It’s Like Santa…

You may remember my post, It’s That Time Of Month, about books and periods.

If so, you can understand my delight in the commercial, The Camp Gyno, from Hello Flo.

I found out about it through Jezebel’s post, Tiny Tampon Queen Stars in Best Menstrual Marketing Ever.

In a nutshell, Hello Flo is a new company that will deliver tampons via mail (this article at the Mary Sue, Tampon Delivery Service, lists some of the other companies out there that also provide this service).

The commercial, The Camp Gyno, illustrates one reason someone would mail order tampons (here, to camp).

Why I love the commercial: it’s factual. It doesn’t treat getting ones period as shameful or something to hide.  It uses words in a matter of fact way. And, it’s funny. Funny in all the right ways: in other words, vagina, tampon, period are not the joke, to be mocked and shamed because, ew, girls, blood, yucky. I’m watching this commercial and thinking, yes. This is the type of scene I want to see in TV shows, in films, and in books.


Review: Uses for Boys

Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt. St. Martin’s Griffin. 2013.

The Plot: Slut.

That’s the word thrown at Anna. Cutting as a knife. Creating a barrier between herself and the world. Except for the boys.

Desmond, Joey, Todd, and the others.

Yes, they take something, but they also give her something she needs. Warmth; attention; love; a story, a story with Anna being the important one. The one who is needed and wanted.

The Good: I loved this book so, so much.

Uses For Boys is not an easy book; it is not a pretty book. This is a deceptively short and brief book: Anna is telling a story, yes, but she tells what she wants to tell.

Anna, so alone and lonely, an odd little child at the start, holding onto a half-invented past when it was only Anna and her mother, and they only needed each other. Anna looks at that point in the past, to herself at age seven, as almost a golden age of her life: “In the happy times, in the tell-me-again times, when I’m seven and there are no stepbrothers and it’s before the stepfathers, my mom lets me sleep in her bed.”

With each marriage, Anna and her mother move into a bigger and better home, until finally it’s just the two of them in the latest house. Her mother is the sort who needs a man in her life, and she is often away with her latest boyfriend, leaving Anna alone.

Anna, so alone and lonely with walls she doesn’t even know she has. I wonder, how, at thirteen, Desmond saw the need in her, saw her weakness, and zeroed in on her as the girl to sit next to on the bus, to without invitation put his hand on her breast and then guide her hand to his pants. Here’s the thing: Desmond is a creep. Anna is passive. But Anna also physically likes what is happening to her body when it is touched: the warmth, the feelings, the sense of connection. She doesn’t say no; she doesn’t say yes; she hopes it happens again.

Anna paints pictures in her head, telling herself stories, making the encounter more than what it was. She has long conversations in her head, shaping what happened, explaining, to herself, rehearsing words she never shares with others.

Her stories don’t come true. Desmond ignores her, and now she is the “slut” who loses the only friend she has.

Anna, alone and lonely and neglected. Now she is fourteen, and the second boy is Joey, and she connects with him the only way she knows about connecting with boys. Wanting emotional intimacy, she uses physical intimacy to get it. And yet: I do not see Anna as a victim here. She initiates it, in part because it feels good. “When he kisses me, I feel important. Like I’m everything to him. Sometimes everything happy bubbles up and I want to be chased around the house.” Quite simply, “I like the way he makes me feel.” But Joey leaves, to go live with his father.

Next is Todd. She is at a party and she thinks she may be attracted to him. Instead, he rapes her, and that is also complicated and messy and nuanced because she had liked him and she wants her stories to go a certain way. A way where she is not a victim, where she is not alone, where she is wanted.

Finally, Anna makes a female friend who doesn’t judge her: Toy. Toy who has her own boyfriends, and as she talks about them to Anna, Anna feels jealous that the boys in her life don’t live up to those in Toy’s life. These two bond over more than talking about boys: the actually connect at Goodwill, looking for clothes, Anna thinking that she can create a new persona based on finding the right clothes. The right jeans and a striped shirt; the right retro dress and Converse sneakers. They are both daughters of single mothers, and their friendship is one of the bright spots in Anna’s life even though she often thinks how her stories, her boys, aren’t as good as Toy’s.

Next is Josh. Anna is now sixteen.  She meets Josh and the next thing we hear her telling her mother she is moving in with him and for a second, because of the jump in time, because I’ve seen how Anna tells stories to shape her reality, I wondered whether Josh had indeed asked her.  But no, it’s true, and she shapes her life to be the narrative she wants: a girl with a boy, wanted by a boy, working at a job, having a cozy nest together. Anna drops out of school, moves in with Josh, saves the money from her coffee shop job.

At one point, later in the story, she thinks, “I look like the girl I imagined I’d be.” Except, at least in this telling, all the imaginings area about the boys.

OK, spoilers — because this is one of the books that I have to talk about whole. Of course, her time with Josh turns out to not be the story she’d imagined in her head. Josh is a decent sort, yes, but he is not her answer.

Anna finds her own place, a small shabby studio apartment. She also finds a new boyfriend, Sam, who is so Perfect he’s out of central casting: his parents are still married to each other, he has an older brother and a younger sister. There are home made dinners. They welcome Anna.

The back cover says Anna “finally learns how it feels to have something to lose — and something to offer.” I see it slightly different. With Sam, with his family, for the first time Anna sees a functional family unit. (More on that below). I think she falls in love with his family more than Sam. Early in their relationship, after barely a date, Sam is gone, Anna is lonely, and she meets that need the way she always has: she meets a boy. They have sex. Later on, another crisis occurs in her relationship with Sam and she also is betrayed by Toy and she begins to do what she has always done: meet a boy to feel better.

Except, this time, Anna doesn’t have sex with him.

It’s not because Sam has “saved” her. It’s not because Anna has decided “oh no that is slutty” or any other such shallow reason. It’s because she doesn’t need to. She doesn’t need to create stories to feel something, to feel important. She doesn’t need to use him.

Anna has realized truths about herself, and the stories she tells herself, and the stories Toy tells herself.

Anna realizes the truth is she can change her own story. And not in a, “with this boy it will be different” way, and not in a “if a boy is in this story, I matter” way. Instead, Anna realizes her life is her own story, and it can be what she wants it to be, and not what others want. She’s important because she is Anna; and while she doesn’t have the family Sam has, she doesn’t have to keep looking for that belonging in boys. She can create her own family from the people in her life: yes, Sam and his family, but also her mother and Toy.

As you can see, I just adored this book. There are some things that made me go “huh,” in part because Anna’s narrative is very Anna-focused. I am not sure about her mother’s age or name or job. I wondered at how much of what Anna said I could believe; is her mother really this neglectful, leaving her daughter for such long periods of time?

Given how pro-female-sexuality this book is, (and while Anna’s motives for sex were sometimes based on wanting to fill an emotional void, it was also sometimes just because she liked sex) I also went “huh” over the contrast between single/divorced families (all dysfunctional) and traditionally married couples (all awesome). But I think Anna was beginning to grasp that things were not as she thought towards the end of the book: she thinks of her mother and for the first time realizes “how much is missing from [her] story.” Maybe her mother is not so awful as she appears to be.

The time period of the book is uncertain. Anna’s telling was often dream like, skipping sections or details. Given the lack of mobile phones or computers, and the use of pay phones, and some of the fashion references, I’d say it’s set in the 80s but it could just as easily be set now.

I’m marking this down as a Favorite Book Read in 2013, because of Anna. Because Uses For Boys has a terrific ending, even if it’s not easy and doesn’t give tidy answers. Because (as you can see from some of the reviews, below) it has created quite a stir about what it means to be a “slut” and what it means to be a teenage girl who has sex.

Other reviews: StackedThe Rejectionist about the book and an author interview; Wrapped Up in Books.

Spoil This

Spoilers are a funny thing. Well, maybe not spoilers so much as how people react to them and what they mean. In a nutshell, a “spoiler” is something about the plot of a book, movie, or TV show. The term implies, in a way, that this somehow “spoils” the reader/viewer experience. But does it? I suggest not — but I also suggest that people wanting to avoid spoilers should not be dismissed.

Why spoilers do not spoil

Have you ever heard something called, say, “a retelling of” (insert a story, play, myth, etc.) Yes? Well, then, that right there spoils the whole work, theoretically. And yet, these retellings are enjoyed. It’s not the destination but rather the getting there.

In terms of enjoying the “getting there” rather than the “destination,” I sometimes read the back of the book before I read the whole book. Not always, but sometimes. People may sometimes be shocked at this, but doing so doesn’t stop me from reading the book. I do it for two reasons: one, for some reason I am getting anxious about the fate of a character and need to know he or she will be OK. Two, the book isn’t working for me and I want to see if where it ends up is such to inspire me to read the entire thing. Both, then, are reasons why being spoiled doesn’t stop me from reading. And enjoying.

But I want to discover those things on my own

On the other hand — while reading, I like to discover things on my own. I like to be following the path the author has made and get excited or dismayed by the twist that happens, the reveal I didn’t see coming, the character I didn’t fully understand now revealed. I want to discover the book as written, not as “spoiled” by someone else telling me, oh, the twin sister did it. I want to read to learn there even is a twin sister.

Do those positions contradict?

NO. Because what remains consistent between the two is quite simple:


It is, at all times, my choice to read the back of the book. Or my choice to search out those reviews that reveal more of a plot. Or to read critiques that get into the meat of the book, including what happens and why and the author’s style. To be honest, with books it’s usually easier to keep knowing or not knowing spoilers my choice. I see reviews for a book I plan on reading, and don’t read them. I hold off on them until after I’ve read the book.

With films and TV shows, it can be harder, because people like to talk about what they are watching and that talk is often online.

I’ve realized that if I don’t want to be spoiled for a TV show, I either need to watch it when it first airs or stay off Twitter or FaceBook.

I don’t expect the world NOT to read, review, or react, so if it’s going to bother me, I purposefully prioritize my viewing or stay away from those areas where folks who already saw it are talking about it. I’m not going to get upset, or angry, if I’m “spoiled” for something that is already out there. Frankly, at that point, it’s not fair to tell people they cannot talk about a show or book. At a certain point, “Anne marries Gilbert” doesn’t need spoiler warnings.

When I’m spoiled like this, I take a deep breath and remind myself that even though I would have enjoyed an unknowing reading/viewing experience, it doesn’t ruin the overall enjoyment of the book, film, or TV show. Also? Such spoiling isn’t done on purpose. And sometimes? Those spoilers push me to read or watch something. Reading how people loved Leslie Knope and her marriage to Ben wasn’t a “spoiler” to what happened, but rather a reason to start watching a show to find out just why people love Leslie.

That said, what I hate with a passion is deliberately ruining another person’s experience; in other words, removing that choice and pushing that information onto them. Especially when it’s done in a mean context. For an example of what I mean, take a look at the Urban Dictionary entry on Snape Kills Dumbledore.

Aha, you may say! You just spoiled that for people! Except look, here, at the forum: I’m an adult writing for adults, within a specific industry (children’s and young adult books), and so I think that the majority of people here know that already. I’m not writing at a place aimed at ten-year-olds who are new to the Harry Potter world.

Context. Intent. It actually does matter.

These are things that I think about when I write posts about books, and I try to not reveal spoilers, or at least to mark them as such. I think, what did I like discovering on my own? Can I not reveal it? On the other hand, sometimes that is exactly what makes the book worth discussing so it has to be revealed to be talked about. Upon occasion, I’ve even split the review into two parts, so that readers can have the choice on how “spoiled” they want to be about a title.

Here’s another example, and now I’m assuming, again, a certain shared knowledge so that what I’m about to say is not a spoiler to you. Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. In part, it’s about a girl recovering from a rape. (It’s also about depression). When you booktalk this to an audience that is not familiar with this title at all — so, to young teens — do you tell them it’s about a rape? Or, since Melinda herself takes her time before revealing this to the reader, do you just say something bad happened?

When someone says they haven’t watched Games of Thrones, do you say “wait until you see when so-and-so dies?” I see a difference between that, and between someone happening upon an article, post, or comment talking about what happened in the first season.

So, what are your opinions on Spoilers?

Is it different for shows and books?

What about the passage of time?

Does the audience matter — is it OK to spoil adults but not children and teens?

Does it matter what type of book it is? (I haven’t even touched on how spoilers may be worse for certain types of books, like mysteries!)

Plagiarism, Indie Authors, Libraries

Plagiarism stinks. No two ways about it.

It happens.

The question is, what to do when you see it?

That was the issue presented to readers of some indie authors recently; they saw that one author had plagiarized others, and saw that the author had been mentioned on a blog post.

So, what to do?

They went after the blogger, in a series of comments.

The blog is Me, My Shelf and I. I follow the blog on Twitter & read the blog. One meme they have that I particularly like is “My Indie Monday,” which highlights an indie author each Monday. See, I don’t read a lot of indie authors and books. I don’t have the time; right now, I don’t have the desire. Instead, I rely on other reviewers and bloggers and when I see them mention something that is good, I’ll look at it. (And to be honest: I’ve read only a small, small handful of such indie authors, but these blogs and memes help me to be aware of what is out there.)

Given the scarcity of reviews and mentions of most indie authors, and the need for such reviews for libraries, one thing I’m very pro is librarians reading and following blogs like Me, My Shelf and I to be fully informed about indie authors and books. Why? So that purchasing of such books is made in an informed manner. In other words, yes, the reviews are out there.


Long story short — and I urge you to read the “long story” over at Me, My Shelf and I — an indie author was highlighted in My Indie Monday. In comments, an allegation of plagiarism was made. People in the comments said the post should be taken down. Once Me, My Shelf and I had the opportunity to look into the matter further, she did indeed take the post down, replacing the original post with an explanation of what had happened and leaving up all the original comments to the original post as well as now having comments to the replacement posts. (I love transparency!)

My concerns, based on what I saw at the blog and on Twitter:

Please, people, bloggers are people. Just like you. We don’t live online 24/7. We have jobs, families, friends, lives that happen outside the blog. We sleep. A blogger cannot instantly respond to and react to comments. It’s just impossible, and it’s unrealistic and demanding to expect it.

Plagiarism requires proof. It’s not enough to say it happened. It’s also not enough to point to the works plagiarized. Look at how Dear Author has approached blogging about plagiarism; she uses exact, specific instances, comparing pages and passages. It’s not fair, to say to a blogger, hey, read and compare these different works. And do so in the next hour.

Yes, plagiarism happens with traditional publishing. But in recent high profile cases, I cannot think of the authors or readers involved going after the reviewers or mainstream media that reported on the book. Concerns and criticisms are directed to the author and their publisher. Not to readers, reporters, or bloggers.

Librarians need to be aware of what happens with indie authors and books, if they are going to start collecting their work or getting involved in the publishing process. Note, I’m not saying not to do it — just be aware so that the right policies and procedures are crafted.

As I mentioned above, part of that is using resources like Me, My Shelf and I to discover books.

Part of it is seeing what has happened here and figuring out, “ok, what if this was about a book the library purchased for it’s collection? What would our response look like? What if these comments were being left at the library website? What do we do about the comments and the book?”

And part of it is saying, if we’re going to become community publishing portals, what will do when allegations of plagiarism arise?

So, do you know of any existing library policies that address these types of collection development issues?

What does your library do when plagiarism allegations are made about books in the collection?

What blogs and review sources do you go to for discovering indie author and books?



Guest Post by Beth Bauman

One of the things I really like New Adult is the conversations it inspires.

While I’ve joked about how “sexytimes” figures into whether a book is Young Adult or New Adult, I’m dead serious about young adult books and female sexuality. Want to see me rant? Just drop the s-word when talking about teenage girls. (The s-word is slut.) I also don’t like the “sexytimes” definition for New Adult because, well, Young Adult books do address sex, and sexuality.

I’m delighted to have a guest post about this topic by Beth Ann Bauman, author of Jersey Angel (Random House, 2012; paperback edition, 2013) (edited to add link to my review) and Rosie & Skate (Random House, 2009; paperback edition, 2011) (my review). I also love Beth’s post because, well, sometimes New Adult is spoken about as books set in college, or “college aged” which implies, doesn’t it, that the person should be college. And Beth talks about those people who may not be interested in college. And finally: JERSEY IN THE HOUSE. Ahem. Sorry, but Beth writes about my Jersey Shore, the area I grew up in and still live near, not some reality TV buffed and tanned version.

And, here is Beth’s post —

Why I Wanted to Write About the Girl Who Doesn’t Get Written About

When Angel Cassonetti appeared in the early stages of Jersey Angel, I was happy to meet her. Here was a rebel girl, one who unapologetically likes sex, doesn’t want to be tied down, and knows college isn’t for her. She’s the kind of girl who’s culturally marginalized, but what’s interesting about her is that she doesn’t marginalize herself. She lives her life, seeking her own truth, even as the journey reveals her flaws.

In writing the book I wanted to take on sexual desire and pleasure from a girl’s perspective. What’s interesting to me is how the old double standard still applies in the twenty-first century. Promiscuous boys inspire sly smiles—those horndogs, those bad boys—but sexually active girls are still suspect. In fact, they’re sluts, hos, words that some readers have used in online reviews to describe my character even when they like the book. If there’s been any progress on the double-standard front, it’s that many people can probably accept a girl’s sexual activity if she’s emotionally invested, if the boy she’s doing the deed with means something to her. But enjoying sex because it’s exciting and empowering, feels good, and validates one’s desirability is another story. You’ve come a long way, baby? Not quite. A girl’s horniness is still threatening. And though we may not culturally embrace this girl, she exists.

I’m also intrigued by the question of ambition. The YA landscape is filled with interesting strivers, kids on their way to adulthood with college as a likely destination on the journey. But you don’t often find stories about kids who aren’t college bound: the ones who don’t make the grades, haven’t been paying attention, or know in their hearts college isn’t for them. If the subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle aim of YA fiction is to promote good values and morality, I wonder if a story about the low striver, or the kid who doesn’t try to play the college game at all, is seen as a kind of failure on the author’s part. Such a book depicts a lack of ambition that very well may be anti-American. But the truth is plenty of kids don’t go to college. They don’t want to—and wouldn’t do well if pushed in that direction. This is a class issue as well. If stories about kids in the lower classes are often about the climb out, what do we make of the girl who comfortably stays put? It seems to me that in YA literature she gets bypassed or used as the bad example.

There are many different types of teens, and in Angel I’d like to think I’ve given voice to a character we don’t often hear from. YA should represent many voices, not just those that serve as good examples. Maybe the bigger issue is why we think teens need role models in these books. As a writer, I’m interested in representing the world as it is, not as it should be. Rather than providing role models, shouldn’t fiction be a means of imagining a life other than our own? There’s value and self-expansion in doing so, and the reward might be a fuller view of the human condition.

Let’s hear it for the antiheroine, who resists others’ limited vision of her and has the courage to stand alone. In testing limits and seeing what she’s made of, she’ll screw up more often than not—which epitomizes the teen years—but in the process she may find a richer, more hard-won path to selfhood.


Thank you, Beth!

Review: Fuse

Fuse: Book 2 of the Pure Trilogy by Julianna Baggott. Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group. 2013. Review copy from conference. Sequel to Pure. Part of my “vacation reads,” books for adults to read during their vacation — hey, it’s summer vacation! Also, this is a sequel to an Alex Award winner; and just like Pure, there is plenty of teen appeal. Spoilers for Pure.

The Plot: Fuse takes up right after the events of Pure. To recap, it’s nine years after the Detonations, a world-wide series of nuclear explosions. “Pures” survived, unscathed, in a protected Dome ruled by controlling dictator; wretches outside where burnt and fused and scarred by both the Detonations and the world that resulted.

In Pure, a group of teens from both inside and outside the Dome came together, put aside prejudices and preconceptions to start trusting each other to try to make a difference in their world.

In Fuse, those efforts are interrupted when Partridge, 18, a Pure, discovers that his father (leader in the Dome) will not let me go. His father takes a small child, a wretch, and “cures” her, returning her back to the world to tell his message: “This girl is proof that we can save you all. If you ignore our plea, we will kill our hostages one at a time.” Why is his father so desperate to recover his son?

As Partridge and Lyda, another Pure, try to figure out whether to return to the Dome, those from outside the Dome — Pressia, Bradwell, El Capitan, Helmud — race to try to uncover the secrets of Partridge’s father, Ellery Willux. They already know that he engineered the Detonations, that he is a cruel and evil man who is also brilliant and manipulative. Willux is not brilliant enough: his “cure” is imperfect. Part of the answers that Pressia and the others seek is the complete, real cure.

In a destroyed, dangerous world, Partridge, Pressia, and their friends rush to find answers and to create a better future.

The Good: Guys, it was tough to try to describe that plot!

At this point, let’s assume that you have either read Pure or don’t care about spoilers.

Baggott has created a stunning dystopia, both inside and outside the Dome. Even before the Detonations went off, the world was ours but not-ours. Similar historical events and geography, but the names are just a bit off kilter and the pre-Detonation politics and society such that it’s not quite our world before. I’d go so far as to say that the government at the time of the Detonation was a dystopia. Those are the type of world-building details that I really, really like.

Inside the Dome, Willux has created his idea of a perfect world. Everyone knows their place, especially women. People are re-engineered to make them better. Partridge escaped this world, but he also wants to return there to save it. It’s his home, his friends, and it’s safer than life outside the Dome. Lyda, another former Dome inhabitant, views the Dome differently. She was not the privileged (albeit neglected) son of the Leader. She loves Patridge, but she doesn’t want to  return to the Dome.


“[Lyda] doesn’t despise her old self as much as she fears her. Her trapped life was so comfortable that she’d still be in it if she’d been allowed a choice. If her old self had been told that she would one day find herself out here, living among the wretches, she would have pitied her new self. But she’s lucky she got out.” You know what I love about this, aside from the obvious? That it’s also a metaphor for growing up. Childhood is comfortable, a place one would want to stay, but once one has independence, and growth, once one is an adult — how lucky one is! Yes, Lyda has to worry about food and clothes and safety now that she’s left the Dome, but it’s a much better place to be.

Outside of the Dome, life is dangerous and cruel, but it can also be beautiful in its honesty. Pressia, Bradwell, El Capitan and Helmud do not so much want to enter the Dome and be “saved” as to create a safer, better world for everyone outside the Dome.

How unsafe is their world? Each of them was scarred by the Detonations, forever fused to what they were near: Pressia’s hand is a doll, Bradwell’s back contains birds, brothers El Capitan and Helmud are fused together. Children born afterwards are not “Pure,” because the damage done to DNA. It’s not just that their DNA has been altered and society destroyed. It’s a world with cruel, hungry beasts that may have some human in them; even the ground cannot be trusted to be safe. (No, really, there are — things — that live in the ground and can eat you.) Food and water outside the Dome are hard to come by. The technology, the resources, the medicine in the Dome could make the outside world better; and the daily bravery of those outside are something those inside need to see.

Of course, it’s not that simple. Those scarred outside can be scarred inside. El Capitan is on a journey to changing from a hardened military man to a caring young man; while part of the paramilitary he made some brutal choices. His name still causes fear. “Mothers” — women from a suburb who were fused to their children — are now fierce warriors who call all men “Deaths,” blaming them for what the world now is. Lyda they welcome and protect; Partridge they look at with suspicion. (There is also some humor; the Mothers battle the Basement Boys, teenage slackers who fused with video game controllers. Weapon of choice? Lawn Darts.)

In addition to the world building, I just love these characters. Pressia discovered that her life is a lie: her grandfather was not her grandfather, but rather a kind man who saved her and took her in and named her after the Detonations. She had a different name and a different life; she is Partridge’s half sister. She wants to know her past and her self, the parts she forgot; she wants a real hand; and she fights the feelings she has for Bradwell.

Bradwell’s parents were involved in fighting Willux even before the Detonations, so his motivations for seeking answers are different from Pressia’s. He is driven, but in different ways, and I love the half-dance of falling in love these two engage in as they try to survive the world and make things better.

Partridge could easily be dismissed because his life has been, well, soft and easy, but the hard truths he’s learned — especially about how monstrous his father is — has toughened him a bit. (And how’s that for teen appeal! The parent you think is a monster IS a monster!)

Lyda, as mentioned above, is finding herself in the freedom of life outside the Dome.

But El Capitan! Cap is, hands down, my favorite. In Pure, he began as one of the bad guys, but only because, like the others, he was an orphaned teen doing his best to survive. He also had Helmud, his brother, permanently attached, who he had to take care of. Before he meets Pressia and the others, surviving means doing some brutal things. By the events of Fuse, Cap has changed. He’s still tough, but he’s become more compassionate, in part because he has expanded his world of people to care about beyond his brother.

Plot wise, Fuse early on separated the group, so while their is a common, shared goal, everyone ends up in a different circumstances, working towards that end. I won’t give the details, so will avoid sharing the cliffhangers and reveals, but there is lot of action and danger!

So, Fuse (like Pure) is a Favorite Book Read in 2013. And I cannot wait till 2014, when the third and final book, Burn, comes out!

Links to reviews: Rhapsody in Books; Beth Fish Reads; Interview at Caroline Leavitt; BookReporter.

Flashback July 2008

And now, a flashback to what I was reading in July 2008!

My Favorite Books of 2007  Because 2008 was the year I was reading for the Printz, my blog content of actual reviews, especially of YA books, is fairly light. So instead look at the roundup of my favorite books from 2007!

Gray Wolves; Return to Yellowstone by Meish Goldish. From my review: “Gray Wolves: Return to Yellowstone focuses on the modern history of the wolf, how it became nearly extinct in the US, and the efforts to bring it back.”

SummerTeen tomorrow!

Just a reminder about SummerTeen tomorrow!


The line up is at the SLJ SummerTeen website.

I will be moderating the Historical Fantasy panel.

Deb Noyes, Plague in the Mirror (Candlewick) (My review)

Robin LaFevers, Dark Triumph (HMH) (My review of Grave Mercy, the first book in this series, and Dark Triumph)

Elizabeth Wein, The Winter Prince (Open Road) (My review)

Sharon Cameron, The Dark Unwinding (Scholastic) (My review)

If you have any questions for the authors, leave them here; or better yet, ask them tomorrow.

Review: Plague In The Mirror

Plague in the Mirror by Deborah Noyes. Candlewick Press. 2013. Reviewed from ARC from publishers.

The Plot: May is spending the summer in Florence with family friends. It’s not just a great chance to be in Florence, it’s also a way to be away from home, away from Vermont, away from her friends, and away from her parents. Her parents, who have decided to split up and May has to decide who to live with, her mother or her father.

Instead of deciding, she is in Florence, with Liam, her best friend, and his mother, Gwen.

Things don’t go as planned when May awakes to a presence in her room. A girl, her age, who looks like her. Cristofana.

Cristofana has reached across from time, from the fourteenth century, to find May. Now that she has, she won’t let her go. It’s madness, the way Cristofana hunts May down and visits her time, and that Cristofana wants to bring May back to her own time. Cristofana’s time: 1348. The year of the plague.

It would be madness, except that May finds herself drawn to this strange girl who looks just like her, and drawn to the past.

The Good: May and Cristofana: two identical looking girls separated by centuries. In May’s time, Cristofana looks like a ghost; and when May visits Cristofana, May appears as a ghost. Cristofana has figured out how the portale between the two works and she has also figured out identical things can “switch” places and be real in the other time.

This is why Cristofana has searched through time for May: to switch. To escape 1348. But to do this, May would have to agree to go to 1348. May knows her history and that is insane.

Speaking of insanity, Cristofana is not — not what? How to describe Cristofana, who looks like May but is so unlike her? And at this point I have to say something. Cristofana is mean and cruel, blunt and self centered, and I loved her. I liked her more than I liked May. Why? Because Cristofana is not the typical person who appears in such a time slip story. She is not a lady, she is not rich, she is not privileged. She reveals her story in bits and pieces, and even at the end, there are parts May will never know. But Cristofana is a survivor, and I have always liked and respected survivors. Cristofana’s world, and her need to take care of herself, both before and during the Plague, has shaped Cristofana and I respect that even if, like May, I was half-afraid of Cristofana.

May is unsettled: she is in Florence away from home, but she also knows that home has disappeared because of her parent’s divorce. Through Cristofana’s eyes, May, a typical high school student (she is about to be a senior) is spoiled and soft and untested. It is easy to see why Cristofana is hungry for May’s world and life, but why would May go back to 1348? At first, when she is just a ghost, it is curiosity, to see if it is real, to know what Florence was like. Being like a ghost is a safe way to visit, but May is not untouched by what she sees. When she switches places to be temporarily “real” in the past, she connects with a young man, Marco, and that connection is something she cannot let go. Even though she knows it is hundreds of years ago, she wants to see him again. To know the Plague does not touch him. And the Plague, the descriptions of the Plague and fear and the dying and those who manage to survive: so

I loved the descriptions of Florence, past and present, the food, the architecture, the people, the places. To see May compare the “then” and “now”.

But is May going to “then”? Gwen is a medieval literature professor and a travel writer. Is it possible that May is creating the “then” as a way to not deal with her current unhappiness? I considered it; even the text considers it. But Cristofana is such a unique person, I can’t imagine May inventing her, deliberately or not. Not just unique: at times, unpleasant. What “then” and “now” asks is, who is a person? Who is May, without her parents? Who is Cristofana, as the Plague kills all she knows? Do we reinvent ourselves, and how? And when do we let ourselves love, or keep ourselves from love?

One slight quibble: Cristofana speaks English because her mother was English, so she and May can communicate. But doesn’t language change over centuries? I decided that was one of those things that I had to just go with and not think about too much, and that since Cristofana has been looking through time for the person who is her twin, the person she can switch with, that some of that time travel as a spirit included modernizing her English skills.

Final thought: the writing. I just fell into the writing. “There’s a certain kind of silence when you wake in the deep of night, in a strange bed, knowing that someone has entered the room.” “It worries her, how calm she feels now that it’s over, how accepting. Does madness come over ou that quickly, like a wool blanket thrown over your head . . . and you just learn to live in the dark? This calm adaptability is almost worse than whatever’s causing these weird delusions.” “We are all we have.”

Other reviews: Author interview at Oops! I Read It Again; Simply Books; Stories and Sweeties.



Candy Crush

Hello, my name is Liz, and I’m obsessed with Candy Crush.

For those of you who aren’t playing . . . .

Candy Crush Saga is a game you can play on your phone or computer. It’s one of those “match 3 objects” games, (in this case candies) with each board having a different set of challenges (get a minimum score, get a certain combination). If you match 4 or 5, or do a certain shape, you get a special candy.

Also, you have only 5 lives. It’s done on a timer, in that to get more you need to wait a specific time period.

Complete the objective for a board, move up to the next level.

There are different ways to play: my sister has an Android app on her phone, and she doesn’t have FaceBook. My mom plays through her FaceBook account. I play on my iPhone, but link it to my FaceBook account. Being on FaceBook introduces the ability to get or give lives; there are also certain levels that you need FaceBook friends to help you get over. (My sister, who has no FaceBook account, says she gets through those levels by finishing certain challenges.)

The cost: free. BUT, if you don’t want to wait to get more lives, or if you want a special candy, or if you want to go up a section without the FaceBook help or doing the challenges, there is a small fee. So far, I haven’t paid anything. (I’m the sort of ornery person who hates this type of nickel and dime purchases within a game. I’d rather pay a few bucks upfront than a dollar here and there.)

Sounds simple.

But — the whole way the game is structured is just obsessive-making. It’s short, so that if you have a few free minutes you can play. But those few minutes turn into a half hour. I’m glad at the limit of five lives and then wait for more so that I don’t play it endlessly.

Also, it gets a wee bit harder with each board, so it remains a challenge and not boring. But then — then — in the midst is some board that is so difficult it’s like WEEKS go get beyond it.

Right now, I’m on Level 172.

Oh, and also, you can buy socks.

So, are you playing? What level are you at? Do you hate the chocolate?

And if you’re not playing — are there any similar games that you are playing?

How does this link to teens?

I’ve read the theories about gaming and reading and honestly, while I enjoy this game it’s not that type of game — not the type that requires much reading. It’s not the type that also is creating any new type of awesome skill set on my behalf. It’s just, well, FUN.

And FUN is important. To have something you like to do with no other motive? Is great. And the next time you see kids or teens getting obsessive about a game, remember how you feel about Candy Crush. Or something else that you do just for fun.

As for the fun element — it’s also fun because it just is. Much as I embrace making learning fun and interesting for people, I also am hesitant about co-opting those fun experiences, putting them into an educational or professional context, and removing the voluntariness, serendipity, and “fun” that the game had provided before it became a learning tool.

Shouldn’t kids be allowed their fun and games, without dragging it into “learning”?

Last thoughts: all the people I know playing Candy Crush are grownups. Do you know any teens or kids who play? Sometimes my niece or nephew will want to play a board or two, but they are way more into Minecraft right now.