11 #QuietYA Books Worth Checking Out

I was looking for an idea for a list this morning when I stumbled upon the #QuietYA hashtag. I’d seen it around, sure, but it hit me that using it might make a good list. Then I discovered that as of late, I’ve been leaning towards the books that are getting a lot of buzz. It’s the tendency in bookselling, I think, to get on whichever bandwagon (right now? Go Set a Watchman and adult coloring books) is the most current one.

But going through my backlist (nearly 11 years now!) was a good thing. It reminded me that I used to read a lot more contemporary YA (I tend to lean toward the fantasy now), and a lot more smaller books, ones that have less press behind it. Something to think about.

But for now, here’s 11 books I consider flying under the radar (at least here in Kansas) and definitely worth reading.

Kissing in America

Gabi a Girl in Pieces
OCD, the Dude, and Me

Trash
Bamboo People
The Chosen One
Ten Cents a Dance
Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature
Fly by Night
Jackaroo

What are some other good #QuietYA books that you’ve read?

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12 Books You Should Read Instead of Seeing the Movie

I was sitting around, trying to figure out what to do for a list this month, and C suggested bad movies. (We were talking about the new City of Bones TV show, Shadowhunters, and how we have high hopes that it’ll be better than the movie.) In the spirit of goodness (and this Tshirt, which, yes, I do own)  I give you a dozen books that you should read rather than wasting  your time on the movie. (For the record: I always try to read the book first, when I can. But that’s just me.)

In the category of Don’t Even Bother With the Movie:

Twilight – I know: we’re all over the vampires. But, given a choice between reading the books and watching the movies (I never even bothered with the last three), I’d take the books, hands down. At the very least, you can skip the annoying parts.

The Lightning Thief – When the author disses the movies you know it can’t be good. But, aside from the book, this doesn’t even hold up as a movie. Don’t bother. Especially since the book is SO good.

Inkheart – The movie isn’t terrible. I mean, Brendan Frasier is really eminently watchable. But, it’s not good either. It’s just kind of… Meh. Like everyone phoned in their performances and they were hoping to get a movie as fascinating as the book was.

The Three Musketeers – Orlando Bloom is the best thing in the most recent movie. Seriously. It’s not even remotely the book, which is really quite good.

The Hobbit – I loved Lord of the Rings, all three movies and all 12 hours of it. But, after slogging through the FIRST of three movies for this charming little book, I bailed. (That said, the TV movie from 1977 is quite good.)

The movie is okay, but it has Nothing To Do With the Book:

Ella Enchanted – It’s actually a charming movie. I love the music (always have), and there are parts of it that I think are great. But, aside from the title, the character names, and the curse on the main character, it’s not the book. Which is just as charming and fun on its own.

The Great Gatsby – It’s a gorgeous movie. Lush and beautiful. But that’s all it is. It missed the point of Gatsby, of what Fitzgerald was trying to say. If you don’t think about that, it’s a good movie, but I’d rather read the book.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy– the opening minutes of this were brilliant and I had high hopes for the movie, but it kind of just petered out. Alan Rickman as Marvin is brilliant, however.

Tuck Everlasting – C insisted that this one be on the list. She adored the book, and the movie is NOTHING like the book. Except for the premise, there’s really nothing in common with Babbitt’s powerful book.

I know I’m going off the trailer here, which can be misleading. (Bridge to Terabithia anyone?) But, the trailer for these books scared me so much, I haven’t seen the movie. And unless someone convinces me otherwise, I probably won’t.

The Dark is Rising  – I really didn’t think this book would translate well onto the screen, and if the trailer’s correct, it proves me right.

Ender’s Game – Yeah, there are some big blockbuster-y moments in the book, but the movie missed out (or at least the trailer implied this) on the reflective nature of this book, of the underlying themes of brutality and the means we’ll go as humans to reach the ends we want. I know I may be wrong, but I haven’t had the desire to find out.

The True Meaning of Smekday  – This is the one I’m most conflicted about. I want to see Home because of a person of color, girl main character. And because it does look charming. But, I can tell that it’s not the book. I don’t object to that, I just haven’t worked up the courage to see the movie yet.

As a side note, they really shouldn’t make any picture book into a full-length movie. There isn’t a single one (Where the Wild Things Are, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Cat in the Hat, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) that’s any good.

What are some of your worst (and best) movies from books?

10 Feminist Books for Kids and Teens

Inspired by Shannon Hale’s resurrection of #BoysReadGirls, I was going to write a post with books about girls that boys should be reading. Then I realized I did that already. But, I wanted to come up with SOMETHING for women’s history month…

After much thinking, I came up with a list of feminist books for kids/teens. Which are also books that everyone should be reading. My standards were kind of loose: if it felt like a feminist book, then I’m calling it a feminist book. Which means, I probably missed a TON. Let me know what you would have added.

The Princess in Black, by Shannon Hale: “Princess Magnolia has a secret. She’s a superhero, rescuing innocent and unprotected goats from the Big Bad Monsters. The thing is: princesses aren’t supposed to be superheroes. They’re supposed to be princesses. Right?  Well, aside from the stuffy Duchess Wigtower, no one tells Princess Magnolia she can’t.”

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly: ” Callie discovers that studying the world around her is what she really wants to do. She spends as much time as possible with her grandfather — in between piano recitals, forced sewing, school, and managing her brothers’ crushes for her best friend — living for and thriving off of the time spent studying and observing. Of course, since this is 1899 and Texas, Callie couldn’t be allowed (allowed!) to proceed this way: good, proper, well-off girls just didn’t tromp through the underbrush looking at bugs. For me, this was the heart of the novel, this pull for Callie to do what she wanted and not what everyone expected of her.”

Amelia Lost, by Candace Fleming: “She flew not really because of skill — often she didn’t take the time to learn things thoroughly — but because of determination. She was a feminist: she believed that just because she was a woman didn’t mean she shouldn’t do whatever she wanted to do. Including flying. She resisted the boxes that the time period wanted to put her in, and literally soared. No, she wasn’t the most talented, or even the most skilled, but she was determined, and that made up for a lot.”

No Cream Puffs, by Karen Day: “The second big thing, and probably the more defining one, is that Madison decides to play in the boy’s baseball league. She’s a brilliant pitcher, and is encouraged by her older brother to test her skill in the league (since there isn’t a girl’s league). Because of this, she makes waves in her little town. Some people want to make her a pariah: she’s a girl, she has an unfair advantage because no one will want to hurt her, she’ll bring down the level of the game. Others, her mother included, want to make her out to be a trailblazer, a feminist, someone who stands up for women’s rights. Madison, refreshingly, just wants to play the game”

The Cure for Dreaming, by Cat Winters: “Sure, there’s more plot to this one than that, but who cares? This one has a strong feminist agenda and it’s not afraid of it. The father had me seething. The rich handsy boy whom the father liked made me want to smack him. Henri was nice enough, but I really loved Olivia and her struggle against the system (and the Man) and her desire to be Free. I was just cheering her on: you go girl!”

Lady Macbeth’s Daughter, by Lisa Klein: ” Lady Macbeth is only slightly better; she gives herself over to Macbeth because she knows no other way, and the motivations Klein gives her for encouraging Macbeth in his road to destruction evolve out of her feeling cornered in her life. In fact, Klein gives us an interesting dichotomy with her women characters: Lady Macbeth is what one would think is very traditional, very husband-bound; while Albia, on the other hand, is very modern and feminist, choosing her own path without being bound by men’s expectations”

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E.Lockhart: “Frankie did something big; she proved something to herself — and to her family — that she can do something. Sure, they reacted badly, but then, most people react badly to people who think outside the box. Even if that box is something as simple and silly as a secret boys’ club at a posh boarding school.”

Poisoned Apples, by Christine Hepperman: “I didn’t know what to expect, but what I got was a weird, wonderful, empowering collection of poems. Hepperman mixes fairy tale retellings with modern issues, from anorexia and photoshopping to the everyday over sexualization of women. It’s a seamless transition from fantasy to reality.”

Gabi a Girl in Pieces, by Isabel Quintero: “It was Gabi’s awakening to the double standard, and her actively trying to do something about it — which came near the end of the book –which endeared me to the book. There was so much crap going on in Gabi’s life that I found it difficult, initially, to relate. But by the end, I was cheering for Gabi, for her attitude toward her life, and for Quintero’s unflinching portrayal of her.”

Glory O’Brein’s History of the Future, by A.S. King: “Glory’s visions are of a horrific patriarchal future, where women’s rights are completely taken away, and the country ends up in another Civil War. This fascinates and terrifies Glory — what’s her role in this future? How does it come to be like this? Will it? — and the act of having these visions pushes her into action.”

And a couple of adult ones tacked on the end:

Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley: “A heady piece of feminist fiction. The first time I read this, I was enraptured by the way she tells the story [of King Arthur] from the women’s point of view. “

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood: “I can’t imagine — more like, don’t want to imagine — a world where women are treated as nothing more than the sum of their bodies, where men get excused for their behavior because of their position, where women hate and loathe each other because of their roles. Wait… that, too much, describes what our world is like now. Without the religious framework, without the robes, without the martial law, there are elements of this world around us”

A Dozen Books about the African-American Experience

It’s Martin Luther King Jr Day tomorrow, and we’re probably celebrating by going to see Selma. And I know I’m a bit early for Black History Month, but I thought I’d do a list of books that celebrate the depth and breadth of the African-American experience. I don’t think I came up with one that’s really comprehensive, especially since I tend toward the historical fiction, but it’s a start.

Historical:

Sugar, by Jewell Parker Rhodes: “It’s 1871, and slavery is supposed to be over. However, for ten-year-old Sugar, on a sugar plantation in Louisiana, it doesn’t feel like it. Sure, the former slaves are free to go if they can, but they’re paid so little that it’s almost impossible for them to leave.”

Stella By Starlight, by Sharon M. Draper: “It’s 1932, North Carolina. The whole country is in the throes of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt is running for office. For Stella and her family, this doesn’t really matter. They’re more concerned about making ends meet. And avoiding the local Klu Klux Klan.”

Mare’s War, by Tanita S. Davis: “As they start driving, Mare starts talking about her past: what made her run away from Bay Slough, Alabama and join up in the Women’s Army Corps near the end of World War II. Her experiences in both a segregated south and a 1940s midwest, not to mention in the army. The chapters alternate between then — Mare’s history — and now — the road trip — and as the book unfolds, we learn more about all three of our characters”

Flygirl, by Sherri L. Smith: “Ida Mae Jones has always wanted to fly. Ever since she was put behind the wheel of her daddy’s plane and taught how, she knew that this was what she was born to do. Except, she’s an African American and lives in the outskirts of New Orleans. Not only can she not get a pilot’s license because she’s a woman; she can’t get one because she’s the wrong color.”
March: Book One, by John Lewis:This is a slim graphic memoir, telling the first part of Congressman John Lewis’s story. This volume starts with his childhood in Alabama, and goes through the Nashville sit-ins that he participated in. My favorite thing about this memoir was the framing: It opens with Lewis waking up the morning of Obama’s first inauguration, and the story unfolds as Lewis is remembering his path to D.C. as he tells it to a couple of constituents who have stopped by his office.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham, by Christopher Paul Curtis: “: This was a terrific book — a wonderful portrayal of a black family in early 1960s Flint, MI. It was hilarious (all the way through the end): the narrator called his family the “Wacky Watsons” and they were.”

Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson: “Her childhood begins in Ohio, but mostly it’s spent in South Carolina, with her grandparents, and in Brooklyn, where her mother finally settled with Jacqueline and her brothers and sister. I kept trying to figure out the timeline (if she was born in 1963, then it must be…) but eventually, I just gave up and let myself get absorbed in the story.”

No Crystal Stair, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson: “The book follows Lewis and his family — his parents, and a couple of his brothers — through most of the 20th century, beginning in 1906, through his many failed ventures to his inception and success in the bookstore. It’s fascinating to read and think about: Lewis’s big thing was that black people can’t stop being Negros — that is, defined by white people — until they know their history. Which means: they need to read. And read about their people.”

Contemporary:

Out of My Mind, by Sharon M. Draper: “Melody is very, very smart. She’s known words and ideas and concepts since she was very little. She loves music, and can see colors when it plays. But, she has no way to tell anyone any of this. Melody has cerebral palsey, and while she can hear and understand, she just can’t communicate. Which is incredibly frustrating to her.”

Peace, Locomotion, by Jacqueline Woodson: “The book is a series of letters from Lonnie — aka Locomotion — to his younger sister Lili. They’ve been put in different foster homes after a fire killed their parents. The loss is still there, at least for Locomotion, and he’s made it his “job” to help Lili not forget his parents.”

Ghetto Cowboy, by G. Neri; “Living in Detroit, twelve-year-old Cole and his mom are scraping by. Sure, he doesn’t go to school that often, but he’s okay. Until the day he gets caught, his mom flips, and drives him to Philadelphia to live with a father Cole has never met. Once he gets to Philly, angry about being abandoned (as he sees it), by his mom, he decides he will have nothing to do with his father, or the stables he runs in North Philly.”

Saving Maddie, by Varian Johnson: Joshua Wynn is a good guy. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t party, he doesn’t have sex. He chooses leading his church’s youth group over playing on the school basketball team. Granted, he’s the preacher’s kid, and there’s an enormous amount of pressure on Joshua to be good. And Joshua’s mostly okay with that.  That is, until Maddie Smith — his best childhood friend who moved away when she was 13 — moves back into town.”

So, I know I left off a lot. What are some of the best ones?

7 Memorable Author Events

Stephen King was in Wichita Friday night. It was a huge deal (thankfully, I was tucked away in a back corner and didn’t have to deal with the angry people) for which thousands (literally) of people turned out. Was it a great event? For a lot of people, yes. For me? Not so much. We were talking on the way to the event about which authors we’d individually REALLY like to see, ones that we’d go to great lengths to see. Which got me thinking about some of the best author presentations I’ve seen in the past 5 years or so. (As a side note: I really didn’t go see authors before then. A lot of it was little kids, but some of it was I just wasn’t involved that way. That part of my reading experience has changed dramatically with a job at the bookstore.)

I’m defining “best” in an entirely personal way. For me, it’s something I can still remember, even years later,as a fun and rewarding experience.

Eoin Colfer: I’ve never been a big fan of his Artemis Fowl books, but he was coming to the store, and I was curious. I’m SO glad he went; he was hilarious. And entertaining. And completely knew how to work his crowd.

Rick Riordan: Before Stephen King, this was the biggest event I’d been to; it was impressive how many fans were in the room. I wish I had gone to see him before he got really huge because I would have liked to chat with him, or get a picture with him, but this was the way the cards fell. Even so, Riordan knows his crowd, knows how to give a great presentation, and had all of us eating out of the palm of his hand. So, it was okay.

Gabrielle Zevin: I think this one sticks with me mostly because I had seen Kristopher Jansma the night before and he was awful. But, she was lovely. She was interesting, she was funny, she had good things to say, and she interacted with the audience in a way that made us feel welcome and a part of the experience. She was so wonderfully gracious afterward, as well.

And a few author meets through KidlitCon:

Scott Westerfeld (2011) was amazing. His presentation (which I saw twice that year, interestingly enough) was fantastic, he was delightful and kind to all of us (I remember standing in a circle chatting with him and a few other people and thinking to myself, “I’M TALKING WITH SCOTT WESTERFELD!! THIS CAN’T BE REAL!”). I would love to go to another event of his again.

Maggie Stiefvater (2010): Okay, so I didn’t actually take time to meet her, mostly because I was shy and intimidated. BUT, her talk was influential enough that I actually took the time to pick up her books. And became a fan. I’d love a chance to see her again, so I could chat with her and get a picture with her.

Maureen Johnson (2012): Her presentation at KidlitCon was…. weird. But I’m counting this because I made such a fool of myself in front of her at the Austin Teen BookFest in 2011 and I completely (almost) redeemed myself. A group of us stayed after to chat with her and Robin Wasserman and it was a LOT of fun. She’s very much like her online personality: weird, deadpan, and very very funny.  And yes, if I ever got a chance to see her again, I’d go.

Mitali Perkins (2014): I didn’t get a picture with Mitali, either, though I did talk to her after her presentation. (I don’t know why I asked. Doh!) I think the main thing about these presentations is that I like people to be organized, and informative about themselves and their writing, and to draw the crowd in. Mitali did all of that and then some. She was gracious and funny and a delight to listen to.

So who are some authors I’d still like to see? Shannon Hale, beyond her floating head, of course. John Green would be a trip and a half. Megan Whalen Turner. Holly Black. Sarah Beth Durst. Anne Ursu. Jonathan Stroud.

Who have you seen that you’ve loved and/or who would you like to see?

10 Books The Have Stayed With Me

This is kind of a cop-out this month (hey, it’s my birthday month; I’m allowed). I was tagged by Mother Reader and The Book Nest to come up with a list of books that have changed my life in some way. It took me a while to get started on this list, and to narrow it down, but once I got going, they came pretty easily.

So, in roughly chronological order:

1.The Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder — the first book I remember really loving.

2. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle — gave hope to a geeky, awkward girl

3. The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley — it was a toss-up between this and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Both helped me embrace feminism (or realize that I was already one).

4. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen — despised as a 14-year-old, I “got it” when I was 23, finally recognizing the genius of Austen. The A&E production helped.

5. Nine Parts of Desire, by Geraldine Brooks — my first introduction to the Muslim world. It touched and intrigued me and helped me find the similarities between Islam and my own religion, helping me realize that these people are human, too, way before 9/11 happened.

6. Beauty, by Robin McKinley — the first YA book I read as an adult. And it changed not only my reading, but (because of that) the whole direction of my life.

7. The Sorcerer’s Stone, by J. K. Rowling — this is here because if I hadn’t read it, then Russell and Megan wouldn’t have read it, and then we wouldn’t have become a family of Potterheads.

8. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan — I’m using this book, but it was really an article (that became a chapter) that changed the way I thought about food. And inspired me to make homemade bread every week.

9. Austenland, by Shannon Hale — my first ARC as a blogger. (And a good book, as well.)

10. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher – the first time I was moved enough by a book to write the author. A powerful story.

What would be on your list?

10 Books By Women (About Girls) That Boys Should Read

Shannon Hale (love her!) went on a rant a week or so ago that got me thinking. There was a long chain, but the culmination of it was this tweet:

So, I’m offering some good books by women, featuring girls, that I think boys should read (and might even like!). I’m splitting the list: five middle grade books and five YA ones.

1. Three Times Lucky, by Sheila Turnage: A girl named mo, some fantastic quirky characters, and a murder mystery to solve. “In addition to murder, this book has everything: drama, car racing, suspense, plucky kids, arch-enemies, robbery, unrequited love, and karate.  It’s everything Southern, but the pecan pie. (And I’m sure that would have shown up, had the book been set at Thanksgiving instead of during the summer.) There’s a little something for everyone here, which makes any book appealing.”

2. The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall: Yes, it’s about four sisters and their summer at a cottage in Maine. HOWEVER, they are some pretty interesting and hilarious girls who get into some pretty interesting and hilarious situations (Batty and the bull will forever be one of my favorite book scenes.) AND there are two (almost three!) more books to read.

3. Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper: I put this on here not only because it’s an excellent book (and because author of color PLUS disabled), but because C’s 6th grade language arts teacher read it aloud, and the class loved it. So I’m not guessing at this one. “It’s a treatise on the determination of one girl (and her family) and what that can do. It is, in many ways, a “message” book: disabled people are NOT different than the rest of us, and just because they look or act different doesn’t mean they are not worth getting to know and understand. But Draper presents this in such a way so that the book doesn’t feel like a heavy-handed message book. It’s heartfelt, and you end up both cheering for and crying with Melody as she recounts her experience.”

4. Tuesdays at the Castle, Jessica Day George: A castle that’s probably alive on some level, a spunky heroine, and a creepy prince who’s trying to take over the kingdom: how can you not thoroughly enjoy this book?

5. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle: I thought I needed a classic on here. Meg is a tentative heroine, but she’s a strong one, in the end. And the world L’Engle built is a fascinating one. Plus an adventure to rescue Mr. Murray from the evil planet? (There’s also Charles Walace and Calvin.)

6. Dangerous, by Shannon Hale: I wanted to make sure a Shannon Hale book goto on here, and I struggled to think of which one. Then I remembered (duh) her newest. Although my first reaction was less than stellar, this book has grown on me over the months: “In many ways, this was a breath of fresh air. One gets bogged down in the current trends in young adult/teen literature (read: paranormal or dystopian/post-apocalyptic) and to have something that is honestly science fiction with high tech gadgets, spaceships, and alien lifeforms. With honest-to-goodness average people doing techy, fun, science-based things.” I call it Hunger Games meets the Avengers.

7. Fire, by Kristin Cashore: It’s really the whole Graceling series. But I thought that while Graceling has more action, this one has more drama. And it gets into the head of women better. One of the reasons I think boys should be reading books about girls is so they can understand them. And this one goes a long way to getting into the psyche of a woman and how men treat her. But, if that’s not what you want, try Graceling instead. Either way, Cashore is a fantastic write.

8. Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson: Much like 13 Reasons Why, which C is required to read this year, this one should be required reading for everyone. It’s about date rape and depression and it’s harsh and difficult to read, but it’s one of those books that helps you understand that actions have consequences. A definite must-read.

9. Flygirl, by Sheri L. Smith: World War II, pilots, and a girl overcoming the obstacles of race and gender. ” I liked the challenges posed by the program, the obstacles she had to surmount in order to succeed in a man’s world. It was not only historically interesting, but had a universal appeal: what woman hasn’t faced the “you can’t do it because you’re a girl” and fought her way to success in whatever that is?”

10. I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister, by Amélie Sarn. This one seems odd to throw on the list. But the conflict between siblings is universal, and this one has stayed with me since I read it. Partially for the sibling conflict, but mostly for the religious elements. I’ve been thinking about hate and acceptance and conformity and how we act when we disagree with each other. It’s thought-provoking.

What other books should be on this list?