Armchair BEA 2015: Library Love

BEA

Armchair BEA is an event created to allow bloggers who are unable to attend BEA in person participate in BEA from home. Check out the website for more information!

The Prompt: Librarians are awesome. Not only are they helpful, they’re very fun to talk to and give great recommendations. Show your library some love, and the wonderful men and women that run it. Why is your library fantastic? Got any funny stories? Feature your library on your blog? Do an interview with a librarian?


Library Love

My co-blogger and I actually ran a week of posts last summer celebrating libraries, so there’s a lot we’ve already covered including:

To switch things up today, instead of focusing more on what libraries can do for communities, I’m going to focus on what library patrons can do for librarians.

Five Ways to Help Your Local Librarians:

(A List Informed by Actual Librarians!)

1.)  Tell them how much you love your library!

Library funding is being cut, so library workers are doing the best they can to provide patrons with stellar services.  They’re sorry if you don’t like the summer reading prizes and wanted something cooler; they rely on donations and put a lot of work into planning the summer programs.

2.) Watch your children.

Librarians know your kids are excited to be in the library.  All those books!  But it’s difficult for them to monitor your children while answering questions from other patrons and making sure the shelves are all in order.

3.) Use the carts provided for used books if you don’t want to check one out.

The library uses the books on those carts for statistics, so you’re actually not doing the workers a favor by putting a book back on its place on the shelf.

4.) If you borrow a CD or DVD that doesn’t work or a book that’s ruined, let them know.

If the library knows about a problem, they can fix it. Also, informing the library about damage you didn’t cause could actually help you avoid a fine.

5.)  Ask for a recommendation.

Librarians are readers, and they love talking about books!  They’ll be super excited to help you find your next great read.  And if you do enjoy the book, come back and tell them!

 

Armchair BEA 2015: Introduction Questions

BEA Intro
Armchair BEA is an event created to allow bloggers who are unable to attend BEA in person participate in BEA from home. Check out the website for more information!


1.) Tell us a bit about yourself: How long have you been blogging? Where are you from? How did you get into blogging?

I have been blogging for four years this May!  My co-blogger Krysta and I used to write book reviews for ourselves but decided it would be fun to share our thoughts and discuss with others!  So far blogging has been an exciting adventure!

2.)  What does diversity to mean to you?

Diversity means accepting and representing all types of worldviews and life experiences.  It means recognizing that people come from all types of backgrounds and walks of life, but everyone’s experience has value.

3.) Share your favorite blog post on your blog.

It’s hard to pick just one!  Most recently, I’ve enjoyed discussion Five Things YA Books Get Wrong and creating a Charlotte Bronte Heroine Personality Quiz.

4.) What is your favorite genre and why?

Fantasy!  I love exploring new worlds, and I love feeling that magic could exist in our world.  I also enjoy how much can be at stake in fantasy stories.  Very few characters get to save a kingdom in contemporary novels!

5.) If you were stranded on a deserted island, what author would you want to bring with you?  Why?

If I can’t bring someone who has written about how to survive on a deserted island (I certainly don’t know how!), I’d like to bring J.R.R. Tolkien.  He’s my favorite author and a great storyteller, but from all biographical accounts he was also pretty personable.  He also was a professor at Oxford and knew over twenty languages, so I think I could learn a lot from him while we were stuck!

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

What I Thought Was TrueInformation

Goodreads: What I Thought Was True
Series: Companion to My Life Next Door
Source: Library
Published: April 15, 2014

Official Summary

Gwen Castle has never so badly wanted to say good-bye to her island home till now: the summer her Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, takes a job there as the local yard boy. He’s a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island’s summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she’ll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen’s dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.

Review

In What I Thought Was True, Huntley Fitzpatrick writes a beautiful story of love, loss, and redefining yourself. Protagonist Gwen Castle worries that after sleeping with three different boys on the high school swim team, she’ll always have a reputation as one of the loose “island girls.” With the start of summer, she would like to forget everything, at least for the season, but Cassidy Sommers has apparently booked a gig as the island “yard boy” and is suddenly popping everywhere Gwen goes. Gwen will have to decide if it is ever possible to start over, with old relationships or with how she sees herself.

What I Thought Was True offers a heartbreakingly realistic view of what it can be like to find oneself with a reputation as easy in high school. Gwen certainly never thought of herself as a slut when she was sleeping with those boys, but everyone else seems to think she is, and now she is beginning to worry it might be true. The book follows Gwen as she struggles with coming to grips with how much everyone else is judging her versus how much she is judging herself. The story itself is never preachy and never really weighs in on one side or the other, instead emphasizing that it is possible to find new beginnings and to decide who you want to be in life.

Helping Gwen redefine herself is, of course, love interest Cass. The book somewhat overdoes the romance factor in the first several chapters, where Gwen seemingly cannot go even two pages without running into Cass again, but this does make sure the pace of the novel is going headlong from the start. Also, Gwen and Cass’s relationship is hardly smooth-sailing. Cass is one of the swim team boys Gwen had a hook-up with in the past, and she has no idea what that makes their relationship now. Cass, however, has a crystal-clear idea of what he would like their relationship to be, and many readers are sure to fall for Cass even as Gwen does.

In addition to romance, however, Fitzpatrick does family well. Readers who fell in love with the younger siblings in My Life Next Door will find much to adore in Gwen’s younger brother Emory. Emory has a mental disability the doctors cannot quite define, leaving Gwen to feel fiercely protective of him. Yet Emory has nothing if not a mind of his own. He is sometimes quirky and sometimes cranky, but he always seems able to find the good in the world and make others see it, too.   The family is rounded out by Gwen’s parents (divorced), her cousin Nico, and her grandfather. The dynamics are vastly different from those in My Life Next Door, but demonstrate that Fitzpatrick does have the skills to write about lives on both sides of the bridge—the lives of the rich, and the lives of those who work for the rich.

What I Thought Was True is a thoughtful book. Not always optimistic and not always upbeat, it is not necessarily the fun beach read one might expect it to be from the cover. However, the book tackles tough high school subjects and the complexity of life and suggests that, just maybe, things can be okay after all.  Recommended for fans of contemporary romance.

If You Find This by Matthew Baker

If You Find ThisInformation

Goodreads: If You Find This
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 2015

Summary

A math and music genius, eleven-year-old Nicholas finds it difficult to fit in with the older students in his grade.  Worse than having no friends, however, is the prospect of having to move out of his home, since his family can no longer afford it.  When his grandfather, newly released from prison, arrives, Nicholas believes he has the opportunity to save the only life he knows, if he can find the family heirlooms his grandfather once hid.  But his grandfather’s memories are fading and time is running out.

Review

If You Can Find this struck me, from the summary on the cover, as one of those classic coming-of-age treasure hunt tales, the kind where the protagonist finds himself (and maybe a few friends) even if he never finds the material treasure he seeks.  I love that sort of book and opened the pages of this one with anticipation.  But what I read was nothing like I what I expected.  Quirky characters and events might be expected in a coming-of-age tale–but not to the extent in which they appear here.  As I read, the weirdness of the book overshadowed everything else, to the detriment of the story.

The opening pages should notify readers of the type of story they are about to experience, I suppose.  The protagonist, Nicholas, announces at the start that his brother is a tree.  One might think he speaks metaphorically, as his parents planted a tree in honor of the baby brother who was miscarried.  But no, Nicholas really speaks to his brother the tree and his brother (if we can believe Nicholas) answers back.

I could have accepted this.  Nicholas is, no doubt, a unique character, a math and musical genius who sees things no one else can see and who sometimes thinks too deeply for an eleven-year-old (or so his peers think).  I found myself drawn in by his storytelling, interested in learning to see the world in a new way through his eyes.  But when the supporting characters turned out to be rather strange, too, I found myself disconcerted.

Nicholas befriends two other misfits, one who not only communicates with dogs by barking but who also barks at people, and one who gives everyone he meets a nickname (most of them mean).  The supporting characters appear mostly as strange or mean, too, from the homeschooled girl who speaks with the dead to the bullies at school and the high schoolers who torment younger children.  I actually felt a little worried for Nicholas, living in a town full of bullies and mean-spirited children and teenagers who seem likely to end up in prison.  His mother and another boy’s grandfather stand out as beacons of sanity in an otherwise bizarre town.

Of course, as the story progresses, one learns about the characters’ back stories and begins to see that all of the characters are tormented in their own ways, whether from home troubles or school problems or family losses.  Watching the characters themselves learn about each other and their wounds is an emotional experience.  Still, my sympathy for the characters did not make me find them less strange, nor the events that happen to them, from kidnapping a grandfather from the rest home to asking a child to conduct a seance.  Everything that happens is wild and far-fetched.

I think somewhere in this book there is a nice story about a boy finding a grandfather he had never known and making friends.  There is a story about accepting people for who they are and acknowledging their wounds.  But, in the end, whenever I think of If You Find This, my overwhelming reaction is still “how strange!”

Five Things YA Books Get Wrong

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1. High School Cliques

Going to the cafeteria for lunch in a YA book is like walking into the jungle. Everyone has a group and a table where they belong, and it’s survival of the fittest out there. Try to take the cheerleader’s seat, and you’ll find yourself the target of bullying for the rest of the year, if not your life. In reality, most teenagers probably couldn’t even identify the cheerleaders or the skaters or the whatevers, and would describe themselves as floating between multiple groups of friends.

2. Teen Slang

Book teens are all up on the latest slang. It peppers their speech, their texts, and their thoughts. Real teens tend to think all those “cool” words are just as embarrassing and awkward as their parents do and claim to use text abbreviations mainly facetiously.

3. The Love Triangle

Some lucky real-life teens probably do have multiple guys or girls fighting for their love. A few of them may even have a hard time choosing among all those suitors, and spend countless hours making lists of pros and cons for choosing a date. However, the average teen’s love life is not so exciting. Those who aren’t in a nice, normal relationship are either not looking for love at all, pining fruitlessly over that cute girl in chem, or just trying to avoid that creep who keeps stalking them in the halls.

4. Prom

Fiction prom is a magical night for teens, the night when adoring high school sweethearts get to celebrate their perfect love together while wearing designer evening gowns and dancing gracefully in a ballroom that has been glamorously decorated to look like a palace on the moon. Real life prom is a night that is mildly more fun than an average night when teens get to eat mediocre food in a local hotel’s conference room and attempt to dance to the current Top 40.

5. College Applications

The average fiction protagonist will apply to an average of three schools and get into all three, including their top choice, even if that top choice is Yale. The average real teen will be instructed by their guidance counselors to apply to an average of 8-12 schools because the risk of not getting into any of them is all too real, even for students with high grades and strong extracurriculars. True story: The salutatorian at my friend’s high school applied to 11 colleges (including a number of “safety schools”) and was rejected from every single one.

Movie Review: The Last Unicorn (1982)

Movie Review

Information

Director:  Jules Bass; Arthur Rankin, Jr.
Writers: Peter S. Beagle
Release: 1982

Summary

Upon learning that she is the last of her kind, a unicorn sets forth on a quest to find the others.  Joined by the inept magician Schmendrick and a woman named Molly Grue, the unicorn enters the halls of King Haggard, where lurks the fearsome Red Bull who once drove the other unicorns away.  But the longer she stays, the more the unicorn forgets who she is and what she seeks.

Review

The Last Unicorn follows the plot and dialogue of the Peter S. Beagle’s original novel fairly closely, the largest changes merely streamlining the action.  This can make watching the film seem a little odd–what does translating the story to a different medium do for the story, if so little changes?  And does the story work better on paper or on screen?  These types of questions hovered in the back of my mind during the entire viewing, detaching me somewhat from the story itself.  Even so, the film remains a moving and a poignant work.

Normally I prefer to think of the book and the film as separate entities–what works for one medium will not work for another, and I try to accept changes made from page to screen as long as the spirit of the work remains intact.  In this case, Beagle wrote the screenplay for the film based on his own book, so one feels fairly certain that everything the author thought essential to the story remains.  Still, one also wonders if time constraints may not have necessitated certain changes that were not particularly desirable.

For instance, the largest deviation from book to film that I noted (having read the book some months ago), was the deletion of the side adventure that enables Schmendrick and the unicorn to learn about the history of Haggard’s rule and the changes it has wrought upon the people and the land.  Arguably Haggard’s background story does little to further the plot and, if something had to go, it was a logical decision to choose that.  However, the loss of background information means also a loss of power for the emotional punch at the end.  Audiences have little idea just how sorry they should feel for Haggard, or how repulsed they should be at the lengths he has been willing to go.  They know only the small details he mentions in passing and the rumors that Schmendrick repeats–rumors they do not know whether or not to believe.  Not knowing about Haggard means, to some extent, not caring.

I also could not help but think that the book really does convey the heartbreak and the emotion of the story much more poignantly than the film.  The film gives us glimpses of the lives of the characters, but never delves into the hardships the characters have experienced or the pain.  Schmendrick, in this version, seems simply a kind fellow who wishes he had some more magic.  The audience never learns about all the years he’s spent searching.  And Molly Grue is almost more of an enigma.  The film shows a glimpse of her life, but a glimpse that is sanitized (for the children?).  Viewers may extrapolate from the little they see that Molly has had a wretched, hard, and dirty life all while longing for beauty–but the film simply doesn’t show how dirty her life must have really been.

The visuals, however, are quite striking, and I often caught myself thinking about how interesting they were, if not always beautiful.  If The Last Unicorn does not capture the ethereal beauty of a unicorn the way I imagined, at least it expresses a certain joy in the process of animation and experimentation.

But therein lies the real problem–the inability of the film to convey the indescribable beauty and presence of unicorns.  Drawing a white horse with a horn, even one that is graceful and somewhat dainty, simply doesn’t live up to the idea of a unicorn as presented in the book.  And hearing Mia Farrow’s voice issue from the unicorn isn’t my idea of how a unicorn sounds, either.  Some things perhaps simply cannot be convincingly depicted–and unicorns may be one of them.

If I ignore the book, however, The Last Unicorn stands solidly on its own as a beautiful and poignant film, a classic fantasy that blends sorrow and joy, life and loss, hope and defeat.  It never pretends that goodness comes without a cost, but it also never pretends that not doing the right thing is ever an option.  It is a solemn sort of story, but one that feels cathartic.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (Mini Review)

The Golem and the JinniInformation

Goodreads: The Golem and the Jinni
Series: None
Source: Purchased
Published: April 15, 2013

Official Summary

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.

Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.

The Golem and the Jinni is their magical, unforgettable story; unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures – until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful threat will soon bring Chava and Ahmad together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.

Review

The  Golem and the Jinni is an enjoyable book, but I have to admit I do not fully understand the hype. The story is quiet one about people finding their own paths in the bustle of New York City. While the fact that the two protagonists are not human is often very much the point of the narrative, as they feel compelled to fight their own natures in order to blend in with society, their inhumanity in many other respects often seems tangential. This could have been a story about anyone who felt he or she had something in his or her personality that needed to be suppressed or hidden.

The book is mainly character portraits, so readers who are looking for a strong plot will not be satisfied with the book. There are also many flashbacks to the Jinni’s old life, which are important for character building, but which are not often compelling as scenes in and of themselves. That said, I did like the various perspectives of New York that were presented in the book, and I enjoyed that people from many different walks of life were able eventually to come together. Although I think the book does have some points, overall, it does not really speak to me.

Your Entertainment Outlook 5/17/15

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Daughter of Smoke and BoneGood news for Laini Taylor fans! The Daughter of Smoke and Bone author has signed a three-book deal with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, for three YA novels. The first is titled The Muse of Nightmares and will be released in fall 2016.
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On July 29, Paramount will release the highly anticipated animated adaptation of The Little Prince in France. International rights have already been sold, but no word yet on when the film be released in the US.
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We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto! NBC has ordered a “darker” look at The Wizard of Oz titled Emerald City. The show will feature a 20-year-old Dorothy and is supposed to be closer to A Game of Thrones in style than to a children’s tale.
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After some doubts as to the success of the show, ABC has approved a second season of Agent Carter. Fans will be able to watch secret agent Peggy’s adventures as she moves to LA for “her most dangerous assignment yet.”
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The Night GardenerMay has also been good month for children’s author Jonathan Auxier. Disney has announced that they acquired the movie rights to his novel The Night Gardener. Auxier himself will adapt the script for the live-action film.
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Last month, the Harry Potter Alliance launched their “Accio Books” campaign. The goal is to collect and donate 60,000 to communities in need. The Alliance will be accepting books until June.

Sequels You May Not Know About: Part One

sequels banner

 Have you ever read a book and wished there was a sequel?  Maybe there is and you’ve just never heard of it.  On the other hand…maybe it’s a good thing you haven’t!  In this series we spotlight some of the books that have sequels or companion books that, rightly or wrongly, may not be well-known to many readers. 

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

Baroness Orczy’s elusive hero proved so popular that his adventures continued in ten sequels and two collections of short stories–the first written was I Will Repay, about a young girl sworn by her father to kill the man she loves.  The Pimpernel’s series also expanded to include two books about one of his ancestors, The Laughing Cavalier and The First Sir Percy, as well as one about a descendant living after World War I, Pimpernel and Rosemary.

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

A year after the publication of his now-classic Civil War novel, Crane returned to Henry Fleming in a short story entitled “The Veteran,” in which the protagonist reminisces about his battle experience.

Pollyanna

Eleanor H. Porter followed her classic heroine into adulthood in her sequel Pollyanna Grows Up, in which Pollyanna returns home after six years of travel in Europe.

The Three Musketeers

Alexandre Dumas’s classic novel saw the publication of two sequels, Twenty Years After and The Vicomte de Bragelonne: Ten Years After.  This third book is typically published in English in three volumes, The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Louise de la Vallière, and The Man in the Iron Mask.

Just Ella

Margaret Peterson Haddix’s 1999 feminist retelling of Cinderella saw a companion novel, Palace of Mirrors, published in 2008.  In it, a peasant girl who believes herself the true princess travels to the capital to reclaim her throne, only to realize the “decoy” ruling in her place believes a different version of events.  Palace of Lies, the third in the series, was published in April of 2015.

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 2: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson, Jacob Wyatt, and Adrian Alphona

Ms Marvel Vol 2Information

Goodreads: Ms. Marvel, Vol. 2: Generation Why
Series: Ms. Marvel (MARVEL NOW!) #2
Source: Library
Published: 2015

Summary

Sixteen-year-old Kamala Khan is the new Ms. Marvel and already she’s made an enemy–the Inventor, a strange birdlike man who has been harvesting runaway teens.  Can Kamala save the runaways or has she taken on a challenge beyond her abilities?

Review

The second volume of the new Ms. Marvel possesses all of the elements that made the first collection and its heroine so endearing, while expanding Kamala’s universe in exciting ways.  Though Kamala has officially donned the lighting bolt and is determined to use her new powers to help others, her fledgling status as a superhero means that she really has no idea what she is doing.  Fortunately, other superheroes wish to help–and Kamala may just learn about her origins in the process.

Altogether, this is really a fun volume that focuses on Kamala’s journey to accept that, even with superpowers, she still needs to rely on others at times.  That means we get an adorably funny cameo from another superhero, who will teach Ms. Marvel a little about fighting evil, if only she can stop fangirling long enough to listen.  We also see some other familiar faces from the Marvel universe who tantalize us with information about the mysterious mist that appeared in the first volume and gave Kamala her powers.  This new knowledge gives Kamala a little more confidence as she faces her first villain.

The only aspect of the volume I did not like was the emphasis on Generation Y and the ways in which they respond to the (mostly) negative media attention they receive.  The plot revolved around the usual messages–Millenials are  self-centered, lazy, unemployed children who refused to grow up, etc., etc.  Kamala responds to this with the fire many Millenials probably wish they had, arguing that she and her peers are doing the best they can to deal with the economic mess and the energy crises left to them by those who came before.

That’s all really relevant to a lot of readers and Kamala answers perfectly.  However, I wish the presentation had not been so heavy-handed.  Words like “parasites” keep popping up to describe Generation Y, as does the idea that they are useless products of overpopulation. One character opines that the terms leveled at millenials should qualify as “hate speech.”  While I do frequently read articles declaring that Millenials are entitled individuals who refuse to move out into their own homes, get jobs, and get married, I have yet to read one that phrases its arguments quite so hatefully.  Maybe that’s what the authors intend to express (I don’t know) but I doubt most could get published calling an entire generation the scum of the earth just because they’re facing a low employment rate.  I suppose the story simply propelled these arguments to what one might think of as their logical conclusion, but it still seemed a bit much to be believable; some restraint in the presentation of the arguments of those who detest Millenials would have resonated more with me, since I then would have related the points raised to articles I have actually read.

Aside from this one gripe, however, I really enjoyed this volume.  Kamala is a delightful heroine, one that I suspect many readers can relate to.  Her exuberance in life, her determination to succeed against the odds, and her ability to admit that she is wrong, all make her a joy to read about.  I hope to follow her on many more adventures.

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