In the Stacks: Summer Reading and YOU!

In the Stacks: A Blog Straight from the Mind of Steve

This week’s subject: Summer Reading and YOU!

Well I know by the time this hits the Facebook page, the Summer Reading Program will have already started in full swing. I am standing at the Circulation desk right now, and I see vacant spaces all along our pathway to YPL. It is 10:30 am on Sunday June 1st, but I can just feel the energy that is awaiting us as the day progresses. I know that kids and parents alike are going to literally be swarming this whole library with a buzz of excitement at getting registered for the program.

For all of you fellas out of the loop, the Summer Reading Program begins today, June 1st, and will continue all the way until August 2nd. Here are some of the fantastic details:

            You sign up at the Young People’s Department.

            You automatically are entered into a drawing for a $50 Target gift card.

            You automatically get a beautiful purple wallet to hold your library card.

            All you have to do to finish the program is read 20 books. JUST 20 BOOKS!!!

steve Continue reading


In the Stacks: National Poetry Month!

In the Stacks: A Blog Straight from the Mind of Steve

I know, I know, it has been quite a while since my last blog dear readers. I must say, over the last couple months it has seemed like I might actually have been hit hard by the dreadful “writer’s block”. (Queue eerie, spooky music) However fate has got me smiling high today. Why you ask? Well, because it is April readers, and April is non-other than National Poetry Month. Perfect, I know! It is actually more and more exciting the more I think about it. I am SO relieved for this month because here in the Library District we get to make extra celebratory events and highlights for all the amazing people who have ever dared pick up a pen or pencil and write from their heart and soul. Or perhaps they just typed and typed away on a computer keyboard or typewriter. (For information on what a typewriter is folks, please consult your local librarian).

poetryI’ve always kept a soft side for poetry. I have even attempted on a few occasions (when I wasn’t forced for an English assignment) to actually make up a few special ones from my heart to the woman who now owns it…. She knows who she is. And though she is a die-hard thespian by nature, I don’t think she faked her way through the smiles and tears that she showed after reading them. I don’t say that to gloat readers, honestly. I am simply explaining that with the effort and emotion behind it, poetry is a lovely form of communication and a personally viewed disclosure of life and the people, places, and things therein.

Now here at Whitney Library we are going full swing into this wonderful month by having a new local poet, Lee Mallory in our space to perform some of his most recent poems. Lee is known in the literary world as “The Love Poet”; sooth and sultry I know. Mr. Mallory will be performing in our Conference Room on the 22nd of the month, and personally, I cannot wait! It should be the perfect close to this month. Also, in our very own department, we have the amazingly talented Selina to hype up our branch’s appearance during this month to show just how much we love our fellow poets. When you’re in the Whitney Library next, you simply must check out the new display behind the Circulation Desk. (You kinda can’t miss it ;).

Now I can go on and on and ON about different poets and special quotes and passages from many a selected work to add in or reference here, but I will end with just one. Once I started thinking about this new blog and the fact it is National Poetry Month, one specific work came to mind. Over a year ago, a coworker recommended that I read this acclaimed poet named Charles Bukowski. Bukowski was straight out of the “Beat Generation,” and through his numerous writings and his personal life, he had quite possibly the main portion of controversy attached to his name. Now with Kerouac, Burroughs, and Ginsberg in the mix, that is truly saying something. Anyway, I did pick up and read through one of his more recent collections a short time after, and from the very first poem that I read, I was hooked. I’d like to finish up this blog by copying down just a small portion of that poem to add to this phenomenal theme. I hope you all have a lovely April, and great rest of the year.  Until next time dear readers, stay classy… stay reading.

“If it doesn’t come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don’t do it…if you’re trying to write like somebody else, forget about it… Don’t be like so many writers, don’t be like so many thousands of people who call themselves writers, don’t be dull and boring and pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-love, the libraries of the world have yawned themselves to sleep over your kind… when it is truly time… it will do it by itself… there is no other way, and there never was.”

Teen Tuesday – You Can’t Fool Me…or Me…or Me…

dontA group of high school sophomores goes in for a flu shot and comes out with so much more in Sarah Mlynowski’s newest YA novel, Don’t Even Think About It.

A batch of tainted vaccine bestows telepathic abilities on a homeroom class of 22 students and suddenly, no one’s secrets are safe. Not Mackensie, who cheated on her trusting boyfriend, Cooper. Not Olivia, whose insecurities were safely tucked away until now. Not Tess, in love with her unsuspecting best friend, Teddy, and not Pi, the academic overachiever ready to cheat her way to the top. These “espies” (the self-titled ESP students) not only have the ability to communicate telepathically with each other, they can read the minds of their unaffected classmates, their teachers, parents, and just about anyone within close range. Unfortunately, that means their minds can get pretty noisy and there’s nothing to filter out the amusing, embarrassing, and sometimes, heartbreaking thoughts that the espies are now privy to. While some, like Pi, take to their new abilities like ducks to water, others, like Mackensie and Olivia, experience the immediate pitfalls and wonder if, maybe, ignorance is indeed bliss.

It’s an interesting storyline to watch this group gain an incredible ability and then quickly realize that something valuable has been lost at the same time. Early on, these students band together as they begin to explore their powers and wrestle with whether to keep silent. In a unique twist, the book is narrated by the espies in a collective “we” voice that interjects comments through the story like a classic Greek chorus. Luckily, readers don’t have to juggle 22 different characters at once because the author has wisely chosen to follow the lives of the handful of students mentioned above. Never fear, though, there are plenty of hints dropped along the way that will undoubtedly fill future installments with new character arcs, new psychic abilities, and new dangers, not only within their own social circles, but from the Center For Disease Control which has identified these unusual teenagers.

Sarah Mlynowski’s breezy writing style keeps the book from getting too bogged down in drama but still gives thoughtful readers much to contemplate here. There’s light romance and some comic moments as well. The only downside is the cover, which, alas, may be too pink to attract the teenage male reader. A quick, enjoyable read, Don’t Even Think About It would make a great book for spring break, and for readers who like contemporary settings and realistic characters.

Teen Tuesday – Award-winning Audiobook Will Give You Goosebumps

If you’ve looked at this year’s YALSA Hub Reading Challenge list you’ll know that, in addition to books and graphic novels, there are also award-winning audiobooks.  And if you’ve yet to give them a try, let me wholeheartedly give my endorsement.  Audiobooks offer another way to experience literature, and when done well, that listening experience may even prove better than reading the book.  The narration alone usually requires the listener to slow down and think, allowing one to hear the changes in tone and nuance.  Above all, listening lets us feel the power in spoken words.

scowlerI recently listened to the audiobook of Scowler by Daniel Kraus, this year’s young adult Odyssey Award winner.  The narrator was the amazingly talented Kirby Heyborne, who did a truly remarkable job bringing these characters to life.  The way he vocalized each individual’s distinctive personality–from the deep gritty sound of Marvin Burke, to Sarah’s soft, slurry tenor and the exaggerated voices of Ry’s toys–added a masterful layer to a story already rife with physical and psychological trauma.

That said, while I certainly applaud the merits of the audio performance and the novel’s extraordinary writing, Scowler was not a story I enjoyed, and had I been reading it rather than listening to the audiobook, this is one I would have put down early on.  The fact that it’s on the YALSA reading list was my main reason for selecting it.  I was also looking for something outside my comfort zone and Scowler definitely fit that bill.  I am not a horror fan and to Daniel Kraus’ credit, his writing was so descriptive and chilling that at times, I felt ill.  Really, I could only listen to this in small increments because the story had me so rattled.

There are some very dark places the author explores in the psychotic mind of a father and the rapidly deteriorating sanity of a son.  A stranger’s appearance outside their home foreshadows the vise of terror that will grip 19 year old Ry Burke, his mother, JoBeth and sister, Sarah.  Shortly thereafter, the explosive crash of a meteorite on the family farm lends a surreal, otherworldly quality to all the events that follow.  The countdowns, both before and after the impact, begin each chapter and add to the suspense.  Ry’s memories of the suffering he and JoBeth endured, and the events that led to his father Marvin’s incarceration, are horrific and only heighten the panic of their current situation.

This is not a book for marshmallows like me, and I would recommend it for true horror fans only–those of you who can read Stephen King and shrug.  But what I said about the power of spoken words?  Scowler may prove to be more frightening as an audiobook.  The sounds and voices that narrate this story are scarier than anything you’ll imagine in your head.  Listen, and let me know what you think.

Teen Tuesday – Reading Graphically

Graphic novels aren’t usually my first reading choice.  However, after last year’s YALSA Hub Challenge where I read a number of graphic novels because they were, well—short—and I was on a deadline, I discovered I really enjoyed them.  It felt like a different reading experience because the pictures were so much a part of each story, adding more depth and nuance beyond what the words conveyed.  The characters, the settings, the emotional impact and visual clues were drawn right there on the page and not something I had to conjure in my imagination.  Lucky for me, the Hub Challenge list included award winners and honored books, so the graphic novels I read were among the year’s best.  What better way to whet the appetite for more?  Here are a few graphic novels recently added to our library’s catalog that you might want to check out yourself:

brodysghostBrody’s Ghost by Mark Crilley

Dumped by his girlfriend, Brody has been wallowing in self-pity until a ghost recruits him to find the serial killer responsible for the “Penny Murders.”   This is a six book series and the library has volumes one through four available now with volume 5 slated for a mid-April release.  The books are slim, but packed with detailed illustrations and a fast moving plot that leaves the reader in suspense at each conclusion.  There’s an East meets West futuristic atmosphere to the series that reminds me of Blade Runner.  In addition, Mark Crilley gives his readers a look at his creative process by including preliminary sketches and thoughts on layout and perspective for each installment, an added bonus for budding graphic artists.

The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks

She has superpowers!  She fights evil ninjas!  She needs to pay rent!  Faith Erin Hicks explores the awesome role of a superhero by taking a humorous look superherogirlat her daily life.  A life where Superhero Girl runs into her arch nemesis while grocery shopping, where she forgets to take off her mask before a date, and where she needs a roommate to help keep expenses down.  And don’t even get the girl started on her wildly famous superhero brother, Kevin!  A collection of comic strips rather than a singular plot line, The Adventures of Superhero Girl is a smart, quirky read that will have you chuckling.

battlingboyBattling Boy by Paul Pope

A young demigod must prove his worth by defending a besieged city from demons and monsters.  The artwork nicely highlights the frenetic pacing and monster fight sequences.  The use of full color also beautifully heightens the drama and the decaying and dangerous city that is Arcopolis .  Battling Boy is a rather reluctant hero whose t-shirt wardrobe gives him the power of the animal he’s wearing.  With a demanding god for a dad and the city’s politicians looking to spin his appearance in a favorable way, Battling Boy has more than monsters to worry about.

Bad Houses by Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil

Bad Houses is a somber look at the residents of a small town and the connections they share.  Lewis and Anne meet when she appears at an estate sale badhousesthat Lewis is working with his mom.  While he and his mother make a living clearing out the homes of the town’s deceased residents, Anne and her mom live stuffed to the gills amongst the piles of junk Anne’s mother is hoarding.  The realistic artwork is, at times, cringe worthy, but highly effective.  The characters are multi-faceted and the glimpses into their pasts shed a revealing light on their present circumstances.  Lewis and Anne are a likeable couple and their romance fills the reader with hope.

I hope there are some undiscovered titles here!  Of course, recommendations are always welcome, so please feel free to post your favorites and let me know what I need to check out next!

In the Stacks – Hooray! It’s Hub Reading Challenge Time Again!!!

Well readers, it appears that the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) has released their infamous list of award winning titles for this year’s Hub Reading Challenge, and so I say… LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!

casualtiesThis year there are a whopping 77 options to choose from. I have already kicked this party off by now finishing a whole 2, count ‘em TWO books! Victory is as good as mine. Thus far I have read Chris Lynch’s Vietnam #4: Casualties of War and Jeffery Brown’s Star Wars Jedi Academy. I must say, I was relieved to see Lynch’s book on the list, as my last three books that I read for last year’s challenge were his first 3 books of the Vietnam series. At last… the series is done. It was hard to part with those amazing stories of 4 friends and their individual tales of Vietnam in all of its beauty and destruction from the point of view of the 4 branches of service (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines- for those of you non-military savvy folk).

So with two titles down for me, it’s just 23 more to go. I have until the end of the day on June 25th. I was a bit shy of finishing last year, but I think this might just be my year. My locker is already full of other books to read. Which ones you may wonder (If you even care)? Well… let me see now… I’m seeing William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher. Although… I got the book version, when it was really listed as an Amazing Audiobook pick. And I can see now why that might be. I did in fact start the book with high hopes. Basically, imagine reading Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope in the same way you would read such classics as Romeo & Juliet or Macbeth. Now I don’t know about you, but if I was ever given the option to read Shakespeare or hear someone else read Shakespeare to me in school (cause let’s face it people, who reads Shakespeare of their own free will?), I would have to say, READ IT TO ME!!!! I mean I haven’t even gotten to the droids getting to Tatooine yet and I don’t feel motivated enough to pick up the book again anytime soon. I’m definitely going to have to track down an audiobook copy.

Further doJediAcademywn along my ever narrowing locker is Tim Federle’s Better Nate than Ever. A teenage who seeks fame in the theatre… How can I NOT read this book!? Haha Also, there is Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina. What can I say guys? The title alone makes this worth reading. And funny enough… A book I recently got for my step-daughter made it onto this year’s list. That is non-other than Faith Erin Hicks’ The Adventures of Superhero Girl. Is this some crazy coincidence? Perhaps; we shall see. You know as I sit here and look over all of these phenomenal titles… I am getting my second wind to pick up another book and start reading right now. Maybe this is my year to finally finish this challenge, but only time will dear readers. Until then… stay classy… stay reading!

Teen Tuesday – She is Not Invisible

“One final time I told myself I wasn’t abducting my little brother.”

sheisnotinvisibleSome books have first sentences that are so intriguing and raise so many questions, a reader can’t help but feel compelled to discover the answers.  She Is Not Invisible, Marcus Sedgwick’s newest novel, sweeps up the reader right from the start as Laureth and her brother Benjamin embark on a trip both ordinary and perilous.  They are traveling from London to New York, a flight they’ve done in the past with their parents.  This time, it’s just the two of them and, because Benjamin is only seven and in her care while their mother is away, Laureth really can’t leave him behind.  Besides, she needs his assistance if they are to discover the whereabouts of their dad.  Despite her resolve and resourcefulness, her calm demeanor and intelligence, Laureth relies on the subtle help Benjamin provides because she’s trying to hide a disability that could deter them on their search.  She is blind.

What a departure from Marcus Sedgwick’s previous work, especially his most recent, this year’s Printz award winner, MidwinterbloodShe Is Not Invisible has a realistic voice and a contemporary setting.  There is no drama behind Laureth’s blindness and because she’s the narrator, readers get a clear understanding that it’s just a small part of who she is as a person.  The intimacy of Laureth’s true thoughts and fears and her ability to navigate through the world make her especially memorable.  Also touching is her relationship with her brother Benjamin, a bright but lonely boy whose toy raven is his closest confidante.  For its wholly unique and captivating characters, its matter-of-fact exploration in the life of a blind teen, and its loving treatment of a fractured but fixable family, She Is Not Invisible is a recommended read for fans who like character-driven books, realistic fiction and mysteries.  Put this on your request list because the book becomes available April 22nd!

Teen Tuesday – Find Me by Romily Bernard

findmeWick and her sister, Lily, have had a pretty hard life so far.  Years back, their mother committed suicide. Their father is a menacing drug dealer eluding capture.  Currently set up in the posh side of town with compassionate foster parents, Lily is happily settling into their new surroundings.  Wick, however, knows better.  Suspicious and defensive, she has quietly set up her own cyber-investigation service, using the skills she’s learned from her dad’s partner, banking the funds in case she and Lily have to flee in the night.  Because her sister’s safety is the only thing that matters and Wick knows that the nice clothes, the lovely home and the caring parents are no protection against the dangers of her old life and the reappearance of her father.

Then another suicide pushes her into the reluctant job of finding an abuser, at the same time a nosy detective starts popping up and her dad’s partner reels her in for a new scam.  There’s also Griff.  “Nice boy.  Very polite.  With striking eyes.”  Griff lives in her old neighborhood and they know each other through school.  So, what’s made him suddenly so interesting, and is he a distraction she can afford to have?  Wick’s secrets threaten to unravel and she’s ready to run until a dead girl’s diary and an anonymous online posting reveal a tormentor’s latest obsession—Lily.

Find Me by Romily Bernard is a fast-paced, action-packed mystery with Wick as the scrappy, smart narrator.  Keeping everyone at a distance—with the exception of her sister—has always served her well, so she’s not about to start asking for help now.  “Trust” is not something Wick does well, either, which is a good thing here; there are dark secrets to uncover behind these manicured lawns and perfectly played out lives.  The author throws up plenty of twists along the way and there’s a budding romance to provide distraction between the ominous bits.  For the most part, the characters are nicely fleshed out and the relationships feel genuine.  Readers will fly through these pages as tensions mount and Wick is forced into a game of cat and mouse to save her sister.  Thankfully, we’ll see more of Wick when the second book in the trilogy, Remember Me, comes out in Fall 2014.  Visit the author’s website here.

Teen Tuesday – Hub Reading Challenge Take Two!

It’s baaack!  Now that the winners of the Youth Media Awards have been announced, it’s time once again to sign up for YALSA’s Hub Reading Challenge.  Click on the link, join the fun, and stretch your reading horizons!  I signed up last year for the first time and really enjoyed the wide variety of books I wouldn’t have read otherwise.  Sad, but true, it’s too easy to get into a reading rut.  The remedy?  Busting out of our self-imposed parameters now and then, and the Hub Challenge is a great way to start!

universeThis year’s list includes 77 titles in book and audio format.  Among them are Great Graphic Novels, Amazing Audiobooks, Popular Paperbacks, and Quick Picks, along with this year’s award winners and honor books.  As one who doesn’t read a lot of adult novels, I especially enjoy the Alex Award winners, books written for adults but also recommended for teens.  I have The Universe Versus Alex Woods as my next read.

One of my favorite authors, Markus Zusak, was this year’s winner of the Margaret A. Edwards award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults.  All four of his books are on the Hub reading list, but if they’re going to count toward my reading, I’d have to reread them . . . hmmm.  It takes 25 books to complete the Hub Challenge and the deadline is June 22nd, so I’ll probably stick to the new titles I haven’t yet read.  For those who choose Markus Zusak’s books, I highly recommend them all for the descriptive prose, touching characters, and unique style.  Each of his books is a gem.

Like before, I’ll note my progress and post some reviews.  My blog companion, Steve, joined last year and took up the challenge with me and I’m hoping this year, we can talk a few others into giving it a try.    What a great opportunity to experience some of the best literature for young adults.  And the icing on the cake?  Finishers will be entered into the grand prize drawing for a YALSA bag of new 2013-2014 books!  Sign up now, you’ll be glad you did.

By the way, check out SimonTeen’s Facebook page.  This publishing house is giving away 50 copies of Printz award-winning author John Corey Whaley’s newest book, Noggin, due out in April.  Contest ends February 25th but there are other giveaways and promotions going on, so if you’re feeling lucky and like free books, it’s worth checking back often.

Teen Tuesday – Love, Love, Love!

In honor of Valentine’s Day, and in keeping with the last few posts where we’ve highlighted older titles worth reading, here’s a list of YA romances that may have slipped under your radar.  Not that any of these books really qualify as “old” because most have been published within the last 10 years.   It’s just that few library copies are left, so help Teen Tuesday keep these books circulating and on our library shelves by checking them out!  In no particular order, may we suggest the following:

wintersmith 1.  Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett

What happens when a season falls in love?  Apprentice witch Tiffany Aching is in trouble.  Seems that Winter himself is in love with her and, while snowflakes and icebergs bearing her likeness are an impressive display of affection, the fact that Winter won’t leave is becoming a serious problem for the entire town.  Throw in tiny blue men, a very animated cheese, an assortment of witches, and this third installment in the Tiffany Aching series is the best of the lot.  Can easily be read on its own, but for fans of Pratchett’s “Discworld” series, or those who fall under the spell of this master storyteller’s magic, Wee Free Men begins Tiffany’s story.

2.  Getting the Girl by Markus Zusakgettingthegirl

If the idea of a lovesick boy lurking in front of your house sounds more sensitive and romantic than stalkerish, Cameron Wolfe should be your book boyfriend.  He’s the main character of Getting the Girl, a follow-up to Markus Zusak’s first novel, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, where the dynamics between Cameron and his older brother Ruben are first explored.  Cameron is the quieter, more introspective one in the family, more comfortable with the words on paper than spoken out loud.  Living in the shadow of his charismatic brother has never been a problem, until now.  Now, Cameron wants what his brother has, and her name is Octavia.  Again, this book works fine as a standalone, but readers who fall in love with this family—a likeable, realistically portrayed bunch–may want to seek out the first book, which alas, the library no longer has!  Two words—interlibrary loan.        

stardust3.  Stardust by Neil Gaiman

This title is shelved in the adult section, but it’s been on previous lists of recommended adult books for teen readers, so we’re giving it a shout out here.  A fantasy, a fairytale, a ghost story, a tale of longing and revenge, of curses and destiny, Stardust is pure magic and only Neil Gaiman could come up with a story in which a young man falls in love with a star.  Not the pop, rock or movie kind, we’re talking celestial.  If you’ve seen the movie, do read the book because the ending is different and there were certain elements left out.  If you read the book, may we also recommend the movie because Claire Danes is absolutely luminous and Robert DeNiro steals the show.

4.  The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelsonskyiseverywhere

This book was mentioned in an earlier Valentine Teen Tuesday post here but we’re mentioning it again because there are now only two copies left in the library district!  Check it out while there’s still time to discover this lyrically written story of tragic loss and new love.

alicebliss 5.  Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington  

Here’s another adult title that’s been recommended for teen readers.  Published only three years ago, it shouldn’t be on this list except for the fact that in a teen’s reading life, a lot can happen in three years.  It’s safe to say that what one usually reads as a 12-13 year old is not what one will be reading at 16.  Those are formative years, as they are for the title character of this book.  Here’s a love story of a different kind, the love of a father for his family.  Alice Bliss grows up while her beloved dad is deployed overseas and she is painfully aware of everything he’s missed at home, everything he’s taught her over the years and how he prepared her for his absence.  If you are a fan of dramatic, emotional writing, this book will leave you in a puddle.  Have lots of tissues on hand.

Of course, these are just some of our favorite oldies but goodies, so please leave a comment and recommend your own romantic favorites.   And just for fun, check out this link to find out if you’re a good girlfriend/boyfriend.  Happy Valentine’s Day!