Wednesday, September 30, 2009


You guys! Tomorrow, the Cybils are opening up their nominations! Have you got your titles ready yet? Have you, have you?

They've revamped the nomination system this year, so you don't have to read through a zillion posts to see if your title has already been nominated or accidentally nominate two titles.

Oh, and I'm a judge this year, too. I'm joining the SF/F team, which is comprised of these awesome people:
Panel Organizer: Sheila Ruth, Wands and Worlds

Panelists (Round I Judges), MG/Elementary:

Anamaria Anderson, bookstogether
Cindy Hannikman, Fantasy Book Critic
Brian Jung, Critique de Mr. Chompchomp
Eva Mitnick, Eva's Book Addiction
Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte's Library

Panelists (Round I Judges), Teen/YA:

Steve Berman, Guys Lit Wire
Gwenda Bond, Shaken & Stirred
Tanita S. Davis, Finding Wonderland
Nettle, The Muse, Amused
Sheila Ruth (see panel organizer)
Angie Thompson, Angieville
Samantha Wheat, Twisted Quill

Round II Judges:

Maureen Kearney, Confessions of a Bibliovore
Anne Levy, Cybils
Sam Musher, Parenthetical
Tarie Sabido, Into the Wardrobe
Tasha Saecker, Kidslit

Stop by the Cybils blog for more info on everything, and get your nominatin' fingers ready!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Book Review: Dooley Takes the Fall by Norah McClintock

Book: Dooley Takes the Fall
Author: Norah McClintock
Published: 2008

Seventeen-year-old Ryan Dooley (just Dooley, thanks) thinks he's doing all right, pulling his life together. He's got a (crappy) job, a place to stay, and he's even managing to make it to school regularly. All he's got to do is keep his nose clean, follow his uncle's rules, and graduate on time, and his juvie past will stay in the past.

But then he's the only witness to a seeming suicide. All at once, Dooley's back in the familiar mess of cops and suspicion. This time, he knows he's innocent, but the cops thinks otherwise. Every morsel of evidence that turns up seems to do two things--one, make it more likely that Mark Eversley's death was homicide, and two, blame it all on Dooley.

This was a pretty decent mystery (maybe the end was a little sudden), but the great strength of this novel was Dooley's voice. Cynical, tough, a few unexpected pockets of softness, and a certain maverick streak that could be frustrating but also appealing. McClintock makes it clear that the crime that sent him to juvie was no aberration, but the logical extension of his difficult past, replete with drug and alcohol problems as well as petty theft and occasional bursts of violence.

There was a plotline with Dooley's counselor that got dropped midway through, but I didn't miss it too much. I was more interested in the mystery and how Dooley was going to work his way out of it.

McClintock goes for, and succeeds at, a very hard-boiled feel with Dooley Takes the Fall. From Dooley's criminal past to his dispassionate assessments of the people around him and not always letting the reader in on the pertinent information until it hits the fan, Dooley reads like a young Sam Spade. This should appeal to older teens, especially those who are far from angels themselves.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

And It Rages On

About a month back, the New York Times published an article about letting kids pick their own books. Wow! What an astonishing, avant-garde educational philosophy!

In response, Meg Cabot posted about "How to Foster a Hatred of Reading," talking about her own experience with the Great Books and affection for (read: obsessive love) of the novelization of The Fantastic Voyage.

Here's another side of the discussion. Over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books a few weeks back (yeah, I'm a little late on this one) Smart Bitch Sarah talks about the two camps in literary-land, which might be called the snobs and the slobs.
The slobs think the snobs think everything you read should be a work of literature that will enrich your life forever, and be a statement of art and the human condition. . . . The snobs think the slobs are intellectually lazy, and don’t understand why you’d want to read something poorly-written, or that adhered to a formula. . . . Both sides are really annoying, because they both, by and large, have it wrong, even if they do get a couple of things right.
(There's more; click through for the full, fascinating post.)

Like any really good debate, I find myself nodding at some things all the debaters say, and going, "Ummm . . ." at others. As a public librarian, I'm more firmly in the "Pick Your Own" camp, but some of the things Sarah mentions about the two camps' pre/misconceptions of each other resonate.

Where do you fall?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Well-Aged Twitterbits

It's time for another edition of Tuesday Twitterbits, wherein I hoard interesting tweets like a squirrel hoards nuts and then forget where I hid them and when I find them, they're all stale and moldy and this metaphor got lost somewhere.
  • Hello, Wikipedia. Why, is that a Cybils entry I see in you? It is? Oh, Wikipedia. Keep this up and maybe librarians will one day stop burning you in effigy. Thanks to @abbylibrarian. (By the way, are you gathering your Cybils nominees? Nominations start October 1!)
  • takes on Twilight. Make sure you have fresh pants on hand before clicking through. Thanks, I think, to @LizB.
  • Hey, wow! Wicked Lovely, the first of Melissa Marr's dark urban fairy books, is headed for the screen. Thanks to @OfficiallyAlly, and congrats Melissa!
  • Interesting. Harmony Book Reviews has a discussion about ARCs, or specifically what happens when you're done with them. We all know it's illegal to sell them or add them to the library's collection (although both happen, a lot), but how do you feel about swapping them with other bloggers? Is that too far in the grey, or the best possible fate? Thanks to @thestorysiren.
That's what I've got. Follow me, @mosylu. Who are you following this week?

Monday, September 21, 2009

YA for Beginners

Liz over at A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy pointed me at Mary Pearson's rather excellent discussion, "What YA Lit Is and Isn't" at She addresses some of the things being said to adults who read or write YA, and ponders why this particular field of literature gets more than its fair share of derision.
I wonder if everyone’s very strong opinions about this one segment of literature comes from our attitudes about the teen years? We fear them. We want teens to “get over it” quickly, and heck, let’s not mess with books that just dwell more on the teen years! Move on!
As someone who works with teens and reads 99.5% teen or kids' books, I'd say she's got a point. I was once told "Grow up!" by a co-worker because of what I read. I'm sure he meant it to be funny. If I hadn't read books like Looking for Alaska, Speak, Boy Toy, The First Part Last, Living Dead Girl, and many other books that some adults might not be able to handle, I might have laughed.

Click on through to see her follow up.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Have You Read a Banned Book Today?

It's the second day of Banned Book Week here in the U.S. I've said a lot about banned books and censorship on this blog, but I don't think I've ever said anything that summed it up as well as Ellen Hopkins' amazing Manifesto.

This is the week where free-speech-lovers everywhere call attention to the attempts to silence others' voices. I applaud those librarians, teachers, and others. But don't forget that there are 51 more weeks in the year. This may be the week we focus on censorship, but it happens year-round.

ETA: I can't read a calender. How sad is that? Banned Book Week actually starts on September 26th. Go reserve your favorite banned book at the library today.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Book Review: Sight by Adrienne Maria Vrettos

Book: Sight
Author: Adrienne Maria Vrettos
Published: 2007

Dylan has a secret.

When she was five years old, she saw a classmate's dead body in a vision. Three days later, the police found Clarence's body. Ever since then, she's seen dead or dying children, always too late. She does her best to deal with it, though. She helps the police with kidnapping cases and keeps it a deep, dark secret, even from her closest friends.

Then Cate comes to Pine Mountain and somehow, Dylan finds herself spilling all to this flatlander stranger. What she doesn't know is that Cate has secrets too . . . and she's not the only one.

One of the most interesting things about this book was that Vrettos took some time to explore the effect of a child's murder on other children, even years later. There's one scene where everybody who was in Clarence's kindergarten class takes turns to tell the story to Cate. They've told the story to each other over and over, so many times that it's acquired a pattern of who says what when, and that routine is now part of the memory. The murderer himself has become a formless monster that shadows their shared childhoods.

Dylan's struggle to make sense of her gift and the way it affects her friends and family form the core of a compelling book about the secrets we keep and the destruction they wreak. The child-killer mystery itself gets a little lost among all the other plot threads--I never got a sense of why the murderer did what he did, for instance--but I still enjoyed it immensely.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Book Blogger Appreciation Week is Here!

You guys! It's totally Book Blogger Appreciation Week! And I just turned into Cher from "Clueless"!

Hop on by the BBAW website to see all the nominees, and check back all week for the winners. I was especially happy to see how well-represented the kidlitosphere was this year. I've already added lots of feeds to my Google Reader.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Next Big Thing Has Feathers

Some time back, a blogger posted the question, what's the Next Big Thing? We're tired of vampires, so who gets the next ride on the hot-topic carousel? We said it would be werewolves, mummies, and zombies. Well, we got a little of each (though I'm still waiting for the swoony romantic novel with the bandage problems), but now it seems that angels are next on the list. An editor ponders the appeal over at PW:
“The young books like [Sharon Creech's The Unfinished Angel] are using angels to suggest the world can be a better place,” said Kate Jackson, editor-in-chief of HarperCollins Children's Books. In YA books, however, she believes angels “are a symbol of forbidden love. What's more forbidden than having a romance with someone who's not human?”
Not to mention he's got a really powerful boss.

I joke, but there do seem to be some swoony possibilities in angels. About ten years ago, there was a little explosion of angels in romance novels. At the time, I couldn't fathom it, but now it makes sense. There's the fearsome goodness, for one. There's the hint of superpowers. There's the feeling that your love interest has a higher calling, and is involved in Big Things. Hopefully for the story, this means that you get mixed up in Big Things too. (Of course, all that's upended when the angel in question is fallen, and that's even more fun.) And anybody's who's seen Mischa Collins as the angel Castiel on the TV show "Supernatural" (you're welcome) knows that being angelic doesn't mean you're all fair and pasty and go around strumming the harp all day.

Will the vampires turn to dust? (Ha, see what I did there?) I'm sure all those trends from the first paragraph will hang on for awhile, especially as the New Moon adaptation comes out this fall. And of course, there is the caveat to every trend--a really good book, even if it's waaaay out there, is going to find its readers.

Myself, I'm hoping that the upcoming angel books will also be books that ask questions about faith, religion, and morality without being so heavy you could tie them to the feet of your worst enemy and toss them in the East River. What would you most like to see in the upcoming angel books?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

KidLitCon Meme

There's a new meme in town, and it's all about the KidlitCon. Being as I've been to both so far and am all set to go to year 3, I figured I'd chime in.

Why did you decide to attend the KidLitosphere Conference?

The first year, when it was in Chicago, because my brother lived in Chicago. It was a two-fer--I'd get to visit him, and I'd get to meet some of the people whose blogs I followed (and still do).

Plus, as it got bigger and bigger, it just sounded like so much fun that I didn't want to be left out.

Who was most like their blog? Who was least like their blog?

MotherReader was exactly as I would have expected from her blog. With Pam, what you see is what you get. Lee Wind, also, pours forth the same energy in person that you can feel from his blog.

Who was least like? A startling number of people were on the quiet side in person, but were still great fun to hang out with.

What surprised you at the conference?

That people actually knew my blog. Perhaps because blogging is so physically solitary, I had this idea that my words were drifting out into the void. I was shocked when somebody said, "Oh, yeah, of course! Confessions of a Bibliovore!" Me: "Bwuh?"

What will you always remember about the last conference?

Hanging out with people in the evening, talking for hours about nothing and everything. That was also the night that Jackie of Interactive Reader talked me into buying an iPod Touch merely by demonstrating WorldCat on her iPhone that evening. My god, I'm a geek.

Did you blog about the conference?

Sure did.
KidlitCon 07
KidlitCon 08:
Parts One
Three and

KidlitCon 09 is October 17th, in DC. Step on over to Kidlitosphere Central to find more information, including the sign-up page.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Book Review: Sonny's House of Spies by George Ella Lyon

Book: Sonny's House of Spies
Author: George Ella Lyon
Published: 2004

When Sonny's daddy left, he said, "A man can't live in a house of spies." But seven years later, thirteen-year-old Sonny feels as if he has no choice but to spy. Nobody will tell him anything, and there are so many things he doesn't understand. Where did his father go? Why did he go? Is he ever coming back?

Over the course of one summer, Sonny will come to the realization that the answers about life, his family, and his father are at least as complicated as the questions. Understanding them--and himself--is a process that could take the rest of his life.

Longtime readers of this blog will know that I generally don't snip passages, but Lyon has such a gift for quirky-yet-evocative description that I kept wanting to mark passages to include in this review. (Note to other librarians: no, I didn't actually mark the book. You can breathe.) This one particularly stood out:
We just stood by the shiny gray coffin with its handles like fancy toilet-paper holders and . . . breathed whatever breaths came by: mint, onion, tobacco, whiskey, and bad.
This isn't the generic sadness of a funeral, but a sharp eye for the experience of a person near the center of all that ceremony.

The plot hinges on setting--the 1950's, in Alabama--and the specific prejudices and beliefs that go along with that. Even today, the man who leaves his family because he's gay is in for some trouble, but back then, it was the kind of thing that could cause any number of little worlds to fall in, which it does in this book.

I wasn't entirely sure we needed the race-relations subplot--it felt sort of obligatory for a book set in 1950's Alabama--but it did intensify Sonny's growing knowledge of the complexity and unfairness of his world.

With Sonny's House of Spies, George Ella Lyon brings a particular time and place to life while telling a universal story about the hard questions we all confront sooner or later.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Unshelved Zombies

I do love the Unshelved Book Club. They featured The Forest of Hands and Teeth a few weeks ago. While I read it for the 48-Hour Book Challenge, this comic made me kind of interested again, and capped it with a line that made me giggle plenty.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Fantastic Mr Fox Featurette

I got this one from 100 Scope Notes--a featurette on the upcoming "Fantastic Mr. Fox" movie. It's done in that incredible stop-motion animation, and while it does appear to be set in the US, if you go by the accents, everything else about it looks made of awesome.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Book Review: Geek Magnet by Kieran Scott

Book: Geek Magnet
Author: Kieran Scott
Published: 2008

K.J. Miller has a problem. She's surrounded by geeks, and she can't seem to give any one of 'em the heave-ho. They're impervious to body language, hints, or any other subtle form of discouragement. It's going to take a sledgehammer to rid K.J. of her entourage so she can focus on her ultimate crush, gorgeous Cameron Richardson.

Enter Tama Gold, lead in the school play (for which K.J. acts as stage manager). Tama is beautiful, popular, and never afraid to tell a geek to beat it or a beautiful boy to come closer. And she's going to teach K.J. everything she knows.

Strong characters and a serious subplot made this book more than the fluffy, predictable meringue I was expecting. One thing I noticed straight off was that the geeks were really, really annoying. It went beyond the surface trappings of geekdom and into truly teeth-gritting. This made K.J's frustration perfectly understandable, while their basically good hearts made me sympathize with her reluctance to hurt their feelings. (Although I would have made an exception for the one who stared at her boobs all the time. I mean, really. Honey, you're gonna have those things all your life; take control of it now.)

Of course, we all know what Tama is right from the get-go, but the neat thing about this book is that she actually does help K.J. stand up for herself. While Tama's tutelage leads her pretty deep into the bitch side of the Force, she and the people in her life need that.

K.J.'s problem with the geeks clearly stems from her experiences with her father, whose alcoholism and uncertain temper have the whole family cowering. K.J.'s newfound bravery at school crosses over into her home life. For awhile, there's a surfeit of losing-control and lid-flipping scenes, but it worked for me. Sure, she was pushing it a little, but given how passive she was at the beginning of the novel, it made sense that there was an awful lot of pressure building up inside that had to be let loose before K.J. could begin to understand how to be strong without being nasty.

Overall, this was a fun, funny book, with some darker notes, about a girl learning to take control of her life.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Reading Roundup August 2009

By the Numbers
Teen: 17
Tween: 13
Children: 12

Teen: Marcelo in the Real World by Franscisco X. Stork
Tween: The Reminder by Rune Michaels
Children: Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters by Lenore Look

Because I Want To Awards
Most Fun to Play Spot the Allusion: The Juliet Club by Suzanne Harper
More Than I Expected: Geek Magnet by Kieran Scott (review coming soon!)
Most Melancholy: Robot Dreams by Sara Varon
Most Heartwarming: That Book Woman by Heather Henson