I haven't posted in a bit because things have gone sort of crazy for me. I've mentioned on here before that my job at ACPL is currently only part-time, and that I've been hoping for more hours for a while now. Well, a couple of weeks ago, I was browsing through some library job sites and almost on a whim, decided to apply for a couple of young adult positions I found. Within a few days, I had been contacted for a phone interview by the people at the Normal Public Library in Illinois. A few days after that - this Tuesday - I went to Normal for an in-person interview. The job is a full-time young adult librarian position, and I would definitely be making quite a bit more money than I do now. The interview went well, I thought, and I liked the people at the library. It's definitely a much smaller place than ACPL, and I would be the only full-time YA librarian, with maybe a student worker to assist me. Bloomington-Normal seems like a nice area - the two cities combined have a population of around 120,000 people, it's about two hours from Chicago, and about four and a half hours from my family in Fort Wayne. I'm not sure what to hope for at this point - part of me still has a tiny hope that something full-time is going to open up at ACPL so I can stay in the area, but the rest of me realizes what a great opportunity this job could be. I probably won't find out whether or not they'll offer the job to me for a few more weeks, so meanwhile I'll be nervously waiting. Everyone wish me luck!

Officially my reading time doesn't end until 7:00 tomorrow morning, but there is no way that I'm going to stay up reading that whole time, so I'm officially calling it quits. I'm actually right in the middle of The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope, but I need sleep. Maybe if I finish it tomorrow I'll go ahead and post a review, but for now I'll just count the pages I've read so far.

So, here's my stats:

Books read: 7 1/2
Pages read: 2401
Hours spent reading: About 20
Favorite book read: It's a very tough choice, because I loved several of the books, but I'd say it's a tossup between The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and The Dead and the Gone
Least favorite: Definitely Wake

Some thoughts: Yay, I did better than last year! Still nowhere near the levels of some of the super readers, but as much as I love reading, I found that I couldn't just sit still hour after hour. I had to take breaks for bike rides and the Internet and a little bit of tube-gazing. Plus I took quite a bit of time writing up my reviews that I guess I could've spent reading. But oh well - I wasn't really doing this to set record numbers of pages read or anything, just as a fun way to spend a free weekend and get a lot of books read. So overall, great experience, and I'll definitely have to do this next year.

Prince George of the kingdom of Kendel has always known he was different from others. As a small boy, he followed his mother to the stables and the forest and learned how to speak with the animals there. As he grows older, he comes to learn that he must never share this secret with anyone, as animal magic is banned in the kingdom and punishable by death. But when he becomes betrothed to the neighboring kingdom's Princess Beatrice, who has a strange and inseparable relationship with a mysterious wild hound, both of their secrets threaten to come out into the open.

I'm really not sure how I felt about this one. I think it could have been much more tightly plotted, and sometimes I couldn't figure out exactly what the author was trying to do or where she wanted the story to go. Everything was told in a kind of distant, fairy-tale style, which sometimes works for me but here didn't, because it made it hard to get attached to either George or the princess. All of this is making it sound like I really hate the book, but I don't, just feel kind of meh about it.

Three Boston high school students - T.C. Keller, Augie Hwong, and Alejandra Perez - all decide to write about ninth-grade for an English assignment on their "most excellent year." T.C. and Augie have been best friends and "brothers" since they were little, while Alejandra is a newcomer on the scene. Over the course of the year, T.C., a Red Sox fanatic, finds himself "adopted" by a six-year-old deaf boy, dramatically-inclined Augie discovers a secret about himself that seems to surprise only him, and Alejandra, afraid of not meeting the expectations that her ambassador parents have for her own diplomatic career, learns to embrace her unique talents. Meanwhile, of course, all three find themselves falling in love.

My feelings are kind of torn about this one. The story is told not only through T.C., Augie, and Alejandra's school essays, but through IM messages, emails, and even notes between their parents and teachers, which made for a fun structure. And there's no doubt that the book is full of hilarious moments. But sometimes the funny felt a little forced. All of the characters are so clever and amusing and witty that sometimes I wanted to scream that real people aren't like this! (At least not where I'm from - maybe Boston is a whole 'nother world) And some of the subplots are so unbelievable and tied up so neatly that it jolted me out of the story. Still, there were quite a few times while reading that I literally laughed out loud, and that's fairly unusual for me. So I guess maybe I'll give it one thumb up instead of two.

Frankie Landau-Banks, used to fading into the background at her expensive private boarding school, is more than a little surprised as she starts her sophomore year to finally be receiving attention from her crush, senior and big-man-on-campus Matthew. But despite the exhilaration of being sucked into Matthew's group of friends, sometimes she still feels like an outsider - and never more than when Matthew disappears off to the meetings of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hound, a male-only secret society and Good Old Boy training ground that has existed at the school for decades. Frustrated at being left out and underestimated, Frankie decides to take matters into her own hands, setting off a wild and rebellious prank war that will rock the school to its foundations.

My take: Feminism, yay! I think my favorite thing about this book is the way it will hopefully get girls (and boys too, of course) thinking about their own identities, their place in society, and what they're willing to do to either fit in or stand out in a crowd. I loved the way this book tackled the subtle but still very real ways in which male privilege is encouraged even in a supposedly equal society. I loved the way it dealt with a fun, intelligent girl who wants to be accepted as an equal and as "one of the guys," and her slow realization that in the minds of these guys, her gender will always exclude her from the group - unless she's in the official position of girlfriend, and even then she's relegated to the fringes. I loved the way Frankie took what she was learning about societal rebellion and culture-jamming in her classes and applied it to her own problems at Alabaster. The only thing I didn't overwhelmingly love was the ending, which was a bit of a downer and almost seemed to negate the whole go-against-the-flow message of the rest of the book. Sure, I expected there to be consequences for Frankie's actions, but I think I would have liked a more upbeat ending. The reader is left with no doubt that Frankie will keep fighting and that she's going to end up doing some incredible things with her life, but it still feels like a setback. Anyway, overall, loved it, would recommend it to a lot of teen girls I know.

Seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox has just woken up from a year-long coma after a car accident. At least, that's what her parents tell her, but she can't remember anything at all from the accident or from her life before it. And she has a lot of questions. What happened to her in the past year? Why have her parents moved all the way across the country to a remote house in California? And why does her grandmother look at her like she's a stranger?

Whew - I picked this up on the recommendation of a library coworker, and she didn't steer me wrong. But I'm not sure how far to go with the spoilers on this one. Suffice it to say that this is set in a near-future world where a lot of new things are now medically possible, and the ethics of how far people will go to save a human life are coming into question. Right off the bat you can tell that something more is wrong than just amnesia after a long coma, but only slowly do we understand what's really happened, as Jenna pieces the clues together. Some of the medical technology seems a little far-fetched to me, even for that wonderful nebulous setting known as "the future." And the ending came a bit too quickly and left a lot of the ethical questions that were raised unresolved. Still, it was a page-turner and a thought-provoking read, I did like Jenna a lot as a character, and I thought the issues of identity that the book brought up were well-done.

It's the summer before her junior year, and hardworking, athletic D.J. Schwenk is pretty much singlehandedly running her parents' rural Wisconsin dairy farm after her dad is injured. Meanwhile, her two older brothers, former high school football stars, aren't talking with anyone else in the family, her dad mopes around the house, her little brother won't speak at all, and her mom is spending long hours at work to avoid all of the issues at home. On top of everything, a good family friend who happens to be the football coach at a rival high school asks D.J. to help train lazy rich kid Brian over the summer. Her family has always lived and breathed football, and D.J. is used to playing with her older brothers, so she doesn't feel like she can say no. To her surprise, as she and Brian train together and begin to talk about themselves and their lives, she finds herself falling for him. Even more surprising, she loves playing the game so much that she begins to entertain a crazy idea of playing on her own high school's football team, but she's got a long, uphill battle ahead if she's going to make that happen, one that might jeopardize her burgeoning relationship with Brian.

GREAT book. I know absolutely nothing about football or dairy farms, so I can't say how accurate that part of the story was, but it all rang completely true for me. Besides, although there's definitely plenty of football, that's just a means to tell the story, not the story itself. The real meat of the book follows D.J.'s thoughts as she tries to come to terms with her own position in the world, as the kid sister of two brothers who cast long shadows, and as the glue that's holding her struggling family together. I loved D.J.'s voice - matter-of-fact, keenly observant, and above all, hilarious. I didn't want to leave her behind when the book ended. Luckily, it looks like there's a sequel, which I can't wait to read.

I read Life As We Knew It last year for the Book Challenge, so it seems fitting that I read its sequel this year. This one is set in New York City, where seventeen-year-old Alex Morales lives with his parents and two younger sisters. Unlike Miranda and her family and classmates in the first book, Alex is barely aware of the predicted meteor hit and doesn't even realize what has happened until a day later. Things go from bad to worse almost immediately, however, with thousands upon thousands of New Yorkers dead, rioting in the streets, and social services completely obliterated. When Alex's parents disappear, he is forced to struggle by himself to keep his sisters alive, as food dwindles, sickness spreads, and the worst winter he can remember sets in.

I loved this book, almost as much as Life As We Knew It. Maybe "loved" isn't quite the right word, as both books make me want to either hide under the bed or run out to the grocery and stock up on canned goods, but that's because they do such an excellent job of evoking the panic and despair of facing such a disaster. There are a lot of similarities between the two books, except that in Alex's story, the disasters are much more immediate (Although for some reason, Pfeffer chooses not to tell Alex's story in diary format, as she did for Miranda, and that adds a bit of distance). In Life As We Knew It, what was especially striking to me was the sense of smothering isolation as Miranda and her family holed themselves up in their house in the country. We heard about all of the disasters happening, but saw them only as they indirectly affected her family. Being set in NYC, Alex's story of course feels much less isolated, and truly life-threatening situations set in much more quickly. On top of that, Alex's family doesn't have the money or the ability to stockpile food that Miranda's did, and so his world and what he must do to survive is pretty different from Miranda's. The images of people being trampled in food riots and of searching dead bodies on the streets for valuables were especially haunting. Another difference between the two stories is the devout Catholic faith of Alex and his family, which holds strong throughout the book despite a lot of understandable questioning and anger at God. I don't remember religion playing a part at all in Miranda's story, and its inclusion here offers another vision of how people might respond to such difficult times.

Overall, a great book. I hear that Pfeffer is writing a third one set several years after the disaster, which apparently will feature at least some of the characters from the first two books. I can't wait to find out how the world will have changed and what has happened to the two families we've followed so far.

Ever since she was eight years old, Janie has been an unwilling observer of other people's dreams. Anytime anyone near her falls asleep and starts to dream, she is forced to enter their dream as well. This has made high school difficult from time to time as her fellow students fall asleep in class, and sleepovers are next to impossible, but somehow Janie's been able to muddle along for nearly ten years. Until one day she finds herself in one of her classmate's nightmares, one so horrifying that Janie finally decides that something has to be done.

I picked this one up because the premise sounded so intriguing, but ultimately I thought it was pretty disappointing. The third-person present tense narration really got on my nerves after a while, and the story was told so choppily that I found it hard to really get involved. Not to mention the ridiculous twist towards the end (Spoiler: Her formerly-goth-loser-but-now-suddenly-hot classmate with crazy nightmares turns out to be an undercover cop pretending to be a dealer in order to bust a huge drug operation run by another classmate's father. Um, what?), and the fact that her dreams and why they happen is never really explained, beyond us being told that Janie reads a few dream books from the local library that supposedly solve everything - talk about unsatisfying. Apparently there's a sequel, and maybe it explains more about this implausible premise, but I don't think I'll be reading it.

It's been a while since I've updated, I know, but I'll probably have quite a few posts during the next couple of days, because I'm doing this again this year. Luckily, I have an entirely free weekend with the house to myself this time, so hopefully I'll get a lot of reading done. I started this morning at a little after ten, with Wake by Lisa McMann. I'll be updating frequently with reviews for all of the books I'm reading this time around.

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