Fall Reading (just a list, no reviews)

So here’s something I learned this past fall–it’s very difficult to keep up with your blog during the semester. I’m going to try to be better this spring, but honestly, it’ll probably be pretty spotty coverage until May. Also, last semester I took a class on picture books and this semester I’m in a middle grade lit class, so much of my reading has been the kind that doesn’t really fit within the scope of my blog. That being said, here’s what I read this fall…if it’s on the list, consider it a book I’d recommend.

Sex & Violence, Carrie Mesrobian (YA Realistic Fiction)

Two Boys Kissing, David Levithan (YA Realistic Fiction)

Rats Saw God, Rob Thomas (a reread, see my Top Ten YA Books post for a rundown of this one)

Fosse, Sam Wasson (Biography)

Finnikin of the Rock, Melina Marchetta (YA Fantasy)

Froi of the Exiles, Melina Marchetta (YA Fantasy)

Dead End in Norvelt, Jack Gantos (Middle Grade Historical Fiction)

And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (Adult Non-Fiction)

Boxers & Saints, Gene Luen Yang (YA Graphic Novel)

Grave Mercy, Robin LaFevers (YA Historical Fantasy)

Dark Triumph, Robin LaFevers (YA Historical Fantasy)

Winger, Andrew Smith (YA Realistic Fiction)

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Maria Semple (Adult Fiction)

Antigoddess, Kendare Blake (YA Mythological Fantasy)

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Jennifer Smith (YA Realistic Fiction)

This is What Happy Looks Like, Jennifer Smith (YA Realistic Fiction)

Anna and the French Kiss, Stephanie Perkins (YA Realistic Fiction)

Lola and the Boy Next Door, Stephanie Perkins (YA Realistic Fiction)

While school is going on, I don’t finish books I don’t like…so all of these have my stamp of approval 🙂

 

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Austin Teen Book Fest

One of the best things about living in Austin (except for the tacos) is that because BookPeople is such an amazing indie bookstore and we have such a vibrant YA librarian/teacher/general booklover community we get all kinds of AWESOME author visits.  The ultimate YA lit event is, of course, the Austin Teen Book Fest which took place yesterday. I’ve been lucky enough to go the past two years, and this year I got to volunteer as a door monitor and in the signing lines.  Every year they bring so many amazing authors to give keynotes, participate in panel discussions, sign LOADS of books, and spread the gospel of YA to the teens of Austin (and teens from other places…I met some girls from Shreveport yesterday.  Shreveport is a looooooong way from Austin, y’all).

High points of the day for me:

– Working the door for three different panels and getting to interact with the authors a little more than you get to in a signing line.  Plus, I just love to hear authors talk about their books, writing process, and ideas.  I always end up hearing someone speak and just HAVING to get his/her book.  Last year it was Leigh Bardugo…this year it was Bill Konigsberg.

– Seeing the librarian, Pat, from my old school and getting to chat with her about books, working with teens, my classes at the iSchool, and just life in general.  I’ve really missed her since leaving San Antonio.

– Thinking about books all day and getting to talk about books with my fun friends from library school.  We’re really going to have to figure out a way to keep up our discussions once we all move on to our jobs (which we are all going to get!).

– Getting to fangirl all over Rob Thomas (Rats Saw God is one of my favorite books EVER…I know he did “Veronica Mars” and it’s great, but RSG is a masterpiece of YA lit), Maggie Stiefvater (she’s HILARIOUS to hear speak and her Raven Boys books are some of my top reads in 2013), Trish Doller (go get yourself a copy of Where the Stars Still Shine!), Lauren Myracle (also hilarious and SO FREAKIN’ NICE), and Sarah Dessen (I saw her going into the bathroom and managed to control my author stalker tendencies and not follow her in there to talk about Dreamland).

– Seeing so many teenagers so excited about reading, authors, and books…and seeing all their amazing parents supporting them.  It makes me so happy to see the power books can have in a young person’s life–I know that power well 🙂

In general, I had an amazing time and got so much out of ATBF; also, I thought things (especially the signing lines) ran even more smoothly than they did last year.  There were a few things, however, that were problematic for me:

– The Austin Convention Center’s main area has terrible acoustics, at least they did on Saturday.  The exhibits, book sales, and signing lines made for a lot of background noise during the keynote at lunch and in the afternoon.

– I was disappointed that people asked so many questions about TV in the Truth and Consequences panel that Rob Thomas was on.  There were 5 other authors there AND an author moderator…and I was there to hear about books.

– It would be nice if there was a way to include taglines or blurbs from the authors’ books in the schedule so people didn’t ask for “sales pitches” at the panels.  There’s this thing called Google if you’re interested in an author and his/her book.  My friends and I thought that it was unnecessary and time-consuming when other more interesting questions could have been asked.

– I wish that the adults in the audience would let teens ask more questions at the panels and/or the moderators would choose predominantly teens.  The whole point of the fest is to connect kids with authors.  We (I’m speaking for librarians here) have TLA and ALA…teens just have this.

Overall, I think ATBF is one of the most amazing book events in Texas–that’s saying a lot since the Texas Book Festival is coming our way shortly…I can’t wait for next year’s fest!  (I’m really hoping the following authors who weren’t there this year make appearances sometime soon:  Libba Bray, John Corey Whaley, Leigh Bardugo, Megan McCafferty, Kendare Blake, and my two dream “gets” for the keynote–John Green and Meg Cabot.)  Off to work on my projects for school–the ones I neglected while I was at the Book Fest!

Summer Reading Recap (aka I got really busy, read a lot of books, and didn’t have time to write the reviews)

So…yeah.  I haven’t posted in a loooooooooong time; I sold a house, bought a house, took Cataloging, went to the beach, refinished a bunch of furniture, started a new semester, and potty-trained a 2 1/2 year old–all in the few months since my last post.  Despite all of this, I have actually been reading A LOT, and I’ve read some really great books.  I’m going to do a short review here and give letter grades; if I reread any of them (a definite possibility), I’ll do a full review then.

Without further ado, here’s what I’ve read since June:

 

The Infinite Moment of Us, Lauren Myracle (Amulet)–B+

I liked this story about the romance of two just-graduated high school seniors, Wren and Charlie, a lot but found the ending to be a little too perfect.  Myracle doesn’t shy away from the physical realities of two 18 year old in love (ie. there’s some pretty explicit sex scenes), but I thought it was done sensitively and was totally authentic.

 

Where the Stars Still Shine, Trish Doller (Bloomsbury)–A-

I found myself very emotionally attached to the characters in this book; one of whom, Callie, was kidnapped by her mother at the age of four and, at the beginning of the story, has been returned to her father at 17.  I think Doller does a great job of examining a lot of the issues Callie experiences upon her return to the “real” world, but again, the ending seems a little pat.  This is another book I’d say would be best for older YA due to its treatment of teen sex–it’s done well and feels very true to the characters, but it is present.

 

Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin’s)- A-

I was very conflicted about Rowell’s debut YA novel, Eleanor and Park, despite finding its sentence-level writing to be pretty amazing.  In her second book, Rowell proves she is still writing AMAZING prose, but I found the characters much, much less problematic.  Things it’s about:  fanfic, the first year of college, Nebraska, twins, abandonment, depression, and first love.

 

Rose Under Fire, Elizabeth Wein (Disney Hyperion)- A+

Holy crap, this book was INCREDIBLE.  It’s the companion to Code Name Verity, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s even better.  Rose is an American pilot working for the British during World War II.  Her plane crashes in Nazi territory, and she ends up at the Ravensbruck women’s concentration camp.  That’s all I’m going to say.  READ IT.

 

The Dream Thieves, Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic)- A

The sequel to last year’s The Raven Boys, this book was, in a word, a mindf**k.  Seriously.  Half the time I wasn’t really sure I understood what was happening, but it all worked.  It has very little to do with the ley line story from the first book and way more to do with Ronan’s mystical/magical abilities.  As usual, Stiefvater’s writing is lyrical and beautiful, and I can’t wait for the next one.

 

Reality Boy, AS King (Little, Brown)- A-

Although this book isn’t without its problems (like I’m not sure what’s going on with the whole circus thing), I found it SO powerful.  It examines the life of a teenage boy whose family was once the subject of a “Supernanny”-like TV show and the fallout the show produced.  Unlike some other readers, I liked the unreliable narrator technique King uses, but I will admit that this is not a sure-fire winner for all readers.

 

Sex and Violence, Carrie Mesrobian- A

I’m not a fan of this book’s title, but its content is pretty great.  Another male narrator, this time one was has, shall we say, a rather loose set of requirements for the girls he “gets down with.”  This risky behavior lands Evan first in the hospital and then living with his dad in a remote lakeside community.  The plot of this book wasn’t really what drew me in–it was the characterization.  Evan is such a nuanced, complicated character…and I just wanted to give him a hug the whole time.

All of the books above are either very recent releases or coming out in the next month or so…the ones below are a little older (some a lot older), and I’m just going to give grades to them.  If the title and genre sounds interesting to you, go look them up!

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline (sci-fi)–A+++++

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Jennifer Smith (YA romance)- B

Difficult Men, Brett Martin (non-fiction)- B+

A ton of romance novels by Eloisa James–range from B- to A…I’d never read anything by her, but I was pleasantly surprised.  I especially liked the quartet whose titles are derived from Shakespeare.

A lot of reading, not a lot of time.  Hope you find something you like!

A word about reviews and spoilers…

So…the reviews I’m going to be posting over the next few days are ones I wrote for my YA Materials class at the iSchool.  They’re going to contain a bibliographic annotation and then some thoughts on the book–personal reactions, a little literary analysis, maybe some whining if I didn’t really like it all that much…going forward, the reviews probably won’t be quite so analytical, but I’ll continue to write the annotations.  One, because they’re helpful for me to have when I’m doing Reader’s Advisory, and two, because if you don’t want to commit to reading a 500 word review, you can just check out the annotation.

As far as spoilers are concerned–some of the reviews I did for class contain spoilers, primarily because we all read mostly the same books and if I talked about the ending, well, I wasn’t exactly giving anything away.  I think my policy for upcoming reviews will be that if I read a book in ARC or e-galley format (I got a TON of ARCs at the Texas Library Association’s convention last week!), I will be very, very careful about not spoiling anything.  If a book has been out for a while, say at least a year, I’ll be less cautious.  Personally, I really like spoilers.  Like, I actively seek them out for TV shows and movies…and I almost ALWAYS flip to the end of a book to see how things turn out once I’m about a third of the way through.  I get too anxious for the characters otherwise!  Really.  I just can’t handle the anticipation–I even watch the “American Idol” results on my DVR only after checking Twitter first to find out who’s going home. (A side note:  this DOES NOT WORK with George RR Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice books…mainly because there are just too many things happening in all those pages.  I’ve tried to flip to the end only to be hopelessly confused about characters, plot details, etc.)  I will, however, mark reviews that have spoilers in them as spoiler alerts.  Just because I have to know the end of things before they really even get started doesn’t mean everyone does.

Here we go!

I’m excited to get my blog up and running now that the spring semester is finally over.  I read mostly YA lit, since I’m going to do middle school/high school libraries, so most of my reviews/analysis/random thought will be about those.  Every so often an “adult” book might (heavy emphasis on MIGHT) slip in.  I’m going to start by posting the reviews I wrote for my graduate level YA Materials class this semester…there’s 43 of them, so the roll out might be slow!  Hope I start getting some readers!!!!!