Sunday, June 28, 2009

Recent Reading: vol. ??

First, a plea: I really really want to read Liar by Justine Larbalestier right now! I cannot wait until September 29th. Does anyone have an ARC?? Please!? I'd read it quick and return it straightaway, or I've got good stuff I could trade you for it. (It sucks to not be in the biz, showered with more free advance copies than I could possibly read—at least that's what I assume life is like in the publishing world...)

And now, here's what I read this week:

Janes in Love, Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
The sequel to The Plain Janes where the Janes fret about boys and also get an NEA-esque grant and community support that make their public art attacks legit.

Downsiders, Neal Shusterman
This is about people who live beneath Manhattan in elaborate abandoned tunnels and other structures. Then a downside boy meets a topside girl while he's scavenging above-ground for medicine for his little sister (awww!), and it plays out about how you'd expect. Except! The girl does some research and finds out how their community started (they've forgotten themselves, it was so many generations ago), and it's all about imagining what might have happened if Alfred Beach hadn't stopped building his doomed pneumatic subway system in the 1870s. Which is pretty cool; I love that bit of NYC history.

Dough Boy, Peter Marino
Tristan's a fat kid with an insufferable, nutrition-obsessed new stepsister who spends most of the book berating him and her father about their weight and alienating everyone she meets. The first half of the book is pretty much one hundred percent her yelling at him about carbs [no, that's not true, lots of other things happened too; it just felt that way], then in the second half she starts doing other annoying things too, while everyone tries to figure out how to not have to spend time with her. Bonus points for Tristan not magically losing weight by the end.

Like A Thorn, Clara Vidal
A short book about a girl who develops OCD as a way to cope with her unpredictable, emotionally abusive mother. It was translated from French, and I have to assume it reads better in the original.

Unrelatedly, I ate my first garden beans today. I had meant to put them in a salad, but I couldn't wait long enough to get them inside. Just wiped the dirt off and ate them and their sun-warmth. And here's a picture of my favorite young tomato. I can't remember which kind he is—"cherokee purple" maybe? I've got a good feeling about those delicious-looking pleats.

Read this week: 4
YTD total: 47

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Carnegie Medal

The Carnegie Medal was just announced, and it went to Siobhan Dowd for Bog Child! It's the first-ever posthumous Carnegie (Dowd died of cancer shortly after finishing Bog Child in 2007). If you go to the Carnegie website there's a page of videos. The awards ceremony clips aren't all up yet, but I'm sure they'll be there soon,and you can watch the judges talking about the finalists in the meantime. They're up now, and worth watching.

Golden Duck Award

This should have been up here weeks ago, but you know how it is.
The Golden Duck Award for Excellence in Children's Sci-Fi lit was a tie! A good tie, between Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.

You know, I enjoyed reading Little Brother, but I remember writing a post ages ago where I sort of complained about its endless explaining of things. But it turns out that even now, many months later, I still find valuable uses for some of the things I learned. For instance, I learned a simple way to find hidden cameras in rooms, and you know I'm paranoid enough that I tried it out in my new apartment. And now I can undress without fear.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Recent Reading

I've not been reading too much YA lately, cause I've been busy wasting my time with some adult books and other activities.

But. I did manage to read a graphic novel in the tub one morning—The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg.
After Jane nearly gets blown up by a terrorist bomb in a city cafe, her parents freak out and move the family to the suburbs, where Jane joins forces with some other outcasts also named Jane and starts doing guerrilla public art projects. Features one-dimensional stereotypical supporting characters—the mean girl, the drama freak, the science nerd, the token gay jane—but I liked it anyway.

Total books read this week: 1
Total YTD: 44? 45? Must look back at the previous total and add 1... Only 43 Ack!

P.S. I hear that Ohio is about to drastically cut state funding for public libraries—by 50%! This can't happen. I'm not in Ohio myself, but my nieces and nephews are, and all their classmates and families too. Whole branches would close—possibly the one in their neighborhood, for all I know—new books wouldn't be bought. And so on. This is a link to one of those silly online forms that sends a message to the legislators. I hate those things, but it's better than nothing. Better yet, if you're in Ohio, write your own letter or make a real phone call. Save my sister's family's libraries!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Recent Reading

It's been so long since I wrote a post about what I've read—good thing no one cares, eh? But since I've been trying to keep track of what I read this year, I have to try to keep up. So this is what I can remember having read in the last 6 weeks or so, with super brief summaries (for some reason, I decided to put ***'s around ones that I especially like):

***Marcelo in the Real World, Francisco X. Stork***
I'm getting a little tired of hearing this compared to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time just because they both happen to be about autistic-ish guys who really really don't want to go outside their comfort zones, but do and end up accomplishing things they never thought they could and also solving mysteries (of sorts). I love both books actually, but they have very different tones. Marcelo is just quiet and beautiful, even though his "real world" gets pretty ugly.

***The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan***
An amazing post-apocalyptic zombie book—my two favorite sub-genres in one! It's sort of like The Road, except here you know what destroyed the world, and it's still there—endlessly clawing at the fences and moaning.

***Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld***
I'm so excited about this one! I hate to use sci-fi/fantasy lingo, but nice "world-building," Scott Westerfeld! Very nice indeed. It's an alternate history of the build-up to WWI, where Franz Ferdinand's son pilots a giant walking war machine, and the British have created living airships that are entire ecosystems of genetically-tweaked creatures. Someone really needs to arrange a showdown between the fabricated beasties of this book and the half-men of Melvin Burgess's Bloodtide and Bloodsong.

***Love and Lies, Ellen Wittlinger***
This is the sequel to Hard Love, where Gio goes to college and Marisol takes a year off to hang out in coffee shops and write a novel, a ridiculously earnest idea. And of course they somehow end up in the same adult-ed writing course and try to be friends again and also meet new people to have complicated relationships with.

***Suite Scarlett, Maureen Johnson***
Scarlett's family owns and lives in a once-fancy hotel in Manhattan. An eccentric guest moves in for the summer and stealth theater productions and complicated-but-heartwarming sibling relationships ensue.

Zoe's Tale, John Scalzi
Don't do what I did and try to read this as a freestanding novel just because it's up for a YA sci-fi award, and Scalzi's other books are not. You must read the Last Colony first or, like me, you will have no idea what's happening. This is my own fault, but still: The cover has pictures of some rad-looking space battles, right? This is misleading! It takes about three quarters of the book to get to the action, and then it happens approximately like this: Zoe sees an awesome explosion in the sky and asks her giraffe/spider-like alien bodyguard what just happened, and it's like (I'm paraphrasing), "oh man, we were going to tell you about the plan to destroy the whole fleet, but there wasn't time," and Zoe's all: "well tell me now." And so they spend about two paragraphs summarizing some pretty exciting sounding events from the previous book for idiots like me. The rest of it is mostly teenagers being sarcastic on a planet they're colonizing with their families.

The Sandman, vol. 1, Neil Gaiman (not YA, but whatev)
The Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman
Makes no sense to lump these two together, but they're both part of my effort to finally get up to speed on this guy that everyone seems to know way more about than me. The first part of The Anansi Boys was so effortlessly well-written I was sort of in awe. It kept feeling like it was going off track and then would tie back into itself in without missing a beat. And I'm reserving judgement on The Sandman until I read the later stuff.

The Waters & The Wild, Francesca Lia Block
Three high school misfits—a changeling, a reincarnated slave from 1800 and a stuttering boy whose father may be an extraterrestrial—find each other in L.A.

Hush, Jacqueline Woodson
A girl's family struggles with their new identities and lost roots when they enter the witness protection program after her father testifies against white police officers who shot an unarmed black boy.

Huge, Sasha Paley
Two roommates at fat camp are there for very different reasons and at first can't stand each other. Eventually they come together to get revenge on the jock who scorned them both.

Friction, E. R. Frank
A new girl at an alternative middle school with a possibly too-sophisticated knowledge of sex makes the other students question the teacher's behavior.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Age 13 3/4, Sue Townsend
Adrian Mole: The Lost Years, Sue Townsend
I found The Lost Years on my bookshelves the other day; I think I had once bought it in a thrift store and forgotten about it. So then I had to go back and read the original Adrian Mole. Ridiculous and amusing.

In the beginning of the year I was counting up the books I read. So:
Since April 19th: 14
YTD total: 42

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Look at my yard!! (part II)

Anyone dying to know what my little Brooklyn garden (pictured here about six weeks ago) looks like now? I can't believe I was so impressed at how lush and green it was back then! That innocent baby fern I posted? Those things get three feet wide! So the perennials have just been off doing their thing—and how!—but my real project is the vegetable garden I planted in the raised beds. One of which now looks like this.

The tomatoes have only been in about a month and they're up to my waist almost, and there are lots of blossoms and a few teensy baby tomatoes. That's cauliflower and broccoli in front, plus some bell peppers and green beans off to the side. And loads of other things not pictured. Blah blah blah! Very boring, I know, so here's a picture of my cat sniffing the romaine, and then I'm done.

(Next time I post, it'll be about YA books. I've been reading some good ones lately.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award

And the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Young Adult Literature 2009 shortlist was announced last week. Full details are here.

Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone, Carol Berg
Pandemonium, Daryl Gregory
Lavinia, Ursula K. Le Guin
The Bell at Sealey Head, Patricia A. McKillip
An Evil Guest, Gene Wolfe

Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards

The Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards were announced today!

In the Fiction and Poetry category:
Nation, Terry Pratchett — winner
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves, M.T. Anderson — honor book
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman — honor book