Friday, February 26, 2010

Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception

Stiefvater, Maggie. Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception. Woodbury, Minn.: Flux - Llewellyn Publications, 2008. Print. A Gathering of Faerie 1.
[Book cover credit:]

ALA Best Books for Young Adults (2010)
ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults (Twists on the Tale, 2010)

"It struck me that we'd come to a strange unspoken agreement. He pretended to be normal, and I pretended I believed him. I wanted to believe him. But I couldn't. What brand of abnormal, I wasn't sure yet. I just hoped it didn't involve axes, gags, and the trunk of a car."
p. 45
With that, Deirdre decides to go with Luke wherever he happens to take her, even though she knows, deep down, that there is something strange, maybe magical and definitely dangerous, about him.

Sounds familiar, right? Don't start drawing out the similarities too quickly. Dee has a head on her shoulders and isn't afraid to fight the darker forces that seem to be popping up all of a sudden. And though she's decided to let Luke drive her around and buy her ice cream, she won't fully trust him until she can figure out if he's here to keep her safe or to lead the bad faeries to her.

Lament veers from what looks like it might be the current formula for YA paranormal romance:
girl, painfully ordinary, meets boy, spectacularly wonderful, and finds out she's not so normal after all, in addition to landing a hottie.
Dee does not start out boring or blank or ordinary. She is a harp prodigy, not unexpected in a family of musical virtuosos, which makes her stand our from her peers even if it doesn't make her popular. She spends her weekends playing fancy dinner parties and weddings, her summers at music competitions -- competitions in which she places well. She has interests! and a personality! and talent coming out the whazzoo! She's so much better than Bella! Sorry, that last one slipped out. And I'm not even a Twilight-hater.

But on to the rest of the book.

Stiefvater manages to weave a lot of faerie-lore throughout this story, without it turning into a Lisa Frank extravaganza or seeming any less current or more princess-y. These are not nice faeries. While Dee is taken aback by a lot of what happens (being attacked by a monster-sized, panther-type creature while at a wedding reception without anyone else noticing could throw anyone off. also, not nice), she gets the hang of everything real quick. She clearly has some background knowledge of faeries and what they're capable of. It is this knowledge, let me rephrase: her own damn smarts, that save her more often than not, although Luke does manage to get a few dramatic rescues in as well.

Everything I know about faeries I learned from Lady Cottington or Marion Zimmer Bradley, so I did not know many of the little tips that Dee has picked up from a lifetime of playing/singing Irish folk songs on her harp. And yet, I never felt out of the loop. Stiefvater does a great job of immersing the reader in Dee's and the Faeries' world without getting too didactic or explanatory. And then she throws all of what I thought she was telling me on its head so that Dee and Luke can fall in lurv.

In short, give this to Twilight fans and Twilight haters. This is paranormal romance without the clueless, helpless love interest.

Also: She didn't make it into my review (Luke barely made it into my review, I was so happy about a stronger female lead), but I thank and applaud Stiefvater for making the hot, ditsy side character important and solid by the end. James (Dee's best friend, who also didn't make it into my review) is great, but I'm glad Dee got to have a girl-friend to gush about Luke with. And to help her save all the boys.

Book source: Philly Free Library which does not, horror upon horror, have Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie, the sequel, yet.

Graphic Novel Challenge

I've committed to reading and reviewing 3-10 graphic novels or comic books this year:
  1. Isadora Duncan: A Graphic Biography by Sabrina Jones 
  2. Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation by Ray Bradbury with illustrations by Time Hamilton
  3. Breakfast After Noon by Andi Watson
  4. A History of Violence by John Wager with Vince Locke and Bob Lappan
  5. The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
  6. Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi 
  7. Janes in Love by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
  8. Refresh Refresh by Danica Novgorodoff 
  9. Resistance (Bk 1) by Carla Jablonski; illustrated by Leland Purvis; color by Hilary Sycamore

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Valentine's Day Candy!

Don't worry. There's a second layer.
Thanks Mom!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Isadora Duncan: A Graphic Biography for Nonfiction Monday

Jones, Sabrina. Isadora Duncan: A Graphic Biography. New York: Hill and Wang-Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

ALA Great Graphic Novels for Teens (Nonfiction, 2009)

With this book, I'm asking a generation in flip-flops to imagine how traffic stopped when Isadora strolled down 5th Avenue in her homemade sandals.
p. 3
This graphic novel tells the story of Isadora Duncan, the Mother of Modern Dance, from her humble beginnings as the daughter of a piano teacher to her sudden death, due to an overly flow-y accessory and all that came in-between.

I came to this book knowing a few things about Isadora Duncan, namely that she spawned the "Isadorables;" that her style of dance, which was supposed to be free of training and structure, evolved into a new form of dance altogether in which students can now train and learn choreography that is passed down from body to body much in the way that ballet, which she despised for its "rigidness," has been for centuries; and that she was kind of a boozer. Basically, I know the kinds of things they tell you at the beginning of a modern dance class held during a summer workshop for ballet dancers.

All of these things are laid out beautifully in the book. But there is so much more! Isadora traveled the (Western, including Russia) world, to showcase her dancing. She gave political performances, that were not all that well-received, and yet she gave them over and over again because she believed in what she had to say. She was a professional dancer who GOT PREGNANT without ending her career. She started schools for underprivileged girls in Europe where they could learn to dance (be "Isadorables") and eat three square meals a day free of charge.

She also had the first historically recorded wardrobe malfunction (it's just wikipedia, nothing you can't click at work) and a rather scandalous string of lovers. As Jones says, we all have Isadora to thank for the widespread acceptance of "comfortable dress and serial monogamy" (125).

Throughout this biography, Jones manages to balance Isadora's personal, professional and family personas. Rather than focusing on just the scandal, just the ground-breaking accomplishments, just the prevalent eccentricities, Jones shows how each was affected and usually enhanced by the others. She also manages to convey a lot of movement, which is what modern dance is all about, for a book of black and white illustrations. Almost every spread shows a swaying, jumping, or somehow dancing Isadora. Her innocent little "I'm not up to anything" face peeks out from every page as well.

By drawing from Isadora's own autobiography, as well as her other publications and the work of other biographers, including Isadora's most loyal adopted Isadorable, Irma Duncan, Jones puts forth a wonderful look at all of the facets of Isadora's life. This book expresses the freedom and artistry that Isadora spent her life sharing with others.

Book source: Philly Free Library

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday


Read Your Own Books Challenge

I FINALLY have a book to put on my RYOB Challenge list.


I'm hoping to read at least 50 books that I owned before 1/1/10. hahaha. I'll be lucky if I make it to 10.
  1. Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go by Dale E. Basye
  2. The Lace Reader: A Novel by Brunonia Barry
  3. My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand-Up by Russell Brand
Well, that was pathetic.

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go - for Tween Tuesday

    Tween Tuesday was started over at Green Bean Teen Queen as away to highlight awesome books for the 9-12 yr olds or Tweens. Any book highlighted on Tween Tuesday also counts for the In the Middle Reading Challenge! This week's book is:

    Basye, Dale. E. Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go. New York: Yearling, 2008. Print. Circle of Heck 1.
    [Book cover credit:]

    After a fatal marshmallow explosion, Milton and Marlo Fauster find themselves in Heck, a kind of boarding school for kids in purgatory. Apart from the shock of being dead, Marlo is kind of okay with the whole situation. This is the kind of school in which she could finally excel. Milton, on the other hand, has no idea why he's in Heck instead of attending harp lessons in the sky. And he's determined to rectify the situation.

    This is a hilarious take on the afterlife, with a lot of gross-out humor (they crawl through sewers that service both "the surface," where the living poop, and all the toilets in Heck). I think that middle grade readers, or even some younger readers who really like potty humor, will enjoy the story and the adventure as Milton, Marlo, and their friend Virgil try to break out of Heck. There is a lot that is outrageous through the whole thing such as preschoolers addicted to phonics, demons dressed up as other demons (who happen to look like the thumb-thumbs from Spy Kids in my head), and an accidental trip to adult purgatory: a never ending traffic jam. But there is also a lot that is normal like horrendous cafeteria food, an overbearing gym teacher, and a big bad (human) bully, reminding Milton, Marlo, Virgil, and the reader that all of this is happening to regular kids.

    My main problem with Heck is that I don't think the average middle grade reader, the reader this book was written for, will get a lot of the jokes that I thought were really really funny. Nixon teaches the boys ethics class. Lizzie Borden teaches girls' anatomy/biology. The headmistress is named Bea "Elsa" Bubb and actually says, "You mess with a demon, you get the horns," when she thinks she's discovered the escape plans (213). I read a lot of things and watched a lot of stuff that contained jokes and/or innuendos that flew right over my head when I was a kid, and I still enjoyed them. But so much of this book depends on jokes that not every 9yr old will have the background knowledge to understand, that I wonder how it is actually received by its intended audience.

    I, not remotely the intended audience, thought it was really funny. I won't be rushing out to buy the second book in hardback, but I'll probably give it a look when it shows up in paperback. There are nine circles of Heck mentioned (Limbo, Rapacia, Blimpo, Fibble, Snivel, Precocia, Lipptor, Sadia, and Dupli-city). Since the second book is Rapacia: The Second Circle of Heck I can only infer that the boarding school the first book was set in was Limbo, and there will be nine books total if Basye gets his following and his way. It'll be interesting to see how many of his readers make it through all nine before they outgrow the poop humor and/or if they'll stick with it because they start to get the cultural references and jokes.

    Book source: I bought it.

    Monday, February 15, 2010

    Linger Giveaway!

    I don't usually post about contests, but this is an awesome contest. I mean, it's horrible. No one else should enter. :)

    Linger Cover LargeIn Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

    At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love -- the light and the dark, the warm and the cold -- in a way you will never forget.

    Comes out in stores everywhere July 20th. Pre-order here.

    Enter to win an advanced review copies of LINGER, Sisters Red, The Dead-Tossed Waves, and The Replacement on Maggie's blog.

    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    IT'S HERE!!!

    Or the cover is anyway:

    Check out the Scholastic blog for more info, 
    including a list of things that will NOT happen in the final book in the 
    Hunger Games Trilogy.

    YAY! August 24th cannot come soon enough.

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    Wordless Wednesday

    My TBR piles, among other things.

    In the Middle Reading Challenge

    Because I need another challenge like I need a hole in the head.

    The O.W.L. is challenging us to read some more middle grade literature, or books for 8-12 year olds. I'm starting a little late, so I won't be eligible for prizes and such, but there are a few middle grade books in my TBR pile and it really wouldn't hurt me to read a few of them.

    I'm aiming for the 7th grade level, at least 8 middle grade books this year:
    1. Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go by Dale E. Basye
    2. Once by Morris Gleitzman - I'm counting this one, even though the ARC suggests it for ages 12 and up, as it has won awards internationally for ages 7-9.
    3. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
    4. The Brimstone Key by Derek Benz and J.S. Lewis
    5. The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan 
    6. Stolen by Vivian Vande Velde 
    7. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
    8. Don't Know Where Don't Know When by Annette Laing
    9. Submarine Outlaw by Philip Roy
    10. Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord
    11. Submarine Outlaw by Philip Roy
    12. The Dead Boys by Royce Buckingham
    13. Journey to Atlantis by Philip Roy
    14. The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter
    15. A Different Day A Different Destiny by Annette Laing
    16. Penny Dreadful by Laurel Snyder
    17. Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner
    18. River Odyssey by Philip Roy 
    19. The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall by Mary Downing Hahn 
    20. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan  
    21. Avalanche Dance by Ellen Schwartz

      Sunday, February 7, 2010

      Academy 7

      Osterlund, Anne. Academy 7. New York: Speak-Penguin Group, 2009. Print
      [Book cover credit:]

      Aerin Renning is picked up by the Envoy, an Alliance ship, when her own proves to be working only well enough to help her escape her planet, but not well enough to take her to another one. Now, because of the kindness of the Envoy's captain, she is on her way to the most prestigious school in the Alliance, Academy 7, where she'll have to compete with the other students, academically, for the right to stay without the benefit of the a formal Alliance education up to this point. And without letting anyone figure out that she's not an Alliance citizen and has no right to be there in the first place.

      I LOVED Academy 7. While a lot of this love may spring from the fact that this book is neither dystopian nor paranormal, just science fiction in a United Federation of Planets sort of way, it also tells a really great story. Osterlund manages to introduce us into this new world (which includes lots of "worlds") without a lot of exposition or traditional world building. We get to learn about the Alliance, its history and its downfalls along with Aerin, who spends a lot of time in the library in order to keep up with her classmates.

      And then there's Dane, Aerin's rival in just about every class. Their relationship takes a long time to evolve, especially since they are both hiding BIG SECRETS from one another, even after they move from enemies to friends. Without switching back and forth between Dane and Aerin's POV, we manage to get a real feel for each of their personalities and back stories (all hail the return of the omniscient narrator!) while they maneuver through trying to figure out what they can trust each other with. Their relationship is clearly the main focus of most of the book, just in a sci-fi setting, but every once in a while things become very tech savvy or very space age (the ending is ridiculously unexpected and awesome on both counts). I think this balance will appeal to readers of the less swoony paranormals out there and budding (or closet) sci-fi fans.

      Book source: I bought it.

      Wednesday, February 3, 2010

      Wordless Wednesday

      The Comcast Center after the rain.

      Also, I'm back from the plague.