Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Rambles

As hint-promised, today's Friday Ramble is going to be fairly focused on the idea of "Teen Read Week."
As a reader and librarian, I love the idea of a whole week dedicated to "teen reading" - but there's so much more here than just celebrating YA books and the teens who read them. Don't get me wrong, Teen Read Week is totally a week to love on the books teens read - wherever those books are shelved. It's also a week to celebrate you though: the teen readers who make this week possible. And then there's the slogan ... I can't tell you how much I love this year's slogan.

"Turn Dreams into Reality"
I have been saying this to myself off and on all week ... It's such a wonderful reminder, no matter how old you are, and so perfectly suited for a teen-centric week. Dreaming is one of the things that helps us stay sane, you know? Being able to indulge in a daydream, to have a plan for Some Day, to let your imagination go wild and free and see where it takes you ... Dreams are the stuff of life, my friends. And they don't have to stay dreams - they can become reality. (Well, within reason, I guess ... Although if you figure out how to become Superman or create a working model of the Millennium Falcon, let me know, dude!) Even the fantastically impossible dreams can become reality, in a sense, by diving into the pages of a book.

Really Well-written Books
If a book is written well, if the story it tells is "true" (in that it speaks to us as readers, it reaches us and takes captive our reading selves, as opposed to feeling fake in the reading), we can do anything and everything. It's all there on the page, and in our imaginations, and we can be the characters we read. We can experience that, and it's real, for a moment.

Not Just Teens
I love YA books. Absolutely love them. I have for ... Oh man, a long time (years aren't important). Ever since my librarian handed me Stargirl, and told me that was me in a book. I had read YA books before, here and there (the first I absolutely remember reading was Sarah Dessen's Someone Like You), but Stargirl really started the love affair. The older I get, the more YA I read, the more I appreciate these books. Yeah, I'm quite a bit older than most of the characters now - but I can still relate. I still understand. And now that I'm a Librarian, I have an even greater appreciation for the variety and scope of what is available in the YA market now.

More Than Just YA
But teens, readers, you and me, we read more than just YA. We read "adult" books, and sometimes we read "young" books. We read classics and graphic novels and glossy magazines. We read, and that's wherein the magic lies. It doesn't matter if you're reading the newest release or a dusty tome you find on the back shelf - so long as you read. And enjoy it, because life is too short to suffer through horrible books you don't have to read (this applies to pleasure reading, unfortunately homework has to be done, sorry! Been there, done that (most of the time), and I can promise you'll survive).

So ... Go therefore and read.

And, because I simply can't help myself, and the lovely people at Warner Bros. have been so very generous the last few weeks, here are a couple of the new posters for The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies ... and yes, I included Thranduil. I am totally Elven, y'all. Totally. (Just don't look at my ears, they're rather human).
Oh Thorin ... So stubborn, so proud, so King

Never underestimate the bravery of Hobbitses, precious

Sa-woon. Ahem. But really ...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mini Reviews

Hello, hello! It's Teen Read Week in the Library world (spoiler alert: I'll have a Friday ramble about that later), and what better way to kick it off than with a handful of mini reviews about some great YA reads?


Isla and the Happily Ever After
Stephanie Perkins
If you're a fan of Perkins, you've probably been waiting on this one a long time. At last, at long last, the final "installment" of the loose trilogy that started with Anna and the French Kiss is in our greedy little hands. If you've not read the first two (Anna and Lola and the Boy Next Door), I'd highly recommend reading them first - there are major spoilers in Isla otherwise. Major. I have read them, and was eager for this one. It's a good read, Isla is a great character, but it didn't feel like it meshed with the others. Maybe I waited too long, and hoped too much for something that doesn't exist, but Isla wasn't the story I wanted it to be. It's still good, it's just ... different.
If you read it, let me know what you think! Most people have been absolutely swooning over it, so maybe I'm the odd reader out (wouldn't be the first time).


Magnolia
Kristi Cook
I can't decide how I feel about this one. It kept showing up in my blog/facebook/goodreads feed, and the premise (Romeo & Juliet, set in the Deep South) was really intriguing. And at first I was really hooked, there were some alterations to the original story (the families aren't feuding, the "lovers" are), and I loved seeing how the new threads worked with the old. (I also have a weakness for Deep South debutante-ish fiction). And then ... I guess I got bored? The story just didn't hold me as much after a point, and I lost interest. I did finish it, but I didn't really care anymore. Other people seem to love it, so again: maybe this is a case of "just me"?


A Little Something Different
Sandy Hall
Now this one? I loved. Absolutely loved. (And reading the author bio blurb after? She's a Teen Librarian! So cool!) Officially, this one is considered "New Adult," which basically means the characters aren't in high school anymore (I think I'm going to dedicate a whole post to the emergence of "NA" literature; stay tuned!). How to describe this? It's the cutest book I've read all years; told in 14 different points of view - none of which are the POVs of the two main characters. Before you get too skeptical, I promise you: It works. It's unlike anything I've read before, but I felt like I really got to know Gabe and Lea better by seeing how they interact and relate to their friends, family, and random observers in life. It. Is. Awesome. And like I said, it's the cutest book I've read all year.


Let's Get Lost
Adi Alsaid
This one was a lot of fun and, surprisingly, I didn't figure out "the catch" until the very end when it was revealed. I love when that happens. The premise is simple: Leila is on a cross-country roadtrip north, to see the Northern Lights. Along the way she meets other teenagers, and ends up crashing their lives during key, pivotal moments in their stories. By helping them, she's uncovering truths about herself - and Life - as well. It's a fun story, a light, quick read that also has some serious threads. Big Issues like Love and Destiny are tackled, and it feels so real. These are kids I feel like I could encounter on the street, or in the Library. And I get them, their questions and their hopes. Another slightly unconventional storytelling method that really, really works. I highly recommend this one.
(Weird reader confession: For some reason, I had no idea the author was a guy until the end of the book when I saw the author flap.)

There you have it ... A quick snapshot of the YA I've been reading lately (mixed with an odd combination of adult contemp and historical fiction). See anything that interests you? If you read any of them, shout out and let me know! I'd love to know what my teenlings think of the YA I'm reading - see how our opinions and views differ, or line up.

And what have you been reading? Have you read anything that I absolutely must read yesterday? There are so many books available, it is sadly impossible for me to read them all, so help a Librarian out - recommend something to me!

Stay tuned this week, you never know what might appear ... And keep reading!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Irony: A Live Action Exercise in Banning Books

Hey guys.

This week I was on WKXR 1260 AM radio discussing Banned Books Week, I wrote a column for the Courier-Tribune about the same and I have been posting like a fool on the Library’s Facebook page about it, too.

Why? What’s the big deal? Why am I so puffed up on this particular subject? I’ll attempt to explain by giving an example that happened this week.

In California, in a middle school, school media coordinators (that’s a fancy name for the school media specialist) responded to a request from a parent to remove the book “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green by removing the school’s three copies from the shelves. This during Banned Books Week, and all.
Now, you know already how I feel about John Green and of course, we’ve had a lot of jabber on this page about TFIOS. But that’s only the salt in the wound for me. It could be any book that would get me whipped up into a towering rage. Leave the book on the shelf. (http://www.hypable.com/2014/09/25/fault-in-our-stars-banned-book/)

The parent’s complaint was that Green novel contained too much graphic or crude language, smoking, sex and she did not think a book about kids with cancer was appropriate for her own child to read.

Here’s the thing, she can make that decision for her own child. But she cannot make that decision for anyone else's children. Period. If I could write an open letter to the lady who made this request, it would go like this:

Dear Concerned Parent,

We receive and respect your wish that we remove the book from the shelves of our school media center. We understand that you feel it may contain inappropriate content for your child. However, we will not remove the book from the shelves at this or any time. Many of the books in the media center contain uncomfortable content. You retain the right to decide what your child can read. Other parents will decide on their own without your input. Children whose parents do not mind if they read this book must be allowed access to it, for educational purposes. Your complaint has been noted and logged.

Thank you.

The Staff

I strongly feel that your opinion is yours to hone. However, you can only influence another’s opinions by sharing your ideas with them. You cannot limit their attempt to gain information for themselves, no matter how concerned you are about that. It’s a well-meaning thing, to warn someone. It is wrong to prevent them access.

And that’s why I get so ill. It is terrible to me when good books are taken from the reach of readers who need to be free to discover them whenever they want.

So, now that Banned Books Week is at an end, what will you do to be an activist, like me and Librarian R, to spread awareness of banned books?
Answer in the comments. DFTBA.

Dave

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Rambles

Happy Friday, y'all!

I know, it's been a hot minute, but I promise I only blinked and two weeks passed. How does Time do that? (And who knows how to make it slow down a little? I could definitely use some slower time...)

I've got some super random Friday rambles for you today, because it's been that kind of week: quick, a little weird, and exceptionally random. I'm choosing to blame leftover effects of last week's solar flare/storms. Space stuff can seriously effect earth things, y'all.

Movies
It would seem that not only is this fall a crazy busy season for awesome new YA books coming out, but there are also several decent/exciting looking movies too. Including not a few based on YA books, so yay YA! There are lists everywhere featuring the whole books-to-movie phenom, but I like this one at the YALSA Hub (I like most of their lists, they do an excellent job listing).

The Hobbit
Okay, so maybe you'll get tired of this before the movie comes out ... but I hope not. Because I am totally psyched, and I like to share my enthusiasm with y'all! A "tapestry" of images from the new movie has been released ... Snippets of scenes and tastes of things to come. It's intriguing.
Also intriguing? This newly released poster:
It's no secret that I am a major Elf fangirl, and there should be quite a bit of important Elven Activity on the screen in December. I'm excited.

When Librarians Write Books
I just finished reading this incredibly cute book, A Little Something Different. I absolutely loved the book, it's quite possibly the cutest thing I've read all year, and when I got to the end and realized the author is a Teen Librarian? Hello, this got a lot more amazing. Perhaps one day I can say that I've written something half as fun.

Football
If this, like the Hobbit thing, gets old, I'm sorry. But tomorrow is a Big Game in my universe (Florida at Alabama!), and I am so happy to be able to spend my weekends curled up and watching games again. I've missed this.

Candy Corn
Does anything else really need to be said? I prefer to buy the big bags of the autumn mix, so I have a perfect blend of yellow & chocolate candy corns and those amazing pumpkins. I noticed the other day the expiration date isn't until next July - I may or may not end up buying some bags to stash for future needs.

And finally ...
Talk Like A Pirate Day
Honestly, I've never quite gotten this 'holiday' ... Maybe because I didn't get swept into the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, or maybe because I just completely missed something. And I do like to read historical fiction about pirates, which perhaps makes it weirder ... Whatever the reason, it's not exactly my cup o' tea, but for those who love it:
Arr, 'ave a grrrrreat day, mateys! 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Review: Tris and Izzie

In addition to being a major bookworm, I'm also somewhat of a literature geek. (It was one of my majors in college). I love American literature, but there's a special place in my heart for British and Medieval lit. Especially Medieval. I actually took two semesters' worth of Medieval lit, and was very tempted to go to graduate school for it, but the foreign language requirements were just too daunting. With that said, I've been meaning to pick up Tris and Izzie for a while - it's said to be a modern version of one of my favorite Medieval tales "Tristan and Isolde". This summer, I made time in my reading agenda to indulge.

Tris and Izzie
Mette Ivie Harrison

I'd like to begin this review by saying this book is not what it's supposed to be. In fact, the only real connection it has to the original story are the main character names. And the fact that the romantic relationships are a little tangled/complicated (but even they have substantial deviations). With that made clear, I'd like to say the book is not bad it is just different. While it wasn't what I was expecting, it was an interesting and engaging read - and a quick one.

I've seen many reviews online where people just weren't crazy about this one - I can see that. Especially if they were expecting the original story (not that I'm holding a grudge or anything). It's one of those contemporary world fantasies that very much demands "willing suspension of disbelief" from the reader - as well as the sense of humor to appreciate the almost ridiculous nature of some parts. Is it a work of great literature? Nope, not even close. Is it a fun, maybe a little weird, novel to while away a few hours? Totally.

Other than telling you there's magic and friendship and a weird double-world, I'm not going to give you much by way of content review. I want you to go into this reading for curious enjoyment - and then tell me what you think.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Ramble

Here it is guys ... the last Friday of Summer.

I'm going to let that sink in for a moment.
The last Friday of Summer.
A whole season has gone by, and that carefree, school-free delight we call "Summer" has ended.

Where on earth has time gone?
I can't be the only one who glances at the calendar and blinks in surprise at how much of 2014 has already happened. (If I am, please just smile and nod).

I've always been a big fan of Summer. My birthday is smack in the middle, I love the warmth and soaking up the sun. Before I landed this job, I had every summer off ((academic schedules are amazing - cherish them, my student readers, cherish them while they last!)) -- something I find myself rather missing now that I'm on duty all day, every day. There's something wonderful about lazy summer days, reading in the shade or having adventures.

As I've gotten older though? I really appreciate Fall - and not just because football returns ((less than a week, y'all!)). I love the way the light changes, and everything glows with a warm brush of fiery gold. I love fall sunsets, and the way the color lingers - not to mention the incredible blue of our October-in-Carolina day skies. The return of sweaters and scarves is like the return of old friends, warm and familiar.

This year is no different (although I've been wearing quite a few sweaters in the Library all summer - when our AC works, it works, y'all!). I've enjoyed this summer season - the frenetic energy of summer reading, the hot days and stormy nights. But as things get quieter, the days shorter and (sometimes) cooler, there's a happy contented feeling sinking into my soul. Fall is good. Fall is here. Fall is new - new books, new adventures, new discoveries.

With a fond smile, I bid adieu to Summer, and open my arms wide to all Fall has to offer.

What about you? Do you have a favorite season? Do the seasons affect or influence your reading habits and/or choices?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Review: Better Off Friends

Y'all, August is here. Summer reading is officially over ((CONGRATULATIONS to the winners!)), and it was an amazing year of participation! You guys did a lot of reading, and that makes my heart happy. Y'all are reading rockstars!

"Summer reading" doesn't have to end just because a contest or promotional period ends, though! I have a shelf on goodreads that I call my "summer reads" -- the books I put there are books that make me feel summery, whether I read them in December or July. They can be about summer, or they can just be ... summery. Which is to say: summer reading is a state of mind, so let's enjoy these summer reads for as long as we can ((and let's face it, if another Ice Storm happens, we're definitely going to want a warm, summer book)). To that effect, one of my favorite reads of the summer: Better Off Friends

Better Off Friends
Elizabeth Eulberg

If you've never read an Elizabeth Eulberg book before, you need to. She has this great, easy-to-read style of writing, and her contemporary YA stories are populated with fun characters that are super easy to relate to.  Better Off Friends is her latest novel, and I think it might be my favorite (so far).

Our main characters, Macallan and Levi, have been best friends from (almost) the first moment they met in middle school. In spite of what everyone says, they are just friends, although the closeness of their bond makes their romantic relationships ... interesting. (Some of the date stories had me giggling). But if you're a girl, and your best friend is a guy, can you keep it platonic forever? Or will something More creep in, when you're least expecting it? That's what these two have to figure out, navigating both the difficult waters of high school and a treasured friendship that is getting more and more complicated.

I loved Macallan and Levi. Their chemistry is amazing, their antics had me laughing, and watching their friendship progress was a true-to-life read. The story is told in alternating points of view, so we get to know both Levi and Macallan, and see how each handles and interprets everything. (Sidenote: I think I'm growing increasingly fond of the dual-perspective novel, when it's handled well, and gives a deeper understanding of the characters). 

This is a fun, quick read that is a celebration of friendship, but isn't too fluffy or sappy - there's some genuine drama here, y'all! (The good kind, not the annoying kind). In short, I enjoyed every minute. Perfect for a summer afternoon.