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1. Edwards Award: Who Was Margaret A Edwards?

If all these posts about the Edwards Award makes you want to know more about the woman the Award was named for, here you go!

At the YALSA website: Who Is Margaret Edwards and What Is This Award Being Given In Her Honor? by Betty Carter. This is an article that originally appeared in The ALAN Review, Spring 1992, 45 - 48.

And, also at the YALSA website, some Award Facts.



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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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2. Edwards Award: Winners!

So who has received the Edwards Award?

The 2015 Winner is Sharon M. Draper. And yes, my fingers are crossed that I'll be able to attend the Edwards Brunch in June.

And here is the list to previous winners:


1988 S.E. Hinton
1990 Richard Peck
1991 Robert Cormier
1992 Lois Duncan
1993 M.E. Kerr
1994 Walter Dean Myers
1995 Cynthia Voigt
1996 Judy Blume
1997 Gary Paulsen
1998 Madeleine L'Engle
1999 Anne McCaffrey
2000 Chris Crutcher
2001 Robert Lipsyte
2002 Paul Zindel
2003 Nancy Garden
2004 Ursula K. Le Guin
2005 Francesca Lia Block
2006 Jacqueline Woodson
2007 Lois Lowry
2008 Orson Scott Card
2009 Laurie Halse Anderson
2010 Jim Murphy
2011 Sir Terry Pratchett
2012 Susan Cooper
2013 Tamora Pierce
2014 Markus Zusak




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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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3. Edwards Award: Selection, Administration, Publisher Solictation

And a little more about the Edwards Award, from the YALSA website.



Selection

A committee of five, including the chair, will be responsible for the final selection of the recipient of the Award. Input may be solicited from the field, including librarians and young adults, but the selection will be made by the committee. Input should be received by the chair of the committee by November 1. The selection of the winner award will be made at the ALA Midwinter Meeting preceding the Annual Conference at which the award is to be presented.

Administration

The five member selection committee is virtual and will serve an 18 month term. A new committee will be charged with the selection of the recipient for each annual award. Two members of the committee will be appointed by the YALSA President-Elect and three members will be elected from names placed on the YALSA ballot. The chair of the committee will be appointed by the President-Elect from among the five members. This appointment will take place immediately after the election results are known. Committee members are not eligible for consecutive reappointment but they can stand for election to the subsequent committee.

Publisher solicitation

The Ethical Behavior Policy for Volunteers and the Award Committees Conflict of Interest Policy outline appropriate interactions between committee members and publishers.

The chair and/or administrative assistant are responsible for contact with the publishers. Committee members must not solicit publishers for free personal copies of books. If members receive, or are offered, unsolicited copies of books from publishers, they may accept the titles.

Committee members must not solicit publishers for favors, invitations, etc. If members receive these, however, they will use their own judgment in accepting. Publishers understand that such acceptance in no way influences members' actions or selections.

So basically the time-frame means a lot of reading and rereading over the next few months, and then a decision next fall/early winter. So I'll be pretty busy!

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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4. Edwards Award: Sponsor and Presentation

And a little more about the Edwards Award, from the YALSA website.



Sponsor

School Library Journal is the award's donor and funds the award and administrative cost. The recipient receives a cash prize of $2,000 plus an appropriate citation.

Presentation

The award (cash prize and citation) will be presented to the winning author at the YALSA luncheon or other gala affair at the ALA Annual Conference. The author is required to attend the event to accept the award and to make a short acceptance speech.

Currently, the presentation is made at a brunch during ALA. I've attended the event both as a lunch event and as the brunch, and both ways it's a great event.


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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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5. ASCLA Interface Interview

One of the ALA groups I'm a part of is ASCLA, the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies.

ASLCA's newsletter is Interface, available online. And I was highlighted in their recent Member Spotlight!

So if you want to know about the library job that pays the bills, head over to the ASCLA Newsletter.





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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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6. Edwards Award: Criteria

And a little more about the Edwards Award, from the YALSA website.

Last time, the definitions pretty much set what authors are books are eligible. But what is the criteria to make a selection?



Criteria

The committee making its selection of nominees must be aware of the entire range of books for young adults and will take into account the following:

Does the book(s) help adolescents to become aware of themselves and to answer their questions about their role and importance in relationships, society and in the world?

Is the book(s) of acceptable literary quality?

Does the book(s) satisfy the curiosity of young adults and yet help them thoughtfully to build a philosophy of life?

Is the book(s) currently popular with a wide range of young adults in many different parts of the country?

Do the book(s) serve as a "window to the world" for young adults?


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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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7. Edwards Award: Definitions

And a little more about the Edwards Award, from the YALSA website.



Definitions

"Author" may be an individual or a co-author. The author must be living at the time of the nomination. In the case of co-authors, one must be living. If an author continues to write books of interest and appeal to young adults, then he or she may receive the award more than once as warranted, as long as it is not more frequently than every six years.

"Book or books" indicates either a title or titles written specifically for young adults, or those titles written for adults, which continue to be requested and read by young adults. The title or titles must be in-print at the time of nomination. Only those titles of an author's work which meet the criteria of the award will be cited.

"Over a period of time" means that the book or books must have been published in the United States no less than five years prior to the first meeting of the current Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee at the Midwinter Meeting. The five year period is stipulated so that the book or books have had enough time to filter down, i.e., reach a wide level of distribution, and to be accepted by young adults.

"Continues to illuminate their experiences and emotions" means that the book or books have become a literary cornerstone for young adults.

As you can see, the author must be living at the time of nomination; and that an author may receiver the award more than once.

Also, the books must have been published "no less than five years" prior to the first meeting of the Edwards Award.



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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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8. Edwards Award: Terms and Committee Makeup

And a little more about the Edwards Award, from the YALSA website. While this may be the boring stuff, it's still important to know how this all works. For example, that it's virtual and there are five members; and the other YALSA policies that apply.




Terms

The award is given annually to an author whose book or books, over a period of time, have been accepted by young adults as an authentic voice that continues to illuminate their experiences and emotions, giving insight into their lives. The book or books should enable them to understand themselves, the world in which they live, and their relationship with others and with society. The book or books must be in print at the time of the nomination.

Members who have served two consecutive years as a member and/or administrative assistant may not be appointed to the same committee for three years from the conclusion of their last term. This guideline will not apply to the Chair.  In extreme circumstances, and at the President’s discretion, an exception may be made if a committee member resigns suddenly.  The President, after discussion with the Committee Chair, may determine that the best course of action is to fill the vacancy with an experienced committee member, and appoint a member in good standing who successfully served on the committee in question during the previous three years.

Committee Makeup

How many members, length of term, etc.

Edwards is a virtual committee.  Two committee members are appointed by YALSA's President-Elect and three are elected to serve a 18 month term. There are 5 voting committee members, including the chair. Each term begins Feb. 1st and ends the following June 30th. If someone resigns, the current President of YALSA may appoint a new person to finish out that particular term.

Responsibilities of regular committee positions

Additional information about committee member responsibilities is available from YALSA's Handbook.  All committee members must comply with YALSA's Policies, as presented in the online Handbook, including: Social Media Policy, Ethical Behavior Policy for Volunteers and the Award Committees Conflict of Interest Policy.


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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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9. Review: Gone Crazy in Alabama

Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia. Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins. 2015. Reviewed from ARC. Companion to One Crazy Summer (2010) and P.S. Be Eleven (2013).

The Plot: It's the summer of 1969, and sisters Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are back. This time, they're off to spend the summer in the south, in Alabama, with their grandmother and great grandmother. They will learn about the things that keep family together, and what keeps family apart. And they'll have fun and tears along the way.

The Good: When I wrote about One Crazy Summer, about the sisters spending the summer of 1968 with their estranged mother, I said, "I want a second book. I want to spend more time with the Gaither sisters. I want One Crazy Summer to be the start of a new series, like All Of A Kind Family / Betsy-Tacy / Little House on the Prairie."

Confession: when the second book, P.S. Be Eleven, was published in 2013 I didn't read it. I have a copy, it was just... I haven't read it. Yet. Which right now I'm actually glad about, for two reasons: it means I still have an unread book about the Gaither sisters, and it means that I can say with full confidence that these books stand alone.

The girls are now 12, 10, and 8; their father has remarried, his new wife is expecting (don't worry, the girls love her and she loves them), and the girls are going to Alabama to visit Big Ma, their grandmother.

The things I love about this book: the three girls are sent, alone, by bus, from New York City to Alabama. Delphine has the responsibility for getting them all their safely, but their father also relies on the other children and families who are traveling from the city to their families and relatives in the south. Here is a glimpse at a different time and place, where the father trusts his daughters (and the other travelers) yet at the same time cautions his daughters -- Alabama isn't New York. Be careful what you say to and around white people.

Once in Alabama, the action is mostly with family members. You see, Big Ma's mother, Ma Charles, has a half-sister Miss Trotter who she never speaks to. Miss Trotter's great-grandson, JimmyTrotter, is a friend to all three girls. The family secret is this: Ma Charles and Miss Trotter were born the same year. Their father married both their mothers. It's a complicated situation, learned through the eyes of twelve-year-old Delphine. Jealousy and other things keep these two women apart, yet geography and blood and shared relatives keep them together.

And it gets an additional layer of confusion when Delphine finds out that the Charles side of her family is related to a white family in town. Or, as Ma Charles puts it, "the white side." A family who is clearly racist, and maybe worse. And everyone knows about it but few people talk about. There are no easy answers or explanations; instead, it's presenting matter of fact truths: the ways that people talked to each other. The things that could and could not be said. The words used. The frustrations and fears.

Since this is about the Gaither sisters, once again Williams-Garcia captures sisterhood perfectly. These are sisters who fight fiercely and love even more fiercely. Who crave both independence and support. The way these girls interact is real and true; and also, look at that cover! Who wouldn't want to be them? To be friends with them? To have those amazing 1960s clothes?

And heck yes, a Favorite Book in 2015. With fingers crossed and much hope that this is not the last time we visit with Delphine, Vonetta, Fern, and the rest of their family.








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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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10. Review: All The Rage

All the Rage by Courtney Summers. St. Martin's Griffin. 2015. Reviewed from ARC.

The Plot: Romy is an outsider in her small town for so many reasons. Her father, the drunk; her mother, who married too young and just moved in with her new boyfriend. The new boyfriend who has never really held a full time job, living off government checks in the shabby house he inherited from his mother.

And at school, Romy is known as a liar, a target for ridicule and mockery.

She can escape to her work in a small diner, where people know her and like her and she doesn't have all the baggage of who her family is and isn't and what Romy did and didn't do. Where she can be herself; or at least, one version of herself. A version where people don't know about her and her family and her past.

Until the day Penny, one of Romy's tormentors, shows up at her work and refuses to leave.

The next day, both Romy and Penny are missing. Romy is found, with little or no memory of the night before. Penny is missing, and that just brings more torment to Romy because anyone looking for her meant they weren't looking for Penny.

What did Penny tell Romy? And what will Romy do now?

The Good: All the Rage is so good! It's a painful story because Romy's story is painful to read, but it's an important story because her pain, her anger, her age, her story is not unique.

This is not an attractive look at a small town and it's inhabitants, in part because it is Romy's story and she sees the worst around her. Yes, her father is a drunk who got fired, but the story behind shows a man in pain who didn't know what to do. Yes, her parents were young teenagers when they had Romy, but her mother is a kind and compassionate woman who is doing the best she can for her daughter. The new boyfriend is actually an old friend of her mother's, who is kind and loving. These are people without much money, and with no power, but they love Romy.

Sometimes, love isn't enough.

Romy had had a crush on a boy, back when she still had friends. The boy was popular and well liked, and his family was well connected in the town. And because she liked him, and dressed up for the party, because she wanted to be kissed, no one believed her when she said she said no. And so she became the liar, the outcast. Penny went from being a good friend to one of those siding against her. Until the day Penny came to see Romy.

Romy is angry but trying to contain her anger, trying to survive it by going to work at the diner but that illusion disappears when Penny shows up, when her work-self and home-self can no longer be kept separate. Her anger is fierce and sad and lonely; it comes out in many ways. Upon learning that a friend has had a baby, her first thought is please, let it not be a girl. It is a girl. When she holds the child for the first time, she thinks of how hard her life will be, how hard a girl's life always is.

Because all Romy can think of is how she was hurt and betrayed: how the price for having a crush on a boy, for wanted to look pretty, was to be called a liar who was trying to ruin a poor boy's life. Of course, both those things meant she had to have said yes to him; she could not possibly have said no. How can she not be angry and full of rage, to live in a world where the default view of a woman is that a boy has a right to her body, based on her clothes and her crush?

My heart was broken again and again for Romy, for the pain she was in, for her isolation. For how the world turned against her, because it was easier to not believe her. Because not believing her meant that the world still made sense. Because it's not real until it happens to you.

But Romy is one thing, besides being angry and full of rage. She's a survivor. She will survive, even if it takes time. She will survive, even if it takes her time to heal. And she's going to have hard choices to make, not only because of what happened to her, but also because of what happened to Penny.

This is a Favorite Book of 2015. And I wish I could say more about Romy and her journey, and about Penny and what happened to her, but this is about getting you to read the book, and go on Romy's journey with her. Not to judge her.

One last thing, but in a way an important thing: Romy wears red lipstick and red nail polish. She puts it on with care, with dedication. The lipstick and nail polish is sometimes to establish her identity, "I'm still here and real"; sometimes it's a protection, a wall of defense to hide behind; and sometimes it's armor, to give herself strength. I'm not much of a nail polish person, I go in cycles with using it (I have bad nails and little patience, not a good combination for painting one's nails), and this book made me dig out my nail polish, and to see it as something more than a way to be pretty.



















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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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11. Edwards Award: About and Justification

Why, what is the award about?

"The Margaret A. Edwards Award, established in 1988, honors an author, as well as a specific body of his or her work, for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature. The annual award is administered by YALSA and sponsored by School Library Journal magazine. It recognizes an author's work in helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world.  The Edwards award celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2013."

And the justification for the Award?

"ALA's Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), on behalf of librarians who work with young adults in all types of libraries, gives recognition to those authors whose book or books have provided young adults with a window through which they can view their world and which help them to grow and to understand themselves and their role in society."


You can see why the Edwards Award is sometimes referred to as a Lifetime Achievement award,

All quotes from the YALSA Website

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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12. Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee

This year, I am on the Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee.

What this means for this blog: I will not be reviewing or writing anything about the Committee, books read, or authors considered. I will avoid reviewing or writing about any eligible titles or authors.

Given the scope of the Award, that means that there is still plenty of titles I can write about (especially new and recent titles).

I will also be blogging about the rules and polices for the Edwards Award.





Image from the YALSA Edwards page.


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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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13. Happy Birthday to my Mom!



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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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14. Short Review: Laughing At My Nightmare

Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane BurcawRoaring Brook Press. 2014. Review copy from publisher.

Burcaw's memoir, based on his tumblr of the same name, is a humorous look at his life with spinal muscular atrophy. It's told in short, episodic chapters -- while it's roughly chronological in order, it doesn't have to be read in order or even all at once. This structure is both a weakness and a strength: those wanting an in depth, detailed examination will be disappointed. But, that's looking for this bok to be something it isn't. It is, instead, a funny, hilarious look at life. And that is it's strength: the short chapters means it's easy to read, and also easy to read over an extended period of time. A few chapters here, a few chapters there, is, a think, the best way to approach Laughing at My Nightmare.

While Burcaw's memoir is uniquely about his own experiences, it's also universal. Starting middle school, worrying about making friends, anxious about a first kiss -- Burcaw isn't the first person to worry about these things. Burcaw is funny and blunt: he knows teen readers will wonder "but how does he go to the bathroom?" and so he addresses those questions. And the humor is such that will appeal to a lot of teen readers.


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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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15. Review: The Walls Around Us

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma. Algonquin Young Readers. 2015. Reviewed from electronic galley.

The Plot: Amber is telling about the night her world went wild because the doors opened and the guards were missing. Amber is locked up in a juvenile facility for girls and the electric went out and the generator didn't kick in and all the girls are let out and free and running wild.

Violet is getting ready to go on stage. It is her final dance before she leaves for Juilliard. She is thinking about this final, home stage ballet dance and leaving this town and her family and her memories. It's like escaping a prison, she thinks, realizing it's a terrible thing to think considering what happened three years ago, when her what happened happened, when her best friend Orianna was sent to juvenile detention.

The Walls Around Us is about these three girls, Amber and Violet and Orianna, and how their stories overlap and weave together in a tangled mess of walls and doors, expectations and fears. And anger. Always, anger.

The Good: I'm a fan of Nova Ren Suma's Imaginary Girls and 17 and Gone. The Walls Around Us doesn't disappoint; it may be my favorite one yet. Like those books, The Walls Around Us does many things: there is a surface story but there is also a story underneath, there are observations about how the world views teenage girls and how the girls view themselves, and there may or may not be a ghost story. Then there is the language, creating a world and a setting and a tone that wraps around us -- like walls wrap around us.

As with Suma's other stories, I don't want to give too much away, but at the same time, I just want to talk about what happens and what does not. So the short version is, drop everything and read The Walls Around Us.

The longer version, which some spoiler-sensitive won't want to read.

Amber is a long term inmate and introduces us to her world, starting on that night when the doors opened, to her world and the other girls. Who is innocent? Who is guilty? Why did they end up there? Does it matter, now that they are locked up, what came before or what will come after? As the chapters go back and forth, it is revealed that Orianna has not yet arrived at the facility which means all Amber says happens three years before Violet's story.

And something terrible is going to happen at that place, and Amber's role as observer and watcher and eavesdropper means she is going to tell it to us, best as she can. Orianna never speaks for herself: instead it is those who knew her who describe her.

For Amber, Orianna is the new girl who has to learn the ropes. But Amber is also puzzled by something else, because Ori seems somehow familiar. And that night of almost-escape, has it happened before? Is it happening again? Why do things yet to happen seem familiar?

For Violet, Orianna was her best friend. But also her number one competitor in ballet; even now, years after what happened and Ori was arrested and tried and sent away, it is Ori's easy accomplishments that drive Violet's own path. Vee is still competing. Violet's life has gone on exactly as it should, with her place at the ballet school, and her boyfriend, and a new best friend, and best of all she'll be leaving all this behind her shortly when she leaves for Juilliard.

What did happen? What did Ori do? What did Vee do?

Violet's story seems straight forward enough, even though she's reluctant to say what happened years before. And frankly Violet seems a bit hard, a bit of a bitch, but is wanting to leave your home and start the new life that college promises such a bad thing? Is wanting to forget painful memories bad, and don't some build a hard shell to deal with the past?

Violet wants to go see where Ori was sent, even though now the place is in ruins and no one is there. Or is it it abandoned? Do all the dreams and hopes and fears and anger of those girls just -- disappear, go away, when those girls go away? When Violet walks into that broken, abandoned place, does she see ghosts or is it her own guilt haunting her?

Anger. As I write this, I realize that if there is one thing that The Walls Around Us is about, it's not about ballet and friendships; it's not about murder and punishment; it's not about escape or justice.

It's about anger. Anger that girls feel for all the right reasons, anger at abandonment and betrayal and abuse, anger that is denied because society doesn't want to see it, anger that is denied because girls aren't supposed to be angry, anger at why some girls are punished and some are not. Anger at why some girls have things so easily and others do not. And being angry is hard work, no matter how much a girl tries to deny it and keep it in control. Eventually, the walls holding the anger in, the walls holding the anger out, have to come down.

Yes, this is a Favorite Book Read in 2015.








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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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16. Review: Mistress Firebrand

Mistress Firebrand: Renegades of the American Revolution by Donna Thorland. New American Library, published by the Penguin Group. 2015.

The Plot: Manhattan Island, 1775. Actress Jenny Leighton wants to meet the influential General John Burgoyne. Jenny is an aspiring playwright, and hopes that Burgoyne will become her patron, opening up the world of London theater to her.

American born, British intelligence officer Severin Devere's job is to protect Burgoyne and keep him safe from the American rebels. He's suspicious of the young American actress -- and also attracted to her.

The Revolution violently separates the two -- and when they meet up again, they are both in Manhattan. Jenny is still writing plays. Severin is still a British officer. But both are hiding secrets and playing a dangerous game. Where do their loyalties lie?

The Good: Part of the reason I love Mistress Firebrand is because so much happens, and it happens over a couple of years, starting in 1775 and ending in 1777. That also means that a lot happens, and some of them are twists and turns and I'm here, as usual, fretting over how much to tell you.

So the short version: well developed characters! Action! Romance! Hot sexytimes! Interesting history! Plays and prisons, riots and attacks, escapes and captures and escapes.

And the history. As readers of my blog and twitter feed may remember, I'm a fan of AMC's TURN: Washington's Spies and Mistress Firebrand is the perfect historical romance for fans of that show. (I'm also eager to read Thorland's other books; and, it turns out Thorland is a writer for another historical TV show I've been watching, Salem.) Saying that may make you realize one of the things in Mistress Firebrand that I don't want to spoil and it's something that rhymes with "spies." In other words, SPIES. And I'm not telling you who or what.

I like historical fiction that introduces me to areas, or adds to what I know, or brings to life areas. I loved all the information about the American theater, and how it worked, and the business of it, and performances being banned, and how actors and actresses were viewed -- it was just wonderful diving into Jenny's world. I also like historical fiction where people are not ignorant or innocent about sex. Jenny in the acting world is not naive; and I know more about the logistics of French letters (eighteenth century condoms) than I did before. Bows, who knew?

Jenny herself is a terrific character, who wants more out of her life and that more is to write. She has an aunt who is a famous actress, who is a mentor. Jenny comes from the New Jersey countryside, but thanks to her aunt, she wants more out of her life. She has her own ambitions and drive and it's just such a fresh and refreshing view of women in the eighteenth century. Based in part on what happens in the first part of the book, Jenny shifts her talents and becomes the mysterious "Cornelia," writing anti-British propaganda. She has a price on her head.

And Severin! Severin is legally the child of a British nobleman, but in truth is the son of an English mother and a Mohawk father. Severin's relationship with his natural father, and his Mohawk family and culture, is presented in a nuanced way. At first, for various reasons, Severin has decided he has to be the ultimate Englishman to prove himself. Severin begins to see the reality of the situation around him, and he shifts in his views and beliefs, about himself, about the Revolution, and about his own background.

As I said earlier, one thing I liked was that Mistress Firebrand took place over two years. Jenny and Severin's relationship grows from attraction and lust to love and respect. They also have their own individual involvement with the Revolutionary War: what side, why, what they are willing to do, why. Those journeys complement each other, yes, but they are always their own independent journeys.



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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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17. Short Review: The Port Chicago 50

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve SheinkinRoaring Brook Press. 2014. Review copy from publisher.

The Port Chicago 50 tells a story that I was not familiar with -- actually, many stories I was not familiar with. The Port Chicago 50 are fifty African American sailors accused of mutiny in the aftermath of the Port Chicago disaster. I don't want to go into the details of the disaster or the mutiny accusations or the aftermath -- read the book!

The story of these fifty men is not just about allegations of mutiny and these fifty individuals; it is also bout the segregation of the Navy and other armed forces before and during World War II and the efforts to end it. It's about just what it meant, to have segregated troops, and institutionalized racism both within and without the armed forces. Segregation and racism, and the actions at Port Chicago and by the sailors, cannot be viewed in isolation of each other.


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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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18. Short Review: The Iron Trial


The Iron Trial (Book One of Magisterium) by Holly Black and Cassandra ClareScholastic. 2014. Review copy from publisher.

The Iron Trial starts a series set in the modern world, where magic is real -- but hidden. Twelve-year-old Callum's father has done everything possible to keep Callum away from this world. Call is supposed to do everything possible to fail his entrance tests to the Magisterium, a school of magic hidden in the United States. Instead, Call finds himself in the Magisterium, studying magic, and finding out his father hasn't been totally honest with him. Magic isn't the big, dangerous, evil he's been told about.

Most of this book is the "forming" part of an adventure story: Call discovering the truth about magic, that it's not a simple matter of good or evil, and Call forging friendships and allies (and sometimes enemies and frenemies) with his fellow students. He also has to study magic, and it's not all fun and games -- it's also hard work. (And, well, fun. Because magic!)

Part of what Call learns about are some epic battles from over ten years before, including those who fought on the good side and the bad side. (Magic is neither good nor bad, but those who practice it -- they fall on those two sides.) Call is sometimes frustratingly ignorant about magic and his own family's connection to it, but it works for the book -- the reader learns as Call learns.

The ending of the book -- oh, the ending! Personally, I felt as if the story was just truly beginning with the ending, and that the real story will be next year, now that the reader, and Call, has the full knowledge of what is going on. Or do we know as much as we think?




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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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19. Review: Ida M. tarbell

Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business--and Won! by Emily Arnold McCully. Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014. Library copy.

It's About: Ida M. Tarbell, born in 1857, who became one of the first American journalist and also helped found investigative journalism. Her noteworthy articles included a biography of Abraham Lincoln, and an expose of John D. Rockefeller and his company, Standard Oil Trust.

The Good: I really enjoyed learning about Ida M. Tarbell, whose name seemed vaguely familiar from history class.

I was impressed with Ida's many accomplishments and the things she did -- starting with her love of the sciences, attending a co-educational college, her start in journalism, traveling to Paris, freelancing, and then joining the staff of McClure's Magazine, where she wrote her most memorable articles.

One of the things that struck me is how matter of fact it was, how "of course this is what Ida is going to do" it was. While Ida was a pioneer, her story is also a reminder that her life, while not typical of the time, was also just that -- her life. She, with other women, did go to college. She, as others did, created a career, lived away from her family, traveled to Paris, working, having her own home.

I confess: that part of Ida's life, the pre-McClure part, fascinated me the most. I wanted to know more about those things, and those people in her life.

Of course, then, there is Ida's actual journalism, a career she came to sort of sideways. She began loving science, thought she'd be a teacher, and found herself working as an editor at a magazine. It wasn't until her early thirties and her trip to Paris that her work as a journalist really began. So, you can see all the reasons I kept turning the pages -- here, a women in the nineteenth century, having multiple careers. Pursuing her dreams. Living her life on her terms.

One cannot make generalizations about people: for all of Ida's accomplishments, which resulted from drive and determination, she had what seems to be mixed feelings about women's suffrage and equality. McCully explores this area in detail, noting that Ida's being against women getting the vote is probably one of the reasons she is a bit forgotten. What struck me was how modern, actually, Ida's beliefs were: I could easily imagine her in the present, being someone explaining how she didn't need feminism and wasn't a feminist because look at what she accomplished, on her own, and if she did it anyone can so stop with the feminism already.

I would like to learn more about Ida, and her life -- always a good sign in a biography, being left wanting more! I wonder if the things I want to know more about are things that McCully didn't cover because of length (this is a long, detailed biography) or if it's because there aren't the source documentation to answer the questions. For example, I wanted to know more about Ida's unnamed roommates during her 20 but imagine that was left out because of space. I also was curious as to Ida's relationships with her family and those family dynamics. Ida loved her father dearly, and ended up being the main provider to her mother, sister, brother, and brother's family. And yet certain things here left me asking for more and wondering things like whether her father was as wonderful as she painted him, for example. Is that not explored more because of space? Or because there is very little surviving from that time that would fill in the gaps about Ida's family?

Being left with questions, wanting more -- excellent. Learning more about Ida M. Tarbell, and also about what it was like for a woman pursuing a career over a hundred years ago? Even better. I'm so happy that this is a finalist for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award! I read it because it was a finalist, and I'll be chatting it up because it's a finalist.




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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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20. Review: Kingsman

Some folks went to see the Fifty Shades of Grey movie this weekend.

I went to see Kingsman: The Secret Service, taking my niece and nephew (ages 14 and 12).

It was so much fun! Kingsman is about an independent spy agency, Kingsman, and how a street-smart kid is recruited to be a part of a group that so far has been strictly upper upper class.

What makes Kingsman entertaining are the performances and the action sequences. It's also got humor and fun references to other spy films or tropes.

Colin Firth is "Galahad" (all of the Kingsman Knights have names from the round table; the head of the agency is Arthur, the one responsible for training is Merlin) who recruits the son of a former member. Eggsy's father died in the secret service of being a Kingsman. Even back then, his father's admittance was a bit of a test, of whether or not someone of a lower class belongs.

Seeing Colin Firth as an action hero? Doing some amazing stunts and fights? Was terrific!

Harry bringing in Eggsy is more than just guilt over the death of Eggsy's father. While Eggsy doesn't have the credentials of the other Kingsman trainees, he does have the raw talent and the unpolished skills. One thing I like about Kingsman is how smoothly these things are shown or told: his driving skills and nerve and loyalty in a sequence where Eggsy steals a car and drives it backwards in a high speed race with the police; mentioning how Eggsy did well in school and initial military training before family complications (his mother's criminal, abusive second husband); his street smarts.

While I loved the movie trailers, part of me eye-rolled at the apparently all-boys club. Yes, I get that it's partly a love note to classic spy films and tropes, but still. Luckily, the movie addressed that within the text. The origins of the group are indeed exclusive, and people like Harry are trying to make changes. Eggsy has to go through an intensive training program (part of the post-movie talk about the movie was trying to figure out how long the program was), and there were two women among the nine trainees.

The big bad is played by Samuel L. Jackson and you can tell he had as much fun filming as the audience had watching. His evil plan is --  well, let's just say that he seems sympathetic until the bodies pile up. One of the bits of dark humor is that while he's the evil genius, he's a billionaire tech genius with big ideas who hires people to take care of business -- he doesn't kill himself, because he just doesn't have the stomach for it.

Kingsman is rated R mainly for the violence, and it's action-movie violence with spectacular fights and methods of people dying. There are also some sexy things. One bit I liked -- and I hope this isn't a spoiler -- is that Eggsy develops a friendship with his fellow trainee who is female, Roxy. It was actually respectful and nice to see.

BUT. BUT. At the end, there were a few jokes (based mostly on some Roger Moore Bond films) that were bothersome. Not because they were about sex or sexytimes, but because the "funny ha ha" was about offering sex to Eggsy as quid pro quo/ reward, eliminating any respect one could have for the character speaking. It turned what had been a strong, moral character into a sex toy. She was just there to be the prize, and the last images reinforced that.


Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) Poster


So, yes, there a few flaws with the film  -- but overall, it was fun and action filled. I'm hoping there's a sequel!



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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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21. Short Review: Blood of My Blood

Blood of My Blood (I Hunt Killers) by Barry LygaLittle, Brown Books for Young Readers. 2014. Review copy from publisher. Sequel to I Hunt Killers and Game.

The I Hunt Killers series is the story of  Jasper Dent, son of the infamous serial killer Billy Dent. It asks the question -- is the son condemned to follow in the footsteps of his father? If nature (the son of a killer) and nurture (raised by his father to hunt and kill) conspire to create a path for a child, will the child follow that path? And what is the cost of not doing so?

What I liked best about Blood of My Blood is that it showed the trilogy to not be three connected stories about Jazz solving crimes, using his first-hand knowledge of serial killers (though it is that) but one story, told in three volumes, about Jazz coming to terms with his past and figuring out what his future should be. And, yes -- solving murder mysteries.

Also -- and I almost hate to say it -- twists! That I didn't see coming! And that were so satisfying as a reader! (I hate to say it because sometimes saying a twist means one expects and looks for any twist so it no longer is a surprise twist.)


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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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22. Short Review: Unmade, The Lynburn Legacy Book 3

Unmade (The Lynburn Legacy Book 3) by Sarah Rees BrennanRandom House. 2014. Sequel to Unspoken and Untold. Review copy from publisher.


I feel like I can't talk too much about the plot in Unmade because I don't want to spoil new to the series readers; and I don't want to spoil those who haven't read the final book yet.

Short version: Kami Glass discovers that magic is real and her small English village is the center of a war involving powerful witches. And I use the term "war" deliberately, because important things are at stake. Lives are at stake. Should someone take a stand and risk their own lives and the lives of those they love? Are some lies OK to tell, to try to protect others? When can those lies be forgiven?

I can also talk about characters more easily than plot, and I just love Kami and her friends and their growth during the series. I also love Kami's parents; the Lynburn Legacy series does a terrific job of incorporating adults into a teen-centered drama, in a way that is realistic yet keeps the spotlight on the teens. Plus -- there's a terrific mix of adventure, humor, love, friendship, twists, turns, and all the things that make a story worth reading. Because this wrapped up the series so perfectly, and because I want to be friends with Kami despite the risk to life and limb, this is a Favorite Book Read in 2014.

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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23. Short Review: Salt and Storm

Salt & Storm by Kendall KulperLittle, Brown. 2014. Reviewed from ARC.

Salt and Storm is set in an alternate 1860s, where witches and magic are real. Avery is the granddaughter of the witch of Prince Island, and should have been trained and raised to be the next witch. Except, her mother -- who refuses to have anything to do with magic or witchcraft -- drags Avery away from her grandmother and forbids her to see her. At sixteen, Avery is trying to escape her mother's control and claim her inheritance.

What I liked most about Salt and Storm is that Avery wasn't aware of the full picture. She knew what she knew, believed she had the full picture, believe she knew the real story about the witches of Prince Island. She thought she knew herself, but it turns out things aren't what she thinks they are. Which means what she wants isn't what she thinks it is. I also like the historical information in here, about life on nineteenth century islands.

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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24. Short Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue


The Raven Cycle #3: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie StiefvaterScholastic, 2014. Review copy from publisher. Sequel to The Raven Boys (Book 1) and The Dream Thieves (Book 2).

This continues the story of the search in Virginia for a missing Welsh king. The searchers are prep school students Richard Gansey III (the driving force behind the search), his friends Adam Parrish, Ronan Lynch, and Noah Czerny, and local girl Blue Sargent.

By the events of Blue Lily, Lily Blue, I'm not going to lie: it's complicated. There are a mess of characters, plus the search, plus the issues that the characters are dealing with in the present. Gansey is driven by his search; Ronan discovered dangerous family secrets, including his own ability to pull things out of dreams into the real world; Adam is a scholarship student with the drive for more and a serious, well earned chip on his shoulder. Noah has his own issues.

And Blue: Blue is from a family of psychics, without any real power herself, and with a curse upon her: her kiss will kill her true love. And since she's falling hard for Gansey, and since one of her aunts foresaw Gansey's death, it's, well, messy. Like life. Now take life and add in magic and history, myth and legend.

Readers know that I like when teen books have interesting adult characters: well, this has them and then some. The enigmatic Mr. Gray -- I mean, how often is a hired killer so sympathetic and likable? (And yes, I keep picturing him as Norman Reedus). Blue's mother has disappeared, but this allows other adults to move center. And Mr. Gray's boss also enters into the picture. It's not just magic and myth that is a danger.

The only frustration with Blue Lily, Lily Blue is there is still one more book in the series. So while the adventure moves forward, and questions are answered, there's still so much more to find out


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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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25. If You're An ALA Member -- Please Vote!

I'll be attending ALA's Annual Conference in San Francisco. I have meetings to go to, and programs I want to attend, and with your help I may be able to present!





Right now, voting is up for ALA's Conversation Starters and Ignite Sessions.

I submitted a Conversation Starter, so please go to the page for my suggestion conversation starter, Beyond Print: Audiobooks, Large Print, and Braille, and vote by signing into ALA Connect and liking it by clicking on the thumbs-up.

The description of my program: "If you think your audiobook collection is meeting your community’s needs, think again! Discover the audiobooks that you can’t find at the bookstore or on WorldCat, so you can turn your “no” into a “yes” for patrons who need audiobooks. Learn about why kids need large print books and how to meet that need. Find out about available Braille books so that you can make your library Braille-reader friendly. And then, let’s start brainstorming ways so that more people learn about this hidden library of titles."

Look through all the conversation starters and ignite sessions -- you can vote for as many programs as you want to (but you can only vote once for each individual program).

And if you have a program up there, please leave a link in the comments to the direct page so that we can all go and vote for it.

Thanks, and hopefully I'll be seeing you in San Francisco!



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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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