Tuesday, March 29, 2011

YAL Blog - "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman

I suppose it's fitting that I do this review today, considering the news that came up yesterday.  Onwards!

Title: The Graveyard Book

Author: Neil Gaiman

ISBN: 9780060530945

Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers

Date of Publication:  October 1st 2008

Reading Level: 7th grade and up

Salt Lake County Library –
Dead -- Juvenile fiction.             
Supernatural -- Juvenile fiction.
Cemeteries -- Juvenile fiction.

My additions –
Death and dying
Family relationships

Synopsis:  (from Goodreads) –
After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Awards: Lots! (from Goodreads) -
Hugo Award for Best Novel (2009)
Newbery Medal (2009)
Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel (2009)
British Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel (2009)
World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel (2009)
World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel (2009)
Cybils Award for Middle Grade Fantasy & Science Fiction (2008)
Audie Award Nominee for Thriller/Suspense (2009)
An ALA Notable Children's Book for Middle Readers (2009)
ALA Teens' Top Ten (2009)
Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Award Nominee (2009)
Indies Choice Book Award for Best Indie Young Adult Buzz Book (Fiction): (2009)
Carnegie Medal (2009)

Comments: I’ve been told for a long time that I ought to pick up Neil Gaiman because I would enjoy it.  Sadly, other things came up for me to read, so poor Neil got put on the backburner.  However, when the news came that Neil Gaiman would be writing an episode of the upcoming season of “Doctor Who," I knew I had to pick up something of his and read it.  The February Scholastic catalog came to my desk at school and it had “The Graveyard Book” listed for sale, I saw that this had won the Newbery Award, so I ordered it for the library and read the book.  And yes, I found that I do enjoy Neil Gaiman.

Nobody “Bod” Owens is a young boy whose family’s was killed when he was a baby.  He somehow wanders into a graveyard and is more or less adopted by the ghosts that live in the graveyard.  He is raised in the ghosts’ culture and is very at home there.  It’s the world of the living that presents the most perils to him.  What I found the most interesting is that this is a story where ghosts and ghouls are no threat to the living protagonist.  The ghosts are very much Bod’s family and he is the most comfortable there.  My favorite is the conversation of whether or not to send Bod to a regular school in the world of the living – it’s just like a conversation that any child’s parents would have over which school to send their child to.  I had to remind myself constantly that these people are ghosts and it added a whole new dimension of humor to the story.  I also think that a boy like Bod wouldn’t be so afraid of death and I wonder if that is a theme of the story as well – that there is nothing to be scared of in death or dying.  Depending on the personality of a child and how their parents feel about it, this could be a good story to read in a time of death.

It took me a while to realize how the format of the book worked – this book is written much like “The Jungle Book” in that each chapter is a short story about Bod and his adventures in the graveyard.  The ghosts are so much fun to read – they each have their own personalities that reflect how they were in life and they aren’t the old recycled ghost tropes that have been used in the past.  Gaiman writes his characters so vividly – Mrs. Owens is such a lovely mother figure and Mr. Pennyworth is his kindly, if a little doddering, teacher.  I love all the little ghostly details in the narrative like the parentheticals that mention the epitaphs on the gravestones of the different characters (Example, Bod’s grammar and composition teacher has the epitaph - “Miss Letitia Borrows, Who Did No harm to No Man all the Dais of Her Life. Reader, Can You Say Lykewise?”)

I’m really glad I came across this book and I’ll be looking for other works by Neil Gaiman in the future.

Up Next: “Except the Queen” by Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder;

On Deck: “Gregor the Overlander” by Suzanne Collins; “Something Happened” by Greg Logsted

Monday, March 28, 2011


They've released the title of the Neil Gaiman episode from the upcoming season of Doctor Who! And it's super-spoilery, so don't scroll further than my handy-dandy River Song spoilers gif if you're avoiding any and all spoilers (I'm so glad I found this thing - now I don't have to type out SPOILER WARNING all across the screen when I do this stuff!)

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(What can I say? I don't want to spoil anybody who doesn't want to be spoiled)

Ready?  The title is (drumroll....)

"The Doctor's Wife."

I'm calling it now!  I think they're going to pull a "Doctor's Daughter" thing here with this.  Or, more likely, "The Next Doctor," seeing as how it's be really weird if the Doctor married a clone of himself (though, I don't know - after the little "Space" and "Time" clips... Never mind.  I'm not going down that path).

Either way, this is going to be a case of the title says one thing, you're meant to think that one thing, but it ends up NOT being that one thing but still fits From a Certain Point of View.  I am fairly certain that there's a twist to this.  I haven't the faintest idea of what that twist will be, but I am excited to find out.

(Although, the "twist" could be that we're expecting the twist to come, but it'll really be as straightforward as the title says - we'll actually meet the Doctor's wife.  Now, that'll be really cruel.  ARGH! Why isn't it April yet???)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I Guess Academia Really is Just a Bunch of BS

Maybe I'm the only one who will find this amusing.

This morning, I received an email from the professor from my Library Management class announcing that our research papers from last week had been graded and we could all look at the feedback he'd left us.  The email (which was generic mass email to everyone) expressed some disappointment in how a majority just summarized the paper in our abstracts and that, on the whole, our papers really weren't structured well and we all need to revisit proper APA style, etc., etc.

Now, I really have a low opinion of academic writing.  I don't enjoy doing it, I'd rather just tell you what I know, maybe reference a few quotes from other people but largely ignoring stylistic convention.  I certainly tell you where I got my information, but not in a formalized "Put the comma in the right place in your citation or you DIE!!" style that so many academic fields insist upon using.  I suffered through MLA formatting in my undergrad, but that was a cakewalk compared to the nit-picky, overbearing crap I have to put up with in APA style.  This paper was made even worse by the fact that it was for my Management class, which I have no interest in whatsoever and I wouldn't even be taking this class if it wasn't required for graduation.  But you do what you have to do and try to make the best of it.

Let me be clear *holds up index finger to show I'm making a point* - I have zero intention of ever doing research or publishing any academic article after my graduate work is over.  My efforts in my library career will be focused doing the best job within whatever library I work in, helping kids and teenagers (and maybe a few adults) with whatever information needs they have.  Whether it's a kid looking for material for a school report or looking for the latest Star Wars tie-in novel, I'm there.  I'm not getting in this career to impress a bunch of stuffy academic types in tweed jackets and turtlenecks (now, if it's a guy with a tweed jacket and a bow-tie - I may have to reconsider.  But show me the blue box, first).

I had a point... oh yes - so, when I wrote my paper I was writing it just to get it out of the way.  At this point in my academic career, I've pretty much abandoned the formal, high-brow style of writing and have opted for a much more relaxed style reminiscent of the way I blog.  As an example, this was my abstract:

"My paper is on marketing.  I’m going to talk about how it’s important to do proper marketing and advertising so people will actually see what the library is doing and decide to come.  I will be addressing different techniques and tools used in marketing as described in several scholarly articles by librarians from around who have used these tools.  I chose this topic because it’s a management topic that requires thought about patrons and potential patrons rather than focusing on things that are away from primary library functions."

(This was actually better than my first version of my abstract which was this: "I chose to write my paper on marketing the library and different ways to do it. I chose it because all the other management topics were boring and I hate business-type buzzwords because it all sounds like a bunch of ass-kissing to me." It's really a shame I had to edit that out).

So when my professor mentioned in his email that he was disappointed in our abstracts, I figured I had lost some points for my cavalier attempt and I probably didn't get a very good score on it (so, I'm saying that things I tell my own students actually apply to me???  Really? /sarcasm).  Imagine my surprise when I read the feedback he left me (emphasis added):

"You discuss the importance of marketing strategies for libraries. I was pleased to see good evidence of your analytical skills in looking at previous work, as your arguments were clearly built upon the work of previous researchers and theorists. Your abstract got things off on the right foot, being precise and clear and very indicative of what you would be discussing in your paper. Your paper is structured in such a way that it progresses logically with relevant and recent citations. I really like your strong introductory and concluding sections, providing a great counterbalance at the beginning and end of your paper, allowing the reader to easily absorb the information. I very much enjoyed reading your paper—great work!"

The amazing thing?  I got the full 20 out of 20 points for it.

So... it's really okay to be that brutally honest in your abstract?  Evidently so.  But what amazes me even more is that I totally BS'd my way through this whole thing.  Sure, I found some good articles to cite, but I only cited each one once (more or less), just so I could get back to blathering on about what I wanted to say.  I figured that would have showed up (okay, maybe I wasn't that terrible, but read some academic journal articles - I don't understand how people manage to read through all that smarmy, stilted crap).

Maybe I ought to rethink my whole outlook on academic writing.  If snark and irreverence is actually looked upon kindly in academic circles...  (pfft... yeah right)

Eh - whatever.  It's full points - I'll take it!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

YAL Blog - "Pure" by Terra Elan McVoy

(I know I said I'd do "The Graveyard Book" this week, but I got mixed up and wound up doing this one instead.  So, enjoy this and I'll review the other one next time).

Title: Pure

Author: Terra Elan McVoy

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6748-4

Publisher:  Simon Pulse

Date of Publication:  2009

Reading Level: Ages 14 and up

WorldCat –
Best friends -- Fiction.
Friendship -- Fiction.
Purity (Ethics) -- Fiction.
Christian life -- Fiction.
Dating (Social customs) -- Fiction.
First person narratives.
Realistic fiction.
Teenagers -- Fiction.
Celibacy -- Fiction.
Virginity -- Fiction.
Betrayal -- Fiction.
Sexuality -- Fiction.
Teenage girls -- Fiction.
Best friends -- Juvenile fiction.
Friendship -- Juvenile fiction.
Purity (Ethics) -- Juvenile fiction.
Christian life -- Juvenile fiction.
Dating (Social customs) -- Juvenile fiction.

My additions (WorldCat covers it pretty thoroughly, so I don’t have a whole lot to add) –
Religion in School
Moral Values

Synopsis:  (from Goodreads) –
Tabitha and her four best friends all wear purity rings, symbols of the virginity-until-marriage pledge they made years ago. Now Tab is fifteen, and her ring has come to mean so much more. It's a symbol of who she is and what she believes—a reminder of her promises to herself, and her bond to her friends. But when Tab meets a boy whose kisses make her knees go weak, everything suddenly seems a lot more complicated. Tab's best friend, Morgan, is far from supportive, and for the first time, Tabitha is forced to keep secrets from the one person with whom she's always shared everything. When one of those secrets breaks to the surface, Tab finds herself at the center of an unthinkable betrayal that splits her friends apart. As Tab's entire world comes crashing down around her, she's forced to re-examine her friendships, her faith, and what exactly it means to be pure.

Comments: This was a very interesting read.  I’m not a real fan of Christian fiction in general because the authors are sometimes a bit heavy-handed about the point they’re trying to make.  Even though I consider myself a religious person, I sometimes feel like the characters and the stories in religious fiction are often blown out of proportion.  The genre is not how I would want religious people to be portrayed, but that’s what the stereotype has become.  I sort of feel like Christian fiction makes us look bad.  So, I was a little nervous about reading this book, but it turned out not to be the typical Christian fiction (in fact, the author gave an interview where she said this book was not meant to be categorized as a Christian book).

 When they were twelve, Tabitha, Cara, Morgan, Naeomi and Priah all made promises to themselves and to God to keep themselves pure and abstain from sex until marriage.  They all wear purity rings to symbolize this promise.  Three years after making that promise, things have changed in each girl’s life, but they are still committed to their promise.  However, when Cara breaks her promise and has sex with her boyfriend, Michael, that’s when things spiral out of control.

Tabitha is the narrator of the book and she is easily my favorite character.  Tabitha finds great strength in her faith and loves going to church, even though her parents are overly religious, though they still support her.  Her relationship with God is a very personal one and she doesn’t like to make a big deal about her faith in public.  When Cara tells Tabitha that she broke her promise, Tabitha is the one that’s the most supportive and caring toward Cara.  Morgan and Naeomi completely shun Cara for her actions to the point where Morgan (whom Tabitha describes as her very best friend) even shuns Tabitha for still being friends with Cara.  In the meantime, Tabitha meets Jake at a church function and they start dating and their relationship starts getting really serious.  It makes her take a look at her own promise and what she’s going to do about it.

There is a lot to love about this book and I could probably gush about it on and on, but I want to focus on one scene in particular – after Morgan finds out about what Cara's done, she starts protesting outside the school and calling for prayer circles in defense of moral purity.  Tabitha is completely embarrassed for Morgan because Morgan’s display is very over-the-top and people start laughing at her.  Other groups start to protest for various reasons (some for a joke, but some are actually serious) and it gets so out of hand that the principal has to ban all protesting in front of the school because it disrupts regular school activities.  Later, Tabitha’s dad starts ranting about how there’s no place for conservative Christian views in public school, which Tabitha does not take kindly to.  She gives one of the best lines in the book when she says:

 “…[T]hey made her [Morgan] stop.  Made everybody stop.  And besides, it didn’t work.  You don’t have to worry.  The world is still safe from too many stupid Jesus freaks.  There are still plenty of nonbelievers out there.  Your ability to have an intelligent conversation with someone is still intact… I know what you think, Dad.  That people who believe in God are just idiot brainwashed zombies.  But to some of us, it actually does mean something: Something really special and important we can’t talk about except in certain places and with certain people, because otherwise everyone thinks we’re freaks who’re all out to recruit more zombies into our coven.  So go ahead and call the school… but when you do, thank them.  Because in spite of what Morgan tried to do, she got stopped.  She can’t do it anymore.  And neither, for that matter, can anybody else, whether they believe in Allah or the Purple Donkey from Kathmandu… Now nobody can talk about religion at school at all.”

I love Tabitha’s response because it is so realistic in that she stands up to her dad when he starts insulting her faith.  Tabitha is a great representation of how most Christian teens really are.  She struggles with her own faith, the choices her friends make, how other people (including her parents) react to her faith and she does it in a very non-preachy way.  In fact, religion in this story is treated as just one more aspect of Tabitha’s life – it’s not the only thing that she does.  God is referred to in a very matter-of-fact way – without the subject being overblown.  The story makes it quite clear that being judgmental of other people because of their choices is not right, but that it is good to stand up for your own beliefs.  Tabitha continues to love Cara and Morgan even though she doesn’t agree with what they’ve done.  In the course of the story, Tabitha grows in her relationship with God and learns a great deal about herself and what she wants in her own life.

This is a fantastic book for any Christian teen no matter the denomination.  Tabitha especially sticks up for her beliefs, but she is not the caricature of the prudish and holier-than-thou Christian teen that gets mocked in popular culture.  The story takes a realistic look at what it’s like to be a person of faith and hold on to those beliefs when people around you aren’t and, especially, how to get along with everyone no matter what their convictions are.  This is a very refreshing take on the subject and it’s something I think many teens would benefit from reading.

Up Next: "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman

On Deck: “Except the Queen” by Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder; “Gregor the Overlander” by Suzanne Collins; “Running Out of Time” by Margaret Peterson Haddix; “You Don’t Know Me” by David Klass; “Guys Write for Guys Read” edited by Jon Scieska; “Something Happened” by Greg Logsted; Beautiful by “Amy Reed; “Midnighters: The Secret Hour” by Scott Westerfield

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How to Make This the BEST QUARTER EVER

(I'm an assistant teacher in a high school Biology class and today the kids had an assignment to write about how this was going to be the best quarter ever.  They challenged me to do it as well, so here it goes)

I want to have this be the best 4th quarter in the entire world!  The students have some pretty good stuff planned to wrap up this school year.

First, they've all promised to work hard in English and Biology.  The teachers are piling up the expectations on them, but I'm confident they will rise to the occasion.  Sure, there will be a little grumbling and whining, but that's what you get with all teenagers.  They've all done fantastic work through the first three quarters, but this is where it counts - they have their end-of-year tests where they bring together everything they've learned and show that they've actually been able to apply it.

Next, track season - I can't wait to start hearing of the results from the various track meets.  T is pretty good with hurdles and H is awesome at field events.  The rest all do running - sprints and endurance - and they all have a good time with each other.

Community of Caring - we have a strong Community of Caring program and the kids have a blast with it.  They have an adult date-dinner planned for the adults in the valley.  The kids will cook the food, put up decorations and provide music for the adults to enjoy.  These are some pretty awesome kids, really.

Also, the prom is coming up.  They always put together a fantastic prom.  This year's theme is "Where the Green Grass Grows" (definitely a change from other school's themes of "Under the Stars" or some other sparklepoo deal fraught with glitter and crap like that).  They're planning on bringing in hay bales and decorating with a western motif - should be a pretty good deal.

For me, I have plenty of things to look forward to.  I'm halfway through my fourth semester of library school.  I have three classes this semester instead of my usual two, which is kicking my butt - I won't lie.  However, I have a great support system with my fellow classmates and we all help each other out, whether its reviewing each others' papers and projects or bouncing ideas off one another.  Also, I'm getting geared up to do a practicum this summer, which I am completely stoked about.

Also, I'm in charge of the library at the high school and I've been ordering some pretty fantastic books for the kids.  One that I'm excited to read is "I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President."  With a title like that, how could that not be awesome?

Another thing that's going to make this the best quarter ever is on April 23 - the new season of "Doctor Who" starts on BBC America.  "Doctor Who" is the coolest, most awesome TV show in the world and I can't wait to see the new series.  I've seen some of the trailers and promotional stuff (plus part of the season premiere was filmed in Utah and I think that's pretty cool - considering that's the first time the show's ever had principal filming done in the US).  The last season (which was the first season with the new cast and production staff) was really good, but I think this being the second season with this cast and crew, it'll be even better.

Well, those are my plans for this to be the BEST QUARTER EVER!  I hope you enjoyed reading it :)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Regeneration and You: A Companion's Guide

So, I finally sucked it up and started watching "The Twin Dilemma" (I feel so bad for Peri). I was reminded by this little gem that came out of comment threads from the Mark Watches review for "The Stolen Earth" and it's probably appropriate here:

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Link to original thread here.

(The Doctor called just Peri "Tegan"... *wibble*)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Happy Red Nose Day! Look - it's Brand New Doctor Who!

Well, this'll keep me happy until Easter - the two Red Nose Day clips the "Doctor Who" team put out for Comic Relief this year.  If you're the sort of person that care about this stuff, you've probably seen them elsewhere already, but never mind that.  Just enjoy.

Part 1 - Space:

Part 2 - Time:

(I love Steven Moffat eternally for his use of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey. He pulls it off marvelously and I can't get enough of it!)

One more thing - if you get a chance, donate to Comic Relief. Personally, I think it's a wonderful concept - having funny and entertaining TV while raising money for charity.  Much better than the mushy sob-parade telethons I've seen broadcast in the US.  Of course, Red Nose Day does feature some appeals meant to tug at your heartstrings, but it isn't one long marathon of misery - besides, shouldn't you feel good about helping people out, even if it's in the smallest ways?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

That is a Beautiful Sight

On the eve of March Madness, this seemed appropriate (even though *cough, cough* my Utes aren't in the tournament - but my Aggies are!)

The University of Utah in the PAC-12.

Be still my little Utah Man heart.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Get the Crowd Going

It's been a while since I've made any videos to post (I have a few ideas still - just have to decide which ones are worth pursuing and how many hours of sleep I can afford to lose to pursue them), but I've revisited my "Save the Day" tribute to the Tenth Doctor.  There were a few things I didn't like about the first version when I initially uploaded it, but now I've gone back and tweaked those few things and I like it much more. Enjoy!

Spoiler Warning - for all of David Tennant's era of "Doctor Who."

YAL Blog - "Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging" by Louise Rennison

Title: Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson 

Author: Louise Rennison

ISBN: 0-06-447227-2

Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers

Date of Publication:  April 2001

Reading Level: 7th grade and up

Books in Print –
JUVENILE FICTION / Humorous Stories
JUVENILE FICTION / People & Places / Europe
From me –
Teen life, family relationships, social relationships, school stories

Synopsis:  (from Books in Print)
My mixed-breed cat, half domestic tabby, half Scottish wildcat. The size of a small Labrador, only mad.
Stupid underwear. What's the point of them, anyway? They just go up your bum, as far as I can tell.
Full-Frontal Snogging:
Kissing with all the trimmings, lip to lip, open mouth, tongues ... everything.
Her dad's got the mentality of a Teletubby (only not so developed). Her cat, Angus, is trying to eat the poodle next door. And her best friend thinks she looks like an alien -- just because she accidentally shaved off her eyebrows. Ergghhhlack. Still, add a little boy-stalking, teacher-baiting, and full-frontal snogging with a Sex God, and Georgia's year just might turn out to be the most fabbitty fab fab ever!

Nestlé Children's Book Prize (NOMINATED) 1999
Bluegrass Award (NOMINATED) 2002
Book Sense Book of the Year (NOMINATED) 2002
Evergreen Young Adult Book Award (NOMINATED) 2003
Garden State Teen Book Award (NOMINATED) 2003
Virginia Reader's Choice Awards (WON) 2003

Comments: I read this book per recommendations from my students.  I was a little wary because of the title (and other titles in the series), but I gave it a shot and I’m glad that I did (to be truthful, the title’s probably just for shock value - there is very little in the actual story for parents to be concerned about).  This is a perfectly hilarious book poking fun at a typical teenage girl’s hopes and fears and all the drama that she gets pulled into (as teenage girls are wont to do).  The book is written as Georgia’s diary and she’s as honest as any girl would be if she knew nobody would ever read what she wrote.  There are so many funny parts, but I think my favorite is when she’s spying on a classmate and how horrified she is when she finds out what a thong really is.  Plus, I adore the wonderful “Britishisms” that pepper the narrative (there is a glossary at the back of the book – which is funny in its own right – for readers who don’t quite know what Georgia is referring to in some instances).
The only complaint I could really have is that it’s a little far-fetched to believe that a girl would have her diary on hand to detail every little stray thought every five minutes as though Georgia were on Twitter (some of the entries do that) – but it ultimately adds to the humor.  Since it’s written as Georgia’s diary, there isn’t much of a “plotline” other than following her through a school year, but that didn’t bother me.  It was nice to have a light and fluffy read after some of the heavier stuff I’ve been reading and I’d like to tackle the rest of the series.

Up Next: “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman

On Deck: “Pure” by Terra Elan McVoy; “Except the Queen” by Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder; “Gregor the Overlander” by Suzanne Collins; “Running Out of Time” by Margaret Peterson Haddix; “You Don’t Know Me” by David Klass

Monday, March 14, 2011

Knee-Jerk Reaction

I just watched "Vengeance on Varos."  For those of you keeping score at home, this would be my first foray into the Colin Baker era of "Doctor Who."  I really wasn't sure where to start with the Sixth Doctor, only that I didn't want to start with "The Twin Dilemma" (curse you, internet people telling me how awful it is - and I still don't even know for myself).

As you probably are aware (and if you're not, I don't mind repeating myself) Peter Davison is my favorite of the Classic Doctors.  I completely fell in love with the stories from that era and his portrayal of the Doctor is just wonderful and I love the companions.  Not to say that era is without its problems (I'm pretending the Myrka never existed), but it was just a fantastic run of television.  The fact that Peter Davison continues to be involved with the franchise and the fans completely endears him to me and there was much jealousy in my heart towards the Gallifrey 22 attendees who got to meet him in person (I can't wait until BBC America gets to his run in "Law and Order: UK" - and I don't even think they've started filming the new series yet).

Anyway, I've had a hard time coming to terms with the events at the end of "The Caves of Androzani."  After I finished it, I had to leave the house and go for a walk to calm down because I was so upset that the Doctor had regenerated and that it happened the way it happened (yes, I know it originally aired 27 years ago - STOP JUDGING ME!)  I mean, don't get me wrong, it was the most brilliant piece of storytelling and they did a fantastic job with it - but I don't particularly like endings.  Especially when it means there are no more episodes of my favorite, favorite Doctor (since David Tennant and Matt Smith are still duking it out in my head for which of those two I like the best, Peter Davison has been given the top spot in my book.  Sorry, guys).

So, instead of forging ahead into the Sixth Doctor's reign, I've been dragging my feet and listening to Big Finish's audio dramas (THANK THE GOOD LORD ABOVE FOR BIG FINISH) and rewatching the new series and watching episodes with Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker (both of whom are very good).  But, I've finally come to the conclusion that I must experience all of the eras of Doctor Who at some point in order to fully understand and appreciate this show.  Even if it means moving on to the Doctor that replaced my favorite (is this how the exceedingly rabid David Tennant fangirls felt when Matt Smith took over?  I mean, I love David Tennant's Doctor - but I love Matt Smith's Doctor as well).

So, I watched "Vengeance on Varos" - it came as a recommendation from the Doctor Who LiveJournal community, that's why I picked it.  And - just after one Sixth Doctor story, this is my report:

HOLY. CRAP.  How in the WORLD could two back-to-back incarnations of the Doctor be so different? I mean - I mean - just - that - and the - thing is - I can't - and - and - *dies*

Okay - that was my knee-jerk reaction.  These are my coherent and civilized thoughts:

"Varos" was actually a decent story.  The effects were pretty good too, considering the time it was made and on what kind of budget ('course, I usually don't care much about special effects - if the writing is good then effect don't really matter.  I'm probably the only person who thinks so, though).  But it was so, so different to what I've come to expect from the Classic series that it threw me completely for a loop.  Even the Doctor was so much changed from his previous incarnation.  I mean, Nine and Ten were very different.  Same with the switch from Ten to Eleven and Two to Three and Four to Five... but Five to Six... the change is really jarring and not in a good way. I really don't know how I feel about all this.  It might just take some getting used to, honestly.  There are moments when Six is very likable (the first scenes of the Doctor and Peri in the TARDIS are actually pretty funny.  And I don't see what the big deal is about the acid bath scene - the Doctor never even touched the guy).

I realize that there were plenty of shenanigans going on in the executive offices of the BBC at this point in the show's history and sometimes the stories felt like they had too many cooks adding to the soup.  Sort of like what happened with Spider-Man 3 - everybody wanted everything all at once, but once they got it, everything sucked and they had to resort to a Broadway musical (which I hear is not doing so well).

However, I will reserve my own judgment until I've seen more of Colin Baker as the Doctor.  He may not end up being my favorite, but I really hate taking other people's opinions as Gospel Truth before I've had an opportunity to work it out for myself.  I know that totally contradicts my opening statement about "The Twin Dilemma," but I still manage to sleep at night.  Case in point: I actually liked the Dalek two-parter in Series 3 before I found out that the majority of fandom hated it.  Even after hearing everyone else moan and complain about it, I still like it (haters may please familiarize themselves with the left-hand exit procedure).

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Countdown Begin!

After the less-than-stellar day at work I had, this makes it all worth it:

"Doctor Who" Series 6 premiere will air on BBC America on April 23 at 9:00 Eastern Time (7:00 Mountain Time).

I haven't heard from any official sources if that's the same day it airs on BBC One in the UK, but from what I've gathered, it's pretty traditional that the new series of Doctor Who premieres over Easter weekend - so does this mean that we in the US get a same-day release with our friends across the pond?  (I'm only speculating this because I would think this kind of news would have blown up the blogosphere and I haven't seen that happen... yet).

But - yay!  We have a date!!!

Heck Yes!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It's a Sickness

This is what happens when you work as a high school librarian and you're taking a YA lit class where you have to read a YA book each week and review it:


These are all books I have lined up to read either for my YAL Blog or just because I want to read them (I've read "The Goose Girl" and "Fablehaven" before, so I'm going to read those for the blog).

Seriously - could somebody please stop me before things get too out of control?

Monday, March 7, 2011

YAL Blog - "The Bar Code Tattoo" by Suzanne Weyn

I'm just now realizing how few weeks I have left to do this for my class.  But I think I might keep it up afterward because I am really having a great time with it.  And it's a fun way to keep track of the YA books I've read.  I'll explore that later, though.

Title: The Bar Code Tattoo

Author: Suzanne Weyn

ISBN: 978-0-439-39562-5

Publisher:  Scholastic

Date of Publication:  September 1, 2004

Reading Level: Elementary and junior high school

From WorldCat (This wasn’t listed on Books in Print) –
    * Identity -- Fiction.
    * Conformity -- Fiction.
    * High schools -- Fiction.
    * Science fiction.
    * Identity (Philosophical concept) -- Juvenile fiction.
    * Individuality -- Juvenile fiction.
    * Bar coding -- Juvenile fiction.

Synopsis:  (from Goodreads)
Individuality vs. Conformity
Identity vs. Access
Freedom vs. Control
The bar code tattoo. Everybody's getting it. It will make your life easier, they say. It will hook you in. It will become your identity.
But what if you say no? What if you don't want to become a code? For Kayla, this one choice changes everything. She becomes an outcast in her high school. Dangerous things happen to her family. There's no option but to run...for her life.

Comments: As a dystopian novel, this book had so much potential.  Everyone is forced to get a bar code tattooed on their wrist that contains all their financial, health and personal information.  That has to be a pretty interesting story, right?
                Unfortunately, this story falls woefully flat.  The plot is little more than Character A moves to Plot Point 2 and must fall in love with Character B who is really working for Villain Gamma.   Character C is forced to move across country with her family and has little bearing on the actual plot, but Character A needs a best friend in this formula.  Weyn probably needed three times as many pages to tell the story she was aiming to tell in a short story format (the author’s note at the end says that she originally began this as a short story).  None of the important scenes get the development they need in order to bring the reader into the story.  It’s almost like everything is just background noise.  Plus, the ending is very contrived - having the bar code somehow frustrates evolution so much that people without the bar codes start developing psychic powers.  Even for a science-fiction story, that is too far-fetched.
                This book obviously has an agenda to push and while many authors’ beliefs seep into their stories in subtle ways, Weyn’s beliefs don’t “seep” as much as they flood the plotline, overshadow any semblance of a story and the whole thing comes across as preachy and arrogant (doesn’t help that there’s the obligatory love-triangle thrown in there just as an afterthought).
                This could have been a very well-crafted story of how people get so caught up in the new trends and technology of society and even follow big corporations and big government policies blindly to their downfall, but it just doesn’t work here.  There’s not enough background on the characters to make the reader care about them.  If I were a teen reading this book, I would be insulted that I was expected to take this premise seriously (evidently there’s a sequel.  I don’t know why).

At the end of the day, this is what this book does to me:

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox Extension

No more of that, thank you.

Up Next: “Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging” by Louise Rennison

On Deck: “Pure” by Terra Elan McVoy; “Except the Queen” by Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder; “Gregor the Overlander” by Suzanne Collins; “Running Out of Time” by Margaret Peterson Haddix; “You Don’t Know Me” by David Klass; “Guys Write for Guys Read” edited by Jon Scieska; “Something Happened” by Greg Logsted