Sunday, December 8, 2013

2013 Goodreads Choice Awards

So it happened again. The 2013 Goodreads Choice Awards were announced this past week, and once again I haven't read most of the books that were nominated. Worse, I haven't read a single one of the winners. Sadly, it wasn't an unusual experience. I've been a member of Goodreads for a few years now, and since I joined I've voted on a few of the categories every year. My book choices have never been in contention. They usually don't even make the final round.

I suppose it's not the end of the world. I mean, if I'm being honest, the books I read usually aren't eligible to win the awards anyway. I'm so far behind on my to-read list that, most of the time, I don't read books until they've been out for a couple of years already. Books that qualified to win in 2013 had to have been published since late November of 2012, so you can see my dilemma. Most of the time, I don't know if my favorite reads from the past year were published in the past year. I don't expend much energy examining copyright dates. I certainly don't remember that information after I've finished reading.

In essence, my reading habits make me a lousy judge of the best books from a given year. Not that I'm discounting my opinion or advocating for the value of "highly-qualified" judges, but simply reading a lot doesn't turn someone into the ideal candidate to adjudicate which book deserves an award. If you've read my other posts on book awards, you already know I'm not a huge fan of the award concept to begin with. This is just for fun though, and a lot of people shared their opinion, so I'm willing to give the finalists and winning books a bit of respect. When I haven't read any of the books from my favorite categories though, it seems dishonest to state that I hold the honored books in high regard.

However, this year I've concocted a plan to do the Goodreads honorees some retroactive justice. It won't mean that my voting will be any better in the year to come, but it will mean I gave the books from this year's list a chance to impress me. I've decided to read all the finalist books from the picture book category and the winner and first runner up from the middle grade category in the coming months. I'm not going to create a timeline on when I'll finish, because all that invites is stress and disaster, but I plan to read House of Hades by Rick Riordan, Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman, and twenty picture books that I'm not going to bother listing here. I mean no disrespect to the picture book category, but twenty books is a lot for me to write and a lot for my few readers to read. I will say congratulations to picture book category winners Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffries for The Day the Crayons Quit. My father tells me that your book is wonderful, and I can't wait to read it as soon as I can nab his copy when he's not looking.

Picture book category winner
Well, I have a lot of reading ahead, but I'm up for it. I'll keep voting for the Goodreads Choice Awards in the years to come and if you've never heard of them, I encourage you to give them a look. Your opinion is as valuable as mine. If you find that you don't recognize any of the titles, don't be discouraged. You could always do what I'm doing. The way I see it, if I can't control the direction the ship is taking, at least I can analyze the resulting wreckage. There's my analogy for this issue. If you don't like it, feel free to substitute in something that you do like, and throw it in the comment section down below. Happy reading and enjoy your December everybody.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Season Greetings and a Few Season's Readings

I'm beginning to think I should rename this blog something like The Sporadic Reviewer or A Reader Writes Every So Often. After all, looking back on my posting history, I write in bursts of fervor that are immediately followed by dry spells that would leave the average reader wondering if I've been abducted by aliens (provided that they believe in that sort of thing). Here I am, back for another post, and it's been about six months since my last foray into the blogging universe. I hope you weren't holding your breath.

I suppose the irony of these blogging lulls is that they very rarely coincide with reading lulls. This summer and fall have been great reading times for me. I've read well over a hundred books since my last post. I've previewed easily three hundred more. That's something I've been doing a lot lately. I have a Nook Color e reader and I use the thing constantly, though I don't buy many books on it. Instead, I shop the Barnes and Noble marketplace for new and interesting fiction and I download the preview for books that I like. After reading the preview, I decide if it's a book that I'd like to buy a print copy of. The previews are free, so I get to do what I would do if I were allowed to spend all the time I'd like to browsing a bookstore.

For every misunderstood
super villain, there is a
chance for redemption.
I have a favorite book of the year. It was The Cloak Society by Jeramey Kraatz, a book about a super villain in training and the dilemma he faces as he comes to terms with the idea that he's been fighting on the wrong side his entire life. The young super villain is part of a collective of super villains that includes his parents, and his internal struggle of loyalty versus following his conscience is a emotionally charged roller coaster. Kraatz is a new author for me, but his debut blew me away. There's a second book in his Cloak Society series already, and I've been looking forward to picking it up for a while. I kind of can't believe that I have already.

A great Veteran's Day read.
I've read a few picture books that were equally impressive in the past few months. The Poppy Lady is the Veteran's Day picture book that I've been looking for for years. It tells the story of Moina Belle Michael, an obscure historical figure whose efforts to honor the efforts of WWI and WWII veterans resulted in the sale of poppies on Veteran's and Memorial Day to this day. I have to admit that when I read this, I didn't know anything about poppy importance and I'd certainly never heard of Moina Belle Michael. This one of those circumstances where I read, I called my fellow teachers up, and by that afternoon I had a lesson planned that involved reading The Poppy Lady to an entire grade level.

I wish I had the determination
of the bird in this story.
More recently, and on a far less serious note, I thoroughly enjoyed How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills. Here is a book that every teacher can appreciate. Rocket is a dog that enjoys the dog life. He is simple-minded, content in his routine, and happy. Then he meets a bird that messes all of that up, and he's a lot better off because of it. The bird is what really won me over in this book. He's truly unflappable (excuse the awful pun) in his mission to make Rocket a reader. Rocket turns out to fit the prototype of reluctant readers to the letter. The bird wins him over with great literature that Rocket just can't ignore, which is usually the best way. For anyone who's ever met the kid that that just didn't want to like reading, no matter what you try, this book is here to reinforce your beliefs and reassure you that your efforts are worth it. It's a simple ten-minute read, but you won't regret it. I didn't.

Anyway, if this is the holiday season for you, have a good one. If it's not the holiday season, I hope that  these books brighten your winter months. Of course, if you're reading this in the southern hemisphere and the temperature is approaching that of boiling water, maybe an air conditioner is a higher priority at the moment. Give these books a look when you get a chance. Happy reading, everyone.