Friday, June 29, 2012

On ARCs, review timing, and niches (reflective) - my blog = my choices & recommendations

sketch of black cat reading a sheet of paper
After I left my High School library 3 years ago, I seriously missed being able to connect the right books with the right readers. Thankfully, a shout-out from Barb Langridge on LM_NET (school librarians' listserv) let me start writing recommendations of great books for babies, kids, tweens, and teens on her site (Try the "Which Reading Superhero Are You?" quiz - it's spot on!)

Then on May 1, 2011, I started BooksYALove as part of the WordCount Blogathon so that I could add my own personal observations and relevant info links to my recommendations. Despite other bloggers' urging, I have NOT 'monetized' this blog - no referral links to online book retailers or ads. I will often point readers to sites where they can search for local library or independent bookseller - sales taxes support essential services where we live, ya know.

I want BooksYALove to be a repository of recommendations for books that YA readers might miss - those great ones from first-time authors, small publishers, and smaller imprints of major publishing houses. The books must be available in a bricks-and-mortar store (even if by special order) and from more than one source online if in electronic formats = I won't point YA readers toward any book that requires a credit card in order to obtain it, so I'm not accepting self-published works currently.

My TBR (to be read) stacks of printed ARCs and new books require additional bookshelves now, while my downloaded ARCs need some sort of pinging alarm system to remind me of their digital expiration dates.

BooksYALove is a niche blog, so I'm picky about the ARCs that I choose, whether it's at Texas Library Conference or directly from publishers. And as for the ARCs themselves, I admit to having a love/hate relationship: 
I love being able to get ARCs so that I can read and recommend the best works from debut authors and smaller presses, but I hate the pile-up of non-sellable books (if print format) and the too-quick expiration of most digital ARCs.

Yes, I realize that publishers are wary of allowing digital-format ARCs to be "out in the wild" once the works are actually published, but I don't want to be forced to write a recommendation during their preset publicity schedule! Yes, word-of-mouth publicity just prior to publication date helps create "buzz" for a new book, but you'd think that publishers would like to also build up a groundswell of sales during the months (or years) following a book's birthday.

Best-case scenario for me is to read the book and write a recommendation during the digital ARC's open-time, then publish it on my schedule. So thanks to the urging of Bekka at Pretty Deadly Reviews, I'm signing up for the Netgalley Knockdown in July, trying to read all of the digital ARCs currently in my queue with Netgalley, Edelweiss, and directly from publishers, write up at least the barebones of any recommendations (since not every interesting-sounding book makes the cut for BooksYALove, you know), then decide when I want to blog them.

I'll keep choosing just the best ARCs to place on my real and virtual TBR shelves for books you won't want to miss. Lots of great reading ahead, y'all!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, by Marc Tyler Nobleman (nonfiction)

book cover of Bill the Boy Wonder Secret CoCreator of Batman by Marc Tyler Nobleman published by Charlesbridge
Gotham City,
Bruce Wayne,
The Dark Knight.

These words make us think immediately of Batman. Fans of the DC Comics series or the 1960s television show might even name Bob Kane as the character's creator.

But Batman had two fathers - and now his co-creator's story is finally being fully told through Marc Tyler Nobleman's careful research. Using the "Golden Age of Comics" style, illustrator Ty Templeton presents the pivotal events in the superhero's journey into print.

Whether you're a fan of comics in general or Batman in particular, you owe it to yourself to get this book to learn the true story behind the legend. Available now at your local library or independent bookstore.

Book info: Bill the Boy Wonder: the Secret Co-Creator of Batman / Marc Tyler Nobleman; illustrated by Ty Templeton. Charlesbridge, 2012.  [author's blog]     [illustrator's blog]     [book website]  [publisher site]    [book trailer]  

My Recommendation:
Bill Finger was so good at crafting secret identities that he co-created Batman, one of the greatest super-heroes in comics, while remaining in the shadows himself.

He changed his name from Milton to the less-Jewish-sounding Bill to avoid the widespread anti-Semitism in 1930s New York City. Although he wanted to be a writer, he took any job available during the Depression. Then he met cartoonist Bob Kane who asked Bill to write adventure stories that he could illustrate, just after the epic debut of Superman.

Challenged by their editor to create a new superhero, Bob sketched all weekend, but needed Bill’s inventive mind to make the character come to life. Taking Bob’s drawing of a red-clad Bat-man with large wings, Bill told him to change the small mask into a face-covering cowl with slitted eyeholes and pointed bat-ears, make the rigid batwings into a swirling cape, and clad their hero in all-black. This new superhero made DC Comics into a very successful company.

Bob took all the credit for Batman – in those times, it was common for a comic to use several illustrators and inkers to complete the drawings with just the main cartoonist being named. But even as the success of Batman grew, Bob refused to give Bill credit for being the series’ writer.

Bill’s strong storytelling skills gave Batman all the details that we recognize today – a human without superpowers, orphaned during a terrible crime, a vigilante detective protecting his city from master villains like the Joker and Catwoman. Bob called Bill a “boy wonder” because he kept coming up with ideas for the series; when Bill decided that the Dark Knight needed someone to talk to, another boy wonder came into being, Batman’s sidekick Robin.

It was widely known in the comics community that Bill wrote all the Batman comics stories, but it took decades before he was publicly recognized for his work in creating Batman’s character. Today, the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing honors the best story creators in the business.

Fittingly, the main events of Bill’s life and Batman’s origins are told in graphic novel format in this book, followed several pages of detailed information about Batman’s history and Bill’s family – a fascinating mystery finally brought to light in classic comic book style. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Listen up! (audio) - SYNC your reading with 2 free audiobooks weekly through August

teen girl with earbuds listening to SYNC free YA audiobooks
Audiobooks!  All summer!   FREE!

Yes, the SYNC program is back for summer 2012, providing two great audiobooks for you to download - free! - each week (Thursday-Wednesday).

One is a recent YA title, the other is a classic, both in full-audio recording by outstanding readers. Each title is downloaded separately and is available only during that week's download window.

The SYNC audiobooks use Overdrive (free download through the Audiobooksync page here) which many US public libraries also use for audiobook check-out. Once you've downloaded a SYNC title, it's yours - no due dates or expiration.

Here's the rest of the summer's lineup. Click on a link to read more about the book and its reading cast, and mark your calendar to download it during its scheduled week:

June 21 – June 27, 2012
Irises  by Francisco X. Stork, Read by Carrington MacDuffie (Listening Library)
Sense and Sensibility  by Jane Austen, Read by Wanda McCaddon (Tantor Media)

June 28 – July 4, 2012
The Amulet of Samarkand  by Jonathan Stroud, Read by Simon Jones (Listening Library)
Tales from the Arabian Nights  by Andrew Lang, Read by Toby Stephens (Naxos AudioBooks)

July 5 – July 11, 2012
Anna Dressed in Blood  by Kendare Blake, Read by August Ross (AudioGO)
The Woman in White  by Wilkie Collins, Read by Ian Holm (AudioGO)

July 12 – July 18, 2012
Guys Read: Funny Business  by Jon Scieszka [Ed.] et al., Read by Michael Boatman, Kate DiCamillo, John Keating, Jon Scieszka, Bronson Pinchot (Harper Audio)
The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Stories  by Mark Twain, Read by Norman Dietz (Recorded Books)

July 19 – July 25, 2012
Cleopatra’s Moon  by Vicky Alvear Shecter, Read by Kirsten Potter (Oasis Audio)
Antony and Cleopatra  by William Shakespeare, Read by a Full Cast (AudioGO)

July 26 – August 1, 2012
Pinned  by Alfred C. Martino, Read by Mark Shanahan (Listen & Live Audio)
TBA (Brilliance Audio)

August 2 – August 8, 2012
Daughter of Smoke and Bone  by Laini Taylor, Read by Khristine Hvam (Hachette Audio)
A Tale of Two Cities  by Charles Dickens, Read by Simon Prebble (Blackstone Audio)

August 9 – August 15, 2012
Skulduggery Pleasant  by Derek Landy, Read by Rupert Degas (Harper Audio)
Dead Men Kill  by L. Ron Hubbard, Read by Jennifer Aspen and a Full Cast (Galaxy Press)

August 16 – August 22, 2012
The Whale Rider  by Witi Ihimaera, Read by Jay Laga’aia (Bolinda Audio)
The Call of the Wild  by Jack London, Read by William Roberts (Naxos AudioBooks)

Please note that several of this summer's SYNC selections are available to listeners outside of the USA; check this list for details.

Thanks to these audiobook publishers, you can fill your mind with stories all summer, so mark your calendar to get the SYNC downloads you want.
Which title is tops on your personal listening list?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Amped, by Daniel H. Wilson (fiction) - amp your brain, lose your humanity?

book cover of Amped by Daniel H Wilson published by DoubledayWelcome to the near-future!
A simple implant negates epilepsy,
another upgrades low IQ,
yet another amplifies physical performance.

We're not talking 3-D headgear to improve complex visualizations - these are directly attached to relevant brain areas to control problems or enhance capabilities. Shouldn't disadvantaged children be given help to overcome obstacles to their success, to keep them off the welfare rolls as adults?

And people who don't use this technology - the pure humans - feel more-threatened every day by it. Should amps really be recognized as citizens? Aren't they now less than human because of their implants? From lawsuits to concentration camps to outright violence, if you're Amped, you're a target - until it's time to fight back!

The author of Robopocalypse brings us another all-too-possible view of a technology-enhanced future that's more nightmare than dream-come-true. Published in early June, you'll find Amped  at your local library or independent bookstore.

Book info: Amped / Daniel H. Wilson. Doubleday, 2012.  [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation: Brain implants to control seizures help millions like Owen; why shouldn’t implants help amplify limited intelligence or upgrade physical strength for those with challenges? Wealthy parents began enhancing their children’s mental skills and physical prowess with amp implantation, then The Uplift Act authorized amp implants for low-income kids to help them overcome long-standing disadvantages.

Soon, the “pure humans” worry that the “amps” have unfair advantages for college admissions, athletic contests, and job applications. Senator Vaughn and his Pure Pride organization file so many lawsuits against amps that their case goes to the Supreme Court.

Suddenly, amps are no longer full United States citizens, are hounded by Pure Pride, corralled into small enclaves under constant attack. All research on human amplification is stopped, and its leading researchers and doctors are arrested - if the authorities can reach them before they commit suicide.

A final message from his father shocks 29-year-old Owen to the core: his amp is not just for medical assistance, but contains information on amazing skills and abilities that he’ll be able to use some day.  All he has to do is cross half the country without being picked up by the FBI and find Dad’s friend Jim in Oklahoma for some answers.

Did Owen really want to find out about the Echo Company of amp-enhanced soldiers who can access levels of superhuman strength with the flick of a mental switch? Can this calm schoolteacher stand by while Pure Priders attack innocent kids who were amped under The Uplift Act so they could concentrate in class? And exactly what skills did his researcher father add to Owen’s amp?

Newspaper articles and news reports punctuate this fast-moving story, showing the rise and flow of public opinion and occasional outright propaganda in a future not-so-distant from today. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.