Thursday, January 31, 2008

This is going to be my last bit of "work" for today as my neck is telling me I am over doing it, but how else does a person get anything done when there aren't enough hours in the day?

I finally got my thank you emails written for the wonderful publisher events I attended at ALA Midwinter. I know I should have sat down with stationary or thank you cards and a pen but no one can read my hand writing anymore. Mary had to call me to ask what the gift tags said on the Christmas presents! Although I love all the meetings and presentations at ALA I adore the publisher events as I get to talk to other people who love YA and children's books as much as I do.

One of my favorites is the Abrams luncheon. This year I actually got to meet William Sleator and talk to him about Interstellar Pig while he signed the ARC for his new book Test. What a gracious man. We talked about how teens want to turn Interstellar Pig into their own board game - my son certainly did. That was the highlight of the luncheon, not me sending my plate of chicken and pasta up into the air and almost into Jeff Kinney's lap. It is a good thing he's a young guy - he got out of the way of the flying food fast! I was so embarrassed as it made a lot of noise and everyone looked my way. At least it happened before the authors started to speak! I was pretty pleased with myself chatting with Kinney about his Diary of a Wimpy Kid books as I had read the second one too and then it happened. I am one of the most clumsy people in the world and me trying to perch a plate of food on the edge of a small coffee table is just asking for a disaster. I am still finding tiny flecks of chicken sauce on my favorite cowboy boots! Anyway, our discussion included comments about how older teens are reading these books too. I was pleasantly surprised as I see them as elementary level books, but because of the graphic format they appear to be ageless. That is one of the things I love about the graphic format - no matter what the content (heaven forbid - even the classics) teens will read them. :-)

Speaking of unique formats, one of my favorite chick lit authors is Lauren Myracle and her instant message style novels starting with TTYL. I have to admit I had to ask someone what TTFN meant as I cannot remember ever saying Tah-tah (I am not even sure that's how you spell it) for now to anyone, but then again I grew up in the sticks of Upper Michigan so that's no surprise! So, when I saw that Myracle was one of the three authors (Lockhart and Mlynowski too) who got together to write the new HarperCollins chick lit road trip book, How to Be Bad, I had to read it. It might have had something to do with the pain meds, but I found myself laughing out loud as I read it, especially when they break into a small town museum so they can visit the lengendary alligator Old Joe, all 16 feet of him. Even behind glass he has poor Mel hyperventilating. She is the rich girl who recently started working at the Waffle House with Vicks and Jesse and is footing the bill for their road trip to Miami. Almost as funny is when they stop to eat and all there is to choose from is a hot dog cart. Poor Mel, the other two don't realize she is Jewish, even after she orders only the bun. They are on their way to visit Vicks' boyfriend who isn't making their long distance relationship easy with his few and far between short text messages. So the very religious Jesse, who is running away from the realization that her mother has breast cancer, "borrows" her mother's car and suggests the road trip. The reader gets to know the three very different girls as they meet a guy for Mel, crash at a party, drive through a hurricane, stay in a pirate hotel, and much more before arriving in Miami. This is the perfect beach read book and a good laugh was much needed after I read the wonderful, but gut wrenching, Wake by Lisa McMann, but that will have to wait until another posting. TTFN!! :-)

Monday, January 28, 2008

I had no idea just how wonderful the heated keyboard that Steve gave me was going to turn out to be. When Steve gave it to me I appreciated the warm keys as my hand are typically ice cold, but I had no idea just how much warmth it actually gives off and how delightful that can be until today. Our furnace quit working late Saturday afternoon and the builder was out of town for the weekend so we didn't get the name and phone number of the company that put the unit in until late last night. Steve called ever 1/2 hour this a.m. until he returned the call. We are 4th on the list, but he "thinks" the guys will get to us today. I sure as heck hope so. I am in thermal long johns under my sweats, with an extra fuzzy jacket on as well. Yesterday I spent most of my time in bed with the heated mattress pad and heating pad turned to high. Today I got smart and I took the little electric heater we have and came into my office, which is smaller and is heating up fairly well. I am glad we are in KY and not in WI with the very cold weather Mary and family has been dealing with. It was a balmy 32 degrees up there - she said it felt warm after the many days of below zero weather.

I am slowly lowering the # of pain pills I am taking a day so I see light at the end of the recovery tunnel. I have my good days and bad days, and the bad ones are my own fault as I start feeling a bit better and I over do it. But I have discovered the most wonderful "sleeping pill" - an hour with an audiobook. I lay on the heating pad and listen and find myself relaxing enough to fall asleep. It is wonderful as I tend to have trouble sleeping. It also drowns out Steve's snoring a bit too. :)

Since I was bed and warmth bound yesterday I read Evernight by Claudia Gray. What a cool vampire book!! I couldn't put it down. Bianca's parents have taken teaching jobs at the very remote and exclusive Evernight Academy. Bianca is not happy about it and decides to "run away" to teach them a lesson the night before school starts. As she makes her way through the woods she hears laughing - what sounds like a bonfire party - but she keeps walking and then sees a figure in a long black coat and starts to run. The figure tackles her to the ground. She thinks he is out to harm her and he thinks he is protecting her. An interesting way for their relationship to begin, especially since Jared ignores her when she tries to catch his eye. Bianca is no shrinking violet and demands to know why. Before long they are an item and their necking sessions become more and more passionate until one of them loses control and everything changes. This is not like Meyers' Twilight series with a "helpless" female falling for a vampire. This is a grab you and not let you go tale of two very strong characters who are defying every protocol involving human and vampire relationships. Thank goodness Diana Fox, Gray's agent, suggested she write a vampire novel. Gray has written a fascinating one and I do hope she will continue the tale of Bianca and Jared and in the hold-your-breath style as this one is written. There is no "bogging down" in this 327 page vicarious reader's admission to one of the creepiest private high schools ever found in a novel for teens. This gotta have HarperCollins title will hit the bookstores in late June. Watch out Isabella - Bianca is going to have teenage girls wishing they were her rather than you, and certainly not suggesting that Bianca quit whining already! :-)

That's it for today.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Shame on me - it has been basically 2 weeks since my last post. However, in that period of time I attended ALA Midwinter in Philly and had cervical spine (neck) surgery. So, I warn readers right up front - I am still on painkillers and I cannot vouch for my lucidity! I hope it isn't as bad as Stephen King who says he wrote entire novels while he was drinking that he does not remember having written. If only I could write best selling horror novels under the influence of these things! Best I can do is try to keep up with my email from students. I haven't even checked my listserv emails on my Yahoo email address.

I opened the back door this morning to let Sophie out and she decided that a cat who was born in Houston and lived most of her life in the U.S. Virgin Islands does not "do" snow. But it was glorious fluffy Christmas snow just waiting to be caught on the tongue. However, the sun came out about an hour ago and not only did the snow stop it has already melted off of my car and the roads. Wish I could get in the car and even go to the bookstore but the doctor has warned me against driving while taking these meds - especially in the snow.

Midwinter was wonderful as we discussed our last two choices for the Margaret A. Edwards award and chose Orson Scott Card and chose as honor books Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow. One of my other favorites of his in this series is Shadow of the Giant as I really like Ender's "back up guy" Bean and Petra, the one female in battle school who can hold her own with the elite of the elite. She and Bean are married in Shadow and what happens to their children had me at the edge of my seat - literally, as I listened to it in the car while driving over to Greenville. I had the pleasure of meeting Card several years ago while getting a book signed that I gave to my son who loved Card's books. I booktalked Shadow at a conference and the men in the audience were delighted that I had read and booktalked a true "guy" book. During the break they were telling me about his alternative universe books. So, I have a lot of listening to do as soon as I am healthy enough to do the 9 hour drive over to ECU. The link to the award is:

There has been a lot of controversy about our choice. In my opinion that has occurred because people often misunderstand why a particular choice was made because they don't know the award criteria. When I was an elementary school librarian I would get upset 3rd and 4th grade teachers who had assigned students to choose a Newbery title and when students chose The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman, or other winners that fall into the upper end of the age range (12-14), the teachers would get upset. I learned early on to explain the award age range and criteria to teachers and parents when they asked for Newbery titles.

The same thing has occurred with the Margaret A. Edwards award. This is an author award for his/her contribution to YA literature in relation to the long term impact his/her YA relevant books have had on teens. Card's Ender's books have been read by teens for decades and loved. You should see the fan site set up for him Lots of way cool stuff on here - clearly he has a following.

I flew home on Sunday, before the choice was announced at ALA Midwinter on Monday morning so I missed a lot of the hoop-la and didn't see the email from the SLJ reporter asking for input until the following article had been written. My input in in the feedback area.
The artist whose feedback indicated Card's books are too violent for children is correct, but these books are not intended for children and I would not give the Ender's books to an 8 year old. Clearly he doesn't know the criteria for the award and is reacting to Card and these particular books being honored from a skewed point of view.

What has caused concern for many in relation to Card winning the Margaret A. Edwarda award are his opinion essays that are loud and clear about his view on homosexuality. These essays are not intended for the teen readership; nor does the award criteria address an author's personal views/values in relation to hot topic issues. Card is a Mormon so a conservative view is to be expected, but we did not consider this in our choice. I like controversy in the sense that it makes people discuss and in these discussions I hope that the criteria and the intent of the Edwards award becomes more clear to those who oppose honoring Card and his Ender's books with this award. And, perhaps it will mean more people will meet Ender and his battle school mates in this wonderful series. And, perhaps they will go on to read other teen appropriate Card titles. Can't wait to hear his acceptance speech at Annual in Anaheim this coming June.

This is a long posting, but I have to talk about one more book. I was so excited when Terry B. gave me the ARC for Nicky Singer's new book GEM X at the Holiday House booth at ALA Midwinter that I jumped up and down in excitement - but not for long as my neck let me know that was not something it liked at all. But, it was worth the short term shot of pain to have this book to read on the plane on the way home. Love it, love it!! My favorite book of 2007 was Singer's The Innocent's Story. (Earlier blog entry discusses this way cool book about a para-spirit - deliciously creepy) so I was very excited to have her upcoming YA novel in my hand. GEM X is so good that I wasn't too upset about the plane delay in Chicago as I had more time to finish it. Love the cover art - the side view of a teenage guy's face, flawless except for a small "crack" at the corner of his closed eye. This is not within 16-year-old Maxo's comprehension as his particular "generation" of genetically altered "humans" are perfect in every way. However, genetics does have a way of besting even the most skilled scientists, as happens in this case and that crack on Maxo's face is actually a wrinkle. Maxo is aging - not acceptable at all. When he is by himself and he looks closely at the crack in his face the unearthly scream he emits radiates right off the page. I was hooked and that scene is on page 4. To make matters worse he sees, on the surveillance cameras, a female Dreggie, what they call "natural" humans who work for the genetically altered populace and live in ghetto like conditions. She isn't GEM X perfect, but she is facinating to him and he can't get her out of his mind. How can Maxo be fascinated by a Dreggie, but he is and what happens to both Maxo and Gala, the strong willed teenage girl caring for her mother who is dying of cancer, will hold the reader to the very end. I hope someday to meet Singer and tell her how much I love her books. I need to find a copy of Feather Boy as I have yet to read her 3rd YA novel. Can't wait to booktalk this Holiday House title that is scheduled to hit the bookstores in December 2008.

Enough for today.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Aren't our daughter Monica and her two girls, Kady and Ally, just gorgeous? I love this picture of them. Steve was talking to Ally on the speaker phone on Christmas and she was just chattering away about the gifts she received. She is in Kindergarten now and has grown up so much. We haven't seen them in quite some time so I can't wait to play with Kady. She was an itty bitty when I held her last. Not sure when we will get back up to Kansas City or when they will get down here. When I was growing up grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. all lived close by and we had big family gatherings. Wish Monica and Mary lived closer so we could have everyone over. What is the use of a 9 foot Christmas tree if the grand kids aren't there to help trim it? Speaking of tree - it is still sitting, un-ornamented, in our living room. Too dang big for me to take down. Hopefully Steve will do it this weekend while I am at ALA in Philly. Hint, hint - of never mind, he never reads my blog!
I just sent in my two book reviews that are due next week so I wouldn't be worried about them in Philly or after the surgery. Writing them under the influence of narcotics would not be good! I was supposed to be at ALA Midwinter through Tuesday as I love going to the YALSA/AASL/ALSC reception on Monday night - get to see all kinds of friends there. But, my cervical spine surgery is scheduled for 10:00 Monday morning so I have to leave on Sunday. The doctor was waiting for the insurance company to approve the surgery and the approval came through yesterday. It was Monday or not until March - not an option. I am tired of hurting! The last set of numbing injections is wearing off. But, at least this way I am not spending weeks worrying about the surgery. And, I should be healed enough to hold my newborn granddaughter in late February. I am praying Mckinley has blue eyes and blonde hair, but not likely as neither of her parents do.
Read Truesight by David Stahler, Jr. I absolutely loved his delicious ghost book, A Gathering of Shades but was not as delighted with this SF title. I liked the main character, Jacob, but I kept thinking of The Giver as Jacob was turning 13 and would know what job he would be assigned in the sightless community of Harmony. Yes, another dystopia tale. Everything changes for Jacob when he begins to see - he had been born blind but was beginning to see. It fascinated him as he saw the corruption of his small community - it had been hidden by the blindness. His own mother was having an affair. Like Jonas, Jacob was given access to things that no one else in the community had. Well, except for his friend Delaney's very corrupt father who claimed his vision had been taken but had not been. I do think young teens who like The Giver and other dystopia tales will enjoy Truesight and the other two titles in the Truesight Trilogy - The Seer and Otherspace, which will come out in 2008.
Now to deal with my back log of emails. It feels like evening and has all day. The sun never came out and we had heavy rain with some hail a bit ago. A tiny river was running down the side our yard. Glad we didn't plant my lilac bush there. Very weird weather for January.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Still cold so the snow hasn't melted yet. Went out to get the mail in a pair of clogs and remembered why I wear boots from October until March - freezing ankles. I was happy to get back into the slippers Steve gave me. They are most wonderful pair of slippers I have ever had - they look like puffy filled high-top sneakers. He laughs at me as I wear them all the time - they make my feet look huge, but they are so warm. Had to take a picture of them to share with y'all and Sophie had to get into the picture too. Actually, she was just about to jump into my lap. She loves this warm blanket too. And yes, those are books all over the floor of my home office. I am very messy when I am reading and going through books I want to recommend and Sophie loves to knock over my piles of books.

The second set of injections to numb the nerves in my neck yesterday seem to be working even though my neck is making popping noises. I can look over my right shoulder again and even do so without yelping in pain. It usually takes a couple of days before the pain really settles down en0ugh that I am full of energy and ready to hit the stores! I go back in on Monday to talk about the next step in the process. Poor Steve was coming down with the flu when he dropped me off for the injections yesterday afternoon. When I called him to come get me he had the chills. We got home and he crawled in bed with his jacket on, a heating pad, and our heated mattress pad on high. He was shivering so hard the bed was shaking. Was a miserable night for him, hence for me too as I am a very light sleeper. He slept most of today and was back in bed by 7:00 tonight. I sure hope I don't catch his flu. Just my luck I'll get it just before I leave for ALA Midwinter next week.

This morning while he was crashed on the couch watching an old b/w movie I enjoyed the quiet house. I think the wireless headphones I gave him for Christmas are more of a present for me than him! So while he watched TV as loud as he wanted to, I read Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. I had the pleasure of sitting next to the author at an Abrams event and he is such a neat guy. I had browsed through the book before but wanted to read it in one chunk before I start the sequel Rodrick Rules. Having just read the first book I know that Rodrick is Greg's older brother who plays in a band called the Loded Diper (pronounced like Loaded Diaper). Rodrick is not the helpful older brother. He does things like wake Greg up out of a deep sleep during the summer, convincing him it is the first morning of school. After all, Rodrick is in his school clothes, backpack on and ready to go. So Greg is eating Cheerios at 3 a.m. when his father wakes up, but Rodrick is fast asleep so Dad doesn't believe Greg that Rodrick had played a trick on him. Greg's best friend is Rowley, who is even more immature for a middler schooler than Greg is and keeps embarrassing Greg, but as a reader you can't help but love this kid who puts up with being the guinea pig for Greg's stunts. No specific grade level is indicated, other than middle school, but the content and characters suggest upper elementary - grades 3-6. The Wimpy Kid books are written as journal entries with numerous line drawings. The cover states "a novel in cartoons" - an appropriate descriptor. Great guy book for the boys who find themselves trying to deal with growing up in a school environment that isn't friendly to the kids who aren't exactly macho. I will most definitely buy these books for my grandsons when they get older. A perfect read for both the hallway tormentors as well as the tormentees!

That's it for today.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Not exactly a great picture, but it does show the snow in our backyard. No going out to read a book on the canopied swing today! A dark, cold day. Yahoo weather says it is 11 degrees, but with the windchill factor, -4. It feels like it too! My car is parked right in front of my office window and it is covered with a fine dusting of snow and the windshield is a frozen over. Glad Steve is coming home to get me for my second set of cervical facet injections this afternoon. Just the thought of getting out there and scraping the windshield of my car makes me shutter. I love winter, but only for a few minutes and from the inside, looking out!

Hard to believe the Holidays are over and 2008 is upon us. Off to ALA Midwinter on Friday, next week. It will be chilly in Philly. I am very excited to be on the committee that will choose the 2008 Margaret A. Edwards award winning YA author. We will be doing our final deliberations at Midwinter and make the final decision, which will be announced Monday morning, 1/14/08, with all of the other youth literature awards. Being in the room when the announcements are made is the best part of Midwinter. The gasps, the shouts of happiness, the sighs fill the room, with publishers rushing out to spread the news when one of their titles is announced.

My New Year's reading was Shana Norris's Something to BLOG About. This is her debut novel with Abrams and it is a delightful read. One of those books that just makes you feel good as the geeky girl gets the guy. But, not before Libby is humiliated beyond belief when her password protected blog is shared with the entire school by her arch enemy Angel Rivera. Not only is Angel the most gorgeous girl in the 10th grade, she is also interested in Seth, the guy Libby has drooled over since they did an 8th grade English project together. To make matters worse, Angel may well become "family" as their parents are dating. This multicultural cast of female characters, including Keisha, Libby's best friend who threatens to kick every one's butt, but never has, have the readers laughing and cringing at the same time as they bicker, fight, and make up. Libby's blog entries alternate with first person narrative chapters that result in a fast and fun read. Give this one to the girls who love Meg Cabot and Lauren Myracle. A gotta have for 7-9 grade libraries.