Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Real Deal

This week’s featured genre is realistic fiction. What I find interesting is that I am a huge fantasy lover and at the same time I love to read realistic stories as well. I feel that young adult realistic fiction has a lot to offer teens today because many of the topics focus on the issues that they are going through at the time. Some of the books that I have read lately have touched on suicide, depression, drug addiction, and child abuse. These issues may not come up in the average teens daily lives, but I think that working with teens has brought me a lot of insight on how they think and deal with things and it can be very helpful for them to read fictional stories that help them to understand that the world is a very big place and they are going to encounter so many different issues as they learn and grow and get older. With that said, realistic fiction can sometimes be a downer, but as with all things in life it has its ups and downs, which makes for pretty great reading most of the time. So here are a few of my favorites and I highly recommend that you read them because they are awesome!

"A good book should leave you... slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it."

~William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958

As always, Happy Reading To You!

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (2006) Michael Printz Award Honor 2007

What can I say about this book? Well, for starters, it is brilliant and funny and just plain amazing! John Green has a fantastic way of weaving humor into the mundane world and does it with such style that reading this book feels like watching a movie or taking a ride on a Ferris wheel. Colin Singleton is a child prodigy who never made it to a full blown genius and boy that saddens him. He loves to make anagrams and can anagram his ass off in any given situation. Alas, poor Colin has girl issues and he just can't seem to get over the break up with his girlfriend Katherine. Oh and by the way, she is the 19th Katherine that he has gone out with over the course of his 17 year life.
The story just keeps getting funnier and funnier and his best friend Hasan is hilarious too with his smart quips and snide namecalling. The two are always badgering each other with a barrage of insults, but of course there are some compliments in there somewhere I just know it. The two decide to go on a road trip and by golly they end up in some back woods town in Tennessee called Gutshot, and it's there that they meet the adorable Lindsey Lee Wells. From there on things just get funnier because Lindsey has a boyfriend named Colin who the guys nickname TOC which stand for "the other Colin" and Colin decides to come up with a theorem for why he has been dumped by so many Katherines. This lively coming of age tale is wonderfully written and is quite spunky and full of life. I would recommend this book to anyone that is looking for a good book to read that is totally engaging and will have you laughing and crying and cheering in the end for Colin Singleton and his friends. An Abundance of Katherines was also a 2007 Michael Printz Award Honor Book.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan (2010)

I’m gonna start this out by saying that John Green is totally brilliant! Ah, but you knew I was going to say that right? Of course, I also have to give props to David Levithan for this one too. This is one of the few novels written in alternating points of view that I totally loved because it just works. This book is definitely a wild ride for anyone who reads this book. The story is told in two different voices and these voices are two different characters both named Will Grayson.

Even though the book is titled after these two, one thing for sure is that the whole story focuses around the biggest person of all in the story and that is the magnanimous Tiny Cooper. Tiny is such a fun, spontaneous, and joyous young man, and a sheer force of love and power to be reckoned with. That is why both Will Grayson’s find him so irresistible. The first Will Grayson is Tiny’s best friend and confidant, the other is his love interest. By a strange chance meeting the first Will Grayson meets the other in a seedy porn shop called Frenchie’s. This chance meeting alters both of their lives forever. Add to the mix, Tiny’s amazing and genius life story, which is a musical that is written, directed, and produced by none other than Tiny himself. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is an inspirational tale that is creatively written, seductively cool, and so uncontrollably witty you’ll find yourself crying at times and laughing out loud uncontrollably. A must read for anyone that loves a good story!

Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams (Simon & Schuster, 2010)

Sisters Lizzie and Hope are only one year apart and best friends until Lizzie suddenly tries to end her life. Hope can’t understand why Lizzie would do such a thing and their mother has never paid much attention to either of them. Hope had been having awful nightmares which she really felt like she was awake and Lizzie had been having crying fits for a long time before she tried to kill herself. What does all of this mean? Hope must figure out the puzzle while Lizzie wastes away in a mental institution, and unravel the secrets that will lead her to save her sister. Written in verse, Williams has created a riveting story that is very edgy and provocative!
This novel caught my attention straight away as it is completely written in verse. It is extremely emotional and written very tastefully. The glimpses we as the reader get into Hope’s life are incredible and as I read I became overwrought with grief for her and her sister. This book reminded me that there are so many children out there being abused even by their own parents, which is really very tragic.
I would recommend this book to older teens that enjoy reading realistic fiction on various life issues. It is a fairly fast read because reading the verses goes a lot faster than regular text. I think this book is for older teens because of the nature of the situations involved in the story and the seriousness of suicide and sexual abuse.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Faerie Fantastical Delights!

Since it's summertime I thought I would focus each week on different types of genres that are near and dear to my heart. The first genre I always seem to be drawn to is fantasy. As far back as I can remember I have loved to dive into fantasy books and immerse myself in made up lands and fairy tale characters. The greatest thing of all about fantasy is that it can be entirely made up and the writer's imagination can create so many twists and turns and there are so many different possibilities. My love for fantasy almost never breaks my heart, except for last week when I watching the HBO series Game of Thrones and one of my beloved favorite characters was executed. Well, that almost never happens in YA fantasy novels and you can usually be sure that your hero or heroine will survive even the most heinous villain or death and eventually make a come back from any horrible devastation. This week I will focus on YA fantasy novels that feature one of my favorite elements and that is faeries. Yes it's true I am a sucker for anything that has to do with faeries. It must be my English lineage because after studying about the origins of faeries I learned that they have a long standing history in England and Ireland. I actually wrote my master's thesis on one of the most notorious faeries of all time called Morgan Le Fay. She stems from the legend of King Arthur and has been manipulated and molded through time to be a bad faerie. Although, she actually was not all bad in many different stories and legends. I will talk more about Morgan later and offer some titles that feature her up front and center.

I hope you like my faerie fantasy picks this week!

Mrs. Librarian Lady

Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner (Random House, 2009)

Review: Life is dark and dreadful after a war between humans and faeries has left the United States in a state of disarray. On a dark and scary night Liza sees her baby sister born and then cast out of the house by her father because she is pale and transparent like a faerie. The baby dies and Liza is haunted by her cries in the night. After her mother disappears, Liza finds that she may have some special qualities that even her father never knew of. She must seek out the place where the faerie wars began to discover the truth about her family and her own self. She must stay strong and endure whatever hatred or fear that comes her way in order to heal the break that the country has suffered from such a disastrous war. I highly recommend this book for post apocalyptic fans and faerie faith lovers as well.

I really like this book a lot for its originality and interesting plot. It reminded me of how big apocalyptic stories are right now and how the faerie world can sometimes be taken for granted as docile, but in reality their origin may be more devious or aggressive than we think. I loved the mixture of humans living in a world with faeries with a touch of violence and deep internal pain. This is Simner’s first novel and I hope to read more of her work in the future.

Sleepless by Cyn Balog (Delacorte Press, 2010)

Eron DeMarchelle is a sandman, a supernatural faerie like being whose entire purpose is to soothe his human charges to sleep. Though he can communicate with his charges in their dreams, he isn't encouraged to do so. After all, becoming too involved in one human's life could prevent him from helping others get their needed rest. But he can't deny that he feels something for Julia, a complex girl with blazing red hair and heartrending dreams. Suddenly, her boyfriend dies in a car accident and Eron can tell from her dreams that she is holding all of her emotions inside. Eron was human once too, a long- long time ago, and he remembers how love broke his heart. In the past, Eron has gone above and beyond to protect Julia from danger. Now there’s seems to be a new danger that threatens Julia’s life and Eron must decide if he can help her this time or not. His time as a sandman is coming to a close, and his replacement (you won’t believe who it is!) doesn't seem to care about the job like Eron does. As he transitions back and forth from human to sandman, Eron tries to save Julia, but after they've become human again, sandmen are not supposed to have contact with their charges. Eron knows that he will always love Julia. Should he risk it all for a chance to be with the girl he loves? Cyn Balog's Sleepless it witty with faerie fantastic delights and supernatural romance! Teen girls will adore Eron and his story of love and loss and how he fights to protect the girl he loves.

Puddlejumpers by Mark Jean and Christopher Carlson (Hyperion, 2008)

Review: Ernie Banks was named after the legendary Chicago Cubs shortstop because he was left on the doorstep of the Lakeside Home for Boys when he was three years old. All he had on him was an old Ernie Banks baseball card, a crystal acorn strung on a string around his neck and a strange spiral birthmark on the bottom of his right foot. Now at age thirteen, he is a troubled kid living in an orphanage with mean kids and a super mean head mistress. Ernie is about to be sent to the juvenile detention center, but then he is offered a chance to spend three weeks working on a farm working for Russ Frazier. When Ernie arrives he is drawn into a grand adventure that might finally lead him home. He becomes involved in solving the mystery around the kidnapping of the Frazier’s baby years earlier. Ernie joins together with Joey, a local girl to investigate clues that lead them on a dangerous journey into a forbidden world of dark secrets, magic puddles, and the cavernous underground kingdom of the tiny water faeries called the Puddlejumpers with whom Ernie has a strange connection.

This book is very engaging and exciting at the same time. Ernie starts out as a juvenile delinquent and his plight of living in a terrible orphanage is very believable. With a stroke of luck he is sent to a farm and it is there that he realizes that he must become a hero. The plot thickens as this story twists and mutates into a darker tale as it moves deep within the ground to the water faerie world. This is when the fantasy kicks in, because this is where the Puddlejumpers live and they need to be freed. Ernie is their only hope, and with this intriguing plot the reader is held steadily by an intense battle between good and evil. Ernie's intensity is deeply felt by reading about his journey of self-discovery and it is also triumphant when Ernie finds his way back to his true home.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Torment of Female Teendom

This week's theme focuses on girls with issues. I love books that have a strong female character that you can really connect with. Here are a few that I have read recently that I think bring up realistic issues in teens lives and work very hard on resolving issues so that it might someone reading think that there is hope to continue to grow and learn.

Happy Reading to you all!

Mrs. Librarian Lady

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger (Little, Brown, 2010)

Bianca Piper is one tough cookie because her mom has been off on a book tour most of her life and her dad is a struggling recovering alcoholic. She knows that her friends are much prettier than her, but when the infamous girl chasing stud Wesley Rush tells her she’s the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) of her group she gets so mad she throws her drink on him. Later, she finds herself drawn to Wesley like a magnet to metal and she tells herself she’s just using him to forget about all of her problems. The trouble with that agenda is that she and Wesley spend so much time together that they end up being very close. Bianca can’t tell what’s real and what’s not as the lines of passion and manipulation become comepletely blurred. Can Bianca discover the true meaning of love and finally be happy or will she always end up being the DUFF?

This book is probably one of my favorites that I have read lately. I enjoyed the honesty and realism that Keplinger brings to her writing. She is a young woman herself who has probably had to go through many of the obstacles that Bianca did in the book. Keplinger offers front and center views on how girls see themselves and how it’s ok to be open about sex, birth control, and talk about your real emotions.

I would recommend this book to older teens. I read a review that said it should be recommended to older girls, but I think that guys should read this book too. The book offers many insights on how teens can deal with real life issues.

Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga (Houghton Mifflin, 2009)

Goth girl Kyra Sellers is back from the mental hospital after unsuccessfully trying to kill herself. She's mad at everyone in the world because they just don't understand her. She tries to change her appearance by shaving her head bald and wearing white clothes but this only draws more attention to her. After a long thoughtful bout of revenge planning Kyra finally has a break through and starts to realize that life goes on even after you have lost one of the most important people in your entire life. She must come to terms with the death of her mom and move forward with her own life because in reality she is still here, she is still surviving even though deep inside she feels that she just can't carry on any longer. Lyga's Kyra is such a moving character who is so full of anger and remorse that it's hard not to like her. The actions that she takes to destroy Fanboy are definitely not healthy, but her inner thoughts and plans of revenge are very engaging.

This book was very interesting and I think that many teens might be able to relate to Kyra’s confusion and anger. I had hoped that she could move on and get past her anger and revenge or find some kind of cathartic outlet to release her pain, but other than her changing her appearance this did not seem to happen in the story. However, the book offers life lessons that can definitely speak to teens.

By the Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead Julie Anne Peters (Hyperion, 2010)

I picked this book up at the library because I thought the title was very catchy. I found it to be a deep and dark exploration of a troubled teenage girl. Daelyn is a very sad and depressed teen girl. She has gone to many different schools and has been bullied and shamed because she was overweight as a child. She was shoved, kicked, groped by a group of boys and even locked in a custodial closet all day on the first day at a new school. When reading this book you feel the pain and torment that Daelyn has experienced and it makes you feel so sad. I really wished that I could reach out and hold her and try to take her pain away. She has been down in the depths of hell so long that she decides that there is nothing left in life to live for. She has actually tried quite a few times to end her life and recently had almost succeeded. As almost a punishment from nature, Daelyn won't be able to talk for a long while due to an injury that she has caused on her own body.

Now she is on a 24-hour suicide watch and her parents watch her like a hawk, spend almost every waking moment with her, and they do not trust her to ever be alone. Daelyn doesn’t understand that her parents love her and that they are so fearful that they might lose her. She thinks that they would be happier without her and that they could live a better life with her gone. This stems from the disapproval that she received when she was younger. They never seemed to understand why she was overweight or why she was the one always being picked on.

In this story, Daelyn gets connected online to a website called Through the Light. This site allows her to plan and plot her own death date. The thought might seem morbid, but it allows her to connect with other individuals who have gone through similar experiences as she has gone through. The website offers her an outlet that she definitely needs. So she begins her countdown at 23 days and starts to plan her departure. In the meantime, she meets a strange and quirky boy that is always outside by her school while she is waiting for her parents. It turns out that the boy whose name is Santana is homeschooled and he lives right next door to her school. He is also suffering from lymphoma cancer. She forms an interesting friendship with this boy and all along she is trying so hard not to connect with him. This book is fairly short, but highly thought provoking. The author Julie Anne Peters offers a deep insight on the boiling point for victims of bullying and the depths and despair of suicide. A must read for teens everywhere as it offers tips on warning signs to look out for and facts on the prevention of suicide.

Friday, June 03, 2011

This Guy Is Definitely Not Lost

The Lost Hero is an incredible story! Rick Riordan always comes through with awesome characters that you can't help but love and a storyline that is gripping and adventurous. I have to say that Riordan is very very hot right now. This book had an excellent weaving of Greek and Roman mythology which made for quite an interesting tale. It even inspired me to check out a book on Roman mythology in order to see the differences between the Greek and Roman god and goddesses. I loved the characters Piper, Leo, and Jason. They were all well developed and proved to be incredible progtagonists all in their own special way. I especially loved Leo Valdez and his quick comebacks, funny disposition, and mesmerizing fire and mechanical abilities. Keep on writing books Riordan because you got it going on dude!