Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Books, Books, Books


Ever dream of other worlds? Yeah, me too. Ever since Lucy stepped through that wardrobe, I’ve thought about them. (let me just say, that’s been close to 30 years now) Recently, my son and I finished 100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson. The story begins with young Henry York traveling to Kansas, to a little town also called Henry, to stay with relatives because his parents have gone missing.

Henry’s parents are very overprotective….car seats, helmets, the whole nine yards and then some. Some of the situations have led Henry into some awkward and embarrassing situations at boarding school. More than anything, Henry is hoping to learn to play baseball.

Henry’s Aunt Dottie and Uncle Frank have three daughters (Penny, Henrietta, and Anastasia), a farm, and a mysterious locked room that was formerly occupied by Grandpa. The bedroom has been locked since he passed away some time ago, so why does Henry see (or think he sees) someone come out, go to the restroom, and back in the middle of the night?

Things are going along fine. Henry is given a tiny room in the attic. He gets along well with his cousins, Aunt Dottie, and especially Uncle Frank. He even gets to play baseball with some local boys. Then one night, the plaster mysteriously cracks in the wall of Henry’s bedroom and he discovers two knobs sticking out. After chipping away the plaster over most of the wall, he discovers 99 cupboard doors of varying size and shape, and made of different materials. Henry doesn’t know it yet, but each cupboard leads to a different place, some nice, others not so nice. He and his cousins will learn much about their family. Interesting things. Things that Henry’s parents, Uncle Frank and Aunt Dottie haven’t told them. One is that Henry’s parents aren’t his parents. This doesn’t come as too big of a surprise to Henry, but where did he come from? Is he from our world, or one of these mysterious other worlds?

Figuring out how the cupboards work, how to get into Grandpa’s room, and what to make of the clues found there are just a part of the adventures in this story. At the end we are left with almost as many unanswered questions as we are with answers. Good thing this is the first book in a series. Don’t you think?

In writing this post, I looked up the author's website, which I have linked through the above picture. I just have to say, that I enjoyed his "unprofessional bio" very much, and think you would too. Also, because of the image at the top of that page, I must continue reading this series. I have to now. (not that I wasn't planning to anyway) That little guy is too cute, and I want to know more about him.

Our next book that we are reading together is called Standard Hero Behavior, by John David Anderson. This book caught my eye as something we would enjoy, and upon reading the inside flap, I was sure. I laughed several times just reading the flap. A good sign. I’ll let you know when we finish this one.

I hope very much that everyone has had a wonderful Thanksgiving (to all here in the U.S. that is). Things have been pretty busy, and we are starting big time into our new Outreach project at work. Never a dull moment, I can tell you that! Time to write, that is the precious commodity. And sleep. Oh, and sanity......nah, forget that one. ; )

I am thinking about my next posting covering some excellent picture books that I have read lately. (several by Neil Gaiman......what can I say? He's kind of brilliant!)

Friday, November 19, 2010

At Last Pt. 2

Ah, now where was I? Conference is over, time to get back to business as usual…until next week and Thanksgiving that is. OK…

The second book in the Touchstone Trilogy, Celandine, takes us into the past. We learn more about the circumstances that have led to the five tribes living in the wood atop Howard’s Hill. We learn about Celandine, and others in Midge’s family. Glimpse subtle, but intriguing instances that make you wonder....enough that I had to go back and re-read scenes in the first book to see if there were clues.

It is a wonderful story of a girl who must go off to boarding school for the first time, dealing with bullies, misunderstandings within her family, a beloved brother who has gone off to war, and haunting memories of little people living in the mysterious wood near her home among whom she has dear friends with whom she would rather live.

It is also the story of Una, a young Ickri, daughter of the leader, who must convince her people to journey far to reunite the Touchstone with the mysterious Orbis. That together these two objects form a device that will allow them to return to the far-off home from whence they came. Hers is a story of heartache, treachery, intrigue, and much mystery.

[That just reminds me that I didn’t get into any of the stories within the Various, only the human element. I didn’t tell you about Little Marten, or Henty, or the cats. The old, and cracked Queen, her advisers, and especially the really interesting Maven the Green (she’s a mysterious one)….not even the Touchstone....none of that…..Guess you’ll just have to read it, huh?]

The third and final book of the trilogy is called Winter Wood.

We find ourselves back in the present day, with Midge beginning to put more pieces of the puzzle of her Great Aunt Celandine’s story together.

We have assumed that Great Aunt Celandine is dead, but maybe not?

We also assumed that Scurl is gone….maybe we shouldn’t make assumptions.

It is winter, and though the wood is now safe from being sold, there are still shortages and strife between the tribes. The leadership of the tribes is in question. Pegs has some really surprising revelations to share. We learn more about the fate of Una. Will Henty and Little Marten be allowed to be together?

This is my favorite book of the three. I cannot begin to tell you how much I loved this book. Not only is it very well written, they all are, but the story has twists and surprises that keep you hooked until the very last page (and then some). I wanted it to go on, but was also very pleased with the ending. I would love to hear your thoughts. Has anyone out there read them? If not, read them! : ) You can also read them in German, and soon, French.....if you want. At least the first one, not sure if they've done all three. (I know, where is the research? I'm slacking.)

This link will take you to Steve Augarde's Amazon page....the U.S. one. This is his blog, which is fun and interesting, and not all about books.



Friday, November 12, 2010

Oh, Yeah....

I HAVE to share this link.....I hope it works. Neil Gaiman did an episode of Arthur. Such a cool one too! I hope you enjoy!

I will be back as soon as I can with Pt. 2 of my previous post. I have a conference half of next week, so not sure when I'll be getting it written and up. Please bear with me. Hey, after having gone so long, at least I got Pt. 1 done. Right? : )

Until then: "Neil Gaiman, what are you doing in my falafel?" Watch it!

Then you can thank me.

At Last: Pt. 1

The Touchstone Trilogy, by Steve Augarde is a brilliant series of what I am dubbing “not-quite-fantasy”. The Various, introduces us to Midge, a young girl who’s concert violinist mother sends her to stay at the family farm with her uncle and cousins. On the property is an impenetrable wood at the top of a hill. In this wood, unbeknownst to the humans, live five tribes of little people, collectively known as “the various”.

The Various have an interesting system of society, but are troubled by food shortages, prejudice, and the constant possibility of discovery by the giants known as Gorji (humans). The Ickri are the ruling class and hunters. The only ones with wings, which are used for gliding rather than flight. Tinklers and Troggles are cave dwellers who are very looked down upon and considered strange. (Tinklers being called such for the sound made when working metal.) Naiads are the farmers. Wisps the fishermen and most often glimpsed by humans, being the only ones to leave the safety of the wood.

Needless to say, Midge discovers this world of little people inadvertently when she discovers an injured winged horse called Pegs (mysterious and rare even among the Various) in one of the abandoned barns on the farm.

When Midge’s Uncle Brian considers selling off the wood to a developer, Midge has to find a way to save the woods’ inhabitants, while safeguarding the secret of their existence. She is taken into the wood by Pegs, and finds his people much different than the popular vision of fairies. Taller than one might think, roughly two feet in height, they are shabby and ragged, some are even dirty and hairy. They are a rugged lot, eking out an existence under less than desirable circumstances. She also has to defend herself from those among the warrior clan, led by the creepy and vicious Scurl, who believe that no Gorji can be trusted, and she should therefore die before she tells others about them.

Midge also discovers things about her Great Aunt Celandine, who is veiled in almost as much mystery as the Various themselves…..according to family legend, she was a bit off….claimed to have seen fairies, of all things. Did Midge’s Great Aunt know about the Various? Midge learns that she is not the first “Gorji maiden” to find out about the Various, and there are those who believe that she is the mysterious Celandine returned…..some believe that the story of Celandine is just that, a story. But then, how does that explain the tiny cup that mysteriously appears inscribed to Celandine?

Ok, this is making me want to completely re-read the series…..


The Touchstone trilogy is without doubt one of the most original stories….I cannot begin to say enough good about them. It is strange, as much as I usually go for the magical, fantastical, and un-ordinary, this series is strangely ordinary. It is a completely feasible (not that I think that the more magical things are less feasible) story set in extremely realistic settings in the UK. I would completely be unsurprised if Steve Augarde admitted that he didn’t come up with it, but in fact was only telling the tale of something that happened on his own land, or that of a close friend. Really. Call me gullible, but it is just that believable. I used to try and try to get to Narnia….even though I knew that A.) that world was ended already (I read The Last Battle) and B.) no one ever got to Narnia by trying. I have a great imagination, and am completely open to the possibility of a magical world hiding within our own. But the Various aren’t really magical…..mysterious, yes. Maybe even Mystical. Totally and completely just another race of being that the human world has not “discovered”.

This is the "new and improved" US cover art. I don't like it as well as the "real" cover art. I am sure that it would attract younger readers.


To be continued....

Monday, September 13, 2010

Guess What....I Read A Book!




I know, it is a surprise. : )

Just finished reading Insatiable, by Meg Cabot.

I’m going to admit something here….this is the first Meg Cabot book I have ever read. If you have read my blog at all, you probably know that a lot of what I read has fantastical elements, and usually considered “for kids” or teens….I was (until recently) unaware that Ms. Cabot was not only very funny, but also a pretty versatile author. I knew the Princess Diaries from the movies, and my daughter had read some of her books. It wasn’t that I was not interested, but just had such a long TBR (to be read) list that no matter how many great things I read or heard about MegCabot, her books were really not on my radar. Welllll….then a funny thing happened. I started reading her blog, following her on Facebook, much like I do with several other authors. I like to keep up on what is what in the world of fiction, particularly YA and younger. It is what I do. I read lots of author blogs, and book review blogs and such things. I’m rambling, aren’t I? Ok, so Insatiable has things that piqued my interest….I dig vampires but I had decided a while back that I would read no vampire book not written by Anne Rice….and Bram Stoker…..and maybe Charlaine Harris. *sigh* Haven’t I learned by now not to make rules for myself in regards to what I will and will not read? I usually end up breaking these rules anyway.

My husband asked me not long ago how long it had been since I read an “adult” book. After resisting the urge to punch him, I scoffed at “labels” and said “why can’t we just read a good story for the sake of reading a good story?” Promptly followed by finally getting my hands on Insatiable, which is not a YA or younger book, but most definitely a book written for adults.

I got sidetracked….back to reading/following Ms. Cabot on the net. In doing so, I learned at least three things. 1. Meg Cabot is a funny lady! She cracks me up! 2. She has written about the paranormal before this. 3. She grew up reading some of the same books I did. (which I mentioned in a previous post)…and Harry Potter. : )

I saw some of the book trailers, like the one above (I love book trailers) for Insatiable, and decided to read it…after I stopped laughing.

Here is another one.

I requested that our library buy it, and even went so far as to ask, nicely, if I could be the first to check it out. It was purchased, prepped, cataloged and viola, I just finished reading it.

I am going to sidetrack myself again. I have read and heard “it was so good I read it all in one sitting/night” so many times about many different books. This is what I have to say about that kind of reading. 1. that is great! If I were young, single, not a parent, no job, fewer responsibilities, or a vampire I would probably do that too. Maybe. 2. I like to enjoy a good book like a good meal. Savoring it. Re-reading bits if necessary. Ever eat something so fast you wonder where it went? Can’t really believe you ate so fast, and don’t really remember eating it at all? This is how someone I know reads. She reads so fast that she really doesn’t even remember why she liked it, just that she did. But enough about her, back to me. More importantly, back to Insatiable.

Meena is a dialog writer for a popular, long running soap opera entitled Insatiable. She is currently single, and sharing her apartment with her brother, who is also currently single but also unemployed, and her dog Jack Bauer.

Ok. The dog is one of my favorite characters in the book. Who wouldn’t want a little dog who reminds you of Keifer Sutherland in 24,

complete with angst-y facial expressions? Meena has the ability to foresee when and how someone is going to die, this has not exactly been an easy ‘gift’ to live with and has cost her at least one relationship. Meena is also NOT a vampire fan. She is sick of the hype in popular media about vampires and their penchant for young attractive women. In one day Meena is passed over for a promotion, learns that she must write a vampire into the show, and is rescued from a ‘bat’ attack by a handsome stranger. Ok, technically that spills into the wee hours of the next morning. Don’t be so picky. Things go from bad to worse when Meena learns that not only does she have to live with vampires on her beloved soap opera, but that they are, in fact real. And she has fallen in love with one, and not just any vampire. Their Prince, also known as the son of this guy.....you may have heard of him.

Well, this guy really....

Plus, there is this vampire hunter……So now we have a fun heroine and her brother (Meena and Jonathan Harper……an homage to Bram Stoker?), attractive European men, excitement, treachery, romance (sexy times)….this is a fun, witty, well rounded story. OH, and Jack Bauer. The dog.

I really enjoyed that the ending (nope, no spoilers….well, not really) is not all neat and tidy. We are left with a sense of “hmm…I wonder if down the road _____ happens?” I like endings like this. They open up the imagination to the possibilities. (That speed reader person I mentioned earlier…..hates that stuff. She wants to be told what happens. Can you see me roll my eyes?)

Next? Who knows. Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White, and Kenny and the Dragon, by Tony DiTerlizzi are on my desk. Reckless, by Cornelia Funke comes out tomorrow! I am looking forward to that. I also still have some "retro-reviewing" I want to do. Books I love that I haven’t yet had opportunity to mention.

I would like to thank Mr. Goran Visnjic for standing in for the hot European men. *Sigh* He's dreamy...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Conferences.......I Like Them

HI!! So, I have recently returned from the annual conference of the "Children & Young Peoples' Division of the Indiana Library Federation"....or CYPD 2010. Now, I know some people dread conferences, but I like them. I always have a good time, and glean plenty of information and ideas to make it worth my while. Plus, my library pays for it, I get to "escape" from the everyday for a little while, and hey, who doesn't like a night in a hotel? (Unless you travel constantly, which I have heard people complain about.....I can't relate....) There are always workshops/sessions with interesting topics, authors, and sometimes an illustrator even. Fun and interesting stuff....for me and others like me all around the state.

This year, the event was held at the Indianapolis Marriott North. I cannot say enough about this hotel. This was my 5th CYPD conference, and by far the swankiest hotel. The bed was heavenly! OH! Don't get me started on that king sized, fluffy, cloud-marshmallow of a bed.......let me wipe away a little tear for the bed-of-my-life that I was forced to leave behind. With much sadness and reluctance did I leave this bed. Did I mention that it was really comfortable? And the food......pretty yummy, and multiple desserts.....oh yeah....

Where was I? OH. Sorry. I drifted away.

Sunday, after the brief welcome, there was a talk given by Fredrick McKissack Jr. on the subject of Profanity in YA Literature. I found Mr. McKissack to be very articulate and entertaining. His book Shooting Star has apparently already been challenged in relation to this very subject. To sum up what most of us already know, he was writing about boys. Teenage boys, especially on a football (or other sport) team, away from "grown ups".....well, they use profanity. Often profusely. In fact, one young reader commented to his parents that he thought Mr. McKissack actually toned things down. I believe that what he said about finding the voice of your character and being true to that is very important. That is how teenagers talk, especially among their peers. I don't see the need to sugar coat the language of teens in books meant for teens. It just doesn't make sense. Teens only sugar coat their language (mostly) when talking to parents, teachers, pastors, and such.

That evening, after attending sessions on Anime/Manga clubs and Guys Read...and a delicious dinner, we heard from author Jack Gantos. This was painful a couple of times as only a rich belly-laugh on a full stomach can be. This guy is funny! Mr. Gantos is also full of interesting stories, as any good author should be. I have decided to read more of his work. I'll keep you posted, of course. I bought my son one of the Jack Henry books to have signed. (another first, I have previously not stood in line for author signings at these things)

The next morning, after a very pleasant night's sleep in a really good bed (did I already mention that?), the general session was on Gaming at the Library with Beth Gallaway. She discussed many types of games, and program options. Later, I attended a session on using art in children's programs. This was fun, nothing revolutionary, but good ideas. Also, she brought up some excellent points on not squashing a kid's creativity.

Our lunch speaker was author April Pulley Sayre. I had seen her a few years ago, but she is very fun, and writes non-fiction.....two things that don't always go together. Her books are very entertaining though. Yesterday at a program I read Bird, Bird, Bird, and it was a hit! I also had her sign a couple of books for the library. I really enjoy meeting authors....especially the fun, friendly type. I am a bit sorry that I didn't have Mr. McKissack's book to get signed. I did request that we get it for our YA section though.

That leads me to another reason that it has taken me all week to get this post done. Blog reading. Yes, it is great, and I get a lot of great book ideas to request that we get, but it does take time. I'm keeping current with YA and children's books though, so it is sort of work.....I know, I know, I need balance. I also need to clean my office. Soon. And my house....don't get me started. I am going to be a fabulous procrastinator someday.

Back to the conference. I also attended a session on making book trailers. Super fun, I think I may have to try it sometime. If you aren't familiar with book trailers, here is a link to one. Oooh, and this one too!

And I'll leave you with those. Hope everyone is having a wonderful end-of-summer. Also, hope to post again soon......I have Books.....multiple books that I still want to tell you about! : )

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Again? Already?

As you may have noticed, I started blogging on Monday after a long intermission filled with much non-blogging activity. Then, another new post yesterday....ok, that was Stephanie Perkins' fault...mostly. Now, another new post. Three days in a row? What is up? Apparently something is up. Last night I even picked up the ol' story and started working on it after a couple of months. (Lisa, you'll be happy, I know!) Who knows, at this rate, I may actually finish the thing someday! Wouldn't that be something?

The topic of the day seems to have been censorship. Here's some links to things I've been reading, which could be a big ol' rabbit hole that might take hours to drag yourself out of. You have been warned. This all started with a trip to BookMoot, which is one of my favorite book blogs. Which then led me to Pete Hautman's blog. Later, I clicked a link on FaceBook that led me to Ellen Hopkin's live journal. In a nutshell, here's what happened. A school system in Texas was planning a "Teen Lit Fest". As one of several authors invited they chose Ellen Hopkins, author of such books as Crank, Burned, and others. Later, after she had accepted, she was un-invited. (You'll have to read the linked blogs if you want more details than that.) Rude. Censorship? Apparently that is debatable. I personally think that if you un-invite someone because a couple of people complained that her books might be unsuitable for some of the kids that will be attending.....kind of sounds censor-y to me. I like the idea of making a panel to discuss the issue a part of the "Teen Lit Fest" instead of attempting to sweep it under a rug. Teens are pretty savvy, they have also heard and seen a lot in this day and age and deserve a chance to make up their own minds. I know that at "our" library Ms. Hopkin's books are very popular. I personally haven't read them, but maybe I should. Also, anyone who thinks to advise others on the potential dangers of a particular book must first read the book in question and form their own opinions. Not solely rely on the word of others.....even if you trust and admire the person who is telling you. They may not have actually read it either.

Ok, that was closer to a rant....but it was about books!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Fun New Thing

So, Stephanie Perkins, whom I love to blog stalk....that isn't creepy, right?....has her first book Anna and the French Kiss coming out later this year!! Yay for new authors!! Stephanie's blog is such fun to read, that I am sure her book will be wonderful! In fact, she is having a give-away right now for her last Advance Reading Copy!! Not that that is the only reason I am blogging about her book, but.....sure, I'd take a look at it if she sent me one. (and be pretty excited to do so!!!) There is a neat-o countdown thingy off to the side.....see it? It is my Fun New Thing. Cute, huh?

I am liking the new look of my blog.....are you? I sure hope so!

Monday, August 16, 2010

New Look

Hi! It is "Back to School" time here, and I'm feeling a little old with my son starting 5th grade, my nephew starting middle school, my niece starting high school, and my daughter starting college! But, that is what kids do, they keep growing and changing and getting older. Guess we all do, and hopefully we keep learning.....and reading great books.

Recently, I finished Dragon Flight, by Jessica Day George. This is the sequel to Dragon Slippers. There is a third book called Dragon Spear, which I have yet to read, but hope to do so soon. I love stories about dragons, that is no secret. Dragons who have not only intelligence and wisdom, but a sense of humor, and real personality are the best. Ms. George does a fantastic job of creating a fascinating story of humans and dragons existing together, or trying to. The main human character, Creel, is an interesting young lady who is independent, determined, and a very talented seamstress. I don't know that I've ever read anything that so successfully tied together embroidery and dress-making with dragons and impending wars. You have to read them in order to understand, I guess. (I don't want to tell you the whole story.) The issue of prejudice between the humans and dragons as presented here is very interesting as well, and can easily translate into real-life situations.....without seeming like it is a lesson at all.....who wants to be taught a lesson while reading a great story? But, we are influenced by what we read.....so in that way everything we read contains a lesson, I suppose.....

Maybe I'm rusty.....did any of that make any kind of sense? I hope so. If not, don't give up on my yet. I'm trying to get back into the swing of things.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ahh...Summer!

Well, as anyone who has worked in the Youth department of a library will tell you, summer is a very busy time for us! Busybusybusybusy. That is not to say that it can't be fun.....just, well, busy. I am hoping to get back to some semblance of order, but I'm afraid that blogging has taken the farthest back burner. I am reading....mostly to children and not as much for myself, but I am always reading. Currently, at our Tuesday afternoon "all ages storytime" I am reading Odd and the Frost Giants, by Neil Gaiman. I like to read something that will take us a couple of weeks, but not much more than that to get through. It is about testing their attention spans and reading stuff I don't normally get to read. Yes, I could get through several "picture books" in that time, but I wanted this particular Storytime to be different. I like to change things up like that, it is how I roll.

So, Odd and the Frost Giants. This is the story of a boy called Odd, which means "tip of a spear". His father dies at sea during a Viking expedition, after saving the life of a pony, changing Odd's life dramatically. Odd injures his leg, his mother re-marries, and through a series of remarkable events he ends up in Asgard (home of the Norse gods) trying to help a trio of gods regain their home. Gaiman once again shows his expertise in storytelling with this tale of an unlikely hero up against seemingly impossible circumstances. Odd is a wonderful character, his quirky personality, which often got him hit by his step-father Fat Elfred, is very endearing. I really enjoyed the story when first I read it, and then handed it to my son to read, as he likes reading Norse myths and legends. It seemed like a great story to start off our Summer Reading 'all ages' group. I think they have very much enjoyed this story, and I am looking forward to starting a new one on Tuesday. What shall it be this time? I have some ideas...

While Summer Reading is taking up so much of my time, we also just went "live" with our library's digital collection, powered by Overdrive. We now offer downloadable audio books and e-books. I am very excited that our library is catching up a bit technologically speaking. The first audio book I downloaded? Odd and the Frost Giants read by the author, of course.

I will try to keep updating over the summer, and I promise to read something for myself again soon, and also to tell you about it. : ) Hope all are having a wonderful summer! Hug your family often, and tell them you love them!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June

With Memorial Weekend, and my birthday behind us now, this is the time of year when I think....crap, it is June already! What have I accomplished this year so far? Not as much as I had hoped, that is for sure! I comfort myself with the notion that many people are in the same boat I am in, however, it is not an extremely comforting thought. I did start this blog, that is something I toyed with in the past, and finally got around to....I suppose that is something, right?

I have started reading three different books.....but as I am not sure I will finish them all, or even two of them, I shall reserve talking about them for now. One that we own, and I have been meaning to read, I finally picked up because I recently watched the film version. This is Lakota Woman, by Mary Crow Dog. The film version stars Irene Bedard, and was a pretty well done film, I thought. Admittedly, I have only read small sections of the book, until the other day, when I decided to start from the beginning and read the entire thing. What a concept, I know.

I have some awesome picture books that I recently shared with kids, and so were brought to mind again. The first is a picture book by the wonderful Neil Gaiman called The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish. The copy we have here at the library has a cd so you can listen to Neil read you the story, which is fun. In this story, the boy swaps his dad, who mostly just sits reading his newspaper, for two goldfish (as the title would imply). The fun starts when his mother comes home from shopping and makes him swap back. He finds that he has to travel all over town swapping back many items from an electric guitar, a gorilla mask (a "really good gorilla mask"), to a pet rabbit called Galveston. The relationship portrayed between the boy and his little sister is perfect. My favorite, "when are you going to put the mask on?" after she has put on the gorilla mask. Anyone who has siblings will appreciate this book, as well as anyone with a sense of humor. Very funny, and well told story. The illustrations, by Dave McKean are quite fun also. I love the indignation of the mother, the indifference of the father, and the fact that no one complains when they have to swap their things back, they just do. This must happen with swaps quite often. I'm not sure I ever really swapped anything......hmm...maybe I missed out there....