Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I Have An Addiction... To The Library

By Raysonho [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I tweeted that line from the title the other day. Then, upon further consideration, I asked myself: am I truly addicted to the library?


I wondered then, what would be signs of a true library lending addiction. This is what I came up with:

Signs You Are Possibly Addicted to Library Lending
  • You know the book lending limits--and frequently exceed them.
  • You find yourself sitting in the library parking lot, finishing a book so you can return it and check out more.
  • Not only do you know the library staff, but they set books aside for you.
  • Your friends and family ask you directly about library hours and book borrowing policies because it's easier than calling the library.
  • You wore out your library card before it expired.
  • Library patrons mistake you for an employee because you assist in locating books and provide recommendations.
  • You're on a first-name basis with security/custodians/maintenance.
  • When in a bookstore, you give your library card to the cashier instead of money or your credit card. ("What, you have to pay for these?")
  • When someone mentions they never use the library, it hurts a little.

Did I miss anything? What signs or habits have you noticed that hint at an addiction to books, reading, or libraries in general?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Book Review: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

My Life Next Door
Huntley Fitzpatrick
YA Contemporary
Published: June 2012

image: Goodreads
I LOVED this book! If you're a fan of contemporary young adult, I highly recommend My Life Next Door. This is a Sarah Dessen type story about a girl with a seemingly perfect life which is anything but, and the chaotic family next door that draws her in via the cute boy she's always watched from afar.

Samantha lives with her older sister, and a single mom who is a senator running for re-election. Their house is gorgeous, Sam attends an elite private school, and has summer jobs lined up to waitress and work as a lifeguard at the country club--all approved by mom. Next door, the Garrett family has eight kids who come and go at all hours and run wild in the yard--a disgrace as far as Sam's mother is concerned. Sam has watched them for years, peering out her upstairs window over the large fence that separates their yards. Then she meets Jace, the boy her age next door, and everything changes.

The Garrett's are unconventional, but they aren't the riff-raff her mother makes them out to be. Still, Sam keeps her friendship with Jace and the Garrett family a secret. Especially now that a smooth-talking, southern  campaign manager has moved in on her mother, creating a shiny new image for her mother that Sam barely recognizes. With her mother gone more than ever to launch her campaign, Sam spends her time with Jace and his many siblings, enmeshed in their lives.

Sam has her own friends, a girl from her private school who has acted increasingly distant, and her twin brother who relies on drugs and alcohol to get through the day. Eventually, both of them end up involved with the Garrett family because of Sam's relationship with Jace. The subplots in this book are so well woven into the main story. I was really impressed by how well the characters worked together to create a deeper story. The incident in this book that brings about the real conflict is heartbreaking. I can hardly believe this is the author's debut novel. It's fantastic! I noted in the acknowledgements section that the author is an RWA member. This is how contemporary teen romance should be--a solid example of a great story with engaging characters. I hope you check it out!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Book Review: When We Were the Kennedys by Monica Wood

When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maine
Monica Wood
Published: July 2012

image: Goodreads
This memoir is set in 1963, detailing the lives of a Catholic family in Maine after the sudden death of their beloved father. Later that year, the assassination of President Kennedy throws the nation into mourning, mirroring their family's grief.

Most of this book is not tragic and sad, but is more of an endearing look at  childhood in a town that owed its success to a thriving paper mill. All over town, families forged their own American Dream with fathers working shifts at the mill to provide for their families. The author astutely observes that that American Dream hinged on one primary factor: dad. When he was gone, did that mean their dream vanished, too?

The author adds in a lot of local history and setting "of the times." She mentions it was a time when, during the summer, kids were sent outside and were not expected to be seen again until dinner. Her older sister, mentally disabled, did not have additional options other than being held back a grade, and eventually, the nuns suggest she might be happier at home. The nostalgia is told without a sugar coating, leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions. 

This is a highly detailed, close look at one slice of Americana. This is just the type of memoir I gravitate toward: it's not sensational or gimmicky, it's just real people living small, but fascinating lives.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Book Review: Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Gretchen McNeil
YA Suspense
Published: September 2012

image: Goodreads
I couldn't wait to read this, thinking back to my own YA days reading Christopher Pike thrillers. It's a quick read with all the teen suspense staples: a secret party, jealous friends, deserted house, a storm that cuts them off from civilization. This is a retelling of an Agatha Christie novel, which is probably why the story feels like it's been done before. There's really nothing new here, but for teen readers looking to get into suspense or thrillers, this is a good entry point.

Meg  has reservations on accepting the party invite--even though her best friend Minnie will be there. It's popular kids, and kids she doesn't know, and Meg is the wallflower/diary-writer type. (Also, the party is set on a DESERTED ISLAND. Clue #1 something strange is afoot). As expected, the house is creepy, a storm is brewing, and I definitely got a feel for a horror novel from the setting. I get freaked out by remote houses in the country, let alone one set on an island and it's cold and raining. 

So, weird things start happening in the house. Someone has a nut allergy and nuts suddenly appear in a salad. I thought this was brilliant--a realistic update that is actually lethal for some people. A mysterious diary shows up, and of course Meg reads it, finding a very dejected, scorned author among the cryptic writing. You can probably guess, it's someone in the house--or is it?--and those who scorned he/she are probably those who were invited to the deserted island. 

The pace is quick, and while Meg is a bit of a dimwit, it's a fun little story that keeps moving. It started with ten. How many will survive at the end?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Road Trip Wednesday: New Year's Goals

 Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

What are your goals for the new year---for reading, writing, or other?

  • I've read so much YA fiction in the past two years, I'd like to mix it up more often. I'd like to read more non-fiction and adult market novels. My most recent library haul included a memoir, popular non-fiction history book, a writing craft book, and a fiction book that was popular with the book clubs a few years back.
  • I am finalizing revisions to send my current writing projects to agents who requested material from a contest late in 2012. I'd like to start revising the draft I wrote during Nanowrimo in November and see where that leads.
  • Other than that, I plan to keep blogging, and connecting with other writers and readers online, on twitter, and through RWA and SCBWI. I am tentatively planning on attending RWA Nationals in Atlanta in July!

Make sure to stop by the YA Highway blog for more responses!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Book Review: Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein

Pretty Amy
Lisa Burstein
YA Contemporary
Published: May 2012

image: Goodreads
Finally, a girl-in-a-dress cover featuring a girl who looks like she belongs in high school! The cover really reflects what kind of story this is.

I'm glad this book exists for young readers. Not every YA protagonist should be cute, plucky and have boys falling at her feet. Having said that, Amy was a tough character to love. She's sullen, moody, and lacks confidence. She's miserable for the whole book. This is her journey of self-discovery, but I found myself wanting to shake her awake--my tolerance ran short after awhile.

Amy and her outcast friends get arrested on prom night when they are caught with a stash of stolen pot from the boys who stood them up. I found this to be a realistic premise. Can you imagine standing at a guy's front door in full makeup and a gown and no one is home? Out of revenge, Amy's friend breaks in the house and steals the drugs--enough pot that shows he's not just a casual smoker, but a dealer. The rest of the book details the repercussions of the girls' arrest, and how Amy's family forces her into counseling, a job, and community service, meanwhile keeping her away from her friends. Her mother blames Amy's friends for turning her into a delinquent, but for Amy, who is heavily depressed because of rejection her whole life from kids at school and her own mother, restricting her access to her friends is devastating. Until Amy realizes, maybe those girls weren't as loyal to her as she'd thought.

It's a tough book to get through as an adult, but I can really see this as a great one for reluctant young readers. In a recent NYT article with author Lauren Myracle, she stated that YA books were meant as a way for young readers to explore the world. Pretty Amy is like a Scared Straight for the suburbs set; a little glimpse into the judicial system for kids who get busted for drugs. It's also a great example to show how "bad girls" aren't simply bad, they just make poor choices, or get labeled that way from people who don't understand them. This book also shows how people have the ability to choose a different path, despite making mistakes.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Books Read in 2012

Happy New Year Everyone!

I hope everyone met their reading or writing goals for 2012, and if not, hopefully you made enough progress to encourage you for 2013!

Goodreads has a cool little widget that you can customize, and I put together all the books I read in 2012. I was at about 70 total, which is the most books I've ever read in one year. Woohoo!

Pretty Amy
My Life Next Door
Size 12 and Ready to Rock
Bet Me
Pushing the Limits
If I Lie
Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction
Stealing Parker
Hush, Hush
Gone Girl
The List
The Book Thief
Mad, Bad and Blonde
Rebels by Accident
If I Stay

I've read so much YA the past two years for reserach in writing (and because I like it), that I'd like to branch out and read more non-fiction and non-YA fiction this year. My first haul from the library this year reflects this: a memoir, a history book, a writing craft book, and two non-YA fiction novels.

How about you? Are you satisfied by how many books you read last year? Do you plan to read more or less in 2013?