Monday, July 26, 2010

The Best Books I'd Never Read (Until Today): As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth

Vital statistics: As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins, all-around-awesome book.

I have had some vacations go horribly wrong in my life, but even my worst moments couldn't compare with Ry's summer.

What begins as an innocent trip to archaeology camp goes horribly awry as he first discovers the camp no longer exists, then manages to first lose his cell phone charge, then his train (along with backpack and majority of possessions), then a large quantity of blood (nosebleed), then one shoe, then the vision in one eye (he ran into a cable).

Meanwhile, his mother and father are on a sailing trip, out of touch, and having a "fabulous" time. Except for the mast breaking. And the twisted ankle. And the robbery.

And Ry's grandfather is concussed.

And missing.

And he isn't altogether sure where he is, except he may or may not have lost the dogs, if there were dogs at all.

(There were.)

The dogs are on their way to the old house, Incredible-Journey-style.

If they could remember where the old house was.

And since his family just moved...Ry can't very well depend on the neighbors to come to the rescue...

But in between all the losing, Ry does a lot of finding. He finds Del, for one, and the two embark on a family-finding, true-love-tracking adventure.

Here's my favorite quote, which I must share. It involves the replacement shoes Ry is forced to purchase following the loss of the aforementioned boot. The shoes in question are white lizard-skin loafers with gold chain (one chain is missing):

"The shoes were a metaphor for the decline of western civilization: crappy and glitzy and barely useful, but pretty comfortable. This is the narrator's opinion. Ry didn't think that thought specifically, but he felt as dispirited as if he had."

Oh--and it goes on!

"The contrast between the shoes and the striped tube socks was interesting. Probably a metaphor for something depressing, too. It looked as if a lawm mower-riding failed gambler in shorts with a potbelly should be attached to his legs."

It goes without saying that the above caused me to laugh hysterically, inhale sweet tea, and choke. But it was worth it.

Now that I've finished As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth, I'm reading Lynne Rae Perkin's novel Criss Cross--the one that won the Newbery Medal.

And if the Printz committee is paying attention to little old me...take a good long look at this one.*

*The above sentence is my way of saying, "Give this book LOTS of awards because it is GOOD and I LOVED it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Next week on this very day, it will be My Birthday! You may leave presents for me at the circulation desk. I like yarn.

But for now, I will give you gifts.

Splendor by Anna Godberson

Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender

Crash Into Me by Albert Borris

Everlost by Neal Shusterman (this is Book 1 of the Skinjacker Trilogy)

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink

And, last but not least...

Just Another Hero by Sharon M. Draper

You may unwrap them now.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Best Book You've Never Read, First Edition

While I was moving paperbacks around, changing shelving, I realized that some of my most-favoritest books haven't been read...recently.

I'm not going to admit how long it's been since they were first popular, because that would mean admitting exactly how much time has passed since my high school days. It really hasn't been that long, but it has been long enough that I don't want to have to count the years. I don't want to get depressed. I have a birthday coming up, and that isn't the time to wax nostalgic about how I am basically a wizened crone.

All I need are a dozen or so cats, really. Then the image would be complete.

As I thought about my birthday, I remembered an awesome book, a book which involved the end of the world. The world, I must add, was scheduled to end on my birthday. At least in this novel.

Armageddon Summer by Jane Yolen and Bruce Coville scheduled the end of the world on my birthday, July 27, 2000. Really. Well, they wrote it. Reverend Beelson is the one who said it. Teenagers Jed and Marina, brought into Reverend Beelson's cult by their fanatical parents, are forced to reassess their own beliefs as they prepare for The End of the World. Which also happens to be Marina's 14th birthday.

I loved this book when I was in high school. Not just because of the birthday thing, though that was a plus, but because Yolen and Coville created a suspenseful page-turner with DEPTH. That's really rare. It gets you thinking about philosophy, how our faith impacts our views of reality, and how love and friendship changes our lives.

On top of all that, you can pick this up, put it down, or read it all in one sitting. It's the perfect summer read!

As I become more and more decrepit, my hair thinning and turning white, liver spots randomly appearing, my voice growing raspy and frail, I will think of more great books from back in my day that you might have missed. Provided I live that long.* And that my memory holds out...

*Despite her varied complaints, whines, and false assertions, Laura remains young. Ish. Also, she is in realitively good health, aside from allergies. So no worries. In addition, she feels that her birthday would be a crummy time for the world to end, though her birth may have been some kind of portent announcing the end of all. We'll just have to wait and see.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Drowning in new books!

For some reason, a full five of our new books this time around are water-related in some way or other. I don't know why this is, unless it means that, subconsciously, I really want to go swimming.

Sea Change by Aimee Friedman...

Miranda Merchant leaves New York behind for the summer, taking a ferry to Selkie Island, a place of legend. She feels a connection to the island, its history, and to a local boy named Leo. Things head toward romance, and then it all gets paranormal. As per usual.

The Shape of Water by Anne Spollen...

Magda's mother is gone, and now she's consumed by anxiety and loneliness. Her mother always told her the world was filled with secrets the two of them shared, but instead of the strange and the beautiful, now Magda fears, madness. A school of fish begins to haunt her and her only escape is through fires she sets in the marshes near her home. Magda must unravel family secrets to find a stable place in the world.

A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler...

For this one, I'm just giving you the publisher's back cover rant, because it's better than what I could write--it's really good:

Mom knew that the mermaids--hand-carved from driftwood by the owner of a souvenir shop--were all I wanted to take home from Florida. As she bought them, she looked down at me, her eyes not just glittering but snapping with fire like two Forth of July sparklers. She ran her finger down the length of my nose, almost like you'd stroke a favorite pet, and said to the salesman, "We're just alike, me and Aura." And you know, back then, the idea of that didn't scare the absolute hell out of me.

I'll clarify: Aura's schizophrenic mother causes her to shun her creative talent, but as her mother's condition worsens, she embraces her artistic ability, her family, and finally escapes her fears.

The Keening by A. LaFaye...

In 1918, Lyza's greatest regret is that her only artistic talent is carving letters into wood, until her mother's death in the influenza epidemic. Her heartbroken father begins to prepare for the return of Liza's mother, and Liza concentrates on keeping him from being committed to a work farm even as daily funeral marches pass their Maine home. She must rely on her own talents and courage to survive.

See, the water? It's on the cover. I'm sure it's in the book too, but it wasn't on the back cover or in the little part I read...but water! On the cover! It's there.

Looking toward the future, The Carbon Diaries: 2015 by Saci Lloyd, shows us the world five years from now (eep!) when global warming will be/is tearing the world apart.

Laura (not me) turns 16 and is awarded her carbon debit card, but she's busy juggling exams, her band, and trying to catch Ravi's eye. But as natural disasters hit and her parents grow closer to divorce, life just keeps getting worse. Laura must brace for impact as the worst hurricane in history heads straight for her London home, holding on to whatever normalcy she can.

How water? Global warming means flooding, silly. And it's a wonder London is above water for poor Laura. England being an island and all.

You know, now that I'm looking back over these, I'm thinking that some of them also have something else in common...mental illness. Hmm...

Friday, July 9, 2010

New Hardcovers

Finally, I am at the end of all the new books, and I must say, it's taken a great deal of time and effort to--

I'm not fooling anyone, am I?

Without further ado, the hardcovers that didn't fit in any other category and therefore have there own post! Incidentally, these are also the books that I'm most eager to read myself, in addition to The Cardturner, For the Win and As Easy as Falling off the Face of the Earth. You can read more about those titles here.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson...

Lennie is quiet, a voracious reader, happily in the shadow of her older sister Bailey. But when Bailey dies, Lennie is suddenly the center of attention. Suddenly, she has not one boy in her life, but two. Toby, Bailey's boyfriend, who shares Lennie's grief, and Joe, the new boy in town, whose musical talent attracts Lennie. One boy helps her leave her sorrow behind, the other comforts her during it.

Needless to say, there will be some choosing involved...

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver...

Samantha Kingston's charmed life has come to an untimely end. She leaves behind her boyfriend, her terrific best friends, her popularity, and on February 12, a Friday, she dies.

But that isn't how the story ends.

Samantha gets a second chance--actually, she gets seven. She relives her final day through one week, a week to solve the mystery of her own death and to rediscover the value of everything she's about to leave behind.

Fever Crumb by Phillip Reeve...

This description is a bit complicated, all good fantasy is. But you'll have to bear with me through my convoluted summary.

Fever, adopted and raised by Dr. Crumb, is the only girl ever to have served as apprentice in the Order of Engineers. Women, in their society, are considered incapable of doing the work, believed to be unreasonable creatures. Now Fever must leave Dr. Crumb behind and work alongside Kit Solent, an archaeologist, who is attempting to gain entrance to a locked room.

See, the room used to belong to a man named Auric Godshawk, the last of the Scriven overlords. The Scriven weren't human, they used to rule the city, but were killed off in a coup. Think Revolutionary War.

As Fever tries to get the door unlocked, memories that aren't her own begin to haunt her. Kit seems very interested to learn all about them. Fever remembers nothing of her life before Dr. Crumb but what he told her: she was orphaned. But now she's beginning to question all of what she thought was true, where the memories are coming from, why strangers want her dead, and what her role is in unlocking the secrets of the past.

Original fantasy novels are few and far between, and this is one of them. I wait for these kinds of books; I love them. I'm very excited! But...I have to finish reading the two other books I've started this week before I let myself start another. One of the many trials of library life.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Free Audiobooks! FREE!

I just discovered something fantastic. I'm very excited about this, and I don't even listen to audiobooks all that much.

SYNC, an online community (it's a Ning, like the Nerdfighters community) that wants to build up a bigger audience for audiobooks, is giving us all FREE audiobooks for the rest of the summer.

On top of all that, they are books you will actually WANT to read--or listen to in this case--because they are good!

They give you two titles each week--they started on July 1, so you have only the remainder of today to get this week's selection--one YA novel and one "classic" that goes along with it. The books might have similar themes, one might be a retelling on the other, both might have horrifying monsters--you get the idea.

Without further ado, the schedule:

July 1 - July 7

The Angel Experiment by James Patterson

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

July 8 - July 14

Over the End Line by Alfred C. Martino

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

July 15 - July 21

Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

July 22 - July 28

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

July 29 - August 4

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

August 5 - August 11

Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

August 12 - August 18

Beastly by Alex Flinn
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

August 19 - August 25

Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

August 26 - September 1

Handbook for Boys by Walter Dean Myers

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

This is what you need to do!

1. You go to the SYNC website.

2. You click on the "YA Literature Listeners: Watch video and enter here" link. Or you can just click the word "here" right here.

3. Click the "Download audiobooks" link, or this one [Note: That particular link might expire when the two titles this week change, be warned. Just use the link to SYNC in that case.] It tells you some stuff about the books, like that they're in MP3 format and so forth, and that you must first download OverDrive, which takes less than five minutes and is also FREE. You'll need that program later.

4. Once you've downloaded OverDrive, on the audiobook download page (link up in #3), you will see the two book titles on your right, under the green SYNC logo. Click "Get your SYNC Link" for the book you want (you can go back and get the other later).

5. It will ask for your name and e-mail, type them in and hit "Submit"--you'll be redirected to the actual download page.

6. Click "Get your SYNC Link" again

7. Click "Download (Whatever book you choose) Now!"

8. Overdrive, the program you downloaded earlier, will pop open, ask you where you want your book stored, click "Okay" and then ask what parts of the book you want, just tell it to download them all--the default option.

9. When your book has fully downloaded, it's in OverDrive whenever you want it. You can burn it to a CD (or several) or easily transfer it to your iPod or other MP3-capable device. Like your phone. Or your Kindle. *Pulls Kindle out of bag, downloads books onto Kindle*

This whole process takes less than five minutes. Trust me.

What's awesome is that even though each title is only free for a week, the download never expires--those books are yours FOREVER. Meaning the next time your parents decide to drag you halfway across the country by car, you have something to entertain yourself with that doesn't involve hitting your siblings, fighting with your siblings, throwing things at your siblings until they finally notice, shoving things up the nose or in the ears of your sleeping get the idea. And don't pretend you are "too old" to do any of those things. I'm in my 20's and I STILL do all of those things to my younger brother and would do far worse to him if I didn't know he could now hit harder than I can, and run faster.

If you want to, you can even use the Ning community to talk about the books you're listening to, or you can talk to us on Facebook or here on the blog. Or in person, because I'm around the library every day (mostly).

So go download free books now!

And here's the link to SYNC again...just in case scrolling up to look for it sounds too much like work.

Some Short Stories, and Some Long Ones

Can I just tell you that I have a LOT of new books right now, and keeping up is hard!

Okay. I'm done.

First come the short story collections. We have two.

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci.

Featuring stories from (drumroll please): M.T. Anderson, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, John Green, Hope Harson, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Barry Lyga, Tracy Lynn, Wendy Mass, Garth Nix, Bryan Lee O'Malley, Cynthia & Greg Leitich Smith, Scott Westerfeld, Lisa Yee, and Sara Zarr! Simply put, this book is Made of Awesome.

I, of course, flipped right to the story by John Green. DFTBA.

And, if you enjoy the story by Kelly Link in Geektastic, be sure to check out this collection of short stories, which is all Kelly Link all the time: Pretty Monsters

The book contains, but is not limited to: A phone booth in Las Vegas (those are around), Aliens (who knows), Unhelpful Wizards (would you be helpful if you were a wizard?), Possibly carnivorous sofas (mine eats coins and darning needles), A handbag with a village inside it (seems that way sometimes), Tennessee Fainting Goats (exist), Dueling librarians (true story), A statue of George Washington (they make those, you know), A boy named Onion (it could happen--my grandpa's nickname was "Onions"), Pirates, An undead babysitter, A nationally ranked soccer player, Evil Cinderella, Shapeshifters, and An unexpected campfire guest.

On to the long-ish stories. Novels.

Tim Wynne-Jones' spooky and suspenseful The Uninvited ...

Mimi Shapiro flees NYU and an ill-advised relationship with one of her professors. She heads to her father's cottage in Canada only to discover that someone else is already living there, a little tidbit her father didn't mention when he told her where to find the hide-a-key. Jay, the other resident, instantly accuses Mimi of leaving strange tokens for him, snake skins, a dead bird, and so forth. Mimi, fresh off a road-trip, definitely isn't involved, so who's doing this? And what does he--or she--want?

Choppy Socky Blues by Ed Briant...

Jason Smallfield desires only one thing, to be as different from his father as he can. The complete opposite, if possible. His movie-stuntman dad lied and dumped his family like yesterday's trash. Jason even stops taking karate, his favorite thing in the world, just to avoid comparison to his father. But then he meets Tinga, a gorgeous girl about to test for her blue belt. Jason blurts out that he's about to take the same test...then has to turn to his father for help getting ready in time.

Asta in the Wings by Jan Elizabeth Watson...

Asta Hewitt and her brother Orion have been isolated from the world by their delusional mother. The two are happy, creating their own peaceful, imaginary world. When their family is suddenly drug into the strange "real" world, Asta must find a way to fit in, while still staying true to herself and her family. Asta is a lovely narrator, funny and hopeful. This is a wonderful novel.

And Then Everything Unraveled by Jennifer Sturman...

Delia is certain her mother isn't dead. But she's the only one who thinks so. So she's shipped off to New York City to live with her aunts, "one a downtown bohemian, the other an uptown ice queen." She's also stuck coping with her new school (snooty) and trying to avoid falling for the wrong guy. All the while, she's looking for her mother, finding lies and conspiracies, discovering that the wrong guy might not be so wrong after all and that some secrets might need to stay secret.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

For GUYS (and Girls, I Suppose)

Over the last month of the summer reading program, I have tried to find some of you books to read, and you do a lot of shrugging when I ask you if you like I have decided to compile A Reading Guy-de. Get it? It's "guy" and "guide" put together!

No one else is laughing.

In fact, there were some face-palms. That means you think I'm a moron.

You're right.

Here, though, are some NEW books that don't involve the beheaded torso of some girl, or pink on the cover.

The newest book from Cory Doctorow (who is made of awesome, so if you don't know him, read his stuff) For the Win.

I'm going to let the publisher describe it for you:

At any hour of the day or night, millions of people around the globe are engrossed in multiplayer online games, questing and battling to win virtual "gold," jewels, and precious artifacts. Meanwhile, others seek to exploit this vast shadow economy, running electronic sweatshops in the world's poorest countries, where countless "gold farmers," bound to their work by abusive contracts and physical threats, harvest virtual treasure for their employers to sell to First World gamers who are willing to spend real money to skip straight to higher-level gameplay.

Mala is a brilliant 15-year-old from rural India whose leadership skills in virtual combat have earned her the title of "General Robotwalla." In Shenzen, heart of China's industrial boom, Matthew is defying his former bosses to build his own successful gold-farming team. Leonard, who calls himself Wei-Dong, lives in Southern California, but spends his nights fighting virtual battles alongside his buddies in Asia, a world away. All of these young people, and more, will become entangled with the mysterious young woman called Big Sister Nor, who will use her experience, her knowledge of history, and her connections with real-world organizers to build them into a movement that can challenge the status quo.

That would be the blurb from the dust jacket of the first edition, brought to us all by Tor (and now I won't get sued).

And although I love the U.S. cover, I have to say, the U.K. one is legendary, as it reminds me of an old Soviet-era propaganda poster.

From the author of Holes (Remember Holes? If you don't, go read that too), Louis Sachar, we have The Cardturner.

Alton's summer is looking bleak. Here is why: 1. His girlfriend dumped him 2. She did so in order to date his bast friend 3. He is penniless 4. He is jobless 5. His parents have forced him to drive his great-uncle Lester to bridge club four times a week and 6. He must be Lester's cardturner because 7. Lester is blind 8. Lester is old 9. Lester is sick and 10. Lester is RICH.

As Easy as Falling off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins has eye catching illustrations to go along with poor Ry's many near-death experiences. They look like something out of The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook, which is a much-referenced part of my home library (I love the travel one too--it teaches you how to ask for towels to stop the bleeding in, like, five languages. You can't beat that.).

See, Ry was headed to archaeology camp, but before he could get there, it was cancelled, but when he tried to call home, his train left while he stood dumbstruck on the platform and now he has no food and no anything else and his parents are off in the Caribbean and his grandfather is concussed not to mention missing and Ry has to get home using only his wits and the lint from his pockets.

A personal favorite of mine is the utterly original Fade to Blue by Sean Beaudoin.

Part thriller, part dark comedy, part philosophical debate, Fade to Blue follows Sophie Blue, Goth-Girl Supreme, who is currently being stalked by a Popsicle-Truck-Driving Robot/Man who may or may not be her father, who vanished/spontaneously combusted/got abducted by aliens a year ago and Kenny Fade, the Basketball God with the gorgeous cheerleader girlfriend and the perfect life. What do they have in common? They're both pretty certain they're losing their minds.

This novel starts out, well...novel, then breaks into a graphic novel portion, then snaps back to prose without skipping a beat. And the ending--I'll just let you figure that out for yourself.

Wereling by Steve Feasey, for those of you who aren't sick of the whole werewolf thing (I am).

Trey wakes up one morning in "retina-splitting, vomit-inducing agony" with his clothes shredded and his room trashed. Now he's being hunted by every demon out there and by the "most psychopathic bloodsucker to rock the Netherworld." All because he can take on a vampire and win. Maybe.

And remember this one from earlier today?

And there's always this one, a generation ship "waking up" and destroying the people on board...

Living Hell by Catherine Jinks.

And the prison Incarceron (by Catherine Fisher), filled with prisoners who've lived inside its ever-changing walls there whole lives, until Finn decides to escape, that is.

And Maze Runner, a giant experiment filled with boys with no memories, except Thomas, who knows more about the Glade than he wants to remember.

For those of you who enjoy literary fiction (books that make you think, the ones that have Symbols and Whatnot), take a look at these:

Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan

And Going Bovine by Libba Bray.

That's enough to get you started, right?