Thursday, July 25, 2013

Crap Kingdom by D.C. Pierson YP FIC PIERSON

Tom Parking has a boring normal life.  Nothing horrible or tragic had ever happened to him and that's part of the problem.  Chosen Ones always have tragic lives!  Tom knows thinking about being plucked from his world and brought to another is a ridiculous dorky fantasy and has the good sense not to mention it to his one friend or the girl he likes and is terrified of, but then he is magically transported to another world after all!  Okay, so the messenger, Gark seems weird and it is kind of lame that the portal is a donation box in a Kmart parking lot, but he's the Chosen One, this is going to be awesome, right?  Unfortunately, he's the chosen one of a kingdom so lame they didn't even bother naming it.  Their philosophy is based around the idea that being miserable and expecting more misery to come is the best thing, because you'll never be disappointed, the King despises Tom, and every one lives in filth.  Tom decides ruining and risking his life is not worth being Chosen One and chooses not to be Chosen.  However, when they choose his best friend to be Chosen One, Tom is torn.  He's really great at it and Tom is left feeling like more of a loser than ever.  Tom has to find a way to reclaim his stolen destiny, but in doing so he may doom Grrjhrhh (they just use any random noise) and Earth and a bunch of worlds he doesn't even know about!

This is a very good book that frustratingly shies away from greatness.  On the very good side the book is funny and has an amazing premise.  It skewers the Chosen One cliche incredibly well and the first visit to Ghhghast is hilarious.  Unfortunately the book sort of lags between visits to Frhasaghafs and Earth.  Also, the book introduces very few characters overall and misses an opportunity by using the characters it has pretty sparingly.  Basically it's a real Tomfest.  Fortunately, Tom is funny and Pierson really draws on his inner nerd to really nail the feelings of resentment, awkwardness, and confusion that come with high school nerdom (So I've been told. I mean, I wasn't a big huge nerdo. REALLY!). The central arc of Tom becoming a better person and facing his insecurities works pretty darn well, but the final third of the book is rushed and there isn't enough world building of the world Tom travels to or the enemy that wants to control it.  This sounds like it would be a pretty serious dealbreaker, but Pierson really nails the humor and brings a lot of heart and feeling to the book, so much like Tom it succeeds in the end. If you like fantasy, but enjoy a good satire of it OR if you hate fantasy and wish to see it mocked OR if you're on the fence about fantasy and just like laughing in general, give this one a chance.

You can look in our catalog for Crap Kingdom here.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Extremities: Stories of Death, Murder, and Revenge by David Lubar YP FIC LUBAR

A group of girls give their gym teacher a dose of her own medicine, a boy plots the perfect murder of his 'perfect' parent, a boy falls for a girl so beautiful she's to die for, and ten more tales of doom from David Lubar.

David Lubar opens by saying "This is not a book for children," but honestly I think this would be a pretty good read for horror fans of many ages.  Sure it has a good amount of death, dismemberment, and murderous teens, but the carnage and gore is kept to a nice minimum.  It makes for a nice alternative to the likes of Charlie Higson and Darren Shan's hyper-gory scare fests.  I love all the guts and grime of their books, but its nice to have creepy alternatives that don't get so vivid about viscera.  It reminds me of a modern update to the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series (J 398.25 SCHWARTZ), which is my gold standard for creepy!  The stories are almost all very quick.  Just long enough to set a mood and pull off a fun or sick or shocking (or a combination of the three) twist and end strong.  But he's really good at pacing the longer stories, so they are just as compelling as the quick ones.  His writing is super simple and very easy to read, which works very well for the type of page turning, look over your shoulder, goosebump raising stories he's writing.  A really fun and classically creepy read for the horror fans from casual to serious.

You can find Extremities in our catalog here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf YP FIC RAF

Izzy is such a hypochondriac she can't stop wanting to self-check for breast cancer in Bio class.  It doesn't help that her mom for real has cancer, her best friend got a major personality transplant, and the most popular guy in school is acting like he likes her which is CLEARLY impossible.  So it's no wonder she's going insane, the only question is which exact psychosis in the DSM IV should she diagnose herself with.

This is a sneaky, sneaky book.  You'll be so busy laughing at Izzy's super snarky and witty POV you'll sort of lose track of how her life in falling apart around her; until BOOM it hits you right in the kidneys (metaphorically). Izzy gets seriously mistreated by almost everyone she cares about it and keeps on soldiering on with her wry sense of humor, so that you want to shake her and yell, "STAND UP FOR YOURSELF!!!" That is all part of the point as she learns to make better choices as she goes, but I still felt like someone that wronged her most gets off way, way, way, and WAY too easily.  Without spoiling anything the person actually breaks a pretty serious law and gets away scot-free even though they get caught.  I think that this is a mistake on Raf's part.  It became a sort of galling distraction for me and did make me enjoy the book somewhat less.  However, individual readers mileage may very.  The wonderful humor and imminently likeable main character and her hilarious POV really make this book a charmer and a winner.  It also has a very likeable romantic plot and a wonderful family story.  Izzy and her mom's relationship gave me a serious case of the heart warms. This is definitely a wonderful summer read that does a really nice job of being breezy and serious in a very smart way.

You can check for The Symptoms of My Insanity here.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bad Machinery: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison YP FIC ALLISON

In less-than-jolly old Tackleford, England there are mysteries afoot, and two separate trios of youths are on the cases!  Shauna and Charlotte are total BFFs, but Mildred is totes butting in, will they be able to save poor old Mrs. Biscuits from the evil developer that wants to destroy her home to build a new football (the soccer kind) stadium? Jack, Sonny, and Linton want to solve the curse of the local football team (well Linton does, Jack and Sonny are just bored) who happens to be the aforementioned evil developer.  Also there may be a ghost!

This book is absolutely hilarious.  It is filled with clever gags, great characters and at least one joke on every page!  The book is a recurring webcomic (read it here), so that means every page has to have at  LEAST one joke and forces the funny to be on the money. The cast of sort of wonky 12 year-olds looking for something to do really drives a lot of the jokes.  They're in the middle of not being silly kids anymore and having no clue of how to start being teenagers. Allison has absolutely crackling dialogue and knows how to use lettering and pacing to maximize his jokes.  My favorite bit has to be when Mildred points out how illogical ghosts are, because if ghosts DID exist they would absolutely show up every time an American president made a speech to make fart noises. He also makes all the side characters wonderfully weird.  Even the mysteries which are silly and solved in a ludicrously lazy fashion by the kids pay off very nicely.  there are quite a few Britishisms, but they usally make sense in context and there is a helpful glossary in the back. All in all it's a must read for any one that likes their comics actually comic.

You can look for Bad Machinery: The Case of the Team Spirit here.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Zombies attacked the library! WE SURVIVED!

AUUUUUUUUGH! ZOMBIES! Wait. We totally got this!  we have mad zombie survival skills because we went to How to Survive a Zombie Attack!

We started by learning about the art of camouflage.  If zombies think you're one of them you'll be safe! Zombies never eat their own!  Which makes sense because while I'm sure humans are delicious, zombies taste terrible. Once we were disguised we practiced our zombie shambling. 

Afterwards we did a preparedness drill. We broke into teams and had to fill our backpack with the seven best items for a zombie apocalypse.  Teams showed great strategic thinking and speed! Winners received awesome travel journals to record their (probably final) thoughts about living in a world of the dead!  Afterwards we all got zombie disaster kit checklists from the Center of Disease Control.  The CDC knows zombies are coming!  We also realized that they'd work for hurricanes too.  

Afterwards we tested our knowledge of zombie books and movies, because we must understand our enemy to defeat our enemy. Our zombie hunter to the right won both the Zombie Walk Off and the Zombie Fiction Trivia!!!  I know who I'm following when the zombies shuffle through the library doors!

Last but certainly not least, we tested out ACTUAL zombie survival skills with a Zombie Survival Quiz.  It looked at everything! the best weapons, rides, strategies, philosophies, clothes, and more to survive a wide array of possible zombie scenarios.  After the quiz everyone got one of Young Adult Librarian Luke's Zombie Survival Tips to get some basics down.  It was hours of fun and horror!  

If you missed it, we still have some awesome zombie mini posters, zombie supply checklists, and zombie bibliographies (book lists) at the reference desk.  And if you think this looks like fun, wait until Minute to Win It III on Wednesday, July 31st at 2 PM!  We'll compete for honor, glory, and prizes in games of ridiculous skill and hilarious silliness! Get your FREE ticket starting Wednesday, July 24th. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

More Writing Tips from Sarah Cortez

Everyone had a wonderful and enriching time at the "How to be a Writer Program".  Speaker, Sarah Cortez was an amazing resource and got us all writing and thinking about our writing.  The only downside is it was so good that we were all left wanting more. Fortunately she foresaw this and had the teens write down questions that she has started answering on her Facebook page (check it out here). 

Here's an answer to a question from a teen writer in the Texas City Library fiction writing workshop. The question is: how should I learn more vocabulary words and how to learn more words in English? 

First, let me say, that I am proud of you for asking these important questions. Most people keep learning more and more new words throughout all of life. It's exciting, but can also feel overwhelming sometimes. That's way it's important to have a little system that is all your own.

I like to use a small notebook (sort of like the one you were given as a gift at the workshop). I write down new words I read or hear other people use in conversation. At the end of a day, it is good to go to your dictionary (remember how I suggested buying a used dictionary in the workshop?), look up the word, and, very importantly, write down the definition in your notebook alongside the new word. Spend few minutes memorizing the definition. Do you understand the definition? Does it contain any new words that you have to look up to understand? A couple of days later you can go back to your notebook, cover up the definition with your hand and see if you remember the defintion. If so, good for you! That means you've already learned the new word. If not, that's okay, but it also means you need to spend a little time commiting it to your memory.

Words are precious treasures we collect and learn all of our lives!


This is an answer to another question from a teen writer in Texas City. The question is: how long does it take sometimes to finish writing a book?

Oh, can take a long time, maybe even years, but the good news is that it's a tremendously challenging type of fun! Like when you solve a puzzle that you didn't think at first you could solve.

When I work on a book, I don't think about how long it's going to take to finish. Instead, I focus on how well I can try to write the smaller parts that compose the book: the personalities of the characters, the description of the location, the conversations between characters, the unraveling of the plot of the story.

Part of what I love the most about writing is the magic of creating on paper what I "see" in my mind. That way I can bring other readers into the worlds that I imagine. Don't you just love that about writing (and reading too!)?

Writing is a great generosity.