Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The next wave of libraries?



I was reading an article today about extreme sports. Why? I have no idea. I think it was on the MSN homepage and I saw it while checking my hotmail account. Anyway, they had a picture of those large plastic spheres they use to roll people down the hill in, like a great big hamster ball. Zorb is the name brand, but the generic term is "sphering." Part of me is intrigued...it looks like a lot of fun, doesn't it?

But I have questions.

1) Since I am claustrophobic, will this really freak me out?
2) You enter the tube though a tunnel-like entry way. Um, so how do you not fall out while rolling, at a brisk pace, down a hill.
3) Did you notice where this is big? England, Scotland, New Zealand and Japan....it is only starting to catch on here, but the people in Tennessee seem to be catching the wave.

So what do you think? Have you ever sphered? Zorbed? Do you think you would want to?

Happiness is just a click away...

This was the message line in my "inbox" from Pier One stores. Seriously? Is that all I have to do to be happy? Buy something from the Pier One online store?

If only it were that simple.

Help Me Mr. Mutt!: Expert Answers for Dogs with People Problems by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel

From the author/illustrator/sisters who brought you And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon I can't remember the last time I fell this much in love with a picture book!

Mr. Mutt delivers a ton of laughs and a lot of good advice to his loyal following; whether his readers have issues with their people dressing them up, or bathing them too often, Mr. Mutt has advice on how to make them see things the canine way! Mr. Mutt doesn't just offer advice, he has some handy visual aides as well....pie charts, line and bar graphs as well as pictograms all show there is more than one way to skin a cat.

And speaking of cats...not everyone is happy with the advice doled out by Mr. Mutt. The Queen, as she is known to her public, has many catty comments to add to Mr. Mutt's advice. Eventually Mr. Mutt goes too far and the Queen takes matters into her own paws. The final pages as well as the end papers, sees the story out to its end. Or does it?

Be sure to check out page ____ on Mr. Mutts advice on how to steal a bed from a child. I have a biiiiiig dog myself and will be watching to see if this letter was from him!

Check out Help Me Mr. Mutt for a fun read.

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

I have been reading a lot about Stephenie Meyer lately. She was on Good Morning America!; has been featured in a Time Magazine article and her Twilight Books are the subject of a heated debate on one of the list_servs that I subscribe to. It seems that Bella and Edward's relationship is being analysed as the recipe for an abusive, co-dependent relationship. I don't think that for a minute, but had to laugh when the writer of the post said the Meyer continued portraying women as punching bags in her new book The Host.

In case you don't know, here is the synopsis of The Host. A new species has taken over planet Earth. "The Souls" as they call themselves are small jellyfish like creatures that cannot live long outside their host bodies. The flit from planet to planet and are inserted into their host. In the case of Earth, they live the everyday life of humans; experiencing our world through human senses and emotions. This is something quite unique for the Souls. Human emotions are much stronger than anything they have ever encountered. Some Souls even have to abandon the bodies they are given, because the previous owner refuses to vacate.

This is what happens to Wanderer. She is the Soul that has been placed into the body of Melanie. Melanie, a member of the resistance, tried to kill herself rather than becoming a host body. Melanie who screams at Wanderer to get out. After a time the two learn to co-exist. Sort of.

I won't give too much of the story away, but want to say that it is complicated and unexpected. I read the 600+ page book in two nights because I had to see where she was going with it. Like all good invasion books, there are things to consider. How two life forms agree to live together and how the world is changed because of it.

I read another blog on this book and it said that this is the first time there has ever been a love triangle that incorporated three individuals, but only two bodies. Pretty good point....

I would highly recommend this book...and would love to talk to you about it after you're done!

7th Heaven by James Patterson

Yes, I know.

No one really knows who is writing what with JP anymore. I know that his ghost writers are getting, well, not equal billing, but at least some cover time. This book is co-written with Maxine Paetro. I wonder if she will "inherit" the series in the same way that Vinvent Lardo inherited the McNally Books from Lawrence Sanders. Note: The McNally books were one of Fred's favorites but he feels that you can really tell where Sanders left off and Lardo began. Other people must feel the same since there hasn't been a new book since 2004.

Ok...well then. Same characters; new killers; a missing person secondary case; an additional stalker bad guy thrown in for some flavor and tension between Joe, Lindsay Boxer and her new-ish partner Rich. No records are set and no new territory is covered. Just a nice relaxing read.

Good for vacation or by the pool...not for a book club. Makes for a light blog too.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Things that make you go ?????

Do you ever feel that ache; that need...for something? What? You don't really know...you just know something is missing in your life.

Well, for a mere $10, you might be able to fill that ache...that need.

Check out the SomethingStore!

Basically, you send them $10.00 and they send you something. What? You don't know. They don't know. They just pick a random item from their warehouse and send it to you.

They do promise that it won't be adult, marketing, miracle cures, or a whole list of other items as listed here. After that they make no promises.

Here are some of the recent items they have shipped to soon to be surprised customers.

I think this would be a cool way to solve the ever growing problem of what to give the person who has everything...just send them a surprise. After all, it will only cost you $10.00! So, if you have a birthday coming up, don't be surprised if you see something from the SomethingStore at your door! (no refunds or exchanges allowed)

PS...shipping is FREE!!!!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

TLA Retro Post/Name Dropping Blog!

Note: We are going to have to use the "way back machine" to set the stage for this blog, which was started in mid-April and saved as a draft. It then got buried. Please excuse the time warp. We now return you to the blog that should have been published in April:

Ok...so you all know I am a librarian, but did you know I was a joiner as well? What I mean is, in addition to my job, and the PhD Program and teaching the class at TWU, I have also spent the last couple years on various committees within the Texas Library Association. One of them is the Children's Round Table, the other the Young Adult Round Table. Both of these organizations promote books and authors specifically for children and teens...something I am very passionate about.

What do I do in these organizations? Attend meetings and have discussions...do presentations and PLAN...for CONFERENCE. Yes, the Texas Library Conference is a big deal! Remember, we are a big state! My main stressor this year was being in charge of the technical side of a multi-media presentation and booktalk. I didn't really do anything except provide the Power Point and run it on stage...and make a few announcements. The perks of being involved in this...and the PhD Program etc, are wonderful though, because, as have mentioned before...librarians are writer groupies!!!!!!

So Madelaine I and I got back from NYC on Tuesday, late afternoon. I put a load of laundry in, kissed the boys and Fred, gave them souvenirs, took a shower and was out the door to attend a dinner at my professor/mentor's house.

Who was there, you might ask? Why, I will tell you! Rosemary Wells the author of one of my favorites...Max's Dragon Shirt was there and very charming and personable. Jordan Sonnenblick whose work has managed to make it onto the Lone Star List for a record three years in a row was there. I love the title of his new book Zen and the Art of Faking It. It makes me smile just saying it out-loud. Rick Rioran was there and I got the chance to thank him for such a wonderful series of books! I told him that when Titan's Curse came out a couple years ago, my sons wrestled each other to the ground in order to be the first to read it. I told him that we had already pre-ordered our copies of the 4th book in the Percy Jackson series. Battle of the Labyrinth comes out May 6th. (Aside: I am not sure when our copy arrived since I didn't check the mailbox for a couple of days...BUT...as of this blogs' revision, I handed each boy a book last night, and they are both almost finished...24 hours later!) John Flannagan, author of Ranger's Apprentice was also there, but I didn't realize who he was in time to slobber on him. And speaking of not recognizing someone. You know if there is ever an opportunity to stick my foot in my mouth, I will take it! As I was walking the party with a pitcher of margaritas, making sure that everyone has something to drink, I stopped and chatted with a woman. She said the margaritas were great and what a fun party it was, I agreed. You know...normal party chit chat. Then I said to her: "You look so familiar...have we met?" She thought maybe we had, so I introduced myself...and then she introduced herself. Yup...pie on face time. Gee...no wonder she looked familiar, I had probably seen her face on the back of her books, I don't know...100 times? Probably more. Let the record show Libba Bray is charming, especially to oafish librarians. You should check out her series, which she describes as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer in Victorian England." Her series is Gemma Doyle Trilogy.

The next night, I went to a dinner the Young Adult Round Table sponsors to thank the publishers and their authors for coming to conference. I got to chat with Gene Leun Yang, whose book American Born Chinese [Photo]won the American Library Association's Printz Award for outstanding Young Adult Fiction. I got him to sign my book and he even drew a Monkey King for me! I also got to say hello to Neil Shusterman, who writes excellent fantasy and is a strong boy writer. I was shy and missed my chance to say hello to Marc Aronson and now I am really regretting it. I even purchased a clean copy of For Boys Only: the Biggest, Baddest Book Ever! I say clean copy, because Owen has used it and performed some of the experiments contained in the book...so some of the pages are a bit water damaged.

Of course, no dinner is complete without the requisite, Marianne sticks her foot in it moment. After the Libba Bray incident, I made sure to study the photo of another author who I wanted to thank and maybe snag an autograph from: Jim Murphy. His book An American Plague was probably the first nonfiction book I ever read in one sitting and made me say "Wow!" Unfortunately the person I complimented was Terry Trueman. After blushing horribly and apologizing profusely he said..."Your cute and funny, so I forgive you." But whenever he saw me chatting with someone else for the rest of the night, he commented "Don't believe her if she tells you that you are her favorite author...she uses that line on everyone!"

I did get a chance to later talk with Jim Murphy and he did sign my book. He must be a slightly twisted individual because his comment in a book about the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793, spread by mosquitoes read: "Bzzzzzzzzz...Goodnight!"

Guess who else was there at this dinner?...my good friends Libba Bray and Jordan Sonnenblick. When Terry Trueman was teasing me later...Jordan commented, "Are you kidding...she stalks me!" I mentioned that he wasn't quite famous enough for stalking yet! (Just kidding Jordan, we all know you are HUGE in Texas and Ill.)

The evening was capped off with running into Neal Shusterman and his agent on the way out. They were waiting for a cab and well, this is Dallas, not NYC...cabs are not as plentiful. So I offered and they accepted a ride to their hotel. I felt bad for Neal though...I drive a Jetta, which is fine for my 5'2" frame. I think his 6'2?4? self was a little cramped!

Thursday I went to the Bluebonnet Award luncheon. Every year a group of TX librarian read hundreds of books and narrow them down to the top 20 which then becomes the Bluebonnet List. School aged children across the state read these books and vote for their favorite. This year's winner was Lucy Nolan's book "Down Girl and Sit: On the Road." Down Girl is a dog, so is Sit. They are definitely smarter than squirrels! The book chronicles their adventures with their humans. The book is written on a 1st grade level and I have to admit, I read this story aloud and three out of three children in my house stopped, listened and laughed.

This was a landmark Bluebonnet event for me. I have been on the Children's Round Table for the last 4 years, so have had to sit on stage twice and eat lunch on a dais. This is not fun...especially since they go around and introduce you after you have eaten, with a camera on your face to make sure everyone knows who you are...and if you have spinach in your teeth. Quite frankly, I will miss the stress of public eating.

I ran into Jordan again and he signed my book "To my subtle stalker, Marianne." Everyone is a comedian! I also ran into Neal Shusterman and got his autograph before heading out for the day.

Thursday evening I was invited by Random House to attend a dinner with some authors. I got to meet author Jarrett Krosoczka of Punk Farm, a wickedly funny twist on Old MacDonald. You should check it out! He was telling us a funny story that his friend, who is a TX librarian and at the dinner that night, had been immortalized as a cartoon character in the sequel, Punk Farm on Tour. At his prompting, I went over to her and used the old "You look so familiar..." line. Then I asked her if she knew Farmer Joe. She cracked up and said I shouldn't encourage him!

Have you ever been to one of those dinners where your wine glass was always full, the conversation lively and slightly loud, with loads of discussion and laughter? It was a wonderful dinner. We were seated with the author Rosemary Clement-Moore whose book Prom Dates From Hell, I won in a table-wide game of rock/paper/scissors. After we did the usual gush of appreciation over her book we discussed everything from the Gossip Girl series, censorship, intellectual property and how it applies to the recent J.K. Rowling law suit, and many many more topics. It was a great night. A storm blew into the area, in typical Texas style, so we ended up spending more time than we intended together. I can't remember a better evening. (Thanks Random House!)

Oh yes, and my new friend Libba Bray was there as well! Friday was meetings aplenty meetings galore. I did have to leave one a bit early so I could drive Graphic Novelist Rob Espinoza to the airport. Just call me taxi to the writing stars!Anyway...please excuse the delay of this post, but I thought I would share it with you anyway. Conference was fast and hectic as always...but I think I may have had more fun this year....at least being starstruck!


As a doctoral student, I have the privilege of working with some of my favorite professors. Currently, there are two in my program that have impacted and influenced where I am today and I am grateful to both of them. It is interesting to note that they are VERY different people.

I admitted to one of them that she made me cry my first semester in PhD-land. Well, first she made my brain ache and then she made me cry. I was taking a class called Critical Thinking and it required...duh...critical thinking. It was a semester of discovery for me that forced me to rethink the way I think. I can often be very linear; looking to solve a problem, rather than muck around in it. I prefer to do that with my emotions. I was a better person at the end of the semester, which is what this degree is ultimately about.

My other professor is one of those rare women that influences your life and the lives of many around her. I don't know why women don't lift up other women more, but she is an amazing example of what sisterhood can produce. When I finished my library degree I got a wonderful and flattering email from her saying that she thought I was going to be a wonderful librarian, but that she also thought I had the potential to be more if I wanted to. Then she asked if I had considered getting my PhD.

In addition to being part of the reason I am doing what I am doing, she is also fun. By that I mean, she invites me to present with her at conferences, passes along invitations to publisher dinners and parties at her house (where I get to hob-nob with the greats) and....she asks for my opinion. That sounds silly and weak but I just want to note how flattered I am by this. This prof has written three books in the last 18 mos or so...and she wants to know what I think about her chapter on public libraries. I offered opinions and do you know what she did then?

She included me on the acknowledgements page. (yes there were many, many others, but you are missing the point here....)

Now if you keep in mind my weakened emotional state of the past few blogs it should not surprise you that I cried.

Which leads my to ponder...how often to we acknowledge people? Sometimes the simplest words can have a great impact and you never know where these words are going to come from.

Maybe all of those "Practice Random Acts of Kindness" bumper stickers are onto something after all. I would like to think I am kind to others, but maybe it is time to move on to acknowledging the kindness we see in others.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Growing Pains

I am not an overly emotional person. I don't cry at many movies, and love to mock my husband who does. I am a pretty tough woman...able to leap tall buildings with a single bound, etc and so forth.

This hasn't been the case lately. I seem to cry at the drop of a dime.

No, it's not hormones. I think it is the bittersweet time of life called Senior Year. Not mine, mind you....my daughter's.

People had warned me ahead of time that your child's Senior year is an emotional time...but remember...I am not a sentimental person. I am also not one of those mom's who has every step and milestone of her child's life preserved in a keepsake box. For better or worse, we are a pretty fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants family. It works for us.

Lately though we have been consumed by prom, band banquet, graduation plans, graduation party plans, the imminent descent of the grandparents AND.....drumroll please: Mad's 18th birthday.

Can you believe it? I will have an 18 year old.

According to Madelaine, this means that we can't call her up and ask her where she is and who she is with; this means that she doesn't have a curfew and can have her boyfriend over when we are not home.

Silly girl.

We had a long talk last night. Well, there was yelling involved. It ended with her asking me to find out how much it would cost for her to live in an apartment. I mentioned that if she felt grown up enough to live on her own, she may want to do her own research. Sigh.

Part two of the conversation was much quieter and happened later that night. I told Madelaine that while she was learning how to be a grown up, we were learning how to be the parents of a grown up. Just as the parent of an infant needs different skills than the parents of a school child, we are learning a whole new skill set. At the same time, she needs to realize that we will be more inclined to see her as a grown up when she starts acting a bit more rational.

Unlike her mother who cries at the drop of a dime.