol. 17: Inherit the Wind Bill Willingham

BACK TO OZ! Buffkin leads a band of rebels, but not too well. Shocking ending that has me waiting at the edge of my seat for Fables Vol. 18: Cubs in Toyland (comes out at the end of January.)

This big storyline is that one of the cubs has to be chosen as a successor for the North Wind. Bigby and Snow aren't happy about this, and either are the other cardinal winds who want to chose the successor--one they can control.

Christmas opens up a whole host of other issues and questions. One leads directly to Cubs in Toyland, one opens up new questions about Rose Red's new role, and I'm just waiting to see what happens with Nurse Spratt. That's something that's been simmering for a long time and I can't wait for that to explode.

Remember that turtle and teacup? We get a whole issue about that.

There's a backstory story about a magician in the Empire, back when the Empire still ruled the home worlds. He ends up dead on the farm, which seems odd, until you realize that the discovery of his body is the first scene in Cinderella: Fables Are Forever, which I'll review later this week.

Stay tuned for more of the Fables universe!

Books 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, December 05, 2012

Excellence in Nonfiction

Yesterday, YALSA announced the shortlist of the Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults.

This is why blogging has been slow these past few weeks-- I've been busily reading and re-reading the nominees over and over again to help whittle down the list to these 5. I'm so excited about the 5 books we chose-- they are all excellent.

1. Titanic: Voices From the Disaster Deborah Hopkinson

This book may have ruined all other Titanic books for me. Seriously. I was listening to the audio version of The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic by Allan Wolf. It's a WONDERFUL book and the audio is fantastic, but... about halfway though I realized all I really wanted to do was reread the Hopkinson book. So I did.

2. Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon Steve Sheinkin

Sheinkin has a gift for making history really come alive. This one follows several different storylines in the US and Europe as scientists and spies try to make an atom bomb, keep the other guys from doing it, and/or just stealing their research.

3. Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 Phillip Hoose

Red Knot Rufas are small birds that migrate every year from the Canadian Arctic to Tierra del Fuego. And back. B95 is one bird that's done the journey so many times, that he's flown enough miles to get to the moon. More than following this one bird, Hoose describes bird conservation and tracking efforts and the complicated inter-tangled issues at play. Now, based on that plot description, I'd be like "eh" but he does it in a way that's utterly fascinating. Plus, really wonderful maps.

4. Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal

Using a commencement address as a framing device, Blumenthal paints great warts and all biography of on of Steve Jobs. I learned so many interesting things about Jobs (when he was a young man he was on a weird diet and thought that because of this he didn't need to shower. Anyone who smelled him disagreed) and about Apple (a great explanation of why the ad campaign was Think Different instead of Think Differently. And the letters they'd get from irate English teachers.) Plus, the photographs of a young Steve Jobs makes me feel much better about the fact that Ashton Kutcher is playing him in the biopic.

5. We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March Cynthia Levinson

In 1963 over 4000 children were arrested marching for their civil rights. They woke up in the morning, packed what they'd need for jail, and march, knowing they wouldn't be sleeping at home that night. Levinson follows a few of these children (some teens, some much younger) from different walks of life, how they got involved with the movement, their experiences and what happened next. It's inspiring and eye-opening.

The winner will be announced at the Youth Media Awards at the end of January. And NO! We haven't decided who's won yet! Stop asking!

And... seems I'm talking about committee stuff and I don't think I've mentioned this on the internets yet, when this committee wraps up in January, my next assignment begins. I'm the incoming chair of for Outstanding Books for the College Bound. I'm very excited for a million reasons, not least of which is that it's a huge change of reading material for the next year!

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.