ALA Youth Media Awards

I just watched the presentation of the ALA Youth Media Awards. I had a pen and notebook and jotted down the titles even though I knew I would be able to get the list online as soon as it was over. Sometimes I’m very old. I focused on the books for teens, because back before I was an unemployed slacker I did a lot of work in teen literature. I was hoping I would have more to say about the winners, but I have read few on the list. Here are some highlights:

Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. – This Light Between Us written by Andrew Fukuda

The Sydney Taylor Book Award – “Dancing at the Pity Party,” written and illustrated by Tyler Feder. The honor book for teens in this category was “They Went Left” by Monica Hesse. That is significant for me as Hesse is a columnist for the Washington Post who I read regularly.

Schneider Family Book Award – “This Is My Brain in Love,” written by I.W. Gregorio

Stonewall Book Award – “We Are Little Feminists: Families,” written by Archaa Shrivastav

Coretta Scott King Author Award – “Before the Ever After,” written by Jacqueline Woodson – I love Woodson and have had the opportunity to hear her speak in person. One of the honor books was “All the Days Past, All the Days to Come,” written by Mildred D. Taylor. This is a continuation of the story of the Logan family. I love her books. I was lucky and got an ARC of it way back last summer at a conference.

Alex Awards – This is usually y favorite award. Is is for the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences. I always find some favorites from this list. I’ve read one of this year’s already.

“Black Sun,” by Rebecca Roanhorse – I read this one. It was a slow start, but I’ve loved Roanhorse’s other books so I gave it some time and ended up enjoying the story. I will read the next in the series. Other people said they were hooked from the start.

“The House in the Cerulean Sea,” by TJ Klune

“The Impossible First: From Fire to Ice – Crossing Antarctica Alone,” by Colin O’Brady

“Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio,” by Derf Backderf

“The Kids Are Gonna Ask,” by Gretchen Anthony

“The Only Good Indians,” by Stephen Graham Jones

“Plain Bad Heroines,” by emily m. danforth

“Riot Baby,” by Tochi Onyebuchi

“Solutions and Other Problems,” by Allie Brosh

“We Ride Upon Sticks: A Novel,” by Quan Barry

William C. Morris Award – “If These Wings Could Fly,” written by Kyrie McCauley. I have read one of the honor books, The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed and enjoyed it.

John Newbery Medal – “When You Trap a Tiger,” written by Tae Keller. This award is hit or miss for me based on the lower age range. I usually at least look at the book, but since I no longer work at a library I will probably skip it this year.

Randolph Caldecott Medal – “We Are Water Protectors,” illustrated by Michaela Goade. This is the award for picture books. Again, if I was working I would look at it. Now, probably not.

Michael L. Printz Award – I am listing the honor books and the winner here since this is the bog award for someone like me who reads a lot of teen literature.

Honor books:

“Apple (Skin to the Core),” by Eric Gansworth – I’ve read two books by Gansworth. One I liked, one I thought was a little slow. This one appears to be a memoir in verse. We will see.

“Dragon Hoops,” created by Gene Luen Yang, color by Lark Pien – Love Yang’s work. I’ve also had a chance to meet him. Looking forward to this one.

“Every Body Looking,” by Candice Iloh – not familiar with the book or the author.

“We Are Not Free,” by Traci Chee – same as above.

Winner: “Everything Sad Is Untrue (a true story),” by Daniel Nayeri – Also not aware of this one before today.

The best thing about not knowing a lot of the books on the list is that I now have a large number of requests in at the library and will not struggle to figure out what to read next.

If you want to see the entire list you can find that here.

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My Week in Books, Movies, and TV 9/18/20

The “new normal” means that I am not getting many new movies from the library. There’s no new network TV season. I don’t have as many books checked out because my days in the library don’t lend themselves to browsing the shelves. I don’t like to have to think to find my entertainment.

Movies – It took me a minute to remember if I watched a movie. every day I browse the guide to see if there are movies I want to record to watch after work. Most days I find nothing. Last week I did find Escape From New York. I don’t know that I had ever watched it before. I can see why it was popular when it was released, but it seemed really dated. I liked Kurt Russell but felt like the rest of the cast’s acting was stilted. It’s possible my enjoyment was hampered by me being distracted while watching.

TV – As expected, I watched a lot of sports. The Braves played the Nationals and the Orioles, so they were on TV every night. Unfortunately, they did not play their best against the O’s. I also watched NFL football and a little college football. We watched the latest episodes of Transplant and Coroner. Both very good Canadian shows filling spots while other shows are still off air. I watched more Hart of Dixie. I’m happy to see dates for return of some of my shows next month and November.

Books – I finished two books this week:

The Hollow Ones by Guilermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. It starts with two FBI agents responding to a case of a man on a rampage who is heading to his house to kill his family. When they arrive, one of the agents subdues the suspect but then goes to kill the last kid, forcing his partner to shoot him. While she is on suspension, a retired FBI agent directs her to a strange man who can help her with her case. He tells her there are beings out there who inhabit a body and go on murderous rampages and he can stop them. I enjoyed it and I hope that I am correct that there will be another one.

Long Bright River by Liz Moore – I found this one while checking in books at the library. Mickey is a cop in Philadelphia. Her sister Kacey is a drug addicted prostitute who has gone missing at the same time there is a string if murders of women in their neighborhood. The story is told in then and now segments so we see Kacey and Mickey grow up and how they became who they are. Their stories are compelling. The murder mystery is well done, I would highly recommend it.

On Deck – Still no movies from the library. The Invisible Man is on HBO tomorrow n so I will record it. I recorded two shows that premiered on HBO Monday night: The Third Day and We Are Who We Are. I will attempt to try them this week so if I know if I should keep recording them. I have a copy of The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead from the library to read.

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My Week in Books, Movies, and TV 9/11/20

It is 9/11, a day that no one will ever forget. I wrote about my memory of the day before so today I will still do my regular recap of what I watched and read this week. Maybe 9/11 will remind people that we can come together in times of trouble instead of what we have done in the face of a pandemic. OK, on to the post.

Movies – We watched on movie this week – 28 Days Later. We had watched it before, but something made me think of it and then I saw the DVD at the library so I checked it out. It was as good as I remembered. I guess now we should watch 28 weeks later again. I do love a good zombie movie.

TV – Nothing groundbreaking on the TV front either. We watched the latest episode of Transplant. I watched more Hart of Dixie. I still watch The Goldbergs during my lunch while working from home. We finished the episodes of The Resident we had recorded from March and April. We are working on finishing up Stumptown and FBI:Most Wanted. I like Stumptown. I could do without FBI: Most Wanted, but my wife likes it, so I watch with her. The story lines are OK. The cast is terrible. I was very happy to watch football last night. It almost felt normal.

Books – I read Rose Gold by Walter Mosley for my mystery book club at work. I had never read an Easy Rawlins book before. I enjoyed it and might go back to read an earlier book in the series. I was happy that it was a book you could read without feeling like you missed much by skipping the rest of the series. The plot was decent, but it really was a character driven book and easy is a very good character. I also need to watch the movie version of the first book with Denzel as Easy.

On Deck – Not a lot on deck. I have no movies from the library. There are no movies streaming that we will definitely watch. New TV is still a month away. I will probably watch a lot of sport. The Braves are playing the Nationals this weekend, so all of the games will be on TV. There is college football all day Saturday and NFL football all day on Sunday. No need for anything else. I am reading The Hollow Ones by Guilermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan.

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My Week in Book, Movies, and TV 6/19/20

Here we are. The end of another week. Only 10 hours until my sweet freedom of the weekend. Here is my recap of what I’ve watched and read this week.

Movies – We watched several movies this week as we did not find a new show that we all loved enough to watch every night after work is over. We focused on old moves that my daughter had never watched. It started with Clueless last weekend. As suspected, she really liked that one. We were shocked to discover that she had never actually watched Back to the Future. She blames our parenting skills. So, we watched all three of the movies over the week. She disagrees with my assessment that the second movie was not very good. She seemed to like all three of them. It’s possible we watched something else over the week, but those are the only ones I can remember.

TV – I finally finished the latest season of On My Block. I’m glad there will be another season. I would hate for it to end the way it did. We are now watching Survivor – Australia. It’s still weird watching the old seasons. So much has changed over the years. We watched the latest episodes of Stargirl and Snowpiercer. My daughter continues to watch Zach and Cody on Disney Plus at the end of the night while I sleep on the couch. I started to watch Castle Rock on Hulu but discovered it started me on season 2 for some reason. I will have to go back and start over now. I still see parts of old Grey’s Anatomy in the afternoons while I work and my daughter watches TV.

Books – I finished two books this week. I finally finished Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland after putting it aside several times to read books for work. It is the sequel to Dread Nation. It is set in post Civil War America that is overrun with zombies. The first book started in Baltimore and ended in Kansas. In this one, they head to California It is a long book and it took me a while to get into it since I kept having to put it aside but once I got back to it I liked it as much as the first. I also read The Art of War after I was asked to fill in for the person who does the nonfiction book club at work. It was a quick read, but I can’t say I enjoyed it that much. I’m not sure I really retained any of the text.

On Deck – We will likely keep looking for old movies to watch with our daughter. We need to watch Jest Mercy while it is still free. Selma is on TV tonight. I will probably record it since we all mentioned that we never watched it when it came out. TV will depend on who is awake and free when. I will probably watch Castle Rock this weekend when I am inevitably up hours before everyone else. Yellowstone comes back Sunday, so we will watch that. I will try the new Perry Mason show on HBO.  We will watch more old Survivor. The Belmont Stakes is tomorrow. It will be nice to have a live sporting event to watch. I need to find a book in the house that will hold my interest. The ARC I started this week is not compelling me to read.

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My Year in Reading 2019

Happy New Year Tater readers! I’m back with my yearly look at my reading. I was a bit down this year. It is the first time in a while that I have not reached my goal of 100 books read. There are several reasons for this: better TV, too much assigned reading, mental state, etc. Hoping for a change in 2020.

Top ten books read in no particular order

  • Wanderers by Chuck Wendig
  • The Outsider by Stephen King
  • The Institute by Stephen King
  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
  • Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams
  • Full Throttle by Joe Hill
  • Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley
  • Security by Gina Wohlsdorf
  • The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Honorable Mention

  • Sadie by Courtney Summers
  • Educated by Tara Westover
  • Dry by Neil Shusterman
  • Mobituaries by Mo Rocca
  • On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

Book I would most recommend

This is a tough one. I would probably go with Wanderers by Chuck Wendig even though it is 800 pages long and most of my friends would never read one that long.

Worst Books I Finished

This is a tougher one. I gave a lot of books 3 stars this year. The only one I gave 2 stars was Target: Alex Cross, so I guess I will go with that.

Book I Dustbunnied

It looks like I finished every book I started this year.

Number of books read: 84

Number of pages read according to Goodreads: 28,795. According to that math that is 78.9 pages a day. That’s 10 pages a day less than last year, That means another 15 -20 minutes reading a day would get me back to where I want to be. Seems doable.


A Short Rant

The Youth Media Awards were announced this week. The book Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly won the Newbery Award. I saw one person on Facebook comment that the one review of the book mentioned that the r word is used a lot in the book. I don’t know what review that was, but I found one on Amazon with the same complaint. Is the r word used in the book? Yes, but you have to look at context. It is used multiple times by the bully against a kid who goes to the resource room for special help. I know that we would rather not see the word, but if you are writing realistic fiction you have to be realistic. I guarantee you kids are still calling other kids retarded no matter how many times we tell them the word is hurtful. It is real for the bully to use the word. Nothing about the book makes it seem this is OK.

In the fall there was a big controversy over the book The Black Witch. There was a review online that pulled several racist comments out and used them to say the book was hurtful and should never have been published. People piled on and posted negative reviews on Goodreads without ever reading the book. I read the book. What they fail to comprehend is that those racist statements in the book were said by racist characters. Some were said by the main character, but the entire point of the book was to see the growth in a character who was raised to believe her race was superior only to realize how wrong that was once she goes to school with other races. Context matters. It was a very good book.

I keep seeing over and over again how books are being pulled from schools because parents complained about language or other content without thinking that this language and content is what makes the book real. Why do you want your kids to read sugar-coated realities? Why are we judging books on a few words instead of on the entire content of the book? Why can’t we read challenging and difficult stories anymore?

Also – there was another school shooting today. We seem to be more active in removing “dangerous” books from schools than we are in keeping actual danger out. Maybe we could fix that?

My Year in Reading 2017

This is the year I finally got lazy and stopped keeping my written list of the books I read. I might try to go back to it this year. You never know when Goodreads might disappear. All of the stats are from Goodreads. My top book are the ones I gave five stars and then the four star books I felt were the best of the rest.  I started the year with a 1000 page book and ended the year with a 700 page book.This year will be an easier start for me. So, here it is – my year in reading for 2017:

Top ten books read in no particular order

  • Strange Weather by Joe Hill
  • Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
  • Revolver by Duane Swierczynski
  • Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  • Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick(I might have a crush and it was audio so she read it to me)
  • The Nix by Nathan Hill
  • Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
  • Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Honorable Mention

  • Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King
  • The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor
  • IQ by Joe Ide
  • Spoiler Alert by Michael Ausiello
  • Unbelievable by Katy Tur

Book I would most recommend

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner. It was close between this, Impossible Fortress and The Hate U Give

Worst Books I Finished

  • Who Is Rich by Matthew Klam
  • History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera(though a teenager implied I was too old to get it)

Book I Dustbunnied

None this year. I finished History is All You Left me because it was for work. I’m not sure why I kept reading Who is Rich. I need to be better about abandoning bad books.

Number of books read: 104

Number of pages read according to Goodreads: 30869. I did the math and that averages to 84.5 pages a day. I think I can do better.


We Need Diverse Books

I know that is a groundbreaking title there. Anyway, this post a personal illustration of connecting with book characters because they are like me. Before anyone else can point it out – yes, I am a white guy. yes, I am white, heterosexual male. yes, there are many books about people like me.  This post is not about me wanting more books about me. I’ve always agreed that we need more diverse books. I can’t imagine why anyone would disagree with this. Kids need to be able to read a book about a person who is like them. I always knew this intellectually. My last two books have been a good illustration of how a connection to the characters improves the reading experience.

I recently read The Serpent King by Jess Zentner. It takes place in rural Tennessee and in the authors words

“I wanted to write about young people who struggle to live lives of dignity and find beauty in a forgotten and unglamorous place. Who wonder what becomes of dreams once they cross the county line. This book is my love letter to those young people and anyone who has ever felt like them, no matter where they grew up.”

I grew up in a place that could be considered forgotten and unglamorous. A small town where many kids dream of escaping to a bigger and brighter world. A small town where some days it seems like your dreams will die. I felt completely connected to the characters and could see a little bit of myself in them. Because of this, the book meant more to me and I was more emotionally invested in the story.

I am now reading Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. I like the book, but I don’t feel the same connection to the character because I am not a Mexican-American girl living in California. A Mexican-American girl will feel that connection here, but not necessarily in The Serpent King.  It’s important for books like Gabi to exist for that girl. She does not have the plethora of books about people like her like I’ve had my entire life.

I didn’t realize how lucky I was growing up a reader and finding myself in all of the books I read(like the creepy clown in It, for example) and even though I realized it as an adult, it didn’t really stand out to me until I read these two books back to back.

I do think it is important for me to read books about people different from me, but sometimes it is really nice to read a book that feels like home. Everyone should have that opportunity.

I Have an Author “Type”

There is a study out there that says men like to read male authors and women prefer to read female authors. I have never analyzed my reading habits and author gender. I do know a lot of my favorite authors are male. I do, however, have quite a few female authors I read regularly. I like to joke that I sometimes have the reading habits of a teenage girl. I’m too lazy to do a count, but I could see my total skewing more toward the male authors. I don’t think this study says more than that people like to read what they know and that people feel more comfortable with the voice of someone with whom they relate. That’s why the push for more diverse titles is important, especially for kids. All kids need to be able to find books about someone like them.

I was thinking about this last night after I was working on a list of books for a class I will be leading at work. It is a list of good adult fiction for teens. I took many of the books of the Alex Awards list and added a bunch from my personal experience. As I was asking coworkers for some titles to add to the list, I mentioned that I needed to add some diversity, because although I didn’t know what most of the authors looked like I was pretty sure they were a little too similar. I googled the names of the authors and discovered that they were more alike than I realized. If I just looked at the author photos, I could assume that they were all related. Apparently, I don’t just have a thing for British and Irish authors, I have a thing for British, Irish and ginger authors. It was really weird. I can now add diversity to the list of my reading goals for 2015.

My Year in Reading 2014

Top ten books read in no particular order

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
Winger by Andrew Smith
The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig
Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore
Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs
Revival by Stephen King
Butter by Erin Jade Lange
Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larrsen
Seven for a Secret by Lindsay Faye

Honorable Mention

Golem of Hollywood by Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman
The Three by Sarah Lotz
Trouble by Non Pratt
The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce
Parasite by Mira Grant

Worst book I finished

Someone Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon

Book I Dustbunnied

Wolf by Lorenzo Carcaterra

Number of books read: 106

Number of pages read according to Goodreads: 37067

I have to say that this was not a banner year in reading for me. Too many mediocre books. It was hard to come up with the 15 best. I need to be more selective with my reading next year.