Friday, April 27, 2012

Teens' Top Ten Competition

     A certain competition is gearing up for the annual excitement: Teens' Top Ten!     Do you want to know what teens are reading these days? No, no don't cringe! We got Twilight out of our system way back in 2009 (at least, according to Teens' Top Ten standards). Yeah--we're all new-fangled. If you are a teen, or a parent who wants to find books for your teen, this may be of interest to you.
     So, what is Teens' Top Ten? It's a popularity contest for Young Adult novels (once in a while, adult fiction wins as well). The winners are compiled onto a yearly "best of" list. Now, this is very different from your typical high school popularity contests, or "best hair" contests. It's about the favorite books of America's teenagers. The point is to find what teens like to read, and show them how to find more of it. It's to show teens that reading is fun. Here's how it works:
     In APRIL (Is it really April already? Goodness). YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) releases a list of 25 books most popular books of the year, as nominated by teen readers. Then the real reading happens. Teens across the country look at this list. Many times, they will have read at least one book on the list; the other listed books interest them simply by proximate association. Through word of mouth, these books spread across the teen (and, *ahem* adult) populations. In August and September, teens between the ages of 12 &18 vote on their two favorites. YALSA announces the Top Ten winners during Teen Read Week, which is Oct. 14-20th this year. To check out the list of present nominees, past winners, and other information, click here. Short synopses of each nominee are provided as well. I recommend reading these --they're very helpful! YALSA is a very liberal organization. Some of the books reflect interesting opinions, at times. Living and learning in this world necessitate extra care! I'll post about these books as I read them, if you care for my opinion.That's my naggy warning for the week!
     As many of you probably know, I volunteer at the library. I work on teen programs with Amy Patton, one of those lovely librarians. For the last two years, our library has hosted announcement parties for the TTT winners. It's one of my favorite events! Cookies, soda and best books. Can a party get any better than that? Here's last year's announcement video for TTT! (P.S. The sound does not immediately turn on. Click the megaphone symbol).

     Usually, not all of them are my taste, but I always love others. And you know what rocks this year? The Scorpio Races, the book I raved about on last week's post, is one of the nominated titles! I SO wish I could vote! But any teens reading this right now can get in on the action. See if your favorite reads are favorites across America. Some past TTT winners that I lovedJust Listen by Sarah Dessen, Fire by Kirsten Cashore, Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (c'mon, you knew The Hunger Games would make the cut! :)
     Next Week I'll be posting about a free library event on Interior Design! Be excited. It's going to be rad. I know it's been awhile since I've posted a writing tip. There's been so much going on, I haven't had space! Soon though. Promise.
     Have a great week, Scribblers and Book Bandits!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Review: The Scorpio Races

     Great books transport us to different worlds, worlds we just know exist. Finding a book like this feels like a gift. Allow me to introduce you to an award-winning book which flew me over thousands of miles of blue choppy waves, and plopped me on a horse for a beautiful, blustery, dangerous ride: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

For the readers:

     Kate "Puck" Connolly makes history on her tiny island home by signing up for the the Scorpio Races. Girls just don't do this. The Scorpio Races are dangerous and for men only...until now.
     Every November, horse riders race in the dangerous runs hoping to win the prize money. However,  these are no ordinary horses, but the speed-demon water horses called capaill uisce, drawn from Celtic mythology. They eat meat. Any meat. Human meat.
     So, not only is Puck a girl, but she rides an ordinary horse in the races made for magical, legendary beasts. Why would she do such a thing? She has her reasons. They made me want to shake her and hug her at the same time, but she has them!
     Four time champion Sean Kendrick will race again this year--but the stakes are higher than ever. And they were already pretty high. You or death.
     Who will win? Only one can. The catch for me, as a reader, was that I wanted both to win! By the end, I knew them and loved them both.
     The adventure draw is obvious, but the emotional draw is more subtle. The island of Thisby has a way of drawing sea-lovers together, despite their purposeful seclusion. Puck's feisty humor and temper kept me laughing, while Sean's bravery made me braver. I saw the events through their eyes, and only the best books can accomplish that!
     P.S. I listened to this book in my car, and the voice actors have awesome accents. Maggie's music is also integrated into the readings. It enthralled me. You can order the audiobook for free through the library and listen to it in your car, too (or on your run, or while you eat chocolate raspberry walnut waffles. I did all of those things)!

For the writers:

Maggie with her book. Source.
     I've reviewed Maggie Stiefvater's books before, but only on I posted Races on the blog, though, because the craft is phenomenal. She reinvents language and description. Instead of writing, "He had a nasty black eye", she might write, "His eye seemed to be growing mold." Only her words would be even better :)
     For a few days, the real world was just a fog, or a vacation, and the island cliffs of Thisby occupied my thoughts.  In other words, Puck offered me a sticky, sweet November cake, and Sean took me for a ride on his prized horse, and I sat on the beach for hours, watching riders gallop along the shore. I ordered this book so I could read and study its "real time" descriptions.

Below: A book trailer with illustrations and music by the author. She's way too cool, right? An author, artist, and musician! Check it out:
     If you're interested, you can read the prologue here for free. Every chapter of the book gripped me, but this prologue really dropped my jaw. Very intense. It introduces readers to a world in which legendary horses rear up from the sea foam and humans must watch their backs. It immediately connects the reader to Sean, explaining how he became an orphan when he was ten years old. So important, and so well-written! Enjoy!
     If you want to order this book from the library, I would hurry because it was just nominated for the Teens Top Ten competition, and the holds will skyrocket soon!
     Speaking of Teens Top Ten, I'll be posting about the nominations next week! *excited* Talk to you then!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Final Week of YA: A Question of Quality

     What does that big Golden "P" thing stand for anyway? I'll give you a hint: it's not "parsnip." Keep reading for more hints...*dum-du-dum-dum-DUM*
     Today ends our mini-series on why YA (Young Adult) novels are worth reading! If you missed any of the previous three posts on this important topic, you can check them out by scrolling down the main page of my blog.
     It's not..."Pampers."
     Okay. "Quality" is the word of the day, here on Sweets &Beets. I've heard a rumor claiming that since YA fiction is easier to write, rejected authors (casualties of the "big leagues," a.k.a Adult Fiction) or newbies become YA authors. Which would make the quality of the genre...non-existent.
     It's not..."Peeta Mellark."
     We can debunk this myth is by noticing all the awards available for teen books. The website for the Young Adult Library Services Association sports a great list of these awards.
     It stands for..."Printz Award"! My favorite of the book awards is the Michael L. Printz Award. Yes, that's what the lovely golden seal is for. I love this award mostly because one of my newest favorite books very nearly won this year (The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, which I will be reviewing here next week!). These judges have good taste! The Printz Award "annually honors the best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit, each year" (
     And we can't forget the Newberry Medal, of course. This one is for Children's books, but it has been awarded to several of my favorite YA novels, including The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, and A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle.
     If you want to know more about literary awards, check out YALSA's website through the link I provided.
     Every professionally published author has worked through blood, sweat and tears (often literally) to tear these books from their souls and bare them to us on paper. Ernest Hemmingway put it this way: "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a type writer and bleed." Authors are no sissies, no matter the genre.

                                               Christy Dares You #3
     Run to the closest library, book shop, or computer. Pick a book labeled "Young Adult" (or YA). Make sure it looks interesting. Maybe look for the Printz Award seal. Then read it. If you have trouble finding one you like, just ask. I'm always happy to give book recommendations!

     Happy reading!

                                                                  Works Cited
"The Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature", American Library Association, March 15, 2007. (Accessed April 12, 2012)
Document ID: aca25793-55fb-ac44-456c-73450a57467d

Friday, April 6, 2012

The British, er, the Regulars, er, the Regulations Are Coming!

Edited from this source
     Breaking news! We'll finish up the YA mini-series next week. Library news has precedence.
In a previous post, I wrote about how California has entirely stopped funding its libraries. We all knew cuts would be made to the budget. Temporary funding from the county saved the Lake County branches from losing staff and other other things right away.
     Which was AWESOME of them, by the way! So grateful.
     However, that wasn't meant to be forever. Changes have arrived.
     These changes sucked the new book budget dry, as we know. Patrons and the "Friends of the Library" have valiantly donated lots of new reads. Well done on that front, everyone!
     Here's the next the big change:
     I actually think this was a smart change. If you've ever ordered a book from a different library, maybe you've wondered how the books are delivered to you free of charge. The state used to pay the delivery fee. Post-budget cuts, the county has been covering delivery costs. Now they're trying to minimize the number of trips made to deliver the books. Let's use a hypothetical to explain how this works.
     Say I order the book Cupcakes 'n More, and three libraries own a copy: Upper Lake, Sonoma County Library, and Fort Bragg Library. Upper Lake is one of four Lake County Library branches (including Lakeport, Middletown, and Redbud). In order to save money, the delivery system will now automatically sign me up for the Upper Lake copy. Pre-budget cuts, a copy would be randomly chosen based on availability.
     The pros of the new way: it saves money this way, because the book has a shorter distance to travel. The book(s) stays local.
     The cons of the new way: if four other members of the Lake County Library system requested Cupcakes 'n More before me, I have to wait for them to finish with it. They're each allowed 3 weeks to read the book. Add travel time, and I could be waiting 11 weeks or more (or less) for my book. What if I ordered the book for a party in 3 weeks? Well, that's just too bad!
     My Conclusion: Altogether, I think it's a smart way to save money; it's just unfortunate that the wait times could be longer.
     As always, go love your library! Have a good week, and we'll discuss the last YA topic next Friday: "Are all YA books poorly written?"