Friday, August 24, 2012

Case of the Terribles: Library Toilet Paper Goes Corporate

Man, public library funds are really in the toilet at the Port Chester-Rye Brook Public Library in New York, where they will soon be selling advertising space...on toilet paper.  

Toilet Paper

I think the moral of the story here is that if you're going to go the library, pay some taxes so that they can buy you TP without car crash lawyer ads staring at you while you' know. 
Even if it is a soy based ink. 

Boy 21, by Matthew Quick: Spaceball

Boy 21
by Matthew Quick
Little, Brown and Company: Boston, 2012.
ISBN: 978-0-316-12797-4

Basketball is more than a sport to introverted Finley and his girlfriend Erin.  It has always provided an escape from their racially segregated and mafia ruled Philadelphia neighborhood, and the hardships in their daily lives.  When Finn's coach asks him for his help and discretion with a new student arriving for their senior year, Finn doesn't hesitate.  Boy 21, as the new kid is calling himself, believes he is an alien.  He arrives under sad circumstances, so traumatized that the former basketball prodigy can now no longer even pick up a basketball.  Despite the threat that Boy 21 poses to his starting point guard position, the boys are drawn to each other; Finn also knows about terrible truths you can't bear to voice.  This mesmerizing novel is much more than a simple sports story.  Compelling characters face their personal demons and find strength in friendship to heal and move forward.  The dialogue is excellent and the description rich.  This novel is a coup d'etat by Quick: reluctant male teenage readers will rip through this smart and well written novel before they can put it down.  Strongly recommended for libraries serving teens grades 9-12, but younger readers looking to read up may enjoy it as well. 

Book Talk Hook: The beginning of chapter 9, plus a brief summary, or some choice Boy 21 moments (some listed below)...I am so excited to add this one to my book talk stable!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Liar and Spy, by Rebecca Stead: Is one who spies and lies a spiar?

Liar and Spy
by Rebecca Stead
Wendy Lamb Books (Random House), 2012
ISBN: 9780385737432
Review Copy from NetGalley

Seventh grade is shaping up to be a difficult year for Georges (pronounced George).  After his architect father loses his job, he and his parents must sell their house and move to a nearby apartment in Brooklyn.  His mom is absent a lot, working double shifts as a nurse.  These are things Georges understands, but doesn't like.  He's also saddened that his former best friend has grown apart and now sits at the cool table without him, and frustrated to find himself being bullied at school.  Things start looking up when the move provides Georges with a new opportunity: someone has posted a sign in the building basement for a meeting of something called The Spy Club.  He meets outgoing fourth-grade home-schooled candy addict, Candy, and her furtive, dog-walking twelve year-old brother, Safer.  As Safer takes Georges under his and begins to indoctrinate him into the world of in-building espionage, a friendship begins to develop.   Soon, they are on the hunt to find the truth about a mysterious, suitcase toting man who wears only black.  This story about truth, friendship, and confidence is as simple and realistic as it is heartening.  While there are some difficult life events covered and revealed in the surprise ending (financial trouble, betrayal, bullying, and coping with sick parents), all are well addressed by the characters.  It is strongly recommended for school and public libraries serving students grades 4-7. 

I really enjoyed reading this (despite my NetGalley copy at times being formatted in size four font - what's up with that?); it's been a while since I've picked up a chapter book primarily housed in the Children's Department of your local library/bookstore.  If you haven't read Rebecca Stead's extraordinary When You Reach Me,  you should rectify that immediately.  Liar and Spy is another wonderful example of something I noticed about Stead's writing while reading the previous title, other than that I enjoyed them both.  Stead never ever talks down to her readers (who are presumably largely comprised of kids aged 9-13), nor does she dumb down difficult life problems that other writers gloss over for a similar audience.  She treats them and her child characters with the same respect as she does adults.  Stead writes wonderfully normal kids, who experience the same sadness, frustration, excitement, and life challenges as her readers, and she does it in a way that refrains from preaching.  Keep it up, Rebecca Stead!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dinner Train Book Club: Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

One book, two beers, two menus, and one hand model.
It's time for confessions! 
1)  I read this book in April.  I know I enjoyed it, I know it moved me, I know I thought it was a stunningly crafted book, and I know I honestly can't quite remember much of my other thoughts about it, a fact exacerbated by confession number two. 
2)  I read it in the midst of training for a half marathon, which meant I had no desire to stand and cook anything after running for two hours.  I also knew that this book was sufficiently depressing so as to not want to make any sort of cheeky, cute, or quirky German sounding dish.  SO I CHEATED.  I treated my fellow book clubber, aka, the one and only PopTart, to some good old fashioned German-style tidbits and brewskis at Jacob Wirth's, a Euro-pub that has been a Boston establishment since 1868.  Fun fact: my grandfather, who worked in a POW camp for German soldiers in New Hampshire somewhere, used to frequent Jacob Wirth's during his med school days.  But I digress.  I normally have pretty good recall for conversations and the interesting tidbits that surface.  However, someone mismapped her training run the morning of book club, which wound up being a full half instead of the scheduled training ten miles.  This mean that one beer became the equivalent of many, despite the brats and schnitzel.  Consequently, the conversation details are...fuzzy.  Self high-five. 
3)  While I'm baring my soul, I'll also take the opportunity to confess something truly naughty: I gave up on Moby Dick for July without even looking at it, and I don't even feel bad about it in the slightest.  I've read a ton of stuff I enjoyed, instead of slogging through one million pages of a crazy dude chasing a whale that obvi doesn't want to be caught because he's heard of the term blubber, and who can blame him?  In short, it was an informed decision to break my New Years Resolve!

Confession time over.  I will now attempt to briefly summarize the few things I remember about Slaughterhouse-Five, but will leave the actual summary to others, because hello, there are nothing BUT summaries of this book all over the internet (here is one, here is another, here is one for you high school and college cheaters out there).  Reflections, followed by food all the way at the bottom:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tidbits: "See there’s more things to look at on the internet other than naked guys Ann."

As much as much as I agree with "Leslie Knope"'s book blurb about The Bell Jar (“My official statement is that is, overall, a bummer.”), I'm all in for Ron Swanson.  

I can get behind Nathan Adrian...(badum dum) as Finnick Odair.   

My favorite YA title confirms my suspicions that I'm "a smart aleck and kind of a badass — that is, you know all the places where a young lady is supposed to scream for help, but you generally prefer to rely on your sword hand. Also you make a killer cherries jubilee."  What does yours say about you?  

Oh snap, King Henry VIII will be playing Valentine in the Mortal Instruments.  Except I'm officially over it.  I want more news about the Beautiful Creatures movie, not this hooey, Hollywood Crush!  OH WAIT.  You did.  I was just on vacation.  

Perhaps my favorite news this week via tweet:

Followed up by this news about a short story just published by Melina Marchetta.  

I was away, and NPR clearly waited for this moment to post their 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels list without several of my favorites on it to avoid my wrath.  If you're going to call it the best of...shouldn't it actually be?  But I digress. Sure I agree with many of the fabulous titles on the list.  In fact, I've read more than half.  But...why are some authors on multiple times, when others, AHEM (see above), didn't make it even once?  And why are some things on the list clearly identifiable as children's classics or as being originally published with an adult audience in mind?  The whole thing is a great idea, but a little too arbitrary for me to agree entirely with.  In all seriousness, good effort, NPR; always great to bring attention to these fabulous YA titles.  (But next time try harder.  Apparently I am still grumpy from my earlier case of the angries).

Here is an interesting read about the overall White-ness of the NPR list.

Case of the Angries: Dudes obvi don't like YA, didn't like the Supremes either, obvi.

OH NO SHE DIDN'T.  While sassily snapping your fingers in any formation you'd like, I'd encourage you to read the following article, A Prestige-free Zone: the reason why women writers dominate young-adult literature is the reason why many guys avoid it, annoyingly titled and filled with falsehoods.  First of all, you dummy.  Blame the publishers and the book jacket designers, not the authors.  Authors write stories; people of all genders like stories.  Publishers sell books.  They know how to design them so they will be sold; market rules often say that teenage girls will spend more than teenage boys on XY and Z - and perhaps in this case that's because the books they are being sold are designed to catch their eye (you know, because publishers read the same stats I did when I crafted the earlier statement about girls spending more).  Frankly, it's like saying boys and men didn't like the Supremes because they were all women.  Hogwash. 

I could have rolled my eyes and moved on with my morning...but then she had to go and include this line:
Many grown men recall segueing briskly from middle-grade kids’ books to adult fiction in their teens, skipping the YA section entirely. They were, they say, keen to move on to the “real” books. No surprise, then, that fewer of them are inspired to write for a genre that they never particularly wanted to read and that, like teaching and librarianship, has traditionally offered little recognition.
UM. Bish please.  Should have stopped with the segueing line, which, if I can point out, is true, only because if you are talking to adults for your "research," WHICH YOU ARE, you need to recognize that there wasn't a huge variety of YA when we were teenagers!  That's a very recent, past 5-10 years development.  Adult fiction was kind of what you had to read if you wanted to read something other than RL Stine or Sweet Valley (obvi there are others, but let me make my point, h8rs).  Boys can, will, and do enjoy reading, but sometimes they need a little more of a push because some of the covers are hard not to judge, and because articles like this propagate the myth that men don't like to read! 

But way more seriously, who are you to say that men avoid careers as teachers and librarians because it offers little recognition?  Do you know any guybraians or teachers?  I do.  And I have, as a teen, as a college and grad student, and as a professional.  I recognize their prestige, in my own life, in my own career path, and in the tremendous good they do for their communities.  And I recognize the prestige of the many, many talented male YA authors (of which if she'd done her research she'd learn there are too many to name) churning out words and stories for the male, and female, teachers and librarians of the world who turn both students, kids, and adults onto reading them. 


And now I will return from my pre-coffee rage blackout to my regularly scheduled compilation of links for your procrastination needs...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Girl at Sea, by Maureen Johnson: Summer vacation is such a beach (bonus Titanic Case of the Terribles)

Girl at Sea
by Maureen Johnson
EPUB copy from Boston Public Library
Harper Collins: New York, 2009
ISBN: 9780061973932
Moments after scoring her dream summer job working with her crush and in her favorite art store, Clio is hugely disappointed to learn that she will be spending the summer with her father on a yacht off of the Italian coast.  Though the hesitancy seems ungracious, their relationship has been strained since her parents divorce, following both her father encouraging her get a rather large arm tattoo at twelve on an unorthodox international trip, and a business partner embezzling their money from the invention of a famous board game.  Arriving against her will, insult is added to injury when she finds it will not be just them. Instead, there is a motley crew consisting of her dad’s best friend, his new surprise professor girlfriend, her gorgeous Swiss-English teenage daughter, Elsa, and her infuriating yet cute college research assistant, Aidan; to cap it off, Clio is summarily informed that she is the group chef.   Still smarting, she is surprised to find herself hitting it off with Elsa, who has expressed a more than friendly interest in Aidan, and doubly surprised to find herself confused when Elsa makes her move.  Clio is also highly suspicious about the purpose of the yachting trip – in addition to the ban on telephones and the Internet, there is too much diving and scientific equipment onboard to be a simple pleasure cruise – but nobody will tell her anything. Clio decides to take matters into her own hands to discover the secret truth behind her Mediterranean summer captivity.  Maureen Johnson is always quirky fun to read, with guaranteed laughs, smart female characters, witty banter, a little romance, and exciting plot twists.  Girl at Sea is no exception.  A fun, light read for summer (or any time), it will be enjoyed by girls grades 7-10.
As per what seems to be my usual Maureen Johnson trend, I am reading/reviewing one of her books while enjoying an adult beverage, in the summer, and in a Southern airport.  Twice makes a trend right?  Like all MJ books (in our humble opinion – using the royal we to demonstrate how humble, obvi), this was total fun from start to finish.  My only regret?  It arrived off of the hold list a week AFTER my beach vacation ended.  It would have been super meta to read it while on the beach, getting stung by a jellyfish too*, no?
This has a ton of my favorite curiosities in it: beaches, old timey things, adventure, smart and independent girls, archaeology, vacations, Italian wine, walkie talkies, etc.  It may well be the reason I look into scuba diving lessons in the near future, though I’m right there with Clio on the creepy baby doll head floating out at me from the murky depths of the sea, and totally because of this picture that still haunts me, and apparently Maureen Johnson, from my mother’s Titanic book by Robert Ballard.  Since it is shark week and naturally we are all terrified to get in the water, I've chosen to include it here:
Sleep well tonight, team. 
In maybe possibly NSFW news, this is the kind of thing that turns up when you search for Dolls and Titanic on the ol'Googles.  Thank you James Cameron and doll lady creator, for this Titanic Case of the Terribles.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tidbits: Olympictures and other such bookish things

I'm going radio silent (unless Finnick is cast or Dumbledore comes out of the closet again) for about the next week, as I will be frolicking through the rolling hills of North Carolina, like our girl Katniss (except I will not be playing Fight Club for kids - just eating a lot of popsicles).  So until then, keep yourself busy with some of these links:
Make this a poster already, J.K. Rowling!
  • After seven or so misguided years spent playing girls basketball in my youth, I was delighted that the BBC Olympic body match quiz would finally prove to my parents what all 5'2" of me has known for years: I was not a basketball player.  I was pleasantly unsurprised to be assigned a category I'd long suspected: gymnastics.  And then, mid fist bump, I realized it's gymnastics.  Yep. 
  • If you are in London, and are one of the many people blowing up my feeds with spoilerz of Olympic proportions, I think you owe it to both of us to go and visit this maze of books while you take a time out from the spoiling.  Additionally, not a chance I wouldn't accidentally knock it over.  None.  

Recipe 26: Spicy Maple Peanut Popcorn

Do you guys remember when the Oscars were?  It was long ago, in February.  Which is also when I made this recipe for a viewing party...which I am just posting now.  In August.  OH WELL.  Make yourself some, and then you'll be too busy trying not to eat it all that you'll forget I abandoned your Le Creuset recipe needs for so many moons.  Because it was long ago and far away, I'd be lying if I said I remembered tooooo much about it, other than that it was good.  But I do remember one, maybe two things:
  • Thing the first:  This recipe doesn't yield all that much.  If you make it, double it, especially if you are using a large Le Creuset, like I did.
  • Thing the second:  But also consider that your Le Creuset will get rather hot, and you will need to be able to lift said burning hotness in a controlled fashion to pour out the boiling hot candy coated popcorn, without spilling it on yourself.   
  • The Moral: Stick with a smaller size Le Creuset and make this in batches, unless you are the Hulk, or have better upper body strength and hand-eye coordination than moi.  (And also, give this away.  You will not have the self control to not eat it all.)
Apologies...all my pictures appear to be horribly blurry.  And I kept writing poop instead of unintentionally awesome typeo warning in case I didn't catch any!  Here it is, just in time for the Red Sox to destroy New Englands baseball watching dreams:

Spicy Maple-Peanut Popcorn
Makes somewhere between 4-6 cups popped
Adapted from Cooking Light
Spicy Maple-Peanut Popcorn

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