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Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally (2012)

I once read that football was invented so people wouldn’t notice summer ending. But I couldn’t wait for summer vacation to end. I couldn’t wait for football. Football, dominator of fall–football, love of my life (p 1).

As captain and quarterback of the Hundred Oaks High football team, Jordan led the team to a championship game in her junior year and lost because she threw an interception. As a senior, she intends to win it all. Then Ty arrives. He led his Texas high school team to a championship title and he has the skills to challenge Jordan. Things are even more complicated because Jordan finds Ty incredibly attractive. How could this happen to a girl whose primary goal in life is a football scholarship to Alabama?

This was a highly readable and enjoyable, if predictable, book which is sure to please teen chick lit readers. I always enjoy stories about sports and especially women breaking into the male arena. Jordan has an authentic voice and both Sam and Ty behave like teenage boys. In fact, it’s the same behavior often exhibited by adult males. So, funny and veracious. Super easy to book talk, this will appeal to Simone Elkeles fans.

I do have a problem with the cover. No top ranked QB looks like that slender dame on the cover. I don’t think Jordan would be caught dead in a miniskirt. Nor did she wear bracelets once in the book (that I can remember).

Read other reviews:
Between the Pages
Chick Loves Lit
The Magic Attic

I’d s recommend:

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Broke Your Heart A Little

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish:

  1. Touching Snow by M. Sindy Felin: A heartbreaking tale of a Haitian immigrant family living in New York told from sixth-grader Karina’s perspective. Karina’s father abuses Karina, her sisters and her mother. School Library Journals says, “The author writes with insight about the realities of immigrant life, Haitian American culture, and the double worlds inhabited by many first-generation Americans like Karina. Readers can see the compromises that family members make in the name of survival and the stresses that drive the stepfather’s rage, while still holding to the truth that these girls and their mother deserve a life without violence. Although the resolution is brutal, this story is a compelling read from an important and much-needed new voice.” Read my review of Touching Snow.
  2. The Devil’s Paintbox by Victoria McKernan: This book has not received much attention but it is in my top 100 YA books list (see the full list). Life on the Oregon Trail is difficult and character’s I cared about were injured, infected, or died along the way but one death (and I won’t spoil it) shook me to the core. I just didn’t see it coming. And yes, life (and the book) went on but my heart was a little broken. Read my review of The Devil’s Paintbox.
  3. Grandpa Green by Lane Smith: I was in tears over this beautiful picture book. It won a well-deserved Caldecott honor this year!
  4. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness: I sobbed and sobbed. Full on. Just one of the most poignant children’s books I’ve ever read.
  5. Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin: A book about verbal abuse that was so so horrible. There is a scene in which the mother drives recklessly with her kids in the car… chills. Chills. My heart broke for those kids.
  6. Everything is Fine by Ann Ellis: Read my review of Everything is Fine.
  7. The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochran: Themes of death and abandonment, grief and alienation, discrimination and friendship set against a baseball backdrop. Just lovely. Read my review of The Girl Who Threw Butterflies.
  8. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: I cried and cried and cried.
  9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling: The water works started when Hedwig was killed and I flooded the room when Fred died. Just thinking about this book brings tears to my eyes. I was in love with Fred. LOVE, people. And now he’s dead.
  10. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson: I did not see the ending coming at all. The movie version of this film is one of the best book adaptations ever.
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Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (2011)

My cynicism has been known, from time to time, to get me into accidental trouble. I was especially cynical in groups, perhaps feeling that a witty cut-down about a stranger would earn me the respect and admiration of friends. This rarely worked. You can only act like a jerk so many times before people stop listening to you (p 47).

This is going to be a rather unfair review. I read this book after it won both the Morris Debut Author Award and the Printz Award. I was hoping Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt would win the Printz. This book is not Okay For Now and I am therefore going to unfairly compare it to Okay For Now.

I begin with the voice. Told with alternating points of view, those chapters told in first person from Cullen’s pov told about a boy who enjoys thinking up book titles and fantasizing about zombies. Doug Swieteck’s first person narration is so damn good (go to my earlier post “Road to the Newbery” to read more) that Cullen’s narration, while good, pales in comparison.

Then there are the third-person-pov chapters told first from Benton’s and then Cabot’s perspective. The link between Benton and Cullen is revealed at the book’s conclusion. While some refer to this as ‘complex,’ I thought it was unbelievable and served the plot. The characters were all over the place messed up. I could probably express this sentiment better but I don’t have the time and the book’s details are already fading from my mind.

The best aspect of the novel is its treatment of Gabriel’s disappearance. Gabriel is Cullen’s younger brother and a character I took issue with while he was present. Praise for Gabriel’s intellegence and uncanny abilities suffused the narration and yet Gabriel didn’t actually do anything that justified the praise… unless a literate teen who enjoys reading is supposed to be considered brilliant.

So, am I disappointed in the book? A bit. It’s a good book, but it’s not Okay For Now. In terms of literary quality, it sure isn’t The Isle of Blood. So I can only sit here and scratch my head and wonder how both those books were overlooked by the committee.

Other review are more favorable:
A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy
Reclusive Bibliophile
Reading Rants!

Mock Printz 2012 Results

Ten Ocean County Librarians have voted. The first round results are as follows (you could choose up to 3 titles, ranking first to third):

Between Shades of Gray – 16
Beauty Queens – 16
Daughter of Smoke and Bones – 10
A Monster Calls – 9
Stick – 6
Shine – 5
The Berlin Boxing Club – 4
Chime – 4
Blood Red Road – 3
Scorpio Races – 3
The Name of the Star – 2
Dead End in Norvelt – 2

In terms of first place votes:
Beauty Queens – 4
Between Shades of Gray – 2
Daughter of Smoke and Bones – 1
Stick – 1
Chime – 1
A Monster Calls – 1

So we went to a second round of voting for titles with 5 or more votes (meaning at least two people had to have voted for the title). The results:

Beauty Queens – 21 (with 4 first place votes)
Between Shades of Gray – 16 (with 2 first place votes)
A Monster Calls – 12 (with 1 first place votes)
Daughter of Smoke and Bones – 11 (with 2 first place votes)
Stick – 7  (with 1 first place vote)
Shine – 5
Chime – 2

Mock Printz 2012 Winner – Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.

Mock Printz 2012 Honor books – Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, Daughter of Smoke and Bones by Lani Taylor, and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

Here are some comments:

Erin: I think Between Shades of Gray should win because it was beautifully written and you felt you knew the characters and could feel what they were feeling. Also because it brings up a part of history that is not spoken of and needs to be brought out into the light.

Mary Jo: Between Shades of Gray is award worthy. It’s written at that level. The ending reinforces the power of writing. Even when a culture conceals, the power of storytelling and having an audience to hear the story allows the silenced to to reclaim their story. Just as Hollywood loved Hugo Cabret because it is a movie about the power of movies, this is a soty about the power of storytelling. So it adds value to an already strong text.

Katie: I wish every book was as well-written and witty as Beauty Queens.

Jen: I’d give an honor to Beauty Queens—no higher than that.  I also loved The Name of the Star (my #3).  Though it wasn’t my cup of tea, Chime by Franny Billingsley is surely in the mix with the Printz committee.  I also don’t think you can count out Okay For Now and Dead End in Norvelt in this category.  I did really like A Monster Calls, but not sure if I’d give it the medal—an honor for sure.  I just think a lot of people may have initially picked it up because it’s such a slim book and thus may not have read some of the thicker  books (read: Daughter of Smoke and Bone).  Lastly, my dark horse/ long shot pick is Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando.  It came up on one of the best of the year lists, which is how it came to my attention.  It really was very well-written and had an interesting mix of realism and a fantasy-within-reality element.  My I-wish–it-were-so-but-it ain’t-never-gonna-happen pick is Rick Yancey’s Isle of Blood.

As for me, my number one pick is Stick. It’s not getting the blogosphere attention I believe it deserves. Stick is an incredible character. The writing is sparse and it has an almost Punkzilla quality toward the conclusion. I believe it’s very literary and I’d love to see it recognized. Our winner, Beauty Queens, doesn’t have a chance in my opinion, though it is a better book than Daughter of Smoke and Bone because it actually adds something to its genre. I wish I had had an opportunity to argue against Beauty Queens and Daughter of Smoke and Bone (or rather lobby for Stick, A Monster Calls and Between Shades of Grey) but our voting took place via email. We did discuss at a meeting but not all were able to attend and many who did attend the meeting didn’t read a majority of the books. So… we voted electronically and heard from all the avid readers.

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Mock Newbery 2012 Discussion

Five Ocean County Librarians and one retired OCL Librarian met to determine our Mock Newbery and Mock Caldecott titles. Here are some snippets of the confabulation.

Priscilla commented, “When I’m reading, I’m thinking what will the committee vote for versus what will I vote for.” I took the moment to remind folks this is our opportunity to decide what we would select if we were the committee. Still, I understood where she was coming from.

Regarding Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt, what makes it distinguished? Kristen answered immediately: “Its characters.” Does it tie itself up too neatly? Kristen said, “It needs to tie up neatly with all the over-the-top stuff, though some of that stuff might have been needless…. But it ends with a sense that we’re okay for now but not necessarily forever.” That’s what made it okay in Okay For Now.”

Then we mused on how willing we are to suspend disbelief when reading a children’s book. Did the ending in Okay For Now seem too implausible? Does it even matter? Kristen, who will attend the 2012 ALSC Morris seminar at ALA mid-winter, shared an article that stressed the importance of looking at a book’s strengths within its genre and evaluating it on those strengths, not its weaknesses. What does it contribute to that genre? (Which means more support for Okay For Now from my perspective!) Interesting.

So what about the Audubon art? Does it serve the message? Priscilla was skeptical. My arguments: the art resonates with Doug. He’s illiterate. Learning through pictures isn’t threatening. “But why the lessons?” Priscilla countered. First, Doug wouldn’t talk about the pictures to begin with. He learns because the Librarian leaves some paper and a pencil by the prints. So Doug wants to learn. And when have you known a Librarian to pass up the opportunity to impart a lesson? It’s in my (our?) nature to teach! Kristen added, ” It gave him something to be successful at.” Elise chimed in, “He’s getting acknowledge and support from an adult.”

Amanda pointed out, “The children in each of these books (meaning Dead End in Norvelt, Okay for Now, and Hound Dog True) are learning something. Mattie is learning to trust. Doug is learning about art. Jack is learning about writing. Priscilla argued learning to write in Dead End was more important than Doug learning art in Okay For Now.

Kristen predicts A Monster Calls will win saying, “It doesn’t do character as well as Okay for Now but it does plot and language better.” Elise wanted Okay For Now to be tighter, more spare. She though Norvelt was streamlined and macabre but very funny.

What do we do with Wonderstruck? Even if it is included in the Newbery committee’s discussion, we did not think the text strong enough to contend with our other titles.

We’re all very sad The Girl Who Circumnavigated the World is ineligible.

And finally, we voted.

After the first round, we had four clear frontrunners. A second round of voting showed a clear favorite with a majority of #1 votes. Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt is our 2012 Mock Newbery winner.

Our three honor books are much loved reads. With the strongest showing of the three, Hound Dog True by Linda Urban (it also received a first place vote in the final round) is our first honor book. With an equal number of points, we added Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (which also received one first place vote in the final round) and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

Our Caldecott winner was Me… Jane by Patrick McDonnell!

Overall it was a tight race. We selected three honor books. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen was a tight tight second place. It had equally as many first place votes as Me… Jane. Coming in on their heels were Grandapa Green by Lane Smith and Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick.

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Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (2011)

“What’s your favorite song of theirs?” Tiara asked.
” ‘Let Me Shave Your Legs Tonight, Girl,’ ” Petra blurted out.
“Ohmigosh, I LOVE that one!” Tiara said, clapping. “How about ‘I Only Want to Be with You’ or ‘I Just Need to Be Yours’ or ‘You, You, You’?”
Nicole chimes in. ” ‘I Gave Up My Hobbies So I Could Spend More Time with You.’ ‘I Love You Like a Stalker!’ Or — ooh, I know: ‘Safe Tween Crush’? (p 73)”

En route to the Miss Teen Dream Beauty Pageant, a plane full of beauty queens crashes on a (supposedly) deserted island. Thirteen contestants survive – clumsily at first – and then thrive, eventually building huts, a water filtration system, and a micosociety.

Admixture, a bunch of rowdy, handsome pirates shipwreck on the island and men in black shirts with guns and explosives kidnap Mary Lou’s boyfriend and threaten the girls.

Beauty Queens is an amagamation, a melting pot. It pokes fun at a slew of issues ad nauseam: reality tv, marketing, education, media, race, ethnicity, bias, sterotyping, sexuality, and of course, beauty. Sometimes Bray delivers (Ladybird Hope’s interview on Barry Rex Live on page 56) and I found myself laughing out loud (“Protect the citadel!” p 71) and sometimes the references were blunt and fell flat.

Sometimes, I felt this was less of a satire and more home-hitting. Take the quote I led off with. Anyone read some of the teen reactions to Stolen by Lucy Christopher? Yeah. Scary.

I don’t doubt it was a fun book to write (possibly contributing to its unnecessary length) but it is only a mildly entertaining read. I agree with Patti @ Opps…Wrong Cookie though – best cover of the year.

Read other reviews/thoughts:
A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy
Books Smugglers
Opps… Wrong Cookie
Tia’s Book Musings

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Top 10 Books I Look Forward to Reading in 2012

Confessions of a Bookaholic is hosting a Top 10 in 2011 Blog Event. Today, the top ten books I’m looking forward to in 2012!

  1. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (5/1/2012)
  2. Froi of the Exiles by Melinda Marchetta (3/13/2012)
  3. The Princess of Trelian by Michelle Knudsen (4/10/2012)
  4. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (4/3/2012)
  5. The Drowned Cities by Paolo Baciqalupi (5/1/2012)
  6. The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan (Fall 2012)
  7. I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga (4/3/2012)
  8. The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima (Fall 2012)
  9. Bink and Gollie: Two for One by Kate DiCamillo (6/12/2012)
  10. Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker (5/2012)

I’d also like to include the fourth book in the Monstrumologist series by Rick Yancey but I didn’t hear of a title and I’m not even sure it will get a 2012 pub date. Regardless, I’m VERY excited about it!