Archive for October, 2011

New YA Books

Since I’m the librarian who orders YA books at my library, I get to hear about great new books coming out.  I’ve been to a few workshops lately and read a ton of journals.  Some of the books I order are ones I have to because they’re popular author or celebrities and teens will read them (Tyra Banks, Hilary Duff, Twilight graphic novel).  But most times the books I order look awesome.  Here are some good ones that recently came out, from oldest to newest.

The Poisoned House by Michael Ford

Life can be cruel for a servant girl in 1850s London. Fifteen-year-old Abi is a scullery maid in Greave Hall, an elegant but troubled household. The widowed master of the house is slowly slipping into madness, and the tyrannical housekeeper, Mrs.Cotton, punishes Abi without mercy. But there’s something else going on in Greave Hall, too. An otherworldly presence is making itself known, and a deadly secret will reveal itself—a secret that will shatter everything Abi knows.

Just in time for Halloween, who doesn’t love a good ghost story.

 

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

Twenty years after the start of the war that caused the Collapse, fifteen-year-old Stephen, his father, and grandfather travel post-Collapse America scavenging, but when his grandfather dies and his father decides to risk everything to save the lives of two strangers, Stephen’s life is turned upside down.

I heard the author speak at Anderson’s Bookshop’s YA Literature Conference last weekend and ended up buying a copy of the book.  I’m a fan of dystopian books, and this one sounds really good.  Plus, Suzanne Collins liked it!

 

Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs

As monsters walk the streets of San Francisco, unseen by humans, three teenage descendants of Medusa, the once-beautiful gorgon maligned in Greek mythology, must reunite and embrace their fates.

As soon as I heard that this is essentially Percy Jackson with a female twist, I wanted to read it.  Thanks to Rick Riordan, I am interested in Greek mythology, so I am on board with another book about it.  And it is supposed to be good, not just a Percy Jackson knockoff.

 

Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Willa is lucky: She has a loving blended family that gets along. But when a bloody crime takes place hundreds of miles away, it has an explosive effect on Willa’s peaceful life. The estranged father she hardly remembers has murdered his new wife and children and is headed east toward Willa and her mother. Under police protection, Willa discovers that her mother has harbored secrets that are threatening to boil over. Has everything Willa believed about herself been a lie? But as Willa sets out to untangle the mysteries of her past, she also keeps her own secret—one that has the potential to tear apart all she holds dear.

I wasn’t super-excited about this book at first; I think because I didn’t really know the plot, but I heard it booktalked and it sounds really suspenseful.  And we all know how Susan Beth Pfeffer can keep us hooked!  (Have you read Life As We Knew It???)

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit – more sparkly, more fun, more wild – the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.  When Cricket – a gifted inventor – steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.
Ok, you guys know how much we loved Anna and the French Kiss?  I loved Lola just as much, if not more(?).  Seriously, I’m not sure why I haven’t bought this book yet.
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper in the autumn of 1888.  Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police now believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was with her at the time, didn’t notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? 
I got an ARC of this at ALA, but I didn’t have time to read more than the prologue.  From that though, I could tell that this is not MJ’s typical book.  Still I’m excited to read it as soon as I get the chance.
Crossed by Ally Condie
In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky – taken by the Society to his certain death – only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.  Cassia’s quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander – who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia’s heart – change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.
Woohoo, the sequel to Matched will finally be out on November 1!
Are you looking forward to any of these or others?
– Jill
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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter….also known as My New Home

First off, I would also like to apologize for not posting much lately.  And to inform you that I won’t be posting much at all for a while because I think my internet is going away in a few weeks.  The reason why it’s going away is because I can’t afford to have internet when I keep going on so many trips to amazing places like……

THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER!!!

Ever since they announced that there was going to be a theme park, I made it my life’s goal to go there.  I did have to wait over a year after it opened, but I think the timing worked out perfectly.

I went down to Florida with my sister from September 18-24.  We went there to see her friend Zac, swim with dolphins, go to SeaWorld, and chill out at the beach.  But mostly, we just went so we could go to Universal to go to the HP theme park.  Anne was the perfect person to go with because she is just as much of a hardcore fan as I am.  I could talk about all the other fun stuff we did, but I will just focus on the park.

It. Was. Unbelievable.  I knew I would love it, but I didn’t realize just how amazing it would feel to walk through that big stone archway.  The atmosphere inside the park was unforgettable.  There is music from the movies playing everywhere, owl sounds, and moaning myrtle whining away in the toilets.  Anne and I spent at least a couple of hours over two days just sitting in Hogsmeade, sipping Butterbeer (the frozen kind for me) and soaking up the atmosphere.  Yes, the shops and the rides were really fun (we didn’t go on the dragon one because we DON”T do rollercoasters, even Harry Potter ones) but really the best part was just being there, if that makes any sense.

Since I know that Jill is the only Nerdgirl who has been to the park, I thought I would list a few tips for anyone interested in going.  Since we visited the WWoHP 4 times over the course of two days, I feel like it is my second home.

1–Go during Mid-September!!!!  This is probably the most important tip of all!!  There were obviously other people in the park, but it was not crowded at all.  We didn’t have to wait for either ride and I never had to wait to buy stuff in the shops or get food.  The only time we really waited in line at all was to get into Ollivander’s wand shop demonstration and that was only for 15 minutes.  We went on Wednesday and Thursday.  Wednesday was the better day because there were a lot more people there on Thursday, but nothing to get too excited about.  The main reason the experience was so awesome was because there were no frustrating lines or big crowds to lose each other.

2–Eat at the Three Broomsticks in late morning or mid afternoon.  To be honest, the real food at the restaurant (lunch and dinner stuff) looked really gross, but that could be the vegetarian talking.  We went around 2:30 and had dessert and drinks and it was fabulous.  Anne had the chocolate trifle and a butterbeer and I had peanut butter strawberry ice cream (straight outta the books) and a delicious Hogshead Brew.  If you get a chance just sit in the Three Broomsticks and look around.  Every once in a while an owl shadow popped up on the wall I was facing, and Anne pointed out a house elf’s shadow along the upstairs hallway.  We would never have noticed them if we had been rushed through the park.

Chocolate Trifle and Frozen Butterbeer

3–If the line is horribly long, skip the Ollivander’s demonstration.  Granted, this was pretty cool, but it wasn’t what I thought at all.  I thought if you waited in line, you got to go in and pick out a wand at Ollivander’s.  This is not the case.  When you go in it is more like a little bit of theater.  A creepy Ollivander comes down from a ladder and picks one person to demonstrate a wand.  It is literally just like in the movie.  Lights flash, shelves open, and boxes pop in and out.  Pretty cool, but nobody really gets a wand.  The wands you can buy are just in the regular shops.

4–Get a postcard and get it stamped with the Hogsmeade postage seal.  You have to do this outside the post office under the big roof with all the owls.  Also, it wouldn’t hurt to have some postcard stamps with you when you go.  Then you can just drop it in a postal box and have the whole process over with.

Inside the wand shop (where you really buy the wands)

5–Use the single riders line for the Hogwarts Forbidden Journey Ride.  The line for this was actually rather long, but using the single riders entrance, Anne and I hopped right on.  But if you do this, you must also do #6.

6–Go back into the castle and ask to just take the tour.  The whole first day we were there we missed out on a huge aspect of the park.  We were talking with Zac and he mentioned something about Dumbledore’s Office and we were like, “What??”  Apparently as you are waiting in the long line for the ride, you travel through the portrait hall, Dumbledore’s Office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom, and the Gryffindor Common Room.  The single riders line does NOT go past this stuff.  So take the short trip around for the ride and then come back for the tour.

7–Beware of the expensive prices!!  I am not ashamed to admit that I spent well over $50 in Honeydukes.  Everything in all of the shops is really pricey, so be prepared to spend.  Also, I was sad that almost everything was Gryffindor and Slytherin, but very few things came in all four houses.  As a Ravenclaw, I was a little perturbed by that.

Honeydukes

8–Make sure to take a minute and appreciate it.  Zac couldn’t believe that we spent so much time at a park he said could be done in 2 hours tops.  After you have visited all the shops and done the rides, make sure you take a minute to sit back and appreciate where you are.

I had a fantastic time and will hopefully go back again soon.  Anne and I decided that when we win the lottery we are going to build a replica of the castle and Hogsmeade right here in Iowa.  She wants to live in the castle (too drafty for me) and I can live above one of the shops.  There would also be lots of other openings in Hogsmeade for other lodgers (like the Nerdgirls).

So if you are any kind of Harry Potter fan, make sure you take a pilgrimage to Universal Islands of Adventure and check out the WWoHP because it is worth every penny!

Jen

My new car

Hello friends!  It’s been a *really* long time since my last post.  September was craaaazy busy at work, and I was too tired to do anything in my free time.  I’m going to try to post more in October.  First up — my new car!

Way back in July, I was taking my old car (Pam) on my way to the STL area on a Friday afternoon.  I was going to Florida by way of STL because I was flying out with my younger cousins the next day.  About halfway between Chicago and STL, my air conditioner went out so I rolled down the windows.  Then I smelled something burning and realized the car temperature was WAY in the hot zone.  😦  When I frantically called my dad, he said to get off at the next exit.  Luckily I made it to my exit – unluckily, Pam died at the stoplight just off the interstate.  When I got it towed to a Ford dealer, they said it wouldn’t be an easy fix.  UGH.  But my mom is awesome and drove about 2.5 hours to come pick me up and get me downstate so I could fly out the next morning.  My parents told me not to think about my car issues while I was gone, and my dad looked into cars in the area I’d had to abandon mine.  When I got back a week later, my parents took me up halfway, helped me pick out a new car, and I drove home in a different car than the one I drove down in.

2011 Blue Ford Focus

Isn’t she pretty?  

Here are my top 5 favorite things about my new car (in no particular order):

1.  Stereo controls on steering wheel!  Very handy since I’m a huge radio surfer.

2.  USB / mp3 jack outlets!  I can plug in my iPod instead of having to make new cds everytime I get an awesome new song!  I LOVE this feature.  The mp3 jack was actually the first thing I told my dad I wanted in a new car.  I didn’t even realize at the time how awesome the USB feature was, but it even charges my iPod when I use it!

3.  SYNC.  I can talk on the phone through my car!  All I have to do is push a button (on the steering wheel), and tell my car what I want it to do.  And it works for more than the phone.  I can push a button and tell it I want to hear a certain artist on my iPod.  It’s pretty awesome.

4.  Sunroof / Moonroof!  I had a sunroof in a car I shared with my sister in high school and I’ve always wanted a moonroof.  Now I get both!

5.  Seat warmer.  My new car has leather seats, which was really hot in summer sun, but now that it’s getting cooler, I’ve used this a few times and it’s great.  Bring it, winter.  At least my butt will be warm on my way to work…plus, you know, the rest of me because my car does have heat.  🙂

Honorable mentions:

–  Sirius Radio.  Even though I’d love Sirius Radio, it’s pricey, so I ignored this feature until I stumbled upon it working around Labor Day.  Then for about 2.5 weeks it was the greatest thing EVER.  Unfortunately, it stopped working and I realized it wasn’t a fluke that I got it – it was a free trial.  😦

– Mileage readout.  My car tells me how many miles I have left until empty.  It’s a nice thing for when I’m getting low but don’t make time to stop before/after work.  Even when I think I’m really low, I still have like 75 miles left.

It sucks to have a monthly car payment, but my car’s pretty awesome so it’s ok.  🙂

Expect more updates soon.
– Jill