Archive for January, 2012


Internet blackout day

Imagine an Internet where you can’t read book reviews or see images of covers because of a law written so broadly that these things fall under copyright infringement.

Stop SOPA and PIPA.  Go to http://americancensorship.org/ and send your Senator a note asking him or her to vote “no” on January 24.  The site also has a way for those not living in the U.S. to petition the State Department.

Here’s my review of My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies by Allen Zadoff.

Statistics
Checkouts: None, but it was recently added to the collection
Typical reader: Teens involved in theater – there’s not really anything at the school, but the community has a vivacious youth theater program
Source: Superiorland Preview Center

Synopsis: High school sophomore Adam Zeigler is a member of his high school’s theater crew, and loves working lights behind (or rather, above) the scenes.  During the production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, however, he receives more attention than he ever wanted, and must learn to be courageous enough to face his fears, stand up to peer pressure, and talk to girls.

My Goodreads rating: 5 stars

This is a really good coming-of-age novel.  It’s very much a “slice of life,” realistic fiction piece, almost falling into my palate cleansing “gentle reads” category.  There’s some language though, and teen relationship situations. Adam Zeigler is a complex teen with plenty of problems, ranging from acne to mourning his father, who was killed in a car accident two years prior.

I enjoyed the cast of characters in this book.  The protagonist narrator is complex, like I said, and so are the people he interacts with.  There’s diversity – his best friend “Reach” is Indian, and Mr. Apple, the drama teacher, is gay – but no one is stereotypical.  Mr. Apple was interesting, and his character was as round as his figure.  Adam’s nemesis of sorts, Derek, is a rich kid who is directing the play and takes credit for Adam’s great ideas while blaming him for mishaps such as when a fuse blows.  This guy needs to be a politician when he grows up, he’s such a charismatic player.  (That’s not a compliment.)

This is definitely a character-based story.  There is a plot; it’s Adam’s life and how he needs to “grow a pair,” to quote Reach.  He starts out as a bit of a doormat, honestly – afraid of the dark, afraid to talk to girls, and totally willing to bow to both the societal norms of the theater crowd and to the whims of Derek.

A driving force in this novel is the social environment of high school.  Cliques and peer pressure play major roles in the story.  In Adam’s school, there’s some old rivalry between the theater crew and the actors; the two groups are not supposed to talk to each other beyond what’s necessary, and each looks down upon the other.  So of course Adam takes a liking to a beautiful actress he sees dancing in the hallway one afternoon after practice.  He also breaks more societal rules by talking to Grace, a crew member on the outs because she dated Derek.  A lot of the pressure comes not only from Derek, the wannabe ruler of the theater, but also from Reach.

Changes may come.

Google has been making some interesting choices lately.  They’ve been deleting accounts, turning off services, and so on.  After rumblings of this started on the book blogging grapevine, a couple of things happened.

  1. My boyfriend’s blog, Tarnished Reviews, lost its Google AdSense.  On New Year’s Eve.  They were quick to say “Ha ha, no,” to his appeal when they canceled the account for receiving too many clicks.  How many clicks are too many?  Who knows.  They don’t specify.  It could have been as simple as a click or two a day from me, at my home IP address.
  2. Today a major book reviewer, the Bookish Brunette, was completely deleted for some violation of terms of service.  What did she do?  Who knows!  Google isn’t saying.  When I go on Twitter and watch drama unfold, I much prefer it to be about some news event (I had popcorn with the Iowa caucuses) or something, not a book blogger trying to figure out where best to move her blog.  Which, by the way, was followed by hundreds of readers.  And had a domain she was paying for.  Google doesn’t discriminate between free services and pay.  When they arbitrarily decide to cut you out, it doesn’t matter.

I want to redesign my blog anyway, make it more unique.  So with Google’s shenanigans and my desire for change, stay tuned for where the Moonlit Librarian will go next.  I’m thinking WordPress, but I do have a local web designer that still owes me a paycheck from this summer that I might be able to work a deal with for web services.

Changes are coming!  (And if Google decides I’m next, I’ll let you know through social networking where I am!)

A funny thing happened on Goodreads a couple weeks ago.  I often enter the giveaways on the site in hopes of getting free books.  Thus far, I’ve never won.  But then, I got a message on Goodreads.  From an author.  Saying that his giveaway is overbooked and, “Since you are a librarian and review and blog about YA books regularly I would be happy to send you a review copy outside of the giveaway if you provide an address where I can send the book.”  Epic squeal.

So I am happy to bring to you a review of the middle-grade mystery, The Jinson Twins, Science Detectives, and the Mystery of Echo Lake by Steven L. Zeichner.

Statistics
Checkouts: Coming soon to the library
Typical reader: Aimed at children age 11-13; I think the seventh grade science teacher will love it.
Source: From the author! Signed!!

Synopsis: Joe and Debbie Jinson decide to start a business during their summer vacation.  They are hired by the eccentric Mrs. Gray to help clean out her basement.  While doing so, Mrs. Gray mentions that her late husband was a sea captain who went down with his ship, but had apparently left her a treasure which she has not found.  The twins find a map, and with the help of Mr. Benjamin, the owner of the local junkyard (excuse me, Resource Recovery and Recycling Center), they use scientific principles to solve riddles and try to find the treasure.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars (rounded up)

Let me be forthcoming in saying that mystery novels are not my cup of tea.  This took me about a week to read, which is a bit more than normal, because mysteries just don’t hold my interest very well.  However, I’m a librarian, and I need to be able to tell my students – and the readers of this blog – about all sorts of books.  If you like mysteries, you’ll probably get more excited over this book than I did (beyond the extreme happiness of getting a signed, free book from an author).

This novel has a great premise.  Using science to figure out a mystery appeals to educators, and a lot of kids like conducting science experiments.  There’s one provided in the back of the book, somewhat similar to what the Jinson twins did in their quest to find the treasure.  Mr. Benjamin encourages the protagonists to form hypotheses when they start investigating the map and riddle, and helps them with research and studying data they collect.

There are some seriously quirky characters.  Mrs. Gray is one odd duck, and her African gray parrot, the Captain, adds both levity and unexpected insight.  There are villains quite suitable for this story – a trio of slightly older teen boys who feel that the twins are encroaching on their summer job “turf.”  This certainly isn’t an adult murder mystery; if not for the advanced reading level, it would be suitable for the elementary crowd.  Searching for treasure while on summer vacation is probably something many kids would be thrilled to do.  (See also, the movie “The Goonies.”)

At times this book feels like it was originally written in third-person, and was changed to a first-person from the point of view of Debbie, the female twin, late in the game.  There are a few pronoun errors – not enough to throw off the flow of the story, though – and something just seems a little “off” in Debbie’s narration.  Perhaps this was done to attract female readers to a science-based story.

Fun fact: The author is a pediatrician and works at Children’s National Medical Center, Washington, D. C., where he is Senior Investigator in the Children’s Research Institute.  His previous publications are the Handbook of Pediatric HIV Care (first and second editions) and Textbook of Pediatric HIV Care, both of which he edited.