Thursday, January 5, 2012

2011 YA Reading Challenge...Sigh.

Once upon a time, I decided to jump into blogging. And it fizzled. Quickly.

I'd planned to review all the lovely YA books I was reading - along with others - helping to keep track and to give me a wonderful sense of accomplishment. HAH! I fool myself this way quite often, it seems! :) 

However, as with many in January, I'm hoping to ease my way back into things, and so I'm starting the new year by looking back at how I did with the 2011 YA Reading Challenge. 

Knowing me, I probably intended to go all out and read 50+ YA books this past year. Nope, didn't happen. I was, however, only one shy of the next level: I read 39 YA books in 2011, which is two more than in 2010!

Of those 39, I gave six titles five out of five stars. My fav teen books this year were:

  • My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger.  Completely charming, funny and sweet, this was the second time I'd read this coming-of-age story. This year I read it for my library book club and was a teeny bit heartbroken that they didn't love it like I do. : (
  • Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John.  A snarky, deaf senior offers to manage a her classmates' rock band, and they all learn a bit about music, jerks and falling in love. This. Was. AWESOME.
  • Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 1 by Kiiro Yumi.  I completely adored this story of a young woman, inspired to protect the rights of readers to free information by a handsome young soldier. Librarians, armed and dangerous? Sold!!!
  • Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry.  I love Maberry's adult Joe Ledger series, so when I heard he was writing a teen book about zombies, well I had no doubts I'd love it. And I did. Intense, scary and dark, just as an apocalyptic story involving zombies should be.
  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. This is one of those books I'd heard people gushing about, but as I tend to read a lot of zombie/supernatural/bad-ass-chicks books, a sweet contemporary teen romance simply wasn't high on my list. I was stupid. Now I recommend this one to people all the time. READ IT.
  • Ashes by Ilsa Bick. Yes, it has zombie-like people in it. Yes, there's a bit of an apocalypse. Yes, you should absolutely read it because Bick brings an intensity to this story that had me biting my nails, worrying that Alex, a seventeen-year-old dying from her brain tumor, might not survive, or that Tom might die, or that the little girl...I'm not sure I can wait for the sequel!!
What were your favorites?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Top 100 YA Books - what have you read?

Why post this? Because all the other kids are, of course! 

The titles I've read are in pink...

1.Alex Finn – Beastly
2.Alice Sebold – The Lovely Bones
3.Ally Carter – Gallagher Girls (1, 2, 3, 4)
4.Ally Condie – Matched
5.Alyson Noel – The Immortals (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
6.Anastasia Hopcus – Shadow Hills
7.Angie Sage – Septimus Heap (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
8.Ann Brashares – The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (1, 2, 3, 4)
9.Anna Godbersen – Luxe (1, 2, 3, 4)
10.Anthony Horowitz – Alex Rider (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
11.Aprilynne Pike – Wings (1, 2, 3)
12.Becca Fitzpatrick – Hush, Hush (1, 2)
13.Brandon Mull – Fablehaven (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
14.Brian Selznick – The Invention of Hugo Cabret
15.Cassandra Clare – The Mortal Instruments (1, 2, 3, 4)
16.Carrie Jones – Need (1, 2, 3)
17.Carrie Ryan – The Forest of Hands and Teeth (1, 2, 3, 4)
18.Christopher Paolini – Inheritance (1, 2, 3, 4)
19.Cinda Williams Chima – The Heir Chronicles (1, 2, 3)
20.Colleen Houck – Tigers Saga (1, 2)
21.Cornelia Funke – Inkheart (1, 2, 3)
22.Ellen Hopkins – Impulse  (well, I'm working on it's a rough read)
23.Eoin Colfer – Artemis Fowl (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
24.Faraaz Kazi – Truly, Madly, Deeply
25.Frank Beddor – The Looking Glass Wars (1, 2, 3)
26.Gabrielle Zevin – Elsewhere
27.Gail Carson Levine – Fairest
28.Holly Black – Tithe (1, 2, 3)
29.J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
30.James Dashner – The Maze Runner (1, 2)
31.James Patterson – Maximum Ride (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
32.Jay Asher – Thirteen Reasons Why
33.Jeanne DuPrau – Books of Ember (1, 2, 3, 4)
34.Jeff Kinney – Diary of a Wimpy Kid (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
35.John Boyne – The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
36.John Green – An Abundance of Katherines
37.John Green – Looking for Alaska
38.John Green – Paper Towns
39.Jonathan Stroud – Bartimaeus (1, 2, 3, 4)
40.Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl – Caster Chronicles (1, 2)
41.Kelley Armstrong – Darkest Powers (1, 2, 3)
42.Kristin Cashore – The Seven Kingdoms (1, 2)
43.Lauren Kate – Fallen (1, 2, 3)
44.Lemony Snicket – Series of Unfortunate Events (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)
45.Libba Bray – Gemma Doyle (1, 2, 3)
46.Lisa McMann – Dream Catcher (1, 2, 3)
47.Louise Rennison – Confessions of Georgia Nicolson (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
48.M.T. Anderson – Feed
49.Maggie Stiefvater – The Wolves of Mercy Falls (1, 2, 3)
50.Margaret Peterson Haddix – Shadow Children (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
51.Maria V. Snyder – Study (1, 2, 3)
52.Markus Zusak – The Book Thief
53.Markus Zusak – I am the Messenger
54.Mark Haddon – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
55.Mary Ting – Crossroads
56.Maureen Johnson – Little Blue Envelope (1, 2)
57.Meg Cabot – All-American Girl (1, 2)
58.Meg Cabot – The Mediator (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
59.Meg Cabot – The Princess Diaries (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
60.Meg Rosoff – How I live now
61.Megan McCafferty – Jessica Darling (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
62.Megan Whalen Turner – The Queen’s Thief (1, 2, 3, 4)
63.Melina Marchetta – On the Jellicoe Road
64.Melissa de la Cruz – Blue Bloods (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
65.Melissa Marr – Wicked Lovely (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
66.Michael Grant – Gone (1, 2, 3, 4)
67.Nancy Farmer – The House of the Scorpion
68.Neal Shusterman – Unwind
69.Neil Gaiman – Coraline
70.Neil Gaiman – Stardust
71.Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book
72.P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast – House of Night (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
73.Philip Pullman – His Dark Materials (1, 2, 3)
74.Rachel Caine – The Morganville Vampires (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
75.Rachel Cohn & David Levithan – Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist
76.Richelle Mead – Vampire Academy (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
77.Rick Riordan – Percy Jackson and the Olympians (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
78.Rom LcO’Feer – Somewhere carnal over 40 winks
79.S.L. Naeole – Grace (1, 2, 3, 4)
80.Sabrina Bryan & Julia DeVillers – Princess of Gossip
81.Sarah Dessen – Along for the Ride
82.Sarah Dessen – Lock and Key
83.Sarah Dessen – The Truth about Forever
84.Sara Shepard – Pretty Little Liars (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
85.Scott Westerfeld – Leviathan (1, 2)
86.Scott Westerfeld – Uglies (1, 2, 3)
87.Shannon Hale – Books of a Thousand Days
88.Shannon Hale – Princess Academy
89.Shannon Hale – The Books of Bayern (1, 2, 3, 4)
90.Sherman Alexie & Ellen Forney – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
91.Simone Elkeles – Perfect Chemistry (1, 2, 3)
92.Stephanie Meyer – The Host
93.Stephanie Meyer – Twilight Saga (1, 2, 3, 4)
94.Sue Monk Kidd – The Secret Life of Bees
95.Susan Beth Pfeffer – Last Survivors (1, 2, 3)
96.Suzanne Collins – Hunger Games (1, 2, 3)
97.Suzanne Collins – Underland Chronicles (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
98.Terry Pratchett – Tiffany Aching (1, 2, 3, 4)
99.Tonya Hurley – Ghost Girl (1, 2, 3)
100.Wendelin Van Draanen – Flipped

50/100, for 71 total - not terrible, but this teen librarian can do better (though I definitely do not agree that this is a 'Top YA' list, as there are more than a few 5th/6th grade level books here, as well as some...less than stellar titles). However, it's interesting to discover how many series I started but didn't finish. I've decided that it's a good thing, for recommendation purposes! Knowing a little about a lot is a librarian's bag, baby!

How did you do?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Oldie but Goodie...Book Recommendation!

My neighborhood is several miles away from an air force base, and in the past, residents of closer neighborhoods have complained about the amount of jet noise. Driving home this morning, I saw a bumper sticker clearly responding to those complaints that read, "Jet Noise: the Sound of Freedom." While I understand the sentiment, my immediate response was, "Depends on whose jet it is!"

This reminded me of one of my favorite YA books of all time: John Marsden's Tomorrow, When the War Began. In it, a group of Australian teens are on a two-week camping trip when one of them hears jets flying overhead in the night. Dismissing it as a dream, she forgets about it until they return from to discover the town deserted, their families in internment camps and the country invaded. The teens must decide: do they turn themselves in and join their families, return to their campsite and hide out, or stay and fight back?  Tomorrow, When the War Began starts the awesomely intense seven-book Tomorrow series (plus a companion series, The Ellie Chronicles), and is a great read - especially if you've finished The Hunger Games and need something to tide you over while you wait for the movie!

(Tomorrow has been made into an Australian movie - trailer below - but I've not seen it...)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Book Review: Love & War 1 (Library Wars) by Kiiro Yumi

What's it about? manga; libraries; censorship; military training; crushes

Summary? In the near future, the federal government creates a committee to rid society of books it deems unsuitable. The libraries vow to protect their collections, and with the help of local governments, form a military group to defend themselves---the Library Forces! Iku Kasahara has dreamed of joining the Library Defense Force ever since one of its soldiers stepped in to protect her favorite book from being confiscated in a bookstore when she was younger. But now that she's finally a recruit, she's finding her dream job to be a bit of a nightmare.

Why did I read it/Where did I get it? That pesky (*grin*) coworker recommended it, as it's militant librarians protecting books from militant censors. As I'm a librarian and there's a bit of love crushin' going on in the story as well...clearly, I was meant to read this. (Checked out from Glendale Public Library)

What I thought...
First off, I ended up adoring this book - I immediately put volumes 2-5 on hold, and am very annoyed that they have not magically appeared on my desk instantaneously. I can't believe other library users dare to have known about this delightful series before me. I feel cheated. ; )

That said, I wasn't crazy about this at first. I was a bit confused, and not just because I had to read this from right to left, as traditional Japanese comics are read. While I have had a bit of experience with this, it's not exactly easy for me. The other reason I was a bit lost: this story is set in a dystopian Japan, where the passing of the Media Betterment Act enables the Media Betterment Committee censors to ban and confiscate 'offensive' media. In response, the Library Defense Forces were created and are the only obstacle between the Committee and the people's free access to books and information. As deaths resulting from the Committe/Defense Forces wars have been decriminalized, working for the Forces is incredibly dangerous...and, in Iku Kasahara's eyes, incredibly heroic.

In her teens, Kasahara's 'offensive' book purchase was protected by a Library Defense Force agent, and his actions inspired her to join the Defense Force. However, it's very hard work - the job she wants requires that she not only train to be an elite soldier, but also to complete extensive training as a librarian. Exhausted and frustrated by a hard-nosed (and cute-as-can-be) instructor, Kasahara's finding it difficult to keep herself motivated.

This is that bizarre mix of serious and cutesty-sweet that I've only experienced in shojo manga, and is evident in the cover illustration, in which a female soldier (Kasahara) is smiling and cradling a rifle. Okaaaaay.... Kasahara goes on a wilderness survival training exercise - serious - and when they stop for the night, abruptly falls asleep on her instructor's shoulder. When another instructor approaches, Kasahara's instructor shoves her off his shoulder in a pratfall manner - weird, yet adorable.  Kasahara's that awkward yet very physically capable female character, and her mean instructor (or is he?) clearly is fascinated by her, yet determined to ignore that fascination. I ate it up. 

I also am enjoying the artist/writer's asides - for those of you more familiar with manga and/or shojo, is this author aside normal? I seem to remember it in others... And I really like it. : )


YA Reading Challenge: 8

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Book Review: Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

What's it about? music; rock bands; coming of age; deafness; teen fiction

Summary? Eighteen-year-old Piper becomes the manager for her classmates' popular rock band, called Dumb, giving her the chance to prove her capabilities to her parents and others, if only she can get the band members to get along.

Why did I read it & where did I get it? A coworker recommended it to me because, as she said, "It's about a fledgling rock band, and the main character's deaf. Total Kearsten catnip." I've a fascination with sign language and I love fiction about rock music (Nick and Norah!), so I quickly checked it out from my library.

What I thought...
Wow. I loved this book so much it took me a month and a half to write about it, mostly because I wanted to do it justice. I've finally decided that's not possible,so I'd write anyway, and just hope my adoration speaks clearly enough!

Piper is decidedly not digging on high school, but since it's her last year, she's intent on toughing it out. When she unexpectedly witnesses an 'impromptu' performance by some of her classmates' band Dumb, she's impressed - not by their music, but by their 'showmanship.' And by the fact that their set ends with their amplifiers catching fire. She's unsure as to whether their music was any good because she's deaf.

Piper was born hearing, but it began to fail when she was six years old, and so by now, at eighteen, she's quite used to mixing sign language and reading lips to get along, though for the most part, she's an outsider at her high school, making it that much more of a surprise to the members of Dumb, her hearing little brother and her parents when she offers to manage the band.

This was brilliant. Five Flavors of Dumb is funny, interesting, musical and a just little bit sweet, without the sugar hangover after.  Piper is a great character - she's tough and snide, which I love, but also vulnerable, which comes out most often when she's interacting with her parents, both of whom are quite consumed with Piper's baby sister who, born deaf, got cochlear implants, enabling her to hear perfectly. Piper's parents' amazement and delight in the baby's ability to hear twists a knife in Piper's stomach every time, as she's told that her hearing loss wasn't 'significant' enough to merit the cochlear implant investment. And yet, Piper's own dad doesn't know enough sign language to communicate well with his oldest child.

Piper's interactions with her parents, her younger brother Finn, the members of Dumb, her friend Ed and others are rich and layered. Finn, along with Piper's mom, is fluent in sign language, but is reluctant to act as Piper's translator all the time. While Piper can read lips and speak, throughout the book she finds it to her advantage (such as when negotiating a contract for Dumb) to pretend she can't, and Piper and Finn's actual conversations, contrasted with what Finn conveys are delightfully funny.

There is so much to this book - Piper's feelings about her deafness, her parents, her future; the band and its inability to get along and settle on a style of music; Piper's rush and struggle to learn about rock music, when unable to hear it (they live in Seattle, meaning they get to visit some very cool locations - Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix's houses); Piper's realization that she's good at managing a band, despite not being able to really hear them; Antony John's wonderful writing...

Like I said, I completely loved this book, and really feel I haven't done it justice. So I'll leave you with a few quotes that struck me as I read!

On watching Dumb's lead singer perform for the first time: "...swoony Josh Cooke on vocals, his mouth moving preternaturally fast and hips gyrating as if a gerbil had gained unauthorized access to his crotch..."

In talking with a hairdresser who helps Piper make a change: "...Don't worry about wanting to change; start worrying when you don't feel like changing anymore. And in the meantime, enjoy every version of yourself you ever meet, because not everybody who discovers their true identity likes what they find."

Highly recommended!

YA Reading Challenge Count: 7

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Book Review: Pemba's Song by Marilyn Nelson and Tonya C. Hegamin

What's It About?  ghosts; teen girls; slavery; history; 'new kid in town'

Summary?  As fifteen-year-old Pemba adjusts to leaving her Brooklyn, New York, home for small-town Connecticut, a Black history researcher helps her understand the paranormal experiences drawing her into the life of a mulatto girl who was once a slave in her house.

Why Did I Read It & Where Did I Get It?  While at work, the "ghost story" subtitle caught my eye. I checked it out from the library.

What I Thought...
This was a short yet interesting book about an African-American teen girl who moves with her mother from Brooklyn, NY to a small town in Connecticut.  Angry at having to move and desperately missing her friends, Pemba initially brushes off her strange experiences in their new home, but when she seems to form a connection with the ghost of a slave --  experiencing unsettling blackouts at the same time -- she begins to delve deeper into the history of her house and the small town.

Pemba is an easy character to sympathize with - her father died several years before in the Iraq war, and she and her mother both clearly feel his loss.  Her mother moves them for a good job opportunity, but understandably, Pemba's resentful about leaving her friends and boyfriend, a feeling acerbated by the fact that her cell phone gets very little reception in the small town.  While the ghost story is slight, it's still creepy, and the glimpses into the ghost's life - in the late 1700s - are unsettling.  Pemba writes about her feelings and impressions in a journal of poems, and I found those reflections the most interesting parts of the book.

This would be a great ghostly read for reluctant readers, or for those looking for high interest/low reading level books.


YA Reading Challenge Count: 6

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Book Review: Reading Club, Vol. 1 by Cho Ju-Hee & Suh Yun-Young

What's It About? Horror; books; reading; The Ring meets shojo?

Summary? After getting stuck with the job of cleaning her high school's long-forgotten library, a 9th grade girl stumbles across a suspicious looking book. Simply opening the book causes her to see unspeakable horrors - does she dare read it? If she does, she could find something more terrifying than she ever imagined...

Why Did I Read It?  It's a horror manga about an evil book. And it's called Reading Club. Kind of a no-brainer for me...  :)

What I Thought...
This...was...weird. Don't get me wrong: I dig horror. This has it, especially a panel spread that includes the image from the cover. *shudder* And, being a librarian, I can't help but hug books that are set in libraries, even when said libraries are filthy and largely ignored, as the high school library in Reading Club is.

HOWEVER. This book, in addition to the strange mystery of a book that may cause suicide and may be haunting a student at the school, is a medical examiner whose scenes are full of her going chibi and pretending to be a dead body so as to startle her assistants when she sits up with a scream. I'm not at all used to books who mix in slapstick humor in with the horror and gore...

I'll probably pass on future volumes, but I can think of a few teens who will eat this up!

YA Reading Challenge Count: 5