Monday, February 28, 2011

YAL Blog - "Dairy Queen" by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Title: Dairy Queen

Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock

ISBN: 0-618-86335-4

Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin

Date of Publication: June 2007

Reading Level: ages 12-17

From Books in Print –
JUVENILE FICTION / Lifestyles / Farm & Ranch Life
JUVENILE FICTION / Sports & Recreation / Football

Awards and Recognition:
Original Voices Award (NOMINATED) 2006
Great Lakes Book Awards (WON) 2007
Beehive Young Adults' Book Award (NOMINATED) 2007
Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award (WON) 2007
Young Reader's Choice Award (NOMINATED) 2009
Maine Student Book Award (NOMINATED) 2007
Volunteer State Book Award (NOMINATED) 2007
Teen Buckeye Book Award (NOMINATED) 2008
Nutmeg Children's Book Award (NOMINATED) 2009
Iowa Teen Award (NOMINATED) 2008

Synopsis: When you don't talk, there's a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said. Harsh words indeed, from Brian Nelson of all people. But, D. J. can't help admitting, maybe he's right. When you don't talk, there's a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said. Stuff like why her best friend, Amber, isn't so friendly anymore. Or why her little brother, Curtis, never opens his mouth. Why her mom has two jobs and a big secret. Why her college-football-star brothers won't even call home. Why her dad would go ballistic if she tried out for the high school football team herself. And why Brian is so, so out of her league. When you don't talk, there's a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said. Welcome to the summer that fifteen-year-old D. J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, learns to talk, and ends up having an awful lot of stuff to say.

Comments: I enjoyed this book a lot.  The story is told from DJ’s first-person POV and her voice radiates through the whole narrative.  Murdock doesn’t shy away from sarcasm or snark – but the story has a down-to-earth tone that seems more genuine than some YA books that are supposed to be about real-life teens.
                DJ Schwenk is basically running her family’s dairy farm in Red Bend, Wisconsin by herself after her two older brothers get in a fight with her dad.  Her younger brother, Curtis, is busy with little league baseball and her mother is about to get a position as the principal of the school where she’s been teaching sixth grade.  Jimmy Ott, a family friend who coaches football at Red Bend’s rival school, Hawley, suggests that the Schwenks have Brian Nelson, a second-string quarterback for Hawley, work on their farm during the summer to train up for football season so he can be the starter.  In the course of this, DJ ends up being Brian’s athletic trainer (her brothers always had her run after their passes and she became a pretty good player just from practice).  Along the way, she decides to go out for Red Bend’s football team because it’s something nobody would expect her to do.  And, of course, she develops a crush on Brian.
                This book is nothing like the usual high school, Romeo-and-Juliet-esque YA romance.  First off all, the romance plot is secondary – the main crux of the story is DJ dealing with work on the farm, issues with her family, issues with her friends and keeping people from finding out about her plan to try out for the football team (until tryouts actually begin, that is).  It’s an authentic look at a strong female character who is truly a tomboy and doesn’t even dawn on her that she would like boys (it’s the revelation that her best friend, Amber, is a lesbian and has a crush on DJ that gets DJ to start thinking that she does like boys).  The unspoken conflict between DJ and her father is so believable and real.  I loved the contrast between the Schwenks, who never bring any kind of family conflict out in the open until it becomes a big blowup, and the Nelsons, who talk about everything (DJ often refers to Brian’s mother as Oprah Winfrey and she sometimes imagines the Schwenks going on Oprah to talk about their problems.  The scenarios DJ imagines bring a tone of levity to an otherwise emotionally burdensome situation).
                The small-town dynamics are wonderful, especially the wrench of the Red Bend vs. Hawley rivalry (I speak from experience when I say that small-town high school rivalries are SERIOUS BUSINESS – nothing about this rivalry is exaggerated).  DJ’s older brothers played football for Red Bend and they lost a big game to Hawley, so the fact that DJ would even consider being friends with Brian (never mind dating him) is a major factor in her self-discovery.  She feels a great loyalty to her family and her team, but she also wants to be friends with Brian (after he quits being a whiny brat about working on the farm).
                There are two other follow-up books after “Dairy Queen” – “The Off Season” and “Front and Center,” both of which are very good and I recommend them.

Up Next: “The Bar Code Tattoo” by Suzanne Weyn

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Weekend Roundup

That video makes me squee so happily. I don't even know why.

It's been a busy weekend, to be sure. So, I'll just hit the highlights and move on with my life.

- I. LOVE. STUDYING. LIBRARY. SCIENCE. Laugh if you must, but this weekend I went up to Salt Lake to meet up with my MLS Cohort buddies and enjoy a full weekend of discussing collection development. Beyond getting all this new information so I can be a good librarian when I get to that point, I just love being around my classmates and colleagues. Maybe it's because I had a real downer week (the kids at school were being little twerps and I'll just leave it at that), but it felt good to get away and do something that makes me feel good.  I honestly can't wait to do my practicum this summer.

- While I was up north, my dad had me move some of my stuff that's been in storage since we moved nine years ago. We'd had it stored at this old house my parents own but are now selling (which, why we didn't sell it years ago is beyond me, but I'm not the one calling the shots). But since I don't have my own place to move all my stuff to, it just moved into another storage area (into a friend of mine's garage - I'm going to be living with her this summer anyway). Most of my stuff ended up getting thrown out because I didn't need it or because of mice (yeah...), so I actually have less stuff than I thought I did.

- Here's a funny story - for my class weekends, we meet in a small-ish library in Salt Lake City down the road from the University of Utah. It's right next to a Barnes and Noble, which does not help my finances at all. I'd arrived at the library early on Friday night, so I thought I'd go browse B&N to see if they had anything good. I ended up in the DVD section, perusing their Doctor Who DVDs to see if there was something I really wanted that 2Entertain wasn't planning a Revisitation version of later. Turned out they had the Black Guardian Trilogy at a decent enough price, so I bought that. The guy at the counter noticed what I was buying and actually seemed impressed that I was buying a Doctor Who boxed set and he started asked me who my favorite Doctor was - I replied that I really didn't have a favorite yet (well, I do, but I haven't seen them all yet, so I'm reserving judgment), but I'd been on a Peter Davison kick lately (hence, my purchase) and I really liked both David Tennant and Matt Smith. I think the guy thought it was cool that there was a 20-something girl in Utah that actually knew what Doctor Who was - even enough to buy some of the Classic series on DVD (or maybe I'm just giving myself gratuitous pats on the back).

As I left the store, I had to get on the escalator down and I noticed a guy walk in with either his wife or girlfriend. This guy had a black t-shirt on with white lettering in the shape of a TARDIS that said "Bow Ties are Cool" and a white image of a bow tie above that. I wanted to yell out "Nice shirt!" to the guy, but he'd passed by the time I got to the bottom of the escalator (plus, I'm a little shy about yelling out in a crowded store - and I try not to get too over-zealous about my love of all things Who, especially in public. I don't do well with awkwardness). But seriously - how cool is it that I encountered not just one, but TWO people who seemed to know what Doctor Who was and even were fans of it? 'Course, I was in Barnes and Noble, which I lovingly refer to as "The Geek Store" but it just made my heart happy ^_^

So, I'm feeling pretty good about life right now. And I'm off to listen to Radio Free Skaro's latest episode while the rest of the world sits and snores at the yearly parade of Hollywood's Most Pompous (or as I like to call it "The Best Movies No One Cares About." With the exception of the year "Return of the King" cleaned everybody out, nothing I like ever wins so I don't even bother)


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Five Rounds Rapid!

It is with heavy heart and great sadness that I report that Nicholas Courtney, best known for his role as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in Doctor Who, passed away yesterday.

There have been many tributes to this wonderful man and his character since the news broke and there's not much I could say to add to it.  After all, I really haven't delved into episodes featuring the Brigadier that much.  However, from the few I've seen, I can see why his name was trending on Twitter yesterday afternoon.  Still, as a Who fan, his loss is felt, even among us who aren't as familiar with him.

My first encounter with the Brig was in "The Five Doctors" where he (a) gave us the best response to who's the best Doctor when he said: "Splendid chap - all of them" and (b) blindsided the Master with such flair and class that I found myself involuntarily saluting the retiring UNIT soldier.

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"Nice to see you again!"

My next memorable encounter with the Brigadier was when he appeared in "Mawdryn Undead" with the Fifth Doctor.  I was not expecting to see him AT ALL - but then he pulls up after Turlough wrecks his car, spitting nails over the incident (well, in the dignified way that a chivalrous British gentleman spits nails, anyway) and I've got my hands in the air cheering the way I would for a sports star.  Even as he works through his amnesia to remember the Doctor (which is a wonderful scene in and of itself), we're all very pleased to see him (and the Doctor's probably glad he tagged along in the end).

Here are some other tributes that go further into their analysis of the Brigadier and heap much love for Nick Courtney:

Planet Gallifrey
Traveling the Vortex
The Doctor Who LiveJournal Community (read the comments - some very touching memories)
The Doctor Who News Page
The Quest of the Parrot Knight
And, of course, the good ol' BBC

ETA: Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor) chimes in as well.

This was my favorite comment from LiveJournal - from a user known as rengeek:

"I like to think that right now Nick and Jon Pertwee have just had a pint and are busy kicking some demon's ass right out of heaven. Satan's probably crapping himself right now, realizing that the Brig is in the Heavenly Army now. This guy's faced Daleks, Cybermen, Autons, Zygons.... The Armies of Hell is just another day at work."

More tributes will materialize in the days to come, I'm sure.  But for now, I'm going to echo the sentiment of many Tweeters this day: "There have been several Doctors & several Masters. But there is only one Brigadier. A true star of the Whoniverse."


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sounds About Right

What American accent do you have?
Created by Xavier on
Western. Like Midland, Western is another accent that people consider neutral. So, you might not actually be from the Western half of the country, but you definitely sound like it.

And if you're not from the West, you are probably one of the following:
(a) A Pittsburgher - the quiz can't tell the difference;
(b) Someone from Canada (probably southern Ontario) who doesn't have a Canadian accent;
(c) Someone from northern New England who doesn't have a New England accent; or
(d) Someone from Texas or the Heartland who was born after 1980.
You are definitely not from New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Detroit, the Deep South, etc.</font>
Take this quiz now - it's easy!
We're going to start with "cot" and "caught." When you say those words do they sound the same or different?

YAL Blog - "Evermore" and "Blue Moon" by Alyson Noel

Titles: Evermore and Blue Moon

Author: Alyson Noel

ISBNs: 0-312-53275-X (Evermore); 0-312-53276-8 (Blue Moon)

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of Publication: February 2009 (Evermore); July 2009 (Blue Moon)

Reading Level: ages 12-17

From Books in Print –
JUVENILE FICTION / Fantasy & Magic

Awards and Recognition:
New York Times Bestseller; Publishers Weekly Bestseller

Synopsis: (Evermore) - Since the car accident that claimed the lives of her family, sixteen-year-old Ever can see auras and hear people's thoughts, and she goes out of her way to hide from other people until she meets Damen, another psychic teenager who is hiding even more mysteries.
(Blue Moon) - Eager to learn everything she can about her new abilities as an Immortal, Ever turns to her beloved Damen to show her the way. But just as her powers are increasing, Damen's are waning. In an attempt to save him, Ever travels to the magical dimension of Summerland, where she learns the secrets of Damen's tortured past; a past which he has always kept hidden from her. But in her quest to cure Damen, Ever discovers an ancient text that details the workings of time. Now Ever must choose between turning back the past and saving her family from the accident that claimed their lives--or staying in the present and saving Damen, who grows sicker every day...

Comments: I’m reviewing these together because they’re the first two books in the series.  “Evermore” was boring, but “Blue Moon” was a bit more exciting, so I thought that a combined review would give a more rounded perspective on the Immortals series.
                The Immortals series is basically a successor to Twilight.  Young adults looking for something comparable may enjoy this, but I think it promises more than it can deliver.  I was initially drawn to it because the synopsis said that the main characters, Damen and Ever, had been in love for many lifetimes because of their status as Immortals.  I expected a detailed backstory of their history at some point (which is something I enjoy in thing I read), but it never came.  The characters are flat, with the exception of Riley, the ghost of Ever’s little sister, who refuses to cross over to the afterlife in “Evermore” and haunts Ever wherever she goes.  Riley is funny and sarcastic and a wonderful shift from the cardboard cut-outs of the stereotypical high school characters (Ever’s two best friends are the “I’m-goth-but-only-because-it’s-cool” Haven and Miles, the token gay guy that shows up in these stories just so the main character isn’t the only one that gets picked on).  But then Riley finally does cross over and the reader is left with Ever’s constant angst and the “been there, done that” style of supernatural romance and the typical high school teen movie characters.  “Blue Moon” is slightly better, only because Ever spends more time on her own in the mystical Summerland studying how to harness her powers as an Immortal, but then she’s right back to reality and fighting for her “One True Love That She Can’t Live Without” and the story really falls apart.
                It could be that I am just not a fan of “Twilight” and other stories like it, but I was not impressed by this series.  Some of my students (and one of my co-workers) said they liked it, so maybe it’s just a matter of differing tastes.  I imagine there would be some patrons who would enjoy this, but the story feels so formulaic and the characters are so stereotyped (the one that irritates me the most is Miles because there’s potential for him to be a well-rounded person, but Noel never gets farther than the fact that he’s gay.  I think there should have been more to him than that).  This series ought to come with a warning label – “Caution: Shallow – No Diving.”

Up Next: “Dairy Queen” by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Do Not Operate Heavy Machinery or Participate in Serious Classroom Discussion

I had a tooth pulled yesterday morning, which was great because that tooth was giving me so many problems before and I'll feel better after it's healed up.  But right now, I'm so loopy from the pain medication.  Of course, this would happen the week before I have a class weekend so I'm trying to get ready for all that.  Also, I'm working on some of my online postings for another class and the fact that my brain function isn't 100% doesn't translate on the message boards, so I hope that my answers are semi-coherent.  I might go back to look at my discussion threads and wonder want language I was speaking.

So, if I post something here or elsewhere and it doesn't make any sense, you know why.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Impress Your Ladyfriend on the Cheap

I don't know about the rest of you, but jewelry commercials annoyed the crap out of me.  As a female, I would much rather than the guy in my life not blow thousands of dollars on some useless sparkly rock that I'd be too nervous to wear in public in case it got lost or stolen (That's not to say I don't like wearing some nice jewelry - Claire's is one of my favorite stores and they do have some classy stuff).  Honestly, I'd rather he spend the money on something useful - like a Wii.

One of the teachers I work with at school was working on something for his wife that I think is much more impressive than taking out a second mortgage.  He's making her a ring out of a quarter!  That's ten times cooler than buying her something that a bunch of other women will have the exact same thing from their boyfriends or husbands. And she'll probably treasure it more.

Sure it takes a little planning, but I think if you really care about somebody (doesn't have to be romantic - could be a friend or a family member) it's nice to make them things instead of buying them.  It means that you thought enough of the person to make something unique for them - possibly you thought of the person all the time you worked on it (which, if the time estimate of how long it takes to make this ring is correct - that's about three months!)  And you didn't have to sell your soul to get it.

(Now that I think about it, my aversion to a guy spending boatloads of money on me may explain my current relationship status - er... the lack thereof.  If it does... how warped is that?)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kleenex Must Make a Fortune Off This Stuff

(x-posted from LiveJournal, with some edits)

I've been following Mark Watches Doctor Who for a while now (I started at Mark Reads The Hunger Games and it just ballooned from there).  He finished Series 3 a few days ago and then, as is his custom after he's done with a new series season, picks a Classic Who story to review.  So far, he's done "City of Death" and "The Three Doctors" for Classic Who.  Then, per a recommendation that came during his review of "Blink," he decided to review "The Caves of Androzani," which is the last story to feature Peter Davison as the Doctor.

(Between Mark Watches and Traveling the Vortex, I'm definitely getting my Classic Who fix.  I'll have the whole run covered in no time.  Which may or may not be a good thing).

A little background would help - I started tackling Classic Who a while ago. I wanted to start from the very beginning, but that proved to be overwhelming. So, I canvassed the Doctor Who community on LiveJournal  to see where the best place to start would be. I got a few recommendations and since I'd seen Davison as the Fifth Doctor in "Time Crash" (which is a must-see and easily searchable on YouTube - it's less than 8 minutes long), I went with his first story, "Castrovalva." I really liked that one, so I went on to "Four to Doomsday." Then I was glued to "Kinda" (that one was amazing - I'm surprised it doesn't get more love from the fandom). Pretty soon, I'd plowed through Five's entire first season without breaking a sweat (even getting a little bleary-eyed at "Earthshock").

It was at that point I made myself pull back because I was racing through Five's era so quickly and I wanted to make it last a bit longer, so I tracked down some Tom Baker episodes and sampled some Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton, all of which I enjoyed very much (I'm one of those people who likes everybody and everything. It takes a lot to get me to hate anything, really). Then, school started up again and life got busy and we all know how that goes.

Part of the reason I was dragging my feet in watching the rest of the Peter Davison era was because I really hate watching my favorite characters die (he does come back, but he's a totally new person. Essentially, it's still the same character, but... it's DEATH!) And I knew - I JUST KNEW - that "Caves" was going to be awesome and exciting and soul-crushing all at the same time.

And I am - well, not really pleased to report, but I am going to say that I was unsurprisingly correct.  So much so that I was still in a depressed funk the next morning at work (one of the teachers I work with is also a "Doctor Who" fan and we had a mini therapy session while the students were doing their assignments.  Sometimes I wonder if I'm a little too pathetic).

Now, I watched "Caves" out of order, which softened the blow a bit. I still had some Five episodes to go back to, but I don't know if that made it any better. Either way, these were my initial thoughts. I think I'll go back a watch the whole thing again, just to get a better grasp on what's going on.

But for now, this is my comment from "Mark Watches" and I wanted to save it here -

[Begin MW Commentary]

"For the past little while, I'd been working my way through the Peter Davison era. I absolutely adore Five (I think it's the celery - never in the history of anything has a vegetable been made of so much awesome) and I was dreading his regeneration because REGENERATION IS SO SAD! (That's probably the only thing I hate about "Doctor Who" - you get attached to one Doctor and he's wonderful and you love him… and then he regenerates. And it's not enough that he regenerates, but they have to do it in the most heartbreaking way possible).

"Now that I've had a day to grieve and rant and freak out, this is how I see this story - all the other characters surrounding the Doctor and Peri are pretty much all bad guys. The focus on this story is not the events on Androzani and how the Doctor can fix their issues . The focus is the Doctor and Peri are in trouble and they've got to get the antidote and get out of there. There is NO fixing the problem between the government and the rebels - better to leave them to duke it out amongst themselves. The Doctor and Peri have no allies (maybe Salateen, but even his reliability is dubious) and they are completely on their own - even more so when they get separated from each other). This is such a shift from how other "Doctor Who" stories are set up and everything about it is beyond brilliant. Peri is so adorable, Jek is the epitome of creepy, and even poisoned, the Doctor is badass awesome (the cliffhanger from episode 3 - HOLY CRAP!)

"And the CELERY - I think I was okay in the eye-moisture department until the Doctor pulled out the celery and tried to revive Peri with it - THAT is where you know the Doctor has no idea what to do. And when the Doctor is clueless… it's time to crawl into the corner with my blankie and sob. I can definitely see why this ranks even higher than "Blink" as a fan favorite…


Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox Extension

[End MW Commentary]

...sigh... now I have to go do homework.  This will not end well.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

This is Awesome on So Many Levels!

This is what fanvids are all about - taking two (or more) very different things and mixing them together in a way that just works.  Here we've got Doctor Who put to "Movin' Right Along" from The Muppet Movie and it is brilliant! (seriously - how can you go wrong with the Muppets?)  Definitely one of the best multi-Doctor videos I've see.

YAL Blog - "Pirates: Scourge of the Seas" by John Reeve Carpenter

(I have decided this blog has become "Review-O-Rama" lately.  That's okay - I'm actually having a lot of fun with this.  At least I'm not griping about family issues or other craptastic drama, right?)

On with the review - this time, the offering is non-fiction, which was a new experience to review a non-fiction book.  I won't say I'll never do it again because who knows what I'll find next, but I definitely favor reviewing fiction over non-fiction.

Title: Pirates: Scourge of the Seas

Author: John Reeve Carpenter

ISBN: 0-7607-8695-X

Publisher: Sterling Publishing

Date of Publication: August 2008

Reading Level: 13 and up

From WorldCat (Books in Print didn’t have this book listed) –
Pirates - History
Keywords I Thought of:
Pirates – Non-Fiction
Colonization of Americas
Naval History

Awards and Recognition:
None (that I could find)

Synopsis: (from Goodreads) -You won't need a bottle of rum to enjoy the exploits of these famous and fearsome swashbucklers. There's a galleon's worth of action in this awesome exploration of pirates—their weapons, adventures, legends, language, and lost treasures.
See what life was really like aboard a pirate ship. Meet Blackbeard, Calico Jack, and a host of other villainous adventurers as they sail through the high seas in search of plunder. Learn about their ships, flags, and weaponry, from cutlasses to blunderbusses, sangrenels to musketoons
If you are looking for exotic desert islands and sword-wielding desperadoes, they are here, but you will also learn what life was really like for the scourge of the seas: what motivated them, what kept them together, the hardships they had to endure, and the adventures they sought

Comments: This is a good non-fiction book for anyone interested in pirate lore and history.  After reading “Powder Monkey” a few weeks back, this was a good book to follow-up with for more information on seafaring history in the 18th and 19th centuries.  There was lots of good information on pirate life and dispelling popular myths (for instance - pirates really didn’t go around with parrots on their shoulders unless they were looking to sell them as exotic pets) and some nice illustrations of ships and weapons used at the time.
I’ll admit, I’m not really one to read non-fiction books from cover-to-cover, so I don’t know how to comment on whether or not it was well-written.  Plus, this seemed to be a cross between an encyclopedia and a regular historical narrative (I think I’m getting my genres right) and it's sort of difficult for me to get engaged in that sort of thing.  However, Carpenter did cover a good amount of history and presented it in a way that teens would get something out of it.  This might just be a good book to thumb through the pictures or to find isolated facts and stories about pirates.

Up Next: Evermore and Blue Moon by Alyson Noel (I’m reviewing them both together and I’ll explain why in my post next week)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Podcast Review - Traveling the Vortex

I review a lot of things here.  I've reviewed TV shows and movies on this blog.  My current project involves blog posts from my Young Adult Library Services class on different YA books I've been reading.  Shoot, I've been known to review food a bit - not to mention the endless sports analysis (all you non-football people out there can breathe easily now that the Super Bowl is over).  Yet, I have never reviewed a podcast. However, I think I've found one that merits a post.

I may talk about Doctor Who quite a bit, but in reality I've only been watching since last June (I'm just a baby Whovian compared to so many others).  Nevertheless, I've devoured the new series (three times!), got going on some of Classic Who, bought t-shirts and DVD boxed sets, created fanvids and even dressed up as the 10th Doctor for Halloween.  I've listened to the audiobooks and I have a TARDIS screensaver and I've made Doctor Who-themed crafty-things.  But something was missing in my fandom experience.

Back when I was heavy into Harry Potter fandom, I would listen to The Leaky Cauldron's PotterCast and I quite liked their format and style - news, discussion, interviews with people involved with the franchise, etc.  I think because I'd been a Potter fan since nearly the beginning, I felt like I was up on the jokes and meaningful exchanges between the hosts - like I was part of the club.  However, when I began my search for a Doctor Who podcast, I realized I was "behind" on 40+ years of material, so I felt like I was at a real disadvantage to lifelong fans (never mind the fact that I was born in the '80s in the United States and had no way of being introduced to Doctor Who until the advent of the internet). Even so, my search for Doctor Who podcasts began.

Let me tell you, it was overwhelming - I finally decided on about four podcasts to take up iPod space.  The main one was Radio Free Skaro, with it's PotterCast-esque news-and-information commentary take on Doctor Who (and the Miniscope segments are great for me to get a feel for directors and writers and other creative talent from the show).  The next two were The Two-Minute Time Lord and The Minute Doctor Who Podcast, which I like for their brevity and getting-right-to-the-point-ive-ness.  The last was The Ood Cast, which I enjoy for it's creative flair and humor (lucky they're tackling various aspects of the new series right now, or I'd be totally lost).

While I love and appreciate all of these podcasts, there's one thing I noticed - they are produced for and by members of "The Good Old Boys Club" of Doctor Who.  I'm not saying that's a bad thing - do you want a podcast where the hosts have little or no knowledge of their topic?  But I felt that my voice was not being heard -  the new fan whose first episodes featured the likes of Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith and who had a desire to join in the club, but wasn't sure how to do it.  I found this kind of disheartening, especially where the new series has reached people (like me) who otherwise would not have watched Doctor Who at all.  Surely, there had to be other "newbies" like me, right?

Enter Traveling the Vortex - basically, two guys (Glenn and Shaun) who have been DW fans for years introducing their friend, Keith (a DW newbie), to the show.  The podcast is still relatively new, but I love the concept of following the experiences of someone watching Doctor Who for the first time (see also - Mark Watches Doctor Who.  Just in case anyone's interested).  This podcast is a concerted effort to include the "Not We" that Chip of Two-Minute Time Lord often refers to (well, the "Not We" that would go looking for a DW podcast, anyway).  I can't tell you how many times a DW podcaster has cracked a joke hearkening back to the Patrick Troughton or Sylvester McCoy era and I'm left with a blank "I don't get it" look on my face (hey, I'm getting there - be patient with me).  Looking back, I could have done with someone like Shaun or Glenn while I was watching Doctor Who for the first time (even though I did have online friends to squee with - not quite the same as having someone in real life to watch it with, though).

Another reason to like TtV - I mentioned earlier that I've watched some Classic Who here and there.  But there is so stinking much that it can be overwhelming.  Especially where I am of a mindset that I need to watch every single episode of what came before - doesn't matter what it is - if it's Doctor Who or Torchwood or 24 or CSI or The Big Bang Theory, I have to know what's come up before now (it's quite a commitment for me to watch anything).  So, I also decided to use Traveling the Vortex to keep up with Classic Who - when they review classic episodes, I'll watch them on Netflix before I listen to TtV's review.  I'll probably watch some on my own (sort of the way I watched "Genesis of the Daleks" because it came highly recommended, but then I went on to watch "Revenge of the Cybermen" and "Terror of the Zygons" after that), but it's nice to have someone give you a point to start from that isn't the very, very beginning.

Also (and this might be a little odd, but bear with me here) - TtV is based in Kansas.  In fact, their website banner proclaims the hosts as being "two Midwest United States fans, and one person being introduced to the Doctor for the first time." Maybe it's just a result of living in that mystical "flyover land" in the US (I'm from Utah rather than Kansas, but sometimes we all get lumped in together by the media), but I feel a bit of a kinship with these guys.

In conclusion, there are many, many Doctor Who podcasts out there (trust me, I've looked), but none that brings a new fan's voice to the table.  Traveling the Vortex is a great podcast for helping us newbies along and letting us know that we too have a place at the table of Doctor Who fandom.

(Note to Keith - the best advice to enjoying Doctor Who I got was this: Value consistency over continuity and you'll sleep better at night)

PS - I know it sounds like I'm dumping on the fans who've been around for a long time, but I'm not.  Honestly, where would we new kids be without you all keeping the fandom afloat all those years before the new series?  (I'd probably be watching Wizards of Waverly Place with my little sister - fun times).

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

YAL Blog - "Living Dead Girl" by Elizabeth Scott

Title: Living Dead Girl
Author: Elizabeth Scott
ISBN: 1-4169-6060-0
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Date of Publication: September 2009
Reading Level: 16 and older
Books in Print:
Awards and Recognition:
2009 ALA Best Book for Young Adults
2009 ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers
2009 ALA Teens’ Top Ten Nominee
2009 Amelia Bloomer Project YA Fiction Pick
2009 NYPL Stuff for the Teen Age Selection
2008 VOYA Editor’s Choice for Teens
A 2008 ABC Best Book for Children-Teen Selection
A Best Book of 2008
I’m not sure if this should go under “Awards,” but “Living Dead Girl” was listed in the ALA List of Banned Books in 2009-10 (source:
Synopsis: (from Books in Print) - Once upon a time, I was a little girl who disappeared. Once upon a time, my name was not Alice. Once upon a time, I didn't know how lucky I was. When Alice was ten, Ray took her away from her family, her friends -- her life. She learned to give up all power, to endure all pain. She waited for the nightmare to be over. Now Alice is fifteen and Ray still has her, but he speaks more and more of her death. He does not know it is what she longs for. She does not know he has something more terrifying than death in mind for her. This is Alice's story. It is one you have never heard, and one you will never, ever forget.
Comments: “Living Dead Girl” is a book that you want to put down and never read again, yet you have to keep reading until the end.  The content is highly disturbing in its description of rape and abuse of a young girl – it is definitely something for older teens, but even age may not be a good enough indicator of whether a teen would be able to handle reading this book.  One of my 12th grade students started to read it and said she couldn’t finish it because it was so disturbing.
As far as being a thriller, the book lives up to that description in spades.  I felt compelled to keep reading to see if “Alice” would ever escape from her captor, in spite of the graphic content.  Scott writes from “Alice’s” first-person POV and uses present tense (much the way “The Hunger Games” is written), so that is likely a contributing factor to the sense of urgency.  This is probably the closest a writer could get in terms of getting inside the mind of a victim of kidnap and rape – understanding what goes through their minds.  “Alice” even notes that the stories she sees on daytime talk TV are very much like hers.  When people ask why these people couldn’t just get out of abusive situation, she tries to explain to herself (and to the reader) that there is simply nothing left of her to want to leave.  She has many opportunities to run away or to call for help, but her captor has her enslaved mentally just as much as physically.
Without even looking at others’ reviews, I can already say that people will have wide and varying opinions about this book.  Some will love it because of its intense, fast-paced and realistic storytelling and others will hate it because of how intense it is (not to mention the graphic content).  Even my own students are split in whether they like it or not (As an aside, this was a book that was requested for purchase from the students).  But it’s definitely an attention-grabbing story.  I’m personally glad I read it, though I don’t know if I will ever read it again.

Up Next: "Pirates: Scourge of the Seas" by John Reeve Carpenter

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

YAL Blog - "Powder Monkey: Adventures of a Young Sailor" by Paul Dowswell

Title: Powder Monkey: Adventures of a Young Sailor   

Author: Paul Dowswell

ISBN: 1-58234-675-5

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children

Date of Publication: October 2005

Reading Level: Books in Print lists it at grades 4-7, but I would put it at grades 7 and up for more mature content

Genre: Historical Fiction

- Books in Print listed these:
   JUVENILE FICTION / Animals / Apes, Monkeys, etc.
- These are what I came up with:
   British Navy
   Naval Warfare
   Napoleonic Wars
   18th Century European History
   Maritime Battles
   Rankings in British Navy

Plot Summary: Sam Witchall is a 13-year-old boy who wishes to be a sailor.  He starts off on a British merchant ship, but is later pressed into the British Royal Navy as a "powder monkey" where his job is to load gunpowder into the cannons in the event of a battle.  The book tells his adventures on the frigate Miranda, detailing the every day life of a sailor as well as intense battles.

Comments: The bio on Dowswell says that this book is his first work of fiction, though he has written historical YA non-fiction before.  Dowswell's background in non-fiction is evident in this book, as much of it reads like a factual book on British Naval history.  As a narrator, Sam does not mince words when it comes to describing the cramped and often unsanitary conditions of his voyage on the Miranda.  The battle sequences are also very graphic and violent, which makes me question Books in Print listing it as suitable for grades 4-7 (or maybe I'm just being overly cautious).  The story gets more interesting later as aspects of the characters' lives outside of the Navy are explored (the family they left behind, reasons that they're in the Navy, etc.) and also during a very graphic and intense battle when many of Sam's friends are killed or captured by a Spanish fleet.

This book was recommended to me by one of my freshmen students who had actually done a PowerPoint project for his English class on the British Navy because he had read this book.  He also used the sources listed at the back of the book for his research project, so if someone has an interest in British Naval history, then this would be a good fiction book for them to read.

Next Up: Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott