So I Won an Award, and am Going to an Academy

I don’t blog to gain millions of followers or to make money (although that’d be nice…). I write because  I have something to say, and think that this is the best medium for that. So imagine my surprise when I won a YALSA writing award for something I wrote for the YALSA blog in February, 2013.

The article, titled Serving Homeless Teens: other ways to help was true third in a series, with the first two authored by Kelly Czarnecki (Technology Education Librarian at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library), and Marie Harris (Teen Services Specialist, ImaginOn-Charlotte Mecklenburg Library). The YALSA blog editor sent out an email asking which YALSA bloggers had experience in serving homeless youth in libraries. The three of us responded, and coordinated topics so we weren’t writing about the same service or situation. Each of the blog posts are distinctly unique to serving homeless youth, which I think proves the complexity of serving that demographic. Each homeless teen has a different story, different dreams, and different needs – but they all need and deserve service from librarians who have ways to help.

Check out the blog posts – linked above – to read about our experiences and our ideas.

A big thank you to YALSA for recognizing my (and our) work. It validates the hard work we put into not only writing, but serving.


A second shocking piece of news came across my desk this month – but this one I had been hoping for. I was accepted into the 2014 class of the Virginia Library Leadership Academy – sponsored by the Virginia Library Association. The Academy begins in May with a 2-day workshop in Staunton, Virginia where I (and the other 23 attendees) will receive project management training. I will then meet with my Academy mentor, who will work closely with me for the next year. Over that year’s time, I will plan and implement a program that utilizes the skills I learned at the workshop.

I am honored to be a part of the 2014 VALLA class, and cannot wait to discuss my experiences on this here blog.


Awards Season! And no…I don’t mean the Oscars

MY STREAK IS OVER!! I finally finally FINALLY guessed an award-winning novel!! YYYYYEEEESSS!!!!! This may seem trivial to you, but I truly was beginning to think that I had no idea what a “good book” looked like, because I had never read a winning book before it was announced that it won. The year 2013 has changed all that my friends, and in numerous categories! I can keep my job!* Yes!

I won’t do what every other blogger is doing and review every winning title. Who has time for that. Instead I will highlight the ones I’ve read and encourage you to read them.


I read Printz Honor book Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz last September at the recommendation of a coworker who said of the novel, “I haven’t fallen in love with a book since high school. Until this.” That brief review encouraged me to read. And read I did. This beautiful coming-of-age story also won the Pura Belpré award and the Stonewall Book Award.


Of the ten Alex Award Winners, I read 4, one of which I have yet to review. I’ll do that this week. (Maybe?) They are:
girlchild by Tupelo Hassman
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: a novel by Robin Sloan
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Marie Semple


The Odyssey Award winner The Fault in Our Stars was actually the fifth book (of 77) that I read in 2012 and called it possibly “my favorite book of 2012”, despite it being January. But I didn’t care.

Oh, and I totally read Creepy Carrots! illustrated by Peter Brown, written by Aaron Reynolds, but this is a YA and adult book blog. Not a children’s blog. I’ll save you from a review of that fun, “scary” children’s book.

*It is not a pre-requisite to guess or even read award-winning YA literature, but it is a point of pride. For me. Probably not for many other people.

Book 46: Amped by Daniel H. Wilson

Amped by Daniel H. Wilson is the second of Wilson’s novels I’ve read this year. Earlier in 2012 I listened to the audiobook of his thriller Robopocalypse and enjoyed it. It was scary, well-written, and, worst thing? Believable. 

Amped follows along the same lines in that it is a truly believable situation: Americans who have been altered with neuro implants (brain implants that correct such disorders as ADHD, epilepsy, deafness, and more) are considered enemies of “pure” humans. The implant, originally considered advanced technology and medicine, became a source of hatred and discrimination for those who were not enhanced or amplified (hence the moniker “amped”). Those with the telltale scar on their temples, signs that they have had the operation, were forced from their homes by hostile neighbors and former friends who were angry that their mediocrity was enhanced by the presence of the amped people.

The book follows Owen, a 29 year old teacher whose father was the inventor of the implant. After his father’s murder, Owen flees the city to find the man who can give him answers as to what is really inside of his head. What he finds along the way is hostility, hatred, murder, and he must make a choice to fight or flee.

I received this book as an advanced reader copy (ARC) at the American Library Association Conference, so a big “thank you!” to the publisher Doubleday for the free read. Because it is an unfinished proof, I want to withhold judgement…but I cannot.

For how descriptive Robopocalypse was, I found Amped to be completely lacking in all details, including setting, character development, and character interactions. Owen’s internal thoughts are so obvious and boring, that I really hope they were just placeholders for the final, fully descriptive, content. I found Owen to be lackluster in completing the mission he (rather begrudgingly) undertook. I didn’t feel like his whole heart was in the mission, nor was it in the very disjointed romantic relationship he embarked (awkwardly) on.

I will still encourage readers of doomsday/dystopia to read his last novel, but I will omit Amped from my recommendation list. I would love to know if the final product was better than the ARC I read. But sadly, I won’t take the time to read it to find out.

Stack o’ books or, a big “thanks!” to all you publishing companies for the free swag!

One of the benefits of attending the ALA Annual Conference in the free food. I mean tote bags. I mean books. I mean, to learn stuff!

Okay truthfully, it’s the books. The ARCs (advanced reader copies), also known as galleys, are a fantastic perk to the already-awesome annual conference. Publishers use the opportunity of the gathering of 20,000+ book-pushers to push new books that we can therefore push to our patrons. The stack pictured above is just one of the 4 “stacks” I photographed upon my return from Anaheim. Lets go through each of these titles.

**Please believe me when I say that I am very discerning when I walk through the exhibit hall. Unless I can think of a specific person who might enjoy the book, I do not pick it up. I think people that grab for any/every free item they can get their hands on are freeloaders and selfish. And people that grab 2 copies? Do not get me started.

I couldn’t even wait to read Amped, so I didn’t! I started reading it on the plane! See my review.

But I only started that after I finished The Forgotten Waltz.

Almost Home by Joan Bauer (to be released Sept. 13, 2012) is the absolute cutest cover I picked up at ALA. (Look at the dog, people.) The dog on the cover doesn’t just entice readers to pick up the book; it is actually the main character’s saving grace. Twelve-year-old Sugar thinks she is saving the shelter dog, but perhaps the dog is actually saving her.
Joan Bauer writes wonderful novels, Peeled was my favorite. It takes place in an orchard town in New York, and we get to know Hildy, who is using her savvy sleuth skills to try to figure out if the town’s “creepy happenings” are legitimate or made up.

Smashed by Lisa Luedeke (set to be released August 21, 2012) has been compared to Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel Speak, and is similar in that a teen girl finds herself in a compromising situation, and no one believes her side of the story. The cover is intriguing because of the smashed glass, but then you notice the girl’s face which is rather passive. And her fist on the glass is more resting than punching. I really hope the publishers re-do that cover, because a second look at it replaces the rawness with weakness. Probably not the best characteristic for publishers to impress upon young female readers.

I Swear by Lane Davis (to be released Sept. 4, 2012) is a timely (what with the trial of Tyler Clementi’s roommate having recently concluded with a rather shocking punishment) YA novel about bully-cide, suicide as a result of bullying. Allow me to let the publisher give the synopsis: “After years of abuse from her classmates, and thinking she had no other options, Leslie took her own life. Now her abusers are dealing with the fallout. In the eyes of the accused girls, they are not to blame: Leslie chose to take her life. She chose to be the coward they always knew she was. As criminal proceedings examine the systematic cyber bullying and harassment that occurred, the girls vow to keep their stories straight and make Leslie seem weak. But as the events leading up to her death unfold, it becomes clear that although Leslie took her own life, her bullies took everything else.”
I am interested in knowing if the author writes like he has a personal agenda, or if he allows the reader to come to his or her own conclusion. I don’t quite have the time to read it, but I’ll make sure a teen reader reports back to me. Also, this is another cover I don’t like. Five faces, one is diverse, the others are completely typical. Come on, publishers…so disappointing.

In other bullying titles, I picked up Cornered: 14 stories of bullying and defiance edited by Rhoda Belleza (already for sale). The short stories are written by such authors as James Adoff and Jennifer Brown, authors familiar with the topic, as their previous novels were based on the topics. The stories are just that, fiction, and delves into hallway- and cyber-bullying, and the psychological, physical, and emotional consequences of bullying. I wonder if teens won’t pick this up, as the pop culture market has been saturated with anti-bullying themes. I will read a few of the short stories before recommending this to anyone.

These are just a few of the titles I picked up over the 4 days of trekking along the Convention Center exhibit hall. Thanks to all of the publishers and exhibitors for getting out there and showing support of libraries!

2012 Michael L. Printz Awards ceremony! Or, authors who play the accordian and spell the word dumb incorrectly

Being a teen services librarian and lover of YA fiction, I naturally had to spend the 30-some-odd dollars necessary to attend the 2012 Michael L. Printz Award ceremony while in Anaheim, CA (aka Disneyland Land) for the American Library Association Conference. And man, was that money well spent. I listened to incredible authors discuss their stories, how the ideas came about, and how books and librarians forever changed their lives, whether as children visiting the library, or by choosing their book as one of the best of the year. I’d like to share with you some inspiring messages and funny lines that were shared on that awesome night.

Daniel Handler wrote (with Maira Kalman illustrating) Why We Broke Up (<– my review), a story where, as the Printz committee chair said, “heartbreak becomes art”. As Handler and Kalman took the stage and the crowd went wild (no, seriously…) two young-ish librarians behind me squealed, “He’s so cuuuuute!!!” And I just died. And then stopped. Because really, Daniel Handler is one of the cutest guys in literature. He wore a stunning suit vest in a shade of brown that was perfect on him, and his salt-and-pepper hair with that perfect cowlick just really did me in. Then he picked up his accordion, and I was smitten. He sang the most hilarious song titled (I think?) “Without Libraries We’d be Dum”. (The ‘b’ is missing for a reason. To see the reason, watch this video of the hilarious performance.) Oh, and Maira was spot-on with the extra percussion sounds (book slamming, bag popping). Their chemistry as performers was impeccable, making them the epitome of “a hard act to follow”.

But follow, someone must. And Brit Christine Hinwood, author of The Returning, did so, opening with her story of the moment she found out her book was a Printz honor title. Where Hinwood lives is far enough away from London that she only gets Internet reception from the front porch of her home, which is fine…except that Printz Awards are announced in the very chilly month of January. Hinwood missed numerous emails and phone calls until a week or so later, when she was on the train going into the city. She so rudely picked up the phone (something you just don’t do on British public transportation…cough*whycan’tAmericansdothat*cough), heard the news, and flipped out. Upon hanging up the phone, the man next to her said so softly, “Um, couldn’t help but overhear. What’s your book?” And proceeded to download her newly-awarded book onto his Kindle.
Something Hinwood said about her own reading experience as a child really stuck out to me. she said, “the fantasy I read as a child wasn’t childish,”. And, if you read my review of her book, you’ll see that I said that same thing about her novel. She knew she was writing for young adults, but wrote about adult themes, trusting that teen readers would understand the themes and ideas, and appreciate them. I look forward to reading more of her books in the future.

Following Hinwood was Craig Silvey, the Australian author behind the book Jasper Jones. Silvey was a very humble and humorous winner. I could have listened to his stories for hours, which is indicative of a good storyteller (as is, you know…that award he won). He said that upon hearing he won a ‘prince award’, he said, “I’ve been honored by Prince? I had no idea he’d been following my career!”. He also thanked YALSA “for being so absurdly kind to Australians” (quite a few Australians have won, or been honored, since the award’s inception). He then thanked a part-time librarian that absentmindedly handed him A Clockwork Orange at age 10; “We both made mistakes that day,” he said of the incident.
He spoke for a while on stories – reading and writing them – and their impact on him as a young person and as a writer. As a reader he was drawn to fiction moreso than non-fiction because “the truth…was hidden in the lies.” Meaning, he was able to garner from the fictitious stories the reality of whatever situation he was reading about, be it love, war, or any other theme that adults try keeping from children. He learned that “words are public, but the story is private,” which is why readers react with such fervor to their favorite books (or, conversely, their most hated books). I truly enjoyed his musings and am eagerly awaiting his next book.

Up next was the adorable Maggie Stiefvater, author of the honor winning title The Scorpio Races. She spoke about the books and authors that influenced her love of other worlds, which was very appropriate because her creation of the island of Thisby was absolutely perfect. She really pulled the reader into the story using all of their senses, and it was nice to hear where she learned that skill from.

Lastly…was the winner. John Corey Whaley gave a wonderful speech about how the came up with the idea for his book, and how he came up with character names: driving to visit his parents in Louisiana in 2005, names for characters came to him in the form of city names…one of which was Cullen. He said he remembered thinking, “Surely there won’t be another literary character with the name Cullen, in the near future.” teehee
Whaley thanked the Printz committee because, “you have forever given me the power to shake off the haters,”.
Whaley broke up his speech into segments that had their own “book title” (much like his main character). He is a funny guy, and was very humble in his thanks to the people who helped him earn his way onto that stage. I am very much looking forward to reading his next book(s).

I hope my wrap-up of the night’s events gives you an accurate glimpse into a night at a book award ceremony. If you can ever attend one, do so. The inordinate amount of praise of librarians aside, the authors are gracious and funny, and it is fascinating to learn about how, or why they wrote that particular book.

Book 45: The Returning by Christine Hinwood

The Returning by Christine Hinwood is the last title I read to fulfill my own mission of reading all of the 2012 Printz and Alex Award winners and honor books. (It wasn’t last for any particular reason…it just took me that long to get it at the library.) The story follows many characters in the fictional town of Kayforl, from the end of the war between the Uplanders and Downlanders, through the union that brought the two feuding camps together. (The fact that it starts after a war is fascinating to me, as many fantasy novels are about the war itself.) All of the characters are complex, diverse, and lovely, and I enjoyed watching them grow, learn, and experience the inevitable changes that life brings. Pin is the little sister who loves her emotionally and physically scarred brother with no abandon, even when the rest of the town hates him for returning from the war when none of their kin did. Lord Gyaar is the young nobleman who puts honor and respect above money and power. Diido is the eccentric young woman who finally goes after the love she so deserves.

I enjoyed reading this fantasy-like tale of the Uplanders and Downlanders. Some of the terminology threw me for a loop, but context clues helped me figure it out. I like that Hinwood didn’t dumb down the maturity of romantic and familial relationships, of returning home from war, or of other difficult life experiences and feelings. She obviously considers her readers capable of understanding the themes, and doesn’t dumb them down.

I will definitely recommend this book to the teens in my library who enjoy reading fantasy, and even those who don’t self-identify as fans of fantasy. I think the elements of this novel can attract many mature teen readers, regardless of their topical interests.

Book 44: The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright

Perhaps I am too young, too inexperienced in the intricacies of marital relationships, to properly articulate my feelings about Anne Enright’s The Forgotten Waltz. I have never been married (but will be in 8 months!), and I have never cheated (but have been cheated on, lied to, hurt)…then again, I am a woman who has (and is currently) loved, who was once in a serious relationship with a manipulative cheater. So take my review as lightly as you’d like, knowing that I’ve never been in the main character’s shoes (then again, I’ve never been to Hogwarts, either, but I have no problem reviewing the wizarding world). I think, when it comes to matters of the heart, be them fictional or factual, experience and wisdom are relative to the individual experiencing the love. Only the person(s) in the situation is qualified to criticize it. Regardless, I will review the novel for what it is: a novel.

The Forgotten Waltz is the story of Gina and Sean, a couple of cheaters. One’s spouse is an emotional and controlling mess, the other is just normal, simple, tv-reruns on Friday night kind of normal. Normal young couple versus a marriage marred by the stress of a sick child. Simplicity and sickness drive Gina and Sean together in an unforgiving relationship. He hurts her, he doesn’t apologize. She hurts her husband, she doesn’t apologize. There are very few redeeming qualities in these two characters. The story spans a few years of their back and forth, pushing and pulling, that ends in an even more mind-numbing simplicity and pain than the original relationships. This story just proves that affairs hurt everyone involved, and that no good comes from them.

Regardless of my dislike for the character(s), I thought the book was very well-written and incredibly descriptive. I actually felt the pain and thrill of the affair myself, as I was reading. Allow me to share some of my ‘favorite’ lines with you:

My adultery…lingered in my bones; a slight ache as I walked, the occasional, disturbing trace of must….I did not feel guilty, that afternoon in Gstaad, I felt suicidal. Or the flip side of suicidal: I felt like I had killed my life, and no one was dead. On the contrary, we were all twice as alive.” p.45

On Saturday night I cracked open a bottle of wine and we watched ‘The Wire’ on box set, and after that we drank another bottle, despite which I was numb, in his arms, with the thought of all I had lost….I had killed it; my best thing. The guilt, when it finally hit, was astonishing.” p.121

We talked about Aileen. Of course. We talk about his wife – because that is the thing about stolen love, it is important to know who it is you are stealing from.” p.127

The who world was disgusted with me and worn out by my behavior. The entire population of Dublin felt compromised, and they felt it keenly.” p.157

The Forgotten Waltz won the (first ever!) Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Adult Fiction, an award given out by the American Library Association, sponsored by Booklist and the Andrew Carnegie Foundation. (I was honored to be at the awards ceremony where the venerable queen of readers advisory Nancy Pearl led the ceremony [as the head of the committee that chose the book].) This book definitely deserved to be awarded for its wonderful writing and unforgivable yet relate-able themes.

I would love to hear your opinions on this novel. Obviously its themes are controversial, which can be quite fun to discuss/debate.