Tag Archives: YA

Girl Online: Or The Unexpected Enjoyment of Going Outside Your Reading Comfort Zone

Sometimes I’ll read something and see a book or movie mentioned or used in comparison and I’ll think, “Oh, that sounds interesting” and order it and then completely forget why by the time it comes in. That happened recently with Zoe Sugg’s Girl Online, a book I ordered before Christmas.

girlonline

Don’t let the cover fool you. This book is actually about the Crusades.

I think I ordered it because I saw a blurb about how Sugg—a fashion and beauty vlogger—was the first British female author to outsell J.K. Rowling or something like that. Whatever the reason, I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.

Girl Online follows Penny Porter, a teenage blogger from Brighton who ends up traveling with her family and best friend to New York City because her mother is organizing a Downton Abbey-themed wedding for a wealthy American couple. While she’s there, she meets Noah, a dreamy and mysterious boy (is there really any other kind?). The two fall madly in love—as teenagers are wont to do—and the romance causes Penny’s blog to go viral and costs her her online anonymity.

As I read it, I was reminded of those great first loves we feel when we’re teenagers—loves that are often as transient as they are transcendent and are all the more beautiful because of it. And that’s never a bad thing to think back on. It also seems like Sugg is trying to warn her impressionable teenage demographic about the dangers of sharing and oversharing aspects of their lives online.  If the only thing a young adult—or anyone, really—gets out of reading this book is to think before you share, then that’s a pretty good takeaway. Less selfies, more self-restraint!

My fellow coworkers teased me about ordering it, saying that it didn’t seem like a book that I would read and I have to admit that it’s not the kind I would normally seek out; I’m clearly not Sugg’s intended audience. I couldn’t care less about fashion and beauty tips, nor about the ghostwriting “scandal” surrounding the book, which I only learned about while doing some very light research for this post.  Nevertheless, I’m a firm believer in going outside your reading comfort zone (and now I can check off one of the reading challenges from Abbey’s post the other day). I’m also a firm believer that reading a crappy book is better than watching a crappy television show or movie. And I have the science to back it up!

"Back dat asymptote up."

“Back dat asymptote up.”

No matter how awful a book is, reading is still something you actively do. Your brain has to create entire rooms, wardrobes and people. Sometimes it has to create alien worlds and things that literally no one has ever seen.  On the other hand, when you’re watching television, you’re a passive participant. The creation is already done for you.

Girl Online didn’t reinvent the wheel; it’s riddled with clichés and it’s so saccharine that I should probably go to the dentist now that I’ve finished it, but I didn’t hate the time that I spent reading it. If you have a few listless hours, I see nothing wrong with filling them with a simple story.

Were you ever pleasantly surprised after reading a book outside your comfort zone? Sound off in the comments below!

–Ross

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7 More Ways to Get Sher-LOCKED

If you are patiently–or not-so-patiently–waiting for the next season of the BBC’s Sherlock, consider this:  a keyword search for “Sherlock Holmes” brings back over 900 results in the Library catalog, while a subject search for Holmes, Sherlock (no quotation marks needed) nets you another 600+ results. This means you have plenty of material to obsess over focus on during the show’s hiatus (that is, when you’re not on Tumblr reblogging otters who look like Benedict Cumberbatch).

Original meme by Red Scharlach. Image reposted at RadioTimes.

Original meme by Red Scharlach. Image reposted at RadioTimes.

Given the large number of written pastiches, plus the fact that the character of Sherlock Holmes has appeared in television and film more than anyone else except Dracula, this shouldn’t surprise you at all. You may, however, find yourself overwhelmed by your good fortune: where, with so many adventures to choose from, should you start?

Here are seven suggested points of entry*, in various formats:

1. Sounds familiar…

To bridge the classic and contemporary fandoms, you might want to try the audio book Sherlock1The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries and Other Stories. Author John Taylor uses the conceit of a locked cedar chest that contains Watson’s notes on cases that, for various reasons, were never made public. These tales, which feature the science of ballistics, stolen goods, and a baffling murder, stack up favorably with Amazon reviewers. But, of course, with audio books, it’s the narrator that makes or breaks the story…and our narrator, in this case, is none other than Otterface Whatsisname. Try not to break your fingers while making the catalog reservation, okay?

2. Across the pond

sherlock2American versions don’t always ruin everything. Exhibit A: Watson and Holmes vol. 1: A Study in BlackJon Watson’s internship at Convent Emergency Center in Harlem gets a lot more interesting when the mysterious S. Holmes shows up shortly after the victim of a vicious beating is brought in. Intrigued by what he learns from Holmes, Watson tags along on what seems, at first, to be a simple kidnapping case, then blossoms into a far more sinister conspiracy. A gorgeous color palette of blacks, browns, and purples (with some luscious golds and icy blues for contrast) enriches a comic that is incredibly faithful to Conan Doyle’s vision (Irregulars, fetching haberdashery, and all).

3. Media Studies 101

Rather than start a knock-down, drag-out argument over which actor made the finest manyfacesSherlock**, make the time to familiarize yourself with The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes. This documentary covers eighty-five years of stage, film, television, and radio portrayals of the master detective, and is narrated by Dracula Saruman Sir Christopher Lee. At a run time of only 48 minutes, you can have yourself up to speed on the topic in the space of a lunch hour. And because you can download the film to your portable device, you can still have lunch outside, if you like.

4. Worth the wait…

company holmesLaurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger–two authors you can trust on this topic–invited a group of well-known contemporary authors to write new stories inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle’s original work. The result, In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, is definitely worth putting yourself on the waiting list for it. Contributors include Michael Connelly, Cornelia Funke, Jeffrey Deaver, Sara Paretsky, and Harlan Ellison, so you know King and Klinger took this project very, very seriously. Tied together with a terrific introduction, and the promise of a second volume to come, this short story collection should be on your don’t-miss list.

5. Three pipe problems

If your vocabulary organically includes terms like “heteronormative,” “deconstruction,” or21st century holmes “paradigms,” you will most likely enjoy Sherlock Holmes for the 21st Century, a fascinating bundle of scholarly essays. Contributing editor Lynette Porter has assembled a collection of work that examines the relationship between a broad spectrum of cultural themes (which include sexuality, fandom, information literacy, and tourism) and the recent Holmes canon. The connections the authors draw between present and past iterations of the consulting detective make for a fascinating look at how, in each generation, we create the Sherlock we need, want, and–perhaps–deserve.

6. Get ’em while they’re young…

death cloudYA readers keen on historical fiction might enjoy Death Cloud, the first in a series of teenage Sherlock Holmes mysteries authorized by the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle. If you can imagine the highly functioning sociopath as a bored, bright youngster on holiday, the concept isn’t at all far-fetched. While staying with relatives over the summer, young Sherlock makes a friend, confounds his tutor,  and encounters a mysterious cloud that’s followed by a series of puzzling deaths. Obviously somebody has to investigate, and who better than Holmes? Fun historical fiction that functions as a gateway to the real deal.

7. And, inevitably, tea

While visiting the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, Julia Carlson Rosenblatt and her dininghusband got the idea for a dinner showcasing food from Conan Doyle’s era. That dinner, held on June 2, 1973, paved the way for Dining With Sherlock Holmes: A Baker Street Cookbook. The foodies in the fandom will appreciate this Herculean effort, which is clearly a labor of love by people who did their homework (with the help of the Culinary Institute of America). Every recipe is either tied to a direct quote from the original canon, or its inspiration is thoroughly explained. If you’re thinking about having a Sherlock party, and really want to take it over the top, you’ll want this cookbook in your hands…though a healthy dose of kitchen proficiency is definitely a pre-requisite.

That’s a lot of Sherlock, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. Do you have a favorite Holmes, or Holmes-inspired book/film? Tell us about it in the comments section!

–Leigh Anne, whose own gateway drug was Young Sherlock Holmes.

*I’m assuming, of course, that you’re already well-versed in the Conan Doyle canon. If you’re not, what are you waiting for? Go get those books!

**Even though the answer is clearly Basil Rathbone.

 

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An Inspector and His Companion

It’s a bold move to claim that your book is Doctor Who meets Sherlock. If you’re going to call out two of the biggest names in nerdy-Anglophile culture, you’d better have the goods. Luckily, it seems that first-time author William Ritter does.

Abigail Rook is a girl looking for adventure. Before even arriving in the tiny New England town of New Fiddleham, she had run away from home to join an archaeological dig in the Ukraine, then skipped off to Germany before sailing across the Atlantic. And yes, it’s 1892.

Abigail quickly finds herself a job as an assistant to R.F. Jackaby – an investigator who takes on cases with a supernatural twist. Much like Sherlock Holmes, Jackaby is often lost in his own head (Abigail is hired for her knack of noticing the mundane yet important things about a crime scene). Aside from one young detective who recognizes that things are a little hinky, Jackaby is barely tolerated by police but has a backlog of grateful clients.

While Jackaby displays very clear Sherlock tendencies, Abigail is definitely filling the Doctor Who companion role. And without question, she is very much a Rose Tyler. She’s a bit sassy, quite clever and resourceful, and has that same willingness to jump right into things.

Probably an accurate representation of our characters…

This is a quick read with a fun paranormal mystery – perfect for this time of year. I can’t wait to see Abigail and Jackaby’s next adventure!

– Jess

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Angels and Angel Food Cake

Today is National Angel Food Cake day. It’s true. In honor of this day, I decided to dedicate my post to books that have angel food cake in them…or are about them…or are about angels because there are actually not A LOT of books about angel food cake.Nancy Willard Cover

The first book is The High Rise Glorious Skittle Skat Roarious Sky Pie Angel Food Cake by Nancy Willard, because it has angels AND angel food cake. All her mom wants is a cake that her grandmother made for her birthday. The little girl thinks that would be easy enough, but soon discovers that the recipe is more difficult to find and the cake is more complicated to make than she originally thought. Throughout the work, she meets three angels who help her giver her mother exactly what she wants.

hidden

Hidden, by Marianne Curley, is a book about a hidden angel. Ebony knows she has been sheltered for most of her life. She is also aware that she is beginning to change. She is actually beginning to glow. Ebony is about to find out about her past, and why she has been sheltered for so long, because heaven wants its angel back and will fight anyone to get her.

Cooking Light

What kind of post would this be if I didn’t put a cookbook in it? Cooking Light is my secret (well not anymore) favorite cookbook. Mainly because it provides really good recipes that are healthier. I think they have some non-Angelic cakes in the book that are extremely delicious. So pick it up if you like the opportunity to have delicious food with less calories.

I hope you enjoy a piece of cake along with a good book!

-Abbey

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New Beginnings and Back to Basics

It’s that time of year again. Back to School (and Library card sign up month!). This is only the third fall that I am not going back to classes, and it is a whole new experience. So in honor of back to school, I picked out some of my favorite books that I would read during the school year and that anyone can request with a library card.

to kill a mockingbird

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I first read this book when I was a Sophomore in high school and it is a book that I have actually read over again, and I do not do that often. It’s a well-written book with an excellent story and so many lessons for any reader to take into consideration. Oh and to make this book even better, it’s on the list of Banned Books but is still read widely.

1984 by George Orwell. 1984 is a dystopian novel, and one of the first ones I ever read. It is a big reason why I continue to read dystopian novels. It is a great book that makes the reader think about a lot of different possibilities and is another banned book (are you seeing a pattern?)!

looking for alaska

Last but not least, Looking For Alaska by John Green. Many readers would know John Green because of his book The Fault In Our Stars. It was a great book in my opinion and Looking for Alaska is another great book in his collection. It’s the story of a boy and his adventures and lessons during his time at school. If you are looking for other recommendations, you don’t have to look very far because CLP has a Back to School, Teens page!

Whether these are repeat reads for some or new recommendations for others, I hope this post inspires you to pick up a new book in celebration of the new school year.

— Abbey

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The YA Controversy

Occasionally when I know that I should write a blog, I struggle to come up with something to write about. When that happens, I go to GoodReads and look at my list of books that I’ve read to try and scrounge up some ideas or themes. Occasionally even when I go to the site, I still struggle to come up with an idea.

That’s what happened this time around, so I decided to just Google some favorite categories. For example, the always changing border of adult and young adult fiction. The idea that sometimes “kids books” are really excellent books for adults and sometimes “adult” books are really good books for young adults. The problem with this border is that the age range for young adult books is in flux. Depending on who you talk to, the age range can be from 13-25, 13-40, or 13-17. It just depends. I was looking for more books that I could recommend that was on the border when I happened upon this article.

I have heard that this article is “old news” now, but it still made me think about a couple of things and made me frustrated with the notion that ANYONE should be embarrassed about what they read, and that anyone should be able to tell someone that what they are reading is wrong/inappropriate/not literary enough. The article also made me think about the labels of books in general. I feel as though I have read books that should belong in young adult fiction but have been labeled as adult fiction instead and vice versa.

Here are two books, that I believe truly blur the lines of young adult and adult fiction. One has been categorized as adult fiction and one is young adult. Can you tell the difference? Is it obvious which is which? Oh! And no cheating!

queen of tearlingThe Queen of Tearling is about a girl who must learn how to become a queen. When her mother dies, Kelsea must learn about her past and the past of the country she will eventually come to rule. Facing sorcery and other dangers, she must battle for the light in a land full of dark.

divinersThe Diviners tells the story of a couple of characters who live in New York. There seems to be something in the air, because several begin to discover and become more accustomed to their secret powers.

I hope you enjoy the books, or don’t but either way it’s your choice.

Abbey

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Red Rising (and rising)

YA lit easily makes up 40% of my reading choices  — don’t get me started on that Slate piece. For the past few years, a number of those books have been of the dystopian variety, most of which has been really interesting (please check out Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy or Neal Schusterman’s Unwind series for some underrated selections), but I had finally hit the wall when it came to scary prospective futures.

Or so I thought. Let us welcome a new contender to the arena, Pierce Brown and the start of his Red Rising trilogy. I was knocked a bit sideways by this one and have made it my duty to spread the good word.

Our hero is a sixteen year old Helldiver (a skilled driller who works deep under the surface of Mars) named Darrow. In the Mars caste system, he and his family are Reds. They believe that generations of dangerous work to mill precious elements is all to make Mars livable.  After an act of defiance, Darrow finds that everything he knows is a big old lie. Mars was terraformed years ago, with a whole society riding on the slave labor of the Reds.

Darrow is recruited to infiltrate the Golds, the peak of society, at the Institute — a Hunger Games/Battle Royale-style “school” that filters out the best of the best to be future leaders. While some of the elements here are a bit derivative of other books, it all works, and you really don’t care because the book is so engrossing. You completely forget that these are supposed to be kids between the age of 16 and 18. They quickly become fierce warriors, working to literally conquer each other and eliminate their opponents. Brown fills his book with tons of fascinating characters (Sevro will be your favorite, I promise) and forces those characters to come to terms with some hard questions.

The second book, Golden Son, is out early next year. Which is entirely too far away.

Have any books taken you by surprise lately?

– Jess

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Cuts Like An Impossible Knife

Laurie Halse Anderson has made a name for herself by writing young adult fiction that tackles difficult topics like rape and eating disorders, to name just a few. Her no-punches-pulled explorations of tough issues have prompted various classroom bans and challenges, which–as challenges usually do–have only increased her popularity, not just among her target audience, but among adults who read YA fiction. Both sets of readers will find the same issue-driven, unflinching prose in Anderson’s latest novel, The Impossible Knife of Memory; what remains to be seen, however, is how her detractors will respond to her theme, which happens to be combat-related PTSD and its effects on not just veterans, but on their families.

Image via USA Today . Click through to read a Q&A with Anderson

Image obtained from USA Today – click through to read a Q&A with Anderson

Since 2001, over 300,000 veterans have been treated for PTSD at an official VA facility. A 2008 Rand report indicates that many more cases go unreported and/or untreated, due to either fear of stigma or access to adequate medical care, with a resulting cost to the U.S. of $6.2 billion. The Impossible Knife of Memory asks the reader to imagine the stories behind the data with one representative portrait of a father and daughter trying to escape their troubled past.

Andy and Hayley Kincain have just moved back to Andy’s hometown after five years of truck driving and homeschooling on the road. This is supposedly to give Hayley some semblance of a normal life, but the bored, bright teenager is not fitting in well with high school and its comparatively restrictive rules. Of course, it’s hard to concentrate in school when you’re constantly worrying about what’s going on at home, and whether you’ll be seeing normal dad, depressed dad, blackout dad, or flashback dad in any given moment. But Hayley’s just fine, thank you, and she doesn’t need teachers, guidance counselors, friends, or cute boys to help her deal. And yet, they keep trying anyway, much to Hayley’s exasperation.

Told mostly from Hayley’s point of view, but interwoven with haunting images from Andy’s trauma, Anderson has given us a well-crafted portrait of what happens when coping mechanisms no longer work, and things fall apart. The story’s greatest strength, however, is in showing how wounded people can become strong again without losing their dignity or compromising their essential selves, a long, slow process that Anderson skillfully spins out over a series of short, intense chapters. As a result, Hayley and Andy are initially hard to like, but worth getting to know, not only for themselves, but for the untold stories they represent.

“Problem novels” aren’t exactly fun to read, but they are important. They shine light on aspects of the human condition some people would rather keep in the dark. Considering the sacrifices so many men and women have made for their country, I’m grateful to Anderson for making this issue the latest focus of her clear-eyed literary spotlight.

–Leigh Anne

with gratitude to all who have served

 

 

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