Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Andy Hallett

Andy Hallett played Lorne (the Host) on Angel.

He died on March 29; he was only 33 years old.

I'm a but surprised to realize how young he was when he played Lorne.





PopWatch at EW.

The LA Times Obituary.

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

Being Erica


Being Erica. SoapNet. TV show for grown ups.

Being Erica is about Erica Strange, age 32, single, between jobs, and Canadian. (OK, it's a Canadian show. But ever since Degrassi and ENG, I've enjoyed Canadian TV.)

The Hollywood-pitch: "Imagine 13 Going on 30, but in reverse! Instead of learning life's important lessons by being an insta-grown up, she learns them by going into the past."

I had thought that this was going to be a stuck in the past show; and, what with it being Canadian and on an odd TV channel, thought why not?

Oh. my. This? It's my new "look at what I discovered! It's the best show! You must watch!"

About the back in time thing. What happens is this; in the first episode, Erica feels like she's made every possible wrong choice one can make: in career, school, life, family, friendships, personal life. You name it; she did it wrong. Erica goes to see a psychiatrist, and lists all her "wrong decisions" ever. Turns out the Doctor can send her back! in! time! It's a short-term thing; and no, it's not to "fix" the past. It's to confront her own decisions and how she views them.

So, can you change the past? Or do you just change how you feel about the past? Interestingly, so far, Erica changes a few details here and there, but has yet to change anything that significantly alters the present. There's no waking up to a different job, a husband, a toddler she didn't have before the back! in! time!

If anything, once Erica sees the truth of the past -- that a decision was not wrong; that it's as much how you handle a mistake as having made that mistake; that when confronted with choices, one is not right, one is not wrong; she gains more confidence in herself.

Will she change anything that alters the present? Well, with divorced parents; a tragically dead brother; and a sister about to marry the worst guy ever.... yeah. I think we may see some bigger changes, though her Doctor insists that it isn't possible.

For the first few eps, we saw the same actress as the back-in-time Erica, because it was High School and University. But then... this last one was Erica going back to her Bat Mitzvah (did I mention she's Jewish?); and it was a younger actress, who did a great job acting as a 32 year old in a 13 year old's body (and did a kick-ass job of remembering her Torah portion after almost 20 years!) And so cute to see the grown up Erica appreciating her family, her party, and all; and ignore the things that embarrass real thirteen year olds.

Other good bits: the clothes, slang, and music from the past. Half the time I'm thinking, "OMG, I owned that dress!" or "I love that song!" Erica's friends and family are not only great -- there is some very nuanced story-telling going on, as they have to present themselves at different times, in different emotional places. Since it's Canadian, there are some Degrassi alum.





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

Monday, March 30, 2009

The SLJ Battle of the Books is Here!

I've posted about it over at Pop Goes the Library.

I'm looking forward to the SLJ Battle; and the whole idea of comparing such different books is intriguing.

Here is the first round of books (and remember, 30% off at Flying Pig Books) (Because of the Flying Pig involvement, I will not be doing my usual Amazon linking.)

Round 1 (Week of April 13th)

Match 1: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves vs Ways to Live Forever. So, we have historical fiction for teens by an established American author (male) vs a contemporary book for middle grade readers, about a boy who is dying, a debut by an British author (female).

Match 2: The Graveyard Book vs The Trouble Begins at 8. Suspenseful ghost story by a rock star British author who lives in US vs a nonfiction book about a rock star author, Mark Twain, by an established American author. Both men; both writing for the same age group (and both books go beyond the target age group).

Match 3: Chains vs Washington at Valley Forge. Historical fiction set in the Revolutionary War era, by an award winning American author (female) (ages 10 and up) vs a nonfiction Picture Book for older readers about the Revolutionary War by a Newbery Award winning author (male). Both books not only are for the same age group; both are set in roughly the same geographic area (mid Atlantic states).

Match 4: Here Lies Arthur vs Tender Morsels. Historical fiction for teens about King Arthur by well known British author (male) vs fantasy in quasi-medieval world by award winning Australian author (known mostly in US for her short stories). Both are for teens.

Match 5: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks vs We Are the Ship. Realistic fiction for teens by popular American author (female) vs nonfiction picture book by respected American author (male). First for teens, second for middle grade and teens.

Match 6: The Hunger Games vs The Porcupine Year. To the death fantasy for teens by author best known for her younger fantasy books, first in a series, by female author, American vs historical fiction for middle grade/older readers by American author who has written for children before but is more well known for writing for adults.

Match 7: Graceling vs The Underneath . Fantasy book for teens by debut author, female, vs middle grade book by debut author, female.

Match 8: The Lincolns vs Nation. Nonfiction book for ages 9 and up by well known American author, female, vs alternate universe historical fiction by rock god author, British, male.

OK, it is wrong to boil these books down to such basics that really don't matter. Still, it's interesting, for me, to see how many of these are for older readers and teens. It's interesting what I don't see; no Jellicoe Road, for example, yet every Printz Honor; on the Newbery side of the table, only one of the Honor books. Three of the five NBA nominees are here, but not the winner (the three are the ones that also won ALA honors).

I'd love to know the discussions that went on to reach these sixteen books!

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

mothers & children


Mothers & Children. National Geographic. 2009. Copy supplied by publisher. Non Fiction. Available from publisher, as well as from sites like Amazon.

Photographs from around the world of mothers and children.

It's a small book; I was expecting something like that Sisters book from the 1990s, big and oversized and only fitting on the coffee table.

This is a smaller book; more intimate, less showy, easier to hold, to look at together, to share. The photos are of mothers and children, small and grown, from around the world and different times. Credits give the location of the photograph and the name of the photographer; by omitting the names of the people in the photos, and by not saying anything about them, the people -- despite age, race, ethnicity -- become every person. A photo album for all of us.

My favorites? It has changed each time I look at this book. First time, it was the sleeping baby in a background of red fabric (Shenyang, Manchuria); then it was the upside-down children, laughing, parents legs in the background, holding the kids upside down (Red Lodge, Montana). When I read it again, for this post, it changed to the parent saying farewell to their son, a soldier, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Non Fiction Monday: at Tales From The Rushmore Kid

Links: (interesting to read the ones that are photography blogs!)
My Twitter Review
Portals & KM review
Epic Edits Weblog review
Meditations On A Moment review
blogs of photographers review

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

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Books, They Keep-a Battling

So now this Tournament of Books, wherein Frankie lost, has a zombie round, where Frankie lost again.

As you know, since I was busy reading other things, I did not read any of the other ToB books. I've only skimmed the non-Frankie entries. If I had read the other books, I'm sure it would be more interesting and I'd be more invested in what is said, etc.

For you other non-ToB followers.

There is one judge for the book versus book; here, in the zombie round, it was Rosecrans Baldwin. Frankie lost. Baldwin's ultimate conclusion: "Landau-Banks, on the other hand, lacks drama. It’s a book full of tension, but few surprises. Nothing seems to matter very much to the characters, and the story comes out flat. Judging by the Rooster poll, I’m sure there are thousands of fans who disagree with me, but I couldn’t find much to interest me in Landau-Banks and it was a chore to finish."

Huh. Yes, Frankie figuring out issues of patriarchy, love, lust, power, identity, manipulation, those things really don't matter much to the characters, did they? It's not like Frankie was permanently scarred or anything. Once again, I wish I had Jennifer Weiner to discuss this with.

Next, the official commentary by Kevin Guilfoile and John Warner. Warner supports and likes Frankie; but I am curious about one thing. Warner writes, "E. Lockhart makes Frankie’s foundational dilemma clear very early on in the book, on page seven no less, “She had never been in love.”" Again, later, Warner is clear that this is a book about teen love: "As Doerr notes in a world of “global violence” and “child slavery,” the romantic tribulations of a intelligent, financially secure, recently-blossomed teenage girl seem truly trivial."

People read books. They have their own individual reactions; and yes, we do want to say to someone "you read it wrong," but people's individual reading experiences are their own, and valid. I am not saying Warner read it wrong; but I am curious as to why Warner read it that way.

Frankie is about love? And not just love, "romantic tribulations"? In the comments to this commentary, Meghan points out an aspect of Frankie that isn't about love at all: "[The book] addresses the seemingly-small, but daily, ways in which women are expected to minimize their own strengths in order to please men." Other comments also note that Frankie is about more than her emotions.

I asked at Twitter what readers thought Frankie was about; love wasn't among the responses. Instead I got: "desire, identity, and compromise"; "patriarchy"; "power"; "power"; "belonging"; "I'm not even sure Frankie's about "love" at all--but then I'm 41 & not 14. 14 might say it's love. 41 has diff viewpoint!". If you responded via twitter and I missed you, I'm sorry!

Here's the thing. Frankie loses or doesn't lose in the ToB. It really doesn't matter. It's a fun exercise for people who love books and who love talking about books and isn't that great? I'm looking forward to SLJ's Battle of the Books not because it'll be kids or YA books, but because chances are they are books I have read. Which will make it more interesting to me.

What does matter is how Frankie is being read, even by those who are fans, and I wonder. Personally, (and this, as is everything on this blog, has nothing to do with the Printz committee and is all me me me), I saw Frankie as being about Power, with the love story being the device to explore issues such as gender roles, manipulation, feminism, and belonging, but if I had to use one word it would be Power. And the "every day" love story/ school story is used because it is familiar to readers; and keeps the story from being didactic. The lessons Frankie learns about Power are such that, even tho they are learned (as most teenage lessons are) in the relative comfort of school and friends, they will be ones that shape who and what she becomes.

I wonder about Warner's reading of Frankie -- and, from the judging and other comments, he is not alone. His reading is right to him; I am not saying it is wrong. But I cannot help but wonder... is Frankie read this way because it is a YA book? A book about a girl? A book written by a woman? Why do the adult readers who I speak with, who are mostly female, yes, see something different in Frankie than romance?

To discuss amongst yourself:

Frankie is about railing against the status quo, including the definitions that exist to keep people out. "Oh, Frankie, you cannot be in the Bassets because you are a girl!" By the definition of what is a Basset, you do not fit. To what extent, if any, do the definitions at the Tournament of Books about what is and is not "literary excellence" affect how Frankie fared?

What is Frankie about? And if it is read as just a love story, or just a story about a privileged girl, how does that affect the reading and conclusions made about it?

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

Gimme a C! Gimme a S! Gimme a K!

The Coretta Scott King Award is celebrating it's 40th Anniversary.

Long time readers know that it is always about me, so of course I thought, hey, I was two when this began!

Here's a true story. When I was little, my mother was all about finding the lists of books one should read to one's child. (See where I get my OCD/ love of lists from?)

My mother went to the library in Union, NJ; and found a book with recommended reading lists. Doing the exact right thing a young parent does, looking up books for what to read to your child. One of the books recommended, back in 1968, 1969? Little Black Sambo. For the record? Mom did not check out that book; and did not look for the other "recommended" books on the list.

To me, this story shows, perfectly, why, 40 years ago, the CSK Award was needed. And today? The statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children's Book Council, as reported by Mitali Perkins, show that today "172 books (or only 6% of all books) had significant African or African American content, with 83 books (less than half) by black book creators, either authors and/or illustrators." Because numbers in isolation don't tell us much, Mitali notes that blacks make up 17% of our school's population. So, yeah, the CSK award was needed, and is still needed.

Meghan Clinton put together the following fun facts about the CSK Award (lists! awesome!):

1. Lillie Patterson was the first author to receive the Coretta Scott King Book Award for “Martin Luther King, Jr. Man of Peace.”

2. The author who has won the most Coretta Scott King Book Awards: Walter Dean Myers with five wins.

3. The illustrator who has won the most Coretta Scott King Book Awards: Jerry Pinkney with five wins.

4. Coretta Scott King received a special citation in 1984 for “The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr.”

5. Critically-acclaimed actor, Sidney Poitier, won the Coretta Scott King Book Award in 1981 for “This Life.”

6. Internationally renowned artist, Lev Mills, designed the Coretta Scott King Book Award seal in 1974.

7. The Coretta Scott King Book Award has honored 113 authors and illustrators over the past 40 years.

8. In 1995, Sharon Draper was the first author to win the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award (formerly known as the Genesis Award) for “Tears Of A Tiger.” Three years later, she won her first Coretta Scott King Book Award for “Forged By Fire.”

9. After winning her first Coretta Scott King Book Author Award for “Toning The Sweep” in 1994, Angela Johnson went on to win the 2003 MacArthur “Genius” Award.

10. In 2000, Christopher Paul Curtis became the first author to win the Coretta Scott King Book Award and the Newbery Medal for the same book “Bud, Not Buddy.

11. In 1972, several dozens of librarians gathered for the first Coretta Scott King Book Awards gala breakfast. This year, close to 1,000 are expected to celebrate in Chicago, IL.

12. The 2009 winners of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards are Kadir Nelson, author of “We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball,” and Floyd Cooper, illustrator of “The Blacker the Berry.”

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

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Twitter A Go Go

· so behind on listservs and emails I'm just deleting it all and starting fresh #
· Ignore This If You Don't Want To Read Personal Stuff: Over a year ago I was diagnosed with a cataract in one eye.. tinyurl.com/ddsg26 #
· why must ala make things difficult? last year I could add things to my registration online, now I have to make a phone call. #
· what do you think frankie landau banks is about? love? tinyurl.com/dn7z5c #
· watching toddlers & tiaras. you know, I think this is WORSE for america than rock of love. really. #

Automatically shipped by LoudTwitter

(while automatically shipped by LoudTwitter, I still have to manually cut & paste it into blogger. If you have a better way for posting a day's worth of tweets to a blogger post, let me kow!)

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

Ignore This If You Don't Want To Read Personal Stuff

Over a year ago I was diagnosed with a cataract in one eye; it later turned out I had cataracts in both eyes. In the fall, surgery was advised; and for one reason and another, and one complication or another, the first surgery was yesterday.

So far, all is going extremely well; the eye itself is healthy; and I am already reading better.

Yes, during my Printz year of reading, my ability to read was significantly reduced by the cataract, even with reading glasses. I could not read as speedy as I had in the past; which, in some ways was a good thing, as it turned me into more of a marathon-reader, pacing myself, as opposed to a sprint-reader, going fast, fast, fast. In all honesty, because of the eye strain and eye stress, my reading dropped significantly after this past January. So, that explains the only handful of reviews and rants I've posted.

Fingers crossed, the eye will continue to heal, the vision will get better and better; and I'll find out more about glasses, etc., once both eyes are done. And you'll see an increase in reviews. And rants.

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One Shot Recs Over The Fence: The Real Benedict Arnold

The Real Benedict Arnoldby Jim Murphy. Clarion Books. 2007. Library Copy.

We all know who Benedict Arnold is, right? Even if some of us remember Peter Brady more than Benedict Arnold. (Can you believe I can not find that clip online?)

Murphy explores all aspects of Arnold's character, conduct, and history, to show not just what motivated Arnold's actions (including switching loyalty from the American to the British side) but also Arnold's significant contributions to the Revolutionary War before he switched.

I love non-fiction; but non-fiction, especially non-fiction for teenagers, doesn't seem to get the same attention as fiction. So when Colleen/Chasing Ray suggested that the criteria for selecting a One Shot Rec Over the Fence book be, "this is the one about which you'd say to friends and family, "YOU MUST READ THIS!"" I knew non-fiction would be the way to go. I picked Murphy's The Real Benedict Arnold not only to highlight this book, but Murphy's other nonfiction work, including An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 and Blizzard!: The Storm That Changed America. (I haven't read The Great Fire but I'm looking forward to it.)



The Real Benedict Arnold details the many battles and military actions Arnold fought in. I love learning more about history; like how Arnold was quite successful but had no military experience before 1775. Apparently, being involved with the Sons of Liberty so having some political connections, along with the wealth to fund oneself and one's troops while waiting for payment from the Continental Congress, were the important criteria for military membership. Not to mislead about the wealth -- Arnold was, indeed, born to wealthy parents; before he was twenty, that money was gone, both parents were dead, and Arnold was supporting his sister, Hannah (three of his siblings having died before then). Arnold went into business; his money was earned.

People didn't know who would win the Revolutionary War. What side one was on was not simple. Motivations varied -- politics, family, beliefs. It's so easy to look back and to feel superior, knowing what "we" would have done, what is "right" based on who won and who lost. History should tell us not only what happened; but why; and even better when a book keeps us "in the moment."

We all know what Benedict Arnold did. A book that simply tells us those facts -- snore. But a book that takes those facts and impresses the reader with Arnold's actions before he changed sides; that creates sympathy with the worst type of betrayal -- a traitor!; that somehow makes us hope that it's not going to end the way it will; is exciting, vibrant, and makes it all seem like it is happening now. And that's why we read history; to learn not only what happened, but also why. And to see how we can apply what we learn to today's news and events. What is happening now in the world where a "right" decision isn't clear? And won't be clear for years?

The round-up for One Shot Recs Over the Fence is at Chasing Ray.

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

Monday, March 23, 2009

Do You Know the Way to NJLA?

The NJLA Conference is April 27-29 at the Ocean Place Resort & Spa in Long Branch, NJ.

While I haven't finalized my schedule, I will be at the following:

Monday Preconference:
Services and Literature for Tweens, Speaker: Teri Lesesne www.professornana.com. "This leader in the field of tween services will present unique methods for reaching out to this age group and ways to provide them with dynamic services and engaging literature."

Tuesday
In Defense of Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: How to Talk to Parents about YA Fiction
"Why do teens want to read those “bleak” YA books? How do you explain to an angry parent who knows little about YA literature why certain books are in the teen section? Learn how to express why teens prefer “junk” to “classics,” why it’s okay for their teen to be reading the same book over and over, and why there is nothing wrong with their teen being obsessed with horror or serial killer books!" Jennifer Hubert, Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School, New York

Our Future Patrons "A brief look at how the upcoming generations will likely use technologies in their professional and social lives and their possible expectations of library services. Presenters will offer advice on how libraries may need to adjust their services in order to accommodate these changes and maintain relevance in future years." Carlie Webber, BCCLS (actually I think Jen & Carlie's is at the same time, ack!)

YALSA Happy Hour Road Show "Join other librarians serving teens for an informal networking session where attendees can chat and learn about YALSA. Discover what YALSA can do for you and how you can participate in the fastest growing section of the American Library Association." Moderator: Sarah Debraski, Past President, YALSA

Wednesday
Fandom, Fan Life, and Participatory Culture "A teen's experience with a book doesn't just begin on page one and finish with the book's conclusion. From birthday parties and proms to fanfiction and role-playing games, teens find many ways to recreate a book's universe in their lives, forming fandoms. Our speakers will demystify the weird and wonderful world of fandom and show you how to use the elements of participatory culture to plan interactive, fan-friendly programs for your libraries and classrooms." Liz Burns, NJ State Library, Library for the Blind and Handicapped; Carlie Webber, BCCLS (yes, that's me!!)

Pop Goes the Library: Public Relations Tips & Tricks to Connect with Your Whole Community "If you buy it, will they come? What do you do with the popular materials your patrons request? Get serious about marketing and promoting your pop culture collections! Learn about internal as well as external marketing, create a PR campaign for local stakeholders, and develop & execute a pop culture advocacy plan to make your collections and programs really POP @ your library!" Sophie Brookover, Eastern Regional High School, Voorhees, NJ; Elizabeth Burns, NJ State Library, Library for the Blind and Handicapped (yes, me again!)

Garden State Book Awards Luncheon: John Green "Celebrate this year's winners of the Garden State Book Awards with award-winning and highly acclaimed YA author John Green. Green's debut novel, Looking for Alaska, received the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award, followed by a 2007 Printz Honor for An Abundance of Katherines. His latest novel, Paper Towns, has received multiple starred reviews. In addition to his writing accomplishments, John and his brother Hank have created a major following on YouTube with their vlogbrothers channel. Book signing to follow." BTW, this year's winners include Susan Beth Pfeffer and Ann Bausam.

Keeping It Real: A YA Author's Perspective in Writing Realistic Fiction "Three wildly popular and highly acclaimed Young Adult authors will speak about their experiences as writers of realistic fiction for teens, and about handling book challenges. The session will include a panel discussion and Q&A. Maureen Johnson, author of Suite Scarlett, Girl at Sea, and Devilish; Christopher Krovatin, author of Heavy Metal and You; E. Lockhart, author of The Treasure Map of Boys, Fly on the Wall, and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks" Let me add that E Lockhart's Frankie got a Printz Honor this year. Woot!

Yes, you do have to register. Yes, there is a fee.

Hope to see you there!




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

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dollhouse, Again

I'm still reserving final judgment on Dollhouse. Meaning, I watch, complain about it on Twitter, yet hope that something happens to pull it all together to make me go "wow."

There have been some good moments.

I enjoyed Eliza Dushku doing comedy in the last episode (and wish that Joss had realized that was one of Eliza's talents and concentrated on that for a series.)

Some of the conversation with widower-man. I liked how creepy the widower-man was about his dead wife. I wonder what she would think about the new! improved! Echo! Stepford! version her husband created. And I wonder whose memories/ download they used to create her.

Agent Ballard, Boyd & his investigation and apparent loyalty to Dollhouse, all good (tho it's a bit weird that we'll end up with two men fighting over what is best for a woman, Echo/Caroline).

I'm a bit surprised that some people thought that KickAssEcho was Caroline; it clear to me that she's no more than a Doll for the InsideDollhouse person.

I had predicted Mellie being a Doll; but good storytelling isn't about being "surprised", it's about how well told (and shown) that story is. What intrigues me is that I'm unsure whether Mellie was used to execute someone; or whether it was all done to set up Ballard; and if to set up Ballard, to what extent? Simply for him to trust the InsideDollhouse person, or to have him realize Mellie is a Doll (who does Ballard think killed Intruder Guy), in which case Madeline (er DeWitt) is the InsideDollhouse person.

But here is the thing with Mellie and the Bad Guy: this type of "we could discuss in circles all day long" annoys me as a reader/watcher. Oh, I'm not saying I want it handed to me on a silver platter, all spelled out. I like arguments about what a story means or what happened. I'm good with loose threads and red herrings. I'm not good with obvious manipulation by the storyteller; and sadly, right now, that's what I'm feeling.

I can see and full the puppet strings as Joss manipulates his story and his audience. The man on the street interviews? Joss telling us what he thinks we are thinking and should be thinking; ditto with half of widower-man's conversation with Ballard. To much of the "is this or is this not Dollhouse activity / game playing" falls into the same type of manipulation.

I'm still bothered by some lacks of logic that I hope get examined. Why are all the dolls so cute and fit and purty? Rich men and women have fetishes and odd desires, just like the rest of us. And isn't the burglar/spy doll who no ones remembers because they are average better than the one who should be on a cover of a magazine? I don't believe that no one wants to pay for someone beyond the Hollywood ideal of beauty.

Ah, the Hollywood ideal of beauty. That is what this show is really about, isn't it? Not about feminism (despite the Joss interviews I've stopped listening to because I don't like feeling like I'm a college freshman being lectured by a grad student). It's about industries like TV that would love if their talent (actors, directors, etc.) were Dolls who did exactly what the studio wanted them to do; and Joss's anger at Fox about this. Anyway, that's my theory.

Tho about that theory and the last episode...it could also mean that the Dollhouse is really about employers (especially the military, always the bad guy of choice for some) creating a perfect, unquestioning workforce. Hey, publishers, imagine the author who churns out bestsellers without missing a deadline or wanting to write outside their genre? Who never complains about a booksigning? This works a lot better for me than the feminism metaphor Joss tells me. (And makes me wonder what Joss really thinks about what his show is about; and what is marketing.)

Which, by the way, leads me to another point for any author. If you have to tell me what your book/movie/TV show is really about? Instead of letting me discover it on my own? You're doing it wrong.


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

Friday, March 20, 2009

Moving and Shaking

I was so excited about Carlie's getting this huge honor that I only just looked over the rest of the 2009 Movers & Shakers list.

So, in no particular order, as I'm not playing favorites:

I was pleased to see Nancy Keane, champion of booktalking;

Susan Conlon and Allison Santos, two librarians I know from NJLA Committees, both pretty awesome ladies;

Laverne Mann, another NJ librarian, yay!

and YALSA Members Julie Scordato and Maureen Ambrosino

Congrats to these librarians and all the Library Journal Movers & Shakers!

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

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Melissa Rabey: Printz Interview

As mentioned earlier, Melissa Rabey, who contributes to Tea Cozy and Pop Goes the Library and the YALSA blog, as well as has her own blog, Librarian by Day, is running for the 2011 Printz. Melissa is a teen librarian at the C. Burr Artz branch of the Frederick Co. (MD) Public Library and will be sharing her expertise in historical fiction to the YALSA Genre Galaxy preconference in Chicago this June. And, she has YALSA experience on several committees, including Popular Paperbacks and Organization & Bylaws.

Tea Cozy: Tell us something about yourself.

Melissa Rabey: In some ways, I think I'm more interesting because of the things I can't do. I'm unable to snap my fingers, and I can hardly whistle. To hear me sing is to wish for me to stop--quickly.

Yet I think this lack of ability has actually helped me. I spend a lot of time contemplating ideas and talking them over with others, so I don't make snap judgments.

I'm determined to help other people get a chance to sing their own song--just like the Mama Cass song says.

And although I can't whistle while I work, I do try to stay positive and proactive, and not just at work.

Tea Cozy: Name one YA title, published pre-1998, that would have made an excellent Printz Award winner.

Melissa Rabey: I know that there's lots of people who would support either Rats Saw Godby Rob Thomas or Weetzie Batby Francesca Lia Block as the best answer to this question. And both of those books are fantastic examples of the quality of young adult literature.

But there's another book, one which has stuck with me ever since I read it: Eva by Peter Dickinson. I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it, but the plot twist in this novel still gives me the willies, five years after I read it. In addition, the language and characterization in this novel are rich and compelling; without this, an interesting idea would fall flat.

I think the best books have two aspects: what they're saying and how they're saying it. I feel Eva succeeds on both counts, and therefore would have been my pick for a Printz Award, if this award had existed in 1989.

Tea Cozy: What has prepared you to read for the Printz?

Melissa Rabey: Over the last nine months, I've been consciously preparing for the Printz Committee. I started a blog to review teen literature and have started posting at Liz Burns' Tea Cozy blog. At my blog, I evaluated the Morris Award shortlist as a way to practice my analytical skills. I served on the Maryland Author Award committee, reviewing the works of young adult authors with Maryland ties in order to select a winner. In this period, I've strived to read more books in general, and to read these books in a more critical manner.

Yet I've also been preparing for the Printz committee ever since I became a teen librarian. I've always sought to be aware of the important and/or popular books published for teens, and to read as many as I could. Through my service on Popular Paperbacks, I learned how to manage a reading workload and discuss books with my colleagues.

I feel that this mix of conscious and unconscious planning has me as ready as possible for the Printz committee. I don't know if anyone is really prepared for the amount of work that's involved in the Printz committee, but I think I can do a good job. I hope you believe that, too.

Tea Cozy: What's your area of pop culture expertise?

Melissa Rabey: I seem to be an expert at nitpicking historical inaccuracies in movies and TV shows. I understand why history gets changed to create or enhance drama--or at least, what's seen as drama. I feel that if you can't see the tragedy, the humor, the entertainment in historical fact, you've got an unusual definition of drama. It's for this reason I haven't watched any of The Tudors : it's a marvelous time period, full of sex and fights and political wranglings, yet all that isn't interesting enough on its own, apparently. But if, in the end, a show like the Tudors gets people more interested in history, then I can't really complain all that much.

Tea Cozy: I guess I should confess now that I've never read Eva. Oh, well, I better start reading! Thanks, Melissa!

As a reminder to all YALSA members:

Here's the official YALSA slate

And video interviews with the candidates, including Melissa

The Election category on the blog with all Election information

Cross-posted at Pop Goes the Library

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

Don't Look Now...There's a Ghost!

Intellectually, I know there are ghostwriters. And that they write for more than, say, celebrity authors or Nancy-Drew-ish series.

Still, when I read Scott Westerfeld's On Ghostwriting, I had a "no, really?" reaction:

I have written for name-brand authors, celebrities, and even for other ghosts who found themselves over-extended: I’ve been a ghost-of-a-ghost. I have written legal thrillers, historical nonfiction, mysteries, and even horror (that is to say, ghost stories). But my name doesn’t appear on the covers of these books, nor on the copyright page, nor can it be found by consulting the Library of Congress. My invisibility is complete except on a contract, a document that is kept under lock and key. Sometimes, even the publishers don’t know I exist.

It's kind of ... odd... to think that I could be reading something that, well, someone else wrote.

And -- given the hush, hush nature of the job -- how do you get that gig?

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Melissa, Melissa, Melissa!

Melissa Rabey, who contributes to Tea Cozy and Pop Goes the Library and the YALSA blog, as well as has her own blog, Librarian by Day, is running for the 2011 Printz.

You can get a great sense of her awesome book-knowledge and judgment from the series she ran on the Morris Award books.

ALA ballots have started to go out, so keep your eyes open for it and vote for Melissa!

And stay tuned...we'll have an interview with Melissa coming soon.

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

Bridget Zinn

This bad news from Ms Mac at Check It Out:

Please hold Bridget Zinn, Portland YA Librarian, writer and kidlit blogger, in your healing prayers and thoughts. She was admitted into the hospital last week and has been diagnosed with colon cancer (and the cancer has spread to other areas. ) An account to help Bridget with medical expenses is being set up. More when I find out.

Ms Mac (Jone) has been sharing updates via the kidlitosphere listserv. Keep an eye on Ms. Mac's website for news. I believe a fundraiser is being planned for May 29th.

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

"Maybe I'll Write A YA Book"

I have no idea what the Tournament of Books is, or isn't, but I saw E. Lockhart's posts about her The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks being a part of it and thought "cool."

Monica points out the post where Frankie lost, and it's always interesting when someone not familiar with a genre does a "I don't usually read that, and I agree with things other people who don't read it say, but I just want a good book" take, giving credit to what the don't read, etc.

It may be shooting fish in the barrel to then search the "why Frankie lost" for bits I'd find annoying. Heck, you all know I was on the Printz Committee that selected Frankie for a Printz Honor.

And, indeed, I found different points amusing (such as how many adults, upon reading books for teens, get bothered about the portrayal of adults or the lack of adults in books).

Then I read this:

Because nothing in Frankie’s world has any large-scale consequence (for a few pages it appears as though a character may be thrown out of school, but he is not), every character in the book remains almost outrageously secure. Nothing truly fundamental gets shaken up here. In a winter of global violence, child slavery, layoffs, and financial jitters, maybe a forget-the-outside-world-for-a-few-hours book about a smart young woman is the best thing for our young readers.

And all I could think is man, I wish I was BFF with Jennifer Weiner to discuss that! For those who know her "only" as an author, set aside time today to read her blog, and essays like this. In a nutshell, she takes on the biases that exist against women writers, especially those who don't write "large-scale" novels. I read this and thought, so Frankie is doubly screwed: first by being a YA book, second by being a "chick lit" book. (Seriously, read some Jen Weiner, because she does an excellent job about the biases that define what is "real" literature and I cannot even come close.)

Next I read the commentary about the Frankie loses decision. Which did have some nice things to say about the book. And some odd things.

Read the full thing; my favorite bit is this: "I have no particular animus towards young adult literature, but neither do I find myself turning to it often. If many YA books are as good as this one, I’ll be reading much more of it. (I may try my hand at writing it too because it seems like a lot of fun and an interesting challenge.)

Discuss amongst yourselves the compliment by slamming something, combined with the "it's so easy, I'm going to do it for fun!" YA Authors everywhere are probably tearing out their hair and rolling on the ground laughing.

Edited to add: Please click through to read the discussion in the comments! John, whose comment inspired my snarky title, contributes. Thank you, John! He says, "I didn't mean to imply that writing a good YA book is any easier than writing any other kind of book. What I meant is that I enjoyed reading it so much that I'll likely read more, and being a writer as well, I felt inspired to take up the challenge of writing a book as good as this one. It's the same feeling I felt the first time I read Richard Ford's The Sportswriter a very different book for sure, but that feeling demonstrated to me that good books that affect us are good books that affect us, regardless of genre. As for the "fun" part, I think writing should be fun for the writer and part of the fun for me is the challenge of trying to do something as good as the best, even if that effort virtually always falls short."

Also, please click thru to read the original decision (by one person) and comments on the decision (by two others) in their entiretly. They are seperate people, if I wasn't clear enough in that before!

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

Friday, March 13, 2009

Gringolandia


Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Curbstone Press. May 2009. Reviewed from Advance Reader's Copy, supplied by publisher

The Plot:

Daniel Aguilar, 17, lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with his mother and younger sister; he has a cute girlfriend, Courtney; he plays in a band; is on the soccer team. He's about to change from your typical American teen. Dan's father is coming home, after six years in prison. Dan and his family are from Chile; it's 1986, and Marcelo Aguilar was a political prisoner in Chile. After six years of imprisonment and torture, he's coming home… Except it’s a home he's never been to, since Dan, his mother and sister left Chile for America years ago.

The Good:

While it's sometimes odd to think of "historical fiction" as being set just over twenty years ago, the political situation in Chile and America's involvement is history, particularly to today's teens that were born after General Pinochet's dictatorship ended. The author supplies a concise, matter of fact historical note about Chile's government from 1970 to 1990; along with a glossary and suggested further reading. You know how I love when authors do that!

Dan and his family have to adjust to the return of Marcelo. Dan's childhood memories of a strong family man have been influenced by his father's reputation as hero and political prisoner. The reality is a man broken by torture and imprisonment, who bears little resemblance to either memory or propaganda, and who is a stranger to his children who are no longer children; who speak English; who have made a life for themselves in "Gringolandia." Adjusting to reality, trying to make a new normal, takes a backseat to the father's continued commitment to his country, Chile.

The tension between loyalty to family and loyalty to country, as well as the price one is willing to pay for one's principles, is portrayed without being a cold lesson; it offers no answers, just this family's story. The message never overwhelms the story.

The story is told by different people at different times; from Daniel waking in the middle of the night to the sounds of soldiers storming into his home to arrest his father, to Marcelo's time in prison, to both teenage Dan and his girlfriend Courtney telling their versions. It gives insight into what Marcelo endured; the conflicted view of how a son sees his father; and a girl who almost hero-worships the great political prisoner, Marcelo Aguilar.

Links:

Author website

Edited to add:

Oops, forgot to do a twitter review! Gringolandia:17 yo son tries 2 connect w/dad, released prisoner fr Pinochet Chile. conflict: personal independence v country's independence

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

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Past 24 Hours On Twitter

· Dollhouse is not about whether society treats women like dolls; it's really a bitter commentary on how studios treat actors & other talent. #

· in reviewing a book that contains something controversial or disputed, is reviewer obligated to point that out? (broad ex: 'world is flat') #

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Past 24 Hours On Twitter

· Kidz Bop. Or Not.: Carlie posted about Kidz Bop, one of those pop culture things I just don't get. Or like. Or u.. tinyurl.com/dkc7hd #

· American Libraries Reviews Pop: The March 2009 issue of American Libraries reviews Pop: The Book. If the link do.. tinyurl.com/buy35x #

· 29.5M funding for NLS digital talking books transition: www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6643472.html #

· how many days do i want to go to BEA? how many days can i go? #

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

American Libraries Reviews Pop

The March 2009 issue of American Libraries reviews Pop: The Book. If the link doesn't work, it's page 64. Teaser: their ideas will help keep your library popping.

The book is available from the usual sources, including the publisher (see the sidebar for sales information.)

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

Past 24 Hours On Twitter

· today on twitter: · Share a Story - Shape a Future: Press release from the Share a Story - Shape a Future blog. .. tinyurl.com/af9zjb #

· OMG there is a new fast & furious movie!!! this is beyond wonderful. #

· wondering if nathan petrelli will start sleeping in a cardboard box #

· medium goes post apocolyptic. but will there be zombies? #

· medium: won't blog b/c of spoilers -- but man, joe deserves the best husband ever award. #

· American Libraries review: tinyurl.com/b9bocf #

· not every skilled, well paying job requires college. how are those jobs covered by education initiatives? #

· watching NCIS. Adore Mark Harmon. Why isn't Reasonable Doubts on DVD? #

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

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Kidz Bop. Or Not.

Note: Links & videos are NSFW.

Carlie posted about Kidz Bop, one of those pop culture things I just don't get. Or like. Or understand.

Why I don't like it, in a nutshell:

It's pushing children into the adult sphere, while pretending not to.

If you're going to rock out to Pink's So What from her album Funhouse -- do just that. Why have a bunch of kids singing it, in Kidz Bop, Vol. 15? I find it a bit creepy to see all these tweens singing Pink's anthem of break-up, survival, and just all around adult, grown up, drinking, going to bars, partying awesomeness.

Check out Pink singing, at this video at YouTube (embedding not allowed).

And here is the scary as hell Kidz singing the same song:



If you want kid's music, check out WXPN's Kids Corner. Which has music for kids of all ages.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to think of the worst. possible. songs. for Kidz Bop to record. Except I'd be scared to see if they have covered it.

What about Sick Bed of Cuchulainn from the Pogues'Rum Sodomy & the Lash



Any other suggestions?

Edited to add:

Bib-laura-graphy makes me want to scrub my brain and ears after hearing this gem of children singing....um. Click. Be Afraid. Perhaps they (and their parents) are like Buffy? "Of course, I had no idea what it was about."

Judith represents the Australians by suggesting "You Only Like Me Cause I'm Good in Bed" by Aussie rock legends Skyhooks (circa 1973). Perhaps the tots could sing it, thinking it's about pillow fights?




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

Monday, March 09, 2009

today on twitter

· Share a Story - Shape a Future: Press release from the Share a Story - Shape a Future blog. I hope you'll enjoy .. tinyurl.com/d85g7y #

· My Last Post at ForeWord: My guest posting at the Shelf Space blog is drawing to a close --My last post is a con.. tinyurl.com/d3t8tw #

· deleting tons of messages & emails. wow, it was only 3 days in NYC people! #

· watching rock of love: bus. Amused that the girls care more about each other than they do about Bret. #

· karen cushman's new website: karencushman.com/ #

· i would have to buy an entire wardrobe to go on rock of love #

· rock of love: i love when the penthouse pet talks about what is classy while on rock of love #

· loving Joss means loving him and admitting he's not always perfect. #

· secret life: ha! Ben was called pretentious. rock on, madison! #

· secret life: amy's friends baby shower? i predict craptastic gifts. and no maclarens. #

· secret life: thank you, brenda, for the ben-mocking #

· secret life: BTW, Brenda's solution to teen mothers? church day care hires 15 yo as p/t teacher & gives full baby & child health benefits. #

· secret life: discuss among yourselves all that is wrong with a 15 you p/t day care teacher. oh! and music teacher! any 15 yo can teach music #

· secret life: I love how grace never loses her cool. or her class. or her manners. and is never judgmental. #

· secret life: i also like how the actress who plays adrian refuses to act ashamed about her choices #

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

My Last Post at ForeWord

My guest posting at the Shelf Space blog is drawing to a close --

My last post is a continued discussion of ARCs, this time looking at ARCs and library collections.

A sneak peak:

On a professional library listserv, a librarian justified adding ARCs to her permanent collection because low budgets meant fewer materials. I wonder—as budgets continue to fall, with other people adopt this "but I cannot afford the final book" attitude? And really, what's the harm? It's just a few typos, right? Isn't putting books—even if they are ARCs—into the hands of customers the most important thing?

Go read the whole thing and let me know -- would you put an ARC in a formal library collection? Have you ever checked out a book only to discover it's an ARC?


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

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Share a Story - Shape a Future

Press release from the Share a Story - Shape a Future blog. I hope you'll enjoy this event!


Within the kidlitosphere, the children's literature bloggers comprise and reach a very broad audience. One of the group's greatest assets is its collective, community-minded approach to sharing information and ideas. Through events like blog tours, authors and illustrators have had wonderful opportunities to share their story and their craft. Given the success of tours for "producers," what about an event for and by the people who create and engage their readers: teachers, librarians, parents, and people passionate about literacy?

Voila! Share a Story - Shape a Future is just that event. This is an ensemble effort not only to celebrate reading among those of us who already love books, but to encourage each other to reach beyond ourselves and do it in a way that we are neither judging nor instructing others. This is a venue for communicating practical, useable, everyday ideas.

The event begins March 9, 2009 and lasts one week. Each day we will have a group of bloggers sharing ideas around a specific theme. There are a number of book giveaways and free downloads that will be announced by the various hosts as we get closer to the kickoff.
Here is the tour schedule.

Day 1: Raising Readers
hosted by Terry Doherty at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, the Reading Tub blog
Day 2: Selecting Reading Material
hosted by Sarah Mulhern at The Reading Zone
Day 3: Reading Aloud - It's Fun, It's Easy
hosted by Susan Stephenson at the Book Chook blog
Day 4: A Visit to the Library
hosted by Eva Mitnick at Eva's Book Addiction blog
Day 5: Technology and Reading - What the Future Holds
is hosted by Elizabeth O. Dulemba at Dulemba.com
Through Share a Story - Shape a Future we hope to build a community of readers, by sharing ideas and encouraging each other. When the event opens on Monday, March 9, 2009, there will be plenty of opportunities for you to join us and share your ideas.

Huge thank yous to Elizabeth O. Dulemba and Susan Stephenson for creating images we can use to promote Share a Story - Shape a Future!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Today On Twitter

· ANTM: doing sexy lolita models to protest children being made into sexy lolitas...oh tyra.. tinyurl.com/cdu9ke #

· CSI: is it really that easy to accidently stab someone to death? #

· seriously considering leaving child_lit #

· all day program at an elementary school for disability awareness day #

· child_lit the listserv!! not children's literature! am not giving up the books, just the really annoying (at the moment) listserv! #

· just finished watching Looking for Alibrandi. Could someone explain to me why this WONDERFUL film isn't available in the US? #

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

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Today's Twitter Log

· ANTM: doing sexy lolita models to protest children being made into sexy lolitas...oh tyra. this is just sad. #

· catching up on dollhouse ep 3. the failures in logic in how dollhouse works -- astounding. hoping it is on purpose & Joss delivers #

· 1st dentist visit of the day done. second one in a few hours. #

· what do do with old ARCS.tinyurl.com/b9noal #

· will be in NYC for a long weekend. any "what to do" suggestions? good restaurants? #

· so tired of all the commercials with juno-esque songs #

· disappointed that Life On Mars has been cancelled. I really enjoyed going back to the 70s. #

· Yes -- cancelled -- but report said they will be able to tie it up in last ep. I think it's a show that should have been a miniseries #

· I can't mock James Franco as an author; he's taken writing classes, which is more than other celeb authors do. tinyurl.com/943vsn #

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BTW, this is being sent to my email and then I have to cut & paste it into here. Does anyone know of an application for Blogger that will do this automatically?

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

Monday, March 02, 2009

Right Behind You

right behind you by Gail Giles
Publisher: Little, Brown
Release date: September 2007
REVIEW FROM ARC

Overview: Kip McFarland was nine when he set his neighbor on fire. The little boy died and Kip ended up in the state mental ward. After years of therapy and interaction with other dangerous juveniles, Kip is released into the real world. Kip changes his name to Wade and he, his dad and his dad’s new wife move to Indiana. At first, things go well and the family seems to blend in with its new surroundings. But, despite his new name and new life, Wade can not let go of the past and he self-destructs one night by spilling his history to his friends. Wade and his parents are forced to move again and it is in this new home that Wade attempts to deal with his demons and face his guilt.

I think most of us have experienced listening/watching/reading the news and hearing of a child who destroyed another child’s life. My first reaction to these stories is horror, dread and disbelief. Then, I generally jump to the conclusion that the offending child has a deficiency – perhaps in his upbringing or personality - that would cause him to snap and harm another person. Giles’ story, though, causes me to rethink my reaction.

In Right Behind You, Kip kills another boy, but it was not premeditated, he is not a monster and he suffers his entire life because of his action. Giles does not condone what he did, she does not make excuses for him, but she does set up the scene and show you the aftermath from his point of view. Kip is a genuinely good person – he is not psychotic, as are many of the teens he encounters in his institutionalized upbringing – who did a bad thing and suffered the consequence. © Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Dragon Slippers

dragon slippers by Jessica Day George
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Release date: March 2007

Overview: During a time of terrible poverty, Creel, a peasant and orphan, is persuaded to sacrifice herself to a dragon in hope that a prince would rescue her, marry her and deliver her extended family in to a life of riches. Creel’s meeting with the dragon does not go as planned – instead of finding herself a princess bride, she somehow makes a deal with the dragon for a piece of his treasure – a pair of shoes. Her newfound shoes were more valuable than she could have ever imagined, for the owner of the shoes gained power over the dragons and thereby the power to control peace and war in the kingdom.

This was a fun book. Creel is looking only to make a life for herself and manages to become involved in the lives of dragons and royalty. Adventure-ridden Creel is a wonderful character who is loyal, intelligent and talented. This is definitely a “What happened next?!” story.© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

The Game

The game by Diana Wynne Jones
Publisher: Firebird
Release date: March 2007

Overview: Hayley was raised by her grandparents after her mom and dad were killed in a car accident. She had a rather joyless life until she is sent to live with cousins after “disgracing” her grandmother. Once in her new home, Hayley begins to have fun with her cousins and embraces their “Game” of scavenger hunts in the mythosphere (a place where myths are real). Through her romps in this otherworldly place, Hayley discovers her true identity and the whereabouts of those she holds most dear.

I generally enjoy mythology-based stories – there is something about the very humanness of the deities that always keeps my interest… Not so here. I did not invest myself in this story. I realize it’s a novella, but the storyline seemed sparse (and a little dull); I wasn’t sure who some of the characters were and had trouble following their relationships. The author did include a “Notes” section that detailed the characters, but it was placed at the end of the book – it would have been much more helpful had this been at the beginning.© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Primavera

Primavera by Mary Jane Beaufrand
Publisher: Little, Brown
Release date: March 2008
REVIEW FROM ARC

Overview: Flora Pazzi was as close to royalty as you could get in Renaissance Italy. Born to a family that rivaled the Medicis, Flora was the “forgotten” sister – the youngest and the plainest. She loved her garden and her grandmother. Through Flora’s meanderings, the reader is exposed to the intrigues of her time – her father’s attempts to first join with the Medicis, and then overthrow them – and the downfall of her family as a result of the plotting. Flora survives her family’s decimation and lives to tell her story.

Love, history, intrigue, action, disaster and triumph run through this narration. Flora is a likable girl with a spark. Definite read-alike for Karen Cushman fans.
© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Returnable Girl

Returnable girl by Pamela Lowell
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books
Release date: October 2006
REVIEW FROM ARC

Overview: At thirteen-years-old, Ronnie Hartman has had a lot of hard knocks in her life. From the time she was five, she took care of her younger brothers and to an extent, her mother, as well. When Ronnie was eleven, her mother moved to Alaska and left Ronnie behind with a promise that she would send for her when her finances allowed. Two years and nine foster homes later, Ronnie is still waiting for her mom to keep her promise. When we meet Ronnie, she is living with Alison, a therapist. Ronnie has “anger issues” and is also a kleptomaniac. She has one true friend, Cat, a girl who is overweight, unpopular and, though living with her biological mom, in her own private hell.

I can not imagine having Ronnie’s life – she was abandoned, bounced around in the foster care system and lied to by most of the people she trusted. I wanted to like Ronnie; I wanted to root for her, but something was missing. The more I learned about her, the less I liked. Her story, though traumatic, didn’t engage me – I didn’t really care about what happened next. I neither hated nor loved this book.
© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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