Friday, June 29, 2012

Howl's Moving Castle

 By Diana Wynne Jones
3.5 / 5 Gnomes

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl's castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there's far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye. 

~Amazon Description~

There's a reason I always try to read a book before watching a movie.  When you read a book first, you get to let your imagination run wild, creating character, design settings, and building a world that you can get lost in without much effort.  When you see the movie first, someone has done all of the work for you, which, for a a person with a HUGE imagination, is often a total letdown.  

But sometimes you love the movie, and you try really hard to love the book just as much, but it just doesn't work.  Hayao Miyazaki is a genius.  Really...he's a genius.  His animation is beautiful, and his storytelling abilities are whimsical and emotional.  The Howl in the movie had just the right touch of stubbornness, deceit, and heart.  I admit it, I might have formed a bit of a crush in no small part because he is voiced by the studly Christian Bale.  I never really formed that connection with the Howl in the book.  He was so self-absorbed that it was sometimes difficult to find the spark of good in him.  Sure, that spark was there in the end, but you had to wait for the end of the books to really see it.  Sophie was extra...grumpy I guess.  (So not meaning to stereotype), but she really came off as a bitter senior citizen.  And the ending felt a little rushed.  All of the sudden everything seemed to be concluding at once.  I felt like I was trying to catch up a bit.

That being said, I did enjoy the book, and I'm looking forward to reading the sequel that has not been turned into a movie.  Maybe I'll be able to dream bigger than the world created by Miyazaki and see the story that Wynne Jones has created for myself.  Luckily, I don't have to wait for the end of the trilogy!  Mark one off my summer-must-read list!

If you liked the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede or Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling consider Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

See You Next Week!

Heading to California for the ALA Annual Conference.  See you next week with a wrap up and book related news!  (Unless, of course, Mike gets me into some shenanigans that I need to report :)  Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Meeting "Happy Bunny"

It's Happy Bunny : Love Bites
By Jim Benton

Love. It's just like hate, but somebody gets candy.

So, you've made the mistake of falling in love. Let Happy Bunny be your guide as you wade through the whole stupid love thing--from crush to crash, from hook-up to break-up, from going out to going insane. Happy Bunny knows how you feel. It just doesn't care.

Inside this funny full-color gift book, you'll find tips on dating, crushes, & secret admirers from a bunny with attitude.

True love lasts forever, or until something better comes along.

~ Amazon Description

It's Happy Bunny : Life. Get One.
By Jim Benton

Everyone's favorite bunny with attitude presents words of wisdom for all life's endeavors, like:
When life gives you lemons, squirt lemon juice into the eyes of your enemies.
Is the glass half-empty or half-full? Who cares? Learn to focus on the things that truly matter--like yourself and money. In this charming collection of ancient bunny wisdom, you'll find painfully honest twists on age-old advice as Happy Bunny shares the secrets to a happy and rewarding life. YEAH, RIGHT.

~Amazon Description~

Every two months my fellow teen librarian and I give a little cheer on VOYA day.  Voices of Youth Advocates is a bi-monthly professional magazine dedicated specifically to teen services and  readers advisory, and VOYA day is the day the magazine arrives.  We're librarians.  We're a wee bit nerdy (proudly nerdy) and get pretty excited when the magazine arrives in our mailbox.  As I was reading this month's issue, I came across a mention of Happy Bunny.  Happy Bunny is sarcastic, snarky, and shares the antithesis of sound advice.  In one simple word, brilliant.  
I'm not sure how Happy Bunny has remained off my radar.  It seems a shame I've gone so long without this little furry creature who needs a serious attitude adjustment.  The pure genius in the book is that it is spot on teen humor, at least the teens who sprawl across the furniture in the teen room at my library on a daily basis.  They are amazing quick witted and absolutely hilarious if you're paying attention enough to hear them mutter under their breath.  They might too need an attitude adjustment at times, but they are endearing, just like Happy Bunny.
In Love Bites, Happy Bunny teaches the reader how to deal with having a crush, keeping love, and how to handle the inevitable break up.  Best line:  "Chapter 2 - Spying  'It's just like when two people in love go for a long walk except one of them doesn't know they're being followed.'"
Life.  Get One. strives to provide some useful nuggets of wisdom for the recently graduated.  Sure, you feel a little bad laughing (ex. "We must never, ever be mean to stupid people. If we are, they might go away.  Then who will we laugh at?"), but sometimes you don't want Dr. Seuss' sweet advice.
If you want a little snark in your life, check out Happy Bunny..."Happy Bunny knows how you feel.  It just doesn't care."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Top 10 Tuesday: Books On My Summer TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Summer TBR List
(Hosted by The Broke and The Bookish)

So...I'm not sure if TBR means "To Be Read" or "To Be Released", so I'll just go with a mixture of both.  And I'm kind of going to treat this list like a homework assignment.  In order to earn an A+ during the summer of 2012, I must successfully complete my reading list.  In no particular order:

1) The Treasure Map of Boys and Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart
Because I'm trying to complete the series, I think it's only fair to lump them together.  Only 4 more titles to read during the summer of Lockhart!

2) Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Which means I'll have to reread Divergent first.  I've been waiting for an excuse...

3) The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

4) My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

5) Endlessly by Kiersten White
Released July 24
Can't wait!  One of my favorite paranormal series!

6) Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Because many teens find it unbelievable that I haven't read it yet.

7) A Discovery of Witches By Deborah Harkness
I know it's not YA, but it has been on my radar for awhile.

8) Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
This feels a bit like cheating because it's a book club selection, but it's been on my to-read list for at least 5 years, so I'm counting it.

9) Soulless by Gail Carriger
Because I one both a paperback and ebook copy.

10) The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

and because I just found this on Barnes and Noble and am now totally excited...

11) Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ready Player One

By Ernest Cline
5 / 5 Gnomes

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.  

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

~Amazon Description~

I think Author Patrick Rothfuss said it best with the quote on the back of the hardcover edition, "Completely fricking awesome.  This book pleased every geeky bone in my geeky body.  I felt like to was written just for me." 

I loved this book.  I knew very early that my affection would be deep and sincere.  It all started on page 26, the last page of chapter one.  The main character, one Wade Watts, a.k.a. Parcival, is asked to recite his login pass phrase to enter the digital world of the Oasis, to which he recites "You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the Frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada."  That's right.  Wade just recited a line from The Last Starfighter.  One of my favorite 80s space movies.  I was in heaven.

My affections grew with discussions on John Hughes movies, a character choosing the name Kira after watching The Dark Crystal, and a planet in the Oasis where you complete a Goondock adventure.  And to top it all off, there was this emotional, fast paced, thrill ride of a story.  The story has elements of dystopia drenched in science fiction, but at the very core, it's filled with heartfelt human moments.

Wade is lonely, and he finds acceptance and purpose in an environment outside of the real world.  And who can blame him.  He's an orphan living in a world of depleted resources and terrible violence.  This genius of a man, Jim Halliday, computer programmer billionaire, creates a treasure hunt unlike anything the world has ever seen in the virtual world he created.  It is during this hunt that Wade finds friendship, loyalty, love, sacrifice, and courage.  And within all of this are some seriously spectacular 80s references.

If like feeling nostalgic, enjoy a good treasure hunt, or like rooting for the underdog, (or enjoyed the movie Fanboys!!) check out Ernest Cline's Ready Player One.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Boy Book

By E. Lockhart
3 / 5 Gnomes

Here is how things stand at the beginning of newly-licensed driver Ruby Oliver's junior year at Tate Prep:

 • Kim: Not speaking. But far away in Tokyo.
 • Cricket: Not speaking.
 • Nora: Speaking--sort of. Chatted a couple times this summer when they bumped into each other outside of school--once shopping in the U District, and once in the Elliot Bay Bookstore. But she hadn't called Ruby, or anything.
 • Noel: Didn't care what anyone thinks.
 • Meghan: Didn't have any other friends.
 • Dr. Z: Speaking.
 • And Jackson. The big one. Not speaking.

But, by Winter Break, a new job, an unlikely but satisfying friend combo, additional entries to
The Boy Book and many difficult decisions help Ruby to see that there is, indeed, life outside the Tate Universe.

~Amazon Description~

The summer of Lockhart continues with The Boy Book, part two in the Ruby Oliver story.  Ruby is as neurotic as usual, but she's a boy obsessed teenage girl, so that comes with the territory.  She has found a new normal at school after the tragedy that was sophomore year, and she's slowing learning to find her way once again on the social scene.

Lockhart is a smart writer.  I've said it before, and I'm saying it again.  There are layers to her books, both serious and hilarious, but all true to the teenage experience.  Throughout the story, she interweaves excerpts from the infamous Boy Book written by Ruby and friends during freshman year, each chapter is snappily named, and the footnotes scattered throughout are both humorous and informative.  All of these elements fill out the story in fun and exciting ways.  Plus, I just like Ruby.  Sure, she has her problems, but they are problems that every teenage encounters.  She has a tendency to handle them all wrong, but she's learning and growing.  And she's a movie buff and list maker, two of my favorite things as well.

For those readers who like to meet a character and stick around for awhile, who like to laugh and blush at embarrassing moments, who have ever wanted an inside track into dating and relationships, check out the Ruby Oliver series by E.Lockhart.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mike the Gnome's Adventures Part 1

Mike with author Jon Scieszka at PLA 2008
Next week, my friendly traveling companion is packing his bags and heading west to sunny Anaheim, California.  We are fortunate enough to be attending the American Library Association's Annual Conference.  It's a pilgrimage librarians all across the country make when budgets and time allow.  This will be our first attendance.  In March I was honored to be selected as a 2012 Library Journal Mover and Shaker.  I'm still not quite comfortable with the accolade, but humbled that co-workers and fellow librarians think that highly of me.  I get to attend a special luncheon and the conference was a part of the package.

I think, that perhaps, I will be one of only a few, or the only, librarian who is bringing a garden gnome to the event.  I do this for a couple of reasons.  1) It embarrasses my library director who is making the trip with me, and seeing as how she nominated me for the award, I feel it is my right to at least make her a little uncomfortable as well.  2)  Mike is an excellent conversation starter.  (I'm not implying he starts conversations.  I'm weird but sane.)  I'm not the best with small talk, so having my foot high ceramic friend with me tends to break the ice.  3.)  My parents generously purchased an excursion for me for my birthday, and Mike will hopefully be getting his picture taken standing on Dean Martin's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  And 4.) There is a chance I'll be able to sneak over to Disneyland one evening, and a picture of Mickey Mouse holding Mike is on my list of 25 must-one-day-have pictures.

But briefly back to number one.  While my family and friends have become accustomed to me pulling Mike out of my backpack and posing him in very public locations, there might be some cause for my director to worry.  When I call Mike's traveling an "adventure," I'm not exaggerating.  Case in point:  a few years ago, my younger brother was running a cross-country meet in Memphis, Tennessee.  Yes.  The land of Elvis.  I can see the wheels already turning in your head.  Gnome...Elvis...BRILLIANT!  I decided to tag along for a roadtrip with my parents, because, come on, an opportunity to have the gnome's picture taken at Graceland should not be passed up.  We didn't have much time, so the morning before the race, my parents dropped me off in front of the mecca of Elvis and parked just down the road.  I posed Mike in front of the wall of messages and then in front of the famous gates before working up the nerve to ask the security guard if I could walk shortly up the walk and get a picture of the house.

She waved me on, so I quickly made my way up the walk and, still a fair distance from the house, took Mike out of my bag and sat him in the grassy lawn.  I was just stepping back to get the money shot when I hear the security guard yelling at me.  I turn around, and she's hurriedly making her way up the walk.  I might have started smirking a bit.  She not so kindly tells me that me and my little statue have to leave.  And then I'm definitely smirking.  I ask her politely if I could please just take one quick picture.  She says no, and when I go to beg, she interrupts me and tells me to leave.  Now I'm laughing.  I was a little nervous, but more just so terribly amused.  Without hesitating, I quickly take a step back, shoot my picture, then grab Mike and run down the sidewalk, the security guard following closely behind.

Yes.  Mike and I have been escorted out of Graceland.  Perhaps if I hadn't been laughing, things might have ended a little differently.  But I'm glad it didn't, because, DUDE!! WE GOT KICKED OUT OF GRACELAND!!

So my director might have some cause to worry...  Stay tuned next week from news from ALA to see what shenanigans Mike and I can get ourselves into!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Top 10 Tuesday : Recommended Beach Reads

Top Ten Tuesday
  Top 10 Books I'd Recommend As Good Beach Reads

Thinking about this list made me desperate to be at the beach.  Vacation can not come soon enough!  In no particular order, here are a few books that I think would make an excellent read somewhere sandy, with the crash of waves in the background, and if you're lucky, a frosty fruity beverage in hand.

1) Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler - Maybe not an especially happy read, but it's set on a beach, their is a sweet love story, and it leaves you feeling better in the end then when you started.

2)  Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz - The summer is the perfect time for a good spy, mystery, adventure story.  There are cool gadgets, great fight scenes, and enough action to keep you reading and perhaps make you forget to turn over.  Make sure to reapply your sun tan lotion!

3) Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer -   Another fun adventure, but this time you get fairy magic and one devious adolescent.  The book is also hilarious, which might be problematic on the beach of it's crowded and you're howling with laughter, but maybe the person next to you won't mind.

4) The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore - It doesn't get much better than a southern ghost story with a whole lot of swooney mixed in for good measure.  Dark family histories, bumps in the night, and a cute boy living down the hall, definite summer material.

5) Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen - Nobody does thoughtful, inspired chick-lit quite like Sarah Dessen, and since all of her books are set somewhere in the Carolinas, they are ready made for beach reading.

6) Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson - Road trip reading is a must during the summer months.  This one comes complete with music playlists and state by state rundowns.  You kind of really feel like you're sitting in the back seat, windows rollwed down, watching the landscape pass you by.

7) The Iron King by Julie Kagawa - Because I have yet to put a Kagawa book on a top 10 list (a shame), and because a threat from the Winter queen might cool you off a bit out in the summer sun.

8) How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford - On one rather inparticularly restless evening, I was introduced to late night talk radio.  Coast to Coast AM is brilliant.  It's entertaining, informative, and maybe the slightest bit terrifying.  Beatrice and Jonah, a.k.a Ghost Boy, live in the world of late night talk radio, calling in and feeding off of the miraculous people that tune in at night.  This heart felt story is a heartbreakingly wonderful read.

9) An Abundance of Katherines by John Green - Because I feel very strongly that Mr. Green writes literary masterpieces that are moving, thoughtful, and hilarious peppered with his unique voice.  And the beach is no place for The Fault in Our Stars.

10) Pirates! by Celia Rees - Girl power, vicious pirates, and a really nasty villain make this one of my favorite historical novels.  Fans of swashbuckling stories, movies, talk will love this one.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Anna Dressed In Blood

By Kendare Blake
4 / 5 Gnomes

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

Yet she spares Cas's life

~Amazon Description~
My absolute favorite type of book growing up was ghost stories.  I loved being scared.  I loved the mystery, the sadness, and those spooky moments when I was sure that the ghost character would peek its head through my bedroom wall scaring the living daylights out of me.

Anna Dressed In Blood is so totally one of those books.  It has everything I loved as a child and everything that makes an excellent contemporary ghost story today.  Cas is honorable and driven.  He's not an angry ghost slayer which is refreshing.  He sees it as a duty, a family legacy.  The evil is pretty darn evil, but there is also ambiguous good which is kind of awesome.  Anna is a scary, wicked, deadly ghost, but she has a story, which Blake expertly weaves into the throughout.  There is blood and guts galore, but there are also interesting and smartly placed twists and turns.  Ghost stories have a tendency to be predictable, but this story is anything but.  And to top it all off, there's a wee bit of a love story, which I thought was going to gross me out a bit, but it definitely didn't.

I almost forgot!  The Ghostbuster and Back to the Future references!  A super close second to good YA lit is 80s comedies!  Excellent!

It was a great, fun, summer read that makes me want to return to Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn, or all of the R.L Stine and Christopher Pike books that I couldn't get enough of in middle school.  I can't wait to see what else Kendare Blake has to offer!

Friday, June 8, 2012

TGIF: Cast Your Own Story

TGIF: Cast Your Own Story
(Hosted by GReads)

Friday Feature:

Cast Your Own Story: If you could use existing characters from some of your favorite books to create a new story, who would be in it?

I dream of being a writer.  I probably dream more of hanging out with famous authors and being the cool kid in class, but writing my own book would be a close second.  I'd like to write something thrilling and fast paced, but hilarious and full of misfits.  Or a space opera.  Maybe a steampunk crime novel?  Ooh!  How about a contemporary romantic comedy?  Perhaps I should first nail down one genre.  Anyways, I'm a big fan of the underdog, the outsider.  There's just something about the unexpected character doing extraordinary things.

So in my as yet to be determined romantic, adventure, space opera, crime novel, I'd cast the following characters to fill the pages because I loved them oh-so-much the first time around:

1)  The Hero - Ron Weasley, today is your day to live in the spotlight.  No more following the chosen one around.  You get to save the world from the alien mob.  Of course, you're still a bit of a coward, maybe a little clumsy, and terrible awkward in social situations, but we'll be rooting for you until the end.

2) The Villain - The Queen of Hearts from Alice In Wonderland would make an excellent, true villain.  I want an adversary with a little personality.  She must be spunky and vicious, but dealing with her own problems.  Perhaps the villain that's not really the villain.  Hmm.  I think I can imagine the Queen of Hearts in space.

3) The Spunky Sidekick - I think I need two spunky sidekicks for this story.  Really, I just don't want to have to choose.  I know that Isaac from The Fault In Our Stars is blind, but he's funny and spirited.  Plus I envision following my sidekick's dialogue with the wah-wah, Debbie Downer sound from Saturday Night Live.  Then there's Sophie Mercer from Hex Hall.  She's sarcastic and always getting into trouble.  She's definitely an underdog, but she's a fighter.  Isaac and Sophie will be my tag team who usually cause more trouble than help, but come through in the end.

4) The Love Interest - I want to say Hermione, because I just can't picture Ron with anyone other than Hermione, but in an effort to write my own story, I'll go with Annabeth from the Percy Jackson series.  She's smart and firey, just like Hermione, but she's a warrior.  Ron's going to need a warrior to help him along, especially if his sidekicks are unpredictable.

Now I'm super eager for November and the start of NaNoWriMo!


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

In My Mailbox (1)

In My Mailbox (1)
[Hosted by The Story Siren]

My first "In My Mailbox!"  I've found I get terribly excited about the simplest of things when it comes to blogging.  Who knew sharing your thoughts on books could be so exciting.  So I guess my incarnation of "In My Mailbox" will be the books highest on my reading list and maybe a few waiting in the wings.

Here we go!

From Netgalley:

Anna and Bennett were never supposed to meet: she lives in 1995 Chicago and he lives in 2012 San Francisco. But Bennett’s unique ability to travel through time and space brings him into Anna’s life, and with him, a new world of adventure and possibility. As their relationship deepens, they face the reality that time might knock Bennett back where he belongs, even as a devastating crisis throws everything they believe into question. Against a ticking clock, Anna and Bennett are forced to ask themselves how far they can push the bounds of fate—and what consequences they can bear in order to stay together.
       ~Amazon Description~

Everyone's sorry. But no one can explain why.Harper Scott's older sister, June, took her own life a week before high school graduation, leaving Harper devastated. So when her divorcing parents decide to split up June's ashes, Harper steals the urn and takes off cross-country with her best friend, Laney, to the one place June always dreamed of going—California.
Enter Jake Tolan, a boy with a bad attitude, a classic-rock obsession…and an unknown connection to June. When he insists on joining them, Harper's just desperate enough to let him. With his alternately charming and infuriating demeanor and his belief that music can see you through anything, he might be exactly what Harper needs. Except…Jake's keeping a secret that has the power to turn her life upside down—again.

        ~Amazon Description~

From the Library:

     Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don't realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying supervolcano. It has erupted three times in the last 2.1 million years, and it will erupt again, changing the Earth forever.
     Fifteen-year-old Alex is home alone when the supervolcano erupts. His town collapses into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence, forcing him to flee. He begins a harrowing trek in search of his parents and sister, who were visiting relatives 140 miles away.

Along the way, Alex struggles through a landscape transformed by more than a foot of ash. The disaster brings out the best and worst in people desperate for food, clean water, and shelter.  When an escaped convict injures Alex, he searches for a sheltered place where he can wait--to heal or to die. Instead, he finds Darla. Together, they fight to achieve a nearly impossible goal: surviving the supervolcano.
~Amazon Description~ 

 I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.
~Amazon Description~

     At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.
     It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.
     Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.
     And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.  
     For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.
     And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.
     Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?
~Amazon Description~

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Top 10 Tuesday Rewind: Favorite Heroines

Top Ten Tuesday: Rewind
 Top 10 Favorite Heroines

So the assignment for this week was to choose a previous Top Ten Tuesday topic, and being new to this whole blog thing, I had a whole list of features from which to choose!  Every June at work I host Girl Talk, an after-hours program for girls in grades 6-10 centered around the theme "Be Proud, Be Yourself."  It's a topic near and dear to my heart, so in preparation, I thought I'd tackle my top ten favorite literary heroines.

1) Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series) - It's not always being the smart kid, and it's definitely not easy being the smart kid with confidence.  Hermione knows she's intelligent, and she doesn't try to hide it.  She's ambitious, competitive, and fiercely loyal, traits that often time make women in literature the "mean girls."  But in Hermione's case, there's no pretense, she's just brilliant and deserves all of the credit for helping Harry defeat Voldemort in the end.  Teen girls need a little of Hermione's confidence and drive

2) Meg Murry (A Wrinkle in Time) - I didn't really realize how much I adore A Wrinkle In Time before tackling some of these lists.  Meg Murry was on my list of favorite characters, and she definitely makes my list of favorite heroines.  We're not all super brains like Hermione.  Sometimes we're the wallflower who hasn't quite hit their stride.  We feel like outsiders at school and at home, and it takes a special moment for us to realize exactly who we are and why we're special.  Plus, Meg gets to learn one of the most important lessons in literature, where there's love, there's hope.

3)  Lucy Pevensie (Chronicles of Narnia)  - I'm staying old school for a couple more slots...Lucy has a huge heart.  I think that's what enjoy most about her.  She has the unique ability to believe without seeing, and it is her heart that leads her in the right direction.  She doesn't shy away from a fight, and she stays true to what she knows and believes, even when others doubt her.  As simple as those attributes seem, they're often hard to find in the real world.  Plus she gets to run around Narnia, drinking tea with Mr. Tumnus, and talking to trees without getting weird looks.  She's really go it made.

4) Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice)  - It takes a strong woman to admit when she's wrong, especially to friends and family who have been listening to you go on and on for the length of a book.  It's even harder to admit when you're wrong if it's your ego that's been bruised.  Elizabeth Bennett is an educated, independent woman.

5)  Miss Veronica Hobbes (Newbury and Hobbes Investigations)  -Veronica Hobbes lives in a man's world.  While there was a queen you wouldn't want to cross on the throne, Victorian England wasn't a place brimming with feminist ideals.  Not only does Miss Hobbes help the brilliant Sir Maurice Newbury solves crimes that are on the peculiar side, she is determined to hold her own in a fight and not let her gender keep her from succeeding in her profession.  Plus the books are set in a steampunk zombies and the undead roam the streets like a plague.  Kind of my two favorite genres mixed into a thrilling Sherlock Holmes-esque story.

6) Thursday Next (The Eyre Affair) -  Let it be known that I would not survive any kind of catastrophe.  I like to think I'd keep my wits about me, but in reality, I'm pretty sure I'd crumble under the pressure, especially if any weird or peculiar were happening.  Thursday Next takes it all in stride though, and there are some pretty wicked things trying to get in her way.  A book traveling evil mastermind is trying to kill her, the man she loves has been eradicated from her timeline, and her father is a renegade time jumper who annoyingly likes to tell her different ways in which the world would end.  Despite all that weird awfulness, Thursday continues fighting, taking down one obstacle after another, determined to make the world save and return the ones she loves.  She has mastered the fine art of perseverance.  

7) Cimorene, Princess of Linderwall (Dealing With Dragons) -  You have to respect a woman who knows her own mind.  It can't be easy being born a princess and having to deal with everything that comes along with a royal title.  Cimorene wanted nothing of it, and she was determined to make her own way in life, even if that meant apprenticing herself to a dragon.  I have a certain connection to the young, tomboy heroines who are strong willed and confident.  Who says you have to be exceptionally girly to be a pretty amazing girl?

8) Mia Hall (If I Stay) - I can't imagine losing my entire family in one tragic moment.  I don't want to imagine it.  It would be so completely impossible to make the decision Mia has to make through the course of the novel.  Mia teaches us that decisions can be hard, grief can be devastating, and how sometimes the hardest choice is the right choice.

9) Stargirl (Stargirl) - Little kids come into the library all of the time wearing their imagination for all to see.  There will be little girls in princess dresses, or little boys in cowboy pajamas, holster, and red cape.  At that young age, they are unafraid to be exactly who they are, in whatever for that means for the week.  Somewhere along the road of life we all lose that innocence and self-assurance and even sometimes that ability to imagine ourselves larger than life.  Stargirl never lost that amazing ability.  She never grew self-conscious or super self-aware.  She lived exactly the way she wanted, but with compassion and sincerity.  She is the poster child for "Be Proud, Be Yourself."

10) Abilene Tucker (Moon Over Manifest) - Abilene Tucker is looking for truth.  She yearns to discover the truth of her father's past in the small Kansas town she's sent to one summer, the truth of town secrets that play a huge part in the town's history, and her own truth as she faces feelings of abandonment and confusion.  It is that drive for truth that endeared me to Abilene.  She is young but determined.  Even when the truth gets hard to take, she allows herself to open up to the possibilities and finds an honesty that changes her life forever.

Another fun list to make!  And I've even managed to make a must-read booklist for my Girl Talk program.   Some honorable mentions (just because I'm on a roll and don't want to stop...)  Hazel Grace (The Fault in Our Stars), Scout Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird), Katniss (The Hunger Games), Meghan Chase (The Iron King), and Professor McGonagall (Harry Potter).

Monday, June 4, 2012

Keeping the Moon

By Sarah Dessen
3.5 / 5 Gnomes

Fifteen-year-old Colie is spending the summer with her eccentric Aunt Mira while her mother travels. Formerly chubby and still insecure, Colie has built a shell around herself. But her summer with her aunt, her aunt's tenant Norman, and her friends at the Last Chance Diner teaches her some important lessons about friendship and learning to love yourself.

~Amazon Description~

It has just felt like a sweet, teen, coming-of-age kind of summer, and nobody quite fills that niche like Sarah Dessen.  I adore her books.  Every character, in some way, shape, or form, is flawed.  And every character learns that life is hard, but beauty and hope is possible.  It seems simple and maybe a little obvious, but it's definitely a lesson young girls need a good dose of from time to time.

Colie, like so many teenage girls, didn't quite feel comfortable in her own skin.  She used to be fat, and high school isn't always easy for kids who might not look the same as everyone else, especially when there are girls like Caroline Dawes roaming the halls.

Enter a group of people that will change her life forever, build her confidence, and show her that true beauty is more than skin deep.  Colie's Aunt Mira is this fantastic, larger than life grief-card writer.  The woman rides a bike around town with bright yellow shirts and purple tennis shoes.  Her house is filled, from ceiling to floor, with rummage sale finds that don't quite work correctly, and post-it-notes label everything that needs to be fixed.  Then there's Norman Norman, not to be confused with Cat Norman.  Norman lives in the basement, collects sunglasses, and works at the Last Chance diner with Morgan and Isabel.  Morgan is OCD, genuinely kind, and engaged to a baseball player who Isabel hates.  Isabel is beautiful but cranky.  She's not afraid to tell someone exactly what is on her mind, and she's overflowing with confidence.

Sarah Dessen's settings are always dreamy and the plot always heartbreaking and heartfelt at the same time, but what she does best is create characters you genuinely grow to love.  You find that friendship can come in the most unlikely of forms, and by letting people in, you give yourself the opportunity to love and live.   Keeping the Moon is simply another great read by Dessen.

Favorite Quote:  "I've always known who I am.  I might not work perfectly, or be like them, but that's okay.  I know I work in my own way."

Friday, June 1, 2012

How do you read?

Why do you read?  I'm not trying to get deep and philosophical.  That's not really my style.  We all read for different reasons.  I think on some level we all read as an escape, to learn, or to empathize.  Perhaps the better question is how do you read?

My friend Kendra, who now spends much of her time reading on a beach in Florida (lucky), and I have been in an ongoing discussion about reading, which isn't odd, seeing as how we're both librarians.  It was revealed during a book club meeting several months ago that we each read the same books a bit differently.  

I can't remember the book that sparked the discussion, but what resulted was very interesting.  When Kendra reads, she becomes the main character, taking on the personality, and living vicariously through the female protagonists.  She was Hermione throughout the Harry Potter series and Clair in Sarah Addison Allen's Garden Spells.  She plays the part as she travels through the book.

When I read, it's as if I'm watching a movie.  I don't identify myself as a character, but watch from afar as the characters weave themselves into the plot.  My imagination can go wild, creating an exact look for characters and settings until I see it playing out in my head. I don't really want to be the character.  I don't want to personally go through the trials and tribulations.  I want to watch someone else experience and hopefully survive the good and the bad.  I have my own stuff to deal with on a daily basis.  I read to get away, not to live another life with more stuff going on around me.

Does that make sense, or does that just sound weird and lazy?  Oh well. 

And I think I might as well make another confession while I'm talking about how I read.  Sometimes, I read the end of the book first.  I can't help it.  I'm pretty sure it goes along with the whole "reading to escape" philosophy.  If something bad is going to happen or not turn out the way I want it to, I'd rather not be surprised.  It doesn't ruin anything for me.  I still have to find out how the characters got to where they were going in the end, but it takes away some of my stress.  I get very invested when reading.  I read the last two pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows first to see if Ron Weasley was still alive.  The prognosis was good, so I was able to enjoy the book.  I still would have read it had he not been there, but at least I wouldn't have been hoping for something that was never going to happen.

In the end, I guess how we read says a lot about who we are. Hello.  My name is Emily, and  I'm a control freak who needs a happy ending.

I would love to hear how you read?  Are you a character or a watcher?  Do you, too, perhaps read the end of the book first?  Or do you prefer the surprise?  Would you have been crushed had Ron Weasley not made it to the end of the series? (I barely made it through the loss of Fred.  I would not have survived losing Ron.)

HAPPY READING (however you read!)
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