Monday, July 27, 2015

Review: The Trouble With Harry

The Trouble With Harry by Katie MacAlister. Sourcebooks Casablanca. 2014. Library copy.


The Plot: Regency England. Lord Harry Rosse thought he'd faced danger as a spy. But that he could handle... what he can't handle is life, now, raising five children alone. What he needs, what he wants, is a wife: someone to love his children, with all their antics and high spirits. Such high spirits he sometimes hides from them...

A wife for company and companionship. Not one of those pretty young things only interested in his title and status, eager for children of her own.

So he places an ad for a wife, leaving out a few details. Like the children. And the title. Or his past as a spy.

Plum sees the advertisement for a wife and thinks its the answer. All she wants is a decent man; the chance to have a child of her own; someone who will be kind to her the niece she's raised; and someone she can respect. She doesn't deliberately leave out details -- like her disastrous elopement twenty years ago, to a man who already had a wife. (She didn't know!! He lied!) Or that book she wrote under an assumed name, the book that helped support her when her family and friends and society shunned her for her involvement with a married man.

The Good: The Trouble with Harry was a lot of fun: it's like a sexytimes Nanny McPhee. The children are terrible, and cause so much problems. I kept giggling as I read it.

This is one of the titles recommended back when I asked about books featuring those 40 and over: Plum is 40, Harry is 45. Each are hiding secrets, and those secrets come create problems for them. But what I liked is that despite those secrets they are keeping from each other, they are honest with each other in what matters: their emotions and their feelings. Both are also frank about their attraction and physical needs and desire for each other. Perhaps more than frank -- let's just say that the book Plum wrote isn't some Jane Austen or Bronte inspired work of art.

Because both are older, Harry and Plum are for the most part secure in who they are. They don't have unrealistic expectations of each other; Harry particularly doesn't want some young wife full of romantic dreams. But that earned dose of reality is what makes their relationship and growing love so romantic and meaningful.

So, thank you very much for the recommendation, and I look forward to reading the others in this series!




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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Monday, July 13, 2015

Review: Taking The Heat

Taking the Heat (Jackson: Girls' Night Out) by Victoria Dahl. Harlequin. 2015. Reviewed from ARC.

Taking the HeatThe Plot: Veronica Chandler is "Dear Veronica" for the Jackson, Wyoming local paper, the voice of wisdom offering funny and on-target advice for young and old, on everything from family relationships to sex.

The thing is, she's hiding something -- she feels like a big fake. Yes, she has common sense, a sense of humor, the research skills and writing skills that make "Dear Veronica" such a success. What she doesn't have, well, is the real-life experience everyone thinks she has.

Everyone thinks that she's the local girl who went to New York City and came back full of wisdom and experience. What they don't know is that NYC was nothing like Veronica had dreamed it would be. What they don't know is she came home because she had no where else to go. What they don't know is she's never been in love. What they don't know is she's a 27 year old virgin.

Gabe MacKenzie is the hot new guy in town. He's the new librarian, and while he's originally from New York City he's not a big-city guy. He loves that his new job allows him plenty of time for rock-climbing and hiking. He doesn't love that it's only for a year: family obligations are pulling him back to New York. He's not looking for anything long term or anything serious. And then he meets Veronica.

The Good: This is the most recent book in Dahl's Girls' Night Out series, and it's the third in that series to feature a librarian. Since it's set in a small town (well, small when it's not tourist season) it makes sense that the library is an important place in the lives of the members of the small town.

Familiar characters from the other books make appearances, but this story is all Veronica's. There are many, many things I enjoy about Dahl's books and this one doesn't disappoint. The characters are interesting, real, and complex. Veronica isn't a virgin for reasons of religion, morality, or desire -- it's just that her timing has never been right. In high school and college she was concentrating on grades so that she could get a job in NYC; and then NYC let her down. She returned home to discover that what she wanted in life was what her home town had to offer.

And the sexytimes are terrific, as well as what leads up to it -- Veronica revealing her big secret to Gabe is one of my favorite scenes.

Gabe, as I said, is in Wyoming for a year; Veronica doesn't know that, and I like that the tension between the two of them was Gabe keeping this secret from her. And that his motivations for this were explored -- how his desire to be a "nice guy" by not bringing up a possible conflict was itself problematic. That "protecting" someone by not mentioning something was not protecting at all.

Also good were both Gabe's and Veronica's family situations. As I said, Gabe's family is the reason he has to return to NYC and his situation was believable and sympathetic with a good resolution. Veronica's father is a gruff, distant, and demanding man -- I need to go back and reread Flirting with Disaster (Jackson: Girls' Night Out Book 2) to remind myself of how others saw and interpreted these two. While at times I wanted to throw things at him, I found his actions, and his daughter's reactions, realistic.

Bottom line: It's Victoria Dahl. If you haven't read her books, start now, and honestly you can start anywhere with any title. The books may be interconnected but they are not dependent on each other. The only problem you'll have is the problem I face: the desire to read them all at once balanced against wanting there to always be a new-to-me Dahl book around when I need one.

What else? It's a Favorite Book of 2015, needless to say. And under "readalikes" I think this one may work for New Adult readers. While Victoria is older than most NA heroines, she is negotiating those things that NA is about: trying to establish her career, not sure what to do about career or life, trying to get independence, and love and sex. It's just, for reasons, those things happen a bit later for her; and, again for reasons, people looking at her think she has her act together when she hasn't. Or, rather, she thinks she doesn't have her act together.




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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Monday, July 06, 2015

Teaser - These Shallow Graves

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly. Delacorte Press. 2015. Reviewed from ARC. Publication date October 27, 2015.

These Shallow Graves by A historical mystery!

In 1890's New York City, Josephine Montfort has everything: she's young, she's rich, her parents adore her, she has good friends. Soon, she'll be engaged to the handsome and rich young man who has been a good friend since childhood. She wants to be a reporter, like Nelly Bly, and puts together the school paper.

All that changes when her father is found dead in his locked study, a gun in his hand. An accident.

Jo can't understand how the accident happened....she does what a proper young lady should not do.

She asks questions. Searching for answers leads her out of her protected, cossetted world, into the rough and tumble streets of New York, the world she's been protected from. A world of shallow graves.

Yes, put this on your radar -- it's a great mystery, but it's also a great look at female roles and expectations, and sexism, and how people can be too protected.


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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Looking for recommendations....

Sometimes, I'm reading for outside reasons (right now,  I'm reading YA for the Edwards Award, and New Adult for various articles and webinars) - and sometimes I read for me.

Fanning the FlamesDon't get me wrong, I love YA and New Adult, but the truth is, I like to mix up what I'm reading. And after months reading about teens or young twentysomethings, I want a change -- I want to read about characters that, well, are closer to my age. (This desire is one of the reasons I'm sympathetic to the reader-driven aspect of New Adult, of people wanting to read about those in their own age group.)

So that's the long introduction to me asking you for recommendations.

I want romances featuring women over forty. I prefer contemporary or historical.

Last year, via twitter, I asked for older women/younger men recommendations, leading me to Victoria Dahl. (Alas, I didn't keep that list here -- it's lost in a old tweets.) I'm reading my way through all her books, but the one that introduced me to her was Bad Boys Do (older woman/younger man, with the woman in her mid-30s). Dahl's newest series starts with a novella (Fanning the Flames: A Girls' Night Out novella ) featuring two forty-somethings (a librarian and a firefighter.)

I also began my over-40 request on twitter Sunday morning, and got the following recommendations. Please chime in with your opinions on these titles or other suggestions!

Pleasure Rush (New York Sabers Football Book 4) by Farrah Rochon

The Trouble With Harry by Katie MacAlister

Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie

Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie

Books by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

A Bad Day for Sorry: A Crime Novel (Stella Hardesty Crime Series Book 1) by Sophie Littlefield

Apples Should Be Red by Penny Watson

Any other suggestions? Thanks!










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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Edwards Award: Who Was Margaret A Edwards?

If all these posts about the Edwards Award makes you want to know more about the woman the Award was named for, here you go!

At the YALSA website: Who Is Margaret Edwards and What Is This Award Being Given In Her Honor? by Betty Carter. This is an article that originally appeared in The ALAN Review, Spring 1992, 45 - 48.

And, also at the YALSA website, some Award Facts.



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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Edwards Award: Winners!

So who has received the Edwards Award?

The 2015 Winner is Sharon M. Draper. And yes, my fingers are crossed that I'll be able to attend the Edwards Brunch in June.

And here is the list to previous winners:


1988 S.E. Hinton
1990 Richard Peck
1991 Robert Cormier
1992 Lois Duncan
1993 M.E. Kerr
1994 Walter Dean Myers
1995 Cynthia Voigt
1996 Judy Blume
1997 Gary Paulsen
1998 Madeleine L'Engle
1999 Anne McCaffrey
2000 Chris Crutcher
2001 Robert Lipsyte
2002 Paul Zindel
2003 Nancy Garden
2004 Ursula K. Le Guin
2005 Francesca Lia Block
2006 Jacqueline Woodson
2007 Lois Lowry
2008 Orson Scott Card
2009 Laurie Halse Anderson
2010 Jim Murphy
2011 Sir Terry Pratchett
2012 Susan Cooper
2013 Tamora Pierce
2014 Markus Zusak




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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Edwards Award: Selection, Administration, Publisher Solictation

And a little more about the Edwards Award, from the YALSA website.



Selection

A committee of five, including the chair, will be responsible for the final selection of the recipient of the Award. Input may be solicited from the field, including librarians and young adults, but the selection will be made by the committee. Input should be received by the chair of the committee by November 1. The selection of the winner award will be made at the ALA Midwinter Meeting preceding the Annual Conference at which the award is to be presented.

Administration

The five member selection committee is virtual and will serve an 18 month term. A new committee will be charged with the selection of the recipient for each annual award. Two members of the committee will be appointed by the YALSA President-Elect and three members will be elected from names placed on the YALSA ballot. The chair of the committee will be appointed by the President-Elect from among the five members. This appointment will take place immediately after the election results are known. Committee members are not eligible for consecutive reappointment but they can stand for election to the subsequent committee.

Publisher solicitation

The Ethical Behavior Policy for Volunteers and the Award Committees Conflict of Interest Policy outline appropriate interactions between committee members and publishers.

The chair and/or administrative assistant are responsible for contact with the publishers. Committee members must not solicit publishers for free personal copies of books. If members receive, or are offered, unsolicited copies of books from publishers, they may accept the titles.

Committee members must not solicit publishers for favors, invitations, etc. If members receive these, however, they will use their own judgment in accepting. Publishers understand that such acceptance in no way influences members' actions or selections.

So basically the time-frame means a lot of reading and rereading over the next few months, and then a decision next fall/early winter. So I'll be pretty busy!

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Edwards Award: Sponsor and Presentation

And a little more about the Edwards Award, from the YALSA website.



Sponsor

School Library Journal is the award's donor and funds the award and administrative cost. The recipient receives a cash prize of $2,000 plus an appropriate citation.

Presentation

The award (cash prize and citation) will be presented to the winning author at the YALSA luncheon or other gala affair at the ALA Annual Conference. The author is required to attend the event to accept the award and to make a short acceptance speech.

Currently, the presentation is made at a brunch during ALA. I've attended the event both as a lunch event and as the brunch, and both ways it's a great event.


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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

ASCLA Interface Interview

One of the ALA groups I'm a part of is ASCLA, the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies.

ASLCA's newsletter is Interface, available online. And I was highlighted in their recent Member Spotlight!

So if you want to know about the library job that pays the bills, head over to the ASCLA Newsletter.





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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Edwards Award: Criteria

And a little more about the Edwards Award, from the YALSA website.

Last time, the definitions pretty much set what authors are books are eligible. But what is the criteria to make a selection?



Criteria

The committee making its selection of nominees must be aware of the entire range of books for young adults and will take into account the following:

Does the book(s) help adolescents to become aware of themselves and to answer their questions about their role and importance in relationships, society and in the world?

Is the book(s) of acceptable literary quality?

Does the book(s) satisfy the curiosity of young adults and yet help them thoughtfully to build a philosophy of life?

Is the book(s) currently popular with a wide range of young adults in many different parts of the country?

Do the book(s) serve as a "window to the world" for young adults?


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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Edwards Award: Definitions

And a little more about the Edwards Award, from the YALSA website.



Definitions

"Author" may be an individual or a co-author. The author must be living at the time of the nomination. In the case of co-authors, one must be living. If an author continues to write books of interest and appeal to young adults, then he or she may receive the award more than once as warranted, as long as it is not more frequently than every six years.

"Book or books" indicates either a title or titles written specifically for young adults, or those titles written for adults, which continue to be requested and read by young adults. The title or titles must be in-print at the time of nomination. Only those titles of an author's work which meet the criteria of the award will be cited.

"Over a period of time" means that the book or books must have been published in the United States no less than five years prior to the first meeting of the current Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee at the Midwinter Meeting. The five year period is stipulated so that the book or books have had enough time to filter down, i.e., reach a wide level of distribution, and to be accepted by young adults.

"Continues to illuminate their experiences and emotions" means that the book or books have become a literary cornerstone for young adults.

As you can see, the author must be living at the time of nomination; and that an author may receiver the award more than once.

Also, the books must have been published "no less than five years" prior to the first meeting of the Edwards Award.



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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Edwards Award: Terms and Committee Makeup

And a little more about the Edwards Award, from the YALSA website. While this may be the boring stuff, it's still important to know how this all works. For example, that it's virtual and there are five members; and the other YALSA policies that apply.




Terms

The award is given annually to an author whose book or books, over a period of time, have been accepted by young adults as an authentic voice that continues to illuminate their experiences and emotions, giving insight into their lives. The book or books should enable them to understand themselves, the world in which they live, and their relationship with others and with society. The book or books must be in print at the time of the nomination.

Members who have served two consecutive years as a member and/or administrative assistant may not be appointed to the same committee for three years from the conclusion of their last term. This guideline will not apply to the Chair.  In extreme circumstances, and at the President’s discretion, an exception may be made if a committee member resigns suddenly.  The President, after discussion with the Committee Chair, may determine that the best course of action is to fill the vacancy with an experienced committee member, and appoint a member in good standing who successfully served on the committee in question during the previous three years.

Committee Makeup

How many members, length of term, etc.

Edwards is a virtual committee.  Two committee members are appointed by YALSA's President-Elect and three are elected to serve a 18 month term. There are 5 voting committee members, including the chair. Each term begins Feb. 1st and ends the following June 30th. If someone resigns, the current President of YALSA may appoint a new person to finish out that particular term.

Responsibilities of regular committee positions

Additional information about committee member responsibilities is available from YALSA's Handbook.  All committee members must comply with YALSA's Policies, as presented in the online Handbook, including: Social Media Policy, Ethical Behavior Policy for Volunteers and the Award Committees Conflict of Interest Policy.


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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Review: Gone Crazy in Alabama

Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia. Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins. 2015. Reviewed from ARC. Companion to One Crazy Summer (2010) and P.S. Be Eleven (2013).

The Plot: It's the summer of 1969, and sisters Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are back. This time, they're off to spend the summer in the south, in Alabama, with their grandmother and great grandmother. They will learn about the things that keep family together, and what keeps family apart. And they'll have fun and tears along the way.

The Good: When I wrote about One Crazy Summer, about the sisters spending the summer of 1968 with their estranged mother, I said, "I want a second book. I want to spend more time with the Gaither sisters. I want One Crazy Summer to be the start of a new series, like All Of A Kind Family / Betsy-Tacy / Little House on the Prairie."

Confession: when the second book, P.S. Be Eleven, was published in 2013 I didn't read it. I have a copy, it was just... I haven't read it. Yet. Which right now I'm actually glad about, for two reasons: it means I still have an unread book about the Gaither sisters, and it means that I can say with full confidence that these books stand alone.

The girls are now 12, 10, and 8; their father has remarried, his new wife is expecting (don't worry, the girls love her and she loves them), and the girls are going to Alabama to visit Big Ma, their grandmother.

The things I love about this book: the three girls are sent, alone, by bus, from New York City to Alabama. Delphine has the responsibility for getting them all their safely, but their father also relies on the other children and families who are traveling from the city to their families and relatives in the south. Here is a glimpse at a different time and place, where the father trusts his daughters (and the other travelers) yet at the same time cautions his daughters -- Alabama isn't New York. Be careful what you say to and around white people.

Once in Alabama, the action is mostly with family members. You see, Big Ma's mother, Ma Charles, has a half-sister Miss Trotter who she never speaks to. Miss Trotter's great-grandson, JimmyTrotter, is a friend to all three girls. The family secret is this: Ma Charles and Miss Trotter were born the same year. Their father married both their mothers. It's a complicated situation, learned through the eyes of twelve-year-old Delphine. Jealousy and other things keep these two women apart, yet geography and blood and shared relatives keep them together.

And it gets an additional layer of confusion when Delphine finds out that the Charles side of her family is related to a white family in town. Or, as Ma Charles puts it, "the white side." A family who is clearly racist, and maybe worse. And everyone knows about it but few people talk about. There are no easy answers or explanations; instead, it's presenting matter of fact truths: the ways that people talked to each other. The things that could and could not be said. The words used. The frustrations and fears.

Since this is about the Gaither sisters, once again Williams-Garcia captures sisterhood perfectly. These are sisters who fight fiercely and love even more fiercely. Who crave both independence and support. The way these girls interact is real and true; and also, look at that cover! Who wouldn't want to be them? To be friends with them? To have those amazing 1960s clothes?

And heck yes, a Favorite Book in 2015. With fingers crossed and much hope that this is not the last time we visit with Delphine, Vonetta, Fern, and the rest of their family.








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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Review: All The Rage

All the Rage by Courtney Summers. St. Martin's Griffin. 2015. Reviewed from ARC.

The Plot: Romy is an outsider in her small town for so many reasons. Her father, the drunk; her mother, who married too young and just moved in with her new boyfriend. The new boyfriend who has never really held a full time job, living off government checks in the shabby house he inherited from his mother.

And at school, Romy is known as a liar, a target for ridicule and mockery.

She can escape to her work in a small diner, where people know her and like her and she doesn't have all the baggage of who her family is and isn't and what Romy did and didn't do. Where she can be herself; or at least, one version of herself. A version where people don't know about her and her family and her past.

Until the day Penny, one of Romy's tormentors, shows up at her work and refuses to leave.

The next day, both Romy and Penny are missing. Romy is found, with little or no memory of the night before. Penny is missing, and that just brings more torment to Romy because anyone looking for her meant they weren't looking for Penny.

What did Penny tell Romy? And what will Romy do now?

The Good: All the Rage is so good! It's a painful story because Romy's story is painful to read, but it's an important story because her pain, her anger, her age, her story is not unique.

This is not an attractive look at a small town and it's inhabitants, in part because it is Romy's story and she sees the worst around her. Yes, her father is a drunk who got fired, but the story behind shows a man in pain who didn't know what to do. Yes, her parents were young teenagers when they had Romy, but her mother is a kind and compassionate woman who is doing the best she can for her daughter. The new boyfriend is actually an old friend of her mother's, who is kind and loving. These are people without much money, and with no power, but they love Romy.

Sometimes, love isn't enough.

Romy had had a crush on a boy, back when she still had friends. The boy was popular and well liked, and his family was well connected in the town. And because she liked him, and dressed up for the party, because she wanted to be kissed, no one believed her when she said she said no. And so she became the liar, the outcast. Penny went from being a good friend to one of those siding against her. Until the day Penny came to see Romy.

Romy is angry but trying to contain her anger, trying to survive it by going to work at the diner but that illusion disappears when Penny shows up, when her work-self and home-self can no longer be kept separate. Her anger is fierce and sad and lonely; it comes out in many ways. Upon learning that a friend has had a baby, her first thought is please, let it not be a girl. It is a girl. When she holds the child for the first time, she thinks of how hard her life will be, how hard a girl's life always is.

Because all Romy can think of is how she was hurt and betrayed: how the price for having a crush on a boy, for wanted to look pretty, was to be called a liar who was trying to ruin a poor boy's life. Of course, both those things meant she had to have said yes to him; she could not possibly have said no. How can she not be angry and full of rage, to live in a world where the default view of a woman is that a boy has a right to her body, based on her clothes and her crush?

My heart was broken again and again for Romy, for the pain she was in, for her isolation. For how the world turned against her, because it was easier to not believe her. Because not believing her meant that the world still made sense. Because it's not real until it happens to you.

But Romy is one thing, besides being angry and full of rage. She's a survivor. She will survive, even if it takes time. She will survive, even if it takes her time to heal. And she's going to have hard choices to make, not only because of what happened to her, but also because of what happened to Penny.

This is a Favorite Book of 2015. And I wish I could say more about Romy and her journey, and about Penny and what happened to her, but this is about getting you to read the book, and go on Romy's journey with her. Not to judge her.

One last thing, but in a way an important thing: Romy wears red lipstick and red nail polish. She puts it on with care, with dedication. The lipstick and nail polish is sometimes to establish her identity, "I'm still here and real"; sometimes it's a protection, a wall of defense to hide behind; and sometimes it's armor, to give herself strength. I'm not much of a nail polish person, I go in cycles with using it (I have bad nails and little patience, not a good combination for painting one's nails), and this book made me dig out my nail polish, and to see it as something more than a way to be pretty.



















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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
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