Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The FIRE is catching already

There was a lot of excitement in Denver. There's the anticipation of the Youth Media Awards, what made BBYA/PPYA/Quick Picks, who would win the first Morris Award, etc. But I have a confession to make: As much as I admire and respect my colleagues on the Printz, Newbery, etc. committees, there was one thing that made me squee just as much as The Graveyard Book winning the Newbery, and it looks something like this:

Oh YES!!! Scholastic had covers of Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games) available. Of course, there was no flap copy on the covers, but it was still really exciting. The reps from Scholastic said that galleys would be available at Book Expo and ALA.

There's more information on Catching Fire at School Library Journal. And while I really dislike the opening line of the article (I TOLD YOU The Hunger Games wasn't going to get a Newbery or Printz honor), the rest of it is well worth reading.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I'll wait for the paperback

Ask anyone who's been around YALSA for a while and they'll confirm the rumor: Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults is the most fun you'll ever have on a YALSA committee. PPYA's job is to put together themed lists of paperbacks, i.e., a list of sports books, nonfiction, horror, etc. Besides making new friends, I have to say that I'm most grateful for the opportunity to read books I might have missed in the past. This year, I'm reading for the "Death and Dying" and "Fame and Fortune" lists, so I wanted to share some of my new favorites, books I wouldn't have read if they hadn't been nominated (but I'm glad they were):

Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt. If you've worked a YA desk longer than a week, you've probably encountered some theme and variations on mother-daughter reader's advisory, where the daughter wants true love and hot guys and the mother wants a female main character who can be a role model for her daughter. Keturah and Lord Death is the book they can compromise on. Keturah, lost in the forest, makes a deal with Death: He'll spare her if she can find her one true love in a very short, very specific period of time.

Knights of the Hill Country by Tim Tharp. You all know how much I adored The Spectacular Now. This is Tharp's first offering, about a group of promising football stars from a Friday Night Lights town. Just like in Spectacular, Tharp has created a unique voice and shows that the biggest consequences can come from the smallest towns.

The Luxe by Anna Godberson.
Interesting characters, a fascinating look at high-society New York in 1899, and a cover that pretty much sells itself. This is great for readers who want romance and scandal in ballgowns.

Deathnote Vol. 1 by Tsughumi Ohba. It is a fair thing to say I'm not a fan of manga. I'm glad it's there for those who want to read it but I'm generally not much into it. Until Deathnote. Concept: a Japanese boy comes into possession of a notebook. If the notebook's owner writes a name in the book, that person dies. But what kind of people does a generally upstanding if very curious boy kill?

If you want to hear Popular Paperbacks discuss these books and more in Denver, our meetings are open to all conference attendees. We'll be at the Westin Tabor Center, Lawrence Room. Business meeting on Saturday and book discussions all day on Sunday. Our favorites are the people who bring the coffee and donuts.

(Please note that none of this entry in any way expresses the opinion of Popular Paperbacks committee members other than myself.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A virtual mouse circus

In anticipation of the release of Coraline (the movie), HarperCollins is offering the entirety of Coraline (the book) online.

Read it here.

Further Twilight perfume drama

For those of you wondering (I know there's at least one of you!) whether Nina Ricci's company was going to sue the makers of the Twilight perfume for the blatant bottle design ripoff, the answer is YES!

I cannot wait to see how this plays out.

via Now Smell This

and a roundup of links at ShoppingBlog

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Vampire Weekend doesn't suck

There are few words that turn me off an album faster than "indie pop," but I confess, I'm often a pop culture lemming. If everyone else is seeing it, reading it, listening to it, or talking about it, I want to be in on the action. There's been so much fuss over Vampire Weekend by Vampire Weekend that I eventually caved to the pop culture pressure. And I'm glad I did.

Vampire Weekend is perfect music for cold, icky days when you need some geeky sunshine. It's light and pretty upbeat. What I found most appealing was not so much that it made me smile, but that Vampire Weekend likes to incorporate African and Cuban-style drumming, singing very Eastern American College Boy lyrics over beats from the other side of the world. On top of this percussion, they've got sounds that are distinctly Western chamber-music, cellos and violins. The way the instruments and vocals come together is kind of like a quirky yet fashionable outfit: On its own, the pieces are a little strange. All in one place, it makes you say, "I want that!" One of VW's greatest strengths is its simplicity. The drums are limited to a few different pitches and some smaller, very bright cymbals. In "Oxford Comma," the song that seems to be a fan favorite, much of the subdividing is done on a drum's rim, accented by perky synthesizer chords. Although singer Ezra Koenig doesn't have a huge range, his slightly nasal, nerdy voice fits the band's sound. Lots of syncopation, clean and sometimes silly lyrics and danceable beats make this album an unpretentious joy. Yes, even to us die-hard metal fans.

Favorite songs from the album: Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, M79

Vampire Weekend's web site || their MySpace || review at Pitchfork

Monday, January 12, 2009

Results from the BCCLS Mock Awards

It was a dark and stormy day of meetings. Okay, that's a lie, it was clear and sunny. But it was a day of meetings. It was also the best Mock Awards I've been to since I started at BCCLS. We started off in a large group, about 20 people per session, did quick booktalks, and then split into smaller groups of about ten. Each group of ten went through the list of favorites and ranked their favorites on a scorecard. Readers gave points to a book based on theme, plot, setting, art, and other awards criteria. Here's how it shook out:

Mock Caldecott winner: The House in the Night, written by Susan Marie Swanson and illustrated by Beth Krommes (which made me happy, as this was my personal favorite of all the Mock Caldecott nominees)

Mock Caldecott honors: Tadpole Rex by Kurt Cyrus and Don't Worry Bear by Greg Foley

Mock Newbery winner: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Mock Newbery honors: Seer of Shadows by Avi, Lincoln Shot: A president's life remembered by Barry Denenberg, and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Mock Printz winner: Nation by Terry Pratchett

Mock Printz honors: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves by M.T. Anderson, Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link, and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

I thought the most interesting moment of the day came during the Mock Printz. The way we set it up, each person had the chance to vote for his or her top three after the small-group discussion. A first-place vote was worth three points, a second-place two points, and a third-place one point. At each small group table, the three books that received the highest number of vote points was brought back to a discussion with the entire group. During the final large-group discussion before voting, participants had the opportunity to fight for the books they deemed the most worthy. At the Caldecott and Newbery, when the small groups reconvened in a large group, they found that each group had picked the same titles for two of their three choices. At the Printz, the table I was at chose The Knife of Never Letting Go, Pretty Monsters, and Madapple. Then we sat back, looked at what the other table chose, and were very surprised! The other table chose Frankie, Nation, The Adoration of Jenna Fox, and Octavian II.

THAT was a spirited discussion, let me tell you. But it was great! I think it really goes to show that 20 different people have 20 very different ideas as to what constitutes literary excellence, and that 2008 was an embarrassment of YA literary riches. I think any of the favorite seven could be a contender, though I do have my favorites (Madapple! Pretty Monsters!), and everyone who attended will be excited to see which books take the big prizes in two weeks.

Problems we don't have in libraries

fail owned pwned pictures

I love the Fail Blog so much.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Meg Cabot, Princess of YA literature: Day 2

For nine books, Princess Mia Thermopolis has made us laugh, cry, and think that there's a princess somewhere in all of us. We've watched her grow from awkward alternachick to the mostly graceful, passionate monarch of Genovia. She's fallen in and out of love (will it be Michael or J.P.?) and moved from one circle of friends to another. But how long can she keep all her secrets from the people closest to her...including the one where she's written a 400-page romance novel for her senior project? (It's called
Ransom My Heart, and you can buy it!) Now, the series ends with Forever Princess.

Librarian by Day is Librarilly Blonde's partner in book reviewing crime for 2009, and thanks to Meg Cabot and her publicist, Rachel Breinin, you can read a review of Forever Princess and get a link to read the first 80 pages of the book.

But if there's no review here, what's this entry for?

When I told Rachel I wouldn't be able to review Forever Princess, I asked if Meg would be willing to do a short email interview talking about the book. She was kind enough to say yes! Here are her answers to my burning questions:

Carlie Webber: Who's your favorite fairy-tale princess? How about real-life?

Meg Cabot: Princess Leia is really the first princess I loved as a kid, because she wore a long dress AND she had a laser gun, but I also like Belle from Beauty and the Beast, because she had such a thing for books.

In real life, I adored Princess Diana. I freaked out when she died. Now I have a soft spot for Princess Masako of Japan, who isn't handling the stress of being a royal all that well. And who can blame her?

CW: When you started the Princess Diaries series, did you have the whole thing planned out or did you let it take its own shape as you wrote them?

MC: I definitely had a few main points that I wanted to cover. And I did get them all in! The books really are based on things that happened to me growing up--not the princess bits, obviously--but all the romance and friendship stuff. I just wanted girls who might be going through the same kind of things today to know they're not alone. And apparently it's worked because I can't tell you how many emails I get that say, "Mia's just like me! Except I'm not a princess, of course."

CW: Is there any chance of Mia coming back in another book, even though the series has officially ended?

MC: Initially I didn't think so, but having taken a year off from it (my first in more than a decade!), I realized how much I miss writing in Mia's voice. So maybe someday I'll do Princess Diaries: The College Years; The Princess Diaries: The Princess Diaries: The Royal Wedding, etc.

But I have a lot on my plate at the moment with the Allie Finkle series and finishing up the Airhead series and I'm contracted to write another teen series for Scholastic, too. Plus I have my adult books, and I believe I promised to executive produce a movie. So there's a lot going on at the moment.

CW: Which character in the Princess Diaries series was the most fun for you to write?

MC: Well, Mia, obviously. I get a huge kick out of her. Also Lilly, who really is one of those annoying best friends you love but who you sort of have to take in small doses. And I really like Lars, Mia's bodyguard. I hope he gets paid a lot based on what he has to put up with, listening to her and her friends. But I've always thought he kind of tunes it out, while remaining alert at all times for potential kidnapping threats.

CW: Question 5, asked of every author interviewed at Librarilly Blonde: What's one book written by someone else that you wish you had written?

MC: It wasn't really a book, it was a movie. When I saw "Enchanted" I wanted to blow my brains out. I was like, "This should have been mine! Why didn't I think of this?" Except the chipmunk coat hanger torture scenes, which I didn't like.

Oh, and when I read Susan Juby's book "Miss Smithers," with the purity bus and Alice pretending to be born again so she can date that hot Christian guy, I was like, "I'll get you for this, Juby." That was just brilliant. Don't even get me started on "Getting the Girl," which I adored.

CW: What are the proper accessories to wear with a tiara?

MC: Oh, gosh, tiaras go with anything, really. This past summer I drove by an entire bachelorette party who'd been pulled over by some cops and they were all sitting there on the sidewalk sulking in miniskirts and pink lace camisoles with their wrists cuffed behind their backs, and on top of their heads were these sparkly little tiaras. I wish I had had a camera.

Meg, thank you so much for taking the time from your insane schedule to answer these questions.

Tiara Day at the library. I think it has to happen. Who's with me?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Meg Cabot, Princess of YA literature: Day 1

It's so hard to write about a good thing coming to an end, but this end, at least, comes with sparkly things.

Lots of girls fantasize about being a princess, but for somewhat average New York high school student Mia Thermopolis, that fantasy came to life. Meg Cabot wrote about Mia's transition to princesshood...not so easy when you're also trying to navigate boys, family, and high school...over nine books in the popular and acclaimed Princess Diaries series. The tenth book, Forever Princess, hit bookstores and libraries on Tuesday, so I'm celebrating with a few fun links.

What's the one can't-live-without princess accessory? A tiara, of course. Tiaras are easy enough to come by, sure, but if you're going to buy a tiara you should buy one that benefits the New York Public Library. They're beautiful AND the money goes to a good cause. Check these out:

The first one is the one designed by Sarah Dessen, the second by Meg herself. To see the rest of the tiaras and bid on them, go to the auction. It runs until January 31, so you still have time to bid. I love them all, but I think my personal favorites are the one designed by Vera Wang (for my ladylike side) and R.L. Stine (for my closeted goth).

Here's a clip from the press release about the tiara auction:

Befitting the myriad backgrounds of the decorators, the tiaras range from the artistic to the whimsical to the truly toothsome (Dylan’s Candy Bar’s candy tiara) to the fearsome (R. L. Stine’s dangling skeletons). In keeping with his character’s rebellious nature, Eloise illustrator Hilary Knight jettisoned the genteel tiara and substituted it with a “T-Hair-A”, two wild headpieces – a daytime and an evening version for Eloise. Julie Andrews’ tiara is as regal as the character, Queen Clarisse Renaldo (Princess Mia’s grandmother), whom she played in the two Princess Diaries movies that were based on the book series. Anyone wearing the Bobbi Brown tiara might not have the need to carry a purse as the tiara comes with her line of cosmetics, including lip gloss, eye shadow and an assortment of makeup brushes, attached to it!

Tiara decorators include actress/co-author Julie Andrews and her daughter and co-author Emma Walton Hamilton, TV personality Samantha Bee, author Judy Blume, cosmetics founder Bobbi Brown, author/illustrator Marc Brown, singer/actress Sabrina Bryan, author Meg Cabot, TV personality Lauren Conrad, author Sarah Dessen, Echo Design, designer Tommy Hilfiger, artist Karen Kilimnik, illustrator Hilary Knight, Dylan Lauren of Dylan’s Candy Bar, TV host Stacy London, illustrator Chesley McLaren, designer Nicole Miller, actress Julianne Moore, Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece, actress AnnaSophia Robb, TV personality Mo Rocca, designer Austin Scarlett, Seventeen Editor-in-Chief Ann Shoket, author R.L. Stine, author/actress Meg Tilly, USA Weekend Magazine, author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg, designer Vera Wang, and Wave Hill public garden.

The New York Public Library’s 87 branches serve a vital role for teenagers in New York City providing extra help for those struggling in school as well as offering a home to book lovers. Funds from the tiara online auction will go directly to support essential teen programs including homework help and tutoring, book discussion and teen advisory groups and special events such as author visits.

While you're twiddling your thumbs waiting to see if you've won the auction, you can read more about Forever Princess in the USA Today Books section.

If you like the tiaras, wait until you see what's coming on Meg Cabot, Princess of YA literature: Day 2!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What does sparkly smell like?

Twilight perfume.

Talk about a fool and his money.

More at BellaSugar (named Bella because it's a beauty blog, not for Twilight's main character) and Now Smell This.

What I'm most interested in is not the smell of the perfume, but whether or not Nina Ricci is going to sue Hot Topic for copyright infringement due to the design of the bottle. Lawyers, an opinion?

Someday my Printz will come

Of all the posts I make in a year, the one where I try to predict the Printz winner (I haven't been successful yet, though I did pick one honor book in 2008 and two in 2007) is always my favorite.

Standard disclaimer:
These opinions are mine and mine alone. I have not consulted anyone on the Printz committee about this post. These opinions are completely separate of whatever may come of the BCCLS Mock Printz, which is coming up in a few days. Yes, I have been given copies of some of these books by their publishers and no, that has not had any influence on my thoughts.

How I'm predicting what will win: There seems to be a lot of confusion out there about what the Printz is for, and what kind of books receive it. Allow me to quote from the Printz Award's official website:

What is quality? We know what it is not. We hope the award will have a wide AUDIENCE among readers from 12 to 18 but POPULARITY is not the criterion for this award. Nor is MESSAGE. In accordance with the Library Bill of Rights, CONTROVERSY is not something to avoid. In fact, we want a book that readers will talk about.

Librarianship focuses on individuals, in all their diversity, and that focus is a fundamental value of the Young Adult Library Services Association and its members. Diversity is, thus, honored in the Association and in the collections and services that libraries provide to young adults.

Having established what the award is not, it is far harder to formulate what it is. As every reader knows, a great book can redefine what we mean by quality. Criteria change with time. Therefore, flexibility and an avoidance of the too-rigid are essential components of these criteria (some examples of too-rigid criteria: A realistic hope - well, what about Robert Cormier's Chocolate War or Brock Coles' The Facts Speak for Themselves? Avoiding complicated plot - what about Louis Sachar's Holes? Originality - what about all the mythic themes that are continually re-worked? We can all think of other great books that don't fit those criteria.)

What we are looking for, in short, is literary excellence.

In other words, no one cares what your teens love, or what made you cry, or if you think anyone is going to be reading this book in five years. It's all about the writing. Plot, characterization, voice, story development, etc.

Caveat: I'm only talking about books I've read. There are several books getting Printz buzz that I haven't finished, like Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan. Also, since it's my blog, my predictions are and can only be limited to what I think makes for a book of literary excellence.

The book everyone thinks will take an honor, but I think otherwise: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Look, no one loves this book more than I. I'm recommending it to anyone who will listen to me talk for more than three minutes. I am on pins and needles waiting for the sequel and I hope that by the time the last book is out it will be a sensation on par with Harry Potter. I don't, however, see it as one of the five most literarilly (I know that's not a word) excellent books this year.

The book no one thinks will take an honor, but I think otherwise: Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link. Blah blah short stories literary awards WHAT. EVER. Have you read this book? It's phenomenal, and I'm not just saying that because I'm a fan of short stories. Short stories are so difficult to write well, but Link has it down to a science. She uses just the right words at the right time to give her stories this very eerie quality, yet at the same time they're funny and thought-provoking. This ability to create so much feeling and such a clear yet alternative world in every story makes Link's writing literary.

The three-peat: Paper Towns by John Green. This is the first of Green's books that I feel really deserves the Printz or an honor. And although some have complained that Paper Towns revisits too much of what we saw in Green's previous two novels, I have to ask why we care about that. Past books and merits are not taken into consideration when deliberating the Printz. Every year there's a new committee, and every year there's a clean slate. All that aside, I loved the blend of quirky characters, action, and mysteries hidden in literature. Viva la nerd lit!

The ones that will honor because of language: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves by M.T. Anderson and The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. Both of these authors have done an outstanding job of using language and narration to build their characters' worlds, one historical and one dystopian. Anderson uses authentic Revolutionary War era language and Ness mixes the visual and auditory, but both are accomplishments of what language can do for both plot and characterization.

The one that will honor because of characterization: Nation by Terry Pratchett. Two teens marooned on an island after a tsunami must find a way to communicate and rebuild their land. As they do so, the island, the Nation, becomes a third character in the story. I'm only part of the way into this book right now (must finish by Friday!), but what's impressing me the most so far is how Pratchett keeps the reader interested in Mau, the boy who leaves his island to become a man, while Mau is alone for a good chunk of the novel. He's got no one to talk to, no other characters to conflict with initally, but the reader still wants to know what happens to him. Pratchett also excels at making Mau's voice distinct from his companion's, an English girl who decides to go by Daphne.

The silent killer: You Know Where to Find Me by Rachel Cohn. No one is talking about this book, but everyone should. I can only imagine the challenge of writing a depressed character who doesn't make the reader want to throw either the book or herself out a window, but Cohn does it. She does it with pathos and wit, too. As is her trademark, she writes about nontraditional families who stick together through terrible times. As is not her trademark, there is not much lighthearted or rompy about this book. There's the pain of a family member's suicide, drug use, and unrequited crushes, and it all makes you want to read more.

The one that stands out: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. Of all the books I've listed here it's probably the most popular, and it's the one that seems to mean the most things to the most people. To some it's about feminism. To some it's about power. As I've mentioned before, to me it's about belonging. The other thing I really like about it is that it's in third person. I don't know who passed out the memo that YA should really be in first person, but I wish he hadn't. Most first person really stinks. Now, given Lockhart's talents I believe this book could have been great in first person, but I'm so glad it's in third because
Lockhart was able to use it to impart a sort of wise, sarcastic voice to the narration of Frankie's actions. Point of view is used so well here, it should be recognized for this outstanding accomplishment alone.

The book that should win: Madapple by Christina Meldrum. Weird word choices, provocative plotlines, and a world full of insane characters. YA literature at its finest.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Awful vampires

I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry upon reading The Bargain Book Bin: An Open Letter to Stephanie Meyer (misspelling is theirs, not mine), but I suppose that's the point of Something Awful in the first place. I quote:

A mature vampire relationship includes a recognition of your partner's faults. Real vampires, sorry to say, are not cold and sculpted as stone, but cold and sculpted as a dead body reanimated through unspeakably demonic forces. Yes, I have a little mid-eternal life paunch developing. You think your own butt hasn't expanded as fast as your clean cut romance empire?

Confession: I want to see his open letter to J.K. Rowling. And maybe one to Neil Gaiman.

The book of never letting go

I've been meaning to review The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness for some time but, well, you know how blogging gets.

Explanashun: Todd is just a month from his thirteenth birthday, the age where a boy becomes a man in his town. And in his town, that's all there are: Men. Not long after Todd's birth, a germ coursed through his town. It gave men the ability (or the curse), to hear each others' thoughts. All their thoughts. All the time. They refer to it as the Noise, and it's a curse. The Noise, which is visual as well as auditory, means that Todd cannot hide anything from anyone. This same germ that granted the Noise to the men killed all the town's women. Or that's the story Todd has always heard. Raised by two close friends of his mother's, Todd is looking forward to manhood and maybe receiving a real hunting knife as a gift until the day he comes home and is told by his fathers to leave. Todd knows his hometown might not always be the safest, most genteel place in the New World, but he cannot figure out why he's being sent away with no information and only his mother's diary to tell him anything about the deadly secrets the town's men are hiding from him. On his way out of town he meets Viola, who's not just a girl but the only girl that Todd has ever met. What's stranger than a girl to Todd? Silence. Which is exactly what he gets from Viola. Together, they run for a place they only know by name: Haven.

What it is and what it ain't: I made the mistake of trying to read almost all of this in one day. The pacing is terrific and Ness has a strong grasp of how to spread action across chapters, but there's simply a LOT of this book to take in. Besides the nonstop action and the time it takes to build and imagine this dystopian world, there are Bible references and science fiction elements and a fair number of characters to remember. The juxtaposition of Todd's Noise with Viola's silence, and the Noise that comes from animals and other people, is wonderfully described, colorful and shocking. Also, if you don't cry during the Here section (read the book and you'll know what I mean), I think you may be missing part of your soul.It ends almost as abruptly as The Fellowship of the Ring, with Todd and Viola standing on the precipice of a sequel some serious evil. It takes a little tenacity to get through the opening of this book because of the unusual voice, but once you're past page 40 or so you can hear it in your head. Which brings me to this point:

The Knife of Never Letting Go might not be one of my personal favorites of the year (though I do plan to read the sequel), but it is one of the strongest Printz contenders out there. I think it's easy to forget, when we read books with awards in mind, that we lose so much when we cannot hear the words on the page being spoken. The very auditory nature of Todd's entire existence is what defines his world, which is why I think this book would be even better in audio than in print. The reason Viola confounds Todd so much in the first place is because he cannot hear her thoughts. The book is designed pretty well around what Todd hears in the Noise versus his own thoughts; the reader is never going to get the two mixed up. I just wish I could hear the book in addition to seeing it.

Recently, the Daily Mail wrote about Knife and Anthony McGowan's The Knife That Killed Me (Does anyone own a copy of this they'd be willing to lend me? I'd love to read it): Children's books are so violent they need a health warning. Of course, those that labeled The Knife of Never Letting Go don't seem to have read it. Big surprise there, given that the Daily Mail is almost as quality a publication as the New York Post.. If they had, they'd see that yes, there is violence in the book, but a major theme of the book revolves around not being violent and how Todd has been protected by his fathers from doing what the villagers believe will truly make Todd a man. Ness responds here: On being branded a health hazard by the Daily Mail.

Patrick Ness || review at Strange Horizons || review at Wands and Worlds

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Heroin Diaries Blog

Today, it's sort of hit me that I can't review newly published books for a year. There will be book reviews here in 2009, but not today. Today, I give you the first of my music reviews, for The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack by Sixx: A.M.

Last week, a DJ on 92.3 K-Rock referred to Nikki Sixx as the hardest-working man in rock today, a statement that's probably true. Sixx: A.M. is just one of many things Nikki Sixx does between Mötley Crüe gigs, although I have to say that they don't sound much like Mötley Crüe. I think that the thing that surprised me the most about The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack was how downtempo it was. The first single off the album, Life is Beautiful, is a modern power ballad. I figured it would be the album's one slow song, given, well, Mötley Crüe. Instead, it's representative of the general sound of the album, one of desperation and healing from a low point in life. Singer James Michael is both the best and worst thing about the band. He's got the passion required to sing these songs about pain, but while his middle register is full with just the right amount of grit, he's got zero upper register at all. This is painfully obvious in "Accidents Can Happen," which is a great song that would have been greater sung by someone with a larger range. The band breaks up the straightforward rock-beat music with some spoken word, which is sort of a neat effect. The opening spoken-word piece, "X-Mas in Hell," is read by Sixx, who has a really cool reading voice, low and gravelly. Some moments of the spoken word parts sound entirely too rehearsed and self-indulgent, but others sound bewildered and honest.

The album's appeal is obvious. The meaningful lyrics, heavy bass, and emotional delivery are reminiscent of all the bands that Mötley Crüe has helped pave the way for: Disturbed, Seether, Saving Abel, etc. Those who find Mötley Crüe too grinding, loud, and/or monotonous can enjoy this album, which is more melodious despite the drums and bass. It's a must buy for any library where popular music, especially rock, circulates with any degree of success.

Favorite songs on the album: Van Nuys, Accidents Can Happen

Sixx A.M.'s website || Nikki Sixx's website || The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star

YA? Adult? Who knows?

Aaaaaaand... we're back.

Vacation is a wonderful thing, but we all must return to the working world eventually.

Recently, I was asked how I can tell the difference between a children's book and a YA book, and a YA book and an adult book. The answer is: I can't, really. I mean, sure, I can look at the publisher's information and see which division of the company published it, but that's just one part of the whole. Having a teen character is not an obvious indicator of a book being YA. Matters are not helped by things like the dumbest article ever written about YA literature, which incorrectly labels Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep as a YA novel. (Um, not even close.) The best answer I have is that YA books focus on the here-and-now, the immediacy of whatever is happening to the main character, without an older-and-wiser voice of wisdom (which is why Prep is not a YA book).

Mostly, I'm writing this entry to point you to a fantastic blog entry from literary agent Nathan Bransford: Dude looks like a YA. He talks more about YA vs. adult and what literary devices separate the two.

Coming soon to Librarilly Blonde: Printz predictions, reviews, and author interviews! Also a post I've owed for months.