Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Perks of being a Children's Librarian...

One of my most favourite, favourite things about being a librarian is that I am surrounded by books all day. Good books. Especially Teen Lit, which I really, really love. So I've been reading up a storm.

The Raintree Rebellion - Janet McNaughton

This is the sequel to The Secret Under My Skin which those of you who were in Anna's Children's Lit class will be familiar with as the book everybody (except me) hated. I mentioned The Raintree Rebellion a few months ago and said, rather defiantly, that I was going to read it, and I was going to like it, so there. Well, I'm not done the book yet, so I hate to pass premature judgement, but I gotta say, I don't think it's a good book. The premise is good; a dystopic, technophobic future set in Canada. But McNaughton just doesn't pull it off. Let's compare it to reading something like Philip Pullman's Golden Compass Trilogy. Reading The Golden Compass is like eating expensive chocolate truffles. Like the small, solid, round truffle, the plot is tight, compact; everything has a purpose and works toward enhancing the story. Yet every single tiny molecule of the truffle is bursting with sweet, chocolatey flavour, and you want to savour every single morsel. In contrast, The Raintree Rebellion is kind of like eating overdone steak. The cook has done a very good job coating the outside with a tasty barbecue sauce, so it's not completely unpalatable, but man oh man do you ever have to chew a lot to get it down.

Despite the fact that I did enjoy reading The Secret Under My Skin and subsequently defended it in class, I never denied that there were flaws; these same flaws continue to exist in Rebellion - only this time around I can't be as forgiving.

First of all, the world in the 24th century, as described by McNaughton, is kind of mixed up. They are technophobic, and yet they have inexplicably integrated various frivolous technologies into their lives such as walls that can change colour, and a ceiling that mimics the sky outside (total Harry Potter rip-off BTW). They all keep saying that it's such a mystery what happened during the technocaust, but Blay is only 18. She was two when it happened. That's only 16 years. We're not talking 50 or 100 years. There should be many, many people around who remember what happened. You also find out in the sequel that the Technocaust only happened in North America. So they ask places like Australia and South Africa to send them news reports to help them piece together what happened. Huh? The whole reason the Technocaust happened is because the world was an ecological disaster and people blamed technology for making it that way. The Ozone layer affects the entire earth people, so how come good old Australia managed to hang onto democracy and didn't descend into chaos? The first book was like this too; it was like she would be writing along and then all of a sudden remember, oh yeah, this is the future, let's throw in a bit of inexplicable, useless technology. Oh yeah, this is supposed to be a dystopic future, let's throw in some sort of description of the degredation of society. It's patchy at best, and I don't think the book hangs together very well. We're left with too many Whys?

She also has a tendency to overexplain some things. And I think she is perhaps trying to make up for the fact that parts of it are indeed hard to understand, but she explains the wrong things to you. Finally, I have a little bit of a problem with characterization in this one. And this is maybe why I forgave the first one its flaws, but couldn't forgive this one: I liked Blay as a character, but in this book she's angry all of a sudden, and I was like, "Huh?" Blay was just not the type of person to get or stay angry at someone.

Anyway, all in all, I think we can say skip this one. It's not worth it.

I have however, done some really good reading too.

Ella Enchanted - Gail Carson Levine.

I'd never seen the movie or read the book, so when I came across it on the shelf, I just had to have a go. And coincidently, the day after I finished reading it, the movie was on TBS, so I got to do both. And the book isn't as goofy as the movie. The movie makes fun of itself quite a bit, there is a lot of parody, etc. The book takes itself more seriously, but it is equally good, if not better, in its own way. It is a re-telling of the Cinderella story, complete with evil stepmother and stepsisters, a handsome prince, glass slippers, and a masked ball, and a couple of fairy godmothers, but the funny thing is that I didn't realize this until near the end when it became painfully obvious, so it really is quite a different story than the original Cinderella. I really recommend this, even if you have already seen the movie.

Dairy Queen - Catherine Gilbert Murdock

This was so good. It is set on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and it is about a girl who, over the course of the summer, ends up training the rival school's snobby football quarterback. She ends up liking the football quarterback guy, and has so much fun training, that she decides she wants to go out for her own school's (all-male) football team. Will the quarterback like her back? Will her school let her play? And if they do, how can she play against the guy that she likes? I'm not going to answer these questions because you should read the book. I just thought that the whole setting - small, rural community; rival towns; schools that are absolutely obsessed with football - oh yeah. I lived it. And every once in awhile, it's good to go back.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


This fun meme is from Ash.

Look at the list of books below. Bold the ones you've read, italicize the ones you might read, cross out the ones you won't, underline the ones on your book shelf, and place parentheses around the ones you've never even heard of.

The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger: Maybe, someday.

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy - Douglas Adams: I've heard good things about this one.

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee: The movie's good too.

The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger: I'm not sure if I should bold this one or not, because I've only read half. But the half I read was really good and I would've finished had my sister not stolen it back from me. I will finish one day.

His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling

Life of Pi - Yann Martel: Um, not sure what I should do with this one. I've skimmed it and read the beginning and ending. Which I know doesn't do it justice. But now that I've read the ending, I probably won't read it all.

Animal Farm: A Fairy Story - George Orwell

Catch-22 - Joseph Heller

The Hobbit - J.R. R. Tolkien

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon: I've read the first chapter of this, and it sounded really good. I will finish it sometime.

Lord of the Flies - William Golding

1984 - George Orwell

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling

One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Heard of it. Sounds boring.

Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

(The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini)

The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold: Mom said it was good.

Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut

Angels and Demons - Dan Brown

Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk Never seen the movie, no desire to read the book.

(Neuromancer - William Gibson)

(Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson)

(The Secret History - Donna Tartt)

A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess: Weird abstract books give me headaches.

Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C. S. Lewis

(Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides)

(Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell)

The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

Good Omens - Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman: They are good authors and I've read other books by them, so I will have to check this one out sometime.

(Atonement - Ian McEwan)

(The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zagon)

The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

Dune - Frank Herbert

So there you have it. I've read a lot of them, but I must confess that several of them were forced on me by University Professors, and while I am glad that I have read them and think that they have enriched my mind, I probably would have never picked them up on my own.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My Life, or a reasonable facsimile thereof...

Well, where do I start?

My beast is dead. He is in the shop again, and I am very upset. It is really hard to get around in a small prairie city when you have no transportation. It takes me 40 minutes to walk to work. The bus system here is a joke. And not a very funny one at that. It is the same thing that was wrong the last time. And this time it is not my fault, just a faulty part. But unfortunately, I chose to go the cheap route last time and got a used part, which means NO WARRANTY. So now I have to get another one, and it will cost me just as much money (if not more, since I will probably get a brand new part having learned my lesson about used parts).

I am crazy-busy at work. I just had my first story time today, and it went fine, except I forgot the last two lines to a song, and so I just made something up, and it didn't rhyme, and it didn't even have the correct number of syllables, but give me a break, people. I'm just barely clinging to sanity here.

I also had my first go at weeding the children's fiction collection. The whole children's section needs weeding badly. So I'm getting pages to pull books that haven't circulated in the last four years. Then I go through them. I have discovered that I am perhaps not a very good weeder. Books gain my sympathy way too easily. I'm only too willing to give them a second chance. I'm always thinking, "but you are a good book! Why has no one ever tried you out?? You poor thing. Let me take you home and we'll have a good cuddle in front of the fire with a cup of hot chocolate." It's hard to remember that they are all good books. That's why they were purchased in the first place. But some of them have to go. In the end, my discard pile was at least twice as high as the pile that was going back on the shelf. So that's something. I dunno. Do you think I'm being ruthless enough? It is so hard to condemn a book that is only six years old, is attractive, and interesting, but for some reason has never circulated. Not once. I think we need a foster books program. To give unwanted and unloved books a home. All they need is a chance to prove themselves, and you will find out what good books they can be.

Yes, I know, another post and no France. I promise, I will write about my trip to Europe, in exhaustive detail. If it takes me until Christmas, I shall prevail. But until then, think of me, wish me luck, and consider becoming a foster book parent.