Monday, January 24

And the Hippo and the Lion Got Spots... Got a Chicken Box

This little girl is just way too adorable. As soon as her book comes out, I'll be first in line to snatch it up!

Thank you to Fuse #8 for the link!

Sunday, January 23

My Gosh, This Woman Can Write

Mark Twain said, "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightening and the lightening bug."

I've read hundreds of wonderful stories and fallen in love with thousands of characters, but when it comes down to the writing, down to the words, those stories and characters were so many lightening bugs in comparison with Laurie Halse Anderson's lightening.

For the past week, I've been reading Anderson's Wintergirls. Now size-wise, this is not a large book. It could probably be read in just a day or two. But the words are so electrically magic that reading this book actually takes something out of me every time I pick it up. I want to savor it, to make it last, because writing like this does not come along very often.

Below are just a few glimpses of lightening. To find yourself in the middle of the storm, you need to read Wintergirls for yourself.

"The snow drifts into our zombie mouths crawling with grease and curses and tobacco flakes and cavities and boyfriend/girlfriend juice, the stain of lies. For one moment we are not failed tests and broken condoms and cheating on essays; we are crayons and lunch boxes and swinging so high our sneakers punch holes in the clouds. For one breath everything feels better. Then it melts."

"We held hands when we walked down the gingerbread path into the forest, blood dripping from our fingers. We danced with witches and kissed monsters. We turned us into wintergirls, and when she tried to leave, I pulled her back into the snow because I was afraid to be alone."

"My hands read a braille map hewn from bone, starting with my hollow breasts threaded with blue-vein rivers thick with ice. I count my ribs like rosary beads, muttering incantations, fingers curling under the bony cage. They can almost touch what's hiding inside."

Please tell me, Book Lovers. Are you a lover of Laurie Halse Anderson? When was the last time that an author's words touched you like lightening?

Saturday, January 22

The Girls are All Grown Up!

One of my dear book loving friends - who is also a teacher! - sent me this hilarious link to "The Babysitter's Club: Where Are They Now? "

Now be forewarned, some of the predictions are a little depressing. For example, I refuse to believe that Claudia and Stacey could ever not be BFFs.

My favorite glimpses into their lives today? Kristy and Teach for America and Mary Anne and the internet. If you are a BSC fan, take a look. You'll laugh out loud at least once!

PS: Check out my favorite BSC site: What Claudia Wore

Tuesday, January 18

North of Beautiful

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley, Little-Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009, 384 pp, ISBN: 0316025054

Terra Cooper is an athlete, snowshoeing for miles every morning before school.
Terra Cooper is an artist, crafting intricate collages that tell the stories of the people around her.
Terra Cooper is a peace maker, deflecting discontent and smoothing the rough waters of her family.
But when you first see Terra Cooper, you only see one thing: the red port-wine stain in the shape of Bhutan, covering an entire cheek on her beautiful face.

Terra has spent her whole life working to go unnoticed. Whether she is escaping the stares of her peers, the wrath of her father, or the neediness of her mother, all she wants to do is escape.

But no land can go uncharted forever, and Terra Incognita is about to be discovered.

Continuing this month's trend of reading the contemporary YA novels that I've been meaning to get around to for at least a year... I finally picked up North of Beautiful. I've read countless glowing reviews of this novel, the most memorable being this one from Write Meg!

North of Beautiful is truly a gorgeous, moving piece of fiction. Terra's relationship with her family was the most stand-out element for me. Her father is a bitter, hate-filled man who has taken his agression out on his family for years, his verbal attacks forcing her two brothers thousands of miles away, and turning her mother into little more than shell of her former self. Terra is counting down the days until she too can escape from their home. I actually did hate her father - fictional character or not. Whenever he was speaking, my stomach would turn over and my teeth would clench; he was that real to me.

Terra's relationship with her mother was another of the most memorable aspects of her story. There were so many times when I just wanted to shake her mother and yell, "Stand up for yourself! You deserve so much better!" There were obviously many moments where Terra felt the same way, but outwardly her love and patience never wavered. 

I would be remiss not to mention Jacob. Oooooh, Jacob. You are the kind of boy that just warms a girl's heart and makes her toes tingle: creative, mysterious, compassionate, witty, and so gosh darn good looking. Terra might have been a pro at deflecting, but when it came to Jacob she didn't even have a chance.

Just as important as any character, the language was a star in this story. Justina Chen Headley truly has a way with words. She made basic conversations flow like lyrics, and descriptions of maps sounded like poetry. Cartographical references abounded throughout the book: literally, in reference to her father's profession and Jacob's geo-caching, and metaphorically, with regard to the ever changing relational boundaries. 

I must confess, at times the language was a bit too much for me. There were many long passages of flowery description where I would just start skimming until the action started up again. But of course, that is only my opinion.

If you are a lover of contemporary YA fiction, and you're in the mood for a truly emotional read, give North of Beautiful a try

PS: Did you know that North of Beautiful shares a cover girl with Evermore?? (from Melissa Walker)

PPS: That cover girl is actually on at least 2 more covers, one with the exact same photo again. (from Pop Culture Junkie) I'm going to be looking for her face every time I go into a bookstore now!

Monday, January 17

Sending Up Prayers for LK Madigan

LK Madigan is the fabulous author of 2009's Flash Burnout, a 2010 Morris YA Debut Award winner and Black-Eyed Susan Book. Her sophomore release, The Mermaid's Mirror, sounds completely different but just as fabulous.

After reading Flash Burnout, I was simply wowed by Madigan. Her ability to write with a completely authentic (and hilarious) male, teenage voice was nothing short of brilliant. Her characters were complex and intriguing, and the end of the story hit just the right note.

When I read this news from Madigan's blog, I immediately had to bow my head. She actually wrote in that post, "On the love side, if the sheer number of prayers, good wishes, love, hope, flowers, meals, gifts, and letters could create a miraculous recovery, I would be healed." Well, I am going to keep praying anyway.

In addition to that, many writers and bloggers from our online book loving community are banding together to bring as much attention as possible to LK Madigan and her books. For two wonderful examples, check out Stacked and 2009 Debutantes.

In the coming days, please do what you can to lift up this phenomenal writer who has touched so many with her words. Whether you pray, email her, blog about it, or read one of her books, all of us can do something. 

In the space below I am re-posting my original review of Flash Burnout:

Flash Burnout by LK Madigan, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2009, 336 pp, Realistic Fiction, ISBN: 0547194897

Matt loves Shannon. They're one of those picture-perfect high school couples: each other's first love, and potentially each other's first something else too... Nobody makes Matt feel the way Shannon does.

Matt is just friends with Marissa. Photography class partners only, right?

But then as Matt learns more about the darker side of Marissa's life, he begins to understand that nothing is quite as simple as he had once thought. Photography isn't the only area where chiaroscuro comes into play. In real life, you can't have the light without the darkness.

Flash Burnout was such a fabulous surprise. I'm currently working my way through Maryland's 2010 Black-Eyed Susan booklist and Flash Burnout was one of the books I hadn't heard much about. In as much time as it took to read the first chapter, I was completely hooked.

Author LK Madigan created a brilliantly authentic narrator in Blake. He has the one track mind of a typical high school boy, but he matches it with a kind, compassionate heart. At the same time, he has a wicked sense of humor and measures each day by the number of people he gets to laugh at his jokes.
" Mondays used to be a slow boat ride through the bowels of hell, until I hooked up with Shannon. But now I actually look forward to Mondays, especially if I haven't seen her over the weekend. I know, right? Looking forward to school. But I can't wait to get there and feel her up, I mean ask about her weekend."
One of my all-time favorite book bloggers, the1stdaughter at There's a Book, brought up the fact that Blake is even more impressive as a male protagonist because LK Madigan is a woman. Writing authentically in the voice of the opposite gender takes true talent!

Marissa's character was equally outstanding. Her death defying bike rides and black eyes from the Hurtle, her affinity for "pretty" pictures, and - of course - her heart wrenching search for her meth-addicted mother all came together to make her one of the most unique characters I've read in a long time.

The photography quotes at the beginning of each chapter added another layer of interest to the storyline. Not only did they offer interesting information to aspiring photogs, they also served as a kind of foreshadowing for the upcoming chapter. Two of my favorites:
"Make your peace with waking up early. The early bird gets the good light. Of course, so does the late afternoon bird, but why limit yourself to beautiful slanting light once a day - Spike McLernon's Laws of Photography
"Fear of what other people think should never dictate whether or not you get your shot. So what if someone sees you crawling on your belly or hanging from a tree? Do you think Margaret Bourke-Whie cared what other people thought when she became the first woman allowed to fly on a combat mission?" - Spike McLernon's Laws of photography
Flash Burnout was truly something special. The ending was beautiful and not at all predictable. And did I mention that the book includes two different playlists? I can't wait to recommend it to my high school kiddos.

Sunday, January 16

The Summer I Turned Pretty

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han, Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing, 2009, 288 pp, ISBN: 1416968237

Belly has spent every summer of her life at the beach house with her mom, her brother, Beck (her mom's best friend), and Beck's boys Jeremiah and Conrad. And for pretty much most of those years, Belly has been in love with Conrad. Never mind the fact that she has always been the little sister, destined to be a tag-along, always hoping that the boys would ask her to join in on the fun.

But this summer promises to be different. Everyone is looking at her in a new way - including both Jeremiah and Conrad. This is the summer that Belly has finally turned pretty, and everything in her life is about to change.

Are you kidding me?? Like Audrey, Wait!, The Summer I Turned Pretty is another book that was immediately on my radar when I began blogging. For whatever reason, it took me nearly a year to finally read Belly's story. What the heck did I wait so long for??

Regardless of the fact that I read mostly YA, I read very little "chick lit YA." I don't tend to read very many books that appear to be mostly romance, because I feel a strong pull to read more books that appeal equally to both boys and girls. HOWEVER, this little chick lit gem was truly worth waiting for.

Belly actually reminded me so much of me. I took forever to evolve into a girl who anyone would look at twice, and I distinctly remember the summer when that started to change a little bit. On top of that, my life has always revolved around my summers. My dad directs a summer camp and I would spent 9 months out of every year just fervently wishing for the day that summer, and my summer friends, would finally arrive. Throughout the entire story I kept wishing that I could give Belly just a little advice, because I felt so strongly that I knew just where she was coming from.

Savannah and Laurel - the two mothers in this story - were such a welcome addition. My own mother is one of my very best friends and I always wish that YA lit would offer up more positive familial relationships, particularly between girls and their moms. I thought it was a special treat to see such a warm, comfortable relationship between Beck and her two sons.

Belly's relationships with Jeremiah, Conrad, and Cam were all equally engaging. Each boy represented something uniquely different to Belly, and each had his pros and cons. When I got to the last few pages, I could honestly hardly contain myself. I think that this is maybe the most excited I've ever been for a sequel that wasn't Catching Fire or Mockingjay!

If you are looking for an absolutely perfect, romantic read, with completely authentic characters and plot developments, check out The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han. You will be so happy you did!

Friday, January 14

Audrey, Wait!

Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway, Razorbill, 2008, 320 pp, ISBN: 159514191X

So Audrey's wanna-be-rock-star boyfriend Evan hasn't written a truly great song since... oh... ever. But it turns out that he was just waiting for his first heartbreak to get truly inspired. When Audrey breaks up with him, he takes the opportunity to pour his heart out into the words and lyrics of "Audrey, Wait!" a song that goes #1 on the Billboard charts in only a matter of months.

Audrey used to be just any other teenager, but now she can't wait 5 minutes in line at the grocery store without seeing her face and the drama-de-jour splashed across the cover of every tabloid magazine.

So what is a girl to do? Heed the advice of her best friend, Victoria, and take full advantage of all of the fun and freebies that life as a celeb has to offer? Or hide out for a while until the spotlight disappears? 

When I first started blogging, I distinctly remember reading a few glowing reviews of Audrey, Wait! and adding it to my library list. Well it's taken me almost a year, but I've finally caught up with Audrey. Robin Benway's debut novel was a super fun read, perfect for teenage girls who love music and boys. And really... isn't that a pretty big percentage of teenage girls?

Audrey's best friend Victoria was one of the best parts of the novel for me. Out-spoken, hilarious, and loyal to a fault, she's the type of friend that every girl should have.

The quoted lyrics at the beginning of each chapter were another highlight for me. Audrey and I have pretty different taste in music (she's more Violent Femmes and Death Cab for Cutie while I'm more Carrie Underwood and Beyonce) but her musical obsession got me excited to investigate some new genres. I'm going to start my musical re-education with the Audrey, Wait! soundtrack.

One note of caution: due to a fair amount of sexual innuendo and creative cursing, I would recommend Audrey, Wait! to slightly older YAs.

Quotable Quotes:
"'For a moment there, I lost myself, I lost myself,' I sang, and then the words began to pick apart my heart and I had to stop singing and just swallow hard for a minute and not think and put my hands over my eyes and make everything go black again." - Audrey
"Don't let them tell you that there's a right way to fall in love..." - Voxtrot, "Biggest Fan"
"Everyone says that babies are miracles, and don't get me wrong, I love cute little pudgy babies, but if you think about it, me having a baby right now would not be a miracle. At all. But finding someone that gets me? That's the real work. That's where the miracles are." - Audrey
"'Remember in health class, when they talked about how adolescents drink to mask pain? That's what you're gonna do.'
'Did they talk about dismembering ex-boyfriends, too?'
'I don't think we'll get to that until anatomy next year." - Audrey and Victoria
For even more Robin Benway fun, check out The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June.

Thursday, January 13

Friday Blog Hop

It's that time again! For more info on the weekly Blog Hopping Party, check out this week's post at Crazy for Books.

The question of the week is "Why do you read the genre that you do? What draws you to it?"

I primarily read YA for a couple of reasons. First, I am a middle school teacher and librarian, so I feel a need to always have the next best recommendation for all of my kiddos - whether they are reluctant readers or book lovers. Second, YA novels are just so darn fabulous! The stories are fast-paced, the characters are easy to relate to, and the authors are incredibly insightful and creative. A better question would be, "What's NOT to love about YA?"

Thank you so much for stopping by Book Love! I hope you like what you see, and maybe even leave a comment or two. Have a great weekend!

Are Libraries the New Black?

In the past week, 2 different articles have come to my attention, both purporting that book stores are going out of style. First, a fellow librarian showed me an illustrated article in the New York Times that detailed different statistical bits from the most recent census. The article was titled "America By the Numbers," and it revealed that the total number of bookstores in the United States has decreased by 400 within the past year. (I still miss you, Treehouse Books!)

Emily from Emily's Reading Room blogged about the second article: "Twenty Things That Became Obsolete in the Last Century." Book stores are number 5 on the list!

So what the heck is going on here? I feel like books and reading are experiencing a huge renaissance right now. YA books are topping Top 10 lists, book clubs are super hip, and gift cards were the most coveted gift at my family's white elephant swap this year. But supposedly book stores are going out of style....

Which leads me back to my original question: are libraries the new black?

images from here and here

Tuesday, January 11

Sing You Home

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult, Atria, 2011, 480 pp, ISBN: 1439102724

Jodi Picoult, how can you do this to me EVERY SINGLE TIME?

Recap (Caution - This is a pretty detailed recap! I don't tell you end, but there's a lot of info here!):
Zoe and Max have been married for almost 10 years, and want nothing more than a baby to complete their family. Yet after another failed round of in vitro fertilization, Zoe learns that she and Max aren't exactly on the same page anymore. In fact, when Zoe expresses her desire to try for another baby, Max leaves her and files for divorce.

In the months that follow, Max moves back in with his big brother Reid and his wife Liddie, while Zoe spends more and more time with her friend Vanessa - a school counselor who had hired Zoe in the past for her skills as a music therapist.

As time passes, Zoe realizes that her feelings for Vanessa have progressed beyond friendship. In fact, she has fallen in love, a sentiment that is whole-heartedly reciprocated by Vanessa.

When the two women decide together that it's not too late to have a child together, Zoe approaches Max to ask permission to use their three remaining embryos. After all, he made it very clear that he had no desire to start a family when he left her.

What Zoe doesn't yet understand is that, in their time apart, Max has given his life to Jesus and the pastor of his church isn't about to let Max give his "pre-born children" away to his "deviant ex-wife."

The court case and evolution of relationships that follow are something that no one involved will ever forget.

Can I just take a moment to tell you how much I love Jodi Picoult? Seriously, this woman is brilliant. She does meticulous research for each of her books, and somehow always manages to present all sides of an issue without ever revealing where she stands. She doesn't shy away from controversial issues, or an anti-happy ending. Plus, her story telling methods are incredibly creative. From the graphic novel elements of The 10th Circle to the audio CD included with Sing You Home, she isn't afraid to partner with expert artists who can make her stories even more captivating.

Sing You Home, which will hit bookstores on March 1, is yet another stunning example of this master story-teller at work. Right away, the reader is knotted to the heartstrings of Zoe Baxter, a music therapist who is absolutely desperate for a child. When Max leaves her, only days after scattering the ashes of their stillborn child, one would think that the reader would hate him for such a heartless move, but I actually empathized with him instead. Max knew that he was no longer enough for Zoe, that no matter how much he loved and supported her, she would never be happy without a baby.

When Zoe fell in love with Vanessa, I was actually pretty shocked! Even though their relationship is the basis for much of the book, I hadn't known that before starting. Regardless, Zoe and Vanessa's relationship felt authentic and real. It was easy to see how well they complimented each other, and obvious that they would be a solid parenting team. If only everyone could see that...

Although it happened in a pretty dramatic way, Max's decision to accept Christ as his savior felt authentic to me as well. I know a number of people with similar stories, and felt relieved that Max seemed to be on a path toward peace. Of course, that peace turned out to only be the calm before the storm.

Sing You Home brought up every question I've ever heard about homosexuality and adoption by same-sex parents. Is homosexuality genetic or a choice? How will two parents of the same sex affect a child? Is an embryo a human being or a piece of property? When it comes to adoption by homosexual parents, where do you draw the line between church and state? How much of the Bible is literal and how much is up for interpretation?

I wrote to Ms. Picoult and asked what inspired her to focus her story on a lesbian couple, and she responded, "I feel like gay rights is the last civil right we haven't granted in America." I couldn't agree more. I hope that Sing You Home will inspire conversation, provoke questions, and make all of us question why we believe what we believe.

If you are looking for a book that will make you feel the full spectrum of emotions in bright, vivid color, pick up a copy of Sing You Home on March 1st.

Quotable Quotes:
"The music we listen to may not define who we are. But it's a damn good start." - Zoe
"For a moment the whole world stands still, and I can feel my heart hammering like a moth trapped under glass. 'God forgives you,' I tell her.
Zoe's eyes are clear, wide, the color of a thunderstorm. 'God should know there's nothing to forgive,' she says." - Liddie
Thank you to Crazy Book Tours for allowing me to join in on the Sing You Home tour! 

Monday, January 10

What an Exciting Day in the Book World

Gosh, I just love award season! Every year I anxiously await finding out which books received the top honors, and cross my fingers that I've already read at least a few of them. Here is just a quick peek at a few of those fabulous titles:

Newbery Award Winner: Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (historical fiction - I have not even heard of this one!)

Printz Award Winner: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (also a National Book Award nominee)

Coretta Scott King Award Winner for Writing: One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (I haven't read One Crazy Summer, but after reading MissAttitude's phenomenal post about the Coretta Scott Award at Reading in Color, I was really rooting for 9th Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes, which ended up being honored as a CSK honor book!)

Pura Belpre Award Winner: The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan (I have been wanting to read The Dreamer forEVER)

I was EXTREMELY excited to learn who would be the first ever winner of the Stonewall Award for books that have "exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered experience." While I am still pretty shocked that Will Grayson, Will Grayson didn't take home the big prize (it was an honor book; I love you, Tiny Cooper!), I can't wait to get my hands on the winner: Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher. If you, like me, are unfamiliar with Almost Perfect, here is a link to a review from The Story Siren.

Click ahead for the complete listing of the 2011 ALA Award Winners and Honor Books! Or read Ms. Bird's post from A Fuse #8 Production for way more in-depth details on many of the winners and nominees.

Tell me, Book Lovers. Which winners are your favorites? Which are you completely unfamiliar with? Do you get as hyped up as I do about the ALA awards?

Saturday, January 8

All of My Fingers are Crossed for Sherman Alexie!

If you have been hanging around Book Love for a while, you are probably aware of my undying love for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

Imagine my absolute joy and delight when I learned this morning that Junior's story is on the short list for 2011's One Maryland, One Book.

Please let Sherman Alexie and Junior win!!!

This situation calls for me to re-post one of my favorite "Absolutely True..." quotes:

"I grabbed my book and opened it up. I wanted to smell it. Heck,  I wanted to kiss it. Yes, kiss it. That's right, I am a book kisser. Maybe that's kind of perverted or maybe it's just romantic and highly intelligent."

Thursday, January 6

I Like Big Books

Ooooooh boy. This is too funny.

Thank you to Jana from Milk and Cookies for sharing the link!

Wednesday, January 5

The Unidentified aka The Sister-Book-Marathon

The Unidentified by Rae Mariz, Balzer + Bray, 2010, 304 pp, ISBN: 0061802085

Kid has reached level 15, but for her the Game has really just begun. All across America, teenagers are attending high school at "the Game," which in Kid's case is held in a converted mall. Rather than being led by teachers, the Game is run by corporate sponsors who trademark every aspect of their lives, right down to their notebooks. 

While popularity has long been an ultimate goal for many high-schoolers, the Game has taken popularity to a whole new level: the more friends you have on your in-touch profile, the more likely your odds of getting "branded" by a corporate sponsor. Once you're branded, you are one of the Game's celebrity students - perked with all of the goodies the sponsors have to offer, and idolized by your peers.

Kid had never had much interest in getting branded, preferring instead to spend her time working on new music tracks with Mikey and Ari. But after witnessing a masked body being tossed over a railing in a suicide stunt, and then discovering that no one really even cared, Kid starts to realize that some of the Game's players have secrets that go much deeper than an in-touch profile.

I've never read a projection of the future that seemed so creepily possible. In just a few short years, I have a feeling that Kid's story could be real life. In the Game, cliques still rule the school and an in-touch is just a hyped up Facebook/Twitter hand-held device. Kids are still figuring out sneaky new ways to bypass parental controls, and video games are still a favored escape from reality. According to Kid, and author Rae Mariz, the future doesn't look too different from the present. 

The general idea of the Game is pretty genius: students still have to take classes and research different pieces of information, but each correct answer adds points to their overall score, allowing them to move up more quickly in the Game. On top of that, most of the classes somehow involve video games and virtual reality. Their "classrooms" include the DIY Depot, the Math Attack arcade, and the Robot Combat Arena. Who wouldn't want to go to a school like that? Of course, everything comes at a price. And in the Game, the price is the right to privacy.

Kid's struggle to choose her own path was written so authentically. Who hasn't considered selling their soul - or at least a few secrets - for the chance to be a part of the "in crowd?" As Kid questioned her options, and struggled to decipher the difference between true friends and trend followers, she reminded me of a dozens of other students I've worked with in real life. Kid's story is one that many kids will quickly identify with.

My one issue (and this is probably going to sound strange considering that they are supposedly the basis for the whole book) is that The Unidentified group was never really that compelling to me. I understood that Kid felt compelled to solve the mystery behind the group, particularly after the incident with Mikey, but I just never could get myself to care about who they were or what they were doing. I just wanted to know what would ultimately happen to Kid! 

Although I will say, the vision of the last few pages was pretty spectacular.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is intrigued by (or addicted to!) social media and the path that it is leading us all down. I think Kid's story can be equally appreciated by both the ladies and fellas!

Favorite Quotes from The Unidentified-

"Stepping in, I was hit with the bass rattle of the Wu Tang Clan: 'Rraw, I'ma give it t'ya, with no trivia...' They always play classic music in there."

"Liquid Crack" - You caught me. This isn't a quote persay... but I'm definitely requesting this pop for our school vending machine.

"Generation AAA was... the marketing term assigned to us, the kids spawned after Generation X, Y, and Z. They had been the end of an era. We were the beginning."

So what's the story with the Sister-Book-Marathon?
As a personal rule, I pretty much never buy books. Lucky for me, my local public library is amazing. However, that also means that I typically read most books several months (or years) after they've been published. So over Christmas break when my little sister decided to buy a stack of new books for her own classroom, I was more than happy to provide recommendations. Particularly because I was planning on reading all of them before they went home to Indiana...

Sarah had started reading The Unidentified practically before she even left the store, but I had my heart set on taking it back to Baltimore with me. This required her to embark on a 24-hour-reading-marathon where she took the book everywhere she went, with me prodding over her shoulder, "Stop laughing! Read faster!" This is her reading in a parking garage:

Before boarding her airport shuttle, she ended up taking pictures of the last 4 pages so that she could hand the baton book over to me while she finished reading on the plane. For photographic evidence of the whole affair, check out her blog: Overlap. Thank you for sharing, Sarah!!

Sunday, January 2

My First Ever Challenge!

In the interest of kicking this new year off by trying new things, I'm joining my very first challenge! It's the YA Series Challenge and it's being hosted by Shannon from Stalking the Bookshelves and Britney and Farrah from I Eat Words. Yay! Thanks, ladies.

Here are a few of the guidelines:
- The series must be YA or MG
- All series must have at least 3 books out by the end of 2011
- You don't have to read all of the books in the series. However many you choose to read will count toward your total

I'm entering at Level 5: Beyond Obsessed in an attempt to read 17-22 books in a series.

Here are the series I'm considering so far:
- The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater (so far I've only read Shiver!)
- The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa (I've read zero)
- The Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (I've read zero)
- The Hush, Hush triology by Becca Fitzpatrick (I've read zero)
- The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner (I've read zero)
- The Gone series by Michael Grant (I've read zero - except for about 100 pages of Gone)

Here are my questions:
1. Do y'all have any other series to recommend?
2. Is the Megan Whalen Turner series really called "The Queen's Thief series?"
3. Does anyone know what the third book in the Caster Chronicles series will be titled?
4. How do I get one of those little tracker thingys that shows how far I am in the challenge?
5. And how do those tracker thingys work anyway?


Saturday, January 1

It's a Brand New Year!

Today I'm celebrating fresh starts and new beginnings. Each January 1st feels full of promise and possibility; anything can happen! In 2010 I...
- went back to school
- started a new career
- traveled across the country
- started Book Love
- met dozens of new people
- stood up in a best friend's wedding (for the bride, not trying to steal the groom!)
- and of course, read a whole lot of great books.

I can't wait to see what 2011 will bring. In the meantime, I was super excited to see that this year's Cybils finalists have been posted! Of course, I clicked right over to the short list of YA Novels and was dismayed to learn that I had read exactly ZERO of the seven finalists. First on my catch-up list? Some Girls Are because I am dying to finally get a taste of the Courtney Summers genius that I've heard so much about.

And for those of you who love a behind-the-scenes peek, check out this fascinating "Life on the Cybils YA Panel" post from Kelly at Stacked. Wouldn't you love the opportunity to participate in that process?

Which YA Cybils finalist will you be cheering for this year?
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