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Nov. 20th, 2012

Nerdgirl with headphones


December readalong?

How do people feel about reading the first Mortal Instruments book for December?  I picked it up because I'd like to read it before the movie comes out, it has a pretty cover and I generally hear good things about it.  Y/N?

Oct. 9th, 2012



Long Time No Chat

Guysssss.  We have been SO QUIET here.  What are people reading?

I hit my 52 book goal the other week, which made me feel super productive, and now I'm trying to hit 75 before the new year.  I read The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green, which made me realize that SOMEHOW I seem to always hit the parts of books that wreck me while I'm on public transportation (or on the elliptical, and let me tell you, crying while exercising is NOT GREAT for your lungs); I got a lot of strange looks while I was choking down the ugly sobs from this book.  

I read the first books in the Fablehaven and Ranger's Apprentice series based on recommendations from my junior volunteers - they're so fun, especially Fablehaven, which not only features a really strong brother-sister relationship but also has an awesome, strong, realistic heroine who problem-solves and allies with fairies and basically is the best at everything (Kendra, be my friend?).

The sequel to Spoiled, Messy by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, came out this summer and it is just as deliciously soapy and teen-catty and full of designer labels as the first one.  Also, snappy dialogue and an interesting plot.

ALSO, A REAL LIVE AUTHOR COMMENTED ON MY BOOK BLOG: I read one of Games Workshop's short story collections and mentioned how much I loved one story in particular, by Rob Sanders who I hadn't heard of but looked forward to reading more of, and then ROB SANDERS COMMENTED ON THE ENTRY AND WE HAD A CONVERSATION IN THE COMMENTS SECTION.  It was AWESOME, especially since I have like four readers total on that blog.

Do we want to do a book club book for November?  I hear daffodelias might have some Christmas romance to share with us...and lord knows I deeply appreciate a good Christmas romance.

May. 2nd, 2012

Rocket powered cardinal


(no subject)

We haven't had any activity here in a while!  Let me share what I've been reading.

Way back in January, one of my New Year's Resolutions was a two-parter: to only read books this year I've never read before, and to read 52 books for the 52 weeks in the year.  I've been keeping track of the books I finish on shelfari.com (I'm magicalmartha, if you're there too!) and also on my book blog, Alternative Read (literacynotoptional.blogspot.com).  I'm up to 29 books already!  Here is what they are, along with some rating stars and keywords:

1.  The Help, Kathryn Stockett ** (historical fiction)
2.  Naamah's Blessing, Jacqueline Carey ** (fantasy, alternate history, erotic fiction)
3.  Ready Player One, Ernest Cline **** (science fiction, shades of dystopia and 80's nostalgia)
4.  The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern *** (atmospheric Victorian fantasy)
5.  Swamplandia!, Karen Russell *** (magical realism, also ALLIGATORS)
6.  French Milk, Lucy Knisley ** (travelogue, graphic novel)
7.  A Hat Full of Sky, Terry Pratchett **** (YA fantasy, humor)
8.  Kraken, China Mieville *** (weird science fiction horror, also squid cults - think Neil Gaiman/HP Lovecraft lovechild)
9.  Wintersmith, Terry Pratchett **** (YA fantasy, humor)
10.  The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi ** (dystopian science fiction)
11.  The Looking Glass Wars, Frank Beddor * (terrible YA fantasy, Alice in Wonderland-based)
12.  The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick *** (alternate history, dystopian science fiction)
13.  White Cat, Holly Black *** (awesome dark YA fantasy)
14.  The Reapers, John Connolly ** (crime noir, read the other Connolly books, they're better)
15.  The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini *** (contemporary fiction, the Russian occupation of Afghanistan)
16.  Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, Chris Crutcher *** (realistic YA fiction, also gut-punching like everything Crutcher writes)
17.  Uglies, Scott Westerfeld ** (mediocre YA science fiction)
18.  Pretties, Scott Westerfeld ** (mediocre YA science fiction)
19.  Moon Over Manifest, Clare Vanderpool *** (historical children's lit, 1920's America)
20.  Behemoth, Scott Westerfeld **** (AWESOME YA science fiction, alternative history WWI)
21.  Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Grace Lin *** (sweet children's fantasy, Chinese fairy tale-esque)
22.  Simon Bloom, Gravity Keeper, Michael Riseman ** (mediocre children's science fiction)
23.  When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead *** (beginner's time travel, super light science fiction)
24.  Graceling, Kristin Cashore *** (YA survivalist fantasy)
25.  The Book Thief, Markus Zusak **** (historical fiction, WWII)
26.  Revolver, Marcus Sedgwick *** (YA historical fiction, Alaskan gold rush)
27.  The Outcast Dead, Graham McNeill *** (science fiction, Warhammer 40K universe)
28.  Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir, Jenny Lawson **** (the funniest book I have ever read)
29.  Deliverance Lost, Gav Thorpe ** (science fiction, Warhammer 40K universe)

For more comments, you should probably check out my blog.

What have you guys been reading this year?

Nov. 11th, 2011

Happy face


Beauty Queens by Libba Bray




It's amazing.  It's by Libba Bray; the only thing I'd read by her before this was A Great and Terrible Beauty, which I thought was beautifully written but kind of a boring story, but THIS.  THIS is a work of art.  It's called Beauty Queens, and the best way I can think of to describe it is "Lord of the Flies meets Malibu Barbie."

Check out this cover:

So in this book, the finalists for America's Miss Teen Dream pageant are on their way to the finale when their plane crashes on a deserted island.  They have to get over themselves and their shallowness and figure out how to survive, and it's totally beautiful.  The book is heavily satirical of consumer culture (Bray includes the scripts of commercials and footnotes and product placements, and it's all seriously hilarious), making fun of the media's standards of beauty, reality television, anything Bray can get her hands on.

I also appreciate that she gives each girl (the survivors, anyway) proper time to develop.  They all start pretty annoyingly perky and conventional, but everyone's got a secret and it's really touching the way she gives each one attention and sympathy.  For many of the girls, their time on the island is about them discovering for themselves that they're not just another pretty face.

Sep. 16th, 2011



Road Trip Lit!

Couple of recommendations for you guys!  Brought to you by my YA lit class (which is really the only stuff I'll be reading unitl, like, January).

Ostrich Boys, by Keith Gray: A really touching high school road trip story about three guys dealing with the death of their best friend.  His name was Ross, so to honor him they decide to take his ashes to Ross, Scotland (it's set in England), and to say their journey doesn't go as smoothly as planned is an understatement.  It's got some rough stuff in there about how much it hurts to realize you don't know people as well as you might think, but the friendships portrayed are just.  So great.

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, by Morgan Matson: Also a road trip movie, but this one is thoroughly chick lit.  Amy's father dies (before the story starts) and her mom moves out to Conneticut, leaving Amy to drive the Jeep from California to the East Coast.  Due to a phobia of driving brought on by her dad's death, Amy's mom assigns Roger, the hot 19-year-old son of a friend, to drive her daughter across the country.  It's not subtle and the events are predictable, but it's got one of the most well-written casts of characters I've encountered in a long time.

The class theme yesterday was "journeys, literal and figurative."  Can you tell?  Next week is sex, drugs, and rock & roll, along with an in-depth discussion on the freedom to read and how to handle book challenges.  Excite!

Sep. 2nd, 2011

Nerdgirl with headphones


YA Lit Class, a.k.a. My Life Is Awesome Right Now

I'm taking a class on YA Lit for my library science degree. I get to read an assload of YA lit from all over the map, and talk about it for three hours every week with a whole classroom of people who get just as excited about them as I do. Also? My professor is awesome and snarky and has been specializing in YA lit for thirty years.

I win at school, is basically what I'm saying.

Our syllabus is 23 pages long. For every class, we have to read 4-5 books, and then my prof also has about a half a page of recommended additional reading (which she says she doesn't expect us to do, but has been provided in case we want to explore the weekly themes even more). For class last night, we read:

Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly: Snoozefest. Nothing HAPPENS in it, which is understandable because it was written in 1942. All I could think while reading it was that if it had been written now the main character would have banged the love interest and then probably pledged undying love. 

Forever... by Judy Blume: Pretty much the same book as Seventeenth Summer, although Kathy and Michael have sex.  Planned, protected sex.  I love Judy Blume.

The Contender by Robert Lipsyte: Can I tell you how much I love inspirational sports stories?  I LOVE inspirational short stories.  This was also interesting to read now, because it's a book about black kids in a black neighborhood written by a white guy; in light of the current media atmosphere surrounding The Help, I can't help but think Lipsyte's book would not have become the seminal book today that it did in the 60's.  Which is too bad, because The Contender is pretty excellent.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton: It's a little odd reading a book about greasers that's so...romantic, I guess?  I dunno, the voice that the main character has just drips with love about nearly every person in his social circle.  I just wanted to snuggle him a little.  And watch the movie, because I guess Rob Lowe is in it, and the idea of Rob Lowe playing a leather-jacket-wearing, smoking greaser is just PRECIOUS.

The Pigman by Paul Zindel: A commentary on the disaffected youth of 1960's America.  I guess?  Mostly I just wanted John and Lorraine to get jobs.  I'm not really fond of things that are inherently awkward, so I spent most of my time reading this feeling really sad.

For next week, I've got:
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
A Hero Ain't Nothing But A Sandwich by Alice Childress
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush by Virginia Hamilton
Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack by M.E. Kerr

in case anyone is interested in what my professer considers to be representative of early influential YA lit.  Feel free to read along! :P

Aug. 16th, 2011

Annoyed owl


The Monstrumologist, and why I want to support Rick Yancey

Guys, supernatural YA lit NEEDS us.

A couple of months ago, I picked up (totally on a whim) a book from a Borders-closing-sale called The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey.  It is, no exaggeration, one of the best supernatural/horror YA thrillers I have ever read.  It's gritty and suspenseful, told in an imaginative way, and one of the most thrilling things I've read in the past year.  This is what BookList has to say about it:

With a roaring sense of adventure and enough viscera to gag the hardiest of gore hounds, Yancey’s series starter might just be the best horror novel of the year. Will Henry is the 12-year-old apprentice to Pellinore Warthrop, a brilliant and self-absorbed monstrumologist--a scientist who studies (and when necessary, kills) monsters in late-1800s New England. The newest threat is the Anthropophagi, a pack of headless, shark-toothed bipeds, one of whom’s corpse is delivered to Warthrop’s lab courtesy of a grave robber. As the action moves from the dissecting table to the cemetery to an asylum to underground catacombs, Yancey keeps the shocks frequent and shrouded in a splattery miasma of blood, bone, pus, and maggots. The industrial-era setting is populated with leering, Dickensian characters, most notably the loathsome monster hunter hired by Warthrop to enact the highly effective “Maori Protocol” method of slaughter. Yancey’s prose is stentorian and wordy, but it weaves a world that possesses a Lovecraftian logic and hints at its own deeply satisfying mythos. Most effective of all, however, is the weirdly tender relationship between the quiet, respectful boy and his strict, Darwinesque father figure. “Snap to!” is Warthrop’s continued demand of Will, but readers will need no such needling.

I purchased the second installment, The Curse of the Wendigo, shortly after on my Nook, and it was EVEN BETTER.  It raises the stakes by building on the "monster hunt" conceit of the first, while including a layered and subtle discussion on the difference between myth and history and what it means to be human.  The third volume, The Isle of Blood, comes out this fall.

But Simon & Schuster terminated Yancey's contract after that, so the planned fourth and final book won't be published by them.  THIS WILL NOT DO.

Here's a link to an interview with Yancey explaining the situation: Simon & Schuster would rather publish Lizzie McGuire's book than quality YA.

I just...I want to do SOMETHING to show this guy I love his books and I support him and them, but I don't really want to participate in a write-in campaign if all it's doing is pissing off the publisher.  I'll be following the situation to see if Yancey sets up any kind of fundraiser or whatever, or if another publisher picks up the franchise.  But until then, I'm asking you guys: read these books.  If you like Buffy, if you like Supernatural, if you dig Neil Gaiman or John Connolly or Stephen King...you'll like them.  I can pretty much promise that you will.

Aug. 10th, 2011

Blowing bubbles



So...I'm sorry, guys.  I keep MEANING to do posts here, but then...I don't, because I get busy, or I haven't read anything and I'm kind of embarrassed about that, or I forget.  But, it is never too late to do a check-in!

I haven't read The Luxe yet, because the latest George R. R. Martin A Song of Ice and Fire book came out (A Dance With Dragons) and it is a DOORSTOP of a book.  The thing clocks in at 956 gigantic pages total, and took me about three weeks to plow through, and then I didn't even like it much when I'd finished.  This is going to be a controversial opinion, but Martin advances the plot hardly at all in almost 1000 pages and the plot points that DO happen are poorly foreshadowed and played for shock value.  I don't know, guys, I think I'm done with this series, regardless of whether or not Martin continues to write more.

I'll still totally watch the HBO show, though.

Before ADWD, I read a YA book called Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes which was recommended to me by the Barnes & Noble Nook page.  It was kind of fun, but I couldn't shake the overwhelming WHERE ARE HER PARENTS feeling through the whole thing - Ginny, our 17 year old heroine, jets off on an unplanned (in fact, she is forbidden to plan or take maps or read guide books) and unchaperoned field trip to Europe, dictated by a series of letters left to her by her now-deceased aunt.  I don't know about you guys, but if I tried to tell my parents that a beloved family member was telling me posthumously to fly to Europe alone, with no hotel reservations or accompaniment and explicit instructions not to call or e-mail or otherwise contact my parents while I was abroad, they would have laughed in my face.  It's a tool Maureen Johnson (the author) is using to guide Ginny on her "journey of self discovery," but the whole set-up was so  monumentally unbelievable to me that I had a hard time enjoying the book despite this.

What about you guys?  What have you been reading?

Jul. 1st, 2011

hiding in yarn



I am so sorry, guys! The last month has been super crazy.

Do-Over for June?

May. 31st, 2011

Nerdgirl with headphones


End of the month PARTAY

How did you guys do?  Did you enjoy the read alongs?  Meet your goals?  Tell me what you read this month!  Since Artemis Fowl was my recommendation, I admit I am especially interested to hear if you enjoyed it. :D

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