YRCA 2014 Review: Okay For Now

Next up: Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt.

Loved this one! Sorry, I’m jumping the gun a bit. On with the summary.

Doug’s life hasn’t been that great; his father’s abusive, his oldest brother’s fighting in Vietnam, his second oldest brother’s a jerk, and now their moving to a small town where everyone judges him based his dysfunctional family’s actions. However, his first day in Marysville, Doug discovers the public library (love this!) and their rare volume of Audubon’s Birds of America. He instantly, if reluctantly, falls in love with the birds in the book and, under the guidance and tutelage of the librarian, starts learning how to draw like Audubon. After that, everything in Doug’s life is compared to those bird and their actions in the plates.  When plates from the book start to go missing and Doug discovers that the town council has been selling them off, he vows to get as many of them back as he can.

I listened to this book rather than reading it because I wasn’t sure what to expect from it and a co-worker had recommended the audiobook. The narrator, Lincoln Hoppe, did a great job conveying Doug’s roller-coaster emotions and made me love the book even more. As for the actual story, I loved how you slowly learned more about Doug’s life and the obstacles that he’s having to overcome. The secondary characters are alternately supportive and destructive. Every time that you learned about something horrible about his family, something else happens that redeems them a little. Several characters open up opportunities for Doug that help him develop as a person. Mr. Powell, the librarian, helps him realize his drawing ability, Mrs. Windermere introduces him to the theatre, Lil gets him a job as a delivery boy at her father’s deli/grocery. Every character seems to teach him something about himself.

Anyway, I could go on and on but I’ll just say this, “Go read it!”

Oh and this book was one of the few that I felt really fit in the Intermediate Division. There were quite a few this year that straddled the lines of possibly being older or younger but still ended up in Intermediate so it’s nice to see one that really fits.

Will this book win the Intermediate Division? Who knows, I’m having trouble calling this division.

What I’m reading right now: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), Just Getting Started by Todd Babiak

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YRCA 2014 Review: Ready Player One

And … I’m back. With Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Thirty years in the future, the ever-worsening energy crisis has made life unbearable for most of the world. Many people retreat into the virtual world of OASIS; they work in there, they go to school in there, and they spend all their free time in there. Then the multi-billionaire creator-owner of OASIS, James Halliday, dies leaving behind a video will stating that all the majority of his wealth and OASIS shares will be left to the OASIS user who can find the Easter egg that he hid in the virtual world. There are three keys and three gates that competitors must find that will lead them to the egg. The video is also filled with tons of references to ’80s movies, music and games. The world goes crazy for the contest but as years go by and no one finds even the first key, interest wanes and only the devoted gunters (as the Easter egg hunters call themselves) are left.

Wade is one of the gunters. Having recently turned eighteen, Wade is unsure of what to do with his dead end life. He lives with his Aunt, who steals anything of value from him, he has no job because the terrible economy, and he’s close to graduate from an OASIS high school. The only friend that he has is Aech, who he met in the virtual world as his avatar, Parzival. Wade has reached a turning point in his life and things get a lot crazier when he figures out the first clue and is the first person to get the first key. But he’s not the only one; a few other gunters figure out the clue and then the evil IOI corporation shows up. IOI means business. They intend to take over Halliday’s company, and thus OASIS, to make it into a money making machine that goes against Halliday’s original vision. And they are willing to do anything to get it, even kill.

I found the two worlds of this book fascinating. The virtual world is richly described and seems limitless. On the other hand, real world is slowly revealed in intriguing bits.  This fits in with Wade’s life; he spend most of his time in OASIS, even forsaking sleep at times to avoid going back to his aunt’s trailer.  His time is also filled with movies, music, and games from the ’80s. Now, I was born in the ’80s but I am definitely a child of the ’90s  but that being said I still got about 90% of the geek reference in this book. It also help that many where more contemporary. I was quite impressed with myself, actually.

Anyway, I loved this book! Will it win the Senior Division of YRCA? I think it has a fighting chance.

What I’m reading now: Thankless in Death by JD Robb, Headed for Trouble by Suzanne Brockmann, Mortal Coil (audiobook) by Derek Landy.

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YRCA 2014 Review: Big Nate Out Loud

I actually read this a couple of weeks ago and forgot to do a review, so here we go.

Big Nate Out Loud by Lincoln Peirce, unlike last year’s nominee Big Nate in a Class By Himself, is not a graphic novel. It’s actually a collection of comic strips, some of which link together to make short stories about various aspects of Nate’s life.

Much like with the first official installment of the series, I was a little underwhelmed by this book. I was hoping that because it was comic strips that this book would have the clever punchline moments that there was so much potential for in the graphic novel but was missing. And they were there, occasionally, but there were times when I expected one and the opportunity passed. What I did like about the book, though, was that you really got to know more about the minor characters of the book, Nate’s friends, family, teachers,  in a way that just wasn’t possible in novel format of the graphic novel. I really felt like it added more depth and background to the continuing story.

All that being said, I probably won’t pick up another Big Nate book unless I have a particular reason to, like if one’s on the YRCA list again.

Will this book win the Junior Division? It would be a tough battle as it would have to take on a James Patterson, a Diary of a Wimpy Kid, an Amulet and an Origami Yoda. Yeah, good luck.

What I’m reading now: Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger and Dodger (audiobook) by Terry Pratchett.

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YRCA 2014 Review: Ruby Red

Yay! My first review for the new list! And I’m talking about Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier!

Gwen comes from a long line of women who carry a gene that allows them to travel through time. Gwen has lived a relatively normal life up until she’s sixteen because her cousin Charlotte, who was born on a special day, is supposed to be the one with the gene and their whole family is waiting with baited breath for her to have her first time-travel incident. Apparently, she will just randomly disappear for anywhere from minutes to hours into anytime in the past before coming back and doing it all again at some undetermined time. Charlotte has been trained for this her whole life, sacrificing a normal life so, of course, it turns out that Gwen was born a day earlier than everyone thought and that she has the gene instead. And she is completely unprepared. And of course, there is a boy who can also time-travel and there is a device that helps control the time-travel and there is mysterious secret society that possibly has an ulterior motive.

So, as I said in my last post, it was coincidence that I offered up Ruby Red to the teens in my Teen Book Club and that they picked it for the month that the new YRCA list came out and that it just happened to be on the list. What’s more awesome is that this also happened two years ago with The Hunchback Assignments.

I really liked Ruby Red.  Interestingly, I learned after reading it that it was translated from German, so that’s cool. The dialogue was fun and the concept of spontaneous time-travel was intriguing. I know for certain that this is not the first time that a book has represented time-travel this way. One really awesome book in particular comes to mind but I won’t name it because it would totally be a spoiler for that book but if you’ve read it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  There were plenty of plot twists and mysteries that kept me interested. The only kind of odd thing for me was that it didn’t feel like a complete book, but rather, the first third of a book. The climax was not really climax-y and the romance was very early stages. In fact, most of the plot was Gwen learning about the world of the time-travellers and setting up future mysteries. Despite a prologue and epilogue, it felt like someone had taken a story and divided it up. Not that I really minded, though, because the story definitely kept me engaged and the way it ended had me wanting to know more. I actually put the next book on hold a couple of minutes after I finished it.

Will this book win the Senior Division? Um, well, Divergent is also in this category so… probably not. But, hey, you never know.

What I’m reading now: Inferno by Dan Brown, Going Postal audiobook by Terry Pratchett.

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YRCA 2013 Finale and 2014 Begins

Okay, so the 2013 winners are:

Junior – Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

Intermediate – Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Senior – Crazy by Han Nolan

So, no surprises with the first two really, but I didn’t see Crazy coming. I didn’t get around to reading it, though, so I must have missed something. I had heard mixed things about it from staff members and none of the teens I talk to had read it so it must have appealed to a different crowd. It’s funny how sometimes they sneak up on you sometimes. It’s definitely staying on my “to read” list and hopefully I get to it in the near future.

On a really positive note, the number of votes from all of PNLA and from our own city has been steadily decreasing for the last few years but this year our city’s votes more than doubled with over 20,000! In past years, we accounted for almost half of the total votes and usually whoever we vote for wins but this year our number one for Intermediate was Halo (by a small margin over Smile) but Smile won so I’m hoping that means there was an increase in votes from the other provinces/states/cities. Let’s keep this awesome program going!

So on to the most exciting part of this blog: the new nominees are out! Follow the link to see the complete list. So, yay, new books to get kids excited about. I’ve already read seven of them and, coincidentally, we were reading one of them in the Teen Book Club that very month. I am a little confused by some of the nominees though. Some years past, I’m not sure how long ago, PNLA decided that sequels were not eligible to be nominated. I’ve heard it had to do with giving other books a chance (apparently Harry Potter dominated for a few years) but that could be wrong. Anyway, when we were sending in noms for the long lists, that was still a rule but, low and behold, sequels outnumber firsts and one-offs on the short lists. I’d be interested in finding out why they decided to allow them again. I’m sure it was part of an attempt to attract more interest from the kids but my only concern is that if a kid hasn’t started the series yet they may not be inclined to read the book that’s actually nominated. In some cases, it’s the second book in series but more than one of them the book is even further along, like Angel which is the seventh book in the Maximum Ride series. We’ll see how it works out, I guess.

What I’m reading right now: The Grand Tour or The Purloined Coronation Regalia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer and Going Postal audiobook by Terry Pratchett.

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Book Clubs are Hard

Yeah, like I said above. Book clubs are hard, especially if you’re running them. Don’t get me wrong, I like them most of the time but sometimes I’m not feeling it. It’s not the club part I find difficult, well not usually, but instead, oddly enough, it’s the reading. First of all, I find it really difficult to have a deadline for finishing a book. Normally, I have no trouble reading a book I’m enjoying in a couple of days or less, depending on the book, but adding on a deadline seems to affect my psychologically and slows me down so that I feel like I’m rushing to finish it on time. Second of all, although I like being pushed beyond normal reading boundaries and I usually end up liking the books, sometimes I don’t or I’m just not in the mood but I feel like I have to finish the book anyway. Especially if I’m running the meeting, like with the teens, and have to be able to keep the discussion going. Reading books that I’m not enjoying is especially hard now because, working in a library, I live under a giant “to read” pile and have been going with the philosophy that “life is too short to read books you don’t like.”

Years ago, I belonged to a book club at the local Chapters. My friend ran it because she worked there at the time and it consisted of a woman who was my friends high school band teacher, a woman who joined from seeing the ads, and a few of my friends. I loved the variety of books that we read and that it introduced me to books and authors that I probably wouldn’t have picked up otherwise. We read everything from literary fiction like Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad to nonfiction zombie books like The Serpent and the Rainbow to science fiction like Robert J. Sawyer’s Far-seer. We even read The Glass Castle a couple years before it became really big because one of the members thought it looked good and it was in the bargain bin. We read some great books and some terrible books (cough, Casino Royale, cough). Admittedly, there was often more chatting about general stuff then chatting about the book and we would end up buying a lot of other books. It got to the point where my friend and I started jokingly calling it “book buying club” but, after my friend quit Chapters and the club dissolved, I missed it for a long time.

About a year after I started at the library, I started a teen book club. I had to start from scratch and it was slow going at first with numbers that were really low, like one or two or even zero. I built it to be fairly successful, although it’s had it’s ups and downs and the numbers can be pretty erratic. It can be fun and it can be frustrating. Although I let them choose the book, I do have a fair amount influence over the options, which is nice because it became less of a chore to read them. We’ve had some great book discussions, usually when numbers are smaller, and we’ve had meetings where I’m the only one who read the book but all-in-all it’s been pretty rewarding.

Which leads up to this Tuesday and the adult book club that I’m leading for work. I volunteered to take over the book club every few months and I’m both looking forward to it and dreading it. The book we’re discussing is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and this was a case of the deadline problem and the having to finish it problem. In the end, I liked the book but if I had just been reading it for myself, I would have put it down near the beginning. It was just so depressing and it made me sad and I just wasn’t feeling it. I will definitely have much to discuss about it but I had to balance it out by reading a less depressing book at the same time.

Here’s hoping it’ll go well.

What I’m reading right now: The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee by Tom Angelberger and I Shall Wear Midnight audiobook by Terry Pratchett.

 

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YRCA 2013 Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Leviathan is about two teenage boys with the same name who meet randomly in a porn store.

The first Will that we are introduced to, written by John Green, is straight and emotionally stunted. He doesn’t date because he doesn’t want to take the chance that he might get hurt and his only real friend since childhood has been a gigantic gay football player named Tiny. Tiny, on the other hand, serial dates, falling in love and having his heart broken over and over again.

Will goes to see a band play with Tiny and Jane (the love interest) only to discover that his brand new fake ID says that he’s 20 not 21 and, therefore, he can’t get into the club. His friends ditch him to go to the show and he is forced to wait around outside for them. Because he wants to get any use out of the fake ID that he can, he ends up in the porn store.

The second Will, written by David Leviathan, is gay and clinically depressed. He’s actually okay with being gay but isn’t really open about it because he’s a very private person. The few friends that he does have don’t really know anything about him. Will is also really angry. Angry at the world, his life, and people in general. The only person that he opens up to is his online friend Isaac, who he has fallen for hard and has the potential of becoming his boyfriend. After a year of IMing each other, they finally decide to meet. So, Will takes a train into Chicago from the suburbs and, to his surprise, discovers that the place that they are supposed to meet is a porn store. He also discovers that Isaac has not shown up.

By chance, the Wills discover that they have the same name and, on a whim, first Will introduces second Will to Tiny and both of their lives change.

Oh, and Tiny is putting on musical based on his life called “Tiny Dancer” and everyone is surprisingly supportive of him doing it, except first Will.

Okay, first of all, the legal age for drinking in most states (all states?) is 21 but apparently you only have to be 18 to go into a porn store? That seems random. I’m not sure what that says about people’s priorities. Second, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. I hadn’t read a John Green or a David Leviathan novel before and I was a little surprised by how much I liked it. I’m usually not into these “slice of teenage life” books but I loved how the characters were just quirky enough that they were interesting but not so quirky that they were totally unrealistic. My favourite parts were everything related to Tiny’s musical. I wasn’t expecting him to feature so prominently in the story but he ties it all together and is very important to both Wills. In fact, for a majority of the story, he is the only thing that connects the two narratives together because the Wills are only together at the beginning and the end of the story.  Tiny seems like a very simple character at the beginning of the story but that changes as the Wills start to understand him better and, by the end, Tiny is the star of the book, just as he is the star of his musical. Plus, the musical seems like it would be hilarious and awesome. I would totally go see it.

Will this book win the Senior Division of YRCA? I think it has a good chance. I’m interested to see what the teens in my book club think of it because I’m not sure if this is the kind of book that teens like or the kind of book that adults think teens should like.

What I’m reading right now: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor and The Hogfather audiobook by Terry Pratchett.

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