Wednesday, January 25, 2006

This seems to be the week for fantasy-series-I-should-have-already-read. I finished Pierce's The Immortals, and last night I read the first Artemis Fowl book. Let's see - what are my reasons for not reading this one before now? It's one that I've had in both libraries I've worked in, yet never read. And I love fairies, and books set in Ireland. However, I knew this wasn't your traditional fairy tale, or your usual fantasy novel with fairies. More in line with Terry Pratchett, I thought (and I was close). And while I like that kind of thing, I have to be in just the right mood...
Anyway, I read it and I liked it. Not enough to rush out and read the others right away, but enough that I'll probably read them eventually - when the mood is right again. I do enjoy books like this that take something from traditional tales - fairies, leprechauns, gnomes, etc. - and give them a totally new twist (the LEPCon stuff is great - who knew?). And Artemis is such a fun character. It seems to me that it's always risky creating a main character who is a villain; often it's hard for readers to sympathize. I think, though, that Colfer injects Artemis with just enough vulnerability to give him some appeal, and, of course, Captain Holly Short balances Artemis's villainy well.
I was prompted to (finally) read the first Artemis book when I read Fowl Experience, an article written by the author for Inis, the magazine for Children's Books of Ireland. He shares, with great humor, how he got an agent and published the first Artemis book - and was able to finally begin making a living as a writer.

Monday, January 23, 2006

I got on a role this weekend, thanks to some excellent books. I finally read O. R. Melling's The Hunter's Moon, which was excellent. It's the story of two cousins, one American, one Irish, who take off on a journey about Ireland to search for the world of Faerie. They find more than they bargain for when they sleep under a faerie mound and one is kidnapped by the King of Faerie.
For those of you not familiar with her, O. R. Melling is an Irish author whose series, The Chronicles of Faerie, are being published in the U.S. She has re-written the first three books in preparation for this release, so if you're already familiar with the Chronicles, you may still want to take a look at these new versions. The Hunter's Moon, the first in the series, is the only one so far released; the second, The Summer King, will be released in May. They are stories of the connection between our world and the world of Faerie, set in Ireland, where the veil between the two sometimes seems to be very thin. The covers are gorgeous; any fan of fantasy will be tempted by them and will be just as satisfied with what's inside.
Since Melling's novel put me in the mood for fantasy, I indulged myself by reading another of Tamora Pierce's series. I must admit, I've come to be a fan of hers late. Over the years, several students have recommended her books to me, but I never bought them at my previous position because there seemed to be so many, with so many different series, that I never took the time to sort them out and figure out what to buy. However, last winter, at my new job, we took a group of students to Barnes & Noble shopping for books, and they bought the Lioness Quartet and the Protector of the Small series. Since they were now in my library, I decided to take a look. I started with Alanna (the Lioness) and was hooked immediately; I couldn't put them down! We didn't have the Immortals series yet (next in order; all these series take place in the kingdom of Tortall and characters from each series appear in the next, so it's fun to read them in order - like bumping into old friends - although you don't have to), so I read Protector. Then, I stopped reading, although I bought the rest of her books for the library. I decided to save the others and savor them, instead of devouring all of them at once.
So, this weekend I took home the entire Immortals series and read the first three, mostly in one sitting ( I was terribly lazy yesterday!). I started the fourth during lunch today, and I know I won't go to bed tonight until it is done. The Immortals series is just as wonderful as the other two, and I'm considering re-reading the Protector series again just so I can run into Daine & Numair again. I haven't decided if I'm going to forge ahead with the two Daughter of the Lioness books, or save those for another time.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

I've been a fan of Meg Cabot's since her first book, The Princess Diaries, came out. And while I lost interest in Mia's adventures somewhere around #3, I've read all of Meg's 1-800-WHERE-ARE-YOU series (written as Jenny Carroll) and loved them, and I read Teen Idol as soon as it came out. I check out Meg's blog because she makes me laugh. And the Mediator series is one of my all time favorites - if you haven't read this one, go out and get it RIGHT NOW!
I have to admit I've been a little wary of Meg's proclivity for sequels/series, and after reading her diary post today (she's having trouble coming up with ideas for a sequel to Avalon High because the story really ends there - why does there have to be a sequel?) I'm even more alarmed. Still, I'm hoping to get my hands on the library's copy of Avalon High, Meg's new book for teens, as soon as the student who practically stole it off the new book cart brings it back, and I nabbed Size 12 Is Not Fat before anyone else could. It's vintage Cabot, but with a twist: this is the first book in her new mystery series. It's aimed at an adult audience, but I know it will be totally popular with (and totally appropriate for) my high school students.
Anyway, the story goes like this: washed up, size 12 former teen pop star sensation Heather Wells has found a job as an assistant director at one of the dorms - I mean residence halls - at New York University. While living with her ex-fiance's brother, she's waiting out her 6 month probationary period so the college will start paying for her degree. But while she's waiting, tragedy strikes when one of the co-eds dies in a bizarre elevator surfing accident. Heather's not convinced this shy, quiet girl was the type to jump off a moving elevator, and when another girl meets a similar end, she's even more convinced something's not right. But the police aren't listening to her, and even Cooper, her very-hot PI landlord, thinks she might be concocting this story for the attention. But Heather's sure she's right, and she's willing to risk her own life to prove it.
Heather is definitely a Meg-heroine, willing to voice those thoughts many of us have but are afraid to say for fear of sounding, well, shallow. I figured the mystery out before the end, but it wasn't so obvious that the book wasn't worth it. In fact, I rather enjoyed this fast, fluffy read (great mind candy!) and I"m looking forward to Heather's next adventure.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Okay, I finished the Julie/Julia book, which is a good sign. Means I'm moving out of the rut. And I even enjoyed it. Sometimes, it's not that the books I'm reading/trying to read are bad, just that they aren't the right books for that time. Reading is very much a mood thing for me; I have to have the right books to fit my mood if I'm going to really be satisfied. This is why I have to take at least 10 books with me on any vacation (and I usually buy more), even if I know I'll only actually read one or two.
Anyway, back to Julie/Julia. This is definitely not one that will be of much interest to my students, but it will be of interest to many of my friends - in fact, it was recommended to me by a friend. Since Julie and I are "of an age," I can relate to many of her issues - she's stuck in a job she hates, needs to spice up her marriage, is facing trouble having children (doesn't know if she wants children) - anyway, they're all relevant issues for thirtyish women. And while I don't hate my job, I can certainly relate to her desire to do something with her life.
And her answer (or, her husband's answer, which he lives to regret), is the Julie/Julia project. Julie Powell cooks all the recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year -and blogs the whole experience. It's a transforming experience for her. She's irreverant and downright profane at times, and an alarming amount of alcohol is consumed with all those French dishes, but sharing the experience with Julie and her husband is quite a trip.
Since I've been in a reading rut lately, perhaps this isn't the best time to start a reading blog. Or, perhaps it's the best time - maybe it's what I need to get me reading again. I go through these phases occasionally, when I can't seem to get interested in anything, unless it's a TV show (which is evil - more on TV later, I'm sure).
I don't usually read two books at once, nor do I often start a book and not finish it. However, last week I gave up on Warrior Women: An Archaeologist's Search for History's Hidden Heroines by Jeannine Davis-Kimball for the second time. And right now I'm reading Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Kitchen by Julie Powell AND Size 12 Isn't Fat by Meg Cabot. Anyway, all this is a bad sign for my reading life. I probably need to just pull off one of the many, many young adult books stacked on my shelf and start reading. It's the inevitable and foolproof cure for this reading malaise, but occasionally I feel the need to read something for grown-ups.
However, since YA books are really where it's at for me, I really want to dwell on them. Amazon just came out with their Top 10 Editor's Picks for Teens, which is a pretty nice list. The reliablity of Amazon as a resource for reviews is largely questioned in the library world, but I can't argue too much with their top 10, especially since their number one pick, Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, is my #1 for 2005 as well. I think it should win the Printz Award, but I have a feeling it won't.
Speaking of the Printz, ALA's awards will be announced Monday morning. I have a whole list of "Possible Printz Contenders," mostly gathered from discussions on YALSA-BK (a list serve for those who want to discuss YA lit). I've read several, but there are so many I haven't gotten to yet. As I said, Twilight is my first pick for the Printz, but I don't think it will win - vampires don't get any respect. I think it might be Ball Don't Lie by Matt de la Pena, which I didn't love as I was reading it, but which stuck with me for a long time - the sign of a good book, I suppose. There's also a lot of talk about A Room on Lorelei Street by Mary Pearson (which was good, but didn't live up to the hype for me), and Looking for Alaska, which I loved and would be a great Printz winner, but I wonder if they'll give it to John Green for his debut book. Oh, and I also loved Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar. Funny books for teens are tough to find, and this is one of the best.