Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunday Check-In

*saunters in*

Greetings, fellow book nerds, librarians, and other people who happen to be here on this blog.  My views jumped up a lot this week and I'm not sure why, but I'm not complaining!  If you like my reviews, please follow my blog!  You can use Google, Bloglovin', email--whatever tickles your fancy.

If you have a fancy to be tickled, that is.  Wait, don't answer that.

Currently, I'm working on some epically long reviews, so if you see that you'll be scrolling for days, please don't hate me.  I just have a lot of thoughts.

However, said reviews may be delayed because I've joined the rest of you all in watching Stranger Things and I may not be able to write until I binge-watch the entire series.  It's like if Super 8 had a longer, less-alien-y baby.  These young actors are legit, and I find myself wondering why mainstream movies that cast kids get these actors whose main note is "whining" and there's all these stellar young actors out there.  Hmm.

Anyway, enjoy your Sunday Funday!


Friday, July 29, 2016

DNF: A Tragic Kind of Wonderful

I am very tired of mental illness being used as a source of drama in literature--any literature, not just YA.  Turning a stigma into a quirk doesn't help people normalize it.  It's othering in the guise of literature, and I am sick and tired of it.

This is certainly not to say that people shouldn't write books with neurodiverse characters--far from it!  I'm criticizing the way that a mental illness or aneurotypical characters are treated within the framework of the story.  If your character has bipolar or autism or depression or an eating disorder just because then she has more to overcome or it makes for a better story: stop.  It's not a "fun story" to people who live with those illnesses; it's everyday life.  It's still having people tell you to "think positive" or "just eat more" or "just exercise" or "here, have some magical essential oils that will cure your anxiety." Yeah, no thanks.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Mini-Review: Unidentified Suburban Object

Chloe Cho is not a Korean music and math prodigy, thank you very much.  It's so hard living in her ultra-white community and being the only Korean-American girl there.  Everyone thinks of her as a stereotype, not a person.  But Chloe is fierce and calls out racism like a boss.  Please see her encounter with Mr. Frank, the principal, as proof.  I have always wanted to see a girl just SHUT DOWN her dumb principal, and this gave me so much LIFE as I read it.

She's also proud of her heritage, and wishes that her mom and dad would tell her more about what it was like growing up in South Korea.  They only eat super-Americanized foods, like KFC and pizza, while Chloe wants to learn how to make Korean food.  Sometimes, it seems like her parents don't remember anything about Korea ... and they don't want her to know anything, either.

I wonder why?


This middle grade novel brilliantly explores identity, racism, friendship, family, and the general suckitude of middle school.  Chloe's voice is clear and authentic, and her identity struggles inform her prickly exterior.  Mike Jung has written a book full of humor and heart, and I would recommend this to any reader, anywhere, from any planet.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Compared to last week, I'm working on a much more manageable list of books!  Much to my shame (well, it's not a lot of shame since I'm not really moved to do anything about it at the moment...), Les Mis is acting as a bobby pin repository on my nightstand.  I just have to be in the mood to read about misguided student revolutionaries!




I'm almost done with A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis.  It's amazing.  Creepy and compassionate and gritty all at once.


The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  It's no surprise that this won the Odyssey Award, but I'm at a point where I needed to take an emotional break.  Ow, my heart!


The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins.  Yeah, I kind of forgot to keep reading this one.  Onward!


Caraval by Stephanie Garber.  My water bottle exploded in my work bag and completely soaked the bottom half of my ARC!  I had to wait for it to dry out, and now I can continue.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Enter Title Here


The other night, I had a dream that I reread Enter Title Here and loved it.  I remember waking up and feeling nervous and angry because that meant I needed to rewrite this entire review.  But then I realized that I hadn't reread anything, and that my feelings remained unchanged.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Mini-Review: Firestarter

Stephen King's child-savant strikes again--this time with immolation!  Burn, baby, burn!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What I'm Reading Wednesday: #ALLTHETHINGS

Right now, I can't stop starting books.  It's a very real problem.  If there's a lot of silence from my end, they may find my mummified body under a pile of ARCs in my apartment.

So this is what I'm currently reading, in addition to Les Mis:


Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung.  After one chapter, I'm already charmed.


The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins.  I admit to being a sucker for redheads on book covers.


Romeo and/or Juliet by Ryan North.  I can't stop giggling at this.


A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis.  WOW THAT OPENING SECTION WOW.


Caraval by Stephanie Garber.  This one has loads of hype.  I don't like hype but I'm willing to give this one a go.

Orbus by Neal Asher.  Incredibly dense sci-fi.  Sometimes my brain just needs something to gnaw on.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Not Your (Stereo)typical Cheerleader

2016 has been a pretty awesome year for fictional cheerleaders, thus catching them up with their real-life counterparts who would like to remind you that they are not fodder for your tropes, thanks.  I wonder what the cultural history of cheerleader=dumb, snotty girl is.  I'm sure that would take me down a rabbit hole of cultural and media criticism, which sounds totally fascinating but for which I have precisely zero time right now.  Perhaps after the summer reading program is over?

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Mark of Cain

Long Lankin is one of my favorite middle school/teen horror books.  It's delightfully and earnestly creepy, with a fantastic atmosphere and sense of place.  The paranormal elements are well thought-out, and the menace feels like it's going to leap off the page and strangle you, or at least hide under your bed and make scary noises (woooooooo!).  So, when I heard that Lindsey Barraclough was writing a companion novel, I expected another tome chock-full of spooky moors and vengeful ghosts and tight plotting.

Instead I got a book that started out with a bang and then petered off into a low, irritating hum that slowly drove me off the edge.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Obsessions

It's a good thing to have minor obsessions that aren't books, especially when books are a huge part of your job (cue the thing where I do my speech about how libraries are more than books, etc).

Recently, I was on vacation, and on my afternoons recuperating from climbing up mountains (ow!), I started playing Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes.  I.  Am.  Obsessed.  I mean, I already love Star Wars to death, and now a turn-based game like D&D but with Star Wars characters to collect and level up?  Uh, hello?  Yes, please, and thank you.  If anyone wants to send me an ally request, my ally code is:

423-682-456.  I'm PN 820.

Then the whole Pokémon GO! thing happened.  I wasn't really into Pokémon when they first hit the states (I was in elementary school, I think), but it is definitely a part of my childhood.  What I like most about the game is how libraries are really highlighted as gyms and Pokéstops.  There are so many kids, teens, and adults wandering through the library now, looking for Pokémon.  And don't tell me they don't read--all of our Pokémon books are checked out.  All of them.  I have nothing for a display.  I think it's super-cool that people my age are out and about and talking to each other about a mutual interest.  Plus, I figure the government is already spying on us so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ whatever.

Oh, sorry, I was busy completing a challenge on Galaxy of Heroes.  I am also currently obsessed with goat cheese and jam on toast, Chrissy Teigan's cookbook Cravings, and my Urban Decay Alice Through the Looking-Glass palette.

And Star Wars.  Always.

Fine, wrong fandom.  I know.  But it goes!


Thursday, July 14, 2016

ARC August 2016

Read.Sleep.Repeat is hosting their 4th Annual ARC August, and I thought this would be a great way for me to power through my remaining ALA ARCs before school starts up and teen programming kicks into high gear (as if summers aren't already busy enough!).  These are the books I'd like to finish in August:




   

  

Are any of these on your TBR?  I'm pretty sure I'll go for the A.S. King first ...

ALA ARCs: Can't Wait to Read These!

I brought the majority of my ARCs directly to work because they are prizes for the teen summer reading program, but I kept a few at home so I could read them first.  These are the five I'm looking forward to reading the most:


Caraval by Stephanie Garber.  This book has a truckload of hype, and I'm curious to see whether or not it lives up to it.  My friends have given mixed reviews, so I want to see for myself!  Stephanie Garber stopped by my table at the YA Authors Coffee Klatch and talked about the sisterhood aspect of the story, which is one of my favorite elements in a book (probably because I don't have a sister).


The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.  I adored Iron-Hearted Violet when I read it a few years ago, and The Witch Boy is on my list.  This was a must-grab at ALA.


Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.  I am fully expecting this book to break me.  My soul is ready.  Let's do this.


Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown.  I don't have enough fingers and toes to tell you how many people have enthusiastically recommended this book to me.  Like, with squeeing.  So, obviously it's on my list!


Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West.  I am a huge, huge sucker for fairy-tale retellings.  So obviously, I need this.

I also read a ton while I was on vacation: there are six drafts on the blog and I just finished two more books on the plane ride home.  Gulp.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Cell

A few nights ago, I accidentally left my phone on my desk at work.  I don't live very far away, and I could have gone back to get it, but I didn't.

I'd just finished Cell a few days before that.  Coincidence?  Nope.

https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1432828013l/10567.jpg

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

What I'm Reading Wednesday



I thought that blogging on vacation would be a good thing--occupy my mind when I'm resting and so forth.  Alas, my laptop is ancient and weighs as much as a small child, so I didn't bring it with me.  I figured my iPad would be good enough.

Blogger, why u no work with iPad?

So I'm slightly-ironically-but-not-really-because-hello? at the public library right now.  Because free computers.

So, right now I'm reading:
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Firestarter by Stephen King.  Since I'm in a town that inspired one of his books, I have several King novels with me. 


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The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs.  Honestly, I can't get into this one, and everyone's raving about it.  Okay, everyone being the 10 people who've already gotten it on Netgalley and loved it. 

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A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom.  I am still rather leery of this.  We shall see.

and that's it because I just finished Flying by Carrie Jones about 15 minutes ago and I adored it.  You need to request, order, or pre-order that one, stat.

Due to iPad difficulties, will probably poof from the internet until next week.  Happy reading!


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

DNF: Children of Icarus

I remember, as a child, recognizing the immense power of the word "why."  It amused me to pester my mom with "Why?" "Why?" "Why?" as all children do.  I didn't really care about the answer, of course, but it was somehow funny to see my mom become frustrated.  Sometimes I think children are sociopaths.

However, the question "why," despite its plaintive whine, serves a great purpose as a reader's tool.  If I cannot answer why the character acts as he or she does, or why the world exists just so, then I don't see any point in reading the book at all.  The author has failed at one of his or her most vital missions: to make me believe in the world they've created.

One might argue that fantasy, specfic, and sci-fi authors have this the hardest; after all, they're using worlds that we cannot prove exist.  To my knowledge, no one's ever seen a gabbleduck on Masada, but Neal Asher makes them frighteningly real in his Polity books.

Although, come to think of it, I would wonder if anyone who's seen a gabbleduck would live to tell the tale.

Anyhoo, writers of realistic fiction have a difficult job as well: they must recreate an experience that is familiar and verifiable with enough verisimilitude that we believe in it.  All in all, authors have a rough go of it, and I salute them.

But please, please, please, answer my "why" questions.  That was something that Children of Icarus by Caighlan Smith wasn't able to do.  And that's why I didn't finish it.


Our narrator, who remains nameless throughout the story, is sixteen years old and worried.  It is the last year she can be chosen as Icarii--a teen deemed worthy to traverse the labyrinth and be made an angel by Icarus, who fell from the skies many years ago.  Only ... she's afraid.  She doesn't want to go, even though it's the highest honor her community bestows and the obsession of her best friend, Clara.

On Fallen Day, Nameless' name is called, and so is Clara's.  Their parents send them off proudly, so happy that their girls will be transformed into angels.

If by "transformed by angels" you mean torn apart by beasts and hunted by mosnsters in a labyrinth, then sure!

Clara dies almost instantly, leaving us with the very un-Katniss-like narrator.  I understand that the point is to show how people who are quiet or afraid or shy can survive and thrive in a dangerous world, but I'd prefer not to fall asleep while reading about it.  Everything quickly became tedious and fell into a compilation of Dystopian YA's Greatest Hits!, featuring such catchy tropes as:
  • OMG the establishment has been lying to us this WHOLE TIME?!?!?!
  • Teens who have survived outside of the system and lead a rebel group
  • The adorable younger kid taken under the M.C.'s wing
  • Mazes and monsters
  • A wise but probably unstable mentor
There's nothing inherently wrong with any of these concepts, but using them all at the same time feels a bit desperate, as if the book is grasping for a readership by tantalizing members of many different fandoms.

I made it about a quarter of the way through the book before I gave up, skipped to the end, and decided it wasn't for me.  Nameless is sexually assaulted at least twice by members of Fates, the community of teen survivors she ends up joining.  And while she fights back, her initial reaction to each encounter is resignation.  As if she believed that being the new girl automatically set her up to eventually be raped by someone because that's how the world works.  No.  This is the opposite of okay.

The narrative didn't hold up to scrutiny, and I would have to have suspended a ridiculous amount of disbelief to make it through.  The reader is expected to accept this world and its beliefs, but the text itself is not convincing.  There is a brief introduction to the mythology/religion of the people, but it's quite vague and is basically a retelling of the Greek Icarus myth but with a slightly more Christian slant (i.e. Icarus was an angel, Daedela was his rescuer after he fell from heaven).  I had so many questions about the mechanics of this world and why their society is structured as it is. For example:

Why do people all live in high-rises and associate only with people from their own building?

Who grows the food?

What is the ethnic and racial makeup of this world?

Why does this world exist?  What happened to create it?  Is this our future?  If so, how did we get here?

Are the Children of Icarus a means of population control?

Where did the monsters come from?

And most importantly: why send the future members of your society off to be slaughtered? Other dystopian fiction books have been able to answer these questions satisfactorily and in keeping with human nature. 

Let's examine Children of Icarus in light of the new standard for this subgenre: The Hunger Games. Reapings are the Capitol's way of keeping the districts in line with fear. They take only two tributes from each district, so there are enough young people to continue living in fear. In addition, it's a fantastic commentary on violence in the media and society as a whole, and how bombings and child school shooters and terrorism has become our new normal. What does that say about us as a supposedly advanced society?

But Children of Icarus doesn't have any of this internal logic. Everything just is and we are expected to believe it.  No dice. 

I can see this working as homage fanfic, but not standing on its own as a new work of fiction. 

I obtained an ARC of this title at BEA.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Oh, Fudge!

As a child, I was an extremely picky reader.  My mom had to argue with me to force me to try something new.  I was very much a comfort-zone reader.  I had my Thoroughbred books and my Animorphs, and I figured that anything outside of that was dumb and boring.  Most of the classic or well-rated children's books remained unread until I became a children's librarian.

I was vaguely aware of the existence of the Fudge books by Judy Blume, but as I had already read Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, I erroneously and bizarely concluded that the Fudge books were "for boys."

Grown up me is rolling her eyes at small me.

Because these books are amazing and hilarious and I deeply regret not reading them as a child.  At least I am atoning for that literary sin by reading them now.

I don't often laugh out loud while reading children's books, but Blume had me in stitches.  I'm on book four of the series now, and I wish there were more of them.

If you haven't read them, go forth!  Read!  Discover Fudge and Pee-tah (which ALWAYS makes me think of Peeta Mallark!) and Sheila and Tootsie!  If you've read them, go back and read them again.  Librarian's orders.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Cresswell Plot

You know what's super-awesome about librarians?   Aside from our savoir-faire in research, or our quirky personal style, or our ability to figure out which book you're talking about when you say "the red one," or our staunchness in the face of every bodily fluid there is?

We can talk about books, disagree on whether we loved or hated them, and still go home friends.  Okay, so there may be the occasional "You're dead to me" tossed out there, but it's said with love and affection and maybe a tiny bit of pity.  Because we, as librarians, know that fundamental to our right to read is the right to love or hate a book in equal measure.  Life would be exceedingly boring if we all loved the same books.

Recently, my friends and I (librarians, booksellers, and general bookish-type people), were talking about YA books we'd just read and doing a sort of rapid-fire yay-or-nay discussion.  I had just finished The Cresswell Plot the night before and said I didn't like it at all.  Two of my friends loved it.

You know what?  That's awesome!  That means that teens will like it!  Someone will love this book.  And even though that someone wasn't me, that's okay too.