Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cybils Ahoy!

The noms don't start for the Cybils until October 1, but you can put in your name to be a judge right now. From the Cybils blog, the requirements:
  • blog about some aspect of children's or teen books on at least a somewhat consistent basis;
  • or contribute regularly to a group blog about same;
  • know a thing or two about what kids/teens are reading these days;
  • are planning to be reading obsessively over the next few months anyway
Sound like you? Check the rest of the post for more info. Make sure you know what you're getting into! I've done this for the past two years. It is great fun, but also a lot of work. But if you're up to it, let the organizers know!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Are You Signed Up for KidlitCon 09?

Admit it, you were just thinking, "Gosh, I'm not doing anything on Saturday, October 17. Whatever can I find to fill up the time?" I know. It's spooky how I read minds like that.

Well, wonder no more! Head on over to Kidlitosphere Central and sign yourself up for the Third Annual (Third! Annual! I know!!) Kidlitosphere Conference, taking place this year in Washington, D.C. We're having sessions on reviewing, the publishing biz, giving back, plus a meet-the-authors session. And that's not all--there'll be social-type fun on Friday and Sunday both.

Seriously, I've been to the last two and I loved them. It's so much fun to meet the people you've been reading, to jabber about kids books and blogging and all sorts of other topics. Both years, it refreshed and energized and empassionated (it's a word, because I said so) me to get back to my blog.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Sigh. A Google Map of book challenges for the years 2007-9. I love that we're outraged enough to make a collection like this, but depressed that it's necessary. If you click the little flags, you can find out details of the challenge in question.

Thanks to Bookshelves of Doom for the link.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Comic Strip and Library Glee

  • The New York Times recently ran an article on some recent book challenges at the Brooklyn Public Library, and their classy-but-firm responses. Don't miss the actual challenges and responses, linked in the sidebar. Thanks to John Green, whose Looking for Alaska was among those challenged.
  • This comic strip cracked me up, further proof that I have a heart of stone. Thanks to Janni Lee Simner for the link.
  • The main character of the comic strip Luann has been volunteering at her local library for some time now. This week, she talks to a visiting Aussie about why American libraries are awesome. Which they totally are. This was my favorite:Luann

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Two for the Show

Over at Booklights, Susan posed a question that's always in vogue amongst book lovers: Which book would you love to read for the first time again? She posted the answers today.

Some books I'd love to read for the first time again. Harry Potters 1-7 spring to mind, alongside The Hunger Games, and I'm sure there's others. Then I thought, What about the second time around?

I don't often re-read, or want to, unless the book is just yowza amazing. I recently re-read The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. The first time, it grabbed me and wouldn't let go. The twists and turns of Eugenides' crafty mind, the ups that you thought were downs, the downs you thought were ups, and that kiss after the attack . . . hooo . . .

Wait, where was I?

Oh, yeah. My point here is that I still enjoyed all those elements the second time, but I also noticed the second major theme of the book, which was Eugenides' youth, his homesickness, his uncertainty, his reluctance to truly take on the mantle of kingship. Quite a trick when you consider that Turner never once used his point of view. It's a quieter theme, one that's easy to lose in the rollercoaster of the first time around, but one that gives depth and resonance to all the twists and turns. With this addition, it becomes almost another book.

Another book that often gives me this experience is Pride and Prejudice, which many of you know is my desert island/nuclear bunker/oh shit the library's closed book. I've read it at least once a year for the past ten years. I've read books about first impressions, self-deception, about family, about the claustrophobia of small towns, about money and rank and self-respect versus worldly admiration. These books all happened to have the same plot and the same two main characters.

Susan touches on this in her discussion, saying of Harry Potter:
But as much as I loved that thrilling, spine tingling first time, it was in the re-reading where I discovered the true magic. Rowling planned out all seven books before the first one was even accepted for publication. All the books are full of subtle, deftly hidden clues and wonderful misdirection that are a delight to discover.
For me, book like this are the ones with grit and guts and staying power. These are the ones you remember, not for the experience of your first time reading it, but because every time you read it there's something more.

Which books have you re-read and found more the second time?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Book Review: Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Book: Marcelo in the Real World
Author: Francisco X. Stork
Published: 2009

Marcelo likes his life just the way it is, thank you. He has his routine all set. He's going to spend the summer training the therapy ponies. Then he's going to spend his senior year as he has his last eleven--at Paterson, his special private school that understands and works with him on his Asperger's-like condition.

Then his father throws all his plans for a loop. Marcelo is not going to train therapy ponies. Instead, he is going to spend the summer in the mail room at his father's law firm--and if he doesn't fulfill expectations, he's going to spend his senior year at the local public high school. His father isn't trying to be cruel. He's trying to educate Marcelo in the ways of the real world, the world he's been able to hide from for the past seventeen years.

But the real world is full of traps and pitfalls even for the people who spend all their time in it. Before the summer is out, Marcelo will discover that the good and evil exist together in ways that all his religious studying has never prepared him for, and that the only way to find the right path is by discovering where his own faltering steps lead him.

Although Marcelo is on the very high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, there's no doubt he's on that spectrum. He is a baby chick, newly hatched from the egg, but a chick who is painfully aware of how much he doesn't know. He has very little natural sense of others' emotions, deception, or other such ulterior motivation. Rather than using it to make him naive and bumbling, Stork has Marcelo aware of that deficit and consciously attempting to work out what other people are thinking and feeling. Some things, such as Jasmine's resentment over Marcelo's presence, are obvious to us but take a great deal of sussing out on his part. Others, such as Wendell's hidden motivations, are less clear to anybody. As a reader, it forced me to look at everyone more carefully. What were they hiding? What were they lying about?

Overall, this is a novel about moral choices, and how difficult it can be when the right choice may hurt people you love. Marcelo struggles most with the revelation that his father has made and continues to make morally suspect choices, and yet he's not a villain.

The Holmeses are almost cartoonishly bad, but they do have real power that can be wielded against the people Marcelo cares about, and in a novel where simply distinguishing good from evil is a skill to be learned along the way, more complexity in the overt villains might have muddied the waters.

One element that I loved is that Marcelo and his family are Latino, but that is simply the way they are. The question of ethnicity comes up in one discussion with the pompous Wendell Holmes, and the family background is touched on every now and then, but it's not central to the novel. Nobody's trying to either suppress or get in touch with their heritage in this novel, and it's not about the Nice Brown People vs. the Evil White People. Stork reflects a world more complex than that.

I didn't feel as if the second half of the book was quite as strong as the first, but overall this was at least as good as advertised, if not better. For a novel with such a unique protagonist, Marcelo in the Real World illuminates a painfully familiar experience for everyone.

This review is part of Color Online's Color Me Brown challenge.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week reminder!

Just a note to remind everyone that nominations for Book Blogger Appreciation Week are due today! So get out there and share your favorite blogs!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More Tuesday Twitterbits

It's another installment of Tuesday Twitterbits, from me to you!
All right, that's enough of that. Who are you following this week?

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Vampire's Assistant Trailer

EarlyWord showed me this one: a trailer for October's "The Vampire's Assistant," based on the first three Cirque Du Freak novels. Wonder why they did that? Didn't work out so well for the Lemony "Another Excuse for Jim Carrey to Monopolize an Entire Movie" Snicket adaptation. Ahem.

I'll admit, though, that I'm hardly the person to judge--I couldn't finish the first Cirque du Freak novel because it freaked me right out. Good job, Darren Shan. So far, the movie bids fair to fulfill that requirement, and I might even see it as long as all the lights are on.

Okay, anyone who's read the whole series and can recite large-ish chunks of dialogue. What do you think of the trailer?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Best. Adaptations. Ever.

I got this link off the Child_Lit list: Best movies adapted from children's books

Not sure I agree with all of them (I like the Johnny Depp Wonka better than the Gene Wilder one, and frankly Snow White would have improved that whole movie 1000% if she'd just jumped in the dumb wishing well) but it's something to think about. I do agree with most of the honorable mentions.

What are some of your favorite adaptations?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Book Review: Perfect by Natasha Friend

Book: Perfect
Author: Natasha Friend
Published: 2004

Isabelle Lee's favorite word is "fine." She tells everyone she's fine when they ask how she's doing after her father's death a year and a half before. She tells her little sister, April, that she's fine when she catches her throwing up in the bathroom. She tells the therapy group that she's fine and she doesn't need to be there.

That's before Ashley Barnum joins the group. Perfect Ashley Barnum, with the oodles of popularity and the stacks of friends and the pre-teen model looks and the rich family. To Isabelle's amazement, Ashley Barnum does the same thing she does--stuffs herself to fill the emptiness inside, then pukes it all up.

As Isabelle and Ashley create their own little binge-and-purge club, Isabelle slowly becomes aware that no matter how many times she says it, everything isn't fine. The only question now is how she's going to handle it.

One of the things I liked best about this novel was how it treated the roots of Isabelle's eating disorder. While Ashley's predicament--overbearing expectations and a hollow mockery of a family life--is more in line with what we expect from eating-disorder novels, Isabelle's stems not from her father's death but how the family that's left behind is handling it, or rather, not handling it. Isabelle's mother is deeply depressed and Isabelle herself denies the pain, and both of them dodge April's attempts to talk about their father. While body image is certainly a huge problem, more often it's a stand-in for deeper emotional holes.

Oddly enough, I felt as if this were a lighter treatment of bulimia. Not lighter as in not taking it seriously as a problem or not showing the really disgusting bits. Friend doesn't back off on those. But Isabelle has just started her slide into bulimia, and it hasn't gotten to the extent that it does in many other novels. Although she's still purging sometimes by the end of the novel, you feel strongly that she's going to be okay.

Eating disorders are often considered the territory of teen problem novels, but Perfect shows how they can (and often do) start years beforehand.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Squeaky Wheel

. . . has gotten greased, as they say. (Do they? Aw, now I'm picturing wheels in leather and heels singing "You're the One That I Want" and yes, it has been a long day, how could you tell?)

ANYWAY. Remember how the whole entire internet (or least the portion of it that I frequent) was up in arms over the Liar cover?

Bloomsbury got the hint. Behold!



I love this new cover--not just because it's much more representative of Micah as Justine has described her, but because it recreates what was right with the first cover while fixing what was wrong. The first cover design was a great thought--the wide, scared eyes, the mouth covered up. What is she lying about? Why is she so freaked? Curious-making!

Both of those have been retained, and now you feel as if it might really show Micah there--with the addition that she is clearly covering up her own mouth, instead of someone possibly covering it for her. (Yes, I do have a nasty little mind.)

Not to mention that where the girl on the first cover looked about thirteen or fourteen, this one looks about sixteen or seventeen. I don't know how old Micah is, but the book is described as a twisty thriller, so I'm thinking it might skew older.

Plus, she's beautiful. Seriously. Really eye-catching.

But this wasn't just about one book. Liar was the tip of this iceberg issue, which was really the perception that people won't buy books with black people (or Asian, or Latino) on the cover. As Justine herself notes:
I also hope we can prove (again) that it’s simply not true that a YA cover with a black face on the cover won’t sell. But let’s also put it to the test with books written by people of color. You don’t have to wait to grab your copy of Coe Booth’s Kendra or any of the many fabulous books recommended by Color Online etc.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Swapping, Mooching, and Buying

Put on your crash helmets, pumpkins, here's another rambling post about the contents of my brain.

I'm a member of both and (Hello, fellow Swappers and Moochers!). About twenty percent of my books are obtained in this way. The remaining eighty percent are library copies. (Every so often an ARC sneaks in there, but not so much anymore.)

Recently, the owner of posted this on their blog: Mooch Before You Buy. In short, he proposes this: authors to post copies of their books on BookMooch, Moochers to do what they do best. If they don't like the book, just pass it on. If they liked it, give a little donation to the author. The size of the donation would depend on the amount they liked the book.

This is somewhat similar to LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program, although that one trafficks in reviews and ARCs instead. It's also not that different from publishers and authors sending books to bloggers, although with both those the book-givers are aiming for publicity rather than straight-up dollars and cents. But doesn't it boil down to the same thing in the end? Hmmm.

Authors reading, would you do this? Non-authors reading, do you think that authors doing this would improve their overall sales?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

This Blog Has Two Birthdays

Happy blogday to me, happy blogday to me . . .

As the title says, my blog is a little unusual in that it has two birthdays. I posted my first-ever blog post on August 24, 2002, about four months before leaving for England on a study-abroad semester. I wanted to keep friends and family up-to-date on my adventures in Europe, post pictures, make snarky remarks, and generally make a nuisance of myself online. At the time, it was called Diary of a Bloody Yank--hence the strange URL.

The reason you're reading this on August 2 (or thereabouts) is because after coming back to the States in spring 2003, I let it lapse. Who needed to read about my travails as a Kelly girl, after all? (Yes, I really was a temp for about a year. No, I do not recommend it.)

Right around the time I entered library school, I re-started blogging on August 2, 2004 under the new name Confessions of a Bibliovore, which it remains. So I guess this is my five-year blogiversary. Yay me!

The reason it became Confessions of a Bibliovore was because my favorite part of the Bloody Yank blog was my Book of the Day. Whether I was talking about rude Americans in Spain or my visit to the Tower of London, I always added a little something about a recent fabulous book. I was just starting to read children's and YA books, after about ten years of chock-a-block romance novels, and my book of the day was just as likely to be a Madeleine L'Engle classic as it was to be a vintage Laura Kinsale.

When I decided to start the blog again, it was with the idea that I would simply record what I was reading, watching, or otherwise consuming. My first post was about a Nora Roberts favorite and a Marx Brothers movie. Of course, children's and YA books were there from the beginning, and I found myself writing about those more and more often. To my surprise, other people were writing about it too. And they were cool. And they read my blog too.

I found myself in an online world of people very much like me. I've become known in my professional life as someone with a freakish level of knowledge about children's and YA books, and I attribute that directly to the Kidlitosphere--to the blogs I read, to the connections I've made.

This blog has always been about what I love. I love books, I love people who love books, I love libraries and reading and kids and of course, snarky remarks. Here's to five more years, at least.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Reading Roundup: July 2009

By the Numbers
Teen: 29
Tween: 16
Children: 15

Teen: TIE Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson and The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
Tween: Miss Spitfire by Sarah Miller
Children: The Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman

Because I Want To Awards
Rang Recognition Bells Long and Loud: Swim the Fly by Don Calame (I swam competitively but not well for years, and all I have to say is Don Calame must have too.)
Best Heroine: Jacky Faber from Mississippi Jack by L.A. Meyer
Way Better Than I Thought It Would Be: School Spirit by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
Attention Future Vets!: Animal Faces by Akira Satoh
Spent the Entire Time Giggling: I'm Being Stalked by a Moonshadow by Doug McLeod. (I really want to start that "Rude gestures!" "Rude gestures to you!" business with somebody.)