Thursday, December 31, 2009

Local Library Wrap-Up

I signed up, albeit a little late, to read 50 books and didn't quite make it. I'm definitely joining up again for 2010 and will hopefully do a lot better next time!

1. Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
2. Snitch by Allison van Diepen
3. Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale
4. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher
5. Tales from the Farm by Jeff Lemire
6. Was She Pretty? by Leanne Shapton (This was great, by the way.)
7. The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
8. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
9. Don't Cry: Stories by Mary Gaitskill
10. The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
11. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
12. The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
13. Un Lun Dun by China Mieville
14. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
15. M+O 4EVR by Tonya Cherie Hegamin
16. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
17. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
18. The Red Necklace: A Story of the French Revolution by Sally Gardner
19. The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King
20. Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriyār Mandanīʹpūr
21. Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman
22. A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
23. The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson
24. The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent
25. King Rat by China Mieville
26. Mariah Mundi: The Midas Box by G.P. Taylor
27. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
28. Dreaming in French by Megan McAndrew

Monday, December 28, 2009

auf Wiedersehen

Ocker, Christa Holder. auf Wiedersehen: World War II Through the Eyes of a German Girl. Austin, TX: Plain View Press, 2009. Print.

[Book cover credit:]

Caught in a battle between good and evil, we children of the Nazi generation - children of fathers who sang with zest "Deutschland, Deutschland uber alles" while doing the devil's work, children of mothers who stood by powerless to stop the evil from raging, children ignorant of other children condemned to gas - played and laughed and formed a strong bond. A bond broken the day we said auf Wiedersehen."

This slim memoir chronicles the years between Christa's family's evacuation before the advancing Red Army towards the end of WWII and their immigration to New Jersey. During this time, Christa, her sister, her parents, and, at times, her aunt and cousins, must pick up and move at a moment's notice on multiple occasions. Christa, who is an outgoing 7 year old at the opening of this memoir, makes many friends as she goes along: a horse named Lottie, an American soldier who gives her Hershey bars, the once-cranky owner of the villa where she and her family were placed during the evacuation, and the multitude of children who are also in some state of homelessness like she is. Every time her family moves, she must say goodbye, auf Wiedersehen, to her friends. It is hard enough, even with the help of the Red Cross, to keep track of family members during this upheaval. Christa is under no illusions that she will ever see any of these friends again.

Still, this is an uplifting memoir about how, even in the depths of war, life goes on. Christa and her friends play, put on puppet shows, and generally make do. The horrors of WWII are not kept out of this book, but they are kept out of the children's consciousness. Overheard conversations covering everything from the atrocities of the SS to how Christa's friend Gunter managed to get a little brother even though she wished for one more are present, but not understood by Christa. Readers will know what is going on, how it is affecting the lives of adults, and how much trouble they go to in order to keep the worst of it from their children.

This was published as an adult book, but I could definitely see even young teens reading it as part of a WWII or memoir unit. Content wise, auf Widersehen shows a lot less of the atrocities than current populars for young adults dealing with this subject matter, The Book Thief and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and it is a very un-prohibitive 142 pages short.

Book source: Provided by publisher for review

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas for those who are celebrating it today!

And because I couldn't say it any better myself, go check out

Sunday, December 20, 2009

9 out of 16 ain't bad?

Here's my list:

Kids and YA stuff:
  1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
    - Review
  2. The Red Necklace: A Story of the French Revolution by Sally Gardner
    - Review
  3. The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent - Review
  4. Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go by Dale Basye
  5. The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd - I placed a hold on this at my library at the very beginning of this challenge. I'm still 3rd in line to get the book.
  6. Blood Captain (Vampirates 3) by Justin Somper

  7. A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
    - Review
  8. The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King
    - Review
  9. Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman
    - Review
  10. Tennyson by Lesley M.M. Blume
Adult stuff:
  1. Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriyār Mandanīʹpūr
  2. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
  3. Dreaming in French by Megan McAndrew - I just picked this up from the library a couple days ago, after putting it on hold at the beginning of the challenge.
  4. A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire - I've been told I'm getting this for Christmas, so I made a conscious decision not to read it now.
  5. King Rat by China Mieville
  6. Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
  7. The Secret of the Fire King by Kim Edwards - I've been reading this in between other things. I think I have 1-2 stories left to read from this collection.
  8. Shelf Discovery: Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading by Lizzie Skurnick (this should probably go up there, but I want 10 and 10) - still 3rd in line for this at the library...
  9. All the issues of New Yorker that are stacked up on my coffee table to remind me that I just had to have a subscription. - didn't even make a dent...
  10. War and Peace - I'm more than halfway through now instead of only having read a third. ;)
So, if I leave off the books that I had library hold issues with and my future Christmas present, I've finished 9 (almost 10!) out of 16 challenge items. That's more than half! Of course, if I count everything like I should, I've finished almost half, but we won't talk about that. If I had changed my list to accommodate my lack of self-control when it comes to my reading tastes, I'm sure my stats would be much better. :)

Most importantly, I had a lot of fun and gave myself permission to read books that I knew from the get-go I wouldn't review here. I'll definitely be back for Spring Into Reading in March!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mariah Mundi: The Midas Box

Taylor, G.P. Mariah Mundi: The Midas Box. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2008. Print. Mariah Mundi 1.
[Book cover credit:]

When Mariah Mundi is sent to the Prince Regent Hotel, he knows that his life is about to change more than he can imagine. No longer a privileged son away at boarding school, he is suddenly an orphaned employee, out of place in his Colonial School suit. What he doesn't know is that he is the last in a long line of Colonial boys, all since disappeared, to be sent to the Prince Regent at the request of the owner.

This milder take on steampunk-y goodness was just what I needed to ease myself into the genre and get ready to read Leviathan (which is still languishing on a dresser waiting for me to have time to give it my undivided attention). This is, at heart, a fantasy/mystery book that happens to take place in a Victorian hotel completely run on steam. Upon arrival at the Regency Hotel, Mariah is immediately befriended by Sacha, a young servant girl who is almost as enamored with all of the steam-powered innovations in use at the hotel as she is with Mariah's predecessor, Felix. Sacha's infatuation with Felix, and Mariah's eventual jealousy over it, are the only hints at romance that exist. I read this at the same time that I read Shiver, making the lack of lovesickness one of the best things about this book.

Of course there are lots of other great things going on here too, such as:
  • a magic act
  • a kraken
  • a gruff sailor who knows a mysterious amount of things about Mariah
  • a shifty guy on a train
  • a pack of cards that can tell the future
  • a creepy doll that moves around the hotel without anyone knowing how or why (okay, she's not supposed to be creepy, but I'm not a big fan of dolls the size of 4yr olds)
  • and, of course, the title feature: The Midas Box. 
The Midas Box does exactly what you think it will, turn everything inside it into gold. It takes an amazingly long time for us, as readers, to discover why there isn't more gold floating around, given the existence of The Midas Box, but with all the other cool stuff going on, I never felt like I was missing anything while waiting for the box to appear.

I did, however, feel like something was missing with the ending. After so much detail throughout the book, I felt really let down by it. (No Spoilers, just to be clear) The ending felt a bit rushed. Everything had to happen before midnight, so things were definitely rushing, which I get, I just wish I had gotten to see more of it. All the good guys split up to run around and perform their various death-defying feats in order to beat the bad guys, and instead of seeing each person's part in the action, we're only shown one or two and then see them all meet up at the end so we know they're okay. I'm not a fan of this sort of thing. I prefer to be shown not told, but at the very least, I want to be told.

My issues with the ending are not going to be cleared up by the sequel, but I'll probably read it anyway once it makes it over here. There is a listing for book 2 on amazon, but it is basically a bunch of UK amazon marketplace sellers. amazon UK has all the good stuff:
Mariah Mundi and the Ghost Diamonds
Mariah Mundi and the Ship of Fools

Book Source: Philly Free Library

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Worldbuilders Fundraiser for Heifer International

The amazingly hilarious and talented Patrick Rothfuss, author of the Alex Award Winning debut novel The Name of the Wind, is holding a pretty awesome fundraiser on his blog benefitting Heifer International. In his words:

What's that you say? You'd like to make the world a better place while simultaneously winning fabulous prizes?

Well today is your luck day.

Heifer International is my favorite charity. It helps people raise themselves up out of poverty and starvation. All over the world Heifer promotes education, sustainable agriculture, and local industry.

They don't just keep kids from starving, they make it so families can take care of themselves. They give goats, sheep, and chickens to families so their children have milk to drink, warm clothes to wear, and eggs to eat.
In addition to matching 50% of your donation, Patrick will enter you into a lottery (1 entry for every $10) for some awesome bookish prizes. Signed books galore, people, including copies of The Magicians by Lev Grossman and My Invented Life by Lauren Bjorkman. Those are just two in a single day's post of prizes! There are tons more still to be announced.

Hop on over to Patrick's blog to look at his FAQs, announcements, and plethora of prizes or go straight to his page at Team Heifer to donate.

Even if you don't win anything, you'll be sending money to a good cause for people who really need it. And hey, you could win something really awesome too!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Ask and the Answer

Warning: This review doesn't have any spoilers for The Ask and The Answer, but it basically gives away the surprise ending of The Knife of Never Letting Go.

If you've never read either of the books in the Chaos Walking Trilogy, here's something that should whet your whistle, so to speak, and if you're in the same boat as me and think you might explode before the last book in the trilogy is published, hopefully this will hold you over for a while: "New World." This short story was published between The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer, but it's really Viola's backstory, so everyone can read it.

Ness, Patrick. The Ask and the Answer. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2009. Print. Chaos Walking 2.
[Book cover credit:]

Who needs a booktalk? As if "Welcome to New Prentisstown" from the last page of The Knife of Never Letting Go wasn't enough.

And that's exactly where The Ask and the Answer picks up. No recap, no explanations, nothing. Todd wakes up after carrying Viola right to Mayor Prentiss' feet and she's not there. He spends the rest of the book trying to find her.

Meanwhile, the Mayor, now President, is making sure that New Prentisstown in no way resembles the Haven it once was, and he tells Todd that if he helps, he'll get Viola back.

And Viola? The Mayor has plopped her down into a House of Healing full of women whose thoughts, unheard like those of all women on New World, still scream of how they'll regain control of their city.

Oh.My.Gosh. I finished this book a week ago, and I still feel like I haven't had enough time to really process it in order to write a review. There is just so much going on with Todd, with Viola, with Wilf(!), with the people of what used-to-be Haven, with Davy Prentiss (who you'll actually CARE about by the end), just so much going on.

It was practically impossible to put down.

Character development did not waste away in the face of SO MUCH plot either. Viola and Todd both have to really grow up in order to survive in New Prentisstown. Both of them are faced with decisions that they don't want to make, where neither option seems like the right one. You will forget, long before the really bad stuff happens, that this is a book about 13yr olds.

Todd especially, who has been told that his compliance will buy Viola's safety, does a lot of things he wouldn't normally do. The point that people do unthinkable things in the name of war is really driven home. However, Ness does not leave the reader under the impression that what one does while at war does not stay with you. Though Todd takes part in some pretty gruesome acts for a really noble reason, there are CONSEQUENCES. Otherwise known as Book 3, Monsters of Men.

Long story short, I had mixed feelings about The Knife of Never Letting Go, I became obsessed while reading The Ask and The Answer, and I might die waiting for Monsters of Men to finally be released in the US. In September 2010.

Oh, and for those of you who may be worried about reading The Ask and The Answer after crying uncontrollably while reading The Knife of Never Letting Go (I know I can't be the only one that did this...), don't be! While some important characters do die (they are at WAR people) none of their deaths turned me into a sobbing mess. Your mileage may vary.

Book One: The Knife of Never Letting Go
Book Source: I bought it because my library STILL doesn't have a copy and I just couldn't wait anymore.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

The girlfriend and I are doing the family thing today and then our thing tomorrow. And then a post-Thanksgiving tea party featuring pie next weekend. That's all great, but the really important part is the annual Addams Family movies marathon! Here's a (bad quality) sneak peak:

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Heretic's Daughter

Kent, Kathleen. The Heretic's Daughter. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

"You're in here because you're low and ugly. I'm here because I'm my mother's daughter."

Sarah Carrier was arrested for witchcraft, along with her mother and brothers and plenty of other people, during the Salem witch trials. She was arrested because her mother was thought to be the "head witch" in their town. Having a husband that everyone's afraid of, a mentally challenged son who managed to survive small pox, and a successful farm all being signs of serious dealings with the devil, of course.

On the one hand, this book has a lot going for it.
  • Kent does a wonderful job at drawing out the connection between the mass hysteria around these trials and other things going on at the time such as small pox, Indian raids, slim harvests, etc.
  • Kent is an actual descendent of Martha Carrier, Sarah's mother and one of the first women hanged during these trials. I don't know if this changed the way she wrote this book (how could it not), but it's pretty cool to think about while reading.
  • If you have a lot of background knowledge about the Salem witch trials, this presentation should hold something new for you. At the same time, prior knowledge is not a requirement for enjoyment.
On the other hand, there are also some issues.
  • The opening premise of the book is that Sarah Carrier Chapman, now an old lady, is writing her account of her mother's trial and the year leading up to it, for her granddaughter. The book opens with a letter explaining this. I kept waiting for this to be important or to meet the granddaughter (or even Sarah as an old lady), but it never happened. Just telling the story would have been a lot less complicated and the only change needed would be to leave that letter off in the beginning, that's how much disconnect there was between the letter and the story.
  • Throughout the book Sarah's father's past is shrouded in mystery, but it is extremely important. His past is what keeps him from being among the accused. Her mother has a book detailing his past that Sarah isn't allowed to read until she comes of age. When she's finally an adult, she reads her mother's book then puts it in a trunk. It would have been nice if she had let us in on a little bit of what was in that book, especially if this is supposed to be an account for Sarah's granddaughter so that she can know her family's history.
  • This is clearly a book about the Salem witch trials, but the whole first 100 pages or so are the build-up to the trials and a kind of explanation of Puritan life at that time. This build-up helped put the trials into historical context and definitely made it easier to see how things like small pox and fear of the locals left the Puritans desperate for someone to blame for their misfortunes, like witches, but I spent about half of the book feeling like I was waiting for the story to start.
Suffice it to say, I had mixed feelings on this one. It was a good read, but not a particularly satisfying one. The most interesting part, to me, was the changing relationship between Sarah and her mother. Unfortunately this is not the driving force of the novel, though it is an important part. I think if Kent had made this book either entirely about their relationship in the face of the trials or entirely about the circumstances that made the trials possible, The Heretic's Daughter would have been a great read. Trying to make it about both just didn't do it for me.

Book source: Philly Free Library

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

For something completely unrelated...

Check out my guest post over at Skivvies & Chives! It's the girlfriend's food blog. She makes super fancy stuff with all natural, in-season, local ingredients. The recipe I posted uses Kraft bbq sauce and a can of Coke. Boy, do I feel classy. It's tasty though.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Book Memories

I don't usually do memes or questionnaires, but this one is really sweet and book-ish. Besides, I've spent the last week+ wrapped up in a book that I'm probably not going to review, so this is all I've got.

I saw this at Geranium Cat's Bookshelf last week.

The book that’s been on your shelves the longest
I have a copy of There's a Nightmare in My Closet that has definitely been around a long time. It was one of my favorite books when I was little and one of the first I read all by myself, although there is some debate as to whether I was reading or reciting. I left it in my mother's capable hands when I went away to college, and when I asked for it back, it magically had my little sister's name written in the inside. Little sisters are like that, especially when they're a lot younger, so I can't be upset. At least not too much.

A book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time)
I took a class on Toni Morrison in college. It was taught by a GENIOUS Toni Morrison scholar who also happened to be a pretty bad-ass nun. This class, and another that I took with Sister Linda-Susan, challenged me so much as a scholar of literature rather than a reader of it. Though I've chosen to go more down the reading path than the picking apart path, I still think of those classes whenever I'm confronted with a Toni Morrison title or any other piece of literature that one may mistake for "just a story" that can be broken down into a million different complex meanings when placed in various literary traditions.

A book you acquired in some interesting way
I recently snagged a copy of With Love... by Rod McKuen from a cart of rejected gift books at work. Not a really interesting way to get it, I know, but it's the Stanyan Street publishers edition which is hard to find and all kinds of awesome.

The book that’s been with you to the most places
I've read The Juniper Game roughly a million times since I was in junior high. For a while I took it with me on planes as I could fall into the story really easily and not worry so much about the actually flying (I hate flying). I don't know that it would be the most satisfying read now, but having it in my carry-on always makes me feel a little better.

Your current read, your last read and the book you’ll read next

I just finished reading The Diamond Age: or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson, which was awesome. It's supposedly the first steam-punk novel written, so I thought I'd give it a try. It is most definitely not a young adult book, hence the lack of review. Now I'm reading The Heretic's Daughter for the Fall Into Reading Challenge, and then I'll be reading The Ask and the Answer. My library still doesn't have a copy, so I caved and bought it. It'll make a nice early Christmas present to the library system when I'm done with it.

So, what books have made a lasting impact on you?

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Godbersen, Anna. Splendor. New York: Alloy Entertainment-HarperCollins Publishers, 2009. Print. A Luxe Novel 4.

Once again, it is impossible to talk about this book without talking about the books that came before it. If you have yet to finish Envy, don't read my review of Splendor. Just look at the pretty picture on the cover (it's Lina this time).

  • Carolina is actually an heiress now and uses her money to get a house within view of Leland's. Coincidence? Of course not.
  • Elizabeth is settling into her new life with Mr. Cairns away from the public eye. Women who are "in the family way" are better not seen.
  • Penelope is recovering. Polite people won't say that she's recovering from a miscarriage, but really impolite people don't mind letting it slip that she wasn't ever actually pregnant.
  • Henry and Teddy are off to war, but only one of them gets there.
  • And Diana. Diana is in "Paris." At least that's where the Gamesome Gallant would have you believe she is.

In the last installment in The Luxe series, things never go as you would expect. There is a death, a new-found love, an uncovered plot, a steamy affair, a wedding. Someone is thrown from her high horse as someone else decides to share in her bounty. And someone decides to run away and start life over somewhere else. Again. There are no neat little bows in this ending, except for those on Penelope's dresses, but did you really expect everyone to get to live happily ever after?

These books have never really been heavy on the historical details, and neither is this one. If you worried after Envy that Godbersen would let her pretties be set aside so the boys could go off to war (honestly, I'm still unclear as to which war they went off to), breathe a little easier. Henry lives the good life in the army just as does anywhere else he goes, and Teddy, who really does see combat, is back in the States by the time we see him. Both of the guys, and a few others, have important roles, starring you might say in the case of Henry, but this book is still about fancy rich girls in pretty dresses and their intrigues.

There were a lot of ends to tie up in order for Splendor to be the final book in the series. Some storylines had miles to go before they could make it to the last page. Godbersen took all the room she needed to tell Diana and Henry's stories, they are everyone's favorites after all, but that left little room for other storylines that also needed endings. Penelope and Carolina seemed to get a fair share of the page space, but their stories weren't as fleshed out as they had been in previous books. Elizabeth's story was downright anemic. She had one or two big scenes where important things happen, but the story was slim on the build-up and then managed to wrap up so very nicely a page later. After all she's been through, maybe Godbersen felt that Elizabeth deserved to be calm for most of Splendor and then have a happy ending dropped in her lap. Lord knows hers was the only traditionally happy ending provided.

I could have lived with all of the focus being on Diana and Henry (who couldn't) at the expense of Carolina and Penelope and even Elizabeth. I do wish that the stories overlapped more. Yes, Diana visits her pregnant sister. Yes, Penelope and Carolina attend a couple of the same parties. Of course Penelope's husband is still snubbing her in favor of Diana. Their stories aren't really connected by much else. There's a whole lot less gossip, plotting and backstabbing going on than in the other books. But what I really missed in this book were some of the minor characters that were so multidimensional and so alive in previous books. Aunt Edith only got one really good appearance, Buck is practically a prop, and the elder Mr. Schoonmaker hardly even gets to yell at anybody! He does get to change the course of EVERYTHING though, so he shouldn't be too upset. And Mrs. Holland? Who's she?

But even with all of this, I still loved Splendor. It wasn't until after I was done reading (a whole 4 hours after purchase) that I felt a bit let down in places. What Godbersen gives us is really good and really enthralling. I just wish she'd given us more. Le sigh. I'm so sad it's over!

About the ending (spoiler-free)
I wasn't going to talk about the ending, but after reading reviews on amazon, goodreads and librarything, I feel like I have to. I really liked the ending. This series does not end with the good people all happy and in love and the bad people publicly paying for their sins. How would you figure out who falls into which category anyway (except for Elizabeth and Penelope who embody good and evil so distinctively)? Disney did not write this, and I'm glad Anna Godbersen did not compromise her characters to make it seem like he did.

Book 1: The Luxe (on amazon)
Book 2: Rumors (on amazon)
Book 3: Envy (my review)

Book Source: I bought it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Certain Slant of Light

Whitcomb, Laura. A Certain Slant of Light. Boston: Graphia-Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005.
[Book cover credit:]

ALA Best Books for Young Adults (2006)
ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults (Death and Dying, 2009)

Helen has been "haunting" writers for 130yrs. By haunting, I mean acting as their unnoticed muse. She's grown used to existing on the sidelines of the lives of her writers. She has a happy afterlife. Her current writer, Mr. Brown, teaches English during the day. It's in his class that everything changes. A student looks at her, hears her, knows that she's there. And now that Helen has someone to interact with rather than thanklessly inspire, she can't let him go. Even if she has to "borrow" a human body, like he has, to keep him.

I've been eyeing this book since it came out 4 years ago, but I'm not a big fan of ghost stories (read: I'm a big wimp when it comes to scary stuff with no explanations). I put off reading it. Happily for me, this book is not scary. At all. There are some suspenseful moments, but they have nothing to do with ghosts so much as crazy parenting. But I'll get to that in a minute.

Basically, James, who used to haunt the park, found an empty body. The soul had walked off when the body OD-ed, so James decided to hop in. Because he's still a ghost, he can see Helen. They've both been alone for decades and relish in each other's company. They fall in love. Unfortunately, all of these inconvenient physical urges come with James' borrowed body. He wants to satisfy them with Helen, but to do that she also needs a body. They find her an empty body at, where else, the mall. Now James, in Billy's body, and Helen, in Jenny's body, are free to go at it like rabbits.

There are of course, complications such as when Billy's brother, who is raising Billy while their mom is in a coma and their dad is in jail, catches James and Helen (Billy and Jenny?) in the act. Or when Jenny's mom, who is ruled by her EXTREMELY religious husband, finds bloody panties when it's not Jenny (Helen?)'s time of the month and assumes, correctly, that someone has popped Jenny's cherry. Or when Helen starts to get nauseous every time she smells food after having lots of condoms-weren't-invented-before-I-died sex. But these are small roadblocks in Helen and James' love story.

This is paranormal romance at its best. Everyday concerns are left by the wayside as the extraordinary circumstances that make this love story work take precedence. As long as that's what you're looking for, you'll love this. But if you want a good almost Halloween ghost story, look elsewhere.

Book source: Philly Free Library

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

it's here!!!

The final installment in The Luxe series is finally here! I'm trying to be really good and read off of my challenge lists (Leviathan and ArchEnemy are hidden away in their Barnes and Noble bags so I won't be tempted), but there is no way that I'm not tearing into Splendor on the bus ride home from buying it!
See my review of Envy here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Radiant Darkness

Whitman, Emily. Radiant Darkness: A Novel. New York: Greenwillow Books-HarperCollins Publishers, 2009. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

"Hideous Hades ripped her away
From her mother's arms that fateful day
When all she wanted to do was stay
Safe in her mother's arms, oh!"


This is how we've all come to know Persephone: as a victim, torn away from her mother, Demeter, by the evil Hades. But that is not at all how this story really happened. Persephone, knowing that her mother would not approve, declined to tell anyone that she was leaving her home to marry her boyfriend, so her mother, of course, thinks she was kidnapped, ravaged, and now has Stockholm syndrome. It sounds like a plot line from Law and Order: SVU, right? Except that none of the parents on SVU are gods or goddesses, so their fear for their children or anger at each other doesn't almost kill everyone on the planet.

In the original Persephone myth, a lot of things happen to her. She doesn't really do anything. She doesn't even seem to have a personality. She's just Demeter's daughter and/or Hades' wife. The Persephone that Whitman introduces to us, however, is full of personality and takes control of her life both before and after she goes (note that I didn't say "is taken") to the Underworld. She's also really smitten with Hades. It's her mother's inability to let Persephone grow up and her whole "no males anywhere near anyone remotly associated with me" policy that causes problems.

Since this is a retelling of the myth of Persephone, other readers have complained that this book becomes predictable; we all (theoretically) know how the story is going to end. As I've said before, I know very little about Greek mythology, so I did not have this complaint while reading. I think even readers who already know a lot about Persephone, her mother Demeter, or Hades can still enjoy Radiant Darkness. There is enough that is different from the original myth (I looked it up after reading this book, and the author also gives a pretty good summary of the original in her note at the end) to keep readers interested, if they're the type of reader that isn't looking for suspense.

And once again, this book should be a hit with paranormal romance fans, though I would never categorize it that way.

Book source: Philly Free Library

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Never too busy for a little bit o' Riordan!

This whole working 6 days a week business is really cutting into my blog writing and blog reading time. (The extra commuting, however, is doing great things for my book reading time). That would explain how I missed this little bit of news from MotherReader:

The author of The Lightning Thief gave a book talk (read: hosted a crowded, screaming rally) with people lining up long before he was scheduled to start. (Kate DiCamillo thought they were her fans). There were crowds. There was rain. And after hours of waiting in line, these people were ready for some flippin’ Book Talks! And Rick delivered.

Riordan was brought to the top by the Percy Jackson series. He plans to write a story about the next generation of Half-Blood campers. He’s also gonna milk this “gods” thing as much as he can, because some stories about the Egyptian deities are coming out soon. From the tiny excerpt he read, it’s going to keep the same humorous style and adventure as the Percy books, but with a whole new setting. They both sound like definite must-reads.

I really wish I could have concentrated more, but I had to stand during his talk — which I had already been doing for the past hour — and I was suffocating because of all the breathing people in the tent.

This was written by TeenReader, as you can probably guess from that last paragraph. :)

But more Camp Half-Blood? More Riordan comedy involving other deities? I could not be more excited. A quick search on Amazon shows that the first Egypt book should come out in May of next year. Can I wait that long? Maybe.

And just in case you missed them before, here are my thoughts on the Percy Jackson series by Riordan:
Book 1: The Lightning Thief
Book 2: The Sea of Monsters
Book 3: The Titan's Curse
Book 4: The Battle of the Labyrinth
Book 5: The Last Olympian

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Dust of 100 Dogs

King, A.S. The Dust of 100 Dogs. Woodbury, Minn.: Flux-Llewellyn Publications, 2009. Print.[Book cover credit:]
Spring 2009 Indie Next List pick for Teens

Saffron is wise beyond her years, but not in the kooky Dakota Fanning way that adults think when they say that. The ability to appear really serious, the ability to handle "mature situations," and the cunning to look young and sweet while you do it. Saffron has all that, but she also has memories dating back to the 1600s when she, then Emer, was a pirate captain whose trademark was popping out Spanish eyeballs. Back then she was cursed with the Dust of 100 Dogs to be reincarnated 101 times and to keep her memories from each life. The 1st 100 reincarnations she was a dog (as you may have guessed from the name of the curse/book). Now, in her 102 life, she can finally enjoy human existence again, if you can call living in Hollow Ford, PA in the swingin' 70s a "human existence." Finally escaped from life on 4 legs, Saffron (Emer) just needs to escape low income suburbia so she can reclaim what's hers. Buried treasure, of course. Somewhere in the Caribbean.

I didn't really know how to categorize this book until I read the author interview at the end with Leila of bookshelves of doom. In the interview the author describes her book as magical realism, and that is so what this is! I had to reach back into my memories of my 9th grade World Literature class (Mr. Driscoll, you still rock and I promise to email you back real soon) to remember what magical realism really is. It is, from my memory and the author interview, when something a bit magic/supernatural/fantastical happens in the real world. It's not fantasy because there isn't a whole new world created and most of what happens could really happen. There are just a few magical moments in the midst of normalcy, like a guy who grows angel wings or candy that makes you a little sad.

Saffron's memory of her past lives is like that. She doesn't have any superpowers, she didn't even have any when she was a pirate captain. And no one eats people parts or turns into anything fancy under a full moon. To make up for this lack of the supernatural, we get little tidbits from Saffron's past lives as dogs. The whole book, which alternates between Emer's life from childhood to when she is cursed and Saffron's life in Hollow Ford and treasure hunting, is peppered with Dog Tips. These tips give little glimpses into the lives of dogs raised to be in dog fights, strays, the spoiled little dogs that get carried around in purses, and the times in history in which Saffron lived these lives.

The historical parts of this novel are well-researched, and it shows. Emer's life in Ireland is richly described and detailed, as is her life in the Caribbean. This book does not, however, read like historical fiction. It is not bogged down with description (not that historical fiction must be); little details are dropped into the narrative in a way that doesn't distract from the story, which remains high action no matter what time period it is portraying. The only time period that fell a little short for me was Saffron's current life. It felt a little too present day to be the 70s. The only way I could tell that Saffron wasn't in Hollow Ford yesterday is that no one had a cell phone, but when you're talking about really poor people who are robbed on a general basis by a tweaker family member, the lack of cell phones could still be current. This didn't detract from the story AT ALL for me. I simply forgot when Saffron was supposed to be.

The Dust of 100 Dogs was a really unique book and a really fun read. I think it will be a hit with the millions of readers of paranormal romance out there, even though it's not really a romance and it's not really paranormal, even though the main character has been reincarnated 101 times.I look forward to seeing what A.S. King will come up with for young adults in the future.

Book source: Philly Free Library

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Last Dragon

Rainfield, C.A. The Last Dragon. Illus. Charlie Hnatiuk. Toronto, On.: HIP Books, 2009. Print. Dragon Speaker 1.
[Book cover credit:]


You can talk to her. You can talk to dragons.

Jacob laughed. The idea was crazy. No one can talk to dragons, Jacob sent to the bird. Besides, I though they were all dead. Are you sure there's one still alive?

The bird answered quickly. Yes. You can speak to this dragon, as you speak to us. You are the Chosen One.

"I'm not chosen for anything," Jacob said out loud.


Jacob, who has talked to birds for as long as he can remember, is one of only a handful of boys to survive Lord Manning's edict that every young male with any inkling of magical talent be killed. He was badly injured in the fire that killed his brother, and the resulting limp is a constant reminder to Jacob that he'll never live up to his father's expectations for him. He is a disappointment. If he truly is the Chosen One, he could prove to his father and the rest of his village that he is worthy of their respect and maybe, just maybe, he could bring Lord Manning's tyrannical rule to an end.

This slim book packs a lot of action and plot into its 111 pages. It did not include the lengthy explanation of the world into which the reader is being dropped that can bog down good fantasy books (for example). Instead, IMPORTANT THINGS start happening right on page 1. It's awesome.

The shortness of the book does make for a rather intense plot. Using a familiar setting and some familiar circumstances, Rainfield manages to tell a story that is original and engaging. I sped through it. Jacob, along with his BFF Orson and random girl Lia, are out to save their world, afterall. The last dragon, who can only talk to Jacob, needs him to save her egg, which, considering that she's dying, is the real Last Dragon, from Lord Manning and Kain (his evil personal wizard). Dragons, of course, are key to overthrowing Lord Manning and taking away all of Kain's evil power.

The short chapters (with about one illustration each) and the quick plot will make it easy for reluctant readers to get into the story, which is good since this book is a hi-lo (high interest, low vocabulary) book. Once I got into the book, I completely forgot that it was written specifically for reluctant or struggling readers. Reading this after reading an intricate historical fiction novel was, clearly, a drop in reading levels, but the quality of the storytelling certainly did not drop.

Cheryl Rainfield, the author, is REALLY EXCITED that this book has finally come out and is available on amazon. There is more information, including a link to the publisher who is also selling a Teacher's Guide for all you educational-type folks, on her blog.

Book source: Review copy from HIP Books

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Red Necklace

Gardner, Sally. The Red Necklace: A Story of the French Revolution. New York: Dial Books, 2008. Print.
[Book Covers Credit:]

ALA Best Books for Young Adults (2009)

Then, without thinking, [Topolain] inquired, "Forgive me for asking, but haven't we met before? I never forget a face and yours is one that--" He stopped, realizing too late that his tongue had run away with itself. He knew it was a fatal mistake.

Kalliovski's eyes narrowed to scrutinize the man in front of him. He turned to look at the dwarf, a spark of recognition showing on his face. Only then did the poor magician remember when and where he had last seen the count. Under his blotched white makeup all the color drained from his face. The count smiled inwardly.

He turned on his red heels and left the room. Tetu and Topolain listened to his footsteps retreat into the distance. They were well and truly trapped.

"What have I done?" said Topolain.

Yann, a young gypsy boy, can read minds and throw his voice. He works in a magic act with Topolain and Tetu, two gypsy men who tangled with the wrong person a long time ago. When that past comes back to haunt them, they know that their lives are over. But France is in turmoil as the peasants for whom these three perform in the theatres rage against the wealthy elite, who call the magicians to their homes to perform at their endless parties. Can these three gypsies, masters of blending in all, get lost in the shuffle and leave their past behind?

Sally Gardner is awesome. This book is full of action, magic, budding romance, evil, and facts about the French Revolution that you probably didn't know; I know I didn't. And the best part? It's not about Marie Antoinette. She's mentioned, of course, but just that. In The Red Necklace Gardner shows readers how the French Revolution affected rich people besides the queen, peasants who had everything to gain from the Revolution, and the terrified people in between: those who had served, helped, or worked for the aristocracy a bit too long to look good in the eyes of the Revolutionaries but did not have the finances themselves to flee to England. The back matter explains the political and financial triggers for the French Revolution. She even manages to make sure that this back matter doesn't read like a history book.

My only real problem with this book is the pretty, pretty cover on the American edition:

It's hard for me to complain because, to be honest, I would never have picked up this book if I had only seen the cover at the very top of this post. It looks too History Channel or something. I picked up this book because of the pretty girl in a fancy dress who is so obviously being beheaded, because that's what pretty girls in fancy dresses (especially blonde ones who could be mistaken for Marie Antoinette from behind) did during the French Revolution. I thought I was going to read a story about her.

That girl is not in this story. I didn't miss her, but she's why I picked up the book. I'm sure that girl on the cover is why a lot of people will pick up this book. I don't think they'll be disappointed either. I'm more worried about the readers who might really enjoy Yann's story and all of the little details about how those not in the aristocracy (like that girl obviously is) experienced the French Revolution, but won't pick up this book because of that girl on the cover.

This cover is just one more in the long line of "girls in period dresses" covers that have been gracing the shelves lately, but the story in the pages could be a "boy" book. I hate that term, because I think that the idea that boys can only read books about boys while girls can read books about anyone is ridiculous. But if I can't even get my girlfriend to read this book (even though she was really interested in it after reading my booktalk) because it's too girly looking, what chance is there that a teenage boy will pick it up voluntarily?

In conclusion: Great book. Misleading cover. Potential audience lost.

Book source: Philly Free


After working on a new citation cheat sheet all day at work, I figure I should make the switch to the 7th edition of MLA here too.

The only big difference for your average book (the only thing I really cite here) is that you have to add the format to the end of the citation. Also, I'll actually be right when I italicize things, instead of using italics because I like them better than underlining.

The really big difference for everything else, just in case you were wondering, is that MLA no longer requires a URL for anything. I guess they figure that if the rest of the citation is solid, your readers should be able to find your source without a direct link. Google and all that. I'll still give you links for things though. I like them.

If you're trying to make the switch at work or school, either for yourself or your students, check out NoodleBib from NoodleTools. The free version says that it is for "our youngest scholars." It is certainly easy enough for kids to use, but it handles more sophisticated, longer, whatever resources as well. AND it saves everything for you, so you can use it at the computer at the library, the computer at home, the computer in your BFF's dorm room, anywhere with internet, and all of your citations will be in the same place. We're going to be pushing it on our college students in all our library orientation and information literacy sessions.

Have fun with the new MLA everyone! I do not envy you school librarians who have to reteach how to do citations to all the kids who finally got the hang of it last year. At least I can be cranky (and less careful about swearing under my breath) when college students give me the blank stare of death when I try to explain the changes.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Graveyard Book

Gaiman, Neil. Ills. Dave McKean. The Graveyard Book. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008.
[Book cover credit:]

A Horn Book Fanfare Best Book (2008)
Cybils Award, Fantasy and Science Fiction - Elementary/Middle Grade (2008)
ALA Best Books for Young Adults (2009)
British Fantasy Award Nominee - August Derleth Fantasy Award (2009)
Hugo, Novel (2009)
Newberry Medal (2009)
World Fantasy Award Nominee, Novel (2009)
and more...

You might think - and if you did, you would be right - that Mr. Owens should not have taken on so at seeing a ghost, given that Mr. and Mrs. Owens were themselves dead and had been for a few hundred years now, and given that the entirety of their social life, or very nearly, was spent with those who were also dead. But there was a difference between the folk of the graveyard and this: a raw, flickering, startling shape the grey color of television static, all panic and naked emotion which flooded the Owenses as if it was their own. Three figures, two large, one smaller, but only one of them was in focus, was more than an outline or a shimmer. And the figure said, My baby! He is trying to harm my baby!

And so Mr. and Mrs. Owens take it upon themselves to raise a living baby and protect him from the man Jack who murdered the rest of his family. Nobody Owens, as he is renamed, or Bod, as he comes to be known, grows up in the graveyard, learning things like how to Fade, Haunt, and Dreamwalk with ghosts and other non-living creatures for company.

But the man Jack is still looking for him. Bod should have died with the rest of his family, and the man Jack wants to make sure that he does.

I hadn't been putting off reading this book, per se, but it certainly was never at the top of my reading list, even though I've been wanting to read it since it came out. Then I read the Newberry acceptance speech Gaiman gave at the ALA conference. (It is available in the late summer issues of both Horn Book and Children and Libraries.) I don't know how, but Ihad forgotten just how fun Gaiman's writing is to read. He says in his speech that this book took him twenty years to write. It shows. I'm sure there are faults to be found in The Graveyard Book, as there are in any book, but I didn't find any.

For being set in a graveyard and opening with a triple murder, this book is a lighthearted story. It is told rather episodically, to span Bod's life from infancy to when he is 15 years old. As so much of his life is unchangeable, only the exciting bits need to be shared, such as his first living friend and a tutor who is also a Hound of God. Each chapter could almost be its own short story, with shared characters between them. Because of this, and because the language is just begging for it, The Graveyard Book would make for a wonderful read aloud, spread across weeks in a classroom, library, or bedtime setting.

This was a quick and enjoyable read. It's not a laugh-out-loud book, but it's funny in places. It's also really sad in places and really happy in others. I liked it a lot.

Book source: Philly Free Library

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Ryan, Carrie. The Forest of Hands and Teeth. New York: Delacorte Press, 2009.
[Book cover credit:]

Well, it worked on my sister. That and the trailer:

I just hope she sticks it out through all the exposition/love story/cult-ish stuff for the Big Zombie Payout. But more about in the

Review:I liked this one, but I could have done without all the dragging out of the "is the Sisterhood hiding all of everything from us" in the beginning. I was especially mad about all of the slow lead-up when I got to the end of the book, and none of the intrigue with the Sisterhood seemed to matter.

Well, I guess it mattered in that it gave time and safeness before the Big Zombie Payout for the romance circle to develop: Mary loves Travis but Travis is betrothed to Cass who loves Harry who has been in love with Mary since they were kids. Did I mention that Travis and Harry are brothers and Cass and Mary are BFF's? Well, these things happen when you're living in the post-zombie apocalypse, landlocked equivalent of the Robinson's island (remember both guys being in love with the one girl? At least there are two girls in this isolated go at it). Even though the romance circle is hardly new, it came out in a different way here. Both girls have feelings of loyalty, if not love, towards both boys, and both boys want to remain loyal to each other. I wish somebody, one or both of the guys or even, no, mostly the girls themselves, had made the girls the most important. Though Mary and Cass are still buddies (they're the only girls left after the Big Zombie Payout, what choice do they have), they're never BFF's again. If my BFF agreed to marry the guy I was in love with and I agreed to mary the guy she was in love with to get back at her/because he's the only guy left/cause I don't have the balls to go for the real thing, I wouldn't call her my bestie anymore either. In a book where both of the female protagonists take very different yet both strong, ass-kicking roles, it's sad that they let their friendship fade because of these guys. Neither of which was all that amazing, even though each had their swoon-worthy moments.

But then there's the Big Zombie Payout that I was waiting for! It doesn't erase all the drama, far from it, in fact, since it forces the romance circle into really close quarters. But at least there are zombies everywhere to keep everyone distracted. All of a sudden all of the petty arguments and injustices aren't as important as the imminent threat of the undead. At the same time, given that we're talking about BFF's stealing the loves of each other's lives, the petty arguments are so much more important. And Mary kind of checks out. She thinks she's figured out enough of what the Sisterhood was hiding from everyone to get their little party (which includes the romance circle, Mary's brother and his wife, and a random kid that Harry saved) out of the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

The sequel, The Dead-Tossed Waves, won't be out until March. I though that The Forest of Hands and Teeth could have stood on its own with a reasonable amount of loose ends (can you really wrap of everything with millions of zombies trolling the forest looking for lunch?). I really hope that some of the remaining questions I had about the Sisterhood get answered, as I felt like there was a lot of build-up to nothing on that front. Still, I loved this book, in a way. It was like zombies with brains (haha).

Book Source: Philly Free

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Un Lun Dun

Mieville, China. Un Lun Dun. New York: Del Rey; Paperback edition, 2008.
[Book cover credit:]

"You're..." he whispered slowly, "in... Un Lun Dun."
The girls waited for the words to make sense, but they didn't. Hemi was grinning. "Un Lun Dun!" he repeated.
"Un," said Zanna. "Lun. Dun."
"Yeah," he said. "Un Lun Dun."
And suddenly the three sounds fell into a different shape, and Zanna said the name.
"UnLondon?" Deeba said.
Hemi nodded, and crept an inch closer.
"UnLondon," he said, and he reached for Zanna.
p. 39

Zanna and Deeba are lost in a world that kind of appeared in a basement. A world that has been stalking Zanna as of late. A world that they can't seem to get out of. All Deeba wants to do is go home, but Zanna is there for a reason. She's there to save them all.

This is one of the weirdest (in a good way) books I've read in a long time. UnLondon is a parallel world of sorts. It is whacky and full of MOIL (Mildly Obsolete In London) objects come to life. As such, it influences as London and London influences it. The nearness yet farness of the "real world" is what makes UnLondon so sinester for Deeba. That and the fact that is is reduced to the role of Zanna's sidekick while they're there. And though there is definitely a bad guy (sentient Smog in fact), the sinister feeling is short-lived as Deeba is drawn into her task and drawn to the UnLondoners around her.

The attitudes of each world towards the other gave the whole book a feeling very much like that in Corpse Bride - the Upstairs (living) vs. the Dead feeling. Zanna's predestined role in the whole thing, and the way everyone seems to know about it but her, was a lot like when everyone finally gets to Narnia in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. And all the UnLondoners gave the whole thing a distinct Alice vibe (a guy with a birdcage for a head and a fleet of ninja trashbins, just for starters).

Also, a glossary of things British people say that American people don't say is included (hence the trashbins). It's hilarious.

Overall, this was a really fun read. Really fun. If it didn't require getting special permission, I would highly recommend it for the Alice in Wonderland Challenge.

Book Source: Philly Free Library

Fall Into Reading

Here's what I want to read this fall:

Kids and YA stuff:
  1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
    - Review
  2. The Red Necklace: A Story of the French Revolution by Sally Gardner
    - Review
  3. The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent - Review
  4. Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go by Dale Basye
  5. The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd
  6. Blood Captain (Vampirates 3) by Justin Somper
  7. Black Heart (Vampirates 4) by Justin Somper
    - switch to:
    A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
    - Review
  8. The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King
    - Review
  9. Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman
    - Review
  10. Tennyson by Lesley M.M. Blume
Adult stuff:
  1. Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriyār Mandanīʹpūr
  2. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
  3. Dreaming in French by Megan McAndrew
  4. A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire
  5. King Rat by China Mieville
  6. Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
  7. The Secret of the Fire King by Kim Edwards
  8. Shelf Discovery: Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading by Lizzie Skurnick (this should probably go up there, but I want 10 and 10)
  9. All the issues of New Yorker that are stacked up on my coffee table to remind me that I just had to have a subscription.
  10. Along the same lines, I'd really like to finish War and Peace, which I've been reading since June...
This is basically my holds list at the library with a few extras from around the house thrown in. Hopefully it'll be enough that this is kind of a challenge but will leave me enough wiggle room for random stuff that comes along. I'll add links to the ones I review as I get to them.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Hegamin, Tonya Cherie. M+O 4EVR. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008.
[Book cover credit:]

ALA Rainbow List, Young Adult Fiction (2009)

M(arianne) and O(pal) have been friends for as long as either can remember; their mothers were friends before that. M is only half black to O's plain-old black, which matters in their teeny Pennsylvania town. She ditched O to gain popularity and is now the first black Homecoming Queen the county's ever seen. When she dies shortly after the homecoming dance, the loss is too much for O. Though she feels like she lost M a long time ago, she's really gone this time.

Review: full of spoilers this time, but this book isn't really about suspense or the revelation of facts, so it shouldn't hinder the enjoyment of the read.

I wouldn't have even picked up M+O 4EVR if it hadn't been for Daisy's blurb about it over on her QueerYA blog. I thought the title held the promise of a book full of text-speak. It doesn't. M+O 4EVR is written in hearts on many of the places important in M and O's childhood: their tree and the backseat of O's Grandma's car, for example. It would be sweet if it weren't so sad. M is dead by the end of the second chapter, and the rest of the book is told in O's heartbroken voice. Her rememberances of their relationship and the way she deals with M's death are interwoven in a way that is realistic. Unfortunately that doesn't always do much to help the reader's understanding of the story.

We know from the beginning that O is in love with M and has been for a while. Whether M returns that affection is pretty unclear for a lot of the book. What does become clear is that everyone who is important in O's life knows that she has just lost the love of her young life in a really horrible way. The support she receives from her Grandmother, who she lives with while her parents each travel separately for work; Drippy, her grandmother's boyfriend; and her mom and dad, who each return home for M's funeral and to be with O; is really wonderful. Even M's mom, who did not approve of M and O's relationship once it moved beyond a close friendship, breaks down and apologizes for trying to ban O from her house in the face of her grief.

Interwoven through the story of O and M is the story of Hannah, a runaway slave who either died in or flew over the ravine that claims M's life so many years later. At first her story, which O's grandmother told to O and M when they were little, doesn't seem to have any connection to O's grieving other than that she heard it with M and they talked about it growing up. As each story unfolds, we learn that M initiated the move from friendship to romance at the same time that we learn that Hannah fell in love with the Native American, who she calls Mine, helping her travel north to freedom. Still, I didn't necessarily feel that one story needed the other, though both were really sad love stories that ended very similarly.

This slim little volume is very complicated. The whole thing spans maybe a week at the most in O's life, really getting into her conflicting emotions and the ups and downs of her early grieving process. Though the reactions and feelings in this book are very real, I would hesitate to give it to someone who has just lost a loved one. It's almost too real to be comforting. It would, instead, be a good resource for someone hoping to comfort a grieving loved one.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Philly Free

ETA: The Bill has been passed! The libraries will stay open!!!
For more info see the Library Blog.

It looks like the Free Library of Philadelphia might actually be closing on October 2nd. All 50+ branches of it.

The library can't stay open without the approval of a temporary (probably not, but still) tax hike in the city which can't be approved until the 2010 fiscal year budget is finalized and approved. That budget should have been approved a long time ago and should have been put into effect in July, but that is a whole other mess of problems.

If you're in the Philly area and have a state representative that you can contact about this, please do so. The Free Library, being an information sharing type place, tells you how.

And in case you're conflicted about this issue, just look at all the things the City of Philadelphia will lose if it doesn't have a library:
  • Library visits to schools, day care centers, senior centers, etc.
  • Space (for free) for community meetings
  • Space (for free) for ESL and GED classes
  • LEAP, the afterschool tutoring program that runs out of every Free Library branch
  • All the other programs that are run by or in the Free Library, including the author series
  • Oh, and the free books.
Not to mention, that Philadelphia, the city that had the first public library in the country, will be the first major city to shut it's library down. Classy.

I guess, depending on how you look at it, being known for closing libraries is just as good as being known for high murder rates or making the shortlist for the fattest cities in America.

Pennsylvanians, especially of the Philly variety, please contact your state representatives and ask them to get their asses in gear. It's September and we still don't have a budget. Philly can pull itself out of its own budget woes, we just need their permission to do so.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


There are all kinds of things going on for Book Blogger Appreciation Week, including this meme. :)

Either pick one or two questions to answer in short essay form, or answer them all in 5 words or less. Even though being brief is clearly not my strong point, I'm going to try the latter.

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?
Sometimes. One handed food like trail mix or raspberries.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
I mark in my books, but only if they're really good.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?
Bookmarks! All else is blasphemy!

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?
Fiction, mostly.

Hard copy or audiobooks?
Hard copies. Audiobooks and I don't get along. :(

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?
End of chapters or at page breaks.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?
Only if it keeps me from understanding the gist of the sentence. And then I usually text my dad instead of looking it up anyway, like the "what is guy fawkes day" exchange we had the other day. I was going to skip it as it didn't seem to matter much, but I'm glad I didn't. It actually ended up being important later!

What are you currently reading?
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan and War and Peace by Tolstoy

What is the last book you bought?
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?
Usually 1 at a time.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?
Anytime, anywhere.

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?
Not really.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)
By subject matter and then alphabetical by author's last name then alphabetical by title or series order, where applicable. It's very serious.

So, a couple of my answers were a bit longer than 5 words. Oops. ;)