February 24, 2013

Because Matthew would want me to write this...

I'm still in shock over the horrific ending to Downton Abbey so I may have to pause in my writing to scream while throwing my fist in the air.  I was one of those that did not see it coming, and had not read any spoilers, so I was sucker punched.  And if you don't know what I'm talking about, get Netflix, or borrow Downton from the library, for it is a soap opera set in England early 1900s, for those who say they hate soap operas.

I want to share two books with you today...two completely different books.  One Pulitzer Prize winning of brilliance, the other...meh.  I mean it's good, but for my students.  It's one for librarians to suggest to those who love realistic fantasy and romance.

First the YA book for those who either deal with the trade of YA books, or are in fact a young adult or one at heart.
Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown is a fantasy book that delves into the world of mermaids/ mermen.  This is not a common theme among YA lit, but it has seen some good stuff (see this list from Good Reads.)  This one is good, not great, good.  What I like about it is the main character is a boy.  Really not something you see in this type of fiction.  Not only a boy, but one out for revenge and justice for a mother killed by humans.  There is much more than just justice and revenge.  His sisters are awesomely evil and siren like, and the human girl he obviously falls in love with is actually cool and strong.  I like the strong female roles in this one, and I also liked the twist ending (no spoilers here).  Could it have been better and more sophisticated, yes.  Was it predictable, yes, but still surprising.  I would definitely recommend it.

We ate our desert first, for now I serve you the main course, the meat.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.  I must warn you some love, LOVE this book, while others hate this book with a passion I have not seen since Star Wars was murdered by Jar Jar Binks.  I was a lover.  A deep lover that wanted desperately for Oscar to win that kiss, win that love he so wanted.  And in the end I believe he did, just not in the way most heroes win.  This book, although the title suggest otherwise, has many main characters.  Oscar's sister, Oscar's mother, Oscar's adopted grandmother, the narrator, and the Dominican Republic.  For that country is as much a character as Oscar.  But if you see from above, each main character is just a piece of Oscar, each one telling you about the family curse and how it finally beat Oscar.

This is the story of a loser.  However much you hate labels and stereotypes, Oscar is a loser.  But not because he is a loner, a nerd, and Dungeons and Dragons Master, but because he believes he is a loser.  So when he does try, when he holds on with a death grip to his one chance at love even when we all see it will end with a literal bullet to the head we still want him to try. I was equal parts infuriated, in love, depressed and glad this book was over when I finished the last page.

Mother, don't read this one. xo

February 19, 2013

A post where I take on a troll...

So I've been obsessing over this article about author, Terry Deary.  A popular children's author has come out publicly against libraries.  In summary, he is upset that people are getting access to his books without paying for them.  He works very hard at writing his histories, they are one of the top books checked out at the library, but he sees very little in cold hard cash.

I always had in the back of my head that one day someone will just start quietly closing libraries.  No news story, no big "save the library campaign."  Just one day they will be empty and closed.
I've been harboring a fear that myself and other librarians will just one day not exist.  This article played into those fears, and sent me to the edge. An article about an author who negates the need for libraries.  What?!  These people are our champions!  I have heard from author after author how much libraries support and help promote them and their books.  Now one of them has turned.  You traitorous traitor!!!

But let's calm down...

First, he wants cash.  Understandable.  Author's are not the wealthiest, unless they hit it big like J.K. "Money Pants" Rowling.  But let's really examine this issue.  I know for a fact that libraries help the sale of books.  I personally have put money into the hands of many many many authors.  I promote books, show book trailers, gush over authors, have raffles for books (and book paraphernalia), invite authors to the library to promote their book-WHILE PAYING THEM, have sold their books at book fairs and other events, helped put on a tri-district author event that sold books and paid dozens of authors to come speak.  Not to mention all the books I buy for the library. Cold...hard...cash.

Which leads me to this scenario...
"Hey Ms. Workman I hate to read but I have to read a stupid book, what do ya got?"
"Well Timmy, how about this book by Patrick Carmen called Skeleton Creek?  It's a cool horror/ ghost story that is half book, half online.  You read this sweet story of a haunted old dredge, then come to a part in the book that tells you to watch a video online for next part.  It's scary, a good story, awesome characters, and you only have to really read half of a book.  Give it a try."
"Ok, whatever.  I hate reading."
"Here ya go Timmy, enjoy, but if you really don't like it come back after 10 pages and I'll find you something else."
"Whatever, I hate reading.  However, you do play an awesome ukulele."
"Thanks, Timmy."

2 days later...

"Um, Hi Mrs. Workman"
"What's up Timmy, what did you think?"
"Um, do you have the second one?"
"I'm sorry Timmy, I was playing my ukulele too loud?  Did you say you needed the second one?"
"Um yeah..."
"Gosh Timmy, I don't have the second one, and another kid just checked it out, so it might be awhile until I get it.  The public library is out of it too.  It is at the book store, but until you get the next one I've got another series you might like... "
"Ok, well I hate reading, but this one wasn't bad.  What else you got?"

Then he went and made his mom take him to the bookstore and buy the book!!!!  (Some of the above scenario were fictionalized).
What?  That's right.  Libraries help the sale of books.  They really do.  I started reading the Game of Thrones book series from the library, but eventually bought the books.  A series I just happened to pick up one day at the library.

So, suck it Deary.

Are libraries useless?  I don't know author of HISTORIES...did you use the interweb to find ALL OF YOUR INFORMATION, or did you probably go to the LIBRARY to do RESEARCH?!    That's right, all those primary sources, historically significant books can not be digitized overnight.  Not all of their information will can be found on the internet/ Wikipedia.  Centuries of non-fiction and fiction books are not going to be digitized by tomorrow, and then all read on an ebook.  Yes libraries are changing, yes we must adapt, yes the internet has destroyed independent bookstores and the sale of physical books.  But library patronage has gone up 20% during the last recession.  They are used by the poor, and by the affluent alike.

And they haven't caused you to earn less, but helped you earn more...respect...from children and parents who have found your lovely books on a library shelf.  Otherwise most of us wouldn't have known you existed.  That class/ person wouldn't have seen your book promoted, or recommended.
How do you think you established your audience?  How else do you think people know who you are?  Your friendly neighborhood librarian, a@#hole.

February 7, 2013

Winter Reads...Libba Bray, the other white meat.

The Diviners by Libba Bray
What I love about Libba Bray is her absolute lack of caring about popular culture.  This author writes stories, amazing stories of people you fall in love with, stories that even though it's 200 pages too long you will finish every page, stories that do not buy in to what is popular.  Who writes a Young Adult  story set in the 1920s?  No one, except Libba Bray.  Diviners is about Evie, a girl (a flapper actually) who I really really want to hang out with.  I love how Bray describes Evie, she is such a good time girl with a big heart, and a very cool divining power.  I want to party with Evie at Speakeasies, wearing long strands of pearls and drinking gin while dancing the Charleston.

However, Evie has a supernatural power.  A power that keeps getting her into trouble because she shows off after having a few too many cocktails.  She is sent to New York to live with her reclusive Uncle.  This Uncle is a well-known professor of all things occult.  Evie is then caught up in helping to solve a murder, that turns into a serial murder case.  A string of murders that are the catalyst to the end of civilization.
I did love this book, and will read the inevitable sequel, but it was too long.  Many scenes where completely irrelevant to the story line.  But the characters were real, and charming.