Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sugar Doll Award

Sugar Doll AwardI have to admit that I do not know what the Sugar Doll Award is for or where it originated, but it's just so darn adorable, and I certainly hate to turn down some blog bling. Thank you to Sandra at Musings of a Book Addict for thinking of me! If nothing else, awards are a nice self-esteem booster - yes, someone is reading my blog! Woo!

So, I'll list 10 things about myself (I'll keep this brief!) and then pass the award on to 10 others. Sounds good.

10 About Me
  1. I want a cat. Or several.
  2. I like to dance - of the ethnic variety. Balkan folk and maybe some salsa. 
  3. My favorite color at the moment is purple. 
  4. Dark chocolate + hazelnuts = Yum. 
  5. Love the MarioKart on the Wii. 
  6. I don't like to drive at night. Or in bad weather. Or at all, really.
  7. I wish I traveled more.
  8. I drink water and Mountain Dew. And that's about it. 
  9. I love nachos. I'll go see a bad movie just for the nachos.
  10. I have a younger sister who is nothing short of awesome.
And the 10 blogs I choose:

Check them out! I enjoy them. :)


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fahrenheit 451 adapted by Tim Hamilton

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized AdaptationRay Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation by Tim Hamilton
published July 2009 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
160 pages (paperback), YA

I loved this graphic novel but dread writing this review.

This adaptation stayed very true to Bradbury's original. Obviously, the text is sparse, but the story still flows rather well. And really, the artwork stands out in this book. But artwork is not something I know how to evaluate! It reminded me very much of Ex Machina, a series that I devoured last summer. The blues and greys and greens dominate most spreads, except for the fire scenes in bright oranges, reds and yellows. The mood of the story comes directly from color choice and the dark, shadowy figures, which is what attracted me the most about this graphic novel. Second would be passage choice - I don't know how much of the text comes directly from Bradbury's original, but it definitely evokes the same tone and style. I also enjoyed the introduction by Bradbury, where he describes his experiences of letting inspiration flow and stories evolve in their own time.

Graphic Novels Mini Challenge
I think fans of the original will appreciate this adaptation, but moreso, this graphic novel makes the classic accessible to those who would not normally read it. Reluctant readers, yes. But also superhero comic fans, as the style is somewhat similar. It can be a gateway to reading Bradbury's original, or even stand alone. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to most high school students.

Others said:
Lesa's Book Critiques: "[...] Hamilton's illustrations provide an appropriate stark background for the story of Guy Montag [...]"
Reading and Rooibos: "[...] I find it genuinely exciting that the graphic novel format will introduce this story about the dangers of censorship and the power of critical thought to many readers who may not have already encountered the novel."


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kreativ Blogger Award

Kreativ Blogger AwardI am so happy to announce that I have just received my first blogger award! Woo! Thank you very much to Milly Marie at Imaginary~Dreamer, who nominated me for this award. I may seem a little bashful about it, but I am quite grateful. :)

Here's how the award works:
  • Thank the person who gave this to you.
  • Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
  • Link the person who nominated you.
  • Name seven things about yourself that no one would really know.
  • Nominate seven "Kreativ Bloggers."
  • Post links to the seven blogs you nominate.
  • Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know you nominated them.

Seven Things About Me
  1. I'm a rather crafty gal when I have the motivation. I make books, knit, crochet, and sew. I'm currently knitting a blanket for myself, crocheting a granny square blanket for my boy, and knitting an argyle scarf for my sister.
  2. I have a small and recent obsession for Star Trek. Ever since I saw the new Star Trek movie, I haven't been able to stop watching all things Star Trek-related. So far, I've seen Star Trek: Nemesis, Star Trek: First Contact, and I watch Star Trek: The Next Generation every weeknight on WGN.
  3. I watch more TV than any human being should. I can't sit in my house without the TV on, whether I'm actually watching it or not. My go-to channels are HGTV or the Food Network. And I have an obscene amount of shows that I follow. Monday is my teen night devoted to the CW and ABC Family, Tuesday is Star Trek: TNG on SyFy, Wednesday is whatever's on Bravo, Thursday is The Vampire Diaries, Friday is TLC night, Saturday is America's Next Top Model on Oxygen, and Sunday has been football as of late, but now I'm watching Emma on PBS. Phew! 
  4. I'm Macedonian-American. My parents were both born in Macedonia - my dad lived there until he was 10, and my mom until she met my dad at 18, but I was born in Chicago. Macedonia is a tiny country north of Greece, west of Bulgaria, and east of Albania. Macedonian is my first language, though I don't speak it that well and could probably read it at a third grade level. If you speak Bulgarian, Serbian, Croatian, or even Russian, I can probably understand you.
  5. I love music in a way that I miss and couldn't possibly describe. Music sustained my extended adolescence the way that reading seems to sustain me now. My current favorites are The Avett Brothers, The Frames, and The Decemberists, among many, many others.
  6. I'm afraid of wide open spaces - something like agoraphobia. I feel rather helpless and actually quite closed in when I'm driving through the cornfields to get back to the city. Scary. 
  7. I love cheese. I always have at least six different cheeses in my fridge, which I call the absolute basics (cream cheese, Laughing Cow, parmesan, cheddar, mozzarella, American) and to that I currently also have crumbled goat cheese and bleu cheese dressing. Normally, I couldn't live without feta or kashkaval, but this town does not offer the types I enjoy. Sigh. 
Enough about me, I would like to nominate the following blogs for the Kreativ Blogger Award. I chose these blogs because they are the ones that I just enjoy reading and that have updated somewhat recently - which made it easy for me to find them. :)
Be sure to check out these wonderful blogs! 


The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer

The Case of the Missing MarquessThe Case of the Missing Marquess (An Enola Holmes Mystery) by Nancy Springer
published November 2007 by Penguin Group
224 pages (paperback reprint), Middle Grade

The very much younger sister of Sherlock Holmes, Enola lives in an estate outside of London with her disgraced mother and a small staff. On Enola's 14th birthday, Mrs. Holmes fails to return home to her daughter. When Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes show up to investigate their mother's disappearance, they conclude that Mrs. Holmes has been hoarding money intended for the upkeep of the house and has obviously run away. Now what to do with Enola?

This was one of those books that I wanted to like, but instead, I found myself arguing with the author in my mind. As you can see, the title of this book is The Case of the Missing Marquess - missing Marquess, not missing mother. We don't learn who the missing Marquess is until halfway through the book, and even then, I'm not so sure that I really cared about him. I wanted to know more about Enola's mother. And Enola! She is quite the character, but with all the problems I had with the plot, I couldn't enjoy getting to know her. There was also an especially lengthy discussion of women's clothing of the 19th century - which was mildly amusing but perhaps a little too foreign to have any meaning for today's readers. Some illustrations might have been nice.

In short, I didn't love it. But I'm a sucker for middle grade mysteries AND 19th century anything AND series. I might read the next book in the series just for the fun of it. Because I do like the idea of the series, and I think Enola might prove to be a sassy gal worth following.

Others liked it!
bookshelves of doom - "Highly recommended to young readers of historical fiction and to grown-up fans of the Holmes brothers [...]" 
Ms. Bookish -  "I finished reading this with a smile, eager to jump into the next book in the series."
Welcome to my Tweendom - "Chock full of feminist thought, class issues, as well as adventure [...]"


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Her Fearful SymmetryHer Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
published September 2009 by Scribner
406 pages (hardcover), adult fiction

Julia and Valentina Poole are 20 year-old identical twins living in Lake Forest, IL when this novel begins, and their Aunt Elspeth, who has lived her whole life in London, has just died. She bequeathed the girls her flat in London with the specific instructions that they 1) live in it for a year before selling it and 2) not allow their parents to step foot inside of it. Elspeth and their mother Edie were also identical twins, with secrets they had kept hidden for decades, and naturally, Elspeth would have liked to keep it that way. Her request for the girls to live in her apartment, then, does seem a bit odd, but it is also the only way they will ever learn anything about their aunt. Robert, Elspeth's lover, lives in the same apartment building, which borders Highgate Cemetery, and is charged with getting the girls settled in and showing them around - which he avoids for nearly six weeks after their arrival. Martin is the last tenant in this building and a quirky one at that. A sufferer of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Martin is unable to leave his flat in order to chase after his wife who has recently left him - but not for lack of love on either part.

That's more than I care to write about this story and about what you would get if you were to read the inside flap. But I don't know how to adequately describe my love for this book. I've read mixed reviews - it seems to be a love it/hate it kind of book. And I do love it.

Niffenegger knows how to bring characters and their stories to life. I didn't particularly like or want to know any of the characters, but I wanted to know their stories. The twins' dependency on one another fascinated me and repelled me at the same time. I could understand the difficult choices that were made, especially considering the emotionally-charged circumstances. I don't think I spoil anything in saying that Elspeth may be dead in this story, but her spirit is very much alive and in contact with the girls. This is probably where some people shut down and cast this book aside. Yes, it's rather fantastical and at times ludicrous, but life is filled with impossible situations - I don't mind them finding their way into the books I read. What was most surprising to me was how comfortable I felt with the events that transpired after the twins realized they could communicate with their dead aunt. I didn't feel like I was reading a horror or ghost story at all.

I suppose what I really want to convey is the pleasure I had reading this novel. I read slowly and deliberately, putting it down after a couple chapters so that I wouldn't rush the story and lose anything I had just absorbed. The setting was delicately described, as delicate as London can be, and the chapter vignettes were carefully crafted to portray just enough of the story. At 400+ pages, I can hardly call the story sparse, but I feel like every word I read was necessary and meaningful.

I do caution the potential reader of this book to approach it with no expectations or preconceived notions. This I would caution of all books, but this book particularly because it is easy to love The Time Traveler's Wife and expect Her Fearful Symmetry to evoke the same reaction. It won't. But it is wonderful and beautifully complex in its own right.

Others said:
Fyrefly's Book Blog - "[...] an addictingly good read, atmospheric and subtly creepy without being scary, intricately plotted and themed without being overbearingly Literary, and overall just a fascinating and very enjoyable read"
Presenting Lenore -  "Niffenegger certainly knows how to hold a reader’s attention and I was never bored [...]"
Rhapsody in Books - "[...] in my opinion, the injection of supernatural elements into the plot militates against serious contemplation of these issues."
The Book Lady's Blog -  "[...] if you’re willing to take some leaps of faith and suspend your rationality a bit, you’ll be greatly rewarded."
Tales of a Capricious Reader - "It’s a book to be relished."


Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Best YA Books You've Never Read

Kelly at YAnnabe had the most excellent idea to put together a list of YA books that are lesser known but amazing nonetheless. She's invited bloggers to do the same, so I've decided to join in on the fun. The only criteria is that the book must be represented by less than 500 LibraryThing users (see her blog post for more details).

My Best YA Books You've Never Read:

ShabanuShabanu: Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples
Set in the deserts of Pakistan, Shabanu is an 11 year-old girl who is coming of age more quickly than she would like. She is forced into a marriage with an older man in order to support her family, but Shabanu has hopes and dreams of her own that she is loathe to sacrifice.

One of the first YA books I read - emotional, heart-breaking, and a window to another culture. I love it. With sequels: Haveli and The House of Djinn

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What My Mother Doesn't KnowWhat My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
Written in verse, this is Sophie's account of her relations (or sometimes lack thereof) with boys. At times a bit frank, Sophie's voice is acutely adolescent, which allows for teens to easily relate.

I recommend this book to just about every teen girl. I've often seen groups of girls clustered around the book reading it together. It's light, quick, and fun. I love all of Sones' books, including One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies; Stop Pretending; and What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know

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The Hollow KingdomThe Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle
Forget vampires, werewolves, or faeries, and instead venture into the world of goblins and trolls. Orphan sisters Kate and Emily move to Hallow Hill, an ancient estate of the family, where women have been disappearing for ages. King of the Goblins, Marak, might have something to do with that and just may be looking for a new bride.

It's a trilogy, what can I say? So much love. Continue the series with Close Kin and In the Coils of the Snake

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The Warrior HeirThe Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
I just raved about The Demon King, so now I must properly introduce you to what got me hooked on Chima. The Warrior Heir is a work of such originality and creativity that I was immediately captivated. Jack (a male protagonist! woo!) lives in small town Ohio, where he's had to take heart medicine all of his life. But he finds that there isn't actually anything wrong with his heart, and that instead he is Weirlind, a group of magical people who have a society of their own, unbeknownst to mere humans. Adventure! Intrigue! And tons of action.

Did I mention it's part of a trilogy? :) Next: The Wizard Heir and The Dragon Heir

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So YesterdaySo Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld
We all know and love Mr. Westerfeld, right? Of Uglies fame with Leviathan recently released and a score of other science fiction novels that deserve loads of attention. Well, I have to confess. So Yesterday is my favorite of his. Set in New York City, this novel follows 17 year-old Hunter, a Trendsetter, who is constantly on the lookout for the next big thing. How does cool become cool? He'll let you know.

Side note: I recommended this book to an adolescent boy, and it instantly became his favorite book. Oh, happy librarian moment!

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Girl, 15, Charming But InsaneGirl, 15, Charming But Insane by Sue Limb
Hilarious chick lit. Jess is a bit of an ugly duckling with a gorgeous best friend and little hope of attaining a boyfriend. But she deals. Through humor and self-deprecation, mostly. This is a fun, light read - would be great on audio.

Next: Girl, (Nearly) 16, Absolute Torture and Girl, Going on 17, Pants on Fire

C'mon, the titles alone makes you want to read them!  

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House of StairsHouse of Stairs by William Sleator
One by one, five sixteen-year-old orphans are brought to a strange building. It is not a prison, not a hospital; it has no walls, no ceiling, no floor. Nothing but endless flights of stairs leading nowhere —except back to a strange red machine. The five must learn to love the machine and let it rule their lives. But will they let it kill their souls? This chilling, suspenseful indictment of mind control is a classic of science fiction and will haunt readers long after the last page is turned.
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ElsewhereElsewhere by Will Shetterly
A novel set in Terri Windling's Borderland, a place between our real world and the world of faerie, this book follows Ron, who runs away to Bordertown in search of his older brother. Elves abound! The strength of this novel is in the setting, hands down. Ron encounters fellow runaways, flying motorcycles, and a gang of elves, among other unusual things.

Next: Nevernever

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Boy Meets BoyBoy Meets Boy by David Levithan

My first foray into LGBTQ literature, and it couldn't have been better.
In this school, the gay kids and the straight kids all get along just fine, the quarterback is a cross-dresser, and the cheerleaders ride Harleys-- yet the road to true love is still a strange and winding path, as Paul discovers when he meets the boy of his dreams.
It's been awhile since I've read it, but I do remember how much I felt for Paul. A must read.

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Dragon SlippersDragon Slippers by Jessica Day George
Creel is selfishly sacrificed by her aunt to the local dragon in town with the hope of a prince coming to her rescue and making her his bride, bestowing wealth on her family. Except that Creel is poor and a nobody, and she is not about to be rescued by a prince. Instead, she befriends the dragon and wins her freedom along with a parting gift, a pair of slippers. She then sets out on foot to the city, where she hopes to find work as a seamstress. And then there's some trouble with the dragons...

Jessica Day George is one of my new favorite authors. She has a beautiful way with words. Continue Creel's adventures in Dragon Flight and Dragon Spear

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A Curse Dark as GoldA Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
A Rumpelstiltskin retelling. Charlotte Miller is now the owner of Stirwaters, her late father's mill. She must learn to manage the business, pay back debts, and avoid the curse that has plagued the mill for generations.

Truly lovely with a strong female protagonist. Although Charlotte makes some questionable decisions, she is fiercely independent. An easy marriage may solve all her problems, but Charlotte is not taking the easy way out. She will resolve this curse, once and for all.

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SoldSold by Patricia McCormick
This is one of the most difficult books I've ever read - difficult in subject matter, in reading about something so foreign to my own experience and so completely awful. Told in sparse verse that makes it all the more powerful.

Lakshmi is a 13 year-old girl tricked into leaving her home in order to get a job to provide for her family. Except that the job that is lined up for her is to live in a brothel. Where she is auctioned off to male suitors for a night. She lives under Mumtaz's rule, where her earnings are withheld as they are seen as payment for her family's debt. Will she ever be able to leave?


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

On not-so-positive reviews

I've read a few books recently that I didn't love. That, at times, I didn't even like. And I've been debating on whether or not to write about those reading experiences. I hesitate because I don't want to deter someone from reading a book just because I didn't like it. But if I say that this blog is comprised of my bookish reflections, then I should include those of books that I didn't particularly enjoy as well. I mean, I love books, but I am certainly not going to love everything that I read.

I took the plunge yesterday with a graphic novel that I didn't fancy so much. I had never heard of the book, no one else has been talking about it (that I know of) in the blogosphere, and I didn't disparage it that badly, so I felt okay about not giving it a glowing review. I hope that others appreciate my honesty because I'm not in the habit of sugarcoating.

What am I getting at here? Okay, fine. I didn't love these two books:

NeedBeautiful Creatures

Need by Carrie Jones
published December 2008 by Bloomsbury
320 pages (hardcover), YA

Zara has witnessed her father's death (by heart attack) and hasn't been her same spunky self since then. Her mom sends her to cold Maine to live with her grandmother for a change of scenery and hopefully a spark of life. Here, Zara notices a man who seems to be stalking her, for she saw him back at home, at the airport, and now at her new school. She makes some unusual friends at school, where the new gang tries to figure out who this creepy stalker guy is and if it has anything to do with a boy who has recently gone missing. Oh yeah, and there are pixies and weres involved.

I do appreciate all things faerie, and I have developed a love for werewolves, but this story just didn't do it for me. I wasn't emotionally invested in any of the characters because I didn't feel like there was more than meets the eye there. And could it be any more predictable? Sure, I got a little thrill when my suspicions were confirmed, but after a couple of these occurrences, I got a bit bored. I want to be surprised. I don't actually want to know what happens in the story. Maybe I've read too much in this genre that nothing seems original anymore, I don't know. I just didn't love it.

Other people said:
The O.W.L.
Reading Rocks
Confessions of a Bibliovore
Fyrefly's Book Blog
J. Kaye's Book Blog
The Book Muncher

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
published December 2009 by Little, Brown
563 pages (hardcover), YA

Ethan Wate lives in a small town in South Carolina, where it's easy to get stuck and everyone knows your business. There is no way to be different in this town and certainly not at school, where Ethan is labeled a jock (he's on the basketball team) and is expected to participate in all things jock, including taking a cheerleader to the Winter Formal and showing up for Roll Call in the mornings. Then, Lena moves to town. A girl who has been haunting Ethan's dreams, and a girl who is nothing like the squeaky clean cheerleaders and cheerleader wannabes. Yes, it's a love story. And a ghost story. And a witch story. And it's set in the South. The end.

Truly, the story is interesting. But I just couldn't get into it. I didn't appreciate not knowing anything about Lena. Yes, I understand that she didn't know much about herself or her heritage, but that doesn't mean the reader can't know a little more than the characters themselves. I could never connect with her, which is unfortunate considering she was a co-star of the novel. The setting? I can't relate. I can't relate in any sort of way, and as much as I try, I don't understand the South. My favorite character was Amma - Ethan's adopted grandma, the woman who took care of him most of his life - because that I can relate to. And it really shouldn't be about what I can or cannot relate to because there are plenty of books that I have loved that are very far from my personal experiences - but their stories were so vivid that I was transported to a different time and place and completely immersed in the setting and action. Not so much in this book. It wasn't my cup of tea, but others have raved about it, so there you go.

Other people said:
Laura's Review Bookshelf
YA Books Central
A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy
read what you know
OCD, Vampires, and Rants, oh my!
The Story Siren


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Adventures in Burrwood Forest by John Lechner

Adventures in Burrwood Forest by John Lechner
published May 2007 by Candlewick
56 pages (hardcover), ages 6-10

I wanted to like this book. I really did. But I just can't seem to connect with graphic novels for children, and this one is no exception.

The book begins with a tour of the setting, the Burrs' homes, and an introduction to the Burrs. Sticky Burr is unlike the others; he paints and likes music instead of wanting to irritate things by getting stuck on them, which is what every good Burr should do, I suppose. Some of the other Burrs make fun of him and even want to kick him out of the community, which leads Sticky Burr to go off on his own and accidentally have an adventure involving a twisted old tree and a group of fireflies.

I might have enjoyed this story slightly more if I wasn't interrupted every few pages with an informational insert (e.g. Insects I Have Known, Dangers in the Forest, The Maze Tree, Sticky Situations, etc.). I didn't feel like they added all that much to the story and wish they could have been integrated seamlessly or taken out completely. I was initially drawn to the book because of the illustrations - the cartoon Burrs are cute, and I do appreciate all of the shades of greens and browns used. But cute illustrations aren't enough to carry a story, and this one was just a tad too scattered and a bit flat for my taste.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Wonderland by Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew

Wonderland written by Tommy Kovac and illustrated by Sonny Liew
published January 2008 by Disney
160 pages, YA 

Told through the voice of Mary Ann, the White Rabbit's housemaid, this graphic novel picks up where Alice's story ends. Mary Ann is compulsive about her cleaning, after all, she is a maid, and that is precisely what amused me so much about this book. While Wonderland is the same as Carroll's original creation with appearances from the Cheshire Cat, Queen of Hearts, the Jabberwock, and others, it's Mary Ann's docile personality that grounds the ridiculous happenings of the story - and I love the contrast.

The story begins with Mary Ann frantically trying to launder a spot off her apron because she detests uncleanliness and insists on a crisp, clean outfit. She is late in attending to the White Rabbit, who is oblivious to the fact that the Queen of Hearts is after his head for associating with the Alice Monster and who is about to show up at his door. After the Queen barges into the White Rabbit's house and accidentally dirties Mary Ann's now clean apron, Mary Ann bops her on the head in a fit of rage and must flee to safety with the White Rabbit. Thus, their adventures begin.

The illustrations in this book are pencil drawn and digitally inked - with magical, muted yet vibrant colors to convey all that is Wonderland. I could flip through (and smell - oh, how good they smell!) the pages all day every day; they are that pleasing to my senses. The story itself is suffused with Carroll's witty, wry humor that will be appreciated by teens and adults alike. At parts, I could not suppress my giggles of delight. Mary Ann is such an ordinary character in a world of chaos, peculiarity, and indulgence. And of course, that is why I love her and the comedic genius of Kovac. I would recommend this book to just about anyone.

I expect that there will be renewed interest in Carroll's original tale as well as the myriad of spin-offs and retellings since Tim Burton's version will entrance us all come March 5, 2010. I might just have to re-read the classic myself! 

Link love:

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Graphic Novels Challenge

I was wandering around the blogosphere last night looking for some graphic novel recommendations and realized that it has been entirely too long since I've gone on a GN reading binge. I used to read a lot of manga when I worked at a high school, but since being in a middle and elementary school, I haven't had the desire to venture into the graphic world. Which is completely unacceptable! Therefore, I've decided to not only join the Graphic Novels Challenge, but also to set a much higher goal for myself.

I hope to read and review at least 25 graphic novels this year. I plan to read at least 50 because I'm sure I will want to continue series without necessarily reviewing each book. Considering I have 14 checked out right now, I think I can achieve this goal. I just have to make a monthly concerted effort to go to the library and browse the various graphic novel sections. :)

I encourage you all to join! Or at least check out the blog - tons of great resources!

Oh, and I'll record my progress here:
  1. Wonderland by Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew - review - read 01/16/10
  2. Adventures in Burrwood Forest by John Lechner - review - read 01/19/10
  3. Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation by Tim Hamilton - review - read 01/28/10 
  4. Korgi (Book 1): Sprouting Wings! by Christian Slade - review - read 02/09/10 
  5. Amulet: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi - review - read 02/27/10
  6. Amulet: The Stonekeeper's Curse by Kazu Kibuishi - review - read 02/28/10
  7. Chibi Vampire (Volume 1) by Yuna Kagesaki - read 03/14/10
  8. Chibi Vampire (Volume 2) by Yuna Kagesaki - read 03/14/10
  9. Blankets by Craig Thompson - read 04/10/10 
  10. Zeus: King of Gods by George O'Connor - read 04/20/10 
  11. Calamity Jack by Dean and Shannon Hale - read 05/05/10 
  12. Alison Dare, Little Miss Adventures by J. Bone and J. Torres - review - read 06/09/10
  13. Alison Dare, The Heart of the Maiden by J. Bone and J. Torres - review - read 06/09/10
  14. Zoey Zeta and the Sisters of Power: Family Secrets by Robert Simon - review - read 11/06/10
  15. The Adventures of Ook and Gluk by Dav Pilkey - review - read 11/30/10
  16. Amulet: The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi - read 12/05/10


Friday, January 15, 2010

Libraries in books!

Perhaps I have a natural sensitivity to the portrayal of libraries in books, but it seems like lately much of what I've been reading mentions (or focuses on) a library of some sorts. So, I decided that every once in awhile, I'll highlight some scenes in books that mention a library because hey, it's interesting to me.

The Maze of BonesThe Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan
published September 2008 by Scholastic
224 pages (hardcover), Middle Grade

First, some quotes:
Mr. McIntyre stood. He closed his leather folder. "I must get back to my office. But, my dear, perhaps your way of finding out is not the same as the other teams'. What do you normally do when you need answers?"
"I read a book." Amy gasped. "The library! Grace's library!" (41)
I may have squealed a little after reading this passage. Oh, it makes my little heart flutter when someone thinks of the library first for an information need. And I'm not alone...
Fortunately, the librarians were having a slow day, and Amy wasn't shy around them at all. She loved librarians. When she told them she was doing a summer research project on Benjamin Franklin and needed to use historical documents, they fell all over themselves to help her. (89)
(We love you too, Amy!) What can I say, really? Riordan was very kind to bring out the best of the library and librarians, where other authors are still stuck in the past, in outdated stereotypes that frustrate us just a tad. And I appreciate the bit of humor at the end, as we can be overly eager to help out, but only because that's the best part of our jobs (in my opinion), and we just love to do it. So, yay for libraries in this book!

Any librarians out there have a favorite library passage or scene to share? I know you think about it too!


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima

The Demon KingThe Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
published October 2009 by Hyperion
506 pages (hardcover), YA

First, I'd like to apologize to myself for having waited so long to read this book. I admit that the length scared me and that I returned it to the library a few times without reading it. Young adult novels are just too darn long - my happy place is at about 250 pages, so I think my hesitation was at least a little justified.

Except that I read, I devoured, this book in a day and a half. Besides eating and a little bit of sleeping, I devoted myself to this story, and I can't imagine having read it in any other way. For a short though incomplete plot summary, check out my Goodreads review (scroll down to my updates) because I can't do that here. Here I must just gush.

There are some books that are totally captivating - can't put them down, forget about the real world, this is more important. I should not be surprised that Chima has done it yet again for me. Her Warrior/Wizard/Dragon Heir trilogy hooked me. I knew that The Demon King would be good. But I didn't know that it would be THAT good. I have to confess that I probably don't give fantasy stories and authors as much credit as they deserve. In the end, I'm happy with a story where I can escape to new worlds, meet fairies and princesses, and travel back home safely and at a distance from it all. I don't consider these books life-changing, other than the fact that they give me peace and comfort, and when I think about award-winning books, fantasies don't generally make it. But those opinions are behind me now, and I hope that others can begin to see the value of these stories based on the creativity and skill it takes to create such complex situations and characters.

Back to the book, The Demon King is a story with many stories. It takes place in the Seven Realms where magic and earth-bound gifts must balance each other. Where a queen may rule with a High Wizard at her side but where wizards must be limited in their power by the clans and their matriarchs. Princess Raisa is the young heir to the queendom, dually interested in play and duty. She has spent her whole life in Fellsmarch Castle, rarely drifting past its walls. One act of kindness sends her into a shady neighborhood, and then kidnapped by a former streetlord who is trying his best to keep himself and his family alive. Han Alister sees himself as a nobody, but everyone else recognizes him as a somebody - someone to fear, someone to catch, and someone to believe in. These are mere glimpses into The Demon King, meaningless without context, without the superior word-work of Chima. How she weaves together these two characters' stories so seamlessly is beyond me. Just as I was getting to know Han and his meager life, I was swept away into the Castle to meet Princess Raisa, a sweet girl with good intentions and also with a strong head on her shoulders and instinct for trouble. She's powerless but cunning, and she won't sit back and let things happen around her. Such depth in these characters! I feel I'm getting to a rambling point, so I'll just say that I loved this book in more ways than I can convey and will undoubtedly read it again before the second book in the trilogy is released. Yeah, it's a trilogy. Oh, how I love those trilogies.

And I was right - this book does indeed make it to my Best of 2009 list.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

In the Middle Reading Challenge

Hosted at the Owl for YA blog, this challenge is meant to stir up readership in middle grade novels, or rather books written for 9-12 year-olds. That would be 5th-8th grade, the pre-teen, or tween, or whatever else you'll call them bunch. The rules:
1. You must read middle grade books. These are books deemed right for kids ages 9 (sometimes 8) - 12. Harry Potter would be considered a MG book. If you look for them on Amazon you need to look under children's ages 9-12.

2. Challenge starts Jan 17, 2010 and ends Dec 31, 2010. All books for the challenge must be read in that time frame.

3. Books for this challenge can cross over to other challenges.

4. Audio and ebooks count for sure!

5. There will be 4 levels:
  • 5th Grader: At least 4 Books
  • 6th Grader: At least 6 Books
  • 7th Grader: At least 8 Books
  • 8th Grader: At least 10 Books

I'm setting my standards high and plan to aim for the 8th grade level. I think I can read 10 MG books in a year. I'll be listing them here with links to reviews as I read them!

  1. The Case of the Missing Marquess (An Enola Holmes Mystery) by Nancy Springer - review - read 01/25/10
  2. The Case of the Left-Handed Lady (An Enola Holmes Mystery #2) by Nancy Springer - read 02/11/10
  3. Amulet: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi - review - read 03/02/10
  4. Amulet: The Stonekeeper's Curse by Kazu Kibuishi - review - read 03/02/10
  5. The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd - review - read 04/03/10
  6. The Dream Stealer by Sid Fleischman - read 04/10/10
  7. Falling In by Frances O'Roark Dowell - read 04/25/10 
  8. The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood - review - read 05/04/10 
  9. Calamity Jack by Dean and Shannon Hale - read 05/05/10
  10. Miss Daisy is Crazy! by Dan Gutman - review - read 05/12/10
  11. Mrs. Roopy is Loopy! by Dan Gutman - review - read 05/12/10
  12. Dragonbreath by Ursula Vernon - read 05/15/10 
  13. The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler - review - read 06/06/10 
  14. Scones and Sensibility by Lindsay Eland - read 07/05/10
  15. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia - read 07/30/10
  16. Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix - review - read 09/11/10

Bloggiesta Wrap-Up

Phew! I spent most of Friday and Saturday working on my blog with a little time here and there today, which I'd say amounted to roughly 15 hours. Here are the major things I accomplished:
So, I didn't do as much as I wanted to in terms of content (writing up posts in advance, choosing a review style, coming up with features), but I think that now that I am more happy with the way my blog looks and feel like I have at least a tiny readership, I'll be more motivated to post regularly and creatively. Before, I felt like I was just talking to myself, so it didn't really matter how often I posted or what I said, really. I have been thinking more about my purpose in the blogging community and what I have to say, and I've decided that I do like the direction in which my blog is heading. Personal reviews with some library love splashed around and bits of news every now and then.

Thanks to Natasha at Maw Books for this challenge, as it did just that, challenge me to make my blog better, which I think I did as much I could in the time and space of one weekend. Definitely glad for the opportunity to connect to other bloggers and much less shy about having my voice heard and responding to others. :)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Kirkus' Best YA of 2009

Since I've declared January my catch-up month for reading, I thought I'd browse around for some more "Best of 2009" lists. Not sure how I overlooked Kirkus' lists - there are so many! I was most interested in their Young Adult Best Books of 2009, so here are three that I've decided to add to my to-read pile:

Serendipity MarketSerendipity Market by Penny Blubaugh
published March 2009, HarperTeen
288 pages (hardcover), YA

Inside flap:
When Toby breathes on Mama Inez's bird-shaped invitations, giving them the power to fly, plans for the Serendipity Market begin. Soon, eleven honored guests travel from afar and make their way to the storytellers' tent to share their stories. Each tale proves what Mama Inez knows—that magic is everywhere. Sometimes it shows itself subtly—a ray of sun glinting on a gold coin, or a girl picking a rose without getting pricked by the thorn—and sometimes it makes itself known with trumpets and fireworks. But when real magic is combined with the magic of storytelling, it can change the world.

Once Was LostOnce Was Lost by Sara Zarr
published October 2009 by Little, Brown
224 pages (hardcover), YA

Inside flap:
Samara Taylor used to believe in miracles. She used to believe in a lot of things. As a pastor's kid, it's hard not to buy in to the idea of the perfect family, a loving God, and amazing grace. But lately, Sam has a lot of reason to doubt. Her mother lands in rehab after a DUI and her father seems more interested in his congregation than his family. When a young girl in her small town is kidnapped, the local tragedy overlaps with Sam's personal one, and the already-worn thread of faith holding her together begins to unravel.

Crossing StonesCrossing Stones by Helen Frost
published September 2009 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
192 pages (hardcover), YA

Inside flap:
Eighteen-year-old Muriel Jorgensen lives on one side of Crabapple Creek. Her family’s closest friends, the Normans, live on the other. For as long as Muriel can remember, the families’ lives have been intertwined, connected by the crossing stones that span the water. But now that Frank Norman—who Muriel is just beginning to think might be more than a friend—has enlisted to fight in World War I and her brother, Ollie, has lied about his age to join him, the future is uncertain. As Muriel tends to things at home with the help of Frank’s sister, Emma, she becomes more and more fascinated by the women’s suffrage movement, but she is surrounded by people who advise her to keep her opinions to herself. How can she find a way to care for those she loves while still remaining true to who she is?

Except for Once Was Lost, which has gotten quite a bit of media exposure, I hadn't heard anything at all about these books. Which makes me think about a recent blog post I read (and for the life of me, I can't remember where it was or who wrote it) about popular books receiving tons of media attention, especially when they get reviewed on blogs, which generates even more buzz and readership. But books from smaller presses don't get much hype at all and tend to get overlooked. It also made me think of So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld, which deals with how trends are created - and now I'm being challenged to read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, which apparently deals with similar topics. Although it all seems tangential, these are the thoughts that came to me while I was browsing through a "Best of" list - because wouldn't you think that if a book makes it to such a list that I would have heard about it before then? But if only Kirkus seems to think it's a "Best of" book, then no, probably not. It makes me wonder about how much influence bloggers really have about what gets promoted/read/sold - and that's a scary thought.
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