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  • fairrosa 5:18 pm on September 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Because of the books I’ve been reading, I have been learning about Nigerian history and contemporary politics, the 60s America, especially in Mississippi but also overseas in Vietnam and the important people during that time, including LBJ, and about more fantastic creatures in Russian folklore.

     
  • fairrosa 12:22 am on September 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Found some old poems — and am moving them on to My Igloo Press blog — and will continue to write and post there, too!

     
  • fairrosa 11:02 pm on September 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    National Book Award Young Readers Long List 

    10 titles are on this list.  Which five will advance to be the finalists?  Let the speculation begin!  We have a whole month to read and compare.

    A few initial observations.  As it stands now, the real firmly trumps the fantastic.  The ten titles are from six publishing houses no stranger to awards and accolades. (I am combining Penguin and Random House here.) Six titles are by female authors.  One book is set in Africa.  Three others feature African American characters, stories, or history.  One of the ten authors is non-white. 

    * The Impossible Knife of Memory
    * Girls Like Us
    * Skink—No Surrender
    * Greenglass House
    * Threatened
    * The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights
    * 100 Sideways Miles
    * Noggin
    * Revolution: The Sixties Trilogy, Book Two
    * Brown Girl Dreaming

     
  • fairrosa 9:44 am on September 14, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    New trend? 

    Some of my high school students who witnessed the unpacking of publisher’s submissions this summer were slightly scandalized upon seeing this group of book covers.  Many of them are from the same imprint, but not all.  Is this a new trend in in YA cover design (gone with the partial faces and showing of only body parts?) Take a look through the Goodreads Popular 2014 YA list: https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/ya-2014 and see what unfolds.

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  • fairrosa 8:10 pm on September 13, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Do I have the right to be angry… 

    … at the really badly penned lyrics of a potentially interesting and weird Rock Musical? I sat through this off-Broadway production in painful silence, averting my eyes to the stage and the actors because I felt so sorry for them, having to deliver those lyrics! And anger simmered in my gut the whole time: how dare someone put on stage this production: in public, sell tickets, and demand all the production crew’s time and energy without at least putting SOME effort in coming up with more than 1 verse per song? Or at times, more than 10 words per song? The inane repetitive lyrics do not drive the points into the mind of this audience member but away from her thoughts – I tuned most of the words and ideas out when they were repeated 20 times over. I guess I just really dislike when I know that something could have been made better if only a little more effort was put into the process or perhaps the creators had bothered to seek some honest opinions to improve the results!

    Then some doubts set in. Do I have the right to be angry at something that is quite subjective. Apparently someone must have liked it enough, or is not bothered by the lack of writing talent to appreciate the production as a whole: weird but interesting world, most actors are capable or even quite talented, and a storyline that is simplistic and juvenile but at least has a convincing enough arc.

    All of these thoughts brought me back to the discussion of books and their flaws. I sometimes get really mad (or disappointed) when I find certain aspects or elements or devices in a book sub-par, and believe that these flaws could have been easily fixed. Sometimes, they become quite “fatal” and ruin my enjoyment of the whole. Over at Educating Alice, Monica Edinger wrote about her reaction to the Heavy Medal discussion on Fatal Flaws that might ruin the chances of a children’s book winning the Newbery. Fascinating discussion and valuable thoughts to digest. One person’s fatal flaw can be merely a blemish to another viewer or reader.

     
  • fairrosa 6:04 pm on September 12, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Review: Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us 

    Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us
    Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us by Claude M. Steele
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Although so much of the book seems like Common Sense to me, it’s always great to be reminded of our own biases and strategies that can alleviate tension and reduce misunderstanding and thus foster a positive learning environment for our students. I felt my time worth spent on this volume.

    View all my reviews

     
  • fairrosa 12:03 pm on September 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Here’s the updated BFYA nomination list as of September 4, 2014: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/bfya-nominations

    The newly added titles since the discussion in June to this list are: (more titles on the internal document — they will appear in the next update, I imagine.)

    Brezenoff, Steve. Guys in Real Life. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. 2014. 400 p. ISBN: 978-0-06-226683-5. When Lesh literally runs into Leah on his bike after a drunken night at a metal show, neither would guess their gamer worlds would collide romantically.

    Fredericks, Mariah. Season of the Witch. Random House/Schwartz and Wade. 2013. 256 p. ISBN: 978-0-449-81277-8. Tired of being bullied, Toni turns to a new friend and the possibility of revenge using hexes, spells, and other psychic abilities – witchcraft, in short.

    Giles, Gail. Girls Like Us. Candlewick Press. 2014. 224 p. ISBN: 978-0-7636-6267-7. Special ed graduates Quincy and Biddy move in together and discover an unlikely friendship as they navigate the challenges and often cruel complexities of living in the real world.

    Kuehn, Stephanie. Complicit. St. Martin’s Griffin. 2014. 256 p. ISBN: 978-1-250-04459-4. After two years, Jamie’s sister Cate has been released from juvenile detention threatening Jamie’s sanity and memories as he seeks out the truth about their shared past.

    Miller, Lauren. Free to Fall. HarperTeen. 2014. 480 p. ISBN: 978-0-06-219980-5. When Rory is accepted to the prestigious Theden Academy, she discovers a biotech conspiracy that could change civilization as we know it. The question: Will she survive her discovery?

    Pearson, Mary E. The Kiss of Deception. Holt. 2014. 496 p. ISBN: 978-0-8050-9923-2-51799. When 17-year-old Princess Lia flees an arranged marriage, the prince she has jilted sets off in pursuit of her. But so, too, does a trained assassin whose mission is to kill her. Who will find her first?

    Sedgwick, Marcus. She Is Not Invisible. Roaring Brook Press. 2014. 224 p. ISBN: 978-1596438019. When Laureth’s writer father goes missing from their British home, she impulsively decides to go to New York to find him. There’s only one problem: she’s blind.

     
  • fairrosa 10:22 am on September 2, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Summer YA Fiction Submissions 

    This is what I will unpack today. Reading at a frantic pace must commence NOW!  2014 Fall and Winter titles of YA fiction have been steadily delivered during summer break….

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  • fairrosa 9:01 pm on August 30, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    I’m currently reading…

    Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect UsShe Is Not Invisible

     
  • fairrosa 4:47 pm on August 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Sipping Rose Infused Tea 

    Drinking Pu-Er Tea infused with rose bought in a small tea shop on the northern path by the Greek Lake in Kunming, I sit in my living room and continue to remember and digest all this past summer contained — a summer unlike any other. I tried to summarize the experience of my 15-day trip and here’s the result (as posted on the Yak Yak board at WhereThereBeDragons.)

    More thoughts will come along and I decided to start using this blog to include more than just children’s and YA lit. book notes.

    Posted: August 20, 2014

    Practical, Cultural, Personal

    It has been almost 3 weeks since leaving Kunming and all the other cities/towns (Shaxi, Weishan, Weibaoshan, Shuanlang, Baoshan, Pupiao, etc.) I visited during the 15-day program with Dragons. On July 30th, I flew from Kunming to Shanghai and then to Vancouver to join my husband for a 2-week Alaskan cruise and did not get back to New York City until last Saturday. Much to sort through both in practical matters (laundry, pet care, grocery shopping) and internal matters — Dragons propelled me go through a most existentially challenging summer the intensity of which I cannot recall experiencing since in my 20s.

    Living a mere couple of blocks away from The 9/11 Memorial Ground which is now open to the public, I am used to threading my way through hundreds of tourists every time I need to get somewhere in the city (a ten-minute walk takes me to subway lines to the rest of the five boroughs.) This morning marked the first time I took that familiar walk since leaving for the China Educators program five weeks ago. And I was keenly aware of the reversal of roles – I, THE “local” and THEY, THE “tourists.” In my mind, I repeated the Dragons’ mantra: Tourist vs Traveler. Some of THEM surely are immersed travelers and aware of the culture and history of this place, but a whole lot of THEM surely are just tourists. By looking at me, a 4-foot-11, 51-year old Chinese woman, wearing sandals and a bamboo basket, who would know that I’m not a tourist/traveler? And how can I tell for sure that some of them are not 9/11 victims families coming from Brooklyn or New Jersey to pay tribute and respect to their loved ones?

    Thinking further: I’m not even sure that I can truly label myself as a “local” — being here for 23 years after growing up and educated in Taiwan kind of makes me only a semi-local, doesn’t it? Where could I truly call home? Taipei where I was raised? New York City where I reside now? Baoshan which was printed as my “origin city” on my Taiwan national ID?

    These kinds of multi-stepped thoughts manifested on an hourly-basis while I was with Dragons.

    They cropped up while the leaders, Max and Yingzhao, walked the five of us in the group through practical exercises for educators who might be leading a student group to a foreign country following Dragons’ experiential model. I took quite a bit of notes and asked a lot of questions about the stages of Group Dynamics, about the basics of Non Violent Communication (which I thought perhaps could be termed Non Aggressive Communication,) meditation techniques, and different icebreakers and check-in techniques. The hows, the whys, and the why-nots. The could it be…. and couldn’t it be… s as well. Whatever was given to us, I wanted to dig up more!

    Then there were the more complex issues of cultural adaptations, interpretations, mis-interpretations, encounters, understandings and misunderstandings. My life-long knowledge of Chinese history, geography, literature, and traditions both enriched my experiences during those 15 days and challenged my status as a “knowing” but “foreign” outsider. I don’t even know what an average monthly salary for a middle school teacher is and how is that compared to the living standard: what is the monthly rent for a 3-bedroom apartment and how much it will cost to buy such a unit? I don’t know who the most popular local singers are and where might I buy a reasonably priced rice cooker. I observed, I photographed, and I talked and talked and talked to any locals that would talk back to me. Making friends with Mr. Ma who had a sweet-soup stand in the courtyard shopping ground within the Green Lake Park gave me just a little window into the life of a local shop owner. He and his family are believers of the Islamic faith. They just finished observing Ramadan. The ingredients of their food come from rural Yunnan. His daughter is studying to go to college, and along with his wife and his nephew, who is 24, helps him with running the shop. Business is decent. We talked about my family root in Yunnan and the political relationships between Taiwan and China. His nephew firmly believes that Taiwan should just be absorbed as an official Province (or special political unit) of China. And I found out that the attitude toward Chiang Kai Shek and his military strategies during WWII, fighting against the Japanese invasion, has completely changed in China in the past few years. Now they recognize his and Kuomintang’s achievements. This altered view was confirmed time and time again by others whom I met during the time in Kunming. Much to my joy and relief, since being an army brat of the Kuomintang armed forces, I had always feared the animosity that could be hurled my way if my affiliation had been revealed.

    Meeting Lao Zhang, an artist and writer, who survived and thrived after The Cultural Revolution added even more cultural perspectives. I learned yet more from too many others to detail here…. Mr. Yu, a total stranger who gave me a ride and helped me find my ancestral home, my cousins, Ms. Ji, who runs a cafe in Shaxi, Shitou (Rock – a 25-year-old woman from Shandong province) who served as my impromptu tour guide in Shaxi, the Taoist priest who showed me the scripture he was reciting in the morning “lesson,” the girls who mind the shops in Baoshan, etc.

    Holding all of the information in my mind, feeling the powerful emotion of “going back to the motherland” for the first time in my heart, and trying to learn new techniques of group management while being part of a group that’s being managed, was truly too overwhelming for me to absorb at once in such a short time. (Not to mention miraculously finding my relatives separated since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, 65 years ago.)

    This finally led to the toughest, most complex, and mind-shattering aspect of the whole trip: my personal identity struggles. My many years of complacency of self-worth, self-awareness, and self-understanding were jolted by the thunder and lightning of an internal flash storm which questioned whether I actually knew myself — what was my own identity? Stripped off of the coziness constructed with long time friends, a loving family, fairly established professional standing, and the most satisfying dream-job, and many other aspects of my daily existence such as the art and music I love, I had an opportunity to examine me as ME, raw. It was a frightening experience, one that I am still trying to recover from, and yet it was also a truly incredible experience, leaving me hopeful that I might have learned a couple of new things, even though I did not go on this trip to re-establish my self-awareness or re-construct my ways of relating to others.
    It has been almost 3 weeks since leaving China… and I am still re-considering priorities, trying to decipher reasons behind my fears and reluctances, and figuring out how I can improve fluency in empathy.

     
  • fairrosa 2:11 pm on July 31, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Scavenger Hunt and More Food 

    This is from July 17th.  Internet speed prevented me from uploading this in Kunming’s hostel.

    The five educators in this program were put into two groups this morning and went around parts of Kunming to gather information and sample local cultures.  I went with Kabe and Feances.  Some of our tasks involved eating: dou hua mi xian for breakfast and local tea hunt;

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    others involve asking locals for information such as Kunming dialect and a baby’s name.  The best part for me was to actually stroll around the campus is Yunnan University, a place that my father once was and something only existed in my memory from reading Lu Qiao’s novel.  (The title escaped me for now but I will find it soon.)

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    Lunch was Muslim special food.  I got beef with thinly sliced squash pieces.  Spicy, of course.

    We did a lot of course work today: both on risk management for our own travels and for when we bring a group of students on such journeys and on the design and execution of scavenger hunts as a way to familiarize oneself and the group to the place we stay at.

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    Dinner was an amazing unlimited refillable vegetarian meal.  At $5.00 USD per person we had more than ten dishes to eat and to refill whenever one dish is finished by the group.  I got to eat to my heart’s content millet congee with white sugar and pumpkin.  The white cabbage was especially yummy and the mimic bacon made with hard dou fu and cumin was equally delicious.

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  • fairrosa 10:25 am on July 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Food Log 

    When I have a chance, this will be updated.
    Second day in Kunming, noon-ish

    Nothing really extraordinary to report. Had Er Kuai, a local favorite thin rice crepe, with choices of fillings. I got peanut sauce.

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    Hoping for the kind of traditional home made soy milk, I went to a small shop advertising freshly pressed soy milk. It turned out to be made with a blender:

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    It tastes OK though.

    Didn’t eat much while exploring the city on foot for another two hours until encountering deep fried various edibles with chili powder. I got lotus roots stuffed with sticky rice and oyster mushrooms. Each skewer is 2 renminbi = 30 cents. Here I am holding them… Truly delicious:
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    Back to Lost Garden around noon, and since I wanted to take advantage of sitting in the rooftop restaurant and writing and reading, I ordered the following for “lunch” given the lack of gluten free choices here: French fries, an egg and yogurt.

    First Day in Kunming

    Breakfast/lunch at the hostel.  Eggs bacon and small salad.

    As I roamed the streets, couldn’t help but buy and eat:

    A small bag of sunflower seeds, salted on the street in a huge sieve

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    Three bunches of beautiful green grapes, tasting exactly like what I remember from childhood, measured with old fashioned scale.

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    A hot sweet soup with shaved walnuts, dragon eye fruit, ginger, and red dates

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    A skewer of street lamb bone joints.

    Dinner is at a modern Japanese restaurant: cold sake with lemon, four sushi pieces with octopus and salmon, a pot of savory tofu soup…. This dinner cost me a whopping $12.50 USD.

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  • fairrosa 5:57 am on July 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    In Kunming, Yunnan, At Home 

    This really feels like home.  Mostly it reminds me of Taipei and a Taipei as I left it in late 80s: there is a energetic blend of the older and the newer.  Nothing is so ancient as to lose its connection to current life and nothing is too at the front of the world stage to feel absurd.  It feels just right.

    I have talked to a sixth grade girl at the airport: her favorite pastime is to stay in her room, playing classical music both western and Chinese as background for reading good books.

    The cab driver and I and a guy selling local specialty foodstuff are all from the same generation…within the same decade… Everything and everyone just feels familiar and easy going.

    The Green Lake Part 翠湖 proves to be highly enjoyable, clean and beautiful and family friendly.

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    • medinger 6:21 am on July 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      So happy for you!

      • fairrosa 6:55 am on July 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        Can you share this on Facebook for me? Tag my name. Since I can’t make Facebook or Google work here at all. Thank goodness for WordPress.

  • fairrosa 5:52 am on July 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    In Kunming, Yunnan, At Home 

    This really feels like home.  Mostly it reminds me of Taipei and a Taipei as I left it in late 80s: there is a energetic blend of the older and the newer.  Nothing is so ancient as to lose its connection to current life and nothing is too at the front of the world stage to feel absurd.  It feels just right.

    I have talked to a sixth grade girl at the airport: her favorite pastime is to stay in her room, playing classical music both western and Chinese as background for reading good books.

    The cab driver and I and a guy selling local specialty foodstuff are all from the same generation…within the same decade… Everything and everyone just feels familiar and easy going.

    The Green Lake Part 翠湖 proves to be highly enjoyable, clean and beautiful and family friendly.

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  • fairrosa 5:21 pm on July 9, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Finished Sinner and Glass Casket. Currently working on Complicit and Conversion. Both intriguing. Downloaded galleys and library ebooks: about 16 or so for the upcomin month long international travel reading needs. Hopefully will get a few of them done since two weeks of the travel will be mostly taken by scheduled course work.

     
  • fairrosa 12:20 pm on July 7, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    ALSC and its newly revised policy on members who serve on the committee 

    Over at Horn Book, Roger Sutton, the editor in chief, recently published an editorial that sparked a bit of a discussion and controversy over the January 2014 revised Policy for Service on Award Committees. This is a publicly accessible document that governs various aspects of members of such committees such as Sibert (for nonficiton,) Newbery (for text) and Caldecot (for illustrations) awards for American Children’s Books published each year. I posted quite a few comments there but decided also to add some thoughts here. One of my biggest concern as a long-time ALSC member (and former Newbery member twice over and Notable Children’s Books selection committee, among other non-book related committees) is how the Division itself “regards” its member body. The preamble of this document states:

    “ALSC affirms its confidence in the integrity of members who are invited to be nominated or appointed to serve on award committees, and in the integrity of the officers or nominating committees responsible for selecting candidates. Because of the nature of the work of such committees, those who serve on them must be especially sensitive to conflict of interest situations and the appearance of impropriety. The purpose of this policy is to clarify the eligibility and responsibility of candidates asked to serve on such committees.”

    To me, the first two sentences are antithesis to each other — I mentally translated these two sentences to: Great, the Division states first and foremost that IT trusts implicitly the integrity of ITS members (librarians, classroom teachers, reviewers, professors, etc.) and that they will behave professionally and with civility while they serve on these highly sought after committee posts (paying their own way to attend conferences and donating at least a whole year of their time to read and think and discuss the eligible titles). Oh-but wait wait, the second sentence negate all that was implied in the first sentence. It seems to be saying that “since you, the DIVISION’S members who have the privilege (as pointed out later in the document) to serve on such committees really don’t know how to behave using print or online media, you must be told exactly what you can and cannot do because, um…. we actually don’t trust you at all without spelling everything out and without putting a muzzle on all your opinion outlets (in this newly revised guideline, the outlets include blogs, twitter, official and professional signed reviews, etc.)

    In the older version of the document, it was pointed out that one can always express one’s personal opinions over eligible titles even while serving on the committee as long as one makes it amply clear that it’s a personal expression and the process is to be trusted — 15 people with 15 different opinions and affiliations and experiences tend to cancel out all the “personal” stuff and come to a communal decision that serves the public well. The new policy revision seems to me to put huge stock on a few people’s personal’s opinions and place little or no trust in the time-honored, although often seemingly mysterious, process of how Newbery, Caldecott, and other children’s book award winning titles are chosen.

    Just want to clarify: you’re still allowed to verbally express your personal opinions with your colleagues or friends or patrons — just never to publish them anywhere.

     
  • fairrosa 12:56 pm on July 3, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Realized that All the Bright Places won’t be published until January ’15! Have to stop reading it and moved on to something different: Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater which just came out a couple of days ago. And also finishing Glass Casket.

     
  • fairrosa 1:53 pm on July 2, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    I had the most fun in Las Vegas with the Best Fiction for Young Adults (BFYA) committee — discussing books in an intellectually invigorating and extremely civilized fashion. Here’s the list of titles we delved quite deeply into:

    Alexander, Kwame
    Almond, David
    Anderson, Laurie Halse
    Armentrout, Jennifer
    Bedford, Martyn
    Blankman, Anne
    Brown, Jennifer
    Brown, Skila
    Burgess, Melvin
    Carleson, J.C.
    Colbert, Brandy
    Combs, Sarah
    Dellaira, Ava
    Fredericks, Mariah
    Giles, Lamar
    Green, Sally
    Han, Jenny
    Hattemer, Kate
    Herbach, Geoff
    Hubbard, Jenny
    Johnston, E.K.
    Kephart, Beth
    Kiely, Brendan
    LaCour, Nina
    Lockhart, E.
    Maciel, Amanda
    Oliver, Lauren
    Paige, Danielle
    Philbrick, Rodman
    Reinhardt, Dana
    Reynolds, Jason
    Rutkoski, Marie
    Shepherd, Megan
    Shinoda, Anna
    Smith, Andrew
    Smith, Jennifer E.
    Smith, Lindsay
    Strasser, Todd
    Taylor, Laini
    Templeman, McCormick
    Venkatraman, Padma
    Vlahos, Len
    Waller, Sharon Biggs
    Walton, Leslye
    Whaley, John Corey
    Crossover
    The True Tale of Monster Billy Dean
    The Impossible Knife of Memory
    Don’t Look Back: You Won’t Like What You Find
    Never Ending
    Prisoner of Night and Fog
    Torn Away
    Caminar
    The Hit
    The Tyrant’s Daughter
    Pointe
    Breakfast Served Anytime
    Love Letters to the Dead
    Season of the Witch
    Fake ID
    Half Bad
    To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
    The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy
    Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders
    And We Stay
    The Story of Owen: Dragonslayer of Troneheim
    Going Over
    The Gospel of Winter
    Everything Leads to You
    We Were Liars
    Tease
    Panic
    Dorothy Must Die
    Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina
    We Are the Goldens
    When I Was the Greatest
    The Winner’s Curse
    Her Dark Curiosity
    Learning Not to Drown
    Grasshopper Jungle
    The Geography of You and Me
    Sekret
    No Place
    Dreams of Gods and Monsters
    The Glass Casket
    A Time to Dance
    The Scar Boys
    A Mad, Wicked Folly
    The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
    Noggin

    On Saturday afternoon, local teens came and gave their feedback. The ones that got the most support are:

    Grasshopper Jungle, Tyrant’s Daughter, When I Was the Greatest, A Mad Wicked Folly, and Noggin.

    About half of the titles on the list received more than 9 YES votes at the informal straw poll. As a collective, even when we have drastically different opinions, all well substantiated, we should be able to offer the world a solid slate of high quality BEST FICTION of 2014 (BFYA 2015) in early February!

     
  • fairrosa 10:06 am on July 2, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Currently reading: All the Bright Places by Jennnifer Niven (galley)

     
  • fairrosa 10:05 am on July 2, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Since last update: finished — Tease, The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, Never Ending, Crosscover, Prisoner of Night and Fog, Lover Letters to the Dead, Winner’s Curse, Going Over, The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim, Breakfast Served Anytime, Fake ID, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Gospel of Winer, We Are the Goldens, No Place, A Time to Dance, The Scar Boys, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

     
    • danaeleu 12:26 pm on July 2, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I wish I had thought to ask about Going Over. That is one of my absolute favorites of the year, but I’m seeing split opinions.

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