Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Steampunk in the YA section

Every so often, with the air of tour guides through the Amazon jungle, the sci-fi-lovin' website i09 runs a story about YA sci-fi. (Watch the Uglies there; they'll eat you alive. Has everyone had their shots?)

This time, it's a snippet about sci-fi-tinged alternate histories, a genre more snappily known as steampunk. They mention Scott Westerfeld's upcoming Leviathan as well as offerings from Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. (Although sadly not by name; come on, guys, let's get some titles in here!)

Unfortunately, they don't mention Phillip Reeve's deliriously fun Larklight series, or Kenneth Oppel's Airborn novels, which have been representing for steampunk for awhile. (Not to mention Reeve's Mortal Engines novels, which although they're more correctly post-apocalyptic sci-fi, always seemed to have a steampunk feel about them.)

Then again, these novels are aimed at a slightly younger crowd than Westerfeld, Black, or Clare. Still, if you're going to be honest about the upsurge of steampunk in the under-18 set, might as well be comprehensive, no?

If you give the comments a read, that's good for your heart rate, too. There's one person who comments that it's "sad" that Harry Potter and Twilight are the series that have gotten most kids into reading. I had to go and breathe into a paper bag after that one.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Silver Screen News

In cleaning out my Google Reader, my Twitter favorites, and my Gmail (this blog-laziness really makes it pile up), I ran across references to a number of kidlit movie adaptions that are coming down the pike. Here they are, bundled for your convenience.
  • Did you know Wes Anderson was filming Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox in animated form? Due out in November--mark your calenders! Thanks for the news to a long-ago Tweet from abbylibrarian.
  • More new movie news: Jarrett J. Kros . . . Korc . . . gah. You know who I'm talking about. His "Lunch Lady" series is already being talked about for a movie, with Amy Poehler, no less. Not bad for a book whose pristine spines haven't even hit shelves. Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for the heads-up.
  • Comingsoon.net, bless their little chips, got a couple of production stills from "Beastly," adapted from the Alex Flinn novel of the same name. The stills are of the main character, played by Alex Pettyfer, in before and after mode. Not bad, makeup department. Not at all bad.
  • Speaking of casting, we know that The Hunger Games is set to be a movie. Mitali Perkins Tweet-speculates: Would you cast this girl as Katniss Everdeen? Actually, I would. There's a look about her eyes that makes me reluctant to be in a brutal reality show fighting for my life if she's there too. Who else would you like to see in that arena? (Let me emphasize--there has no announcement about casting and I know nothing. Mere speculation.)
  • Ooo! Speaking of wildly popular YA novels being adapted: the lowdown from Scott Westerfeld on the progress of the possible Uglies movie.
  • In news of the weird, USA Today posted a first look at the Tim Burton-led Alice in Wonderland movie. It's very . . . Burton-esque. I swear I see something slithering in that foliage.
  • Finally, there's this very hee!-worthy post from PopWatch about the style of the new Harry Potter posters, which seem to be less about You-Know-Who and more about Gushy Stuff, Like, Ewwwwwwwww! Meg Cabot reacts hilariously here, including a not-to-be-missed discussion of brooms. Yes, really. Somewhere (I can't remember where now!), it was posited that this switch in focus is due to the popularity of the Vampires Who Must Not Be Named and their accompanying clinchy posters. You have to admit, the Potter posters are surprisingly heavy on what were, at best, some of the book's B-plots. I kinda want to poke Ron in the stomach to see if he'll deflate. I also want to take Lavender by the hand and lead her gently off a cliff. She's so busy gazing starry-eyed at Won-Won that she won't notice a thing.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Beach Reads? Okay Then

The Seattle Examiner posted this crackerjack list of great YA novels, ranging from ones that have been touted in every corner of the land (The Hunger Games) to ones that fly slightly further under the radar (My Most Excellent Year). Have a gander. If you haven't read them all, add the new-to-you ones to your list.

The only thing that made me blink was the term "beach reads," which to me implies light, fun reading that doesn't engage the brain too strenuously--which is not the way to describe #1 on the list, If I Stay. Seriously? Beach reads? Are we thinking of the same beaches?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Book Review: Lucky by Rachel Vail

Book: Lucky
Author: Rachel Vail
Published: 2008

Phoebe Avery is a lucky girl. She's rich, cute, and popular. She and her four best friends are planning the most incredible party known to man for their eighth grade graduation. She has everything she could ever want.

She should remember that nothing lasts forever.

When her mom runs into bad times at work, the family starts feeling the cash crunch. Suddenly, everything Phoebe thought was important is slipping out of her fingers. The wonderful party, the amazing dress, the fantastic friends--it could all be gone tomorrow.

At first glance, I thought this would be your usual turn-of-fortune book. You know--Phoebe loses all the material things, and all her selfish, shallow friends desert her. Then she finds out who her real friends are, and it's all very heartwarming and cliched.

Thank you, Rachel Vail, for giving that book a miss and giving me Lucky instead.

The strength of this book, and the source of its uniqueness, lies in the characterization. Vail takes the people that would be stereotypes--superbusinesswoman Mom, cute ex, materialistic best friend--and makes them human. Cute ex stutters all over himself and basically acts like a recognizable fourteen-year-old boy trying to ask out a girl. Superbusinesswoman Mom does not ignore or belittle her daughters, but struggles in a very human way to acknowledge the trouble that the family is in.

And surprise, amazement, bring me my smelling salts, the materialistic best friend is actually just that--a girl, with some flaws, who nevertheless wants to be there for Phoebe. This is a book about friendship, and about how difficult it is to be the person that needs support when you've always been the one that gives.

While the front of the book looks very teen (seriously--at least a B-cup) Phoebe is only fourteen and the story mostly reflects that. Give this to older tweens or young teens.

I'm looking forward to the next in the series, Gorgeous. It features Phoebe's sister Allison and takes place concurrently with Lucky, but with a totally different storyline. I'm intrigued to see how that will work out, and delighted that there's yet another sister in the Avery family.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Summer and Scholastic

So Scholastic is doing some nice stuff for summer--stuff like giveaways, author chats, even reading for the world record. The web site is pretty kid-appealing, too--at least, I think so, although admittedly I've been out of the target demographic for awhile now. If you've got bored kidkins in the house, give it a try.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Book Review: Generation Dead by Daniel Waters

Book: Generation Dead
Author: Daniel Waters
Published: 2008

The teenage years are a time of change. All of a sudden, for teenagers in America, those changes include going from life to death . . . and then back again. They're not hungry for brains, nor are they rotting away. They're just kids who want to live their undeaths.

American society is in a tizzy. From hucksters selling Zombie Power t-shirts to well-meaning foundations that insist on such terms as "differently biotic" to televangelists predicting the imminent apocalypse, they're all trying to fit the living dead into their lives, and to understand what it means for them.

For Phoebe, the zombie kids hold a certain fascination. She's played at death as a goth girl for so long that the existence of kids who really can tell you what it's like is both unsettling and exciting. Her best guy friend, Adam, isn't so sure. But when a charismatic and idealistic zombie boy, Tommy Williams, joins the football team and starts pursuing Phoebe, both of them have to decide where they stand.

As if the teenage years weren't confusing enough.

I wasn't expecting to like this book, at least not as much as I did. I'd heard good things about it from bloggers I trust, so I thought, "Okay, I'll put it on my list. I'll probably read it, enjoy it, and pass it on to the supernatural-loving teens at my library, and that'll be the end of it."

I fell a little bit in love with Adam (c'mon! Seriously, could you resist this guy?), I growled over the blatant prejudice suffered by the living dead kids, I held my breath to see if Phoebe was going to wake up and smell the hunk. (Short answer: not yet.)

I never really warmed up to Tommy, and I never got the feeling that Phoebe did either. While the jacket flaps insist that theirs is a doomed, Twilight-esque romance, it's more like curiosity and a certain attraction to his political ideals. Also, for a book that includes pitch-perfect civil-rights conflicts, there was a certain lack of actual gay, lesbian, or minority characters. (Okay, there was a black zombie and an Asian one. But that was about it.)

But I enjoyed the hell out of this book, and the sequel, Kiss of Life, is totally on my list.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Comic Glee!

I have three gleeful comics this week.
That's it for this week's glee, but I'm sure there's more to come.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

This Rates an OMFG

Thanks to Bookshelves of Doom, I now know about the fourth book in Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia series, titled A Conspiracy of Kings and due out in April 2010.


You may commence fannish squee-ing . . . now.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Book Review: When the Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton

Book: When the Whistle Blows
Author: Fran Cannon Slayton
Published: on shelves today

Jimmy Cannon has always thought that he would live out his life in the town where he was born--Rowlesburg, West Virginia. He would drop out of high school and work on the railroad alongside his dad, his brothers, and all the other men in his town.

His father keeps telling him to look further, that the world is changing and he'd better change along with it unless he means to die right along with the railroads. Jimmy resists with all his might, believing that if he can just follow the plan, his life will continue unchanged. But in the years immediately following WWII, America is charging headlong toward the future, and it's all too easy to get left behind.

In six short stories, each taking place on Halloween (which also happens to be his father's birthday), Jimmy grows from boy to man, struggling to accept a dying town and a changing world, and to understand the most important person in his life.

I got this ARC in a giveaway from 100 Scope Notes (thanks!) and wow, what a book. The short-story format makes it ideal for reluctant readers who falter through longer narratives. At the same time, the strong undercurrent of a boy's complex and ever-altering relationship with his father keeps you turning to the next story. Slayton tells her stories simply and honestly, but never shorts us the emotional punch. Translation? I cried. But don't make the mistake of dismissing this as a three-hanky weeper--there's also humor, suspense, and a glimpse into an America long gone. Not to mention cabbage bombs. Hey, it is Halloween.

The cover might make this a hard sell, but the right kid will remember this book a long time.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

I Really Did It This Time

I realized today that I'd forgotten to tally up reviews and comments to figure out how much I was donating to the American Cancer Society after the 48-Hour Book Challenge.

$10/book x 13 books = $130
$1/comment x 40 comments (including the ones on starting and finish line posts) = $40

Total = $170

Thanks for supporting me and the American Cancer Society!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

48 Hour Book Challenge Wrap-Up

Time Stats

Total reading time: 18:26:49
Total blogging time (including this post): 4:57:42
Total networking time: 1:28:28

For a total time of: 24 hours, 52 minutes, 59 seconds


Some other statistics

Books finished: 13
Books given up on: 1
Books I will continue: 2 (one on audio which is my bribe for exercising and one that I wouldn't have finished in time but definitely will finish later)
Pages read: 3588 (plus however many that audiobook counted for)

My experience

Much more fun this year than last year. I better enjoyed more of the books. I did a few things differently. One, I gave myself a much broader range to choose from and only chose books I was excited about, and two, I paced myself--exercised, went outside, cooked, etc, in between books. Plus, thanks to MotherReader adding the networking option, I made a point of checking out 48hbc hashtags on twitter and visiting some new-to-me blogs from her Mr. Linky starting line post. It didn't feel quite so solitary.

I used a stopwatch system (which is why all my times are down to the second) and a spreadsheet to add it all up, and was surprised at my reading pace. I've always known I read fast, but had no idea how fast. This morning, I woke up and reached for my iPod (I'd been reading some non-48hbc Twitters on it before I went to sleep) and realized that at some point during the night, I'd turned it on and started the stopwatch function running. What did I think I was timing?

I read a lot of dark and depressing things, but after I read two in a row to start and wound up possibly liking the second less than I would have under other circumstances, I tried to alternate light-hearted and serious.

Finally, I'm really happy that I chose the Greater Good option. Something like this is always kind of fun, but it feels even better knowing that your energy is going to help others. Since part of my donation is dependent on comments, I'm not going to tally that up until Monday night, in order to let them accrue a few more.

Thanks once again for another great 48-Hour Book Challenge, MotherReader, and I'll be here with books next year!

ETA: to correct the number of books. Ooops.

Book Review: Greetings from Nowhere by Barbara O'Connor

Book: Greetings from Nowhere
Author: Barbara O'Connor
Published: 2008

Aggie just can't keep her motel going after the death of her beloved husband. Willow is in a deep depression after her parents' divorce and her mother's departure. Kirby has pushed his mother to the limit, and is on his way to reform school. Loretta is retracing the path of her unknown birth mother.

All these people and their families come together unexpectedly in a tumbledown motel in the middle of the Smoky Mountains, and discover that it is possible to fill the holes that loved ones have left behind.

Time: 0:37:47
Number of Pages: 200

Why Did I Hype?: I liked one of her previous novels, How to Steal a Dog.

Live-Up-to-the-Hype Score: 8/10

Aggie, Willow, and Kirby were the strongest characters for me. While Loretta, the fourth lead, was supposed to be on a quest for her birth mother, I never felt her as strongly as I did the others. She seemed to be the Pollyanna character, there for the function of perking everyone else up with her optimism and enthusiasm. I have a hard time with Pollyannas.
Although Loretta is supposed to be in fifth grade, she struck me as being younger. It could be because Willow, who is in fourth, is so quiet and sad that she looks older in contrast.

The most satisfying conclusions were Aggie's and Willow's. I wish we'd gotten more closure with Kirby, who is just starting to soften up and believe in his own likeability when his mother takes him away to the reform school. Loretta's story is so thin that it's wound up quickly and without fuss.

Still, this book was pretty good. If you're looking for a quickly readable story about the power of emotional connections to heal, try Greetings from Nowhere.

Book Review: Shooting the Moon by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Book: Shooting the Moon
Author: Frances O'Roark Dowell
Published: 2008

Time: 0:34:39
Number of Pages: 163

Jamie Dexter is almost thirteen years old and knows everything. She knows that her father, the Colonel, is the wisest and most capable man in the world, and her eighteen-year-old brother TJ isn't far behind. She knows that the war in Vietnam is justified and the U.S. Army is the finest and best organization in the world.

But to her surprise, when her brother TJ enlists, it's their dad who tries to talk him out of it. She doesn't understand why, but this disconnect between the two most important men in her life is the first chink in her certainty about life.

When T.J. does get to Vietnam, he doesn't send back descriptions of war games or adventures, at least not to her. Their parents get monotonous letters about bad food and huge bugs, but Jamie only gets a roll of film each time, with the request to develop them herself. As she learns the fine art of developing pictures, she finds pictures of jungle and soldier boys with beer and scruffy mascot pups. But she also discovers pictures of wounded soldiers, of fear and uncertainty and the grinding horrors of war. And always at least once in each roll, the moon, the ever-changing, barely understood moon.

Over the course of a summer, she begins to understand that nobody, least of all T.J. or the Colonel, has all the answers.

Why Did I Hype?: Frances O'Roark Dowell is one of those unusual authors who writes realistic boys and girls, light and serious, and yet her books never feel like a stretch. She just writes the story that's there and handles it ably.

Live-Up-to-the-Hype Score: 8/10

Like another recent read of mine, Georgie's Moon, this book deals with the Vietnam War on the home front, but not with the ferocious anti-war scene. It would be interesting to do a three-book study, combining an antiwar-protest novel with those two in order to span different views of the same tumultuous time period.

The switch from blind faith to questions happened a little fast for me, but it's a short book, and the seeds for the conversion are planted early and steadily. I thought for sure that the climax of the novel would be T.J.'s death, but I should have trusted Dowell, who chooses a quieter method to finally shatter Jamie's certainty.

Try this for a quiet, contemplative novel about the slow realization that growing up doesn't mean getting all the answers, but only more questions.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Not Really a Review

So far I've had good luck with this challenge--haven't had to give up on a book yet.

But I picked up Flavor of the Week by Tucker Shaw, and by page 51 knew I couldn't finish the book. It's hard to stomach a passive protagonist. This one let himself be walked all over by his best friend, thrust into friends-only territory by his oblivious crush, and pretty much shoves his own light under several bushel baskets. And of course by the end of the story, he would have fixed all this, but I just couldn't make myself get there.

I was really looking forward to it too. The cooking, the love story, the fact that a guy was cooking--but the passivity killed it. Sigh. I'll probably keep the book long enough to copy the recipes. Those looked killer.

Book Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Book: The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Author: Carrie Ryan
Published: 2009

Time: 1:41:43
Number of Pages: 308

Mary has always known never to get too close to the fence that surrounds her village. The Unconsecrated are on the other side. With just one bite, you're doomed to a slow death and then to rise as Unconsecrated yourself, mindless, heartless, soulless, nothing left but the appetite for human flesh.

Yet, unlike her friends and family, Mary wants more. She yearns to understand the Forest of Hands and Teeth, to have choices other than the ones offered her in her tiny village, to be able to marry Travis instead of his brother Harry, and most of all to see the ocean. But everyone tells her that can never be. How much will Mary risk for her dreams? And how much will she lose in pursuit of them?

Why Did I Hype?: A marvelous title (I'm such a sucker for good titles) and lots of blog buzz.

Live-Up-to-the-Hype Score: 9/10

For a book about zombies, this story had a surprisingly slow pace. There are a few gory and hideous scenes, but most of it is either trying to live life in the tenuous safety of the village or fleeing the Unconsecrated. The effect is dull constant fear, interspersed with moments of sheer terror.

But then, this is what everyday life is like for Mary's people. There's a section late in the book where Mary and her beloved Travis create a safe haven for themselves. But even as they relax a little, they can never forget that exceedingly nasty death waits just outside.

As the book went on, Mary's dream of the ocean began to seem more and more like a cuddly toy, clutched close in defense against the increasing grimness of her life. But then, it's not like her other options are so hot. Maybe it's that darkness, the sense of thousands of rocks and hard places, unceasing losses and no safe havens, that are the reason I can never enjoy zombie movies. Although the protagonist always makes it to see the dawn, there's a sense that they may have seen too much and lost too many to ever find true peace.

I'm told this is the first in a series, and depending on where Carrie Ryan takes us and how well I've recovered, I may pick up the next one. But then again, maybe I'll wait and see what others think first.

Book Review: Need by Carrie Jones

Book: Need
Author: Carrie Jones
Published: 2009

Time: 1:39:48
Number of Pages: 306

It's been four months since Zara's stepdad died of a heart attack right in front of her. She's been sunk deep in depression ever since, so her mom sends her to her grandmother's in Maine for a change of scenery. But Maine in winter isn't exactly the best chipper-upper, especially for a girl from Charleston.

Still, Zara manages to make a few friends, including bouncy Issie, sweet Devyn, and intriguing Nick. But things are going on in this sleepy, tiny town. Boys are disappearing, a mysterious man seems to be stalking her, and there are secrets everywhere. And somehow, Zara herself seems to be at the center of it all.

Why Did I Hype?: Hello, evil pixies? Plus, I like Carrie Jones.

Live-Up-to-the-Hype Score: 7.5/10

I've read Carrie Jones' prior three novels, which are all firmly realistic. This is a bit of a departure for her, so much so that I wonder if someone said, "Hey, Carrie, paranormal's selling like hotcakes. Give it a shot."

I was afraid this would turn out Twilighty and I wasn't happy about it. Luckily, characterization pulled it out. Zara's got points over Bella for having an inner life, some sass and sense, and an actual reason to want to save people (although that too could have been strengthened). She's also got Nick, who (while protective) works with her and mostly respects her.

There are a lot of plot holes, such as "Hello, Zara's Mom? This is common sense. We haven't talked in awhile. Let's discuss your choice to send your daughter back to a town you've been hiding from for the past fifteen years." Plus the air of pixie menace, while often discussed, never really materialized for me. And the ending felt pretty rushed.

Still, if there were a sequel, I wouldn't turn up my nose at it. In fact, I hope there is one, just to catch up some of the loose threads from this book. Give to both Twi-likers and regular paranormal fans alike.

Book Review: The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

Book: The Chosen One
Author: Carol Lynch Williams
Published: 2009

Time: 1:00:56
Number of Pages: 213

Thirteen-year-old Kyra has always lived in the compound with her three mothers, her twenty brothers and sisters (plus two more on the way), and her one father. Everyone's family is like that. They live in submission to the Prophet and devotion to God. They don't go outside the compound and they don't put themselves in the way of Satan, personified by TV, immodest clothing, and anything unrelated to the Scripture.

But recently, Kyra's discovered secret rebellions inside herself. She wants to play the piano, read books that aren't from the Bible, and choose who she wants to marry--preferably sweet and cute Joshua Johnson, only three years her senior. She hopes and prays that God will smile on her desires.

Then comes the news that she has been chosen as the seventh wife of her uncle, who is in his sixties. This isn't a request, but a command straight from the Prophet. Her father, Joshua, even the kindly bookmobile driver all do their best for her, but in the end, the only one who can save Kyra is Kyra herself.

Why Did I Hype?: Another book that's been all over. The ARC that I got had 6 full pages of assorted praise, plus the inside front cover.

Live-Up-to-the-Hype Score: 8/10

With this book, Carol Lynch Williams pretty much hits all the obligatory elements for the tale of a rebellious girl-child in an oppressive patriarchal culture. Secret reading? Check. Escalating brutality cloaked in religious dogma? Check. Unsuitable love interest that just causes more trouble when inevitably discovered? Check. Eventual rescue of self? Check.

She does it well, however, with strong characterizations and increasingly dark plot points. My favorite element was the way she shows, through the characters of Joshua and Father, how men and boys are as trapped in polygamist cultures as their mothers, wives, and sisters. Also, the warm family circle that surrounds Kyra makes her reluctance to leave and her fear of the lonely unknown more plausible than it otherwise might be. Kyra herself is a nearly pitch-perfect mixture of fear, rebellion, ambition, and love.

I could wish there would have been more examination of the element of faith in this novel, but you can't have everything, and really that's just my thing. With the current interest in polygamist cultures, this book isn't going to sit on the shelf for long.

Book Review: We Are So Crashing Your Bar Mitzvah!! by Fiona Rosenbloom

Book: We Are SO Crashing Your Bar Mitzvah!!
Author: Fiona Rosenbloom
Published: 2007

Time: 1:06:40
Number of Pages: 219

Stacey Friedman and her best friend Lydia Katz are convinced that eighth grade is going to be the best year ever. But things don't turn out that way. First Kelly, the third member of their trio, defects to the mean-girl Chicas. Then they're not invited to the best party of the year. Now they're losers?!?

It's clear there's only one thing to do--concoct a number of hare-brained schemes to get their best friend and their coolness status back. What can go wrong with that?

Why Did I Hype?: After If I Stay, I needed something light and fun. I remembered laughing out loud, a lot, when I read the first book, You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah!

Live-Up-to-the-Hype Score: 8/10

This book is like a train wreck, but not in a bad way. I knew what was going to happen, and there were parts I wanted to read with my eyes shut, but I also roared with laughter. Stacey Friedman may be an adult by Jewish standards, but she's still more than capable of making an unholy mess of her life.

While the first book managed to weave the theme of Jewish faith more closely to the narrative, this book still succeeds as a funny and familiar story about friendship, popularity, and the true meaning of both. Overall, Rosenbloom manages to balance the over-the-top situations (seriously, have you ever been to a bar mitzvah with bouncers?) with the more serious elements. No new ground is broken here, but it's a book that will seem wholly lifelike to a lot of kids.

Book Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Book: If I Stay
Author: Gayle Forman
Published: 2009

Seventeen-year-old Mia, in February of her senior year, has all the same problems that any kid does when wobbling on the cusp of adulthood. Should she stay in Portland for college, or take the chance at Juilliard, leaving everyone she cares about behind? What will happen with her boyfriend? Will she even make it with her music, or wind up playing the cello for the local Nutcracker every year?

Then one snowy morning, the family car swerves into oncoming traffic, and suddenly all of Mia's dizzying choices are boiled down into one.


Or die.

Switching back and forth between Mia's disembodied spirit, watching the aftermath, and memories of her life before, this book takes us through the most important choice any of us will ever make.

Time: 1:08:31
Number of Pages: 196

Why Did I Hype?: This one's been all over the blogosphere for months, and is now slated to become a movie (helmed by "Twilight" director Catherine Hardwicke, no less).

Live-Up-to-the-Hype Score: 10/10

Forman does some nice things in here. The family, while close and loving, don't make you ill. The parents have actual pasts, and Mia had a slightly unusual upbringing. Plus, classical-music-loving and cello-playing Mia has always felt out of place in her own punk-rock family, and even more so with her punk-rock boyfriend. Forman neither overplays or glosses over this aspect.

And it's quite a thing when you're within 15 pages of the end and you're still in doubt about Mia's final choice.

Of course we all know what the book is about even before we open it, so there were two scenes that were just horrendous for me to read. One was the breakfast scene that opens the book: a happy family, reveling in a snow day, innocent of what is to come. The second is the scene where Mia's spirit finds her parents after the accident. The description of her father's body will haunt me for a long time. Luckily for me, the one punch Forman does pull concerns Teddy, Mia's younger brother, whose death is handled almost entirely off-screen.

There are some funny parts, but don't get me wrong--this is a serious, intense book. At least five minutes of that reading time accounts for me just sitting on my couch, head in my hands, bawling. So far in this 48-hour challenge, I've been able to set the book aside and start working on the review right away, but I couldn't even face the thought when I closed this book.

I honestly do wonder how they'll handle turning this into a movie. The book is so intensely inner, and switches from the present to the past so often (with no linear timeline in the latter) that whoever is working on the script has one heck of a job ahead of them. If they do it right, it could be amazing. If they do it wrong, I'll be the one in the front row MST3King and throwing Jujubes at the screen.

Book Review: How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier

Book: How to Ditch Your Fairy
Author: Justine Larbalestier
Published: 2008

Time: 1:28:47
Number of Pages: 300

Most people in New Avalon have a fairy. It can be a great one that gets you all the best clothes at the best prices, or a really terrible one. Charlie's got one of the latter--a parking fairy. No matter where she goes, if she's in a vehicle that needs a parking space, it gets the perfect one. She's constantly being "borrowed" by people who need to get somewhere in a hurry, and she hates it.

She'd do anything to get rid of her fairy, even pair up with Fiorenze Burnham-Stone, who not only has a boys-like-you fairy but is also dead rich and utterly stuck-up. But Fio also has parents who are experts on fairies, especially how to get rid of them.

Charlie's going to ditch her fairy, or die trying.

Why Did I Hype?: Larbalestier's Magic or Madness trilogy was amazing. Plus this book looked terribly cute and fun.

Live-Up-to-the-Hype Score: 8/10

As I was reading, it was feeling familiar. Not because of the premise or the story, but the language. Then I realized it was because of Diary of a Chav, which is also liberally sprinkled with alien slang. I'm not sure how much of the slang in New Avalon is Aussie or made up by Larbalestier, but just as with Shiraz's, after awhile you get used to it, and it does a great deal to bring you into an unfamiliar landscape.

I really liked that Charlie is a highly athletic girl and never takes flak for it. She has footraces with her crush, goes to a magnet school for athletes, and it's all considered very normal. Nice. I was taken aback, however, by the highly structured environment of her school, which enforces a diet, mandates physicals, and has a lengthy list of demerits you can suffer for.

That aside, I dare you to read this book without cracking a grin. At least one page had me laughing aloud. I'd be interested to explore more of New Avalon and the world as it's affected by fairies. For every kid who's ever wished they had different abilities or envied others' gifts, How to Ditch Your Fairy is a fun bit of wish fulfillment.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Book Review: Fade by Lisa McMann

Book: Fade
Author: Lisa McMann
Published: 2009

Time: 1:13:47
Number of Pages: 248

At long last, Janie is learning to control her ability to slip into others' dreams. She's even using them to do good, working with the police department and her boyfriend Cabe to discover what illegal secrets fuel her classmates' dreams and nightmares.

Then they get assigned to a pedophile case, and Janie adds "bait" to her resume. To Cabe's frustration, she puts herself in the way of a teacher who may have a more than professional interest in his students.

As the case puts a strain on their relationship, Janie also starts to realize that her newly valuable power might come with a terrible price--a higher one than she's paid so far.

Why Did I Hype?: I loved the first book, Wake--in fact, I blogged it. When I found this copy at Bookman's, I let out a squeal that got me an "o . . . kaaaaay . . ." look from the girl in the next aisle. I loved Janie, I was crazy about Cabe, and I couldn't wait to see where McMann was going to take them.

Live-Up-to-the-Hype Score: 10/10

The second installment of Janie's story was entirely satisfying. Her deepening (and later, threatened) relationship with Cabe built nicly on the foundations of the first book, and after watching her begin to take her abilities in hand in Wake, it was great to see her not only controlling them but exploring them as well. The ending is somewhat darker, but you get the feeling that Janie's strong enough to accept and deal with the consequences of her gift.

A note about the scenes with the pedophile: I got so squicked out, I wanted to wash my eyeballs. Good going, Lisa McMann.

The third book, Gone, comes our way next February.

Book Review: Savvy by Ingrid Law

Book: Savvy
Author: Ingrid Law
Published: 2008

Time: 1:14:12
Number of Pages: 342

Puberty is a crazy time for most kids, but for the kids in the Beaumont family, it's downright hair-raising. Thirteen is the birthday when they receive their savvy, a special skill that's liable to cause havoc before they get it under control. For instance, Rocket Beaumont has a savvy for electricity, and has been known to blow out streetlights all the way down the highway. Fish Beaumont created a hurricane on his thirteenth birthday. Now Mibs Beaumont is turning thirteen, and she can't wait to see what her savvy is.

Then their dad gets in a terrible car accident. Left behind while Rocket and Momma rush to the hospital, all Mibs can think about is her savvy. Forget X-ray vision or super speed. She only wants the power to bring Poppa back.

Before she knows it, Mibs is off on a topsy-turvy quest across Nebraska in a pink bus with the preacher's two kids (each bothersome in their own special ways), two of her brothers, a Bible salesman, an ex-waitress, and a savvy that may not be what she thinks it is at all.

Why Did I Hype?: You're kidding, right?

Live-Up-to-the-Hype Score: 9/10

It's a hard thing to strike the right note with folksy, down-home style narration. Too much and it becomes a bad bluegrass song. Tossing a few of her own made-up words into the mix, Law manages to make Mibs sound real while at the same time creating a narrative that would be lots and lots of fun to read aloud.

I got a little annoyed at how long it took Mibs to figure out her true savvy, but forgave it because it's not stupidity, just denial. Then I squeaked with delight when Law discovered a way to use that savvy to save the day.

Ingrid Law captures the confusing, exhilarating experience of puberty with this adventure that encompasses themes of family, individuality, and identity.

Book Review: Diary of a Chav by Grace Dent

Book: Diary of a Chav
Author: Grace Dent
Published: 2008

Time: 1:33:32
Number of Pages: 216

Shiraz Bailey Wood has it all planned out. She's going to go on Big Brother, get famous, make millions, and do it all while looking fabulous and having a laugh.

But for some reason, her teachers don't think this is such a hot plan, and they insist it's time to start considering her future. Between a terrible job-placement in an Indian-food factory, fights with her best friend, missed chances with adorable Wesley Barrington Bains II, and the hilarious implosion of her family, that future doesn't look so great.

But this is Shiraz Bailey Wood, who has guts, smarts, and attitude to spare. The future doesn't stand a chance.

Why Did I Hype?: This looked like the kind of deliciously over-the-top, Bridget-Jones/Georgia Nicholson book that I love.

Live-Up-to-the-Hype Score: 9/10

This book is just plain fun. While there is a slightly more serious subplot about Shiraz beginning to value education over bling, you'll be kept in stitches by her frank narration and the crazy situations that just seem to pop up. It's Georgia Nicholson, a few years down the line.

Kids who aren't familiar with British slang may be checking the glossary in the back of the book, but they'll recognize themselves in Shiraz's attitude, her trepidation about the future, and her determination to meet life on her own terms.

Note: This book comes out in paperback as Diva Without a Cause, apparently because the term "chav" was deemed too alien to US kids. Under either title, make sure they get their hands on it.

Book Review: Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner

Book: Bones of Faerie
Author: Janni Lee Simner
Published: 2009

Time: 1:10:36
Number of Pages: 247

When Liza's baby sister was born, they were horrified to discover her clear hair and unearthly beauty. She was touched by Faerie, marked by magic, and before the baby's first night is over, her father abandoned her in the forest.

Now, three weeks later, Liza can't let go. She knows it was the right thing to do. In a world torn apart by war between human and Faerie, any whisper of magic puts everyone in danger. But she keeps seeing the pitiful bones, all that was left of her sister after the wild animals got to her. When Liza's mother disappears, leaving Liza with her increasingly brutal father, she knows that even the certain danger of the world outside has to be better than this.

She sets off to find her mother, accompanied by a neighbor boy with secrets of his own and a young girl with a different view of magic than the one Liza has always known. Along the way, Liza learns that the saying "nothing is what it seems" might apply to herself as well.

Why Did I Hype?: I love dystopic fiction. It's always kind of fun to see how far and fast humanity might crash after the end of the world. Plus, the fantasy element in this dystopia made it stand out.

Live-Up-to-the-Hype Score: 6/10

This book has a fascinating premise, but my problem was that I was never able to connect to any of the characters, and everything seemed to happen too fast for me to follow. Although it's in first person, I felt as if I didn't have the opportunity to get to know Liza, much less Matthew, Allie, Caleb, Tara, or any of the other important people. Maybe because I was still reading at a rollercoaster pace from The Knife of Never Letting Go, I'm not sure.

Still, it does work for those who love dystopias (dystopiae? Or am I just being annoying now?) Simner's world is dark and dangerous, with trees that attack and butterflies that burst into flame, and humans that do hideous things in the name of safety (which for me is one of the most extreme appeals of dystopic fiction). If you love dark fantasy, give Bones of Faerie a try.

Book Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Book: The Knife of Never Letting Go
Author: Patrick Ness
Published: 2008

Time: 2:20:24
Number of Pages: 479

Todd Hewitt has only thirty days until his thirteenth birthday, when he will become a man. Good thing, too, because he's tired of being the only boy left in Prentisstown. Right around the time he was born, the New World's strange plague killed off all the women and gave all the men the ability to broadcast their thoughts. Prentisstown has been dying ever since, toppling under the weight of its citizens' despair and loneliness.

Then, to Todd's shock, his beloved foster father tells him he has to leave. But where? Prentisstown is all that's left. Every other settler on the planet is dead. Aren't they?
The things you know right now, Todd, those things ain't true.
With only this cryptic statement to help him, Todd is thrust out into the world, a world that becomes bigger and bigger every day as the things he always knew become lies. He meets a girl--a real, living girl--and then finds a settlement, and then realizes that the men of Prentisstown are hunting them down. But why?

And in thirty . . . twenty-five . . . twenty more days, he will be a man.

Why Did I Hype?: That title. My god, that title. It doesn't actually make very much sense as a statement, but once you read the book you understand.

Live-Up-to-the-Hype Score: 10/10

This book right here is an example of stellar worldbuilding. Ness's world is so carefully crafted that he can put Todd--and by extension, the reader--right down in the middle of it, with relatively few pauses to explain what's going on, and lets you figure things out all by yourself. Even more impressive when you realize he had to build two worlds--the one Todd always believed in and the one that he gradually discovers.

The Noise, which can best be summed up as stream-of-everyone's-consciousness, is a huge part of the novel. You would think that secrets can't be kept with the noise, but as Todd points out early on, it just means that you get hit with everything all at once, consequential woven in with banal until it all just becomes, well, Noise.

I started reading this book in a noisy diner, and perhaps that's why I so immediately understood the concept of babbling cacophony that ultimately means nothing. Or perhaps it's our experience of the internet, a constant stream of blogs and twittering, newsfeeds, facebook, info info info until you feel like crawling under your bed and meditating with the dust bunnies. But at least we can turn it all off.

There's so much more I can say about this book--about gender roles, about colonialism, about the way we rewrite history, about Todd's foster fathers, about the horrific choices Todd is faced with. But I'll let you discover that for yourself. If you haven't already, go find The Knife of Never Letting Go, carve out an evening, and read it. You may scream and claw at your face, like I did upon reaching the end, but you won't be sorry you took the ride.

And once you have reached that end, you'll probably want to rush out and find The Ask and the Answer, which is unfortunately not due out until September. If you need me for the next little while, I'll be biting couch cushions in half.

ETA: To correct the timing.

The 48-Hour Book Challenge Starts Now . . .ish

It's almost noon on Friday. I plan to walk to a diner across the street and start The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness as I eat lunch. You saw all the books I had in those boxes--this was my only kickoff pick.

Also, very excited because my friend dropped by work and left me a copy of Janni Lee Simner's Bones of Faerie, which I was longing to read even before I knew she was a fellow desert rat. Book number two!

See you guys later!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Okay, Peeps, Here's the Plan

Last year, it was ARC-a-Palooza. This year, the theme for the 48-Hour Challenge is the Bibliovore’s Hypetastic Carnival of Books I’ve Been Looking Forward to Like Crazy. Or Hypetastic Carnival, for short.

You see those boxes full of books in the pretty picture? Most of them I've acquired at Tucson's favorite used-book store (yay, Bookman's!) or through swapping sites such as PaperbackSwap or BookMooch. One of the boxes is library books. They're all books I want to read.

At noon-ish on Friday, I’ll go into those boxes and pull out all the books I’ve been absolutely, nail-bitingly longing to read. (But haven't because I have to go in order. Shut up! So I'm a little anal, this is news?)

It can be because other people have raved about them; it can be just because I really, really like the looks of the book itself. I’ll delve into my stack and I won’t come up for air until noon on Sunday. Except church, because I’m Catholic and that guilt’ll getcha.

I'll review every book right here, because what's the fun of doing this if you can't talk about it? Besides my regular title/author/publication information, I'm including the Hype Score out of ten. Ten means, "OMG! Just as fab as I thought it would be!" One means "I was deeply disappointed and I'm now going to go cry disillusioned tears under the covers."

I'll also be Twittering my usual snark during the reading itself, so if you want to follow me, plug in @mosylu and follow the #48hbc hashtag.

Last but not least, I’m giving ten dollars per book read to the American Cancer Society, plus a dollar per comment on the reviews. This is in honor of my mom, who's almost fifteen years in remission from breast cancer, and Bridget Zinn, who's battling colon cancer right now.

Is that it? Awesome. I'm going to go pre-order pizza for the next two days now.

Coming Attractions from Harlequin Teen

So remember how awhile back, I had a post about the new Harlequin Teen line, and there were actual, like, comments from Trisha of the YAYAYAs, and I replied, and it was just like a real blog?

Well, pretend you do.

Anyway, Trisha has posted this link to a meet-the-editor and a rundown of what's coming up from the Harlequin Teen line. It seems to be pretty heavy on the girl-oriented supernatural, or at least the article leads off that way. Some authors are new to me, some I know from their adult novels. They all look like books that I'd pick up and take a second look at in B&N, but also books that I would go, "Harlequin? Really?" and examine the spine closely just in case it peels off. I guess we'll see how they sell.

Points to Harlequin for jacket design though--the two covers they show don't have any kind of "line design" feel about them. I kind of wondered if they would have a specific Harlequin Teen cover style. Harlequin/Silhouette are the queens of distinctive cover styles on their series romances, and that works really, really well for those, but it wouldn't have for the eclectic, teen-oriented brand they seem to be aiming for with HT. So I'm glad they gave that a miss. Good show, art department.

All else aside, that Soul Screamers series looks friggin' awesome.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

What Do You Think About Sex in YA Novels?

Lynn Biederman would like to know. She's a librarian planning a talk at ALA this summer about sex in YA books, and what teens really think about it. Actually, that's a talk I'd love to hear myself.

If you're a teen and you take this survey, or you can point a teen at this survey, Lynn Biederman would be extremely grateful. It's all confidential, too.

Thanks to the Story Siren for the link!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Reading Roundup May 2009

By the Numbers
Teen: 24
Tween: 11
Children: 11

Teen: Generation Dead by Daniel Waters
Tween: Georgie's Moon by Chris Woodworth
Children: Nurk by Ursula Vernon

Because I Want To Awards
Cried Like a Baby, Thanks a LOT, Author: When the Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton (review coming soon!)
Holy St. Buffy, a Twilight Readalike That I Actually Enjoyed: Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
Newest Auto-Read Author: R.A. Nelson
Made Me Yearn For the Ultimate Elvis Collection: All Shook Up by Shelley Pearsall
I've Still Got The Willies: Clockwork by Philip Pullman