Saturday, January 29, 2011

Book Review: Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves

Book: Bleeding Violet
Author: Dia Reeves
Published: 2010
Source: Local Library

Sixteen-year-old Hanna turns up on her estranged mother's doorstep, refusing to budge in the face of Rosalee's many and loud objections. Finally, Rosalee makes her a deal. If she can stick it out in Portero for two weeks, make friends, and fit in, she can stay.

Easy-peasy, Hanna thinks. That's before she finds out about the demons infesting the town, the doors to other dimensions, and the mysterious group of green-clad demon hunters known as Mortmaine. She's a "transy," everyone tells her. She'll never last. If she doesn't get eaten by a demon, she'll run screaming in the other direction soon enough. The evil that permeates this town could drive anybody crazy.

And Hanna didn't exactly have all her marbles to begin with.

Y'all, I was two pages into this book when I hopped onto LibraryThing and added Reeves' next book to my list. There's something about Reeves' writing, beautiful, evocative, and totally creepy, that made me an addict. Or maybe it was Hanna, who is so thoroughly off balance that you can never quite predict what she's going to do next, and nor can she.

I hope you don't think I'm being flippant about her mental illness. Bipolar disorder is a serious disease, I know. But in this book, it's merely another facet of Hanna's character, and one that strangely enough equips her to deal with the terrifying reality that is Portero. You get the sense that somebody who is totally balanced and right in their head never would have been able to handle what happens. But Hanna is so used to the strange and horrendous productions of her own damaged brain that demons from the underworld don't actually rattle her cage that much.

It's something of a benefit, having her matter-of-fact narration, because otherwise I might have run screaming. This book seriously crosses the line from paranormal into straight-up horror. It's not for the faint of stomach; it oozes. From scenes of a girl being cut open to kill the creatures inside her to the sequence where two characters capture and torture a hapless bystander whose mistake was being in the wrong place at the wrong time, it's definitely disturbing, and normally the sort of stuff I'd be on the other side of the room from. Again, though, Reeves' writing and the character of Hanna made this so twistedly fascinating that I couldn't put it down.

Technically speaking, this is a POC novel, as Hanna is biracial. But it's incidental, which is pretty awesome in its own way. Yes, she has a black mother and a white father, whatever, shall we get on with the spraying blood? And double booyah, the cover features a girl who actually could be biracial.

Unfortunately, the world-building is sketchy and scattershot. I couldn't get the sense of where all this dark stuff was coming from, or why everyone stayed. I have a loose idea of how the town is set up, with the Mayor at the top, the Mortmaines in the role of guards, and everyone else basically demon kibble that's walking around, but there are definitely threads dangling here. The next book seems to take place in Portero as well, so I'll be interested to see if the world is fleshed out some more. Even if it's not, wild horses couldn't stop me from picking it up.

I'll just make sure I don't eat while I'm reading.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Battle is On!

Now that the ALA awards have all been awarded, and reacted to, it's time for another bit of annual kidlit tomfoolery. SLJ's Battle of the Kids Books is on for 2011.

May the best book win!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Book Review: Trickster's Girl by Hilari Bell

Book: Trickster’s Girl
Author: Hilari Bell
Published: 2011
Source: downloaded from NetGalley

The scond-to-last thing Kelsa needs while she's grieving the death of her beloved father is some weirdo stalker who claims he's the Trickster. The last thing she needs is for that weirdo stalker to recruit her for a quixotic quest across the Western US and Canada to heal the damaged leylines before humanity destroys itself.

Here's the thing about immortal gods, though, they're persistent. They've got the time. Kelsa finds herself agreeing to one little favor, then one more, then one more, and before she knows it, she's lying to her mom and fleeing across state lines with the Trickster's enemies in hot pursuit.

Oh, he didn't mention he had enemies? Ooops. Must have slipped his mind.

I enjoyed about 98 percent of this book. It ended strangely and abruptly, and I never felt as if the reunion with her mother, building up throughout the book, got satisfactorily resolved. Hopefully the second book (apparently, this is the first part of "the Raven Duet") will address some of these issues.

While Bell calls her trickster Raven, he's actually an kind of Ur-Trickster, manifesting in different forms throughout world cultures. Loki, Raven, Coyote, Mercury, whatever name you give them, they’re always the most fascinating mythological figures because while their chaos ultimately benefits humanity, it certainly can make a singular human mighty uncomfortable. They’re not around to make things better, they shake things up, the equivalent/forebear of a D&D chaotic neutral character. Luckily, Bell has created a worthy Trickster, and a worthy human to stand with him, and occasionally against him.

The near-future setting, 2098 to be exact, with attendant upgrades in technology (I kept going, “oooo” when I pictured some of the tech that Bell describes) adds a tweak of interest. I couldn’t help but wonder about the events that led to the near-totalitarian US, with border patrol stations on state lines and personal ID cards connected to DNA and required for everything from buying a train ticket to buying an energy bar. Teenagers being teenagers, of course, Kelsa still manages to successfully lie to her mother for about 3/4 of the book.

I downloaded this book from NetGalley because I’ve liked the author’s other works, and I do love a trickster character. It’s an enjoyable adventure with touches of ecological meaning and mysticism.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Glee: 90-Second Newbery

Somehow it doesn't surprise me that James Kennedy, who wrote the weirdfest book The Order of Odd-Fish, is behind this dastardly plan to host a contest asking fans to create a video compressing the plot of a Newbery Award winning book into 90 seconds.

"A Wrinkle In Time" In 90 Seconds from James Kennedy on Vimeo.

Of course, so is Betsy Bird. Doubly not-surprised.

I bet you want more details, don't you? Greedy. Oh very well - go to James Kennedy's website for those.

P.S. Anybody think that the video of Criss Cross is just gonna be a girl sighing and saying, "I wish something would happen" about sixteen times?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Book Review: Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

Book: Hunger
Author: Jackie Morse Kessler
Published: 2010
Source: Review Copy downloaded from

Lisabeth Lewis isn't anorexic. If she were anorexic, she'd be thin. Instead, she has to constantly work to slim down, denying herself food and spending hours on the exercise bike. Her best friend and boyfriend are no help; they keep trying to sabotage her efforts.

Lisabeth's got bigger concerns than traitorous friends, though. She's just been given a pair of brass scales, a black horse, and the office of Famine. As in one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Lisabeth Lewis may not think she's anorexic, but she's about to learn the true power of hunger.

Well. This one was different. Problem novel? Kinda. Paranormal? Um, I guess. Fast-paced and thought-provoking? That's an unqualified yes.

What I liked best in this novel was that Lisa is not magically cured of her anorexia. What the experience teaches her is that she is out of balance and needs help to restore it. (Balance? Scales? Get it? Oh, I'm clever.)

The other thing about this novel is how being Famine changes Lia's outlook, not only as it relates to hunger, but also as it relates to other people. At the beginning of the novel, she's so focused on herself, her own flawed body and weak willpower, that she interprets everyone else's actions as focused on her, often maliciously. When she becomes Famine, and comes face-to-face with the terrible suffering in the world, she learns to see others as fully-rounded human beings with their own problems and concerns.

Side note: I'd sort of like to know why all the Famine-riddled places were clearly Third-World countries. No exact locations were given, but except for one scene of gluttony near the beginning, they all seemed to be vaguely South Asian, Middle Eastern, or African. Not to downplay the problems of those areas, which are rampant, but we have poverty and hunger aplenty in this country too.

GalleySmith's review speculated the whole Famine experience is Lisa's damaged psyche finally cracking under the strain. I think you could make a case for that, and it certainly makes the reading that much more interesting. Whether you're looking for a unique problem novel or a unique paranormal novel, Hunger fits the bill on both counts.

And for those intrigued by the Horsemen motif (War plays a plum role in this novel as Lia learns to stand up for herself), the next book, Rage, comes out in April of this year. Having read an advance copy, also from NetGalley, I can say that it's a worthy follow-up to Hunger.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

And What Did I Think?

Well. I'll tell you.

I had a little easier time writing the post on the picture books over at Kid Tested, Librarian Approved, because I'd read a larger proportion of the books. When it comes to YA and MG novels, however, I'm still working through books I added to my list in 2009, so I have to largely base my reactions on what I've heard of and what I've heard about it.

I've been jonesing to read After Ever After since I heard that Sonnenblick was writing a follow-up to Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie. I haven't yet, but knowing that it got the Schneider Family book award makes me hopeful that my library will order it soon.

Y'all, Sir Terry Pratchett for the Margaret A. Edwards award! I've always said that Pratchett is a natural for teen readers, even his Discworld stuff, because it looks at the world and says, "Y'know, this is really sort of silly. And stupid. Let's mock that. A lot." See? Totally teen. His work goes beyond mere nasty-minded parody, however, by asking readers to consider The Big Questions, and respecting their capacity to do so. Teeeeeeen!

The Sibert medal winners made me all kinds of happy. First, how about some love for Scientists in the Field? Well-deserved. I always tell people about this series, not just kids but parents, teachers, and fellow librarians. And then Ballet for Martha! It was surprisingly absorbing for such an unusual subject and in fact I named it a standout the month that I read it - for illustration, I think.

And Will Grayson, Will Grayson isn't exactly love-starved, especially in the kidlitosphere, but it still made me happy to see it on the Stonewall list. 

I think I'm not alone in my giant, "Whuh?" when the Newbery was announced. I'd never even heard of Moon Over Manifest, which looks like one of those quiet and thoughtful books that tends to slip through the cracks unless a big shiny medal holds it up. I'm looking forward to reading it and seeing if I agree with the committee.

I feel like a bad person saying it, but I could not get into The Freak Observer. It was well-written, I'll give it that, so the Morris award was deserved. But my reaction was more on the lines of, "Oh, I can see that," than "Joy! JOY!!!"

First in the "Hey!" category: where was Sharon Draper's magnificent Out of My Mind? No Schneider award, no Newbery or honor. It was off the radar. Wha? Not even a nod from the Coretta Scott Kings, although because the main character's race is never specified, I can see how that would have been left off.

I also would have liked to see a pretty sticker for Finnikin of the Rock. As the Printzes don't require American citizenship, Marchetta's novel still would have been eligible. Ah well.

But the biggest "Hey!" of this awards season was the winners getting bumped from the Today show. Wha? You know what, Today show, when you run a story about how American children aren't reading anymore, we librarians have our response all ready for you.

Monday, January 10, 2011

2011 Awards Time!

John Newbery Medal
for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature

Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
(H) Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm
(H) Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus
(H) Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen
(H) One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Randolph Caldecott Medal 
for the most distinguished American picture book for children

A Sick Day for Amos McGee, illustrated by Erin E. Stead, written by Philip C. Stead
(H) Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Laban Carrick Hill
(H) Interrupting Chicken written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein

Michael L. Printz Award 
for excellence in literature written for young adults

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
(H) Stolen by Lucy Christopher
(H) Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
(H) Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick
(H) Nothing by Janne Teller

Coretta Scott King Awards
(for the best book about the African-American experience)

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
(H) Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers
(H) Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
(H) Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Laban Carrick Hill
(H) Jimi Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix illustrated by Javaka Steptoe, written by Gary Golio

John Steptoe New Talent
Author: Zora and Me written by Victoria Bond and T. R. Simon
Illustrator: Seeds of Change illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler, written by Jen Cullerton Johnson

Virginia Hamilton Practitioner Award for Lifetime Achievement
Dr. Henrietta Mays Smith

Schneider Family Book Award
for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience

Picture Book
The Pirate of Kindergarten by George Ella Lyon, illustrated by Lynne Avril
Middle Grade Novel
After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick
YA Novel
Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Alex Awards
for the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences

The Reapers Are the Angels: A Novel by Alden Bell
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel by Aimee Bender
The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni
Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue
The Vanishing of Katharina Linden: A Novel by Helen Grant
The Radleys by Matt Haig
The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton
Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard by Liz Murray
The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To by DC Pierson

Andrew Carnegie Medal
for excellence in children's video

Paul R. Gagne and Melissa Reilly Ellard of Weston Woods, producers of "The Curious Garden," are the Carnegie Medal winners. The video is based on the book of the same name, written and illustrated by Peter Brown, and is narrated by Katherine Kellgren, with music by David Mansfield.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Award
for substantial and lasting contributions to literature for children.
Tomie dePaola

Margaret A. Edwards Award
for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.
Sir Terry Pratchett

May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award
recognizing an author, critic, librarian, historian or teacher of children's literature, who then presents a lecture at a winning host site
Peter Sis

Mildred L. Batchelder Award 
for an outstanding children's book translated from a language other than English and subsequently published in the United States

A Time of Miracles by Anne-Laure Bondoux, translated by Y. Maudet
(H) Departure Time by Truus Matti and translated by Nancy Forest-Flier
(H) Nothing by Janne Teller and translated by Martin Aitken

Odyssey Award
best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex and narrated by Bahni Turpin.
(H) Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman and narrated by Katherine Kellgren
(H) The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness and narrated by Nick Podehl
(H) Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly and narrated by Emily Janice Card and Emma Bering
(H) will grayson, will grayson by John Green and David Levithan, and narrated by MacLeod Andrews and Nick Podehl.

Pura Belpre
For the best books about the Latino cultural experience
The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Peter Sís

(H) Ole! Flamenco by George Ancona
(H) The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba by Margarita Engle
(H) 90 Miles to Havana by Enrique Flores-Galbis
Grandma's Gift illustrated and written by Eric Velasquez
(H) Fiesta Babies illustrated by Amy Cordova, written by Carmen Tafolla
(H) Me, Frida illustrated by David Diaz, written by Amy Novesky
(H) Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin illustrated and written by Duncan Tonatiun

Robert F. Sibert Medal
for most distinguished informational book for children

Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Nic Bishop
(H) Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca
(H) Lafayette and the American Revolution by Russell Freedman

Stonewall Children's and Young Adult Literature Award
Books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered experience.

Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher
(H) will grayson, will grayson by John Green and David Levithan
(H) Love Drugged by James Klise
(H) Freaks and Revelations by Davida Willis Hurwin
(H) The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams, illustrated by Quentin Blake

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award
for the most distinguished beginning reader book

Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee and illustrated by Tony Fucile
(H) Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same! written and illustrated by Grace Lin
(H) We Are in a Book! written and illustrated by Mo Willems

William C. Morris Award
for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens

The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston
(H) Hush by Eishes Chayil
(H) Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
(H) Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
(H) Crossing the Tracks by Barbara Stuber

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults
honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults during a November 1 – October 31 publishing year.

Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing by Ann Angel
(H) They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
(H) Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network that Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement by Rick Bowers
(H) The Dark Game: True Spy Stories by Paul Janeczko
(H) Every Bone Tells a Story: Hominin Discoveries, Deductions, and Debates by Jill Rubalcaba and Peter Robertshaw

Whew! Someone on Twitter said the list just gets longer every year, but I don't feel like a single award is wasted. Coming tomorrow: My reactions (plus the tell-all story of the wild Twitter party!) Share your reactions in the comments!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Comment Challenge is Here Again!

If you've ever wanted to get more involved with the kidlitosphere, now's your chance. Hop on over to MotherReader's blog and sign up for the 2011 comment challenge. In a nutshell, here's how it works: You try to comment on other people's book blogs. That's . . . really about it.

I love this when it comes around, because it reminds me to put my reactions to other bloggers in writing, to be part of the conversation that is this great blog adventure we're all having. I also try to check out a lot of the other participants' blogs, and this challenge has introduced me to lots of neat new blogging friends. Well, what are you waiting for?

This also dovetails rather nicely with my own desire to blog more. I have great half-written reviews on my hard drive, but they don't do me much good there, now do they?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Hogwarts: A History (in Movie Posters)

Betsy Bird of Fuse #8 pointed me at this fascinating blog post from Empire Magazine's website: Harry Potter movie posters through the years. It's a neat little encapsulation of the changes from the first book/movie to the last, in character and tone.

I particularly like how Ron went from being the silly sidekick to (finally!) more dark and interesting in the posters for the last two movies. That's always annoyed me about the movies, that Ron, who is a goofball but brave and smart in his own unique way in the books, got relegated to comic relief while Harry and Hermione got to do all the good stuff. Naturally, the Ron bits were my favorite part of the most recent movie, because he got a lot of good stuff. Huzzah!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Cybils Shortlists Are Out!

Woohoo! Click on over and see the Cybils shortlists, and start placing your bets on the winners now.

It's another great set, with a mix of famous and unknowns. Generally, I have the books on my list but haven't gotten to them yet. That's not a surprise, because I'm almost always way behind in my reading. There are one or two on each list that are totally new to me - woohoo! There are at least a few that I've seen around the blogs and decided not to read, but this nomination might change my mind. Maybe.

What's your Cybils score?

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Reading Roundup: 2010

By the Numbers
Teen: 255
Tween: 117
Children: 164
Caveat: Many books fell into more than one category, especially those tween books that could go either up or down. No, I didn't really read 536 books this year. I wouldn't have had time to sleep.

Review Copies: 38
Swapped: 50
Purchased: 17
Library: You think I'm going to count that high? Are you insane?

Teen: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Selected in June: "Just like its heroine, this book is so much more than it seems." And here's my review.
Tween: Julia Gillian and the Quest for Joy by Alison McGhee
Selected in November: "McGhee doesn't disappoint in her follow-up to the quietly marvelous Julia Gillian and the Art of Knowing. Serious, sensitive Julia Gillian feels her way through the early tween years the same way we all did--by making mistakes and learning from them." And there's another book out! Wahoo!
Children: Max Quigley, Technically Not a Bully by James Roy
Selected in December: "Talk about actions being louder than words. While Max Quigley steadfastly refutes any charges of bullying and constantly denigrates the nerdy Triffin Nordstrom, his actions trace the changes in his character. Often compared to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, I like this book better. Throw tomatoes if you must."

Reading through the roundups, I realized how many nonfiction books I picked. Whether it's because of nonfiction Monday calling my attention to what's out there, or the way we've been getting such awesome examples of the genre lately, I don't know.

All the roundups for 2010

Wow, I can't wait for the awards! What were your picks for the best of 2010?