Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Visit my Project 365 blog, where I aim to post a picture a day chronicling everyday life.
Or wait until next Wednesday when I'll post the highlight of the week here.

And yes, that's how the cat always drinks his water. He's an odd one. :)

All images © by Lawral Wornek 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

People of Color Challenge

Given all the recent talk about the whitewashing of covers of YA books on the blogosphere and the listservs, I thought it would be great to do something proactive. Not that lodging complaints with publishers isn't a really important thing to do, because it is, I just hope that we can also positively encourage publishers to feature, both in print and in cover art, characters who are not white. To do that, we need to prove that there is a market for books featuring people of color. Hence, the People of Color Reading Challenge.

I'm committing to read at least 10-15 books that feature POC this year. How many will you read?

  1. Year of the Horse by Justin Allen
  2. Crossing by Andrew Xia Fukuda
  3. Libyrinth by Pearl North
  4. Amiri & Odette: A Love Story by Walter Dean Myers 
  5. Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins 
  6. The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan 
  7. Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson
  8. Simply Divine: A Novel by Jacquelin Thomas
  9. Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
  10. Don't Know Where Don't Know When by Annette Laing
  11. The Thin Executioner by Darren Shan
  12. A Different Day A Different Destiny by Annette Laing
  13. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

I loved this challenge. It helped me to focus my reading and reviewing habits rather than always just reading the next shiny thing in my line of sight. :) One of the great things about having this little blog is my ability to shine a tiny bit more light on books that don't get a lot of attention. Looking specifically for books featuring or written by POC just narrowed my focus a bit.

The greatest thing about this challenge, though, was that out of the 13 books featuring POC that I've read since tracking them for this challenge, only 5 (FIVE!) are realistic fiction! The remaining 8 have some element of fantasy or sci-fi. Take that, folks who think fantasy/sci-fi is only for or about white people! :)

    Saturday, January 23, 2010

    The Best YA Books You Haven't Read...Yet

    Kelly over at YAnnabe is organizing an Unsung YA Heroes Blog Blitz to help shine a brighter light on some great YA books that haven't gotten the recognition and/or following they deserve.

    Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order:
    1. Selkie Girl by Laurie Brooks
    2. Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman
    3. Jars of Glass by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler
    4. The Smile by Donna Jo Napoli
    5. Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund
    6. The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King
    7. To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel
    8. Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger
    9. Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
    10. M+O 4EVR by Tonya Hegamin
    I'll be trying to do my part in the near future and get some reviews up for the books I've listed that I haven't reviewed yet. They all certainly deserve their own posts.

    Go make your own list and visit YAnnabe to read other folks' lists! Kelly even has nifty directions for how to build your own list using LibraryThing's myriad of sorting options. She'll compile them into a HUGE list on Monday.

    Friday, January 22, 2010

    The Silver Blade

    Gardner, Sally. The Silver Blade. New York: Dial Books, 2009. Print.
    [Book cover credit:]

    In France The Revolution rages on, claiming more victims each day. Just about anyone with royal aspirations has long since left the country or already died in its name. But there are still some left in France who are at great risk: those with titles, remote but dangerous connections to the royal family, or the air of financial success. They will do anything to get to England safely. Rumor has it that the man for the job is The Silver Blade. His clients disappear right under the noses of the Revolutionaries who are charged with their capture. In their place, the small silver blade of a child's toy guillotine appears suspended in thin air. Everyone with a need to leave the country is desperate for The Silver Blade's services. Not that anyone knows who he is, which is just how Yann likes it.

    No spoilers for this book here, but there are definitely spoilers for its prequel, The Red Necklace.

    The Silver Blade is just as intrigue, romance, and action-packed as its predecessor. Yann pulls off daring escapes, clever tricks, and ridiculous disguises. Sido struggles to get settled in England, where her Aunt and Uncle are the social center of French émigré life and where her Aunt hopes Sido will find a financially secure husband. Sido and Yann each pine for the other, and they communicate through letters that could put them both in danger. This is all well and good. Touching, emotionally complicated, blah blah blah.

    The real problem is Kalliovski. He's not quite as dead as we were all lead to believe at the end of The Red Necklace.

    But it is his face beneath the hat that makes all the rest quite forgettable. Those black eyes do not look human, so dark and dead, eyes from which no light shines. His skin is like tallow wax, his hair, swept back, is black, his lips a red wound. This is a face of nightmares.

    Kalliovski goes walking here every night, the smell of blood drawing him time and time again to the guillotine. It is like a fine wine to his nose, a perfume to savor. He takes a last deep breath, inhaling the scent of death before setting off toward the Pont Neuf. He walks without a shadow to mark his passing.

    I thought this was going to turn into a vampire book. I was really disappointed and worried, for a while, thinking that Kalliovski was going to drink all the blood left in Paris. I shouldn't have been; Gardner is way too classy for that. She draws on some obscure Gypsy legend that was briefly mentioned in the first book to explain Kalliovski's not-dead-ness instead, and it doesn't involve blood-sucking.

    Things get a lot more magical and dark in this installment of Yann and Sido's story. Yann, himself, goes through a lot of self-doubt and darkness in his own heart, leaving Sido, Tệtu and everyone else behind while he basks in his own self-pity. But he grows and becomes stronger. This is, once again, his story. At least this time he gets to be on the cover of the book.

    If you're interested in other cover art for this book, after my look at the covers of The Red Necklace, you can see a few on LibraryThing.

    Book 1: The Red Necklace
    Book source: Philly Free Library

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    Prepare to be Shocked

    Bibliophile By the Sea has invited us all to track our book purchases in 2010. It's bound to be eye-opening and terrifying, but also a good way to keep track of what's coming in, don't you think?

    Grab the button and join in! Hopefully my list will be short, but I doubt it. Bibliophile is also keeping track of the cost of each book, but I don't think I can take that much shock. Also, for my own piece of mind, I'm keeping track of how many of the books I buy I actually read. The green (linked) titles have been read and reviewed here. The purple titles have been read but will not be reviewed.

    Here's what I've already bought this year so far: 
    1. London Calling by Edward Bloom
    2. If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino
    3. A Haunted House and Other Stories by Virgina Woolf
    4. Anthem by Ayn Rand (Centennial Edition)
    5. Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund
    6. The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg (Autographed!!!)
    7. The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
    8. The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd
    9. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
    10. Soulless by Gail Carriger
    11. Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce
    12. Trickster's Queen by Tamora Pierce
    13. Ash by Malinda Lo
    14. Liver Cookies by Dian Curtis Regan
    15. New York: The Novel by Edward Rutherfurd
    16. Drood by Dan Simmons
    17. I Know Where I'm Going: Katharine Hepburn, A Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler
    18. Heresy: An Historical Thriller by S.J. Parris
    19. Brigid of Kildare by Heather Terrell
    20. Death: The Time of Your Life by Neil Gaiman
    21. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
    22. I Do But I Don't: Walking Down the Aisle Without Losing Your Mind by Kamy Wicoff
    23. Grimm's Fairy Tales
    24. For the Win by Cory Doctorow
    25. The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester
    26. The Rebels of Ireland by Edward Rutherfurd - This will go on to Dad as soon as I've read it, so I think it should count as a gift rather than a personal purchase. ;)
    27. The Ebony Tower by John Fowles
    28. The Collector by John Fowles
    29. First Book of Modern Lace Knitting by Marianne Kinzel
    30. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer (don't judge)
    31. Christine Falls: A Novel by Benjamin Black
    32. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
    33. Bad Faith by Gillian Philip
    34. The Fair Garden and the Swarm of Beasts: The Library and the Young Adult by Margaret A. Edwards
    35. By the Time You Read This I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters (autographed!)
    36. Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters (autographed!)
    37. Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes (autographed!)
    38. Going Bovine by Libba Bray (autographed!)
    39. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (autographed!) (duplicate copy)
    40. Miss Tutu's Star by Leslea Newman with illustrations by Carey Armstrong-Ellis (autographed!)
    41. Water Steps by A. LaFaye (autographed!)
    42. The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz
    43. A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama by Laura Amy Schlitz
    44. Stringz by Micheal Wenberg
    45. Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson
    46. In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan
    47. Glimmerglass: A Faeriewalker Novel by Jenna Black
    48. The Quest for Environmental Justice: Human Rights and the Politics of Pollution edited by Robert D. Bullard
    49. The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
    50. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
    51. Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen
    52. Dark Reflections: The Water Mirror; The Stone Light; The Glass Word by Kai Meyer 
    53. Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
    54. No Name by Wilkie Collins
    55. Under the Poppy by Kathe Koja
    56. The Lady of Shalott (Visions of Poetry series) by Lord Alfred Tennyson with illustrations by Genevieve Cote

    So...this is a little embarrassing.

    Whether Diane continues to "host" this one, maybe I should still keep track. The shame may (may!) force me to buy less or at least read more of what I purchase!

      Friday, January 15, 2010

      The Midnight Guardian

      Stratford, Sarah Jane. The Midnight Guardian: A Millennial Novel. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2009. Print.
      [Book cover credit:]

      In this fantastical remembering of the beginnings of WWII, the vampires of Great Britain jump into the fray long before their human countrymen in an attempt to keep Hitler from decimating the food supply of European vampires.

      Hitler, of course, has other plans. He puts together a group of men, the sister team to the SS, who hunt vampires instead of Jews, homosexuals and gypsies. They've been taught by true vampire hunters, men and women whose families have been keeping the vampire population under control for centuries, who have traded their family secrets for a promise of safety from the Nazis. 

      This was a fun and engrossing read. It splits, very early on, into two storylines. One follows Brigit and the rest of the Millenial vampires, as they try to take down the emerging Nazi empire by infiltrating its ranks and/or seducing men in high places. Brigit is joined by Cleland, Mors, Swefred and Meaghan on her trip to Germany. It is only safe for vampires over a millennium old to voluntarily walk into a country quickly filling with vampire hunters. Swefred and Meaghan, together since the beginning of time it would seem, have each other and Mors has been single and loving it for his whole millennium long and more life, but Brigit and Cleland both have to leave their partners behind in London.

      Much is made of Brigit and Eamon's love and heartbreak over their distance throughout the book, Brigit is the main character after all, but Cleland and his partner Padriac (both men, in case you aren't well versed in really old Irish names) also suffer through their separation. Cleland and Padriac's love is portrayed as just as true, long-lasting and, above all, normal as that of Brigit and Eamon's, even if it doesn't get as much page space devoted to it. The only "problems" that arise out of their homosexuality is Cleland's annoyance at having to seduce Nazi wives and the prison cell in which they found Padriac on his last night as a human hundreds of years ago.

      The other story, the one that sucked me in, shows Brigit trying to sneak back to London on a train of German soldiers and possibly vampire hunters. She is escorting "precious cargo," which is why she has to take such a public route and is constantly in danger of being caught with forged papers, revealed as a vampire, or having to change trains in broad daylight. The way that loyalties change in the face of the force of the Nazis becomes so interesting in this storyline, but to talk about any of it would be to give too much away. Some liberty is taken with the vampire myth, what they can and cannot do, but it still remains a horror story of sorts. Except that you will side with the monsters.

      This is an adult book and does have a few, um, sexy moments, but overall, I think that it would be suitable for mature teenagers with an interest either in vampires that don't sparkle or historical retellings. I don't think the slim bits of actual historical content would be enough for a WWII buff.

      Book source: Philly Free Library

      Monday, January 11, 2010

      TwentyTen Reading Challenge

      Young Adult
      1. What Happened to Lani Garver by Carol Plum-Ucci
      2. Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann

      1. Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go by Dale E. Basye
      2. My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand-Up by Russell Brand  

      Shiny and New
      1.  Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund
      2. Bad Faith by Gillian Philip 

      Bad Blogger's
      1.  Year of the Horse by Justin Allen
      2.  Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta


      New in 2010
      1.  Scars by Cheryl Rainfield
      2.  Crossing by Andrew Xia Fukuda

      Older than Me
      1.  Noah's Castle by John Rowe Townsend

      Win! Win! - Graphic Novel Challenge
      1.  Isadora Duncan: A Graphic Biography by Sabrina Jones
      2.  The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg

      Who Are You Again?
      1.  Once by Morris Gleitzman
      2.  The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore

      Up to Me! - Paranormal YA 
      1. Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception by Maggie Stiefvater
      2. The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

      Local Library Challenge 2010

      Here's my list:
      1. What Happened to Lani Garver by Carol Plum-Ucci
      2. The Midnight Guardian: A Millennial Novel by Sarah Jane Stratford
      3. The Silver Blade by Sally Gardner
      4. Isolde, Queen of the Western Isle by Rosalind Miles
      5. Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions by Neil Gaiman (awesome, as always, but with some erotica that keeps me from reviewing/recommending it here)
      6. The Maid of the White Hands by Rosalind Miles
      7. Isadora Duncan: A Graphic Biography by Sabrina Jones
      8. Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception by Maggie Stiefvater
      9. Year of the Horse: A Novel by Justin Allen
      10. Not My Daughter by Barbara Delinsky
      11. Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation by Ray Bradbury with illustrations by Tim Hamilton
      12. Breakfast After Noon by Andi Watson
      13. Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu
      14. A History of Violence by John Wager with Vince Locke and Bob Lappan
      15. The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore
      16. The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
      17. Libyrinth by Pearl North
      18. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
      19. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
      20. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
      21. Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi
      22. The Lady of the Sea by Rosalind Miles
      23. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
      24. Amiri & Odette: A Love Story by Walter Dean Myers
      25. Mathilda Savitch: A Novel by Victor Lodato
      26. Janes in Love by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
      27. House of Stairs by William Sleator
      28. Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins
      29. Refresh Refresh by Danica Novgorodoff
      30. Eye of the Red Tsar: A Novel of Suspense by Sam Eastland
      31. The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
      32. Stolen by Vivian Vande Velde
      33. Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson
      34. The Dark Divine by Bree Despain
      35. Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
      36. Simply Divine: A Novel by Jacquelin Thomas
      37. Nothing Pink by Mark Hardy
      38. Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
      39. Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien
      40. The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
      41. Folly by Marthe Jocelyn
      42. Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
      43. Extremities: Stories by Kathe Koja
      44. The Three Incestuous Sisters by Audrey Niffenegger - whose work I must realize that I'm not all that into no matter how awesome the titles may sound.
      45. Wild Romance: A Victorian Story of a Marriage, a Trial, and a Self-Made Woman by Chloe Schama
      46. Tombstone Tea by Joanne Dahme
      47. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
      48. Buddha Boy by Kathe Koja
      49. Wolves of Andover by Kathleen Kent
      50. My Invented Life by Lauren Bjorkman
      51. Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

        Sunday, January 10, 2010

        GLBT Reading Challenge

        Here's my list:
        1. What Happened to Lani Garver by Carol Plum-Ucci
        2. Scars by Cheryl Rainfield
        3. Libyrinth by Pearl North
        4. The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities edited by David Levithan and Billy Merrell
        5. Janes in Love by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
        6. Nothing Pink by Mark Hardy
        7. Penny Dreadful by Laurel Snyder
        8. My Invented Life by Lauren Bjorkman

        So I failed a little bit, but I'm going for gold (12) again in 2011!

        What Happened to Lani Garver

        Plum-Ucci, Carol. What Happened to Lani Garver. 2002. Orlando, Fla.: Harcourt, Inc., 2004. Print.
        [Book cover credit:]

        ALA Best Books for Young Adults (2003)
        ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults (Own Your Own Freak, 2005)

        "You need to go out in the waiting room and find yourself a floating angel."
        "A what?"
        "They come with you on visits like these. They hold your hand and they tell you good stuff and make sense of this world so you realize it's not so bad--"
        "Oh, I came with a friend. He's out there." I jerked my thumb toward the waiting room. "Thinks he's at a family reunion. Not much help."
        "That's cuz he's a friend. Floating angels aren't friends; they're real angels. They're real. Didn't you see any of 'em out there?" His beaming smile flashed, and I gathered he was pulling my leg, the other option being that he was nuts. I decided to be polite and not hate myself more.
        "Uh, no. What do they look like?"
        "Like faggots. ... Angels don't have a gender. So what they gonna look like?"
        p. 89

        Because Lani Garver looks like he might be one and because he makes Claire's life, which she's losing grip on, sane, Claire thinks Lani might just be her floating angel. Unfortunately, the rest of Hackett, a small island off the Jersey Shore, sees nothing angelic about a young, clearly queer boy invading their little island. Just as Lani brings new complications to Claire's life in the midst of all the goodness, his friendship with her is his lifeline on Hackett Island, but her popular cheerleader status makes it impossible to fly under the radar the fish frat, this small island's crew of good ol' boys.

        This book was hauntingly good, in my opinion. You know right from the start that something horrible is going to happen to Lani, so everything in the book feels like foreshadowing. Watching Lani and Claire hurdle toward this inevitable end is heartbreaking, even as you cheer on Lani's continual "I don't care what they think" attitude. Claire is a bit more cautious than he is. As she grows and changes over the course of the novel she cares less and less what her friends and the fish frat think of her, but she knows what they are capable of doing to Lani and herself. However, her growing sense of the injustice of it all, in combination with her new-found temper, still trips her up. The way things end up happening in the end is not how you would expect, at least it wasn't the way that I had put it together in my head.

        The best thing about What Happened to Lani Garver is its honesty. For example:
        I shook my head, embarrassed by my curiosity but more embarrassed by how none of this made sense to me. "We're talking about a guy with a girl, who propositions you once, and then called you a faggot. What is a person like that?"
        "Do you mean, is there a clinical name for someone like that?"
        "Dunno. I think they call it 'hypocritical.'"
        It's an honest question, one that I'm sure more people than fictional Claire would like an answer to. Small teaching moments like this are peppered throughout the book in a natural and conversational way. Also, the language, as I'm sure you noticed in both of the quotes, makes me cringe, but, as the girlfriend pointed out, this was how we all talked in high school, before we knew it wasn't PC. The dichotomy of the way words like "faggot" are used by the fish frat and the way they are used by Lani and his friends is very striking. And though the feeling that we can say it about our own but you can't say it about us is confusing (which is true of a lot of words about a lot of groups that are considered either derogatory or familiar depending on who is saying them to whom), it appears naturally here without forced explanations of why it is or isn't okay.

        My only complaint about this book are the floating angels themselves. They're made up by the author. She explains in an interview at the back of the paperback version that she didn't want to alienate any followers of a specific religion by pulling from the traditions of another. While that is awesome, the concept of floating angels is an interesting one and I wanted to know more about them, but, of course, nothing else exists.

        Warning: There are three chapters worth of the bad thing that happens to Claire and Lani. It's told from Claire's perspective and she goes in and out of consciousness for a lot of it, so it doesn't end up being graphic. It is still pretty upsetting and might be downright detrimental reading for someone who has gone through this type of experience themselves.

        Book source: Philly Free Library

        Friday, January 1, 2010

        Who needs resulotions when there are challenges?

        Happy New Year Everyone!

        Please excuse this obligatory post with all of the challenges I'll be striving to successfully complete this year. Maybe I'll see more than a few of you on the challenge pages!

        Because I thought I should join at least one challenge that might actually be a challenge for me, I'm joining the Graphic Novels Challenge. I'm not a huge graphic novel fan, but I'm not entirely against them either. Hopefully this will help me get a bit more into them. Read the rules here:

        I'm going to go for the Intermediate Level, 3-10 graphic novels or comic books over the course of 2010.

        GLBT Reading: The Challenge That Dare Not Speak Its Name. I'm looking forward to this challenge and getting reading suggestions from everyone else's reviews! Read the rules here:

        I'm signing up for the Rainbow Level, 12 or more books.

        I'm hoping the TwentyTen Challenge will help me to mix-up what I'm reading this year. With 2 books from 10 different categories, I should have a bit more variety! Read the rules here:

        My Win! Win! category will go to the Graphic Novels Challenge and my Up to You category will give me an excuse to read some paranormal romance without committing to a year's worth of a paranormal challenge.

        This challenge from Miz B is just what I need to counter-act the aftermath of the going-out-of-business sale last week at my local Borders Express. And counter-act, you know, being me. Read the rules here: 

        I'm hoping to read at least 50 books from my own shelves in 2010.

        Once again, I'll be participating in J. Kaye's Local Library Challenge. Also, again, only books from my local public library will count, as the libraries where I currently work are at a privately funded institutions. Read J. Kaye's rules here:

        I'm going to stick with the Just My Size level, 50 books checked out and read from the public library in 2010, which will hopefully help me keep the focus on the books I already own.

        I'll put up posts to keep track of my progress as I actually start reading for these challenges. 

        Good luck with all of your challenges and Happy New Year!