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A discussion of books, movies, and TV shows; with an emphasis on books for children and teens.
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1. Review: If I Stay

If I Stay by Gayle Forman. Dutton, a member of Penguin 2009; SPEAK, imprint of Penguin 2010. Review copy from publisher.

The Plot: Mia is in a coma.

There was a car accident.

She can see what is happening around her, but she cannot interact. She is not dead but she is not alive.

Her family is dead.

It's all her choice, whether to stay with the living. But what will her life be like, if her family is gone?

The Good: Confession: I did not read this when it first came out, in 2009. I skipped to the end of the book to find out her choice, then read other things.

Then I saw the trailer. And Chloe Grace Moretz's performance as Mia. And just from the trailer, I cried more than I cried in The Fault in Our Stars. Even though I have a pretty firm rule to not read books before movies, I broke the rule. In part because the trailer already seduced me into wanting to see the film version, and in part because even though that "read the end" moment had told me the ending, I wanted to know more about Mia and how how she got to that moment.

Looking for a book to make you cry buckets? Then this is the book for you. Yes, from the start you know there's been a car accident and her family is dead. You'd think that would mean, no tears because you already know the worst. So, why cry? Because If I Stay proceeds to flashback to Mia's family and OHMYGOD I love her parents. I want them to be MY parents. Mia is a teen who had a great, supportive family. Page after page just shows you the depth of what she has lost.

Page after page of If I Stay is also showing the depth of what Mia has to keep going: her best friend, her boyfriend, her music, her other family members. Her boyfriend! Adam, like Mia, is a musician, but entirely different music so that music isn't necessarily something they share. What they do share is respect and love and fun, and wow, Adam. I just loved him.

Seriously, Mia before the accident had a great life.

Reinvention and starting over is often the subject of novels, and there is something curiously appealing about suddenly having a clean slate. Typically, though, this is a fairly positive process in that it's a character's choice and what they are leaving is a place and people that they can return to. Vacations, holidays, changes in mind, all that means that what is left isn't really gone.

Mia is faced with a choice: does go back to a world where her life and the people in it will always be "behind" her? She was worried about the impact and changes leaving for college was going to be, and suddenly she has to face a life where those she thought she was leaving have left her.

Mia's going to be facing a life where no one shares her childhood memories. Or family jokes. Without the love and support of her parents.

Is that a life she wants? Is what she has left enough reason to stay?

I LOVED this book. Love, love, love. Who cares if its a 2009 title? It's a Favorite Book Read in 2014. Also -- I can't wait for the movie.



Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

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

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2. TV Review: MTV's Finding Carter

New teen show alert! MTV's Finding Carter! MTV, Tuesday, 10 p.m.

Carter is out one day, having fun with her friends, as one will. Which includes breaking into a carousel, as one will. The police come and bring everyone to jail. Carter is the cool one, shrugging it off as no big deal. Except, when her friends are released into their parents' custody, her mother is no where to be seen.

Instead, Carter is taken aside by the police and it's patiently explained to her how her photo and fingerprints were entered into the system. Carter isn't fazed, since she has no priors.

What the police tell her does faze her: her parents, her mother and father, are on their way.

Her real parents.

Over a decade earlier, three year old Linden Wilson was kidnapped.

Carter is Linden.

Carter's going home, to people she doesn't remember.


Finding Carter is about teenage Carter, adjusting to this new knowledge and new family. The added complication? In Carter's view, she had a pretty great life, including a wonderful mother. The opening scene between mother and daughter was very Gilmore Girls, in how the two interacted. So now? Now, she views the Wilsons as people who have removed her from the life she loved.

So far, it's just been a handful of episodes. Carter, and Finding Carter, is very much a young adult novel, with Carter and her wants and needs at the focus. I love Carter: she's fun and confident and self-assured. I also am frustrated with her: she has absolutely no sympathy for the loss that the Wilsons suffered and sees this entire thing only through her own point of view. I both admire that the show is willing to be so dedicated to Carter's truth, while wanting to throw things because would it really hurt Carter that much to realize that this family lost a child?

And, well, the answer to that question is yes. I can see that yes, it would hurt Carter -- it would destroy Carter -- to acknowledge that the woman she adores and calls "mom" could have done something so terrible to someone else. So, instead, Carter is focused on one narrative, her narrative, where she has been kidnapped -- but from the mother she knows and loves.

Part of Carter's intense rejection of her mother's crime is to focus her anger on her birth mother. Again, while this pisses me off tremendously I love how real and true it is. The other members of her blood family are people who didn't have counterparts in her life, so she can let them in and let herself like them: father, sister, brother, grandparents. Mother, thought? That role is taken, so Carter pushes back. Sometimes brutally. I am really, really looking forward to Carter both coming to terms with her "mom's" actions and letting her blood mother in -- even if it takes a season or two.

Carter, Carter, Carter. Because Carter insists her name is Carter, and they all must call her that, not Linden.

The Wilsons have been scarred by the loss of their daughter. Linden's twin sister, Taylor, is a "good" girl but it's also clear that it's a reaction to not just her over protective parents but also her fears. She knows the worst that can happen. It did, to her family. Then there is Grant, a sibling born after Taylor's disappearance. The father wrote a book about Linden's disappearance -- and, unknown to anyone, is writing a sequel about finding Linden. Right now, Carter sees her father as the "good" parent -- a role he embraces -- and I can't wait to see her find out about this betrayal.

Which brings us to poor Mom. Who may be one of my favorite characters, probably because Carter dislikes her so much. Her main crimes: she's not Carter's "real" mother. She's a police officer. And she's not "real" in the way Carter insists a person should be "real": she doesn't show her emotions in the way Carter thinks "real" people do.

Yes, I do want to rant at Carter for judging this poor woman who lost a child. I want to rant at how Carter has such a narrow view on what a good, real person is, and realizing there are many ways of loving. That being a mother is not about baking cookies and someone has to pay the bills. And I want to rant at Carter, about how can she judge a woman so critically when that woman was shaped by the loss of her three year old? A kidnapping that Carter so easily forgives?

One last thing about Carter: she is the "cool" girl. She has the eyeliner and black clothes, the friend with benefits, the casual drug use and drinking and that breaking into the carousel thing. But the thing is? It's also clear that she's a good person. She's not a "bad" girl, just the cool girl. And I really, really wonder about her relationship with her "mom." Some of Carter's actions with the Wilsons are clearly oppositional, done to piss them off and establish her own identity. So, then, what about her "mom"? Is it that she had a "cool" mom who also did this stuff? Will we at some point see something other than Carter's loving memories?

And yet. And yet. Carter is still a teen. A teen who has lost her mother, her home, her life, even her identity. She has some pretty good reasons to be bratty and self-centered and self-destructive.

So, yes, I'm loving this show and am frustrated and can't wait to see where they are going to be go with this.

Anyone else watching?


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

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3. Flashback June 2012

A look back at what I reviewed in June 2012



The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long and Jim Demonakos. From my review: "Houston, 1968. Two stories are intertwined; the story of a white family and a black family. Jack Long is the race reporter for the evening news. Larry Thompson is a local activist and college professor. They reach out and develop a friendship, based in part because both realize that “men of conscience have got to get together . . . , or nothing is going to change."

Gilt by Katherine Longshore. From my review: "England, 1539. Kitty Tylney and Cat Howard are two teenage girls, living at the home of Cat’s grandmother, the Duchess of Norfolk. The Duchess may be rich and powerful, but she is also old and absorbed in her own affairs. Kitty, Cat, and the other girls who live crowded together in the maiden’s chamber are there because they have no where else to go. No one is really interested in them. . . . . Young, pretty, bored. Dreaming of life at court, with dances and pretty clothes and handsome men. In the meanwhile, making their own fun, in ways not quite proper. Late night festivities that include dancing and drinking and boys. Kitty, abandoned by her family, values Cat and her friendship more than anything, because it’s the only thing Kitty has. She’ll do anything for Cat, follow her anywhere, help her with anything. All of Cat’s dreams come true when she captures the eye of the King, and she brings her friends along for the good fortune. Dreams sometimes turn to nightmares; how far will Kitty go to help her friend?"

My Sister's Stalker by Nancy Springer.From my review: "When sixteen-year-old Rig’s parent’s divorced, he went to live with his mother while his sister, Karma, stayed with their father. The two haven’t really kept in touch in the four years since, especially since she left for college. One day, Rig, missing her, searches the Internet for her rather distinct name. What he finds chills him: a website by someone obsessed with his sister. Photographs that could only be taken by someone watching his sister. Will Rig be able to convince his parents that his sister is in danger? Will he be able to save his sister?"

New Girl by Paige Harbison. From my review: "A re-imagining of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. When a space opens up in the prestigious Manderley Academy, the “new girl” from Florida finds herself in a complex situation. The reason for the opening? The disappearance of Rebecca Normandy the previous spring. Becca had herself been the “new girl” the year before; despite being at school just one year, Becca made an impact and impression on all she met: her grieving roommate, Dana, who resents being given a new roommate; Max Holloway, Becca’s boyfriend; Johnny, Max’s former best friend."

Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book I (His Fair Assassin Trilogy) by Robin LaFevers. From my review: "You know, “nun assassins” is enough, isn’t it? (Or is it assassin nuns?)"

Summer and the City: A Carrie Diaries Novel by Candace Bushnell. From my review: "Seventeen year old Carrie Bradshaw is in New York City for a summer writing program. She’s just been mugged and has called the only number she has, a cousin of a semi-friend. Carrie goes with Samantha Jones to a party, and thus begins Carrie’s introduction to New York City in the 1980s."


Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

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

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4. Review: And We Stay

And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard. Delacorte Press, Random House. 2014. Review copy from publisher.

The Plot: January, 1995, and Emily Beam has just started at the Amherst School for Girls to finish her junior year. Before this she went to her local high school, and she isn't going to talk about why she is now in this boarding school in Massachusetts.

It was because of a boy. Not just any boy, her boyfriend. And the gun he took to school. And what happened. And why.

The Good: "Before Boston, before ASG, Emily had wanted nothing more than to be loved by a boy. When she was fourteen, sixteen, she had watched girls on the cheerleading squad sprout wings with each boyfriend. They became more beautiful, the beauty of confidence. For four months, Emily had it, too."

Emily had it with Paul, a senior. Paul, who took his grandmother's gun to school one day and killed himself.

And now Emily is at boarding school.

Why the setting of 1995? Because what happened with Paul, with Emily, at the school is Emily's secret. Or, not so much secret, as thing she cannot talk about. In today's world of social media and easy Internet access, the "why" of Paul would remain hers but the facts of it would be known.

And why Amherst? Because Emily becomes fascinated with another Emily who lived in Amherst, Emily Dickinson. Emily writes poetry, and it's in these poems that she gradually comes to terms with the boy she loved and what happened.

OK, Spoilers. Sorry, but this is one of the times when I want to talk about those secrets and yes.... for an original read of the book, it is best to discover it on your own.

Paul and Emily's relationship is what the Emily at 14, at 16, had wanted. And at first, Paul is what she wants and she loves him. But as time goes by -- and yes, it's only a handful of months but it's still time -- Emily realizes she wants more. When she gets pregnant, she tells him she's getting an abortion. The scene, later in the book, is heart breaking. At first she tells him it's because her parents say she has to, even though they haven't, until she owns that she doesn't want a baby. And she breaks up with him.

Maybe today Paul's reactions, wanting to marry Emily, being against her having an abortion, would be different than in 1995. Or, given some recent news stories, maybe not.

But And We Stay is about Emily living with, and surviving, what happened: Paul, being in love, not being in love, and how quickly it all happened: the break up, his suicide, her abortion. She is sent to boarding school in part so she doesn't have to go back to the whispers and bad memories of her old high school, but also about giving her a blank slate against which to come to terms with what happened. It is only her memories, her emotions, she has to think about.

It's told in the here and now of Emily at ASG, and so it's not just about Emily coming to terms with her past. It's also about her connecting, despite herself, with those around her. It's about finding her voice through her poetry.

My favorite line in the book is practically the last one: "It does not have to define who Emily is, was, or will be." And this is the heart of the book -- deciding what does, or does not, define us.

Other things that I like: Emily's parents. They do their best for her; she is not "sent away" to boarding school but sent to, for herself, not as punishment. That while the story is told in present tense, it still creates a distance between the reader and Emily, reflecting the distance Emily keeps between herself and the world. The friends she meets at ASG. And that there is no new boy or new romance.



Other reviews: Wondrous Reads; Kirkus; Finding Bliss in Books; Stacked.




Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

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

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5. Echo Company

Great news!

The Echo Company books by Ellen Emerson White are available to buy!

White wrote these books back in the early 1990s, under the name Zach Emerson.



The Echo Company books are set during the Vietnam War, told from the point of view of a young soldier, Michael Jennings. A follow up book, The Road Home, is about a young nurse Michael meets and is about both Rebecca's time in Vietnam and her homecoming. I wrote a pretty in-depth look at these four books, as well as a couple others that refer to the characters in these books, in my 2007 post, Ellen Emerson White: Vietnam.

At the moment they are only available as ebooks from Amazon.

The titles, in order:

Welcome to Vietnam (Echo Company Book 1)

Hill 568 (Echo Company Book 2)

'Tis the Season (Echo Company Book 3)

Stand Down (Echo Company Book 4)

The Road Home (Echo Company)

As I said back in 2007, "It's real. It's death and dying and blood. And Ellen Emerson White doesn't shy away from any of it. And what she has done is take you into the experience; just as Michael (and the reader) has the lull of "ok, this isn't so bad after all, I can make it" BAM. No. It's not OK. It is that bad. This is one of the few war novels I have read that respects the soldiers and their experiences; that doesn't play politics about the issue of war. And is brutally honest about the soldier's experiences."

And about The Road Home, "By exploring the Vietnam War thru the POV of a female, and of a nurse, there is the horrors of war combined with the healing of medicine; the mixed emotions of saving the lives of soldiers, only to have the soldiers go out, risk their lives again, or to kill. And the details, of triage, of deciding who lives and dies, who gets morphine and who doesn't, who dies alone or dies with lies of "it's going to be OK. Rebecca goes from naive and hopeful to scared, afraid, bitter."

Trust me: you will love this series. And since it is historical fiction, you won't have to worry about anything seeming "dated."

If you haven't read any Ellen Emerson White before? Go, read.

And if you have read Ellen Emerson White, what's your favorite book?

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

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

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6. AMC's Turn

This past week's viewing obsession has been AMC's historical drama, Turn, about the spies of the American Revolution.


I am so happy to find out that this has been picked up for a second season, because while a lot happens in the first season, the upcoming seasons are the ones that will be about John Andre and Benedict Arnold. (Let's be clear: historical fact doesn't count as spoilers, OK?)

What the first season does spectacularly is examine the formation of the spy ring. Oh, yes, it's fictionalized and adjustments have been made for making this a visual story. (For more on the real history versus the television history, check out J.L. Bell's posts at Den of Geek.)

Abraham Woodhull is a young farmer living on Long Island during the British Occupation. He appears to be, like his father and brother before him, a Loyalist. Instead, for various reasons, he becomes a spy for the Continental Army. Season One is primarily about Abe's motivations and in a way, Season One is a slow burn of character growth: why will Abe end up risking everything to spy for a cause? If his sympathies are not with the British, why didn't he join up at the beginning, like his two friends, Benjamin Tallmadge and Caleb Brewster?

Without giving too much away, there are reasons! And feelings! So. Many. Feelings. Abe's older brother, Thomas, died, and Abe did the "right" thing by breaking off his engagement with Anna and married his brother's fiance Mary. While he appears to be happily living with his wife and baby son, the truth is he still wants Anna, even though Anna is now married herself.

Abe's own choices are second to what he thinks he should be doing as a loyal son to his father. And yet, what he wants bubbles to the surface: he refuses to live off his father's money, in his father's house, instead doing a (rather poor) job farming. He cannot help his continued love for Anna. And there is more to it, but that's not until about episode 8 or so. (See the metaphor there? Abe's conflicted feelings towards his father, love and resentment, wanting to make his own choices instead of following his father's wishes, mirrors what is happening in his country: loyalty to England, or independence?)

And so it's about Abe, going from unwilling to willing spy. But it's also about the others in his circle, Ben and Caleb and Anna, who while all are stronger (and more vocal) in their political stance, there is still the mechanics of just how a spy ring is put together.It's watching not just a puzzle be put together, but a puzzle be made. And just because I'm talking about the character growth over episodes, and how the building of a spy ring isn't something done in five minutes, there is plenty of action. This is 1776, after all, and there are battles and skirmishes and betrayals.

Slavery factors in: Abe's own slaves are shown so matter of factly that at first I didn't realize that was what was happening. Two of Anna's former slaves factor into the story, also: Abigail and Jordan. Abigail has a son who has been taught to read, and one of the reasons I want another season is to find out more about her and her son. Jordan was born in Africa, and was trained as a Maasai warrior -- and his chance at freedom is offered him not from the Continental Army, but from the British.

The British Officers are interesting, yes -- but here the person who really intrigues and captures me is Major John Andre. He's handsome and cultured and smart. I admire smart in a character. Major Hewlett is a bit of the stereotypical by the rule soldier; and Captain Simcoe is scary-crazy-ruthless; but Andre  . . . Andre is one major reason I want to see more seasons. Because I cannot believe that Andre would ever do something as stupid as get captured; yet history tells us that happens.

What else?


Jamie Bell grew up mighty fine. Even though it's like impossible to find a photo of him from Turn of him smiling, because he always has so many feelings. So, many, feelings. Also, hats.












Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

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

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7. Libraries: More Than The Common Core

Listen, I get it.

I understand the attention that school and public libraries are giving the Common Core. As professionals who deal with information and research, we know that schools, teachers, and parents will have questions and that we need to support that. As with other things, we need to support it regardless of our own feelings about the Common Core, how it was created, the process behind it, how it's being implemented, etc.

"Support" means knowing what it is and knowing, and determining ahead of time, what types of resources will be needed in a library or school.

One thing that's interesting: when you start looking into who questions the Common Core -- well, there are many people who aren't thrilled with it, for many reasons. I think public and school libraries should have a general understanding of this, if for no other reason than to recognize that those challenging it, and it's implementation, are diverse in their reasons.

So, yes, that's my paragraphs in understanding and defending the role that libraries have in the Common Core.

As that support gets rolled out, I just want to throw out a simple reminder.

Libraries are more than the Common Core. We are more than supporting the stated educational goals of a school.

We are also about enjoyment. Reading for pleasure. (This is true even for school libraries, who may not be part of an institution that explicitly states this, but who understand that an element of literacy, even when unsaid, is that reading is and can be something that is fun. And it's OK to encourage and celebrate fun reading.)



As libraries, especially public libraries, take a look at programs and resources and books within the context of the Common Core --

Remember. We are more than the Common Core. We are also about escaping into literature. We are about the joys of getting lost in a book. We are about celebrating the act of reading for the sole reason that some of us like to read. Or, rather, love to read.

And that simple pleasure, well, sometimes, it does get attacked. Is the person reading the right books? What are they learning from those books? Is it making them a better person? Is it uplifting? Does it have a moral? Is deep reading going on? Is the reading being done the "right" way? Will this make someone a better employee? Is reading too passive? Isn't it better to be making something than reading? Isn't it better to be talking to people? Don't people have better things to do than read? Than read that book?

I think one of the wonders of libraries is that it is still a place for the person who loves reading. Libraries are more -- we are the sum of our parts, more than any one part of our mission. And part of that more is, and should continue to be, celebrating reading and being there for readers.


Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purcshase price.

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

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8. Flashback May 2012

How did it get to be June already?!?

Well, that's what happens when you take a mini holiday from posting.



So, here is what I was reading in May 2012:

The FitzOsbornes in Exile (The Montmaray Journals) by Michelle Cooper. From my review: "The FitzOsbornes have lost their home; they are now royalty in exile. Aunt Charlotte’s good fortune to marry well means, well, they can depend on her large fortune to take care of them. Clothes, good food, servants — all are theirs. But what is the cost? . . . Cooper doesn’t rush the story; just like in real life, things take time and it takes awhile to find one’s footing. Sophie and the others have a new home and country to adjust to, as well as trying to figure out what they can do regain their home from the Germans. They may have titles, but it’s from a powerless nation. They don’t have money and are financially dependent on Aunt Charlotte. With the exception of Simon, who is a commoner with no connections or cash, they are teenagers. I adore Sophie, as well as Veronica. These two are fantastic! The only reason I’m glad that the laws prohibit Veronica from inheriting is I’m not sure she’d do well with the politics needed to be a ruler; she sure has the knowledge and history and integrity. I’d follow both of them anywhere, in exile or not."

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book III: The Unseen Guest by Maryrose Wood. From my review: "The three Incorrigible children (Alexander, Beowulf and Cassiopeia) and their governess, Miss Penelope Lumley, have returned from their London adventure and are happily ensconced in Ashton Place. Nothing ever remains safe and comfortable for these four, and unexpected guests of both the animal and human kind lead to new adventures and new questions about their mysterious origins."

Black Heart (The Curse Workers) by Holly Black. From my review: "Cassel Sharpe, 17, couldn’t stay out of trouble if he wanted to. (Now that’s a question; given his talents, his family, and his background, does he want to?) The Feds are forgiving his past crimes if he works for them, using his unique talent as a transformation worker, someone who can transform whatever he touches. His mother is in big trouble with the local crime boss, and all will be forgiven if Cassel does him one little favor. Cassel knows there is no such thing as one favor. It’s complicated by the fact that neither the mob nor the feds can know he’s working for the other. Oh, and another thing — the crime boss just happens to be the father of the girl Cassel loves. Just to make things all that more simple — not — Cassel has to worry about his senior year in high school. Classes, avoiding demerits, friends, and a possible blackmail scheme. It’s all in a day’s work for someone with a black heart like Cassel."

Ashesby Ilsa Bick. From my review: "One minute, Alex is hiking, trying to figure out her future and deal with her past. Sounds typical for a seventeen year old, but her future is complicated by an inoperable brain tumor and her past by the death of her parents four years before. An electromagnetic pulse changes that.
Suddenly, the world changes. No electronics are working. Alex find herself responsible for Ellie, an angry eight year old who just saw her grandfather die from the pulse. At first, they think the dangers they face are low supplies, a rough trek to the ranger’s station, and wild dogs. Then they run into two teenagers. Unlike Alex and Ellie, these kids are changed. They eat flesh. Human flesh."

Radiant Days by Elizabeth Hand. From my review: "1977. Merle, 18, is in Washington DC to attend the Corcoran School of Art. Art is her ticket out of nowheresville Virginia — but not the way some would think. Not in a make money or become famous way. Art is her way out because art is her life, it’s what she lives for, it’s what drives her. 1870. Arthur Rimbaud, 15, is running away from provincial Charleville, France to Paris. Poetry is what drives him and pushes him. Separated by contents and a century, two artists struggle to find a way to express themselves, to leave a mark, to become."

The World in Your Lunch Box: The Wacky History and Weird Science of Everyday Foods by Claire Earner. From my review: "Aimed at a middle grade audience, The World in Your Lunch Box is to the point, providing quick facts and history. It’s a clever way to organize the information; instead of alphabetically, or by types of food, by typical lunches. I imagine the author had fun as she decided on what lunches to use! It’s quite interesting just how many foods are found in a week’s worth of food, and how much history can be learned, and how many cultures are represented."

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. From my review: "France. 1943. Verity, a British spy, has been captured by the Nazis. “I AM A COWARD,” she explains. She has given the Nazis the wireless codes they wanted; she is now writing out her confession, explaining how and why she ended up in Ormaie in Nazi-occupied France, why she has the identify papers of Maddie Brodart, and why she is telling the truth and telling the Nazis every little thing. How much time has Verity bought for herself? A handful of days to write her confession; and after that, what? . . . . As the pages go by, the reader falls into the past. The horror and disgust at what Verity has done — given the Nazis the secret wireless codes in exchange for the return of her clothes — slowly fades away. Partly it  is because Verity is equally disgusted with herself, and had, as a child, thought she’d be as brave as her various ancestors such as William Wallace, and she cannot believe she hasn’t lived up to her ideals. Partly it is because, while Verity never gives direct descriptions or details because, of course, Von Linden knows what was done to her so why tell him, she gives enough sideway hints and references to burns and bruises and pins for the reader to realize that more was involved in the questioning of Verity than taking away her clothes. But, for me, what most led to my forgiving Verity is that, as she recounts her past, I can’t help but like her. . . . Oh, kiss me, Hardy."

Marvel's The Avengers. From my review: "When Loki steals the Tesseract and threatens to take over Earth, Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. has only one option. Assemble a group of super heroes to defeat Loki and recover the Tesseract. The problem is, most of those he wants to recruit for “the Avengers” don’t play well with others. “The Avengers” have to become  a real team, which may be almost as difficult as beating Loki."

The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland. From my review: "Elizabeth Margaret’s life has been planned to the smallest detail. Do well in school, go to an Ivy League college, got to law school, marry well, get a good job. She’s done all that has been expected of her. Valedictorian. Summer internship at a law firm. Harvard in the fall. So what if her only close friend is her younger sister, Gwyneth? Or that she hides cookbooks like they’re drug paraphernalia and has to sneak into the kitchen to cook? Her life is planned and Elizabeth Margaret complies, doing what pleases her parents and grandmother. Until now. A mysterious letter arrives from Aunt Tilly, a relative she didn’t even know existed, inviting her to spend the summer at her bed & breakfast in the Outer Banks, North Carolina. For the first time, Elizabeth Margaret does what is neither planned nor expected: she tells her family “no” and herself “yes.” She goes into the unknown, to meet this stranger, and — as the title says — her life begins."

Out of Sight, Out of Time (Gallagher Girls) by Ally Carter. From my review: "Cammie Morgan awakes to find herself in a strange bed, in a strange country. Worst of all? A several month block of time is missing from her memory. The last thing she knew, it was the end of the school year and she was leaving, on her own, without telling anyone, to discover more about the secret Circle of Cavan that had targeted her. The wounds on her body tells her things may have happened that she doesn’t want to remember. Cammie’s going to need all her strength, all her spy skills, all her smarts, and all her friends to figure out what happened to her. Only problem is — when you run away from home, even though people are happy you’re alive, they’re still mad that you left."

The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani. From my review: "When eleven-year-old Sonia’s father loses his job, she has to leave private school for public school. At her old school, everyone knew her; now, they wonder if she’s Indian like her father or Jewish like her mother. She’s trying to make new friends and keep in touch with old ones. To make matters worse, her father’s unemployment is taking more than a financial toll on her family. It’s also emotional. One day, he just doesn’t come home."

The Humming Room by Ellen Potter. From my review: "Orphaned Roo goes to live with her newly discovered rich uncle. Neglected and wild, she loves nature and the out of doors. She prefers being alone. Her uncle lives on an island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, in a former children’s TB clinic. Roo is now cared for, but isolated, seeing only a handful of her uncle’s employees. Roo hears a mysterious humming, and it leads her to a secret garden."

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

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9. ALA 2014

My schedule for ALA 2014.


This is a partial schedule, so if you have any suggestions, please let me know! I am being a bit flexible about some things, especially when there are multiple things going on at the same time that look interesting. Right now, what I do on 8:30 on Saturday may depend on a flip of the coin!

Also, this is my very first time in Las Vegas, so any suggestions for where to eat or things to do, please share.

Friday:

21st Century Teens: Literacy in a Digital World, a YALSA workshop.

Opening of Exhibits

Saturday:

Margaret A. Edwards Brunch

BFYA Teen Feedback Session

Sunday:

YA Author Coffee Klatch

The Future of Library Services For and With Teens

ASCLA All Committee

Monday:

Conversation Starter

Deciding What's Next for YALSA

ALSC President's Program

Odyssey Awards

Tuesday:

Inaugural Brunch


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

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10. In Defense of CSLP

CSLP is the Collaborative Summer Library Program.



From their website: "The Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) is a consortium of states working together to provide high-quality summer reading program materials for children, teens, and adults at the lowest cost possible for their public libraries. . . . Participants have access to the same artwork, incentives and publicity, in addition to an extensive manual of programming and promotional ideas. . . . CSLP continues to evolve, but its guiding principle remains the same, librarians sharing ideas, expertise and costs to produce a high-quality summer reading program for children."

From spring to summer, I see or hear some negative comments about the program. (Note: while my state is part of the consortium, I, individually, have not been a state representative or on the board, or on any type of official affiliation.)

The complaints run the gamut, as complaints are wont to do. Their kids/teens don't like the art, the incentives, the programs, etc. etc.

So, in defense of CSLP:

Congratulations! You and your system are so well funded and well staffed and talented in all the ways that nothing in the manual or resources are ever of use to you. Your department is full of like minded individuals who you can share ideas and brainstorm. Go, you. I'm happy for you. You're in a fortunate place, professional wise.

The there are the rest of us. In my prior place of employment, I was in a well funded library with many branches and was lucky enough to work in different sized branches in different socioeconomic areas. Even though I was there only about five or so years, and it was still all within one county in one state, I learned something very valuable: communities are individual. Teens are different. They are not cookie cutter.

And neither are the librarians who serve them. Or the libraries. Budgets vary, so what can be bought or planned vary. Staffing levels vary, and so do staffing talents. Just because a person is brilliant at storytimes for the under fives doesn't mean that person is also brilliant at all programming, or graphic design. And if that person is brilliant at all that, they may not have the time to be hunting up incentives and promotional materials.

For those librarians like me? CSLP is a life saver. A time saver.

CSLP is like a one-size fits all item of clothing. No, it's not going to be perfect for everyone. Some will have to let it out; some will have to take it in; some will bedazzle the heck out of it.

It's like any other library programming and materials someone else does: look at it, and instead of reinventing the wheel take that wheel and do what works for you and your community.

As someone who was around pre-CSLP for my state, I personally can attest to the time saving CSLP offers. It doesn't stop me from doing my own thing, but oh, the time it saves so I can focus on what matters to my patrons, my library, and me. And as someone who is now the sole librarian, it's like having a virtual brainstorming session whenever I need it.

CSLP isn't an "it" as much as a "they." And they are your state representatives who do the hard work of putting this together; and at least in my state, repeatedly ask for input and feedback. They work under various constraints and have to compromise. One person is contributing from a state where "teen librarians" primarily focus on middle school, another from high school, and another from teens don't participate in summer reading.

As someone whose summer reading program doesn't start until July, and whose summer program is entirely by mail for print-disabled children and teens, trust me, I get it: there are many things in the manual that make me go "nope, won't work for me." But I can tinker and change things. And it's much easier starting with that manual than starting with tons of books and internet searches to create summer reading materials.

So, from me: a thank you to the CSLP and to my state for participating. It saves me time, which means it saves money, and it makes my job easier and allows me to concentrate on other things.

Your thoughts -- do you like CSLP or hate it? What do you miss from pre-CSLP days? Does CSLP inspire or is just a manual you never look at?

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

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11. Because It's A Day Ending in Y

I wasn't going to weigh in on the latest article about adults reading YA, and saying how terrible it was that grown ups weren't reading the "right" books. Because I've seen this before, and the various ways it's worded. And I don't want to add clicks to something written to get clicks. And many others were already responding and saying what needed to be said.

But, well, so much for that vow.



The article in question: Against YA: Read Whatever You Want. But Adults Should Feel Embarrassed When What You're Reading Was Written For Children at Slate. Responses include A Young Adult Author's Fantastic Crusade to Defend Literature's Most Maligned Genre at Nerve.

And Roger Sutton at Read Roger at The Horn Book also weighed in, at Why Do We Even Call It YA Anymore.

Adults reading YA and what that means about adults and the genre is something that has been discussed for years. Years. Just to pick on Roger, he addressed this in 2006 and 2008. (I'm sure there have been other times.) (And I'm linking to my own posts responding to Roger's arguments.) (And it's not just adults reading YA -- it's that adults are the gatekeepers for YA, as writers, agents, publishers, librarians, booksellers, etc.)

Here's what I believe:

Read whatever you want, when you want, how you want. The books one reads does not define who one is; I prefer to judge whether someone is an adult by how they live their lives and treats others than the books they read, music they listen to, clothes they were, TV they watch -- well, you get the picture. So what if someone reads "only" YA? Do we really think that means they aren't living grown up lives, meeting their financial and work and familial responsibilities? That they aren't engaged in their world as an adult? And what is the timeline to judge "only"? One month? Two? Six?

I have to confess: It annoys the hell out of me when I read people saying they won't grow up or become adults. I call bullshit. Being a teenager has its good and it's bad, but to glorify adolescence as a period better than adulthood? Nope. Being an adult may be scary and tough at times, but it's a pretty darn good place to be. But here's the thing: the people I see or hear who truly act or represent this way? Aren't the people reading YA. So, yeah, I don't see the link.

I think there is a very legitimate question to ask about who is buying and reading YA, and how that affects what is being published, and whether adults reading YA is changing the genre. Examples of questions I think are worth considering include whether what adults are buying for themselves means we are seeing less books for that tricky 12 to 14 age group, where some of the kids in class are couples and make up and all of that, and others are still giggling and whispering and thinking kissing scenes in movies are gross. Where some are having great school experiences, and others are living through mini hells.

What I have a problem with are some of the things Roger throws out in his latest blog post, particularly:

"YA literature  is still more thematically and linguistically narrow than people invested in it like to admit. But I would argue that both the narrative variety and thematic thinness of current YA stem from the desires of its adult fans, not from the limitations of being books “for kids.”"

At first glance, not problematic. I can even agree, to a point, because there are certain things that I like to read about that, well, typically aren't in YA. If one wants to say that means it's "narrow", fine -- narrow doesn't have to be negative. It can mean targeted. Now, saying that is "thin" - well, that didn't set off any bells, either, to be honest, because I was thinking, well, I do see some very similar readalikes so maybe that's what it is.

Roger clarified in the comments, though: "But I think everybody would be better off if we viewed YA as a subgenre of popular fiction for women rather than as a genre for teenaged people."

Yes. THAT I found troubling -- because within the context of the entire post, it now reads, to me, as not so much defining the adults reading YA as dismissing them. "Popular fiction for women" tends not to be something said in a positive way.

It was this that led me to tweet, "One could see a cultural narrative that women reading YA ruins it while men writing it saves it."

When asked about this in the comments, Roger confirmed: "I think a large proportion of today’s YA fills a reading niche that used to be filled by chicklit and is read by the same demographic."

Historically, "chicklit" is not something said in a positive way.

Yes, Roger is being provocative and says as much. And yes, Roger is writing based out of an in-depth understanding of children's and teen literature and how it is historically treated.

But, here is what it sounds like to a civilian: Ladies are reading YA and just want less-than-great books and they're ruining everything.








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

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12. Film Review: The Fault in Our Stars

So, like many of you, I went this weekend to see the film The Fault in Our Stars, based on the book of the same name by John Green.

The plot: teenagers Hazel and Gus meet, fall in love, and go on an adventure. The meet at a support group for teens who have cancer. That both complicates and deepens their relationship.

Warning: there will be spoilers.

I am one of the handful of people who have not read the book. I didn't get it for review, and when it became so popular, I decided it didn't need me -- not the way that other books may.

And, of course -- I don't like books about dying kids. No matter how it's dressed up or done, they're not for me. Oh, as a teen I went through a phase that included titles like A Summer to Die and Beat the Turtle Drum, but now? As an adult?

Books like The Fault in Our Stars are the type of book where I read the end first, so I know who lives and dies. And it's the type of film where I look for the spoilers so I know, beforehand, what happens.

My fourteen year old niece wanted to see The Fault in Our Stars, not because she's read the book, but because so many in her eighth grade have read it and planned on seeing it. So, off we went! For the record: I cried. She didn't.

It's a good movie, with a good cast. I can't speak as to how well it was adapted, having not read the source material. I can say that the film made perfect sense to me. I also feel like my seeing the film opening weekend was a political statement: much as I love watching superhero films, Hollywood needs to be shown, with bodies and money, that other films will bring in money and should be getting made.

Gus and Hazel's friendship and romance is touching and lovely. They share a passion for a book, and travel to Amsterdam to ask the reclusive author about the ending. It's the type of trip that makes one want to go Amsterdam, and stay where they stay, and to go with someone you love.

Yes, this is love story about two teens. I wouldn't call the movie itself a "romance" because under my definition of that term, at the end of the movie the couple is together. Had this movie ended five minutes before it did, my definition would have been met. But, it ends with Gus's cancer returning, and Gus dying.

Of course, I cried. I cried not so much for Gus or Hazel, but because I am reminded of other deaths and other funerals, and other losses. And I picture those real-life people. I cried for the loss of the parents who shouldn't have to bury a son. I cry because I'm being manipulated to cry, but I know and accept that, because that's what fiction does.

Hazel and Gus are smart and funny, and their love, I think, is more than a "typical" teen romance because of the knowledge that, at least for Hazel, who is terminal, this will in all likelihood be her only romance. Teens in love may frequently believe that to be true, but for Hazel and Gus it is true.

The characters that interested me the most, though, were not Hazel and Gus who, for all their smart wordplay are still teens (Gus, in particular, I thought, was a bit too smug and puppy dog) (The plane scene? I'm sorry. Just, no. Was that real or fake?). Instead, the people who intrigued me were adults: the reclusive author, Peter Van Houten, and Hazel's parents.

Van Houten, a cranky, mean drunk, was my favorite character, followed by Hazel's parents who have half-reconciled themselves to the death of their only child. (Half reconciled, because who is wholey reconciled?) Van Houten I loved because he didn't treat the two teens any differently than he'd treat any adult, and isn't that what teens say they want? And he didn't pity Hazel or Gus and didn't change just because two kids with cancer were in the room. I liked him all the more when I realized, at the end, that he was not so much the author who doesn't want to interact with readers -- which, let me tell you, is reason enough because I don't think an author owes their readers anything, not handshake, photo, autograph, or visit -- but that Van Houten represents Hazel's worst fears.

Van Houten is her nightmare about what will happen to her parents after her death: that they will be broken by it and unable to go forward. The death of a child may indeed do that to parents, and The Fault in Our Stars ups that manipulation factor (what will happen to them?) by making Hazel an only child. As much as Hazel says she worries about her parents and what will happen when she is gone, as much as she looks for answers in literature (Van Houten's book is about the death of a child with cancer and Hazel wants to know "what happens next" to the fictitious child's loved ones), when confronted with the reality -- Van Houten's book was about his dead daughter -- she runs. And when she finally confronts her parents about her worst fear, about what will happen to them once she's gone, they reassure her. Are they telling her the truth, or lies to ease her worry?

The truth is, there are more people who go on after the death of loved ones than those who are destroyed by it. And Hazel is aware of that, on some level -- she is the one who stands up in group to say, well, everyone dies eventually and we are all eventually forgotten. What she doesn't say or realize is that death is not new, even if with our first loss it seems something never felt or experienced by any one else. And something that shatters in such a way that there is no tomorrow. But there is, and Hazel learns that for herself, when Gus dies: experiencing a loss she never thought she would, experiencing what she imagines her loved ones will.

Of course, this is an adult watching this film. But that's OK: different people experience things like books and TV and film differently. What I like about the film, The Fault in Our Stars, is that it does work for both teens and adult viewing it. The teens in the back row of the theater probably hated the author and swooned over Gus.

So, what about you? Am I the lone person who likes Van Houten? Do I not give Gus enough credit?



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

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13. VidCon Code of Conduct Updates

Some updates!



If you're unfamiliar with VidCon, or the delay in it's getting a Code of Conduct, check out my May 3 Vidcon: I'm Mad as Hell post, with updates. The only thing I'll emphasize at this point: John Green's August 7 post about Things That Should Go Without Saying But Apparently Don't So I'm Going To Say Them.

Since May 3, the following:

On May 17, the taskforce began posting to the YouCoalition about updates and what's going on with the taskforce.

On May 20, Dear Author had a terrific essay, Uses and Abuses of Girls, about "now, however, with the rise of YouTube and Vine, we have events like Vidcon and Magcon, which are centered on an ever-evolving collection of social media stars who have captured the imaginations and loyalty of young women, often underage teen girls, whose enthusiasm has created its own market, which many adult men are now exploiting. And there are some deeply problematic and disturbing elements to this cultivation of the teenage girl fan, from the lack of an actual product (aka substantive content) to accusations of sexual coercion."

On either May 20 or May 21, I asked the YouCoalition, via the Tumblr page, about the status of the Code of Conduct / Harassment policy. (I didn't record the date and am going by when I tweeted about this.)

On May 22, Hank Green posted about the status of the Code of Conduct at his Tumblr. YouCoalition reblogged it the same day. He noted, "Sorry we don’t have it ready yet, but we will soon. As with many things in our lives these days, it’s more complicated than we thought and taking longer than we’d like."

Later that same day, May 22, my question was answered at the YouCoalition, referring to Hank Green's post. (Yes, I'm a little annoyed that the timing is such that it looks like I asked the question after, not before, Hank Green's post.)

On about May 28, VidCon posted it's official Code of Conduct and Harassment Policy. This page also includes several other policies. To be picky -- and yes, as a former lawyer I get picky about the details -- as of now (June 1), the Code doesn't seem to be listed in the FAQ or other places in the website that would lead you to the page if you didn't have the direct link. I also suggest you compare the current code and policies to suggested draft policies at places like GeekFeminism. I also suggest comparing it to John Green's August post, that addressed standards for performers. This page, so far, does not.

The current Code of Conduct and Harassment Policy are a good start. But, it's that -- a start. It doesn't cover certain things, and I think it still relies too much on assuming everyone just knows. I also wish that they hadn't published these at the same time as the policies that are about protecting VidCon rather than the attendees.

I also wish this had all been done on a quicker time frame. I count John Green's August 2013 as the time the clock started ticking, and while I appreciate Hank Green noting the need for legal review and that things take time, that's still a long time for legal review. (Reminder to new readers: I practiced law for just under ten years before becoming a librarian, and my area of practice was corporate law: contracts, regulations, employment policies.)

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

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14. Review: We Are The Goldens

We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt. Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House. 2014. Review copy from publisher.

The Plot: Nell and Layla. Two sisters so close, in age and friendship, that as a toddler Nell thought she and her older sister shared a name: Nellayla.

Time passes, and things change, but Nell, fifteen, is convinced one thing does not: the sisters Golden. Their parents divorce? The sisters survive and thrive. High school? Even though Layla is two grades ahead, her younger sister is always welcome and invited.

At first, high school is exactly what Nell expected and hoped. She is Layla's younger sister. Nell gets on her sister's soccer team. Nell gets invited to junior parties.

But something is wrong. Something isn't quite right. Is it just Layla growing up, growing away from her sister? Or is it something more?

The Good: I've been on such a roll with loving the books I'm reading!

Nell, the younger sister, is telling the story. Nell, who seems their story as one: we are the Goldens. This is not Layla's story, not a story of growing up, growing older, growing away. This is the story of the one left behind: Nell.

Barely two years separate the girls; they only reason they are two grades apart is when they were enrolled in school.

Layla is older, and living her own life, but she's also keeping secrets from her sister.

And, as usual, I adore Reinhardt's writing and complicated families. Layla and Nell are the children of older parents; their mother was over 40 when they were born, Layla the result of IVF and Nell the surprise baby, the old-fashioned way. Their parents later divorced. They are well off enough for private school, but not for Layla to have the car she wants.

Early in the book, Layla has convinced her mother to allow her to stay home during a family vacation, a yearly spa weekend with the girls, their mother, and their grandmother. Nell is suspicious of Layla, and Layla's reasons (so much homework!) and surprised that her mother allows it. Her mother later says, "It was only a matter of time before her private life became more important than what she does with her family. It's part of growing up. It'll happen to you too, it probably already is happening to you. And that's okay. It really is, even though I'd much prefer for you to always be my baby."

And while I like that the mother understands her elder daughter's growing independence, and wants to support it, what I love is what the mother says next: "It's okay. Because someday you and your sister will do exactly this. You'll come to an airport somewhere to pick me up and all you'll want to do is be with me, with someone who knows and understands you, and we'll spend the whole weekend talking." Maybe it's because their mother came to parenthood at an older age, when she herself was more mature. Whatever the reason, she gets the long game of parent/child relationships, and realizes and accepts that a child moves away but will come back.

If only it was that simple, for Nell and Layla, that their relationship is changing and that Nell has to adjust and not cling to the past.

Spoiler, here. Necessary. Not entirely a surprise, as it's in the story summary and publication data. It's not just that Layla is getting her own interests or wants distance from her sister, it's not that she is becoming an individual rather than a sister or daughter. It's the why it's happening. Layla is involved with her teacher. He is why there are secrets.

Poor Nell: at first it seems as if she's just the clinging younger sister, who won't give her sister breathing room, who can only identify herself as sister. Except she realizes there is something more, and this puts Nell in a difficult, impossible situation. How does she support Layla? How does she show her love? Is it by keeping Layla's secrets, remaining the one person Layla can trust?

Losing Layla -- because even at best, Layla's new focus is her new boyfriend -- leaves Nell a bit adrift. She has her best friend, Felix, and there is a boy she has a crush on, Sam. Layla putting up distance pushes Nell into exploring her own interests, doing things that Layla wouldn't do.

Here's the thing about Nell and Layla: maybe, because Nell has always had Layla, she hasn't had a girl friend. She has Felix De La Cruz, who is a best friend and, maybe, something more. But Nell has a crush on Sam -- and wow, I just loved how wonderfully We Are the Goldens depicts that crush, that hoping for something, then hoping for something more. And Nell is left to navigate her feelings and emotions almost alone, because Layla is all about her own love life and Felix wants to be a good friend but he has his own things to deal with.

This is not Layla's story. There are parts of it Nell will never know, so the reader will never know. It is Layla's story through Nell's eyes and experiences, but more importantly it is Nell's story. And her story is about growing up, and growing apart, and choices.

And lucky me! Another Favorite Book Read in 2014.

Other reviews: BiblioSmiles; The Lit Girl; Books & Cleverness.







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

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15. Review: Pointe

Pointe by Brandy Colbert. G.P. Putnam's Sons, an Imprint of Penguin Group (USA). 2014. Reviewed from ARC.

Pointe
The Plot: Theo's life is in a good place. Some would say a very good place. She's one of the top ballet dancers in her class. She has good friends and a boy who is interested in her. The heartache and problems of the past -- the breakup with her first love, her best friend disappearing and feared dead, her parents' overreaction to Theo's resulting depression and eating issues -- are in the past.

The past comes back, fast and furious.

Donovan is found. Alive. It's been four years and Donovan is alive and coming home. Relief and joy and tinged with something else: fear.

Because Theo recognizes the face of Donovan's kidnapper. She knew him by a different name, but she knew him.

He was the boy she loved, the person who broke her heart when he left her. It's the same man.

Everything Theo thought she knew, about Donovan, about her old boyfriend, about herself, is about to be turned inside out. At least she still has ballet, but how long will that last, when people find out?

The Good: The Good? Everything. Everything is good.

Theo is such a complex, amazing, interesting young woman.

Readers of this blog may remember, I like to keep notes as I read -- I sketch family trees and timelines, jot down ages and names. As I'm sketching this out while reading Pointe, I realize what Theo does not. Oh, I also realize it because I'm old, a grown up, I'm not a teenager. When Theo was with her first love, Trent, the person she loves and believes was wonderful, Theo was thirteen. And Trent was eighteen.

Theo was crushed when Trent disappeared on her, and had few people to confide in because there were so few people who knew about Theo and Trent. Donovan was the only person, actually, who knew. Now that Donovan has been found, Theo learns not just that Donovan was with Trent, but that Trent's real name is Christopher. And that he's thirty. Which means that not only did he lie to her about his name, he also lied about his age: instead of being eighteen, he was twenty-six. And she was thirteen.

And here is one reason I just flat out adored Theo: through all this, she's thinking "what about me" and "what does this mean to me." She dances around what all this means to Donovan, wondering mostly if Donovan ran away with Christopher and voluntarily stayed with him.

Part of what I loved about Pointe was how long it takes Theo to come to the place that you, the reader, does.

What Theo had wasn't love; it never was. But her love for Trent (well, Christopher) was such a part of Theo's identity, that she just cannot look at the facts, the numbers -- she has to deal with the emotions. Her love. And because she has to believe that what she had was real, when she looks at Donovan she believes about him what she believes about herself: that the then-thirteen year old Donovan had a choice, a choice about being with and staying with Christopher.

Donovan has been silent since his return home, not leaving his house, not talking to anyone, including Theo. No one knows Theo's secret. And part of Theo is very happy -- and very relieved -- at Donovan's silence.

From the outside, Theo looks put together and strong. You'd have to be, to become such a talented dancer. Pointe is clear about the dedication it takes to reach the place that Theo is now at. The reality? Then, she was a thirteen year old girl swayed by the attentions of an older boy, wanting to be loved, wanting to make him happy. Now, it turns out, is not that much better. Hosea, the boy she likes, is her age, goes to her school, but, in addition to being the local drug dealer, is dating someone else.

Theo doesn't quite realize the parallels between the two loves of her life. Oh, the present boy is age-appropriate and also power-appropriate. They are equals. Which means that what the present relationship shows the reader is what Theo thinks is mutual affection and respect and love; what she'll put up in order to get what she thinks is love; what she'll settle for.

As you can see from all those paragraphs, what intrigues me the most about Pointe is the relationships and emotional journey of Theo. There is so much more! Hosea, for example, is a fully realized character, and may be the nicest, sweetest, drug dealer cheater in book history. I so understood why Theo likes him and wants him, even as I realized that it was much less clear cut than Theo believes.

Theo is one of the only black kids in her dance class, in her school, in her neighborhood. Donovan was only of the others. This matters, in that it shows her relationship with her peers. What it means when the topic of segregation comes up in school, and she is asked to give examples of what that meant to her family.

And of course this is a mystery: what happened to Donovan? What, if anything, should Theo say about what she knows? And it's a story about being passionate about something as all-consuming and physical as ballet.  And it's about friendship, I haven't even mentioned Theo's two best friends, Sara-Kate and Phil. Or Theo and eating, and what she eats and why, and how that is part of who Theo is rather than the only thing.

Because this is such an elegant, complex book this is one of my Favorite Books Read in 2014.

Other reviews: Stacked; Slate Breakers; Los Angeles Review of Books.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

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

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16. Teens Today! They Don't Read!

This week's panic about teens is reflected in two articles, NPR's Why Aren't Teens Reading Like They Used To? and Time's Study: The Number of Teens Reading for Fun Keeps Declining. Both are based on Common Sense Media's research, Children, Teens, and Reading.

Disclaimer the first: long time readers of this blog know I'm suspicious of Common Sense Media, dating back to the early, biased reviews. I'm skeptical of a set up that says, if you don't agree with their ratings, or research, you don't have "common sense" and there is something wrong for not agreeing. That said, with the corrections to the earlier reviews, I do pass along the website to those parents who want to count curse words and kisses.

Back to the research and the news stories. I wish there had been more thought put into them.



I have little patience with "the kids, they are not reading like they used to" because any type of dismissal of teens today has to be done by selecting a time period and socioeconomic section that is selected to make today's teens look bad. The article, 120 Years of Literacy (the National Center for Educational Statistics), explains that "However, in the late 19th century and early 20th century, illiteracy was very common. In 1870, 20 percent of the entire adult population was illiterate, and 80 percent of the black population was illiterate." Or let's go up in time a bit, to 1940: "In 1940, more than half of the U.S. population had completed no more than an eighth grade education."

According to the History Channel article on Child Labor, in 1900, 18% of all American workers were under 16.

These types of reports can never go too far back in time if they want today's teens to look bad, because the further back you go, the less literate the population was, the less time teens had for recreational activities, and the less access people had to books. (In terms of access to literature and the cost of books, see The Smithsonian's How the Paperback Novel Changed Popular Literature.) (And then there is the history of public libraries in the US, and reading and literacy.).

So -- yes -- I'm not going to panic when teens today may read less than they did 30 years ago but more than they did 80 years ago or 100 years ago or 150 years ago. Whether that is even true is something Kelly Jensen is examining in her post on this over at  Stacked.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, the thesis is true: kids read less now.

Why?

Common Sense Media reaches the conclusion that the fault is in "reading environments" -- "electronic platforms on which children read also hold a host of divisions that are only a click away."

From NPR: "The studies do not say that kids are reading less because they're spending more time online. But [Jim Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media] is convinced that's at least part of the answer."

Time gives a nod to another possibility: "The decline in reading for fun is most easily explained by technological advances (i.e., kids would rather text than read), but education could have something to do with it as well. It’s no surprise that 53% of 9-year-olds read for fun every day, but only 19% of 17-year-olds do. Yes, the teenagers have more Instagrams to post, but they also have more homework to do."

Common Sense Media looks only at studies other groups have done on time spent reading, not on "why". Their report only talks about one possible reason: electronic distractions. (And in talking about ebooks, Common Sense Media does not acknowledge that ebooks have given the print disabled access to books they otherwise wouldn't have.)

Here is a quick list of some of the other reasons teens today may not be reading as much.
  • Increased homework, as Time points out.
  • Increased testing and emphasis on testing in schools.
  • Elimination of school libraries and librarians.
  • Decreases in funding for books for school libraries. 
  • Closings of public libraries.
  • Decreases in funding for books in public libraries.
  • A recession that resulted in less spending money by families (parents and teens) for books.
  • Bookstores going out of business.
  • Increased emphasis on extracurricular activities to get into college.
  • Teen burn out during the school year.
  • Teen employment.
  • A culture that views reading as passive and consuming, rather than active and creating, so doesn't support reading as an acceptable recreational activity.
I'm sure you can add one or two things to this list

What most of these have in common? They are things beyond the control of a family; and they don't have to do with ereading and devices.

One last point. And I say this as someone who loves reading and books.

When it comes to kids and recreational reading, here are the questions I have. Look at those readers from 30 years ago. Look at them now. Do they have better jobs? Are they earning more money? Did they go on to higher education? Are they happy? In other words, does reading for pleasure mean anything other than.... someone likes to read for pleasure?






Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

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

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17. NJLA Annual Conference

One thing I like about the New Jersey library community:

They know how to throw a good conference!

The New Jersey Library Association is having their annual conference June 2 to 4 in Atlantic City.



I'll be involved in the following sessions:

The Who/What/When/Where/How of Successful Online Book Discussion: a Panel Discussion Tues, 9:00-9:50

Best of the Best Fiction for Young Adults Tues, 11:30-12:20

Book Buzz for Young Adults and Children Tues, 2:00-2:50

I.D. Required - Books Beyond the Drinking Age Wed, 11:30-12:20

Apps, Audiobooks, and Libraries – Oh, my! Wed, 2:30-3:20

Yes, that sounds like a lot -- and, well, it is five -- but all are panels, so it's not five solo programs. They are all group efforts.

I will have time for actually attending programs!

Top of my list are What Is This? Middle Grade? YA? New Adult? Top Authors Address Category Crossover Confusion and the Garden State Book Awards Luncheon with Daniel Kirk.

Hope to see some of you there!



Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

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

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18. Review: We Were Liars

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House). 2014. Review from ARC.

The Plot: Cady, nearly eighteen, had a terrible accident two years before. She is still recovering, still not herself. Cady is hoping that a summer spent with her three best friends, the "Liars," will make things better. Or, that it will be a start to being the person she used to be.

Love, friendship, loyalty, family. This is what Cady thinks she is returning to. Cady thinks her summer will be about healing and friendship, brought to her by being with those she loves.

Instead, she is going to learn the truth.

The Good: Cady tells us her story, and she frames it not in who she is but in who her family is. "Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family. No one is a criminal. No one is an addict. No one is a failure."

She is a Sinclair. And "we were liars."

The Sinclairs are a rich family. No, even richer than that. Her grandfather took family money and made even more. Each of his three daughters has a trust fund. The family summers on an island, an island that is home just to the family. In addition to the family home, each daughter has her own house. No one else lives on the island, well, except for the help during the summer. Oh, they are rich, and beautiful, and privileged.


It all looks so picture perfect. Part of that perfection is the tight, best friend bond between Cady and her cousins, Johnny and Mirren. Each the eldest child of one of the three daughters. They are together each summer, reuniting from the places and lives they live during the rest of the year. Gat, the nephew of Johnny's mother's boyfriend, joins the group. Somehow, four becomes the perfect number and each summer is better than the year before. Until Cady's accident.

We Were Liars is Cady's return to the island, to her best friends, after almost two years away, because of her accident and her parent's divorce. Her accident has caused terrible migraines and memory loss; she is an unreliable narrator, to say the least. That she and her friends were called the liars is another clue to how much, and when, they should be believed.

Part of why I adored We Were Liars is because Lockhart does such a beautiful job of creating the nostalgia a teenager feels for their childhood, and of the magic of innocent summers. Even if you're not a privileged teen going to a private island, childhood and summer and friendships are true for all of us. Before there is a chance to be wrapped in that warm cocoon of memory, though, We Were Liars lets us know that how we remember childhood does not mean that is how our childhood was. There are hints from the first that the perfect family is not perfect, but as Cady's summer passes, and as she begins to remember the events of two summers ago, the flaws and cracks of the family are revealed. (It is, in essence, what happens once you move from the children's table to the adult table at family holidays.)

Is the grandfather loving, or is he using his money to control his daughters and grandchildren? Is Gat, the almost-cousin, included among the Sinclairs or is he always an outsider because of the color of his skin? Are the sisters close, or competing to get more of the family money? And what secrets do the cousins keep from each other? Are Cady and her cousins fated to repeat the familiar family patterns, or can they break the bonds of family ties?

This exploration of identity, of the truth behind the illusion, was wonderful. It may be heightened because the money is more, but the Sinclairs are hardly the first or only family who wonders what the neighbors think; who don't discuss unpleasant truths; who fight over a family heirloom because it represents love. A first read may result in thinking the Sinclairs are so wealthy that they and their problems are "other," too removed, but as time passes and Cady and her family haunts you the way they did me,  you realize -- the problems are the same for many of us.

I first wrote this review after I read the book, and in rereading it, and remembering Liars, there is more I want to say. I kept on thinking about the Sinclairs and their money, and gradually thought less about the wealth and more about the privilege. How the privilege both gave the Sinclairs opportunities but also limited when, and how, those chances were pursued. And that the exaggeration of that privilege -- so much money! servants! travel! their own island! -- is necessary to show that privilege exists and what, exactly, it means.

I loved the language Lockhart uses in We Were Liars. Here is Cady, describing her beloved "liars": "Mirren. She is sugar. She is curiosity and rain. Johnny. he is bounce. He is effort and snark." Gat: "He is contemplation and enthusiasm. Ambition and strong coffee." Truth be told, I'd love to have Cady describe me, her choice of words are so perfect.

Cady's secret. Her accident, and what happened, so that "the last two years [were spent] in a shell of headache pain and self-pity." I don't want to reveal too much, because what matters is not just "what happened" but when, and how, Cady remembers. Remember the "we" were liars -- so it's not just Cady's own secrets.

I adore Cady, her voice, her character. That she is an unreliable narrator makes it that much better. And the plot, the structure, of trying to understand, along with Cady, just what happened. And here's a confession: I cannot say, at the end of the day, that I liked Cady. But I can say I loved her.

This is a Favorite Book Read in 2014. (Technically, yes, I read the ARC in 2013, but work with me, people.)

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19. Why It Matters: BookCon

As has been reported at BookRiot, BookCon -- the Saturday of BookExpo, geared towards readers -- has announced a number of guest authors that have one thing in common: they are all white.

As Rebecca Joines Schinsky writes, "First came the report that one of BookCon’s main features, a panel of the rock stars of kid lit, was comprised entirely of white male writers. . . .Then this morning, after Entertainment Weekly announced that John Green will also speak at BookCon, the people of Twitter went looking for the entire BookCon line-up. Lo and behold, it also has a remarkable diversity problem. As in: there is none."



Why does the make up of the authors at BookCon -- or, for that matter, at any event -- matter?

Here's something I learned early on, when putting together booklists and displays. It's something I think most people who assemble lists or organize events figure out pretty early on: check yourself and your work product. Make sure what you've put together is balanced, a true representation. In other words, if you sit back and see something is all white, or all male, or -- you get the picture -- you need to go back and do it again.

Why does it matter?

It matters because it looks like the message sent here is that the only authors who will get readers to buy tickets are white authors. And I refuse to believe that.

It matters because it looks like the default setting in reading is white. And while I reluctantly acknowledge that is true for some, I think those of us involved in the reading world need to push back against it. And one of those ways is not presenting all white booklists and panelists.

It matters because panels sell books. As someone who has had the good fortune to attend many a book event over the past several years -- from small to big -- I can attest that an author being on a panel makes me want to read their book. So the exposure by being on a panel? It matters.

This isn't asking for popular, well-known authors to step down. This isn't about not having popular authors. It's about everyone being aware and doing what they can. So, yes, it's on the organizers to look at who they are inviting.. And it's on the publishers to look at who they are promoting and sending to events, so that some authors go because their publishers pay and others can only go if they have the money to pay their own expenses. And it's on the authors to ask about who else is on their panels. And yes, it's on readers to be aware and attend those events that reflect the diverse world we live in.

Diversity isn't someone else's problem. It's not pointing fingers at others. It's looking in the mirror and seeing our role in the problem. And doing something about it.


Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

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

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20. We Need Diverse Books Campaign

Yesterday, I wrote Why It Matters: BookCon.

I want to highlight the We Need Diverse Books Campaign (which I didn't see yesterday until after I had posted.)

image

Click through to read the entire post.

A quick recap of what is explained fully in that post:

"On May 1st at 1pm (EST), there will be a public call for action that will spread over 3 days. We’re starting with a visual social media campaign using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks. . . .  We want people to tweet, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, blog, and post anywhere they can to help make the hashtag go viral. For the visual part of the campaign: Take a photo holding a sign that says “We need diverse books because ___________________________.”" I am trying to decide what my sign will say.

"On May 2nd, the second part of our campaign will roll out with a Twitter chat scheduled for 2pm (EST) using the same hashtag." (I'll be at work, so I'll be taking a super late lunch to participate from 2 to 2:30).

"On May 3rd, 2pm (EST), the third portion of our campaign will begin. There will be a Diversify Your Shelves initiative to encourage people to put their money where their mouth is and buy diverse books and take photos of them."

My approach to diverse books is, needless to say, formed by who I am (white, cisgender, late 40s, female) and what I do (librarian, reader, reviewer.) I know I need to listen. But, I also need to know when, and how, to speak up.

So, here's part of my reality. I don't think readers should be shamed or shoulded into reading books they don't want to read. For me, the prime reason a reader reads is because they want to read that book. The reasons for that want vary.

How do diverse books figure into this? Including diverse books in the suggestions and recommendations that meet that "want." Because, frankly, I am over the belief some people hold that diverse books will always be "other" and not meet their "want." That belief? It's not shaming or shoulding to point out how troubling that belief is; and to do so in a constructive way by saying, here are the books that meet your reading needs.

Part of that belief springs from something I wrote about yesterday: the myth that white is the default that everyone can identify with, but that the opposite is not true. That someone who is white cannot identify with a main character who is not white. Which is bull. And it's a belief that needs to be countered, loudly, and fought, loudly.

And that is why I find this campaign exciting. Because diverse books are something we need to keep on talking about and to keep on promoting, and this campaign can be part of what brings about needed changes.


Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

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

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21. Review: Far From You



Far From You by Tess Sharpe. Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. 2014. Reviewed from ARC.

The Plot: When Sophie's best friend, Mina, is murdered, Sophie is blamed.

No one thinks Sophie killed Mina, but they think it's Sophie's fault that Mina is dead. The police, her friends, her family, Mina's family, all believe that Sophie took Mina to a drug deal; something went wrong; and Mina ended up shot.

It's true that Sophie has a history with drugs, and with lying, so no one believes the truth: that it was Mina who wanted to be in the woods that night, that Sophie was going with Mina, that a masked man shot Mina.

Sophie was forced into rehab, even though she was already clean. Now she's back home, and she's determined to find who killed Mina, and why.

The Good: I love a good mystery! And I love an author who understands that a character's backstory isn't just words on a page; rather, it's there to be motivation, to be explanation, to be a present part of the story.


Sophie is a drug addict. She won't deny it. When she as 14, she was in a terrible car accident. She was left with scars, a bad leg, and a problem with prescription drugs. She was clean for a few months when Mina died, but no one believes Sophie because junkies are liars. That, and the pills in her pocket that the killer planted on her.

I love Sophie's frustration at not being believed. I felt as betrayed and hurt as she did; yet, at the same time, I could understand why those around her believed the worst, and why her parents sent her to rehab. Quite simply, they want to save her life. What else would they do, with a child who has a history of addiction?

And I love that Sophie's injuries and addiction plays into Mina's murder and into it not being solved. No, it wasn't a drug deal gone wrong. Instead, Sophie's history made it easy for the murderer to frame her. He wasn't planting drugs on just any girl. Sophie's drug addiction sends the police in the wrong direction. And there is some guilt that is rooted in Sophie's injuries: her bad leg meant that neither girl had a chance to run away once they saw the gun.

Sophie's addiction is shown through flashbacks and her own present, daily, struggle to stay sober in the face of physical pain (her leg and back will always be a problem) and emotional pain, the loss of Mina, her best friend and the love of her life.

Part of Far From You requires the reader to believe, and accept, about how teens lie to the parents. Sophie, of course, lied left and right because of her addiction. Lies are told about Sophie, so that the police believe she was still using and dragged her best friend to a drug deal. Mina's lies of omissions -- not telling Sophie why they were going to the woods at night -- means that Sophie doesn't know why they were there. When it turns out Mina was working on a story for the local paper, even that is tied up in secrecy, with Mina hiding her work so that no one realizes she was working on something. Other lies are revealed, ones told to protect people that end up hurting others.

One of those lies is about Sophie and Mina. Sophie and Mina were best friends. And they loved each other, and hid it from themselves and each other, flirting and dancing around their attraction, dating boys to prove something to themselves, their families, each other. Sophie would have told her parents she was bisexual; but to do that, to come out, would have meant saying "and I love Mina." Mina's religious family would not have accepted that, and so Sophie stayed quiet because of Mina. Now, that means she cannot publicly mourn -- or, rather, not mourn as a lover.

I don't want to call their relationship a spoiler; that makes being gay or bisexual a "gotcha," a "twist." It isn't; it's a deeper layer to understanding Sophie and Mina, to realizing the depth of Sophie's loss. Sophie doesn't share this with the reader right away, but it's because she is working things out. She hasn't shared everything, yet, with the reader. The story starts in the "now," after Sophie has left rehab, and flashes back, in a very non-linear way, to Mina's murder, to Sophie's accident, to Sophie and Mina's relationship.

Mina's keeping things back about the story she's working on makes more sense, once the reader realizes that Mina has been lying her whole life.

I love how all of this comes together, in a mystery both about why Mina was murdered, but also a look at one teenage girl struggling with tremendous loss. And there is so much more I could write about! Like how Sophie feels alone, but it turns out she has allies, some unexpected. Or the setting, which made me feel like I was in a small town where everyone knows everyone -- or thinks they do.

Let's add this to the list of Favorite Books Read in 2014!

Other reviews: YA and Kids Book Central; As Told By Rachel; Lisa Loves Literature; Cuddlebuggery


Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

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

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22. Teaser: Amity

Amity by Micol Ostow. Egmont USA. Reviewed from ARC; publication date August 2014.

It's not yet August, but I can't wait to say how much I loved Amity.


Amity is about a haunted house; a house that is both haunted and that haunts its unfortunate inhabitants. It is told by two seventeen year olds, Connor and Gwen. Both have just moved into a new house. It is the same house, ten years apart. And both see what those around them cannot, or will not: that their is something wrong and dangerous about Amity.

Reader, it scared the hell out of me.

The title, Amity, refers to another story about a haunted house, The Amityville Horror. But rest assured: the reader doesn't have to know anything about that (maybe) true story. The setting has changed, from Long Island to New England. Amity is the name of the house itself, not the town. It's isolated, not in the middle of a town.

What hasn't changed? The house is haunted. There are things, some small, some less so, that those who have read about The Amityville Horror will recognize. Recognizing them may be fun -- if "fun" can be used about a house that drives its inhabitants to kill -- but not realizing that they are references to the (probably not) true story doesn't take away from the story. A reader can happily read Amity with no knowledge whatsoever about the Amityville Horror -- well, as "happily" one can be reading with growing dread and worry, knowing that something bad is going to happen to the inhabitants of Amity.

Yes, it's months away -- but trust me. Your lovers of horror will not be disappointed.

Now that Ostow has told modern versions of Charles Manson and the Amityville Horror, what next? Me, I'm hoping for her to turn her attentions to Jonestown. I still have nightmares about that one.





Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

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

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23. We Need Diverse Books -- Photos

Yesterday, in the We Need Diverse Books campaign:

Taking a photo of a sign, "we need diverse books...." and submitting it to the tumblr.

Here, my contribution to the We Need Diverse Books tumblr:



I also shared it at my tumblr, which I'm still playing around with.

Go check out the We Need Diverse Books for more photos and signs.

As a reminder about today"On May 2nd, the second part of our campaign will roll out with a Twitter chat scheduled for 2pm (EST) using the same hashtag." (I'll be at work, so I'll be taking a super late lunch to participate from 2 to 2:30).

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

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

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24. Vidcon - I'm Mad As Hell

I have tried to write this post without being mad. Staying calm. Giving the benefit of the doubt.

And no matter where I begin, I end the same place: mad as hell.



For background on Vidcon, harassment, allegations about sexual abuse and/or misconduct, DFTB Records, and Youtube stars, please check out my past post about this, Power and Policies and Ages.

One pertinent part of my post: "In summary, the allegations are about a YouTuber and his ex-girlfriend, as the YouTube article on power relations explains the allegations, and includes this: “[the relationship] started when she was just 15 and progressed to physical abuse shortly after she turned 16, under the legal age of consent in Missouri. The two met at Vidcon 2010 when she was 14 and he was 21.

When I wrote that, in March -- when the allegations described above first surfaced -- I noted (as others had) Vidcon's apparent lack of public policies, but my focus was on libraries.

As I read more, especially about the videotaped harassment of girls last year in the How To Pick Up Girls episode at Vidcon 2013, I got angrier. Please note that this is the most "ideal" type of harassment a person could hope for in that you can't argue with a recording. The articles about this at the time championed Vidcon's attendees for being on the side of the girls: see YouTube Kids Remember to Be Awesome and This Week At Vidcon No, Randomly Grabbing Girls is Not OK. What was "awesome" was that bystanders said something and the people who did this were thrown out of Vidcon, and the girls weren't accused of, well, the usual stuff. Cynical me wonders how "awesome" the response would have been without hard evidence, but as I said, I AM MAD.

John Green (who with his brother, Hank, cofounded Vidcon and are the two public members of the entity that runs Vidcon), posted in his tumblr about this in a post named, "Things That Go Without Saying But Apparently Don't So I'm Going To Say Them." Green proceeds to set out what appears to be a code of conduct/anti harassment policy for Vidcon: don't harass others, there will be a number for those to report things next year, people were "clearly" informed of Vidcon standards.

BUT. BUT. BUT.

Despite Green saying this in a post 8 months ago, the actual, real, entity of Vidcon?

CONTINUES TO NOT HAVE STANDARDS, POLICIES, A CODE OF CONDUCT, WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT TO CALL IT--- NOT EVEN THAT PHONE NUMBER GREEN TALKED ABOUT.

Oh, I thought, it's just not on the Vidcon website and while that may be troubling when it comes to findability and transparency, there is something, right?

Wrong.

C.C. Finlay directly asked Vidcon and got a response that in a nutshell says "we're awesome so we don't need that." No, really -- go read his full post at "So I Asked For a Link to Vidcon's Harassment Policy and They Said They Didn't Need One." Read it and then think about this part of Vidcon's response:

"As far as an official harassment and conduct policy goes, I don't know that we have anything publicly available yet. VidCon attendees, guests, and staff are extremely respectful to each other, and we work hard to provide a safe environment at our event. It's because of this that there hasn't historically been a need for such policies. Though as VidCon continues to grow, I think it is important to have something in place, and we're certainly looking into it."

A;DJ;ASD ;ALKSDJ;FASJD ;FA ;ALSD;AJSD;ASK

Vidcon attendees are just so respectful by default that this type of stuff doesn't happen. Ignore the stuff listed above.

This is problematic on so many levels. Partly, because when your belief is, well, we are respectful people who don't do that type of stuff, you create a situation that makes it that much harder for someone who is subject to harassment. Because hey, maybe I'm being wrong to object to the person making me uncomfortable or touching my body -- this is an extremely respectful place, right, so if it's happening it means its OK and anyway who do I tell?

This is especially true when it's a teen, who, no matter how intelligent and smart, is still a teen who doesn't have the same range of knowledge and experience when it comes to this. Who do they tell, when there is no code or policy that includes a name of a trained staff person to talk to? Many teens would think "but then I'll get in trouble for letting it happen, and I'll be punished by not being allowed to come next year, and maybe it was my fault for smiling." Adults certainly think some of this.

And another thing: if you have no avenue for people to report abuse and harassment, how can you confidently say it doesn't happen?

Bottom line: Vidcon was aware in August 2013 that they needed a policy and, in Green's own words, could not rely on everyone knowing what "goes without saying."

It's now May, a new Vidcon is fast approaching, and .... nothing. Nothing has changed.

With no changes, Vidcon is not a safe place. And those changes are easy to make: simply make Green's informal tumblr post the actual Vidcon policy.










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

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25. Altered Perceptions

What is Altered Perceptions?

As described at the Indiegogo site for Altered Perceptions, "Altered Perceptions is an anthology of great authors, donating their work to help author Robison Wells, who's crippled by debt, caused by his mental illnesses."

Full details are at the Indiegogo page. It explains Wells' mental illnesses, the impact, and what the funds that are being raised will (and won't) be used for. The anthology will be original work, a mix of short stories and deleted scenes.



One reason I wanted to highlight this campaign is the treatment of mental health issues in the media, in books, in casual talk. Mental illness is not talked about the way that we talk about cancer, yet the impact, financial and otherwise, is the same. An illness is an illness is an illness. And this campaign is for Wells, yes, but is also to raise awareness of mental illness. The funding goal is high, because they're "also hoping that we can reach our goal and then overshoot it, to have money to set up a foundation for authors who suffer from mental illness. We know that many authors--even authors contributing to this anthology--are struggling with mental illnesses."

The second reason is Robison Wells is not just an author, but a young adult author, and I'm Team YA all the way!

The campaign started in April, so some of the perks are already claimed. But, there are still plenty of great perks, from books to a writing retreat to dinner and a movie with James Dashner.

The campaign ends May 24.

More: Claudia Gray's interview with Robison Wells; Tanita Davis explains her support of the project; a 2012 Guest Post by Wells at Teen Librarian Toolbox; Shannon Hale's post on writers, mental illness, and this campaign.

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

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