26 February 2008

Review:: The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl (novel)

Desperate to read something special, I went to a library's online catalog and perused various titles under the "New Items" tab. I became instantly enamored with the concept for this one and put it on hold. After all, who wouldn't be all about geeks and goths?

So here's a story with the types of characters you wouldn't see in another teen movie but in your own high school. The obsessed fan boy. I knew one. The jaded goth girl. Knew one of those too. So Barry Lyga took these archetypes and wrote a story about emotional evolution-- revolution, even.

Jeff Smith (of Bone fame) wrote a blurb about this book exposing a guy who is "really seeing girls for the first time." Like so many other books, it worked its magic on me backwards. Instead of coming to understand girls, I can now see guys for the first time. I mean, I'm in my late twenties so I've learned a bit since I was in high school, but it made me realize what it was to be a frustrated teen guy at his sexual peak. I have always been drawn to the quiet types, so I have befriended many a nerdfighter in my time. Then things turned romantic against my will and I was surprised. A little naive, I feel.

Anyway, the writing is crisp, the dialogue rarely feels stifled, and it contains all these little hints about life, like how to be there for others but mainly yourself.

8.83 of 9. Extra points for mentions of Joss Whedon and the droids that you're not looking for.
I could really relate to Fanboy's desperation to move on, to leave high school, to be respected as an artist. I also understood Goth Girl's self-destructive nature, particularly after what she's been through. Characters aren't always what you think they are, which is one of this novel's strengths.
Decent. Not so fast, not so slow.
Mature teens and up. There are scenes describing fantasies of school violence, but they never get gory.
Like it? Try this!::
I'm not going to recommend anything other than getting out there and going for your dream! Make it happen! Reach for it! Either that or get artistic. Brainstorm your own graphic novel and see where that goes.
Further Notes::
And as these things go... There is a chance that this one is going to be a movie. Surprise! No objections here to cast this literate and talented Thora Birch look-alike as Goth Girl.
Confession: I dressed up as Enid from Ghost World during Halloween 2003.

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl. By Barry Lyga. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006. 311 pages. $16.95.

Road Map:: Orange County and Charlottesville, VA

I have plenty of Texas pictures to post but I still haven't finished posting the ones taken in Virginia recently. Can we say "gorgeous"? I frickin' loved Virginia, and I'm not even going to talk about the BBQ. I didn't think I could be converted until I went to Mel's Cafe in Charlottesville. If you haven't been, take out a loan for the gas, drive there from wherever you're at, and ask for the BBQ sandwich. Once you're there, all's good. The food is cheap and revolutionary. I still dream about it at night.

But on to the beautylicious libraries!

a) Wilderness Branch Library
Orange County, VA (01.03.08)

I love how this second picture makes me look like I have very short legs. It's a nice visual effect.

b) Jefferson-Madison Regional Library - Central
Charlottesville, VA (01.03.08)

Again, we didn't have time to go inside, for fear of getting towed. The outside was quite lovely, though, even with the random screaming dude out on front.

c) Monticello - Home of Thomas Jefferson
Charlottesville, VA (01.03.08)

My husband is quite the Jefferson fanatic, and so this trip was a prize for both of us. He likes TJ, I like libraries. It's win-win. Why wouldn't we go see the home of the poppa of LOC (Library of Congress Classification System)?

While we didn't see any of those salacious bookshelves we wanted to see, it was still one of the most rewarding trips we've taken. For once, I wasn't dragging my husband around to take pictures. He was even more into it than I was.

On a totally random note...


Nerdfighters of all creeds might enjoy this, if you haven't seen it already: Hank's hobbit hobby.

25 February 2008

Review:: Eclipse (novel)

Stephenie Meyer has been lauded as the new J.K. Rowling, and if there is going to a be a new phenomenal writer, Meyer would fit in quite grandly. By now, who hasn't reviewed Stephenie Meyer? I mean, really. So instead of reviewing the first two installments of her series (Twilight and New Moon), I'm going to talk about the latest book, Eclipse.

The new installment, though still magical and thought-provoking, suffers from a bit of "middle child" syndrome. This is indeed the third novel in the five-part series. Like the troubled kid in a "normal" family, this one is just not as widely accessible as her previous work. This is the type of novel that can really turn off hard-core fans who feel invested in the lives of the main characters and are convinced that the story needs to go one particular way.

This is to Meyer’s credit, though, because she has taken a tale about a love triangle between a clumsy high school girl, an immortal and old-fashioned vampire, and a red-blooded but generous guy, and made it unpredictable. The ethereal scenes between Bella and Edward will appeal to romantic teens, and the action sequences of vampires and wolves battling evil will ensure that this series will continue to accumulate a large number of new followers.

8.39 of 9. I have to say that so far, New Moon has been my favorite, as loss is very familiar to me. Parts of Eclipse make this installment my second favorite. Ultimately, though, the beginning was slow and it's kind of tiring to see the beginning start the exact same way as the other books.
Okay. Some feel that Bella is a bit of a wussy pants, and while that may be the case, her fragile self definitely resonates with many teens. She's not perfect, but she gets the sexilicious vampire. That's totally part of the appeal. I'm personally quite fond of Jacob Black but perhaps I shouldn't say that. Fans are VERY... umm... fanatical.
Just like the Harry Potter books got darker with each additional volume, Eclipse one is the darkest yet. The first couple of hundred pages were mostly filler but Meyer swiftly picks up the pace. Big time.
I know preteens, parents, and even grandparents who totally go ga-ga over the books and wear "Team Edward" and "Team Jacob" pins at library conventions. :D I also enjoy the fact that this series proves that you can write love scenes that can get anyone's pulse going without moving it past PG-13.
Like it? Try this!::
Obviously, read Twilight and New Moon. Do a Google search and you will find a plethora of information/fan fiction. I also recommend reading what other critics and librarians have to say about it. Try the New York Times and the blog for the Seattle Public Library.
Further Notes::
As many of you know, Summit Entertainment is filming the Twilight movie as we speak... uh, as I write and you read. I have to admit that I would rather have had Emily Browning and Henry Cavill as the lead actors, the way Stephenie had originally wanted. I guess I don't mind Kristen Stewart (hyper skinny hippie singer in Into the Wild) and Robert Pattinson (Cedric Diggory in... well, you know). No matter what, though, I will be in line for the movie and for the new book Breaking Dawn, out August 2nd!

And now, the pièce de résistance! Here's the pic I earned by volunteering for Stephenie's author booth at the Texas Library Association convention last year. It was awesome! And exhausting! Librarians can be quite enthusiastic and forceful. ^5

Eclipse. By Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown Young Readers, 2007. 629 pages. $18.99.

20 February 2008

Road Map:: San Antonio, TX:: Las Palmas Branch


Back home in good ol' San Antonio. I haven't had internet access since Sunday morning. I haven't missed it all that much, but now that I'm online and realizing just how much STUFF I need to get done.... Jeesh.

For various reasons I have not had a chance to make it out to many libraries so far. Here is the library I would have voted at last night, had the voting station not been CLOSED. Boo.

Las Palmas Branch Library

Unlike most of the libraries I write about, this one I actually have a history with. In the ninth grade, I came here to do a group project for Ms. Lew's Biology Class. I specifically remember my crowning achievement of that day. After hours of working on an obnoxious assignment with my friend Leo, I put my head down to rest a bit. Upon close inspection, I immediately fell in love with the patterned floor below me. I exclaimed, rather loudly, "Look at the pretty carpet!" I looked up and Leo was nowhere to be found. Yes. I had been talking-- to myself.

This picture above does not show the carpet I mention. Oh no. The real carpet I wrote a love sonnet to over a decade ago... No picture could possibly do it justice.

13 February 2008

Hallelujah The Sequel! Totally rigged.


In just one week, this blog got fifty views. Granted, the last five were all me, hence the "totally rigged" part of the subject line. At least I'm honest.

But still! Fifty! Just count them! I know you won't.
(Kudos to you if you get the reference to that one.)

That's all.

Oyasumi! (Cute Japanese for good night.)

11 February 2008

Road Map:: Gettysburg, PA; Frederick, MD; Arlington, VA

Must... sleep...
Must... post...

a) Gettysburg Library (01.02.08)
I know! As in, the Gettysburg. It had been my husband's dream to see the battlegrounds, and mine is always to see yet another cool library. It's win-win.

b) C. Burr Artz Public Library (01.02.08)
Frederick, Maryland

Yes, we drove through the state rather quickly, and this picture is the best we could do in the dark. Believe me, being out there in the freezing wind, it was enough!

c) Shirlington Library (01.02.08)
Arlington, VA

Never one to miss out on having my friends join me in on the library obsession, I took my friend Gina for a special ride in the cold.

We drove through D.C. that night. Had it been a little earlier in the day, I would have loved to check out the Library of Congress. Someday...

Buenas noches, everyone!

09 February 2008

Review:: Last Exile (anime)

How do you feel about Star Wars, circa Episode IV, back when Luke first called the Millennium Falcon "a piece of junk"? (Not that his speeder on Tatooine was a prize-winner.) How about the Joss Whedon TV show Firefly, where Mal's space ship looks like it's about to fall apart and kill everyone on board?

If you enjoyed the rusty look of both these sci-fi classics, then there's something for you in Last Exile-- or, if you want to say it in Japanese, Rasuto Eguzairu, which is the same thing just in a cute accent. The main characters, Klaus and Lavie, are like brother and sister. They deliver messages around the universe with the utmost dedication, when they suddenly get stuck delivering a little girl with unimaginable power. The visuals are often breathtaking. Lots of space ships blow up, characters stand around looking stoic or cool, and the obligatory zoom-in into a woman's chest does not happen until the last quarter of the series. Well-done.

I particularly enjoyed how the setting has shades of the Industrial Revolution, but people race hovering Vanships. They're kinda like pod races, a la Episode I, but here it's even sweeter because the 2-D characters can actually act.

So satisfy your inner geek crying out for some more "galaxy far, far away" love. This is just one of those anime that works for both guys and girls, and those really are hard to come by.

8.43 of 9. See "Pacing."
Whoa. There is actually an anime out there where the young girl is not overly cutesy (think Azumanga Daioh's Chiyo-chan) or completely annoying (think... well, there's so many that I can't think of any right now). Alvis is very sweet, very real, and she wears her hair in the precursor of the Princess Leia cinnamon buns. Lavie is also a fascinating female character. While she can be emotional at times, she is a worthy mechanic and can fix the heck out of any Vanship. Hmmm. Kinda like Kaylee in Firefly!
Wonderful for most of the episodes. It's the kind of story that can be almost anything. Humorous. Heart-wrenching. Suspenseful (oh, the cliffhangers!). Then suddenly everyone starts getting infatuated with each other, and the story slows down a bit as they endeavor to work out the love and the lust. Ah well.
Early teens and up. There really isn't a whole lot to be afraid of in this one. Even when a couple of characters spend the night together, nothing is shown. It's all implied.
Like it? Try this!::
Um, Star Wars. Or Firefly. Or its film version, Serenity. Just tear your heart out before you watch it. That way you won't suffer.
Further Notes::
You know how some anime takes a while to really hit close to home? Last Exile had me at "hello" by the second episode. (Hmmm. I guess that's more like, it had me at "how-are-you?") I was completely captured, and not many anime can do that so easily. Then it kinda lost me with the whole Love Boat turn of events, but you know what? Even anime characters need a little love every now and then.

Last Exile. Directed by Koichi Chigira. Gonzo Production Company, 2004. 650 minutes. $99.98.

08 February 2008

Celebrate! :: Happy (Late) Lunar New Year!


With all the essay-writing going on in my life and catching up I've had to do, I forgot to post about the Chinese New Year yesterday. So here's a recap of the library program I did last year, during the year of the pig.

Check out the gorgeous display that our artistic librarian made!

True/False test on Asian culture! The girl on the right holds the Ringer of Truth with Shape and Noise: a circle and a heart-lifting ping for correct, an "X" and a not-so-graceful "waah" for incorrect. People love the ringer, courtesy of a Toys 'R Us in Japan.

Craft one: decorate a cardstock lantern with your very own Chinese animal zodiac.

Craft two: make an origami piggy face!

And of course there was Guitar Hero, because it's such a time-honored ancient Chinese tradition. Sorta. Kinda. Not really.

Vio-chan wears red, the color of luck, and shakes the sweet lucky pig.

Maybe next year I can do something even better. For now, though, happy year of the rat, everyone! If you're interested in seeing pictures of this year's festivities, view some here.

Now off to finish Capstone. More on this hellish pre-graduation tradition later.

07 February 2008

Road Map:: Greensburg, St. Thomas, and Chambersburg, PA

More jumpy pictures! Back by popular demand!
I mean, I guess. I have no way of telling for sure, really.

I know I said that I'd keep the pictures small but in some of these I just disappear... So the pictures are medium-sized instead.

a) Greensburg Hempfield Area Library
Greensburg, PA (01.02.08)

Wait for it... Wait for it... See the pink? That's me.

b) St. Thomas Library
St. Thomas, PA (01.02.08)

Is it a bird? No! Is it a plane? No! Is it a library? Yeah!

c) Grove Family Library
Chambersburg, PA (01.02.08)

I mean, I know I've been cold in my life, but this particular library had this icy gravitational pull from the polar caps or something. Freezing, I tell you! I have to admit, though, that I love the colors in this one.

I have so many, many more to post... but I have to make it look like I do more with my life than just drive around the country taking pictures of libraries and library signs. There's also anime-watching... and, and... book-reading... and...

06 February 2008

Spotted! :: Bleach video on YouTube

If you were anything like me as a kid-- and granted, there are only a few of us out there-- you grew up in Texas listening to your parents' music en español.

I remember when Juan Luis Guerra's gorgeous ballad of love, "Burbujas de Amor," was released in the early nineties. I mean, it was everywhere! The title means "Bubbles of Love," and I'd translate the rest but that would suck out all the poetry. Seriously. The sentiment would sound fake in English.

I'm glad I was too young to understand the overtly sexual refrain. I would have hated this song if I'd realized that when he was saying
"pasar la noche entera / mojado en ti" he meant... well, if you don't know I'm certainly not raunchy enough to explain.

Anyway, a few months back I found this sweet video on YouTube linking "Bleach" (supa popular anime) to this bittersweet song. I was so elated! This means that there are others of me out there-- really into anime, and maybe even Japanese culture, but retaining every thread of Latin American fabric within.

I'd say that sometimes I worry about losing my Spanish, as I don't get to use it much. But really, whenever I'm in doubt, I just turn to the music. I still listen to my dad's favorite Mexican singer from the '50s and '60s, Enrique Guzman, and to the queen of grace, Rocio Durcal. I sing along to every word. I may look Anglo and I may have lived in Europe and Asia, but I'm pura mexicana all the way.


I have much to say, but my laptop battery is about to run out and I'm at one of these frou-frou wi-fi coffeeshops with a serious shortage of electric outlets.

So instead, I'll celebrate 150 views of this blog since August 2007. Yatta! Not bad considering I don't advertise it as much as I probably should. I'd celebrate, but I already had quite the load of dee-lish salmon sushi and dim sum of the shrimp kind. I think I'm all celebrated out.

Coming soon: tips on how to interview for YA positions at public libraries. I've been to a few, and... scandal! Believe me, you don't want to goof up like I have.

Hugs to everyone!