Wednesday, January 22, 2014

SCBWI Blogger Interviews: 10 Questions for P.J. Hoover

Ms. Hoover is a Faculty Member of the Austin SCBWI 2014 Writers & Illustrators Working Conference occurring February 8-9, 2014.

P. J. Hoover first fell in love with Greek mythology in sixth grade thanks to the book Mythology by Edith Hamilton. After a fifteen year bout as an electrical engineer designing computer chips for a living, P. J. decided to take her own stab at mythology and started writing books for kids and teens. When not writing, P. J. spends time with her husband and two kids and enjoys practicing kung fu, solving Rubik's cubes, and watching Star Trek. Her first novel for teens, Solstice (Tor Teen, June 2013), takes place in a global warming future and explores the parallel world of mythology beside our own. Her middle grade novel, Tut (Tor Children's, 2014), tells the story of a young immortal King Tut, who's been stuck in middle school for over 3,000 years and must defeat an ancient enemy with the help of a dorky kid from school, a mysterious Egyptian princess, and a one-eyed cat. P. J. is also a member of the TEXAS SWEETHEARTS & SCOUNDRELS. For more information about P. J. (Tricia) Hoover, please visit her website.


Why choose the Persephone myth as the inspiration for Solstice? Greek and Roman mythology have so many stories to choose from, what made you decide on that one in particular?

I love taking the myths and twisting them, and the story of Persephone and Hades was always one of my favorites. I thought it would be fascinating to ask "What if Persephone wanted to go to the Underworld?"

TUT is scheduled for release in 2014 and follows the adventures of an immortal 14-year-old King Tut, perpetually stuck in 8th Grade and hiding from his evil Uncle Horemheb.  What kind of research went into developing this story? What was it like getting into the brain of an immortal adolescent boy?

I would have loved to travel to Egypt, but sadly that didn't happen. What did happen is plenty of fun research in Washington, D.C., where the bulk of the book is set. I dragged my mom and kids to all the museums, to the top of the Washington Monument, to Chinatown, to Arlington Cemetery. It was so much fun! We also hopped in the car and went to Philadelphia to see the King Tut exhibit.

As for the brain of the adolescent boy, it was actually a blast! I have a middle-school-age son, and watching him go through middle school is so much more fun than when I went through it myself :)

There is a trend in Hollywood of adapting YA novels into movies; would you want Solstice made into a film? If so, who would your dream cast include? If not, which YA book-to-movie are you most looking forward to in 2014?

I would *love* Solstice to be made into a movie! As for a dream cast, I have no idea! I'm horrible about knowing who any actors are anymore. I kind of lost track at the turn of the century. As for what I'm looking forward to, I'm excited to see Divergent and The Maze Runner!

In Solstice Piper's mother is very controlling and manipulative. Piper struggles with loving her mother and being frustrated by her constant need to know where Piper is and what she is doing; a position that many teens may identify with.  What advice do you have for teens who are living under a dictatorial parent?

The advice I'd give is to recognize that having a parent who cares is way better than the alternate. They love you and want to keep you safe. Also learn bargaining skills. Spontaneous acts of goodwill will get you far in life. And finally, realize that you aren't the only one.

Your website bio lists Edith Hamilton's Mythology as the beginning of your fascination with mythology. Which mythological character is most like you?  Why?

I'll go with Athena, mostly because I always wanted to be her. I even had license plates back in college that said, "Athena J" on them!

What are your tricks for getting past "writer's block"?

I'm not a believer in writer's block. Sure, some days the words do not flow very easily. But those are the days it is most important to force yourself to sit your butt in the chair (BIC) and write, even if it's just a small bit.

Some authors need specific tools/music/environment to write.  What do you need, if anything, to get in the writing zone?

Coffee sure helps, as does silence. I'm not much for music, unless I'm out somewhere writing, like a coffee shop. Having writing friends around helps keep me accountable. What I don't need to get into the writing zone is Internet! It's a horrible distraction :)

If you could have any superpower, which would you choose? Why?

I'd love to be able to teleport because being able to travel quickly would make it so nice to visit family and friends who are far away!

*Mini bio courtesy of P.J. Hoover's website

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Top Ten Tuesdays: Kimberly’s Reading Wishlist

Top Ten Tuesday is the weekly meme hosted by the excellent blog The Broke and the Bookish. This week, we’re supposed to be creating a list of things we would love authors to write about, whether places, time periods, issues or types of characters.

1. The perfect read alike for Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I am convinced this book doesn’t exist. I have read many a contemporary romance about an American girl finding love in a foreign country, and every single one has fallen short of the high bar Perkins set.

2. The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs is one of my very favorite series out there, paranormal or otherwise. Although I love the series as it is being written, I would happily read a full-length novel about Warren. The short story Briggs did write, just wasn’t enough!

3. I would dearly love to see more novels, realistic or otherwise, that focus on a developing relationship. I’m tired of instalove and I hate love triangles. Give me plots where one couple slowly builds a relationship that starts with a solid foundation!  (Rebecca would like to second that request!)

4. Along that same vein, I would also love for authors to stop writing obsessive relationships as if they are romantic and charming. There is nothing remotely acceptable about a guy who is so oppressive, overbearing or manipulative that he completely overshadows or controls the supposed love of his life. If we won’t stand for that in real life, why do we stand for it in fiction?

5. Similarly, why is it that in fiction (YA, especially), female characters are either tough as nails, or overtly feminine. Why can’t we have a blending of the two? Why can’t that beautiful girl who loves floaty skirts, sparkly eye makeup and baking, also be the kind of girl who can fend for herself when the going gets tough? Give me more YA fiction with feminine heroines who take care of their own problems.

6. More standalone novels! I love a good series as much as the next person, but does every single book need to be part of one? This is one big reason why I read so much realistic fiction - it is very rarely part of a series. I know it’s not as lucrative to write a standalone, but would some authors pretty please try?

7. I would be blissfully happy if authors would return to the traditional, top ten, baby names for their characters. I understand why authors use weird names, I really do. No one would name their kid that in real life, but a character is fine, right? WRONG. I just can’t read another book where the character’s name is Ever or Cricket or Caymen or something equally dumb. What’s wrong with Emily or Anne or Jack?

8. It seems like more and more, the trend in YA fiction is absent parents. One of my favorite things about Lindsey Leavitt’s Going Vintage was the happy family aspect. I know not all families are like that, and not all teenagers have supportive, loving parents. But that doesn’t mean that parents have to be absent or bad in every novel, does it?

9. Look, I’m verbose. I know this. That does not mean I want every book I read to be a 600 page tome. Sometimes 600 pages aren’t necessary to the plot. Sometimes more than half of those 600 pages are filled with useless details that do nothing to further the story. (A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness is a prime example of this.) Better editing and more restraint would be lovely to see.

10. Be unique! It seems half the books written now are meant to be a copy of a previous popular title. I don’t want the next Hunger Games or Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. I want the next original story. Don’t be afraid to write something truly spectacular, because I want to read that book.

*fingers crossed*

Thursday, January 16, 2014

See you again in February

Due to frantic BFYA reading, I won't be posting anything new until ALA Midwinter is finished.  See y'all in February!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Program Idea: Chocolate Study Hall

When you work with teens, you very quickly become attuned to the academic year - which means you KNOW when it's Finals Time. Your teens whine and bemoan the upcoming tests and you, as the sympathetic and fun YA Librarian, have the ultimate solution. Chocolate Study Hall!

Chocolate Study Hall is a way for teens to study (individually or in small groups) in a peaceful, stress free environment.  That just happens to be fueled by sugar!

  Here's what you'll need:

  • Chocolate candies
  • Chocolate cookies
  • Bread
  • Nutella
  • Toaster
  • Hot Chocolate packets
  • Electric kettle (or other source of hot water)
  • Alternative drinks (lemonade and water)
  • Marshmallows
  • Chocolate fountain
  • Fruit (sliced or cubed for chocolate fountain)
  • Small Plates
  • Cups
  • Tablecloth
  • Scratch paper
  • Pens & Pencils
Set up several tables into a banquet-style buffet table and cover with the table cloth. Around the room arranged single study areas as well as spaces for small groups. If you have floor pillows set them around the edges of the room. Arrange all your food on the buffet table and get your chocolate fountain going about 15 minutes before the program starts.

Running this program is as simple as opening the doors and letting the teens eat chocolate and study!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Top Ten Ten Tuesdays: Kimberly’s Most Anticipated Books of 2014

Top Ten Tuesday is the weekly meme hosted by the excellent blog The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s list is technically supposed to be about 2014 debuts I am most excited for, but, frankly, I don’t care if a book is a debut or not. So I’m modifying it slightly to 2014 books I am most excited to read. Here goes!

1.  Lair of Dreams (Diviners #2) by Libba Bray – August 5th
Loved the first book! Can’t wait for the next installment! Hate the new covers!

2.  Night Broken (Mercy Thompson #8) by Patricia Briggs – March 11th
One of my favorite ongoing series. I re-read the whole series last year before the previous book came out and it was so satisfying that I wish I had time to do it again this year.

3.  The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3) by Deborah Harkness – July 15th
This series is bonkers crazy, and not in the good way. But I suffered through the first two books and feel my life won’t be complete without suffering through this one as well. Also, I have to see if she can actually wrap everything up in 600 pages, since not much  happened in the first book and absolutely nothing happened in the second. I have many doubts.

4.  Blood of My Blood (I Hunt Killers Trilogy #3) by Barry Lyga – September 23rd
I loved I Hunt Killers so much, I read it twice in one year. But when a friend told me about the huge cliffhangers at the end of Game, I decided to wait to read that one until the third book came out. September will be a very morbid month for me…

5.  Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill – January 7th
I know this one came out last week, but I’m still waiting for my library’s budget year to start up again and this one to be ordered. It sounds like an adorable and hilarious meld of Cutting Edge and Freaky Friday. What’s not to love?

6.  Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins – TBA
I’ve had this book preordered on Amazon for months and months and months. Let’s see if the final product (whenever it actually comes out) manages to meet my increasingly high expectations.

7.  The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith – April 15th
My bucket list includes the item “Get stuck in an elevator,” so it’s only natural that a romance about that very thing would appeal to me. Can’t wait!

8.  Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James – April 1st
After reading and loving both of St. James’s previous books last year, I’m excited for her latest offering. The setting, a hospital for soldiers suffering from shell shock after WWI, makes this one sound like it could be her creepiest ghost story yet!

9.  Rebel (Reboot #2) by Amy Tintera – May 13th
I loved the first book in this duology, and can’t wait to read this one. Such a great mix of zombies, dystopia and romance!

10.  On the Fence by Kasie West – July 1st
(There’s a lot of happy realistic fiction on this list…) I just finished reading West’s first realistic fiction novel, The Distance Between Us, and loved it. Here’s hoping this second offering is as sweet and fun to read!

Now, how about we move some of the pub dates forward a few months, eh?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Review: 'Written in Red' by Anne Bishop

“Vlad hated doing the paperwork as much as he did when a human employee quit, which was why they'd both made a promise not to eat quitters just to avoid the paperwork. As Tess had pointed out, eating the staff was bad for morale and made it so much harder to find new employees.”

Meg's blood is precious; as a cassandra sangue she has been gifted with the ability to see the future
when her skin is sliced. Women such as Meg are valuable commodities and kept isolated from the world - for their own protection. But Meg knows the truth, she has seen the girls driven mad, imprisoned, disappeared and she flees into a snowstorm. Seeking shelter from the storm, Meg accidentally stumbles into The Courtyard and the Territory of the Others who can masquerade as human but whose humanity only runs skin deep.  This chance meeting changes the lives of a lonely young woman as well as her new friends, friends who are both more and less than human.

Written in Red is the first in a new series by adult fantasy author Anne Bishop and introduces readers to the world of the Others. This world is a alternative version of our own where nature spirits take physical form and Gaia's guardians keep humans in check.  Each large human settlement has a Courtyard where Others (were creatures, vampires, and more) keep an eye on humans as well as trade goods and services.  The Courtyard that Meg finds herself working in as Human/Other Liaison is one of the most powerful in North America and run by Simon, a Wolf. Wolves don't have much use for humans, but as he watches Meg interact with others Simon begins to view humans as more than just meat; a shift in perspective that could change everything.

Meg is an interesting blend of innocence, kindness and determination.  She has spent her life in the control of others, forced to produce visions of the future and kept ignorant of many of the most basic concepts.  Watching her character explore the world allows the reader to learn about the Others' Realm alongside Meg in an organic manner.  Anne Bishop creates complex, exquisitely detailed worlds that leave readers aching to return.  Her characters are fully formed, unique and relatable - everything a reader could want.

This is definitely an adult fantasy novel, but I can see it having appeal to mature teens. Elements of paranormal/urban fantasy are blessedly free of romance in Bishop's new novel.  This along with a fascinating world and characters helped catapult Written in Red to the spot of my favorite non-Young-Adult novel of 2013.  I wouldn't hand this novel to my middle schoolers, but 16+ fantasy or urban fantasy readers should enjoy.

Book two of The Others , Murder of Crows, releases in March 2014.

Reviewer: Rebecca
Book Source: Public Library
Recommended Ages: 16+ for violence and sex (not overly graphic but does happen)

Recommended for Readers of:

Friday, January 10, 2014

Update: 20 Crafting Books for Teens that Libraries Should Own

Crafting is a way to let your teens physically express their individuality and imagination.  Below is my updated list of craft books that I think should be in every library's nonfiction for teens.

Stray Sock Sewing: Making One of a Kind Creatures from Socks

by Daniel

From the Publisher:
Great for beginning sewers - includes basic techniques and simple projects that are fun, fast and unique. Stray Sock Sewing is a lovable Asian-flavored craft book that blends how-to projects with a whimsical narrative. Readers will learn how to make odd and endearing one-of-a-kind creatures from a variety of sock styles. Eight step-by-step projects are easy enough for beginners, yet so adorable advanced crafters will be eager to make their own cuddly toys.

ISBN: 978-1600611995
Price: $19.99

A Greener Christmas

by Sheherazade Goldsmith

This book, while Christmas themed, contains DIY projects  that are easy to adapt for YA Programming. A Greener Christmas contains projects from mulling spice recipes to simple sewing projects.

ISBN: 978-0756636937
Price: Varies

The Big-Ass Book of Crafts 2

by Mark Montano

From the Publisher:
With his trademark humor and no-holds-barred approach to crafting, Mark will have you tapping into your creative soul and taking simple techniques to a whole new level in no time. We’re not talking plant-hangers and potholders here—the more than 150 handmade projects in this truly unique compendium are artistic, eye-catching, and cutting-edge, from cool brooches and earrings to ingenious belts and bags, from Bauhaus-style furniture to fishbowl lanterns, and so much more!

ISBN: 978-1451627800
Price: $19.99

The Big-Ass Book of Crafts

by Mark Montano

From the Publisher:
TLC's While You Were Out top designer Mark Montano has created stylish and imaginative projects that range from a Warhol-esque Ultrasuede iPod case to photo-adorned boxer shorts to African mask patio chairs to wooden night-light boxes. Divided into sections... it's as entertaining to read as it is endlessly inspiring. With more than one hundred and fifty inventive and fun projects, The Big-Ass Book of Crafts is the perfect activity book for readers of every mood, budget, and skill level.

ISBN: 978-1416937852
Price: $19.95

The Big-Ass Book of Bling

by Mark Montano

From the Publisher:
From punk to retro, from bobby pins to safety pins, with more than 150 projects there’s something for everyone, whether you want to glam it up Hollywood-style or go ultra-sophisticated like a newly crowned princess.

ISBN: 978-1451685282
Price: $19.99

Generation T: Beyond Fashion: 120 New Ways to Transform a T-shirt

by Megan Nicolay

From the Publisher:
A collection of 120 projects for every occasion, it takes the humble yet ever-malleable tee in dozens of new directions—from baby gifts to pet accessories, stuff for the home, the car, the road, the boyfriend. The rallying cry is: Don't buy; DIY. The result is hip, imaginative, crafty, and very green. There's a basic primer on techniques—knotting, sewing, braiding, lacing—plus a full tutorial on embellishing. Projects range from the simplest no-sew to intermediate, and all have easy-to-follow illustrated directions—plus, how to throw your own Tee Party.

ISBN: 978-0761154105
Price: $15.95

Zombie Felties: How to Raise 16 Gruesome Felt Creatures from the Undead

by Nicola Tedman and Sarah Skeate

From the Publisher:
With only the most basic of sewing skills, crafters can raise their own macabre multitude of Zombie Feltie creations from the undead with an average construction time of less than one hour per pattern. Each design includes a full-color photograph of the finished project, as well as an illustrated, instructional overview, pattern diagrams, and a convenient list of everything needed to complete the project.

ISBN: 978-0740797644
Price: $14.99

AlternaCrafts: 20+ Hi-Style Lo-Budget Projects to Make

by Jessica Vitkus

From the Publisher:
With an emphasis on recycling, improvising, and making things from scratch, AlternaCrafts offers more than 20 projects that provide this newest generation of crafters with the skills they need for the self-expression they crave. Whether they want to turn their beat-up T-shirts into a shaggy rug, an old sweater into a cozy hat, yesterday's newspaper into a bouquet of flowers, or their jeans into a new skirt or bag, this exciting book tells them how to make the transformations with a minimal amount of money and no experience whatsoever. Smartly priced and boldly designed to attract teenagers and twentysomethings, this book will also appeal to older crafters seeking newfangled twists on their favorite pastimes.

ISBN: 978-1584794569
Price: Varies

Eco Craft: Recycle Recraft Restyle

by Susan Wasinger

From the Publisher:
These days we're all seeking creative ways to protect our planet. "Eco Craft" delivers the goods in style with 30 truly beautiful home decor projects that elevate environmental consciousness to inspiring new heights. Every idea is amazingly clever: who would ever have imagined that plastic six-pack can holders could become a chic Moorish-inspired filigree tri-fold screen? Or that glass baby-food jars would make a charming candle chandelier? Every project features at least one beauty shot in a modern home setting and handy icons spotlight key techniques, materials and the estimated time to complete each one. Who knew taking care of the planet could look so good?

ISBN: 978-1600598234
Price: $19.95

Ductigami: The Art of the Tape

by Joe Wilson

From the Publisher:
In this instructive, entertaining and downright funny how-to book, Joe Wilson shows how to rip, cut and fold ordinary duct tape to make 18 amazing projects, including: Wallet, Barbecue apron, Lunchbox, Tool belt, Cell phone holder, Baseball cap, TV chair caddy, Raingear for pets, Toilet roll cover, Halloween masks.

ISBN: 978-1550464290
Price: $14.95

Sockology: 16 New Sock Creatures, Cute & Cuddly...Weird & Wild

by Brenna Maloney

From the Publisher:
The author of best-selling Socks Appeal is back with a new posse of cute creatures! In this sequel book Sockology, you are encouraged to take it one step further with slightly more complex construction and endless inspiration. From a lovable jointed bear and fluffy sheep to a quirky many-eyed alien, these 16 projects will surely keep you entertained (and challenged) for hours. Don't worry, detailed hand drawn templates are included to guide you every step of the way.

ISBN: 978-1607054078
Price: $17.95

Just Duct Tape It!

by Leisure Arts and Patti Wallenfang

From the Publisher:
Teens have embraced this hot trend and will go ga-ga for this creative guide to crafting with duct tape. More than 25 projects for gals and guys include wallets, jewelry, locker decor, flowers, and more.

ISBN: 978-1464701559
Price: $9.95

The Joy of Zentangle: Drawing Your Way to Increased Creativity, Focus, and Well-Being

by  Suzanne McNeill CZT , Sandy Steen Bartholomew CZT, & Marie Browning CZT (CZT = Certified Zentangle Teacher)

From the Publisher:
Zentangle® is an easy-to-learn method of pattern drawing that reduces stress while promoting creativity. This book will introduce readers to the basic theory of Zentangle and provide instructions for drawing over 100 tangle patterns from such Certified Zentangle Teachers as Suzanne McNeill, Sandy Steen Bartholomew, and Marie Browning. This beautiful book is filled with examples of Zentangle drawings as well as other art projects and compelling stories from those who have improved their well-being through Zentangle.

ISBN: 978-1574214277
Price: $24.99

The Hipster Librarian's Guide to Teen Craft Projects 2

by Tina Coleman and Peggie Llanes

From the Publisher:
From the authors of the enormously popular Hipster Librarian's Guide to Teen Craft Projects comes an all-new selection of innovative ideas. These projects have been chosen especially to engage tweens and teens and have been field-tested by YA librarian Amy Alessio s Teen Corps, students in grades 6 12 at the Schaumburg Township (IL) Public Library. For maximum fun, this book includes a variety of crafts that make use of recycled and repurposed materials

ISBN: 978-0838911525
Price: $45.00

Junk-Box Jewelry:  25 DIY Low Cost (or No Cost) Jewelry Projects

by Sarah Drew

From the Publisher:
This beautifully illustrated guide shows teens how to create eye-catching jewelry out of found or recycled objects—at very little cost. Some fun projects include making pendants out of pebbles; sewing a stylish cuff using scraps of fabric; and fashioning a funky charm bracelet out of extra screws, washers, and other toolbox trinkets. The easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions are suitable for both beginner- and intermediate-level crafsters. This book also provides bonus tips on the tools you need to get started, where to find materials, and how to make money from your jewelry.

ISBN: 978-0982732267
Price: 14.99

Fantastic Recycled Plastic: 30 Clever Creations to Spark Your Imagination

by  David Edgar and Robin A. Edgar

From the Publisher:
Organized by level of difficulty, the items range from simple creations even a schoolchild can do to a fanciful, rolling biplane and a slithering, jointed serpent stuffed with lids and caps. All the necessary techniques—cutting, shaping, fastening, heat-forming, making tabs—unfold in step-by-step photos, along with clear, comprehensive instructions. Sidebars provide extra information on plastics, recycling, and more.

ISBN: 978-1600593420
Price: $19.95

Sweater Surgery: How to Make New Things with Old Sweaters

by Stefanie Girard

More than 30 projects that show you how to re-purpose old sweaters into hats, toys, pillows and more!  Plus a gallery of 50 more designs to use as inspiration.

ISBN: 978-1592536252
Price: $15.99

Subversive Seamster: Transform Thrift Store Threads Into Street Couture

by Melissa Alvarado  (Author), Hope Meng  (Author), Melissa Rannels  (Author), Matthew Carden (Photographer)

Learn to transform tacky, ratty or outdated clothes into the perfect tops, skirts and accessories! Follow instructions for 30 fabulous projects that even a novice sewer can complete.

ISBN:  978-1561589258
Price: $14.95

Steampunkery: Polymer Clay and Mixed Media Projects

by Christi Friesen

This delightful book is filled with step-by-step, easy to understand instructions on creating fun, steampunk inspired creations using polymer clay and found objects.  Make sure to check out the little steampunk creatures at the back!

ISBN: 978-0980231465
Price: $14.95

Jewelry Making & Beading for Dummies

by Heather Dismore

From the back cover:
Learn to:
  • Master wire wrapping, knotting, and bead stringing
  • Set up the necessities of a jewelry maker's workshop
  • Upcycle found objects for new creations
  • Make easy-to-follow projects

DVD features watch-and-learn episodes to make learning easy

ISBN: 978-1118497821
Price: 24.99

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Review: 'Fangirl' by Rainbow Rowell

“I’m scared of everything. And I’m crazy. Like maybe you think I’m a little crazy, 
but I only ever let people see the tip of my crazy iceberg. Underneath this veneer 
of slightly crazy and socially inept, I’m a complete disaster.”

Until this point, Cath’s life has revolved around her twin sister, Wren, and Simon Snow fanfiction. But when college begins and Wren decides they need to live separately and meet new people, Cath finds herself adrift. Cath isn’t like Wren: she isn’t bubbly and outgoing. For Cath, even the thought of the cafeteria and all its inherent social dangers is enough to keep her in her dorm room, eating power bars. How is she supposed to survive college when her guaranteed friend for life is leaving her and Simon Snow behind?

Fangirl was one of those books talked about everywhere in 2013. If you were in any way involved in fandom you heard about it. If you were on Tumblr or Twitter, you probably saw it discussed. If you love John Green, you probably read his glowing endorsement of Rainbow Rowell. If you read YA fiction, you probably read Eleanor & Park and wanted more from Rowell. If you were living under a rock, you probably still managed to hear about Fangirl.

After so much positive buzz from a group of people, superfans, who generally feel like the world doesn’t understand them, I was anxious to read Fangirl. Although by no means an avid member of any fandom, I do have ties to several through close friends and an inherent geeky love for all things sci fi/fantasy. Fangirl seemed like a perfect choice.

Unfortunately, Fangirl just did not work for me and reading it was an exercise in frustration. I had so many problems. Pages and pages of problems. I could probably write a dissertation enumerating all my problems with Fangirl. But this is a blog post, not a dissertation, so I’ll limit myself to a few of my many, many problems. (Lucky you!)

My biggest complaint about Fangirl, is that most of the characters were unlikeable. I would even go so far as to say I actively disliked most of them and did not care about their well being. Even Cath was very hard for me to embrace as a main character. I am fairly introverted and understand exactly what it feels like to dread new social situations, but I identified less with Cath than I expected. I understand Cath suffers from severe anxiety, but there are ways to overcome that, or, at the very least, find a balance. (Frankly, with her family’s psychological history and her own anxiety problems, I am surprised Cath wasn’t already visiting a therapist.) I also understand that a lot Cath’s decisions are reactionary, but it was frustrating to see her whine and complain (especially about her fiction writing professor who, in my opinion, went above and beyond), and then retreat further into herself.

If Cath had been supported by a cast of outstanding secondary characters, I might have liked the book more than I did. Unfortunately, even they lack likeable personalities. Wren is a truly terrible sister and a pretty awful person in general. I don’t have a sister or a twin, but this relationship did not ring true to me, especially for siblings who had been as close as they were for so long. Levi was charming, but his behavior was hard for me to understand and I just didn’t get him as a love interest. (I also didn’t understand his physical appeal based on Rowell’s descriptions. A “forty-acre forehead” sounds ridiculous.) The only character I liked overall was Reagan, the roommate. She was brassy and no-nonsense, but she did more to push Cath out of her shell than any of the others. In the long run, even Rowell’s breezy writing style couldn’t make up for her characters.

The other major area where this book failed for me was the fandom. It felt forced and I wonder if the book would have been better without any of it, if it were simply about Cath adjusting to college and breaking out of her shell. Initially, I assumed the Simon Snow series was supposed to take the place of Harry Potter in this world. But an off-hand remark by one of the characters blew that theory out of the water. I was actually really bothered by that. So much so that I had to stop reading and vent about it to a friend. I find it difficult to believe that a series as universally popular as Harry Potter, that spawned a billion dollar movie franchise and a huge fandom, could be overshadowed by another series that not only overlapped it in publication years, but felt like a direct copy. That just isn’t possible. It would have been better if Rowell had avoided any mention of Harry Potter at all in her book.

I also thought the excerpts from the Simon Snow books and Cath’s fanfiction were a mistake. The excerpts were so short and out of order, that they didn’t seem to accomplish much in bringing Simon Snow into the story. If they weren’t so short, I would have ended up skipping them.

Additionally, I found Cath’s fandom activity suspiciously vague. For someone who claims to have many friends made through online fandom, she spends hardly any time talking to them or interacting with them. Did Cath just make those fandom friends up to get Reagan off her case, or did she actually spend time interacting with them that we didn’t see? Without proof that Cath actually has fandom friends, I can’t buy her insane popularity within the fandom.

I will admit that part of my intense dislike for Fangirl is my fault entirely. I let myself get distracted from the plot. Once I started nitpicking the details of Fangirl, I just couldn’t look beyond them and see the potentially great story underneath. I couldn’t get over the absurd descriptions of Levi’s teeth, or the pointless Mom plotline, or thinking Cath was clueless for not knowing the difference between a farm and a ranch despite growing up in Nebraska, or her complete inability to understand Levi’s dyslexia, or the horrible pacing, or the open ending that answered no questions. By the end of the book, I was so frustrated with the little things that I couldn’t see the decent book underneath.

Despite my overwhelmingly negative feelings towards Fangirl, I will say there are some things Rowell did well. Her writing style easily pulls people in and makes them want to keep reading, and her dialogue really pops. Most importantly, Fangirl does a fantastic job addressing why people write fanfiction and crave fandom interaction. Cath’s reasons for writing fanfiction and immersing herself in Simon Snow’s world will resonate with many people. If for no other reason than that, Fangirl is groundbreaking novel.

Book Source: My personal library
Reviewer: Kimberly
Recommended Ages: Could easily be considered New Adult, but also works for 16+. Includes language, drinking and sexual situations.

Recommended for Readers of:


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Manga & Graphic Novels ALL YA Collections Need (IMO)

If you work with teens, then you are likely already familiar with the popularity of novels in graphic format. However if you are not a GN or manga reader yourself, trying to figure out which series to buy can be challenging.  The amount of material available is staggering.

Below are my suggestions for GNs and manga series that all public library YA Collections should have available.  In addition to the series listed below, providing a variety of Marvel and DC comics should increase circulation and pull in many of your reluctant readers.

The Arrival
by Shaun Tan
A timeless story of an immigrant trying to find his place in a new society.
(Highly recommend all of Tan's graphic novels.)
Status: Complete
Volumes: 1
Genre: Fantasy
Black Butler
by Yana Toboso
Twelve-year-old Ciel Phantomhive has made a demonic pact with Sebastian Michaelis; Sebastion helps Ciel complete all his tasks, incuding avenging his parents, and Sebastion gets to consume Ciel's soul. Status: Ongoing
Volumes: 17
Genre: Gothic/Mystery
Beauty Pop
by Kiyoko Arai
Follows the misadventures of teen hairstylest Kiri and her problems with 'The Scissors Project', a group of teen boys determined to become the best makeover team in Japan.Status: Complete
Volumes: 10
Genre: Comedy
by Tite Kubo
When Ichigo Kurosaki obtains the powers of a Soul Reaper, his new powers coherce him into defending humans from evil spirits and guideing the spirits of the dead to their final rest.Status: Ongoing
Volumes: 61
Genre: Action
by Jeff Smith
The Bone comics follow the adventures of the three Bone cousins who are having to find a new place in the world after Phoney Bone's failed mayoral campaign.Status: Complete
Volumes: 9
Genre: Comedy/Adventure
Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel
by Joss Whedon & Others
There are many graphic novels set in the Buffyverse following the Scooby Gang's further adventures. Especially recommend Buffy Season 8 and Angel Season 6 comics.Status: Ongoing
Volumes: Depends
Genre: Fantasy/Adventure
Ender's Game
by Multiple Authors
Graphic novelization of Orson Scott Card's famous Ender series.Status: Finished
Volumes: 11
Genre: Science Fiction
by Bill Willingham
Familiar figures from legend and fairytale have spent centuries exiled from their home world and must now find a way to return.Status: Ongoing
Volumes: 20
Genre: Fantasy/ Adventure
Fullmetal Alchemist
by Hiromu Arakawa
Brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric use their skills at alchemy as they search for the Philosopher's Stone.Status: Complete
Volumes: 27
Genre: Fantasy/Adventure
Hana Kimi
by Hisaya Nakajo
Mizuki Ashiya disguises herself as a boy in order to enroll in the all-boys school that her crush attends.Status: Complete
Volumes: 23
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Hikaru no Go
by Yumi Hotta
Hikaru's life is forever changed when he unwittingly releases the spirit of an ancient Go Master from an old go board he finds in his grandfather's attic.Status: Complete
Volumes: 23
Genre: Comedy
by Rumiko Takahashi
Fifteen-year-old Kagome falls down a well at her family's shrine and ends up back in the Sengoku period. There she meets an half-demon, InuYasha, and together they must gather the shattered pieces of the Jewel of Four Souls.Status: Complete
Volumes: 56
Genre: Fantasy Epic
Fruits Basket
by Natsuki Takaya
Tohru Honda is an orphaned girl living in a tent whose life is turned upside down when she discovers that thirteen members of the powerful Sohma family are cursed.Status: Complete
Volumes: 23
Genre: Comedy
Maus: My Father Bleeds History
by Art Spiegelman
This graphic novel recounts the experiences of Spiegelman's father as a Jew during World War II.Status: Complete
Volumes: 2
Genre: Biography
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel
by Ransom Riggs
Art by Cassandra Jean
After his grandfather's sudden death, Jacob Portman is determined to discover the truth about the the tall tales his grandfather wove.Status: Uncertain
Volumes: 1
Genre: Fiction
Mr. Stuffins
by Johanna Stokes, Andrew Cosby, & Axel Medellin Machain
When a Teddy-Ruxbin-like toy is accidentally uploaded with super spy software hilarity and chaos ensue.Status: Complete
Volumes: 1
Genre: Adventure
by Masashi Kishimoto
Naruto is an adolescent ninja in search of recognition, dreaming of becoming his village's Hokage (head ninja). This quest is complicated by the fact that the the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox was sealed into Naruto as a baby.Status: Ongoing
Volumes: 66
Genre: Fantasy/Adventure
by Svetlana Chmakova
A normal high school transforms each evening to the Nightschool; where demons get their diplomas. Mystery abounds when Alex's sister, the new school keeper, mysteriously disappears.Status: Complete
Volumes: 4
Genre: Fantasy
One Piece
by Eiichiro Oda
This series follows the screwball adventures of Monkey D. Luffy and his pirate crew.Status: Ongoing
Volumes: 72
Genre: Comedy/Adventure
Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer
by Van Jensen & Dusty Higgins
Pinocchio is on a mission to destroy all vampires after Geppetto is killed by bloodsuckers.Status: Ongoing
Volumes: 3
Genre: Fantasy
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon
by Naoko Takeuchi
A team of magical girls whose power is linked to celestial bodies must protect the world from the forces of darkness.Status: Compete
Volumes: 18
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rosario + Vampire
by Akihisa Ikeda
This manga follows a regular teenage boy who accidentally is enrolled for monsters and demons.Status: Complete
Volumes: 10
Genre: Comedy/Romance
Skip Beat!
by Yoshiki Nakamura
Kyoko decides to get revenge on the aspiring pop star who broke her heart by beating him at the fame game.Status: Complete
Volumes: 33
Genre: Comedy/Romance
Vampire Knight
by Matsuri Hino
Yuki, the adopted daughter of Cross Academy's Headmaster, is tasked with keeping the human and vampire students separate. But doing her duty becomes difficult with secrets from her past arise.Status: Complete
Volumes: 19
Genre: Fantasy/Gothic
Zombie Loan
by Peach-Pit
Michiru Kita is cursed with the ability to determine the arrival of a person's death. Her life changes drastically when two boys in her class show up with black rings around their necks - proof that they are dead.Status: Complete
Volumes: 13
Genre: Horror/Action

Please note: These titles cover a wide range of reader maturity and some titles may not be appropriate for tweens or young teens. Use your own discretion and the parameters of your collection.

When adding these titles, I recommend reinforcing the tops and bottoms of spines with J-LAR or similar tape. This will add at least a dozen more circulations to an item, which is desirable as these titles tend to be expensive and easily damaged.  Along those lines - make an effort to leave volume numbers on spines viewable (this helps you AND the customer who is looking for a specific volume).

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Kimberly's Bookish Resolutions for 2014

In an effort to increase my presence on Rebecca’s blog (because, let’s face it, a handful of reviews a year hardly counts), I have decided to participate weekly in Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the excellent blog The Broke and the Bookish. I love a good list, and a list about books is even more exciting!

Bookish Resolutions for 2014

Although these goals can be related to any part of life, I’m going to stick to bookish goals. If I saw all of my resolutions written in one place, I might give them all up in a panic and crawl under the covers with a package of Oreos. Oreos are not a 2014 resolution…

  1. Read more adult fiction. Although I did read quite a bit of adult fiction in 2013, most of the books were part of series that I reread. I want to expand outside of my YA pigeonhole.
  2. Read for pleasure. Whether this means taking a break from committee reading, skimming boring book club picks, or putting down a book I’m just not enjoying, I plan to read more for my own pleasure in 2014.
  3. More reviews! Last year I did a horrible job keeping up with reviews of the books I read. This year, I hope to write a least a couple of sentences on Shelfari about every book I read, as well as at least one review a month for this blog.
  4. Cut the size of my TBR. I am an easily distracted person, and books are no exception. I am constantly checking out books that look interesting or adding new books to my TBR, and then dropping them completely for the next shiny book. I hope to either take books off my TBR (because, if I haven’t read it after 4 years, I probably never will), or actually read the books I have checked out before getting more.
  5. Cut the size of my physical book collection. Nothing pains me more than getting rid of books, but sometimes it has to be done. I moved into a new place last year and already have books spilling out of the bookcases into piles on the floor and boxes in my parents’ guest room closet. It’s time to cull.
So here’s to starting 2014 off on the right foot! What are your reading goals this year?

Monday, January 6, 2014

2 New Book Posters & Bookmarks Available

Book Posters and Bookmarks have been updated on the Lunanshee's Lunacy resource page!  

Rainbow Reads is a Readers' Advisory Poster featuring LGBTQ characters and issues.  Featuring novels by Bill Konigsburg, John Green, Lauren Myracle and Andrew Smith.

Guy Reads, as the title suggests, features novels popular with male readers in Middle and High School.  Featuring novels by Barry Lyga, Shawn Goodman, James Dashner and Neil Gaiman.

Click here to find the files.

Bookmark files to accompany these posters are available here.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Kimberly's Top 10 Reads of 2013

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg
A hilarious and irreverent look at the cause of death of famous people throughout history. Slightly morbid, yes, but so much fun to read! Warning: Don’t read while eating (because, ew) or drinking (because, laughter).

The Diviners by Libba BrayBray has such a talent for bringing historical time periods to life and creating mythologies that seamlessly inhabit those eras. This book, in all it’s spine-tingling, nail-biting glory, is no exception. I can’t wait for the sequel! (Bonus: This also gets my vote for best audio of the year.)

United We Spy by Ally CarterThis was my most anticipated book of 2013, and it definitely lived up to expectations.  What an absolutely explosive and satisfying conclusion to one of my favorite series!

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin NielsenHenry’s path to healing after tragedy rocks his carefully ordered world is one that we can all relate to, no matter our circumstances. By turns comical, brutally honest and heartbreaking, this book, more than any other I read this year, stayed with me long after I finished.

Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire SáenzA quiet novel about the freedoms of summer, friendship, and self-discovery. The lyrical prose brings beauty to the often harsh and difficult moments Aristotle faces on the road to understanding his own heart and mind.

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
My first foray into Sanderson’s works was this rollicking blend of fantasy, adventure and alternate history. An original premise, exciting plot and great characters made this one of my favorite reads this year.

Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan SonnenblickWhat happens when the person Peter thinks he is, the thing he loves the most, is lost? His attempt to redefine his purpose and shape his future, all while navigating high school, romance, and family drama is universally recognizable.

Reboot by Amy TinteraI don’t usually seek out dystopian novels, but this one was a pleasant surprise. I was so engrossed in the world Tintera created and Wren and Callum’s story that I couldn’t put the book down. The sequel is another of my anticipated reads of 2014.

Navigating Early by Clare VanderpoolA lovely book with language as lush and rhythmic as the Appalachian Trail the boys are travelling. I learned as much from Early as Jack did during his journey. My favorite book club discovery this year.

Pivot Point by Kasie WestWhat could have been a repetitive storyline, parallel futures told in alternating chapters,was skillfully executed. An exciting blend of science fiction, mystery and high school romance.

Honorable Mentions:
Skinny by Donna Cooner
Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt
Every Day by David Levithan
The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan (Because I am always late to the party.)