30 November 2008

Holy Conspiracy Theory Paranoia Batman!

Doctorow, Cory. (2008). Little Brother. New York: Tor. 365 pages.

Disclaimer: I love Cory Doctorow.

I've been an rabid Boing Boing reader for a while now. So while I hadn't gotten around to reading any of Cory's other fiction, when I saw this I knew I had to read it pronto. I also need to preface this with saying that, yes, I am somewhat of a conspiracy theorist and do not trust the government as far as I can throw it.

That said, I loved Doctorow's book Little Brother. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time takes on a whole new meaning for Marcus and his friends when they are scooped up by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after a terrorist attack and brought to a secret prison (read: Guantanamo-like). Had Marcus and his friends not been the hacker/computer types they may never have been given a second look, but because they were aware and knowledgeable of technology and their rights as US citizens they were targeted. After being released Marcus et al. realize their home of San Francisco has been turned into a police state where everyone is a suspected terrorist. Knowing that he will forever be watched and that no one will believe his story, Marcus decides the only thing to do is to take on the DHS himself. Creating a phenominal underground network of teen hackers (remember the movie Hackers with Angelina Jolie?!?) Marcus will teach you more about computer technology and security, as well as it's history, than you ever thought possible. For those who don't like the mini computer science lessons this book may not be for you. Those who are technilogically inclined or are eager to learn more about technology will love this book.

Now for the (few and far between) things that I did not like. I thought that the writing was choppy in places. It just didn't flow as nicely as it could have. Could be it just needed a little more time on the editors table... The only other thing that peeved me was the portrayl of Marcus' Dad. A librarian! It miffed me that he was so closed minded about everything. In real life Doctorow is a champion for libraries and librarians and spoke at the big ALA shin-dig this year. Besides those pretty trivial things I loved the book.

I would definitely booktalk this but only to a selective audience, it's not a book for everyone and I can appreciate that. The conspiracy theory and computer hacking aspects are great pull-ins for kids.

29 November 2008

Twilight can just suck it

Westerfeld, Scott. (2005). Peeps: A Novel. New York: Razorbill. 312 pages.

Yeah, you heard me. I'll be the first to admit that I like vampire books that are filled with good, steamy sex. Twilight's okay for that. Peeps isn't exactly what you would call sexy (there's a sexual element to the plot but it isn't "sexy"), and that's probably why I liked it a little bit better than Twilight.

Westerfeld's main character Cal is a young lad from Texas who came to New York City to go to college. We can sort of plug in the typical happenings from there. Cal imbibes too much alcohol and gets seduced into a one night stand that he doesn't really remember the next day. Quite an exciting way to lose your virginity, no? Unfortunately we don't get any of the steamy details. The whole story is told in a very sterile and scientific manner, which really does fit the story nicely. After his little adventure Cal goes on as usual; going to classes, having girlfriends, until he notices things seem to be changing. His sense of smell and night vision are enhanced, his strength increased, and what's with those weird meat cravings all of a sudden? He's been infected with a parasite that causes vampirism. Luckily for Cal he's one of the few that remains a carrier and never reaches full blown vampire status. Now he has to retrace his steps and find every girl that he's ever slept with to try to contain the spread of the parasite. Kind of like an STD. Except this STD causes you to start eating people. Nice. Add in an ancient, secret city agency (think Men in Black but for NYC) and you've got quite a story.

At the same time that I liked this book there were definitely aspects that I had problems with, and these might just be my particular tastes and have no literary merit what-so-ever, but they bugged me nonetheless. It annoyed me that the history of what was going on with the virus was so disjointed and long in coming. And then I almost thought that the whole alternative plan/army building to fight the worms thing was kind of random.

If I were to booktalk this book I would use a sort of "Twilight for Sci-Fi fans" approach.

25 November 2008

I've always wanted to move to Alaska...

but Sarah Palin totally ruined that.

Green, John. (2005) Looking for Alaska. New York: Dutton Books. 256 pages.

Fortunately for us Sarah Palin has absolutely nothing to do with this fantastically written book by John Green.

More times than I'd care to admit I'm reasonably unimpressed with the quality of the writing in YA books. The stories are great and the characters reasonably well developed but it just falls short somehow. This is absolutely NOT the case with Green's Waiting for Alaska.

I'll admit that even with all the hubabbaloo on yalsa-bk and on the interwebs about this book I managed to come at it without knowing anything about the plot, not even that Alaska was a person and not a place (well it is a place in real life but, you know what I mean). So I was very pleasantly surprised when I read this.

Green's character Miles Halter (a.k.a. Pudge) is just snarky and thoughtful enough to make him one of the most "real" teen characters in a book I've read in a while. On his quest for "the Great Perhaps", Miles knows that things just aren't going the way they should living in Florida with his parents and his "school friends". The private boarding school in Alabama, where his Dad went to high school, offers the possibility of a new start and a different path. At the start of his junior year Miles meets his roommate Chip (a.k.a. "the Colonel") and the moody but absolutely gorgeous Alaska Young. Along with a few other friends, Chip and Alaska teach Miles what it means to have real friends, along with drinking, smoking, and sex that is. It's not until Alaska's sudden death in a car crash that her moodiness is truly identified as deep depression. Miles and Chip are left to try to pick up the pieces and reconcile with what they know really happened that night.

Am I detecting a pattern in some of the books I've chosen to read lately? Wallflower and now this? I think Mr. Salinger might have stumbled on to something here, no? Now, along with the "Hero" and the "Damsel in Distress", can we say that there is a literary archetype known as the "Holden Caufield"? I kind of like that idea, whether it's an original one or not.

I'd structure my booktalk much the same way as with Wallflower, though leaving out the first year of high school stuff obviously. More than that though I'd highlight the whole "what they know really happened that night" aspect of the plot maybe. That does give away the ending. I would also add it to my list of books for kids to read and then compare with Catcher.

20 November 2008

Insert thoughtful title here

Do you ever stop to look over old relations,
Or look to the belly of another one's emotions,
Someone young in the winds of a revolution
Trying to save his face in the evolution.
~ from "Asleep at the Wheel" by the Wallflowers
(lyrics by Jakob Dylan)

Chobsky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: MTV 1999 224 pages.

Stephen Chobsky, how I love thee. Let me count the ways. Okay, so maybe that's a bit much. But I really did love this book. I wasn't as thrilled to find out that MTV was the publisher, that sits a little odd with me, but I think that I can disregard that now that I know that the book kicks ass.

The year is 1991 and Charlie is a freshman in high school. He is quiet and he doesn't have very many friends. In fact, when we meet Charlie he is dealing with the suicide of his best friend and a little quieter and more introspective than usual as he tries to figure out his new place. Luckily for Charlie his quirkiness lands him a friendship with the brother/sister senior duo of Patrick and Samantha, and through them finds himself part of a group of thoughtful friends. Typical high school coming of age ensues; drugs, sex, music that really "means" something and more than one realization that leads to a sort of breakdown/grand epiphany.

The story is told as a series of letters Charlie writes to an unknown "friend". Open and honest, Charlie lays his feelings out for the intended reader (who we never know the identity of), making it hard not to feel some sympathy for the poor kid.

I loved the book. I was in high school at the same time (though I would've been a sophomore when Charlie was a freshman) and could relate to a lot of the pop culture references. More specifically, my friends and I used to have Rocky Horror Picture Show parties and go to the theater at midnight for the (infrequent) showings (I was Magenta).

That said, I don't think that I would use that information in my booktalk. I would maybe tout the book as a more up-to-date Catcher in the Rye in many ways. I'm not sure in what grade they read Catcher but it would be neat to get some kids to read the two and then compare them.

18 November 2008

"The past was dead, the future was unimaginable." ~ from Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell

Collins, Suzanne (2008). Hunger Games. NY: Scholastic Press. 384 pages.

I LOVE a good dystopian novel. Big Brother, corrupt governments, citizens rising to overthrow the dictatorship, conspiracy theories. It's all just a little too close to home, minus the nuclear winter, and it feeds into my paranoia nicely. Think "The Lottery" meets "Running Man" for teens and you have Hunger Games.

The story takes place in Panem, what's left of North America. Split up into 12 districts, each with it's own specific gross national product, some are more wealthy than others. However, all twelve are equal in that once a year they must send one boy and one girl to fight in the Hunger Games. A fight to the death that leaves one winner. A televised event that the whole of Panem is forced to watch.

Katniss is my kind of girl. It didn't happen over night but eventually it sank in, they would starve if Katniss didn't step up after her father's death. She gets up each morning to hunt and forage for food to feed her family knowing full well that her mom and little sister would have been dead long ago if it weren't for her. She's managed to avoid being picked for the games so far. Unfortunately her little sister isn't so lucky and is picked in the first year of her name being added to the lottery. Katniss isn't about to let her little sister die and takes her place instead. I'm not going to go into any more detail about the plot because I don't want to spoil anything. The author does a really good job of not giving all the gory details but at the same time it's pretty gruesome. How could a fight to the death among teens not be!?

I'm not really sure how I feel about the romantic aspect that takes place in the story. It's okay in this book but this is the first in what will be a trilogy or series and I just can't figure out where the author is going to go with this. I like it as a stand alone book. I'll definitely read the next one to figure out where the story is going to go but right now I don't have a clue.

I would booktalk this book with something like, "What if you had to support your family? What if you couldn't just go to the grocery store but instead had to hunt and forage to survive? What if you lived in a place where your every move was monitored and you couldn't voice your opinion for fear of being taken away and never seen or heard from again?" A good book for older teens. Maybe 10th - 12th grade.

17 November 2008

Official NaBloPoMo FAIL + book journal

Yup. I failed. Again. Oh well. C'est la vive. I should have known better than to try it during school again. Next year I will no longer be a grad student and will give it another shot.

Alexie, Sherman (2007). The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. NY: Little, Brown Young Readers. 240 pages.

Arnold Spirit, otherwise known as Junior, tells us his story of growing up a Spokane Indian in Wellpinit, WA. From his miraculous survival at birth (he was born with water on the brain) to his not so shabby basketball skills, Junior navigates the waters of adolescence on an Indian reservation. There are a lot of family issues, a lot of death, and a lot of stereotypes (those that are more or less true and those that aren't) and only one or two nervous breakdowns.

Junior encounters a teacher his freshman year who pleads with him to want more out of life (after Junior breaks his nose). Realizing that he'll end up just like everyone else on the rez if he stays, Junior makes the decision to go to high school at the public school in the neighboring (white) town. Now the outcast in both his home and his new school, Junior stays the course and faces his battles bravely.

Alexie's sort-of semi-autobiographical first YA novel is a complete hit. Winner of the 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature and the 2008 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards for Excellence in Children’s Literature in Fiction (among others), Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian is a book I can see having an entire freshman class read the summer before they start high school.

And my recommendation is not made solely on this extremely cool video of Alexie getting more laughs than Colbert:

I would booktalk this book to 7th - 9th graders. Those years are totally sucky and reading about a kid of the same age going through some really rough shit of his own, yet in a lighthearted way, might resonate with some.

14 November 2008

Happy Days Are Here Again!

Yup. Yup!

13 November 2008

Never toss a dwarf!

Jessica Shurlow's Dewey Decimal Section:

485 Classical Greek grammar

Jessica Shurlow = 05999319818253 = 059+993+198+182+53 = 1485

400 Language

Linguistics and language books.

What it says about you:
You value communication, even with people who are different from you. You like trying new things don't mind being exposed to unfamiliar territory. You get bored with routines that never change.

Find your Dewey Decimal Section at Spacefem.com

12 November 2008

Pay no mind to the man behind the curtain!

I feel like a fraud these last few days. My posts haven't had any real substance to them. I've just been blogging something, anything, so that I don't skip a day because that's what I signed up to do god damn it! I've got classes all day tomorrow which sucks. But I am going out to lunch with Jen and Alissa and that's awesome. It was Jen's birthday a few days ago and we owe her one I think.

Once again, lame post. I know. I've got to get back on track or my ass is grass.

11 November 2008

Maybe you are and maybe you aren't...

I was totally caught off guard by a previous engagement that I had forgotten I'd volunteered for tomorrow. Thankfully I looked at my calendar. I have to be at the effing parking lot at school at 8:30 AM! Seriously some sort of test of my will power I tell you. Why I thought volunteering for this panel on "the generational divide" in librarians is beyond me. I'm probably right in the middle anyway as far as age is concerned. It is pretty amazing how many kids are coming to library school right out of undergrad. How do they know that this is what they want to do? I didn't even know that this was what I wanted to do until I was 30! They have a whole lot more screwing up to do before they're ready. Or maybe that was just me...

10 November 2008


I've got to write a book review journal tomorrow for my post. I've got to do 14 more by December 4th. That's not all that far away.

Anyway. I spent the morning at JP Licks getting some work done. Which I miraculously did. Weird that the commotion and distractions of a coffee shop are more conducive to my getting work done than the quiet of the library.

Anyway. After I left I went across the street to Boomerangs so see if I could find anything interesting. And I did. Got a great chunky picture frame for 50c, a nice grey cardigan, a copy of Griffin & Sabine (which I've been wanting forever, although I hope to get a complete set someday), a pressie for my friend Phoenix, and this book:

It is AWESOME! I absolutely love it and can't believe someone would get rid of it. Okay, maybe I'm a little bit of a geek but... (i can still read most of it with out needing translation, yay me!) It doesn't have any of the Carpenter's Tale in it though :( Supposedly it's all of the illustrations from The Kelmscott Chaucer so I guess that one just wasn't illustrated?

Anyway. I'm chuffed about my finds. And you'll find me at JP Licks tomorrow again. We're going for two in a row this week.

That is all.

09 November 2008

My cat almost puked on my foot

How lovely. Fortunately his aim leaves much to be desired.

I got a shit ton of knitting done tonight while watching football. I'd take a pic to document my project if we had a working camera. But we don't. So I can't.

I'm going to try working at a coffee shop tomorrow and see how it works. If it's just not going to work I'll head on over to the library. I'm going to JP Lick's, far better than some snotty Starbucks crap. I would consider a bookstore cafe but I don't honestly know of any (besides your B&N ones). Just put out a tweet looking for suggestions, we'll see if anything comes up by morning.

That could be a good post for later in the week, how much I'm addicted to Twitter. I've got a lot of books to write about too. I really should get on that.

08 November 2008

Love me the 39

I'm pretty sure I'm all out of pressing matters to bitch about. At least I can't think of anything right now off the top of my head. Give me a few and I'm sure I can think of something.

Nope, still can't think of anything. I'm too tired. I waited too long tonight before starting to write my post and now I'm too tired to think of anything interesting to say. You'd think that after spending the afternoon at the BPL Main Branch I'd have plenty of interesting tid-bits to share but honestly it was fairly tame. There was a really scary really drunk man who got on the 39 and sat behind me that made me uncomfortable. He was talking to himself. And not in a good way.

On that note I think I will just leave you with a picture of the Bates Hall Reading Room in the Main Branch of the Boston Public Library at Copley Square.

07 November 2008

There's nothing else for it.

I've found the house I want to buy, for a price we can afford, in the area we want to live, where there is a job for my husband, and it's 6 months to early. WTF. It's just not fair. I've been racking my brain trying to figure out how to make this work for us but I just don't know squat about real estate or the whole process in general. My guess is this is how a lot of first time home buyers get screwed. I really don't want to get screwed. Anyone know an experienced and friendly real estate agent who wouldn't mind taking on two newbies?

(View of house from the back)

06 November 2008

Day 6 of NaBloPoMo

I can't believe I've made it this far. I don't think I was this successful last year. Well, I know I wasn't this successful, and that's not saying much since it's only been 6 days.

Earlier today I was wondering what I was going to write about tonight. I was thinking I might divulge my new future plans (involving pygmy goats and root cellars) but then realized there was something much more disturbing I needed to get off my chest.

Namely my complete and utter inability to comprehend what the fuck happened in California! I mean, I wasn't even worried about it. Not on my radar. Didn't give it a thought. How on earth could that silly Prop 8 pass? There was no way in Hell. Well, apparently Hell found a way. Apparently there are many many more insanely bigoted and narrow minded people in California than I had previously thought. I mean, how can the majority of people in a state just up and decide that a whole segment of the population of that state doesn't deserve the same rights as they do? Who gives them that right? Is that even a right that they should have in the first place? I can tell you the answer. No. They don't have that right and they shouldn't have the power to take that right away after it's been granted.

I know that this speaks to a much larger issue in this country. I'm lucky, I currently live in a state where gay marriage is legal and recognized and I was born and raised in one of the first states to enact Civil Unions. Once those steps forward are made however I don't think there is anyone that should be able to take them away again. Ever. It's wrong to deny those rights in the first place, but it's doubly wrong to take them away after they've been granted.

It's more disturbing than I can ever begin to make it seem in words. I just don't understand how a human being could vote to take away the rights of another human being. Even though we've been doing it all through history. But that's the key word, history. Shouldn't we have progressed more than that by now? If you don't agree with someone's lifestyle than that's fine, but you don't have the right to take away that person's rights to live their life as they want.

An' ye harm none, do what ye will.
Words more people should heed.

05 November 2008

Bless their hearts

I love these ladies.

(L-R: Martha, Shirley, President Obama, Mary, Janet)

They are the exception to every single southern stereotype out there. They are the reason I didn't go crazy during the 2.5 years I was finishing my undergrad.

There are others, don't get me wrong. I had a nice little bubble in Cullowhee. But Mary and Shirley (above) were like my surrogate family, for Scott and I and he didn't even work there (though he was there often enough). I miss them a lot. I miss Hunter Library a lot. It's weird how I came to a smaller school, a library school, as a library student, and I don't feel at all comfortable in the library. In my department's building yes, with the faculty of my department yes, but for some reason not in the library.

Love you guys!

04 November 2008

"Hope is kindled"

Because I really didn't want to have to leave the country. Well, kinda but not really. Apparently I decided to go to bed right before McCain conceded. I'm going to try really hard not to be a total killjoy and just say that I hope Obama lives up to all that people want him to be. He has an incredibly large nation with HUGE expectations for him that he's got to try to fill. There were just screams of joy and honking cars going through my sleepy little neighborhood in JP and my brother in NYC called me from the restaurant/bar where he works to tell me the good news (as they were whooping it up and pouring champagne in the background). Maybe a little bit of hope is all this country needs to start it on the path back to health. (hey, we can dream can't we?)

03 November 2008

Nervous About Tomorrow

Yup. I am. Wanna know why? Two reasons.

A) I'm not entirely convinced that the Republicans won't rig it so that they win this one as well. Have you been paying attention to the instances of Secretaries of State (Colorado and New Mexico are the two that come to my mind) purging copious numbers of people off of the voter rolls? The dude in Colorado even got sued (and then continued to do it after the judge told him not to, lovely huh?). http://tinyurl.com/6jvt26 - this is the Denver Post article. Let's see, there's also all of the complaints from people who voted with touch screen computers, saying that the computer changed who they were voting for, computers not printing out the paper verification after a person votes, and the lovely situation in Florida where things just didn't add up after their test (and they don't think it'll be fixed by tomorrow). By far my favorite article on the matter however is the one by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast in Rolling Stone http://tinyurl.com/5wwnn2 and this one by Kennedy http://tinyurl.com/qbstp. Why on earth would the GOP want to give up power with the roll they're on?

Wow, this article just popped up on my RSS feed. How timely.

B) I'm really not so sure that Obama is going to be the huge change that everyone thinks he's going to be. Will he be better than the tard in the white house now? Yes. Will he be able (read: want to) fix things in this country that so desperately need fixing? My guess is no. He's a politician, just like the rest of them. He voted for the bailout and the only reason he wants the troops out of Iraq is so he can send them to Afghanistan and Iran. There are some great examples (cited no less) on journalist Kellia Ramares' blog. There are three parts to the article Part I - The Economy, Part II - Foreign Policy, Part III - Israel and Iran (I'm not sure why this doesn't fall under Foreign Policy but...), and Part IV - No Messiah Here . Obviously I don't agree with everything she says. That's part of the problem, sheeple in this country can't think for themselves any more. But what she does say is worth reading and worth thinking about. And she cites her sources. Did I mention that already ;)

I really need to get back to doing homework.

That is all.

02 November 2008

Sundays = Football

Yup, I'm a girl and yes, I like football. A lot. I do have a favorite team. And no, it's not the Patriots. I dislike Tom Brady a great deal. Actually, it's more the brain washing that Belichick puts on the team that disturbs me. He's creepy. So yeah, I'm a Colts fan. I own a jersey with the number 18 on it. In fact, it was just a few nights ago that I woke up to tell my husband that I just had a dream where Peyton asked me on a date ;)

I have other favorites, though no matter how poorly they play (and 4-4 this season is pretty poor) Indy will always be my team. When watching the games on Sunday however I do have to cheer for someone. So if I'm not watching the Colt's I normally choose the Giants (hey, they're hot this year and if I can't have the elder Manning I'll settle for the younger, plus Brandon Johnson is from husbands alma mater), Jets (i go where Farve goes), Steelers, Bears (by default, it's hubby's team), Dallas, and sometimes Seattle. That list has absolutely nothing to do with good looking quarterbacks, despite what you might think.

I even have my favorite broadcasters. Chris Berman and his crew on ESPN are by far my fav. I <3 Boomer. I can't wait to see him interview McCain and Obama tomorrow night! Keyshawn Johnson is getting better, I couldn't stand him when he first started. Tom Jones is cool too (that's an understatement by the way). I wish Boomer and Tom would call the game. I don't even bother watching the Fox or NBC (is it NBC or CBS?) pregame or half time shows. I still love Madden no matter what Stacy and Mike say. He can talk all he wants about that cheeseburger he had in '75, he's a legend. What really annoys me to no end though are the tards that do Monday Night Football. Ron Jaworski (Jaws), Tony Kornheiser, and Mike Greenberg. Actually, we can leave Mike out of it. There's nothing wrong with him. I can even tolerate Jaws. But I seriously can not handle Tony Kornheiser. I call him weasel boy because I can never remember his fricken name. He's a sports writer. And you know, he's probably a very good sports writer, but I can not stand the nonsense he spews during the game. Stupid shit! He usually has one good monologue at the beginning of the game that you can tell he wrote before hand about a particular player or team. It's usually pretty good, and that's it. That's where he should shut up and let people who know what the hell they're talking about do the rest of the game. But he can't keep his pie hole shut! It's especially annoying when it's a good game that I really want to see.

Well, it's almost time for the Colts to play the Patriots. I'm a little nervous. Obviously I'd like the Colts to win but with the way they've been playing I'm not so sure. They're at home and Sanders is back. That will help but...

01 November 2008

NaBloPoMo '08

I'm going to try this again. Last year it was too much with school and it probably will be this year as well but, oh well, I'm gonna give it a shot.

Not a whole lot to write about yet. We went on a hike to Blue Hills today. They replaced the boardwalk for the Ponkapoag Trail and we wanted to check it out. We don't have a camera right now (ours broke and no $ to replace it at the moment) but this is what the trail looked like last year when we hiked it.

It's pretty much the same. They replaced some of the cedar boards and shored them up (it's a bog) as well as doing some trimming along the trail which will be all grown back by spring. It's one of my favorite trails here in MA. We took the Snake Trail back and that was fun because of all the leaves on the ground. It's a single track trail that isn't used very often and it was fun to keep yourself on the right track.

I'll be posting a lot of book reviews for my YA book class soon, so that will most likely take up the bulk of my posting.