Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ship Breaker!

I didn't even stop to eat dinner last night, as I had to see what would happen. Nailer, the protagonist in the story, who has the soul of a Gladiator, must fight to stay alive on the shores of Bright Sands Beach where he disembowels old ships for sheet metal in order to eat. Sustaining himself on a mere starvation diet and avoiding his abusive father are his two daily challenges until he finds a clipper ship worth enough to buy his freedom from the slave-like life he leads.
While scavenging the ship with his friend Pima, Nailer stumbles across a remotely alive young woman who he and Pima decide to save; albeit against what their own best interests and common sense tell them to do.
The story really begins to gain steam as Nailer and "Lucky Girl" (the saved young woman), disembark on a journey to return her to the now underwater city of New Orleans. They must fight half-man, hop trains, swim through oil infested waters, and go against Nailer's drug addled father in order to save Lucky Girl and reclaim her position in the commercial world at large.
This book is fast paced and contains all of the elements of a good story: adventure, broken familial ties, friendships, and even a bit of romance. Mature teenage boys will particularly enjoy this great book (Bacigalupi's first YA novel), but females will also identify with the themes and characters and find themselves salivating to find out what happens next.
Although some of the characters could have been rounded out more, on the whole, "Ship Breaker" is a book that aims to please---and does.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Steampunk Westerns

Steampunk Westerns: Flaming Zeppelins & The Buntline Special

The Buntline Special: A Weird West Tale by Mike Resnick (Pyr/Prometheus Books, $16 paperback, 9781616142490/1616142499, December 7, 2010)

Flaming Zeppelins: The Adventures of Ned the Seal by Joe R. Lansdale (Tachyon Publications/IPG, $14.99 paperback, 9781616960025/1616960027, October 25, 2010)

The gunfight at the O.K. Corral was a real-life historical event that swiftly became one of the iconic moments in the mythology of the western--for many audiences, it is an instantly recognizable drama, and its contours are well-known. How, then, to make the story fresh? Filmmakers can cast a new generation of actors, or execute the narrative in a new visual style, but literary variations are, for the most part, more subtle. Unless, that is, you take Mike Resnick's approach and turn the whole thing into a steampunk fantasy.
In the alternate 19th-century of The Buntline Special, Native American shaman leaders like Geronimo have managed to hold back the United States at the Mississippi, save for a few outposts like Tombstone. Thomas Edison has relocated here from Menlo Park, setting up shop with Ned Buntline (better known historically as a writer and self-promoter) to produce an array of technological marvels, from electric street lamps to mechanized animatronic prostitutes. The Earp brothers are hired to protect Edison from both the Clanton gang and the Indians; much of the novel unfolds from the perspective of their deathly ill comrade, Doc Holliday.
Resnick doesn't do that much to the actual story, just serves it up with some cosmetic twists: Bat Masterson is cursed by Geronimo and becomes a vampire; Johnny Ringo is a zombie; Doc and the Earps are outfitted with bulletproof armor (nicely displayed in J. Seamas Gallagher's interior illustrations). Though the stage is set for a sequel, this steampunk shootout is essentially a curious set-piece: the characters (Holliday especially) are entertaining, but there's still a sense that they're going through the motions.
The real-life personages that populate Joe R. Lansdale's Flaming Zeppelins, on the other hand, are much more looser and free-wheeling. In "Zeppelins West," the first of two novellas published in limited editions earlier this decade, Buffalo Bill Cody (his head kept alive in a jar until scientists can grow him a new body) takes his Wild West Show (including an anachronistic Ned Buntline) to Japan--with a secret, second agenda to liberate Frankenstein's monster from the Shogun. Though many are killed during the escape, Cody, Wild Bill Hickock, Annie Oakley and Sitting Bull are rescued by "Captain Bemo" of the "Naughty Lass," who takes them to the island of "Doctor Momo," whose half-man, half-animal creations deliver some of the story's funniest scenes (including a side-splitting encounter with Dracula).
This first adventure seemingly ends with everybody dead (or safe in another dimension), but Ned, a seal who has learned to read and write, shows up on Spain's Mediterranean coast at the beginning of "Flaming London," making friends with Mark Twain and Jules Verne just before the Martians from The War of the Worlds begin their invasion. Lansdale's bawdy characterizations preserve readers' impressions of the well-known historical and fictional characters while adding a layer of unpredictability lacking in Swanwick's tale, even though the core elements of Lansdale's yarns are as familiar as the OK Corral. Both novels are entertaining in their way, but one is a comfortable diversion while the other is a madcap excursion.--Ron Hogan

Monday, December 20, 2010

Did you like "Invention of Huge Cabret?"......

Scholastic has acquired the new book by Brian Selznick, author of the bestselling The Invention of Hugo Cabret. His new novel, Wonderstruck, is scheduled for a simultaneous release on September 13, 2011, in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. According to the publisher, it will feature more than 460 pages of original drawings and will intertwine two stories set 50 years apart.

Hugo Cabret, Selznick's first novel, was published by Scholastic in 2007 and went on to win the 2008 Caldecott Medal. (Selznick had illustrated a number of picture books before creating Hugo Cabret.) Like his new novel, Hugo Cabret ambitiously combined narrative with illustrations; it told the story of a 12-year-old orphan who lived in a Paris train station at the turn of the 20th century. In Wonderstruck Selznick uses words to follow the story of Ben, who is living in 1977, and relies entirely on pictures to tell the story of Rose, who is living in 1927. Both characters are beset by loneliness--Ben's mother has just died and Rose lives alone with her father--and each makes a separate discovery that will change their lives.

Hugo Cabret has been published in 29 languages, and was optioned by Martin Scorsese for a film adaptation, which is currently in production. The movie is scheduled for release by Sony Pictures in December 2011.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

NPR's Top Teen Picks

I read a lot of young-adult novels. I also read a lot of adult-adult novels, and I'm always after the same experience, whether I'm reading Philip Roth or Philip Pullman: a book that sucks me in from chapter one, makes me think and, above all, makes me feel. I want to finish the book a slightly different person than I was when I started it.

Lately, I've found that this transcendent reading experience I so crave seems to occur more often with young-adult novels. Maybe it's because YA books — like the adolescence they depict — are so often about transformation, told through the lens of universal issues like grieving, war and first love. Or maybe it's because at heart I'm an emotionally stunted 17-year-old. Or maybe it's because so many talented authors are choosing to channel their talents into writing YA. Whatever the reason, 2010 brought a bumper crop of fantastic books, including these gems.


The Sky Is Everywhere

By Jandy Nelson, hardcover, 288 pages, Dial Press, list price: $18
Seventeen-year-old Lennie has always lived in her vibrant older sister Bailey's shadow, the "companion pony" to Bailey's racehorse. When Bailey dies suddenly, Lennie's grief is explosive: "It's as if someone vacuumed up the horizon while we were looking the other way." But in the altered post-Bailey landscape, Lennie finds herself thrust into center stage of her own life and grappling with some confusing feelings — sexually attracted to Bailey's fiance, and falling in love with Joe, the ebullient new boy at school. Speckled with a colorful cast of supporting characters (a grandmother who judges Lennie's well-being based on a houseplant; a stoner arborist Lothario uncle) and set in a hippie-dippie Northern California town that is a character in and of itself, Sky is both a profound meditation on loss and grieving and an exhilarating and very sexy romance. The book deserves multiple readings simply to savor Nelson's luscious language, on display in the snippets of poetry that grief-stricken Lennie leaves scattered around town, which precede many of the chapters.


Before I Fall

By Lauren Oliver, hardcover, 480 pages, Harper Teen, list price: $18
High school senior Samantha Kingston is a typical mean girl. She and her popular troika of friends cavalierly treat the lesser students like dirt because they can. Early on in the book, on Feb. 12, Sam is killed in a car accident on the way home from a party with her friends. But instead of floating away to some afterlife, Sam wakes up in her bed to find it's the morning of Feb. 12, and she must relive the last day of her life over. With the rules upended, Sam tweaks her actions (seducing a teacher, ditching school to spend the day with her little sister, attempting to help a deeply unhappy "loser," kissing the boy she maybe should have been kissing all along). This may sound like Groundhog Day meets Afterschool Special, but it's actually a subtle, layered and ultimately ethical book. As Oliver widens her lens, Sam comes to understand not only the butterfly effect of kindness but also the cumulative effect of cruelty: "If you cross a line and nothing happens, the line loses meaning. ... You keep drawing a line farther and farther away, crossing it every time. That's how people end up stepping off the edge of the earth." By the end, Sam's (and the reader's) understanding of herself and of her friends is so complete that the bitches from chapter one have become complex, even sympathetic girls.


The Things A Brother Knows

By Dana Reinhardt, hardcover, 256 pages, Wendy Lamb Books, list price: $17
On one level, Reinhardt's third novel is a subtle and affecting work about the hidden cost of war — which might explain why it has flown under the radar. And that's a shame because this isn't a War Book. The protagonist isn't a soldier, but rather 16-year-old Levi, who has spent his whole life playing slacker underachiever to older brother Boaz, he of the hot girlfriend, the Ivy League acceptances. When Boaz eschewed college to join up with the Marines, it was both a shock ("But people like us don't do that," his girlfriend said) and yet another way for Bo to one-up Levi. Two years later, Boaz is back from fighting in an unnamed Middle Eastern desert country, a hero ("Welcome home, Bay State High Graduate ... American Hero" reads the sign above the local Boston area high school) and an utter mess. Hiding in his room, unable to communicate, or even drive in a car, Boaz spends his days devising a secretive plan that Levi susses out with a bit of computer spying. When Boaz leaves on his mission, Levi, with the help of hilarious sidekicks Zim and Pearl, intercepts him. The two brothers travel on foot to Washington, D.C., meeting other veterans and families of servicemen, and begin to unpeel each other's layers. Like Levi, this novel is neither pro- nor anti-war. What it is is solidly pro-soldier in its steadfast compassion. It is also grippingly entertaining, funny, romantic (yes, Levi finds a girl) and, in its surprising conclusion, intensely moving.


The Mockingbirds

By Daisy Whitney, hardcover, 352 pages, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, list price: $17
Daisy Whitney's powerful debut opens with high school junior Alex waking up in a strange boy's bed, a bad taste in her mouth, and, upon spying two opened condom wrappers, a worse feeling inside her gut. With little memory of the drunken night before, Alex soon realizes that she has had sex for the first time — and that it happened without her consent. What follows is a pitch-perfect examination of Alex's emotional journey — her desire to forget, vacillating with her thirst for justice; her self blame; her fear of bumping into her attacker, all rendered with small, telling details that give the book an almost breathless immediacy. The title (not to be confused with Mockingjay or Mockingbird, two other excellent 2010 YA titles) refers to the underground justice system at Themis Academy, Alex's elite progressive boarding school that "builds tomorrow's leaders," as one student explains it, and therefore refuses to acknowledge that said leaders can do bad things. With the Mockingbirds' protection and own brand of justice (less vigilante than Law & Order) Alex comes to terms with her rape — even rises above it, as evidenced by the budding romance she begins with a fellow student named Martin. Alex tells Martin: " 'I want to kiss you right now,' I say, feeling something a bit like bliss about getting a say in the matter."


Anna And The French Kiss

By Stephanie Perkins, hardcover, 384 pages, Dutton Juvenile, list price: $17
On the surface, the perfect romantic comedy seems so easy: Take lovers, add drama, serve hot. Once you deconstruct a book like Stephanie Perkins' delectable debut, you realize what a trick such a concoction actually is: love interests whose chemistry sparks off the page, tantalizing pacing, sparkling repartee, vibrant supporting characters, and a setting like Paris never hurts. Against her will, Anna Oliphant is dropped at an American boarding school in Paris for her senior year. Her initial misery and discombobulation — she speaks no French — start to give way as she makes friends, in particular with the gorgeous, sophisticated (and flawed) Etienne St. Clair. Anna and Etienne's friendship provides the foundation of their romance, and its blooming mirrors Anna's unfurling: her growing comfort in the city (aided by trips to local cinemas) and her confidence in herself. Two of the most romantic interludes take place during Thanksgiving and Christmas break. In the first, Anna and Etienne, alone at school, wander Paris alone and spend chaste nights together in Anna's bed. In the second, a continent apart, they provide telephonic soft shoulders for each other. "This warmth over the telephone. Is it possible for home to be a person and not a place? Maybe St. Clair is my new home," Anna wonders. This may be teen love, but it is true love, hard won, richly emotional and deeply felt — like the novel itself.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Live Chat (!) with Ally Condie--the Author of "Matched"

From Ally Condie's Blog:

Tonight, I’ll be participating in a live online chat with the Mundie Moms (I’m very excited about this). Click here for more information about the chat. It will take place from 9:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. EST (or, if you are on MST like me, from 7:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.). I’ll be answering questions about MATCHED and it should be a lot of fun!

Also, MATCHED will be featured on Alan Cheuse’s holiday book recommendations on the National Public Radio program All Things Considered. I’m so excited about this, and my husband is completely geeking out (he adores this program and NPR in general). I’ve been told that the holiday book recommendations will be on at about 5:20 p.m. in all time zones, so tune in to NPR tomorrow night (12/15)! *Please note that this is a change from the original post–NPR e-mailed me the afternoon of the 13th to let me know that the program will be on Wednesday, the 15th instead of the 14th.

I’m also hoping to post pictures of the book launches soon and then, after that, at some point, I think I’m going to get back to talking about writing and books in general. The holidays are upon us and I haven’t finished my Christmas shopping yet BUT I’M NOT SCARED. Because I’m brave like that.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The ELLEments of Style.....

As you know, I'm a stinker for anything to do with fashion. I've had this book on hold for months (and had it in my shopping cart on Amazon), because if nothing else, I wanted to see what the pictures looked like. I actually find most fashion/photography books to be displeasing once I open them; often the pictures are too few and far between, or a bit grainy, or the fashions depicted are too outrageous to even consider for a life lived in the "real world."
This book is unique in that it combines many glossy fashion pics with a bit of biography on the 25 personal icons depicted in it--including: Lea Michele, Padma Lakshmi, Olivia Wilde, Dita Von Teese, and Alicia Keys (to name a few). It's hip, it's fun, and I know that any young woman between the ages of 12-18 (and so on), would get a kick out of it. Perfect couch reading. Take a peek.

Your librarian and style guru,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dark Water by Laura McNeal

This book was recommended to me by the CCBC at a recent library conference and I've been consuming it over my lunch breaks and other free time. Yes, it's good. The story is about 15 year old Pearl Dewitt, who lives with her mother in Fallbrook, California where her uncle owns a grove of 900 avocado trees. Uncle Hoyt hires migrant workers regularly, but Pearl finds one of the workers particularly appealing. Amiel.
From the moment she sees him, she is drawn to his dramatic and mysterious ways; a young man who appears to be mute yet seems to know so much. As Pearl and Amiel get to know one another, the two fall into a forbidden romance that makes the basic plot of the book.
Then wildfires strike in California and Pearl has to make a decision whether to warn Amiel or not--as his family doesn't own a television or radio. As Pearl slips away from the safety of her family and heads towards Amiel's hut, she gets caught in the crossfire.
This is a haunting novel and beautifully crafted. Highly recommended for lovers of good writing, a bit of romance, and most importantly, a well-told story.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Zoe's Book Reviews

Zoe is a teen (like yourself, who loves to read and then blogs about it. You can visit her and read her reviews here:
Here's one that sounded great that I thought I'd share with you today~

Tuesday, November 2, 2010
The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.

In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it.

Wow. I am speechless. Daisy Whitney is a debut author who will make a fantastic name for herself with this book. The Mockingbirds is something to watch, this book is making my Top 10 2010 books. Throughout reading, I’ve noticed that books that discuss the topic of rape either take it too lightly (Fade by Lisa McMann) or are so intense that I couldn't read it in one sitting (Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott). The Mockingbirds is the perfect balance between the two. The topic is taken seriously but you want to keep reading. It took me about two days to read, and all the while I was emailing back and forth with Daisy telling her how much I loved it.
I was fortunate enough to be the first teen to read the book. Right away, I knew it was something special. I can practically recite the beginning of chapter 2 because I love it so much. The wording that Daisy used illustrated what the main character was going through really well.
Looking back at the email I wrote Daisy immediately after I finished reading The Mockingbirds, I would like to share with you some of what I wrote to her. “Let me start off by saying it is the first book where I have actually read it when my teachers aren't looking. All through the school day I was sitting there staring at it in my backpack wanting to read it.” This is completely true, when I wasn't reading The Mockingbirds, I was thinking about reading The Mockingbirds. I would wake up in the morning looking like death because I had been up all night reading it.
The characters in this book were strongly written and had gumption. There were a few characters that made me want to drop into the book and slap them (hard, in the face). There was also some very interesting people that I couldn't have been more excited to read about. The Mockingbirds is a book you won’t want to miss. The emotions that the main character has are ones that you know are true. I couldn’t help but sympathize with her. Daisy Whitney wrote an original, truthful, engaging novel that readers are sure to love. This will easily be one of my favorites, if not the favorite book of mine that I've read this year. I can't give this book an amount of praise that will do it justice. I think that everyone should read it. Really, it will change your life.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The 10 p.m. Question....

The mysteries of family and friendship
Web exclusive
Review by Heather Seggel

The 10 P.M. Question is a wonderful study in opposites. At just 12 years old, Frankie Parsons has an idyllic kid’s life: great best friend, amazing pet cat and more cake than one boy can reasonably eat alone. He’s also saddled with responsibilities to his eccentric family that most grownups would juggle with difficulty, and a whopping anxiety disorder weighting his shoulders. Has the cat given the whole family worms? Did everyone get their flu shot? Every bug bite holds the potential to blossom into full-blown cancer in his overactive imagination. At 10 p.m. each night he visits with his mother in bed, and she helps to dispel his anxieties . . . but she may be at the root of them, too.

When a new girl comes to Frankie’s school, she immediately adds to his list of things to worry about. Sydney asks questions that blow the lid off Frankie’s highly ordered universe and force him to begin taking care of himself, but she’s not without her own issues and complications.

Kate De Goldi has created a lush, loving world in The 10 P.M. Question. From the fat aunties to the even fatter cat, a father called “Uncle” and best friend Gigs, it’s just a pleasure to spend time in the family home with its attendant, and obviously affectionate, chaos. For a kid with too much on his mind, Frankie is at least in good and supportive hands when things come to a head.

An additional treat for this reader was the book’s New Zealand setting. The unfamiliar landmarks and subtle cultural differences just add another layer of lushness to the backdrop, a fourth auntie in the family, as it were. After Frankie has what his sister calls a “nut-out,” we see that a happy ending isn’t possible for everyone in the story, and that to settle for contentment sometimes must suffice. But the family pulls together in the wake of the crisis, and there’s great hope in this story of one boy slowly conquering his fears.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 Christmas Contest....

Celebrate the season with's Fifth Annual Holiday Basket of Cheer feature and contest! From November 12th through December 13th, you can enter to win a "Basket of Holiday Reading and Fun."

Five winners each will receive a festive basket that includes 8 of the holiday's hottest books --- BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, DEAD BEAUTIFUL by Yvonne Woon, THE IRON KING by Julie Kagawa, THE LYING GAME by Sara Shepard, PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White, RECKLESS by Cornelia Funke, STORK by Wendy Delsol, and SUGAR AND SPICE: An L.A. Candy Novel by Lauren Conrad.

Along with the books, winners will find their basket stocked with tons of seasonal goodies: a kit to make a mini gingerbread village, Ghirardelli Hot Chocolate mix, peppermint bark candy, an oversized red and white chenille throw, two pairs of mittens, a snowman ceramic coffee mug, snowman peeps, M&Ms in holiday colors, and cinnamon sticks.

» Click here to read the contest details.
» Click here to enter the Fifth Annual Holiday Basket of Cheer Contest.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Deathly Hallows Part 1 Due in Film.....

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1
The moment you’ve been waiting for is almost here. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 hits the big screen on November 19th, so grab your wizarding gear and take a trip to your local movie theater, where you’ll enter a magical world of harrowing journeys, never-before-seen spells and hair-raising excitement.

Based on the seventh installment of J.K. Rowling’s beloved series, this is the first of two riveting, full-length features (Part 2 releases on July 15, 2011) that will follow Harry and his friends as they try to outsmart the Death Eaters and put a stop to the Dark Lord’s evil doings once and for all. Now that Dumbledore is gone, Voldemort’s henchmen have taken over Hogwarts and seized control of the Ministry of Magic, making Harry’s hunt for Horcruxes more dangerous than ever before. And to make matters worse, he’s slowly starting to realize that his future might already have been decided.

Does Harry have the strength to survive long enough so that he can prepare to face Voldemort in what is sure to be their final battle? Unless you’ve mastered the art of Divination since the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, you’ll have to see the movie to find out.

New Review of "The Ugly Truth"

The newest review on the brand new Diary of a Wimpy Kid series:

"See, when you're a little kid, nobody ever warns you that you've got an expiration date. One day you're hot stuff and the next day you're a dirt sandwich," Greg Heffley tells readers partway into this fifth installment of Kinney's bestselling Wimpy Kid series. There's a noticeable feeling of transition in this outing as Greg negotiates a sour patch with longtime best friend Rowley, his mother's decision to go back to school, the imminence of puberty (and dreaded accompanying discussions at home and at school), and the fact that one can't stay a child forever--despite evidence to the contrary provided by Greg's Uncle Gary, who's embarking on his fourth marriage. Although there is perhaps less of a central focus in this book than in some of its predecessors, the sense that "all good things must come to an end" emerges, something that inevitably will be true of the series itself at some point. But Kinney hasn't lost his touch for spinning universal details of middle-school life into comic gold--he doesn't have to worry about becoming a dirt sandwich anytime soon.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bloggers pick up "Life as We Knew It"

I know many of you (and me) enjoy this series, so I thought I'd pass along this article from Publishers Weekly:

An asteroid strikes the moon, triggering a sequence of natural disasters on earth in Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It, released by Harcourt in 2006. Life (as teenager Miranda and her family know it) comes to an abrupt halt, and they must make do with the food and resources they have on hand. That inaugural installment of The Last Survivors trilogy, which also includes The Dead and the Gone and This World We Live In, has sold a combined 250,000 copies in hardcover and paper, and has motivated two Utah bloggers to mimic the survivalist lifestyle forced upon the books’ characters, and to chronicle their experiments online.

Mette Ivie Harrison, who has published five novels—most recently The Princess and the Snowbird, a YA fantasy released by HarperCollins last April—has staged what she labeled “LAWKI month” for three consecutive years. She launched the first experiment in summer 2008, after reading Life As We Knew It to her four oldest children (she has five in all, now ages eight to 16). “One night my son, who was 10 at the time, jumped up and ran downstairs to look through the storage room where we keep our food. He came back up and said, ‘We’ll be fine. We have more food than they had in the book.’ He was so gripped by the novel—it felt so real to him.”

The Harrison family; mother/author/blogger Mette Ivie Harrison and her family conducted a survivalist experiment inspired by Susan Beth Pfeffer's 'Life As We Knew It.'Realizing that Life As We Knew It was somewhat frightening to her kids, Harrison decided “as an inoculation against their fear” to experiment with surviving for a month with only the food stocked in the family larder. Given that the Harrisons are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which advocates having a year’s supply of food on hand at all times, their provisions were likely more bountiful than the average American family’s, but still limited.

During each LAWKI month, Harrison did no food shopping, though (when school was in session) her children did purchase school lunch, which she observes they came to view as “a luxury—they got meat and fresh fruits and vegetables, which we quickly ran out of at home.” She accepted produce that friends shared from their gardens, and made an exception to the ban on restaurant food on one child’s birthday, when she allowed takeout pizza.

Harrison, who tracked her family’s LAWKI month experiences on her blog, says that her children came away from these ventures “believing we could survive if such a scenario were to happen in real life, which was the original impulse—to reassure them.” Though the author says she “would love to do this again,” the verdict among her children is mixed. “My 13-year-old hated it and never wants to do it again, but he’s a boy and is always hungry,” she reports. But her 16-year-old daughter, who is less ravenous, found it “a fun, different experience.”

Inspired by Harrison’s online accounts of her experiments and by reading Life As We Knew It, Shannon Wright also decided to give her family—which includes four teenagers—a taste of a faux disaster scenario and launched a LAWKI month in late August.

“We’ve always try to be thoughtful on the preparedness issue, since we live 15 minutes from two major earthquake faults,” she says. “And my husband is a pharmacist who does regular immunization training, so the idea of a global pandemic is in the forefront of his mind.” Wright says that her family, also members of the Mormon Church, “regularly tries to have enough supplies and food at home so that we can keep safe as long as needed.”

The Wright family: (l. to r.) mother Shannon, daughter Katie, son James, father Michael, and sons Ben and John. Photo: Mike Roberts, Roberts Imaging.Wright did stock up on some additional food ahead of time, as she usually does as fall approaches. “We bought eight gallons of milk for the month, though we regularly drink that in less than 10 days,” she says. The day the Wrights began LAWKI month, the parents brought their teens to the store for one last shopping spree and gave each $10. “We told them to buy whatever they thought they’d miss,” says Wright. “They made some interesting choices: one purchased packages of ramen and one bought cologne.”

Wright mined her small vegetable garden for produce, which she also traded with several neighbors. She experimented with canning, tackling salsa and applesauce, and baked in a sun oven. The family relied more on bicycles and less on cars for transportation, did not go out to eat at all, and played a lot of board games together. All of which Wright reported on her blog, which she says had some 900 page views during the month. “I got many positive responses,” she says. “Some people thought it was intriguing, though a few were pretty cynical. Several said it was nice to watch someone else doing this.”

Asked what her family learned from their LAWKI month, Wright responds, “I’d say we learned gratitude for all we have and learned that we have enough to meet our needs, which is a relief to me. That knowledge is something we could never have gained in another way, and I don’t think we’ll ever forget it.” Next, Wright hopes to turn off the electricity—and have everyone turn to books—for a weekend.

“I think it’s astonishing—and I know these people are much braver than I am,” remarks Susan Beth Pfeffer about these LAWKI month stints. The author, whose next novel, Blood Wounds, is due from Harcourt in fall 2011, says, “I eat a lot of fresh food and have a small freezer, so I live at the supermarket.” She notes that she hears from readers who tell her that they went to the grocery store to stock up—just in case. “It’s gratifying to hear that response, though I didn’t write the novel with that in mind,” she says. “I always think everything will work out, so I’m generally unprepared—though I did just finally buy a flashlight.”

Pfeffer’s mail from young readers often includes comments that The Last Survivors novels made them appreciate all that they have. “In fact, I got a letter today from a kid who said, ‘I know I can get along without electricity, food, and water, but we have to have family,’ ” she says. “That’s nice to hear, though personally, I like electricity, food, and water!”

Congrats to Peyton!

Peyton Midthun was our grand prize winner this year for Teen Read Week! She's winning a "Book-opoly" game to share with her friends and family--I'm sure she'll "wow" them with all her amazing literary knowledge. Congratulations to Peyton!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fallen by Lauren Kate....

Lauren Kate
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Supernatural Romance
ISBN: 9780385739139
496 pages

•Video Interview on the blog
Lucinda "Luce" Price has been sent to reform school in the South, the result of somewhat murky circumstances involving a dead boyfriend. Though Luce cannot recall how the fire started, or how she escaped and Trevor did not, she feels at fault, and the courts agree. She is shipped off to Sword & Cross, where we learn about the Shadows that seem to haunt her daily; they were present the night Trevor died, and their appearance unnerves her.

And then we meet Daniel Grigori: brooding, dark and sexy --- and mysterious enough to drive Luce crazy if she wasn’t already. She seems to feel connected to him, as if she knows him from someplace, but Daniel only resists her attempts to get to know him better. From time to time, he’s even downright rude to her.

While Daniel might appear to be disinterested in Luce, Cam, another reform school student at Sword & Cross, is laying it on thick with Luce, wooing her with his charm and good looks. Luce wants to like Cam, but she can’t get Daniel out of her mind.

Luce needs to learn more about Daniel. She and her friend, good-girl Penny, start by digging around the school library to find any information on the Grigori family. Then the Shadows show up, and another classmate dies in a fire. Again, Luce escapes, and this time she thinks she knows how. She remembers Daniel and wings. Those two things have nothing to do with one another, right? But Luce has a pretty good guess as to why Daniel has wings, and her instinct proves right. In one of the few moments when he lets his guard down, revealing a softer side that had remained hidden from Luce, he shows his wings. Luce learns that Daniel is a fallen angel.

It’s when Daniel kisses Luce, however, that we start to understand a bit more of what is going on, all because Luce doesn’t die. Why would she die, you might be asking? Well, without giving too much away, Luce and Daniel have been in love for centuries, but because their love is eternally damned, each time they kiss, Luce is fated to die. She is then reincarnated only to repeat the cycle. Every 17 years, Luce meets Daniel, they kiss, and she doesn’t make it to 18.

Not this time, though. A loophole in how she was raised in this incarnation saves her life. That’s not to say there aren’t others who would like to see her dead.

While the reader tends to feel a few steps ahead of Luce throughout the book, it’s easy to understand why she has trouble catching on. It’s not every day that you discover you’ve been eternally in love with a fallen angel, and oh yeah, you usually die at 17. It’s the mystery that keeps the book moving. I, along with Luce, wanted to know why Daniel went from hot to cold, and why his history is so shrouded in obscurity. I also wanted to see a bit more of the romance between the two, so I could better understand the pain of losing each other over and over again. Still, there is something very interesting about being fated to love someone and not knowing why. It’s great food for thought. Overall, FALLEN provides an intriguing start to an exciting new series.

--- Reviewed by Jordana Frankel

Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Things in Friends Shop.....

Every month I enjoy stopping at the Waterford Library's Friends Shop to check out what neat and exciting displays they have. Interesting toys, stickers, and handmade items for incredibly low prices always make me take a second look, if not buy something. Yesterday I bought this incredibly cool handmade snake that can be used as a decoration or a scarf! Make sure you take a peek next time you drop by!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Barnes and Noble reshelving "Teen"

In a sign of just how popular teen fiction has become, Barnes & Noble is in the midst of rearranging its teen fiction section chain-wide this week in an effort to improve the shopping experience and boost sales. Already teen fiction is the biggest book growth category at Barnes & Noble, according to Mary Amicucci, v-p of children’s books. In terms of volume, it is the second largest subject, behind adult fiction.

After testing the concept at a Barnes & Noble store in Hackensack, N.J., three weeks ago, the chain pushed the go button to reorganize all its teen sections by separating out the two most popular genres—paranormal romance and fantasy and adventure—from teen fiction. Teen series will be absorbed into the appropriate category, and two bays will be devoted to bestsellers. One will change weekly to reflect the top 10 teen fiction bestsellers; the other will be organized by genre and display top teen picks.

Signage heralds the new Teen Paranormal Romance section at Barnes & Noble.“It’s really about improving the customer experience,” Amicucci told PW. “We haven’t expanded or shrunk anything. That was the beauty of this—by breaking the genres out, we can really showcase the books. The key is a directed customer shopping experience that really supports browsing patterns.”

In addition to helping teens discover new books, the rearranged sections will enable them to easily filter out books they’re not interested in and go straight to the genre that they’re looking for.

The decision over which titles to put where was made in conjunction with some of Barnes & Noble’s largest publishing partners. Combined, the new paranormal and fantasy and adventure sections are slightly larger than teen fiction. “We’re getting some great feedback from our stores. We’ve seen it make an impact [in Hackensack],” says Amicucci. Although some stores have already completed their relays, the goal is for all the changeovers to be finished by the end of this weekend.

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Who Moved My Cheese? --Evan H.

This is a book review authored by one of our on TAB members, Evan. Enjoy!

Who Moved My Cheese?

Who moved my cheese is a fun exciting book that you can't put down. I didn't think the book was cheesy at all. It's about two little people and two little mice who are going from cheese station to cheese station looking for their favorite cheese. One person is excited to go on, but the other one is nervous. There are many lessons in this book and I enjoyed learning them. My dad use to read a brief version of the story to me over and over again when I was a kid. All in all it's a book that sparks the interest of kids and adults alike.

Thanks Evan!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rolling Stone: Interviews

This is a nice book to read a chapter at a time; wherever and whenever you can fit five minutes into your day to get a glimpse of Robin Williams at his height in the 80's, or Bill Murray after Caddyshack, or even Kurt Cobain in 1994 who says very candidly at one point, "I don't even remember the guitar solo on "Teen Spirit"'s almost embarrassing to play it."
Names like Jack Nicholson, Spike Lee, Tina Turner, Mick Jagger, the Dalai Llama, and Eminem all give their two cents on their lives, careers, and futures in this unique tome that brings together some of the biggest names in show business. It's a fun read, easy to page through if you're just interested in a few of the names, and very, very, real. Very funny at times, as well. I picked it up yesterday and am nearly done; healthier too for the numerous laughs it gave me--(Isn't Keith Richards priceless)???

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Teen Read Week

This week is Teen Read Week @ the Waterford Library. This week is dedicated to teens--just like you--who love to read and will eventually become our future generation of library users (think mom and dad...yeah, it's true). So, in an effort to show YOU, yes YOU, how much we care, we have added an interesting display designed for young adults, bought special bookmarks for the event, and have a contest you can enter at the front desk. One lucky person will win a special prize at the end of the week. So, if you are a tween or teen between the ages of 10-18, please stop at the circulation desk and fill out an entry form. Who knows? Maybe you'll be our lucky "Teen Read Week" Winner.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

October Books......

October’s roundup of Cool New Books includes REVOLUTION, the highly anticipated novel by Jennifer Donnelly that weaves together the stories of a depressed, modern-day teen and a young heroine of the French Revolution; FORGE, Laurie Halse Anderson’s page-turning sequel to CHAINS, which tells of a young slave’s struggle to survive the American Revolution --- and somehow forge a path to freedom; THE SCORCH TRIALS by James Dashner, the second installment of The Maze Runner Trilogy that follows Thomas and the Gladers as they try to cope with the challenges of life outside the Maze; BIRTH OF A KILLER, the riveting prequel to Darren Shan’s Cirque du Freak series that sheds light on the mysterious origins of Larten Crepsley; part two of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan Trilogy, BEHEMOTH, which chronicles the ongoing conflict between the Darwinists and the Clankers as it plays out on board a British airship; and DASH & LILY’S BOOK OF DARES, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s story of a girl who tries to find the right guy by leaving a notebook on the shelf of her favorite bookstore. » Click here

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Handling the Undead? Easy in this book.....

*This Review Contains Spoilers

I must say, as an avid reader of zombie-type fiction, I was anticipating this book with every breath. And although I stayed up ALL night (ok, most of it), to finish this book, I have a few complaints:
1. Its end suggested its not really over. Are we going to be dealing with ANOTHER trilogy here?
2. The Zombies just aren't very scary and can talk (!!) which every Romero fan knows, is a big no-no.
3. The undead, while showing bits and pieces of ferocity, aren't really that terrifying...nor do they seem to like to eat people. And, let's face it. That's really the best part of any zombie plan.
4. I had a hart time identifying with any of the main characters whom I found to be extremely one-dimensional and "typecast."
5. The whole butterfly/cocoon connection is a bit beyond me. A great scientific example would be "28 days later", but the whole insect thing just didn't seem plausible in the least.
6. Lastly, the best scene in the book, (the drowned man coming back to life) had very little gore and was "taken care of" using "positive thoughts and singing."
Okay, maybe it's just me. But this was a bit too fluffy for me to take seriously. Perhaps the author's intention was to add some humanity to the whole zombie genre, I don't know. But what I do know is that when I pick up a book with the term "Undead" on the cover....I expect some great brain-eating action

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Beethoven's Hair....

As a lover of music, and an admirer of Beethoven's, I stumbled upon this book at a CCBC conference last year and made myself promise to read it. If you like detective non-fiction, are a lover of music, or just enjoy a good biography then this book is right up your alley. It combines all of these elements and the ending really surprised me and prompted me to read more books on the subject.
While it is fairly common knowledge that Beethoven struggled with illness all of his life, scientists dissect the only known piece of Beethoven left--a lock of hair--to try and determine what was the cause of his unknown ailment.
The Milwaukee symphony recently conquered Beethoven's ninth symphony which received rave reviews from New Yorker magazine. If you were able to go, I'm supremely jealous, as I meant to and was stuck writing my Master's thesis (har, har)while you were able to bask in the glory that is "the Ode to Joy" chorus. Is there a piece of music that captures the dignity of the human spirit more than that piece?
I did a study abroad in Austria when I was in college, and everywhere I went (particularly in Vienna), I'd come across bits and pieces of Beethoven gossip, history and ephemera so he'll always hold a certain personal meaning to me as I could hardly escape his presence. Beethoven, after hundreds of years, still captures our hearts and minds.....which is why you should read this wonderful little book dedicated to discovering the truth behind the man's mysterious ways.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hamburger refuses to decompose....

I just thought you might enjoy this article via Yahoo! news:

Vladimir Lenin, King Tut and the McDonald's Happy Meal: What do they all have in common? A shocking resistance to Mother Nature's cycle of decomposition and biodegradability, apparently.

That's the disturbing point brought home by the latest project of New York City-based artist and photographer Sally Davies, who bought a McDonald's Happy Meal back in April and left it out in her kitchen to see how well it would hold up over time.

The results? "The only change that I can see is that it has become hard as a rock," Davies told the U.K. Daily Mail.

She proceeded to photograph the Happy Meal each week and posted the pictures to Flickr to record the results of her experiment. Now, just over six months later, the Happy Meal has yet to even grow mold. She told the Daily Mail that "the food is plastic to the touch and has an acrylic sheen to it."

Davies -- whose art has been featured in numerous films and television shows and is collected by several celebrities -- told The Upshot that she initiated the project to prove a friend wrong. He believed that any burger would mold or rot within two or three days of being left on a counter. Thus began what's become known as "The Happy Meal Art Project."

"I told my friend about a schoolteacher who's kept a McDonald's burger for 12 years that hasn't changed at all, and he didn't believe me when I told him about it," Davies told us. "He thought I was crazy and said I shouldn't believe everything that I read, so I decided to try it myself."

Davies' friend was the person who should have done the additional research. Wellness and nutrition educator Karen Hanrahan has indeed kept a McDonald's hamburger since 1996 to show clients and students how resistant fast food can be to decomposition.

As for Davies, she said that she might just keep her burger and fries hanging around for a while as well.

"It's sitting on a bookshelf right now, so it's not really taking up any space, so why not?" she said. It ceased giving off any sort of odor after 24 hours, she said, adding: "You have to see this thing."

[Video rewind: Gay-friendly McDonald's ad goes viral]

In response to Davies' project, McDonald's spokeswoman Theresa Riley emailed The Upshot a statement defending the quality of the chain's food. Riley's email also blasted Davies' "completely unsubstantiated" work as something out of "the realm of urban legends."

"McDonald's hamburger patties in the United States are made with 100% USDA-inspected ground beef," Riley wrote. "Our hamburgers are cooked and prepared with salt, pepper and nothing else -- no preservatives, no fillers. Our hamburger buns are baked locally, are made from North American-grown wheat flour and include common government-approved ingredients designed to assure food quality and safety. ... According to Dr. Michael Doyle, Director, Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, 'From a scientific perspective, I can safely say that the way McDonald's hamburgers are freshly processed, no hamburger would look like this after one year unless it was tampered with or held frozen.'"

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Zombie Walks

In our TAB meetings, we've recently been discussing the phenomenon known as "Zombie Walks". Zombie Walks are increasing in popularity rapidly due to the dissemination of zombie literature, movies, and books (think 'Zombies v.s. Unicorns'due out this month). BTW, I have first dibs!
Zombie parties are also an incredibly popular idea with teens right now and we've been potentially discussing having one at our library....or even a zombie "lock-in."
Many of you had questions of what a "Zombie Walk" looks like and so I've posted one for your to view. There's many on as well if this is something that interests you. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mysterious Benedict...Personality Test?

That's right. I took it today and found out that I am a bit of a "sticky" character. Check it out yourself by following this link:

In addition, the site provides opportunities to play games, test your skills and discover your inner genius! I just picked up the book recently and am enjoying in heartily---sort of a combination of Harry Potter and Mathilda by Ronald Dahl (who has a new biography coming out on him shortly, if you're interested; the New Yorker says it's pretty good).

If you've never read the Mysterious Benedict Society, I would give it a try. It's geared towards grades 9-12 but most adults that have read it have enjoyed it as well. And I definitely think the above average intelligent Waterford library tweens could handle it (hint, hint).

Basically the story revolves around Reynie who views an advertisement in a newspaper offering special opportunites for gifted students. Four special children are chosen and must go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and resourceful children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules.

This is an older book, but one that definitely stands the test of time. Go on the website and find out what sort of intellectual you are.....

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Last Night I Sang to the Monster....

This book has been in YALSA's top ten for awhile now and I've been reading it lately and strongly recommend it.
Here's a review:
Zach is eighteen. He is bright and articulate. He’s also an alcoholic, and he’s is in rehab instead of high school, but he doesn’t remember how he got there. He’s not sure he wants to remember. Something bad must have happened. Something really, really bad. Remembering sucks and being alive—well, what’s up with that?

I have it in my head that when we’re born, God writes things down on our hearts. See, on some people’s hearts he writes Happy and on some people’s hearts he writes Sad and on some people’s hearts he writes Crazy on some people’s hearts he writes Genius and on some people’s hearts he writes Angry and on some people’s hearts he writes Winner and on some people’s hearts he writes Loser. It’s all like a game to him. Him. God. And it’s all pretty much random. He takes out his pen and starts writing on our blank hearts. When it came to my turn, he wrote Sad. I don’t like God very much. Apparently he doesn’t like me very much either.

Benjamin Alire Saenz is a prolific novelist, poet and author of children’s books. Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, his first novel for young adults, was a finalist for the LA Times Prize and a YALSA Top Ten Books for Young Adults pick in 2005.

Here's a video of him reading from his novel....

Friday, October 1, 2010

Paris Fashion Week: Sporty, Chic, Preppy.....

September 30, 2010 Milan, London and New York have had their fashion weeks, and now it's Paris' turn. The world's fashion designers, editors and buyers have descended on the city to see the latest styles — which will trickle down to the rest of us before you know it.

Designer looks "reach the consumers more quickly than ever — in all sorts of different ways," says Sally Singer, editor in chief of T: The New York Times Style Magazine.

For Spring 2011, Singer tells NPR's Ari Shaprio that she's seen a "profusion of stripes — a return to kind of preppy flag colors — colors you'd associate with BMWs," she describes.

Look out for bright orange, royal blue and "taxi cab" yellow — set against white and cream. "You have this very sporty, very accessible, upbeat sense of pattern," Singer observes.

Singer — who spent many years at Vogue magazine — has seen countless new designs this season, and yet she says it's still possible to pick out the common themes.

"You can see 12 shows a day," she says, but "at the end of the day, for some reason, certain trends just bubble up, and they're unmissable."

Singer rattles off a few:

Skirts are lengthening; hemlines now hover mid-calf.
Pant waistlines are getting higher.
Shoulder lines are getting slightly "sloppier" and larger.
Jackets and sweaters are more cropped.
"Proportions are changing, and they're getting far more 70s-y," Singer says. Designers are "reacting to a uniform culture. People are seeing the same movies, they're reading the same books, they're going to the same museum shows."

She cites Tilda Swinton's outfits in the 2009 film I Am Love as particularly influential this season.

An educated fashion consumer will buy the right things for the right reasons. They'll stop buying things just to have them.

- Sally Singer
The economy is looking stronger now than it was during last year's Paris fashion week, and retailers say customers are shopping again — but shopping in a different way.

"She's shopping in a curatorial way," Singer reports. "She's shopping by the piece, not by the look." Customers aren't buying a whole wardrobe at the start of the season — now they just buy a coat, or shoes, or a bag — and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

"The good thing that's come out of all of this is that an educated fashion consumer will buy the right things for the right reasons," Singer explains. "They'll stop buying things just to have them."

In a tight economy, shoppers are less inclined to purchase items "for a life that would never be lived" — those garments often languish at the back of closets.

Now, Singer says, people are simply buying enough new clothes to "make them feel connected to their time."

Penguin defends "Speak"

Responding to an attack by an associate professor in Missouri who called Speak "soft pornography," the Penguin Young Readers Group took out a full page ad in today’s New York Times to defend the novel by Laurie Halse Anderson. In an op-ed piece earlier this month in the Missouri News-Leader, Wesley Scroggins, associate professor of management at Missouri State University, wrote that Speak was not appropriate for students of the Republic School District and also challenged Slaughterhouse-Five and Twenty Boy Summer. “That such a decorated book could be challenged is disturbing,” said Penguin’s Shanta Newlin about the decision to run an ad. With Banned Books Week now in full swing (Sept. 25-Oct. 2), Penguin believes the ad points to the larger issue of books still being challenged in large numbers across the country, Newlin added. The ad, in fact, notes that "every day in this country, people are being told what they can and can't read," and it asks Times readers to "read the book. Decide for yourself."

First released in 1999, Speak was a National Book Award finalist, and is a staple backlist title for Penguin. Scroggins’s op-ed touched off a heated debate in the bookselling and library communities, and Anderson’s response and blog posts have received thousands of hits.

An editor's note at the end of Scroggins’s original piece from the Republic School District superintendent Vern Minor stated that Slaughterhouse-Five had already been removed and Twenty Boy Summer was under review, and while Scroggins is working to get Speak removed from classrooms there was no word if he has been successful.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Creepy Cupcakes

Last year, master of suspense author Karen Slaughter came up with a creepy cupcake contest that I somehow missed. Although its too late to enter, I wanted to show you some of the examples to try and inspire you to create your own creepy cupcakes this Halloween. You can find more examples on her website:
If you make your own creepy concoctions for Halloween, send me a photo and I'll post in on our blog.....eeek!

Friday, September 24, 2010

What's hot now....

Elizabeth has a new job at an unusual library— a lending library of objects, not books. In a secret room in the basement lies the Grimm Collection. That’s where the librarians lock away powerful items straight out of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales: seven-league boots, a table that produces a feast at the blink of an eye, Snow White’s stepmother’s sinister mirror that talks in riddles.
When the magical objects start to disappear, Elizabeth embarks on a dangerous quest to catch the thief before she can be accused of the crime—or captured by the thief.

Polly Shulman has created a contemporary fantasy with a fascinating setting and premise, starring an ordinary girl whose after-school job is far from ordinary— and leads to a world of excitement, romance and magical intrigue.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I you were as baffled as I was....

Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck have now admitted that the film I'm Still Here was not a documenting of Phoenix's descent into madness, but some sort of a statement about art and celebrity based on the fiction that Phoenix was quitting acting and starting a career in rap. Affleck tells Roger Ebert, "I don't have a point to make," so it's not clear what kind of a statement it can possibly be if there's no point, or why Affleck is so annoyed that people only thought about whether it was real and not about what the film was saying if he's telling you he has no point to make.

At any rate, a big part of the story/deception/hoax was Phoenix's appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman in February of 2009, where he gave the most public "performance" of the guy he became in I'm Still Here.

Last night, having revealed what he was up to the first time around, Phoenix came back to Letterman's couch to talk about the appearance, talk about whether Letterman was in on it or not, and, of course, promote the movie.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Suzanne Collins Interview

Suzanne Collins's latest book, MOCKINJAY, revisits the dystopian world of Panem and its victorious tributes Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, first introduced in the 2008 bestseller THE HUNGER GAMES. In this updated interview, Collins discusses the various sources --- ranging from Greek mythology to reality television --- that inspired the plot of this futuristic sci-fi trilogy and explains how her father's stories from her childhood helped her with elements of the novel's plot, themes and characters. She also gives readers insight into how she has mapped out plot and character developments for each book, shares what she found most surprising about the feedback she received from fans, and imagines what her own special skill would be if she was ever required to participate in the Games.

Question: You weave action, adventure, mythology, sci-fi, romance, and philosophy throughout THE HUNGER GAMES. What influenced the creation of THE HUNGER GAMES?

Suzanne Collins: A significant influence would have to be the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. The myth tells how in punishment for past deeds, Athens periodically had to send seven youths and seven maidens to Crete, where they were thrown in the Labyrinth and devoured by the monstrous Minotaur.

Even as a kid, I could appreciate how ruthless this was. Crete was sending a very clear message: “Mess with us and we’ll do something worse than kill you. We’ll kill your children.” And the thing is, it was allowed; the parents sat by powerless to stop it. Theseus, who was the son of the king, volunteered to go. I guess in her own way, Katniss is a futuristic Theseus.

In keeping with the classical roots, I send my tributes into an updated version of the Roman gladiator games, which entails a ruthless government forcing people to fight to the death as popular entertainment. The world of Panem, particularly the Capitol, is loaded with Roman references. Panem itself comes from the expression “Panem et Circenses” which translates into “Bread and Circuses.”

The audiences for both the Roman games and reality TV are almost characters in themselves. They can respond with great enthusiasm or play a role in your elimination.

I was channel surfing between reality TV programming and actual war coverage when Katniss’s story came to me. One night I’m sitting there flipping around, and on one channel, there’s a group of young people competing for, I don’t know, money maybe? And on the next, there’s a group of young people fighting an actual war. And I was tired, and the lines began to blur in this very unsettling way, and I thought of this story.

Q: The Hunger Games is an annual televised event in which one boy and one girl from each of the twelve districts is forced to participate in a fight-to-the-death on live TV. What do you think the appeal of reality television is --- to both kids and adults?

SC: Well, they’re often set up as games and, like sporting events, there’s an interest in seeing who wins. The contestants are usually unknown, which makes them relatable. Sometimes they have very talented people performing.

Then there’s the voyeuristic thrill --- watching people being humiliated, or brought to tears, or suffering physically --- which I find very disturbing. There’s also the potential for desensitizing the audience, so that when they see real tragedy playing out on, say, the news, it doesn’t have the impact it should.

Q: If you were forced to compete in the Hunger Games, what do you think your special skill would be?

SC: Hiding. I’d be scaling those trees like Katniss and Rue. Since I was trained in sword-fighting, I guess my best hope would be to get hold of a rapier if there was one available. But the truth is I’d probably get about a four in Training.

Q: The trilogy’s premise is very brutal, yet is handled so tastefully. Was this a difficult balance to achieve?

SC: Yes, the death scenes are always hard to write. It’s difficult to put kids in violent situations --- Gregor (the protagonist in The Underland Chronicles) is in a war, Katniss is in a gladiator game. Characters will die. It’s not fun to write, but I think if you can’t commit to really doing the idea, it’s probably better to work on another type of story.

Given that, you have to remember who you’re trying to reach with the book. I try and think of how I would tell a particularly difficult event to my own children. Exactly what details they need to know to really understand it, and what would be gratuitous.

Q: THE HUNGER GAMES tackles issues like severe poverty, starvation, oppression, and the effects of war among others. What drew you to such serious subject matter?

SC: That was probably my dad’s influence. He was career Air Force, a military specialist, a historian, and a doctor of political science. When I was a kid, he was gone for a year in Viet Nam. It was very important to him that we understood about certain aspects of life. So, it wasn’t enough to visit a battlefield, we needed to know why the battle occurred, how it played out, and the consequences. Fortunately, he had a gift for presenting history as a fascinating story. He also seemed to have a good sense of exactly how much a child could handle, which is quite a bit.

Q: What do you hope readers will come away with when they read THE HUNGER GAMESand/or CATCHING FIRE?

SC: Questions about how elements of the book might be relevant in their own lives. And, if they’re disturbing, what they might do about them.

Q: In THE HUNGER GAMES, Katniss and Gale have an extensive knowledge of hunting, foraging, wildlife, and survival techniques. What kinds of research did you do, if any?

SC: Some things I knew from listening to my dad talking about his childhood. He grew up during the Depression. For his family, hunting was not a sport but a way to put meat on the table. He also knew a certain amount about edible plants. He’d go into the woods and gather all these wild mushrooms and bring them home and sauté them. My mom wouldn’t let any of us go near them! But he’d eat them up and they never harmed him, so I guess he knew which ones were safe, because wild mushrooms can be very deadly.

I also read a big stack of wilderness survival guidebooks. And here’s what I learned: you’ve got to be really good to survive out there for more than a few days.

Q: How long would it take for North America to deteriorate into the world depicted in the books?

SC: You’d have to allow for the collapse of civilization as we know it, the emergence of Panem, a rebellion, and seventy-four years of the Hunger Games. We’re talking triple digits.

Q: You have written for television for young children and for middle-grade readers (the New York Times bestselling series The Underland Chronicles). Why did you decide to write for an older audience and how was the experience different?

SC: I think the nature of the story dictated the age of the audience from the beginning. Both The Underland Chronicles and THE HUNGER GAMES have a lot of violence. But in The Underland Chronicles, even though human characters die, a lot of the conflict takes place between different fantastical species. Giant rats and bats and things. You can skew a little younger that way. Whereas in THE HUNGER GAMES, there’s no fantasy element, it’s futuristic sci-fi and the violence is not only human on human, it’s kid on kid. And I think that automatically moves you into an older age range.

I find there isn’t a great deal of difference technically in how you approach a story, no matter what age it’s for. I started out as a playwright for adult audiences. When television work came along, it was primarily for children. But whatever age you’re writing for, the same rules of plot, character, and theme apply. You just set up a world and try to remain true to it. If it’s filled with cuddly animated animals, chances are no one’s going to die. If it’s filled with giant flesh-and-blood rats with a grudge, there’s going to be violence.

Q: Was The Hunger Games always planned as a trilogy?

SC: Not necessarily. But once I’d thought through to the end of the first book, I realized that there was no way that the story was concluded. Katniss does something that would never go unpunished in her world. There would definitely be repercussions. And so the question of whether or not to continue with a series was answered for me.

Q: Do you have every book completely mapped out, or do you have a general idea and then take it from there? Did you run into things that were unexpected plot-wise or character-wise?

SC: I’ve learned it helps me to work out the key structural points before I begin a story. The inciting incident, acts, breaks, mid-story reversal, crisis, climax, those sorts of things. I’ll know a lot of what fills the spaces between them as well, but I leave some uncharted room for the characters to develop. And if a door opens along the way, and I’m intrigued by where it leads, I’ll definitely go through it.

Q: What was it like to return to the world of the Hunger Games to write CATCHING FIRE?

SC: Honestly, I feel like I never left it. The revisions of Book I overlapped with the writing of Book II, just as Book II has overlapped with Book III. Since each book feeds into the next, I feel like part of my brain’s been in Panem continuously.

Q: How do you typically spend your workday? Do you have a routine as you write?

SC: I grab some cereal and sit down to work as soon as possible. The more distractions I have to deal with before I actually begin writing, the harder focusing on the story becomes. Then I work until I’m tapped out, usually sometime in the early afternoon. If I actually write three to five hours, that’s a productive day. Some days all I do is stare at the wall. That can be productive, too, if you’re working out character and plot problems. The rest of the time, I walk around with the story slipping in and out of my thoughts.

Q: You are probably getting a lot of fan mail! What is the most surprising feedback you’ve received for The Hunger Games? (Or, what has surprised you the most about the feedback you’re getting for The Hunger Games.)

SC: Probably how differently people view the book. Some are attracted to the dystopian world, others are there for action and adventure, still others for the romance. The readers are defining the book in very personal and exciting ways.

Q: What were some of your favorite novels when you were a teen?

ANNA KARENINA by Leo Tolstoy
A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle
LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
BORIS by Jaapter Haar
GERMINAL by Emile Zola
DANDELION WINE by Ray Bradbury

Copyright Scholastic

Thursday, September 16, 2010

From the Tenches

From the Trenches via School Library Journal

At some point, most of us will find ourselves in a situation that forces us to face what sort of person we really are. But with any luck, we won't need a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness (like some of Gary Paulsen's characters endure) to become more self-aware. The following books feature young adults who have gone on life-changing journeys, and in the process, discovered more about themselves.

PERKINS, Lynne Rae. As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth. Greenwillow. 2010. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-187090-3. PLB $17.89. ISBN 978-0-06-187091-0.
Gr 7 Up–In her latest novel, the Newbery Medal-winning author sends 15-year-old Ry on a journey across the United States. Ry gets off a train headed for camp to make a quick phone call (even though he's been told not to), and minutes later the train pulls away with all of his belongings, leaving him in the middle of nowhere. A pair of shiny white loafers, a car fire, and a missing grandfather are just a few of the things that complicate Ry's journey back to his parents and a normal life. (If you can call it normal.) Short cartoons scattered throughout add to this quirky travel tale.

BRADBURY, Jennifer. Shift. Anthenum. 2008. Tr $17.99ISBN: 978-1-4169-4732-5. pap. $7.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-0852-4.
Gr 8 Up–Win and Chris made big plans to ride their bicycles cross country to the West Coast. When they get separated in Washington, Chris goes on to Seattle as planned and thinks little of the fact that Win never shows up–until an FBI agent questions Chris at school one day. Where is the uncle that Win was supposed to meet? When was the last time Chris heard from his friend? Why is the FBI so interested in a missing college student? Chris is sure that Win has told him the truth, but he couldn't just disappear, could he?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New Pictures

Hey guys! Check out our facebook page under "Waterford Library" to see the pictures from Campfire Stories and Smores last Thursday. We had a nice turnout, (although it was a bit chilly), and the Smores tasted deLICIOUS! I hope that between the ghost stories and sugar rush you were able to get some sleep :)
Thanks to all who came! I had a "Spook" tacular time!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New Jennifer Donnelly Book!

Here's a sneak peek:

Kira Porton, a buyer at A Children’s Place in Portland, Ore., recommends a new work of historical fiction for young adults.

I was a bit suspicious when I started reading Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution, since it starts out with a rich girl from Brooklyn who is depressed about her brother’s death, is showing signs of having suicidal thoughts, and is not doing well in school. So many novels begin with a similar premise and sometimes I feel as though I’m reading a book that I’ve read before. But I soon realized that this one has so much extra. The author keeps adding unexpected twists, trains of thought, and connections.

After putting his mentally ill artist wife in the hospital, Andi’s father takes her to Paris, where he is doing DNA research. There, he expects her to work on her senior thesis about a French composer from the past and how his music relates to modern-day music. She comes across an old guitar in a case that has a secret compartment where she finds a diary written by a girl 200 years earlier, during the French Revolution.

The author makes fascinating parallels between Andi and the girl who wrote the diary. The present and past are perfectly blended, especially the themes of Andi’s pain over her brother’s death and the brutality of events that happened during the Revolution. Sometimes when I read books in which the author tries to blend two time periods I find myself skimming through one part to get back to the other. But this author pulls it off so well. The novel delves so deep into emotions that sometimes I had to put the book down for a while because of all the sadness. And I mean that in a good way.

I will definitely handsell this to teens 14-up, and I already have kids in mind who will gobble it up. Even kids who don’t usually like historical fiction won’t be able to put Revolution down, especially given its great modern-day story. We do a lot of business with teachers and librarians and I can’t wait to get this into their hands, too. It is definitely one of those books that seem to have something for everyone.

"Boo"-gy down to the Park Tonight...

for some stories and sm'ores! Yum....can hardly type thinking about it. The weather is looking pretty fall-spectacular today but if it becomes rainy or windy be prepared to meet inside the library at 7 p.m. So...if you'd like, here's a few things to consider:
-warm clothes/blanket
-one or two of your favorite ghost stories
-a drink
-your sparkly, bright personality

Looking forward to seeing you! I sent out invites earlier in the week which I hope you received. I really had fun making them. The picture on the front is actually from a book we have at the library called "Ghosts in Photographs." You might want to check it out. It gave me the shivers big time! See you soon!


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fall's coming (like it or not) about a project?

Happy Day! I'm sure you're all loving being back in class and relishing every moment you have doing some very interesting homework, right? case you get bored, you may want to look out your window (home or school, I won't tell) to see that the leaves are just beginning to change and the gusts of wind are starting to pick up. Yes, my lovelies, it's FALL! Already! How did that happen! I've always loved fall but I know that to many of you that means back to school and back to teachers and well...back to everything you like to forget about in the summer.
Perhaps you should take a tip from the mother of ALL seasons and the woman who knows perhaps the most of any of us how to stay busy. That person: Martha Stewart.
Yes, Martha has some great fall ideas posted on her website (for kids and teens especially), and so I wanted to pass that on to you in case you feel like taking a break from your homework and diving into something a little more "creative."
I really like this craft for instance, (shown above), in which you take leaves from the trees and glue them to a circular object (you can find these at any dime store or craft store), to make your own Fall Wreath. I think it would make a great addition to my desk or my door and for those of you leaving for college....maybe a dorm room??!! What a fantastic idea....thanks Martha!!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wrestle-Mania Reading Challenge

Read 5 books of your choice and complete a small project and you could be on your way to see Wrestle Mania XXIII in Atlanta April 5th. Just stop by the library to pick up your free mini-poster, your project sheet and your reading log and you'll be well on your way! Door prizes will be awarded to those who participate. Questions?? Contact Emily in the Children's Department at or call her at 262-534-3988 ext. 19.
Get down with your bad self!!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


So last night after a fantastic supper of feta and spinach pizza (yum!) I decided I needed to download the new Suzanne Collins book on my Kindle before going to bed and catch a few chapters to keep up with the rest of you. An hour later, I was still up reading. Yes (!) it's that good. So far...that is. I would say I'm about 35% through with it, but so far it's had me riveted since page one.

This one has a different feel to it than the others of the series although I've heard that it's absolutely amazing by my equally geeky YA-reading friends in my SOIS program at UW-Milwaukee. I had one friend who didn't like it, but she mentioned that her beloved Katniss wasn't as tough in this one as in the others. I think she'd doing just FINE so far and so what--really, isn't it about time someone looked after Katniss instead of the other way around? As far as heroines go, she has my vote. Hands down.

You'll want to put a copy of this on hold if you haven't already. If nothing else, you've got to see how this ends. Peeta or Gale?? And because I'm geeky I don't mind telling you that I've been Team Peeta since the beginning! Cheers!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Space Between Trees....

I'm not going to lie. I picked this book up because it seriously has one of the coolest covers I've ever seen. You might not be able to see from the photo, but the tree is literally cut out of the book jacket which makes this mystery book tantalizing---literally--from front to back. I'm about half way through at this point and am enjoying it immensely.

Here's the synopsis from School Library Journal:

Grade 8 Up—Sixteen-year-old Evie is an outsider with a vivid imagination. She makes up stories for herself and others to make life in her small Midwestern town tolerable. When a childhood friend, Zabet McCabe, is murdered, Evie is thrust into a story beyond her wildest imaginings. Her little habitual deceptions, usually so harmless, get her entangled with grieving Mr. McCabe and Zabet's emotionally unstable and reckless best friend, Hadley Smith. Hadley is obsessed with finding Zabet's killer, and Evie lets herself get dragged into her increasingly paranoid and dangerous investigation. This dark and suspenseful coming-of-age story builds steadily to a violent climax. Evie is a skillful storyteller, perceptive and thoughtful, with a dry sense of humor. She is especially sensitive to disingenuousness in others, particularly in her mother, with whom she has an emotionally distant relationship. As a result, she fixates on the only genuine person in her life: taciturn Jonah Luks, on whom she has an unrequited crush. Evie adds beauty and excitement to the mundane with her fantasies, but only grows as a person when she faces reality and reaches out to the people around her. Readers who have ever felt like they don't fit in will find it easy to empathize with the teen's struggle to connect to others, and anyone can relate to the disillusionment that comes with growing up.

And you can read it before Halloween too...which makes it perfect!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fat Kid Rules the World..........

Troy is fat. Really fat. At nearly 300 pounds Troy thinks the only thing worth accomplishing is throwing himself in front of a moving train. That is until he meets Curt, the local teen guitarist/heart-throb whose genuine interest in Troy makes him reconsider what life is ultimately about.

A great addition to the world of YA fiction, this book tests the boundaries of friendship and family ties while humorously integrating themes such as drug-use, obesity, and growing up.

Troy is not only a sympathetic character, he is a unique one that truly makes the reader feel what it must be like to be an alienated teenager in the 21st century. I highly recommend this one. It can be read in one sitting---only 200 pages or so and is totally worth the time. It was a Printz Honor book a few years it. You won't be disappointed.