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Author: Nicole Dolat

2013 Hub Reading Challenge check in #16

reading challenge logoNot signed up for YALSA’s 2013 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since February 3 counts, so sign up now!

Boy21For some reason, despite all of the great feedback I was hearing, I dragged my feet a bit in reading Boy 21 by Matthew Quick. People on listservs were RAVING about how good it was. Boy 21 was even on YALSA’s 2013 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults List. So even though it didn’t really seem like a book that would normally appeal to me, I purposefully checked it out of the library and took it home. I would periodically stare at the cover, consider it for a moment or two, and then time and again put it back on my gigantic “to read” pile while I grabbed another more appealing title. But over this past weekend, I felt the call of Boy 21, so I finally cracked that cover and began reading…

…and I didn’t stop until I had finished the very last sentence! And then I wished it would go on even longer. (And then, if I’m being completely honest, I hugged it a bit before placing it lovingly and regretfully on my “to be returned” pile of library books.)

What makes this book so wonderful? As always, I struggle a bit trying to describe the magic of a really special book. Boy 21 is a book with fantastic male characters who are both typical and atypical for their geographic locations and experiences. It’s about basketball and astronomy, and about discovering there’s more to both then just playing the game or seeing bright lights in the sky. It’s about that one special friend who both embraces you as you are and also helps you to become more. It’s about learning to care about someone else’s life and, well, being more than your own. And it’s about discovering and valuing the things that are most important to you. In short, it’s just a really special book that I think just about any reader would enjoy.

Have any of you made a really special discovery during the reading challenge thus far?

— Nicole Dolat, currently reading Curses! Foiled Again by Jane Yolen

If you’ve completed the challenge by reading or listening to 25 titles from the list, let us know by filling out the form below. (The information you provide is what we’ll use to send you your Challenge Finisher badge, contact you about your reader’s response, and notify you if you win our grand prize drawing, so be sure to use an email address you actually check!) Do not fill out this form until you have completed the challenge by reading 25 titles

If you’re not done yet, happy reading and keep us posted on your progress! Tweet your reviews and progress with the #hubchallenge tag, and we’ll see you at next week’s check-in!

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2013 Hub Reading Challenge check in #11

reading challenge logoNot signed up for YALSA’s 2013 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since February 3 counts, so sign up now!

51BVlp-PrNL._SL175_How is everyone doing with the challenge? I have to say, I’ve let myself slip a bit with some easy reading distractions (*hangs head in shame*). I finally had a chance to listen to the audio book for The Diviners. I feel like I’m in the minority when I say that I have not (personally) enjoyed any of Libba Bray’s previous books. (I tried, honestly I tried…) I had high hopes for The Diviners because so many people have raved — even people who report to not being huge fans of her other books, just like me. And I have to say, there was definitely a lot about this book I enjoyed. Sadly, our heroine Evie was not among them. And there’s always something about the way Bray tells a story that loses me — I find myself connecting to the story in fits and starts, but never being thoroughly engaged throughout. But I loved a lot of the support characters she created (Theta and Henry high among them). And the audio book was performed exceptionally well by January LaVoy, who created an immense number of entirely unique characters and moods through her voice. I really felt transported back to the 1920’s. So even if you’re not a fan of Bray’s works (like me), the audio book experience (thanks to January LaVoy) was a real treat.

What kinds of books (paper or audio) are you loving … or not loving so much?

— Nicole Dolat, currently listening to Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry (finally!)

If you’ve completed the challenge by reading or listening to 25 titles from the list, let us know by filling out the form (which actually works now!) below. (The information you provide is what we’ll use to send you your Challenge Finisher badge, contact you about your reader’s response, and notify you if you win our grand prize drawing, so be sure to use an email address you actually check!) Do not fill out this form until you have completed the challenge by reading 25 titles.

If you’re not done yet, happy reading and keep us posted on your progress! Tweet your reviews and progress with the #hubchallenge tag, and we’ll see you at next week’s check-in!

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Interview with Deborah Hopkinson, author of Titanic: Voices from the Disaster

Author Deborah Hopkinson
Author Deborah Hopkinson
One of my favorite picks from this years list of finalists for YALSA’s 2013 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction was Deborah Hopkinson’s book, Titanic: Voices from the Disaster. (You can see my previous post for my own detailed review.) Imagine my surprise and delight when Deborah offered to do an interview with me for our readers. What follows is the conversation that she and I recently had regarding her YALSA 2013 Honor Award, how her writing for Titanic evolved, and what her fans can expect from her next. Enjoy!

First, let me congratulate you on winning a 2013 YALSA Honor Award for Excellence in Nonfiction with your book, Titanic: Voices from the Disaster. How does it feel to win an Honor award? Hopefully you had a chance to celebrate with family and friends!

I was so surprised and honored to receive this award. I especially loved the format of choosing finalists and encouraging librarians and teen readers to become familiar with the books in advance. It’s particularly meaningful because I actually thought of this book as being appropriate for a wide range of audiences, and so I am glad it will reach teens through this award.

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2013 Hub Reading Challenge check-in #3

reading challenge logoNot signed up for YALSA’s 2013 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since February 3 counts, so sign up now!

I was a little late to join the reading challenge, so thus far I can only tally books I read as part of the previous Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge. (Some of my faves from that challenge were Wonder Show, Seraphina, Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, and Bomb: The Race to Build — and Steal — the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon.)  That being said, I have a LOT of books I’m looking forward to reading from our challenge list. Just to name a few:

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YALSA Nonfiction Award Finalist: Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

From Father Browne's Titanic Photo Album
From Father Browne’s Titanic Photo Album

April 15th, 2012 marked the centennial commemoration for the sinking of the Titanic. What makes the tragic story of the Titanic disaster so compelling, even 100 years later? You can study the disaster for social commentary about class distinctions (since a majority of the passengers killed were from the 3rd class passages — including women and children). The Titanic was a ship that clearly catered to the wealthiest of clientele, with services ranging from Parisian bistros to multi-room cabins that were probably larger than most New York City apartments. Third class passengers were restricted to the lower levels of the ship and prevented from even entering certain walkways onboard ship … which likely also prevented them from recognizing the urgency of the sinking ship. You can study the flaws in shipbuilding standards in the early 1900s and remark on how outdated benchmarks led to a sinking ship with only enough lifeboats for about half its passengers. You can shake your head at the unchecked ego of the captain and others who misread or ignored all signs that begged for caution. But really, what makes this story grab attention year after year (in my opinion) is the absolute tragedy of a truly doomed voyage across the Atlantic, where not one, but dozens of bad decisions and situations compounded to guarantee the Titanic would never reach New York City on its maiden voyage.

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YALSA’s 2013 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge Check In #4

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2013 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. If you’re finished, fill out the form at the bottom of this post to let us know!

True to my own personal method of reading, I can’t bring myself to read all the books from one list and then move onto the other list. So I’ve been reading selections from both the Morris Award finalists and the Nonfiction Award finalists based on what strikes my fancy. I think I’ve made solid progress. Here’s my quick take on what I’ve been reading so far…

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YALSA’s 2013 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge Check In #2

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2013 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. If you’re finished, fill out the form at the bottom of this post to let us know!

I, personally, was very excited about this particular reading challenge. Why? Because I never seem to carve out time to read nonfiction titles. I read an article online recently (I’m kicking myself for not noting the link) that said something to the effect of, “a nonfiction book is good if it engages the reader and convinces him/her to read about subject matter that they might not normally have any interest in.” Makes sense, right? But how do nonfiction authors get us to pick up those books?

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The Next Big Thing In Manga

YALSA’s upcoming YA Literature Symposium will explore the future of young adult literature. The symposium begins on November 2nd, but we wanted to get a head start here at The Hub, so we’re devoting October to 31 Days of the Next Big Thing. Each day of the month, we’ll bring you forecasts about where YA literature is headed and thoughts on how you can spot trends and predict the future yourself.

I’m a HUGE fan of manga and graphic novels. I picked up my very first manga about 3 years ago — the first volume of Fruits Basket — and I was instantly hooked. Within weeks of reading Fruits Basket I visited my local book store to purchase armfuls of manga (because there weren’t any available at my local libraries); I subscribed to both Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat magazines; I started watching anime companions to my favorite series; and I began the search for online forums that would keep me “in the know” about all things related to manga (two favorites still remain animenewsnetwork.com and mangablog.net). And I happily devoured my manga, delighting in every new series I discovered — especially enjoying those moments when I could open someone else’s eyes to the format. Then, things started to change in the publishing world…

Otaku USA Magazine

Even as libraries started to build momentum in adding some “core” manga to their collections (Fruits Basket, Naruto, Death Note, and so on), major publishing firms responsible for English translated versions of many popular series started to close up shop (e.g., Tokyopop) … which meant that I was left hanging on many series I was very much addicted to reading. (The series were ongoing in Japan, but the English translations had ceased to exist.) And following the trend of many printed magazines, Shojo Beat and others stopped doing print runs of their publications. I know I have seen many listserv discussions of people asking where they can find magazines about manga and anime (with pretty much Otaku USA being the only major magazine still available in print form). So where does that leave fans like myself, who want to support the mangaka who create the works I love (and avoid visiting fan-driven and not-quite-legal scanlation sites online)? It may seem grim, but all is not lost.

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New Readers’ Choice nominations are in!

YALSA’s Readers’ Choice Award is one of those rare opportunities where individuals can literally just champion their favorite YA titles of the year. Teens, librarians, teachers … any fans of YA literature can vote. See a book on the current 2013 nomination list you also love? Or think that the best YA title of the year is sadly absent from the list? Use the suggestion form to make sure that the best titles published between Nov. 1, 2011 and Oct. 31, 2012 make the final ballot! The more nominations a title receives, the better.

If you haven’t had a chance to visit the Readers’ Choice site yet, here are some basic guidelines for you. Titles from just about every genre are allowed: Horror/Thriller; Mystery/Crime; Nonfiction; Realistic Fiction; Romance; Sci-Fi/Fantasy; and the “wild card category” for this year … Dystopia. You want to make sure that any title you suggest is widely available in the United States. Oh, and one of my favorite guidelines: “popularity rules.” No fussing over critic reviews and prestigious review journals — for all intents and purposes, if you love the book, it qualifies. Read the “>full guidelines and policies if you want more details.

So what’s new to the list of nominations? Of the 12 new nominations, books falling into the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre rule supreme at a count of 6:

  • Tempest (Julie Cross)
  • Invisible Sun (David Maccinis Gill)
  • The Obsidian Blade (Pete Hautman)
  • Sweet Evil (Wendy Higgins)
  • Shadow and Bone (Leigh Bardugo)
  • The Golden Lily (Richelle Mead)
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Reader Roundup (May): Which YA books should be on your radar

What are you reading now? Do you love it? Hate it? Tell me more…

I have a version of that conversation with just about everyone I know. Print reviews are a great way to get in on new book “buzz,” but some of my best reading has come from personal recommendations. It occurred to me that here at The Hub, we have an entire community of readers that I can tap for the purely selfish desire to “dish” about current YA literature and feed my ever growing “must read” list. With that in mind, each month I will be talking with a group of Hub bloggers to get a sense of the books they are currently loving (or hating) and what books are on their fine-tuned “reader radar.”

My first discussion took place a few weeks ago with five Hub regulars: Emily Calkins, Summer Hayes, Becky O’Neil, Amy Pelman, and Sharon Rawlins. There will be no spoilers and no intense reviews here — just enough to spike your curiosity and to add more books to your own “must read” pile. And by all means, post a comment and let us know what books you think are not to be missed. :)

What we loved

Cinder (Book 1 in the Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer

(Summer) “I was skeptical but I actually really liked it. I thought the futuristic setting was pretty clever and the main character was solid — fully fleshed out and believable. Less so for Prince Kai, but you can’t have everything, right? And while it was kind of predictable, there were some really clever details that brought it to life.”

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith

(Nicole) “I listened to it as part of the Best of the Best Reading Challenge. It was dark and scary and mesmerizing and horribly addictive. I listened to it in audio format — very well done. But there’s some very heavy material in it — sex, kidnapping, almost rape, violence/brutality, trauma, cannibalism … definitely not for the faint of heart. I can’t believe it even has a sequel! (Which I will be reading due to morbid curiosity)…”  [Summer said she loves Andrew Smith’s other stuff: “like a gateway drug to Cormac McCarthy.”]

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