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"Book reviews, book news, my life and anything else I think is interesting."
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26. Penny Dreadful -- Laurel Snyder

Penny dreadfulNEXT STOP, QUIRKSVILLE.

And, despite my difficulty with the ultra-quirk end of the spectrum—inhabited primarily by Stargirl and her ukelele—I adored this book. It's basically Hart of Dixie, if Zoe Hart happened to be a formerly affluent ten-year-old. It's got that same city-to-small-Southern-town move, that same solitude-to-community arc, the same cultural fish-out-of-water story, as well as a lot of learning about friendship and not making assumptions and working together and just plain old summertime kid fun.

THE BOOKS! Penny is a huge reader, most of her understanding of the world comes from living vicariously through books, and thus, that affects her thought process and perspective:

Duncan didn't look especially fragile or sensitive to Penny, no more so than anyone else she'd ever met. But looks could be deceiving. Maybe Duncan was like an upsetting book with an ordinary, happy cover. Maybe he was Bridge to Terabithia.

AHAHAHAHAHA, LOVE.

PENNY AND HER PARENTS! There is a whole lot of strife in the household, most of it due to financial woes—and that, in itself, is another plus: speaking as someone who grew up in a "scrimp and pinch" family, as much as adults try to protect them from it, economic hardship is a very real fear for kids, and it's always nice to see it addressed—but there's also plenty of love and affection. And it isn't just Penny's family. All of the various parents at the Whippoorwillows compound are loving and emotionally generous, with their own children and with the children of others, and the children have those same qualities. While that might seem unrealistic to some readers, it's important to remember that the tenants aren't random: every family living there is there by specific invitation.

FRIENDSHIP! As I mentioned above, there are lessons about friendship, about making assumptions, about working together, and about when to ask for help... but all of them are integrated organically into the story, and it's very much a story about Penny figuring things out, rather than a story created to teach the reader. Upon her family's arrival at the Whippoorwillows, Penny almost immediately finds a bosom friend in Luella. They clearly adore each other, but that doesn't prevent them from having disagreements or from—especially in Penny's case, as she's never really had a real friend before—making mistakes. 

THE ART! I love it so much when it's clear that the artist did a close-read of the text. Abigail Halpin includes so many dead-on-the-money details that I'm going to hunt around for other chapter books she's illustrated. [ETA: Well, then. That was the easiest research I've done, like, ever.]

It's warm and cozy, it's about family and friends and community, and about how you don't have to go out looking for dragons to be a hero: oftentimes, it's everyday life that brings the real adventure.

__________________________________

Book source: ILLed through my library.

__________________________________

Previously.

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27. Yesterday @KirkusReviews...

What we hide...I wrote about Marthe Jocelyn's What We Hide:

Anyway, enough pontificating from me, right? On to the actual book! Clearly, Marthe Jocelyn’s What We Hide succeeded in at least getting THIS reader thinking about truth; about secrets; about lies of malice and lies of boredom, about lies of omission and lies of desperation, about lies to loved ones and lies to ourselves; about perspective and worldview and, yes, the reliability of any given narrator.

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28. First blood.

MURDER CAT

Oh, man. It's going to be a gory spring.

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29. 404 Day: A Day of Action Against Censorship in Libraries.

404 dayFrom EFF:

Join EFF on April 4th for 404 Day, a nation-wide day of action to call attention to the long-standing problem of Internet censorship in public libraries and public schools. In collaboration with the MIT Center for Civic Media and the National Coalition Against Censorship, we are hosting a digital teach-in with some of the top researchers and librarians working to analyze and push back against the use of Internet filters on library computers.

...

This is why EFF is calling on librarians, students, and concerned library patrons across the country to take action on 404 Day to raise awareness and call attention to banned websites and Internet censorship in libraries. Please join us at 12:00pm PST/ 3:00pm EST for a digital teach-in featuring Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Director of Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association, Chris Peterson from MIT's Center for Civic Media and the National Coalition Against Censorship, and Sarah Houghton, blogger and Director of the San Rafael Public Library in Northern California for an in-depth discussion about banned websites in public schools and libraries.

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30. Part-time Indian removed from curriculum in Idaho school district.

ParttimeindianFrom the Idaho Statesman:

Meridian trustees voted 2 to 1 to keep in place a hold on “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie. The hold was put in place a few weeks ago after some parents objected to the book.

Board members rejected a recommendation from an earlier committee that said the book should stay on the 10th grade English supplemental reading list, with parental permission required for children to read it.

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31. Movie news: Eleanor & Park.

Eleanor and parkFrom EW:

“The book is uniquely structured in that one chapter is told by Eleanor and one chapter is told from Park’s perspective, and they alternate,” Bario points out. “So we’re trying to figure out how to do that in a movie. There are all storts of groovy stylistic things you could do with voice over, or words on the screen, but we want something that’s real Rainbow.”

With that in mind, Rowell – who is repped by UTA — has also been hired to write the screenplay. “She’s in the middle of writing another book, so we’re patiently waiting for her,” Bario said.

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32. A few details about the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie.

Fantastic beasts and where to find themAt the NYT:

That is when Warner announced that Ms. Rowling had agreed to adapt for the big screen her “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” a 2001 book billed as one of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts textbooks. Three megamovies are planned. The main character will be a “magizoologist” named Newt Scamander. The stories, neither prequels or sequels, will start in New York about seven decades before the arrival of Mr. Potter and his pals.

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33. The 2014 Little Rebels shortlist...

Middle of nowhere...has been announced.

The contenders are:

Moon Bear, by Gill Lewis

After Tomorrow, by Gillian Cross

Real Lives: Harriet Tubman, by Deborah Chancellor

Stay Where You Are, by John Boyne

The Middle of Nowhere, by Geraldine McCaughrean

Rosie Revere, Engineer, by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

The Promise, by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin

Click on through for more info.

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34. Hollywood SF and race.

At the Atlantic:

More importantly, Star Wars encapsulates a pop-culture tradition of space operas that can easily invent spaceships and robots and aliens, but that helplessly acquiesce to old, stereotypical treatments of gender and race. Why does that matter? Sci-fi is at least in part a dream of a different world and a different future. When that future unthinkingly reproduces current inequities, it seems like both a missed opportunity and a failure of imagination.

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35. This week @KirkusReviews...

...I wrote about some April and May releases that I'm looking forward to reading.

THERE ARE SO MANY OF THEM.

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36. I am Daniel Handler/Lemony Snicket, AMA...

...at reddit, obvs.

I haven't finished reading down through, but this answer made me howl:

[–]DunkRyder 189 points 5 hours ago

What's your opinion of the film? How did you feel about the whole thing during development, after release and how do you feel about it now?

[–]DanielHandler aka Lemony Snicket[S] 543 points 4 hours ago

"I have nothing to announce at this time."

(via Brooke)

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37. Dirtbag Anne of Green Gables.

Dirtbag anneFrom The Toast:

[The schoolhouse burns in the distance. Anne stands on the porch, face flushed and streaked with ash]
ANNE: IT’S ANNE WITH A GODDAMN “E”
A GODDAMN “E”

(Via my Treasured Sister, obviously.)

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38. Laurel Snyder on Twent's two moms.

Peny dreadfulFrom her blog:

I’m guessing what upset you most about the book was that you got no WARNING. There is no backmatter to inform readers that they might encounter diversity in this book. You may feel that your daughter should have had a chance to choose for herself that she was about to encounter a few lines of text in which there were gay people. I don’t know how this would work. Should I have also included a warning label: WARNING: THIS BOOK HAS SOME JEWS IN IT?

And as I haven't read the book yet, I just ILLed the hell out of it.

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39. "Be an active participant in making your community better."

Riveting:

 

Previously.

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40. Today @KirkusReviews...

Moon at nine...I wrote about Deborah Ellis' Moon at Nine:

It’s a book that will likely end up in the Important Book category—books that get taught in school or get used in book groups—rather than in the Best-selling Book category, which is unfortunate. Farrin and Sadira’s story is one that deserves to be heard, and as it’s just one of many, it deserves to be heard all the more widely. While it doesn’t seem likely that there will be a sequel, I do hope for one—while the book certainly stands alone, it left me with a BUT WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?-shaped hole in my chest.

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41. You know, it doesn't FEEL like I have too much time on my hands...

...and yet.

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42. A Paper Towns movie is in the works.

Paper townsFrom Deadline:

After completing its adaptation of the John Green novel The Fault In Our Stars, Fox 2000 has made a deal for the 2008 Green novel Paper Towns, and it is working on bringing bring back together not only the producers and the screenwriters for another go but also one of the stars. Paper Towns will be built around actor-singer Nat Wolff, who co-stars in The Fault In Our Stars and stars in the upcoming Palo Alto. Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber are going to adapt, and Temple Hill’s Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen are producing. The scribes will be exec producers along with Green.

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43. Roundtable: People of Color Underrepresented in Children's Books.

From KQED Radio:

Ethnic diversity is on the rise in the U.S. So why are children's books still so white? Only about 6 percent of kids' books published in 2013 feature characters that are African-American, Latino, Asian or Native American. We take up the discussion with authors, illustrators and librarians. Does the ethnicity of characters in children's books matter to you?

Panelists include Christopher Myers, Mitali Perkins, and others!

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44. Cheap read: The Girl of Fire & Thorns.

Girl of fire and thornsIt's only $1.99!

AND IT IS TOTALLY WORTH WAAAAAAAAAAAAY MORE THAN THAT!

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45. Kindle Daily Deal: Blood Red Road.

Blood red roadYes, my beloved Blood Red Road is a mere $1.99 today.

Relatedly: It was mentioned briefly in a recent Atlantic article entitled, "Must Every YA Action Heroine Be Petite?" (While there were a lot of broad generalizations made, and the examples used didn't suggest that the author had a broad knowledge of YA, I was SO happy to see that she mentioned the FAT = EVIL unpleasantness in Divergent. Because that was so, so glaring.)

The comments section, as you might expect, gets ugly super-fast: lots of FEMALE ACTION HEROES MAKE NO SENSE BECAUSE GIRLS DON'T HAVE MUSCLES and OF COURSE THEY'RE THIN, THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO BE ATTRACTIVE and the ever-popular FEMINISTS ARE DUMB AND WOMEN'S ISSUES ARE NON-EXISTENT and BODY IMAGE ISSUES ARE ALL IN YOUR PRETTY LITTLE HEAD AND IF YOU "ALLOW" THE MEDIA TO AFFECT YOUR PERCEPTION OF WHAT "NORMAL" GIRLS LOOK LIKE, THEN YOU'RE STUPID AND WEAK and also, FORGET THE LADIES, WHERE ARE ALL THE MALE ACTION HEROES???

And my personal favorite, DISCUSSION = ENABLING, or IF YOU DON'T LIKE SOMETHING, THEN JUST IGNORE IT AND DON'T TALK ABOUT IT OR TAKE STEPS TO COMBAT IT, AND IT WILL MAGICALLY GO AWAY. You know, like racism. Or chlamydia.

I'm being hyperbolic here, but only slightly. 

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46. The Savages -- Matt Whyman

SavagesI wanted to like The Savages so much more than I did.

Because cannibalism!

And also Jason Chan cover art!

But, alas.

At dinner one night, fifteen-year-old Sasha Savage drops a bombshell on her parents: her new not-quite-a-boyfriend-but-more-than-a-friend-friend, Jack, is a vegetarian. Which, considering their family history—during the siege of Leningrad, Titus Savage's parents saved themselves from starving to death by preying on their neighbors—is a Very Big Deal. Food is life to the Savages: eating together, sharing their secret together, keeps the family together.

So, to Titus, Sasha's first boyfriend represents not just the loss of his little girl, but the possible destruction of THEIR ENTIRE WAY OF LIFE.

Pros:

  • As I said above, CANNIBALISM. In spite of the many YA IS SO DARK WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN-ers, there aren't all that many YA books that are joyfully, unrepentantly macabre. And this book very definitely falls into that category.
  • There are moments of hilarity, mostly involving Jack, who is a supremely self-absorbed, narcissistic jackass.
  • Whyman gets in some good digs at the militant ends of the animal rights debate while also providing a more reasonable perspective. (And by reasonable, I mean that some of the characters give voice to the crazy idea that one's diet is one's own personal business. Within reason, obvs.)

Cons:

  • It's repetitive. Titus' bald head is described as a 'dome' twice in the first fifteen pages, and then again a couple of other times, and Angelica's—I don't know if her name was a nod to Anjelica Huston, though it seems likely, no?—issues with money are not only mentioned, but fully explained over and over and over again. 
  • Lots of telling, not much showing: "appeared disappointed", "shrugged as if to suggest that she was none the wiser", etc.
  • All of the characters speak in the same voice: stilted, and semi-formal—if it had just been the Savages, I'd have given it a pass because they're such an insular unit, but the secondary characters and other outsiders do, too.
  • That mostly-consistent formality ("Grandpa, is Katya supposed to be in your care?") makes the occasional slang ("Now, Jack certainly isn't perfect, but he does manage to resist an urge to murder for the lols!") sound forced and dissonant.
  • This ties into the tell/show issue, but it's a large enough issue that it deserves its own bullet point: Sasha is so profoundly aware of her own psychological make-up that it's pretty hard to believe. For example, this is the bit where she explains to her friends why she hasn't had the sex with Jack: 'Had I just given in and gone for it,' she said, 'then right now I wouldn't be feeling good about myself. Jack is my chance to prove that when it comes to my life I call all the shots. My dad has already marked him down as someone who could lead me astray. The last thing I want to do is make things difficult by acting like a sheep.' Actually, that's a great example of the ongoing formality, too.

Overall: Overall, it's very much style over substance, but the high interest storyline isn't enough to counteract the weak character development and the mediocre prose. Not a good fit for me, though fans will be happy to here that there's an upcoming sequel. Others might want to re-read The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs instead.

______________________________________________

Book source: Purchased.

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47. A clarification about the Independent's new review policy.

Angus thongs and full frontal snogging pinkFrom the Independent:

We have also been sent messages by concerned authors asking whether their pink-covered children’s books will now be disqualified from a review slot. I’d just like to lay that fear to rest. I always judge the books I’m sent on a case by case basis and, besides, great stories are great stories, whatever cover they are presented in. So if you send me a well-written book with a strong protagonist, a cracking plot and universally-appealing themes, then of course I will consider it for review – even if your publisher has chosen to stick it in a ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’-looking jacket.

Previously.

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48. Barry Lyga has MORE TO SAY.

From his blog:

I appreciate the concern for me and my brethren, but… I’m a middle-class, straight white dude living in the U.S. Don’t worry too much about me: I think I’m gonna be okay.

The conundrum I face regarding the presumption of male guilt is nothing compared to what women and people of color and the LGBT community go through every day, so rather than rail against it, I acknowledge it and plan my life accordingly. Given the advantages my DNA and the geography of my birth afford me, it would seem churlish to complain overmuch about such things, when there are deeper injustices in the world.

That said: No, I don’t like that I feel uncomfortable hugging fans. But there it is.

Previously.

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49. Timewaster of the day.

I lost hours to this game over the weekend. 

HOURS.

(So far, my top score is 6212. BUT I WILL IMPROVE IT, BY GEORGE.)

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50. Today @KirkusReviews...

...since Spring is officially here (even though we're supposed to get snow on Wednesday, SIGHHHHH), I talked about some books about gardens and gardeners and gardening!

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