Saturday, January 30, 2010

Shiver review

I'm finding this particular January in Los Angeles to be the coldest and rainiest on record. With the heavy drum of rain pounding on the roof this week, interspersed with the sounds of yipping coyotes... it was the perfect time for me to curl up in front of the fireplace with Maggie Steifvater's unique and mesmerizing take on werewolves, Shiver. The predominately white cover, with chiaroscuro blue woods and the spot of red blood punctuating the letter "i" in "shiver" is original and appealing.

I'd heard this lauded as just the thing for Twilight readers who counted themselves among Team Jacob so I moved this up on "high priority" on my "to read" shelf. I have to say, the first several chapters didn't initially rope me in. I stuck with it though, and I'm glad I did as the tone of the story quickly changes about a quarter of the way through the book.

16-year-old Grace is a bit of a loner, in Mercy Falls, Minnesota, with two best friends Olivia and Rachel. Her inattentive and disengaged parents seem happy to let her have the run of the household. Sam is a werewolf, who we soon learn, takes human form during summers and spends his winters as a wolf. All Grace knows (at least, at first) is that she was attacked by wolves as a child, and was saved by one of the pack. Ever since then, she's been fascinated by "her" wolf, watching and photographing him whenever she can.

Writing first-person narrative between two alternating characters can be tricky -- readers could be left struggling, wondering, "Now who is this speaking again?" but when done well, it's brilliant. Steifvater handles the transitions between viewpoints with aplomb. Each extremely short chapter is clearly marked with a heading of the protagonist that we are hearing from, along with a report of the current temperature (something which really amps up the tension, as temperatures steadily drop and Sam and Grace's fates hang in the balance.) In addition, Sam and Grace each have very distinct voices.

The language in this book is rich and lyrical. Once Sam regains human form (after being shot by local hunters), the romantic connection between him and Grace deepens. Grace meets the other members of his pack and we learn that Sam is being groomed to take over as "pack leader" once his mentor and father-figure Beck goes totally wolf. Both Sam and Grace struggle with issues from their parents -- while Grace has just been neglected, Sam's parents tried to murder him when they realized what he was.

I liked this new spin on a werewolf story. Jettisoning the full-moon component of the lore seems akin to the recent trend of getting rid of vampires aversion to sunlight, but adding the component of being so reliant on the weather really works here.

The sequel, Linger, will be out in July 2010, and from everything I've heard from reviewers who have snagged ARC's of it, it's not to be missed.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ingenious Bookmark

Igor at Icoeye has created an ingenious system of bookmarks paired with bookcovers for dramatic effect. How nifty!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

It's not too late to share these, right?

I find myself frequently saying that I will try to do this or that. And my internal Yoda assures me there's no such thing. You either do a thing or you do not.

It's funny, because when I first started this blog, I really thought I would be reviewing mostly picture books. I surprised myself by reviewing so much YA, and posting on so many various and sundry topics of library interest. This upcoming year, I'll try to review more picture books.

I like to keep my posts fairly regular, and when I started my blog I promised myself to post at least once a week, but no more than three times a week. I didn't want to burn myself out, and that turned out to be a wiser move than I could have imagined. I briefly flirted with every-day blogging with my Vampire Week posts. The genesis of that idea was that I'd read so many teen vampire novels, I wanted to post reviews of them all at once and get them out of the way. Posting every day completely wore me out -- but then again, I was posting reviews for as many as 3 or 4 books a day. I suppose I could have strung them out and had an entire Vampire Month. But that's way too many vamps, even for me. Generally, I like to post on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, and I can easily picture keeping that up in the upcoming year.

I had been doing very well posting once a day on my twitter account @madiganreads, although I slacked a bit over the holidays. My goal is to post (okay -- "tweet") once a day and not much more than that. It's too easy to get sucked into twittering every little thing! Limiting twitter to a once a day indulgence helps keep me focused on the most important info that I want to share with friends.

I'm giving myself until March to get caught up on my current backlog of reading. After that, the spring lists will be in full swing and I resolve to stay more current.

Also, Grammar Girl assures us that in the upcoming year, two-thousand ten, and twenty-ten are both equally correct. I resolve to stick with the more elegant (but longer) two-thousand ten.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Trailer

New trailer is out! I'm excited. This looks like fun.

Monday, January 18, 2010

ALA Media Award Winners

The awards have been announced, and now it's time to tally what I've read, how close my guesses were and what I've got to read to catch up! I did get up verrry early to see the awards, but sadly between my Mac and Windows Media (the only source for the livefeed available) not getting along, and the site being overloaded, I didn't see them as I hoped. Luckily, I was able to follow along on Twitter. Getting up early had another advantage. I was able to put my name on the request list at my library, so I won't have long to wait to get my hands on books I haven't read yet.

I'm not surprised that Libba Bray won the Printz for Going Bovine. I haven't read it yet, but I've just finished reading her Gemma Doyle trilogy, and Going Bovine has been very high on my "next to read" list. I guess I've got no excuses now!

I see Rick Yancey scored an honor for his Monstrumologist, which I also had very good feelings about. I'd heard plenty of buzz about Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heilegman, and it's another on my "meaning to read" list. It won a Printz honor, as well as a non-fiction award. Punkzilla by Adam Rapp as well as Tales of the Madman Underground: An Historical Romance, 1973 by John Barnes, I'd not even heard of.

The Caldecott also, was not a surprise. What else could it be besides The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney? As I matter of fact, I have it checked out right now, and have been meaning to review it. What a marvelous book. There is a dearth of Aesops' Fables available and this one is so beautifully illustrated, I knew it was a shoe-in.

I haven't laid my eyes on All the World by Marla Frazee and Liz Garton Scanlon or Red Sings From Treetops: A Year in Colors by Pamela Zagarenski and Joyce Sidman. In part, I am a little agitated over this. I've read a lot less picture books this past year than ever before. Mostly because of shrinking budgets and a reduction in professional development opportunities. My library system's monthly book inspection (a luxury for most libraries, I know) has been slashed to bi-monthly, and slashed again to quarterly. This simply won't do! I've got to make more of a personal effort to read new picture books in the upcoming year.

The Newbery was a surprise winner (at least to me.) When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. I hate to say it, but I'd heard some buzz that it was a contender, and decided not to read it because I disliked the cover design. Terrible of me, I know, but with a "to be read list" as long as mine is, one has to start cutting somewhere. All right, back on to the "to be read list" it goes.

There's an honor for The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick, and that's a book I've been dying to get my hands on. I even almost went out and purchased it, but decided to wait it out and get from the library. I was immediately intrigued by the book because both of my parents are Civil War re-enactors and it sounded as funny and interesting as Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis, which I loved.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly was not doomed by my early predictions of success, and also received a Newbery honor. Hurrah! I predict this book, paired with Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith will be a favorite with teachers for many years to come.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice by Philip Hoose and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin are two more Newbery Honor books that hadn't really crossed my radar. I'll need to read those. For good measure, I'll probably also want to read the Coretta Scott King winner, Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. Phew! I'll have my work cut out for me in the next few days ahead.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Newbery/Caldecott, right around the corner

Just 3 more days until the 2010 Newbery and Caldecott winners are announced! Yeah, I'll be getting up at the wee hours of 4:45 am, PST to watch their live video webcast.

I can't wait to see who the winners are. Generally, whoever I think will win, or at least get an honor, comes up nothing. I've been very surprised the last few years by some dark horse candidates. Here's my list of Newbery predictions, made back in August. I'm crossing my fingers, that this will be the year my jinx will be broken.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Books Read 2009

In 2008, I kept a list of everything I'd read. My goal was to read 100 books, and I came pretty darn close to my goal... topping in at 99 books. This year, I figured I'd redouble my efforts. And, I did it! I can't believe it. Over a hundred books read this year. 111! Hurrah!

Once again, I read a whopping amount of vampire fiction, most of it geared for teens. I tried to keep current, but I did a lot of "catch-up" reading too, and discovered a few new authors that I really liked. Generally, when I discover a new series that I enjoy, I sit down and read everything I can find by that author. My favorite new authors, or at least, "new-to-me" authors were Brandon Sanderson and Libba Bray.

This upcoming year, I don't think I'll push myself so hard. I think I'll give myself permission to skip earlier books in a series too, instead of going back and trying to play catch-up so much.

With no further ado, here is the complete list for 2009:
1 Seven Seasons of Buffy: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Discuss their Favorite Television Show - ed. Glenn Yeffeth

2 Curtains: A High School Musical Mystery - Michael Dahl
3 Night Road - A.M. Jenkins
4 Leaving the Saints - Martha Beck
5 Blue Bloods - Melissa de la Cruz
6 Storm Front: A Novel of the Dresden Files - Jim Butcher
7 Masquerade: A Blue Bloods Novel - Melissa de la Cruz
8 Ceramic Houses & Earth Architecture: How to Build Your Own - Nader Khalili
9 Earthbag Building: The Tools, Tricks and Techniques - Kaki Hunter and Donald Kiffmeyer
10 Evernight - Claudia Gray
11 Shadow Kiss: A Vampire Academy Novel - Richelle Mead
12 From Dead to Worse - Charlaine Harris

13 Great Monologues for Young Actors, Vol. 3 - Craig Slaight, Jack Sharrar
14 My First Scene Book: Acting Out, Acting Up, Acting Right - Kristen Dabrowski
15 Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City - Kirsten Miller
16 Revelations: A Blue Bloods Novel - Melissa de la Cruz

17 Boys Over Flowers v. 1 - Yoko Kamio
18 Boys Over Flowers v. 2 - Yoko Kamio
19 Elantris - Brandon Sanderson
20 The Chosen One - Carol Lynch Williams
21 The Other Woman - ed. Victoria Zackheim
22 Forever Lily - Beth Nonet Russell
23 Chance Fortune and the Outlaws - Shane Berryhill
24 We Can't All Be Rattlesnakes - Patrick Jennings
25 Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic - Alison Bechdel
26 42 Miles - Tracie Vaughn Zimmer
27 Enemies and Allies - Kevin J. Anderson

28 Freak Show - James St. James
29 Decorating With Books - Marie Proeller Hueston
30 Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels - Hella Winston
31 Dishes - Rich Wallace
32 Yam: Bite Size Chunks - Corey Barba
33 Disney's Kilala Princess v. 4 - Rika Tanaka, illus. Nao Kodaka
34 Lucky Breaks - Susan Patron
35 Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Jeff Kinney
36 Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians - Brandon Sanderson
37 Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home - Joss Whedon, Georges Jeanty
38 The Loners: The Secret Lives of Superheroes - Cebulski and Moline
39 Mistborn: The Final Empire - Brandon Sanderson
40 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules - Jeff Kinney
41 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw - Jeff Kinney
42 Take the Mummy and Run: The Riot Brothers Are on a Roll - Mary Amato

43 Trouble - Gary D. Schmidt
44 Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist - Rachel Cohn
45 The Tale of Desperaux: Graphic Novel - Matt Smith, David Tilton
46 Dairy Queen - Catherine Gilbert Murdock
47 Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - Susanna Clarke
48 The City of Ember - Jeanne dePreau
49 Gingerbread - Rachel Cohn
50 Simon Bloom: The Gravity Keeper - Michael Reisman
51 Mothstorm - Philip Reeve
52 Church of Lies - Flora Jessop and Paul T. Brown
53 Interworld - Neil Gaiman & Michael Reeves
54 The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan - Nancy Springer
55 Edwards Eyes - Patricia MacLachlan
56 Hero of Ages - Brandon Sanderson

57 L.A. Candy - Lauren Conrad
58 Magic Thief - Sarah Prineas
59 Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature - Robin Brande
60 Prom - Laurie Halse Anderson
61 True Meaning of Smekday - Adam Rex
62 Savvy - Ingrid Law
63 Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman
64 Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America-and Found Unexpected Peace - William Lobdell
65 Flat Stanley - Jeff Brown

66 Flat Stanley's Worldwide Adventures #2: The Great Egyptian Grave Robbery - Sarah Pennypacker

67 Judy Moody and Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt - Megan McDonald
68 Eon: Dragoneye Reborn - Alison Goodman
69 Hunted - P.C. and Kristin Cast
70 Princess Academy - Shannon Hale

71 Adoration of Jenna Fox - Mary E. Pearson
72 Magic Thief: Lost - Sarah Prineas
73 Found - Margaret Peterson Haddix
74 Well of Ascension - Brandon Sanderson
75 Heat - Mike Lupica
76 Council of Evil - Andy Briggs
77 M or F? - Lisa Papademetriou and Chris Tebbetts


78 Parenting Inc. - Pamela Paul
79 One of those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies - Sonya Sones
80 What my Mother Doesn't Know - Sonya Sones
81 What my Girlfriend Doesn't Know - Sonya Sones
82 Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University - Kevin Roose
83 The Kind of Friends We Used to Be - Frances O'Roark Dowell
84 Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street - Michael Davis
85 The Forest of Hands and Teeth - Carrie Ryan
86 Clementine - Sarah Pennypacker


87 Graceling - Kristin Cashore
88 Official Book Club Selection - Kathy Griffin
89 Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins


90 Reformed Vampire Support Group - Catherine Jinks
91 A Great and Terrible Beauty - Libba Bray
92 Rebel Angels - Libba Bray
93 The Sweet Far Thing - Libba Bray
94 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days - Jeff Kinney
95 Blood Promise - Richelle Mead

96 Babymouse: Our Hero - Jennifer and Matthew Holm
97 Babymouse: Beach Babe - Jennifer and Matthew Holm
98 Babymouse: Rockstar - Jennifer and Matthew Holm
99 Babymouse: Camp Babymouse - Jennifer and Matthew Holm
100 Babymouse: Skater Girl - Jennifer and Matthew Holm
101 Babymouse: Queen of the World - Jennifer and Matthew Holm
102 Dragonbreath - Ursula Vernon
103 Accidental Millionaire - Gary Fong

104 Stargazer - Claudia Gray
105 Evermore - Alyson Noel
106 Mother Poems - Hope Anita Smith

107 Odd and the Frost Giants - Neil Gaiman
108 Blue Moon - Alyson Noel
109 Shiver - Maggie Stiefvater
110 Hancock Park - Isabel Kaplan
111 The Dream Stealer - Sid Fleischman

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sanderson Interview

Here's something I've been meaning to post for a bit. It's interview footage put together by the group I volunteered with for the Brandon Sanderson book signing, last November, at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena.

You won't see me in any of the footage... I'm mostly behind the scenes. The video is just under 20 minutes long. I think they did a fantastic job!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Reviewed elsewhere

Two more of my reviews are up in School Library Journal's January edition.

Moon Theater
by Etienne Delessert
Creative Editions

A young stagehand works in a mysterious theater where he readies the world for the nightly rise of the Moon. He describes his duties, which include watering the stars, sprinkling star powder on the dolls, playing tricky games with the rats, and feeding hungry night monsters, all before a gnomelike little old man lifts the Moon above a proscenium stage. The surreal, glassy-eyed, knob-nosed creatures with blocky bodies dominate every scene. Their appearance and the illustrations' crowded composition are reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch's art. The text, which is occasionally punctuated with rebuslike icons, features short declarative sentences that will be manageable for beginning readers. Despite the slightly eerie feel, the book's subdued color palette and nighttime theme make this a possible choice for bedtime.

Lin Yi's Lantern: A Moon Festival Tale
by Brenda Williams, illustrated by Benjamin Lacombe

A Chinese boy heads to market to shop for items for the upcoming Moon Festival. His mother warns him that if he wishes to purchase the red rabbit lantern that he's longed for, he must bargain carefully. Lin Yi repeats the shopping list faithfully to himself: "moon cakes, star fruit, rice, yams and...and I mustn't forget the peanuts for Uncle Hui." Walking through the busy marketplace, he resists toffee apples, fragrant rice, and a dough figure, delaying his gratification in hopes of attaining the lantern. Despite his best efforts, however, toward the end of his trip he realizes that he won't be able to afford both peanuts and the lantern. His selflessness in choosing the peanuts is rewarded when his uncle arrives with a gift—a red rabbit lantern. Gouache illustrations in mostly red, blue, and purple tones are highlighted with numerous origami paper designs. Back matter has notes about the traditional legend of the moon fairy, instructions for making a Chinese lantern, and a discussion of market life in China. This book sheds light on a unique cultural tradition.

I received free copies of these books from the publisher.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Exciting stuff

Cecily von Ziegesar’s bestselling "Gossip Girl" novels are going to be re-released in a manga format this year.
I think the storylines of this series will lend themselves really well to this format. The art for the first in the series, Gossip Girls: For Your Eyes Only looks great! I'm looking forward to it.

Also, very exciting, The Babysitter's Club by Ann Martin is coming back into print. Martin will be writing a prequel, called The Summer Before, due out in hardcover in April 2010, to be followed by the re-release of the rest of the series in paperback. I'm amazed to report that I still get requests for this series.

I'm surprised that girls still want to read them, especially with some of the dated covers (the first book, Kristy's Big Idea, originally came out in 1986.) I'm very curious to see how they'll be updating the covers, and if they'll be making any other changes to the books. Check out Stacey's side-ponytail in this picture. For serious.

Interestingly, the graphic novels based on the original series, published in 2006, only seemed to fan the fires for the original chapter books, at least, with my patrons.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Farewell Ambassador Scieszka!

A Year of Reading is hosting a virtual party for Jon Scieszka, who will be ending his reign as the first Ambassador of Children's Literature.

Here's a few words I wrote about Scieszka in my review of the 2009 L.A. Festival of Books.

"I also really wanted to see, speaking at the same time on the opposite side of the festival, Jon Scieszka of Stinky Cheese Man fame, so I wended my way over to the Target Children's Stage. Scieszka (say it, "SHESH-ka") was very entertaining. He read aloud a few things from The Stinky Cheese Man, as well as a short story or two from his autobiographical book Knucklehead. Mainly, his stories were about growing up among five brothers in Michigan and were pretty scatological, which all the kids in the audience seemed to enjoy."

Gosh, I'm surprised I didn't say more. He was a total hoot. We were all baking in the summer sun, and the children's stage at the book festival was particularly warm, but he wasn't fazed by this at all. He jumped about the stage with boundless energy, and had the audience repeating the correct pronunciation of his name over and over again, SHESH-ka, SHESH-ka, SHESH-ka! I remember the children's stage had an enormous oversized throne, which he sat at briefly, before popping up again, with another funny story to share. He talked a lot about his experience as a teacher and how that inspired him to write for kids. It was a great presentation, I highly enjoyed it. He's leaving some mighty big shoes to fill!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Read-a-likes

Lately, it seems like everyone in the world has Diary of a Wimpy Kid fever. Every book in this hilariously funny series by Jeff Kinney are always checked out at my library. Rather than sending kids away empty-handed, I've been recommending these books instead. They all feature plenty of illustrations and quite a bit of humor.

Mercy Watson (series)
by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

Lots of full color pictures in this series about an irrepressible pig. The author of the award-winning Tale of Despereaux shares tales of this “porcine wonder” and Mercy’s endless quest for the better things in life, especially toast.

My Weird School (series)
by Dan Gutman, illustrated by Jim Paillot
Harper Collins

A.J.’s school is very weird, no doubt about it. Each of his teachers at Ella Mentry School is more wacka-doodle than the next! Can he survive at his crazy school? There is a spin-off series, My Weird School Daze.

Prince of Underwhere
by Bruce Hale, illustrated by Shane Hillman
Harper Collins

In this new fast-paced, silly and fun new series, Zeke manages to cope with school, annoying siblings, zombies and people who wear underwear on their heads.

Horrible Harry (series)
by Suzy Kline, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz

Don't forget this classic series. Good-kid Doug is constantly amazed and surprised by the unbelievable pranks his best friend “Horrible” Harry always seems to be getting away with in Miss Mackle’s second grade class.

Regarding the Fountain (series)
by Kate Klise, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise
Avon Books

What starts out as a simple project to replace a broken fountain, quickly gets out of hand in this epistolary novel composed of faxes, letters and drawings. There are more in the series, although none quite so enjoyable as the first.

Toothpaste Millionaire
by Jean Merrill
Bank Street

Not a series, but this is still a terrific, stand-alone book. Rufus Mayflower’s head for business has landed him a million dollars. Learn the secrets of his financial success and find out how he decides to spend his money.

Amelia’s Notebooks (series)
by Marissa Moss
Tricycle Press

Get a sneak peek into Amelia’s life by reading her handwritten diaries. Whether it’s about her friends, her school or her family, Amelia doesn’t hold back. Her notebook drawings and doodles leave plenty for readers to pore over.

Clementine (series)
by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee

Creative and funny Clementine doesn’t mean to be a troublemaker! Expressive ink drawings by Marla Frazee keep the action humming right along. Similar to the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary and also appropriate for Junie B. Jones graduates.

Captain Underpants (series)
by Dav Pilkey
Blue Sky Press

The one. The only. The original. Read the book that helped inspire Diary of a Wimpy Kid! Action, adventure, humor, cartoons, laughs; this series has it all. Fans of Captain Underpants will probably also enjoy all of Pilkey's books, including the Super Diaper Baby books and Ricky Ricotta's Giant Robot series.

Fred & Anthony (series)
by Elise Primavera

Read about the hijinks of two best friends, interspersed with plenty of cartoons and humor. Scary and funny, these stories will keep you on the edge of your seat!

Time Warp Trio (series)
by Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith

Joe, Sam and Fred use their magic book to travel through time, having wacky madcap adventures all the way. The author of The Stinky Cheese Man does not disappoint with this wonderful chapter book series. The books have also been released as graphic novels.

Ellie McDoodle (series)
by Ruth McNally Barshaw
Bloomsbury Children's Books

Similar to the Amelia's Notebooks series, but geared for perhaps, just a bit of an older audience, this series features snarky, funny pre-teen Ellie, who in her first adventure is forced to go camping with her relatives in Michigan.

Dragonbreath (series)
by Ursula Vernon
Dial Books

Danny is an underachieving dragon who can't breath fire. He and his best friend Wendell (an iguana) attempt to avoid bullies and get their research for an acceptable school paper on sea life done. With green and black illustrations, this series seems visually similar to Babymouse by Jennifer and Matthew Holm.


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