Sunday, January 31, 2010

February Giveaways at Harper Teen!

Harper Teen  has a fabulous February in the works with their contest: The 28 Days of Winter Escapes. It's a book-a-day giveaway that starts now. Go to their website to enter and get more information. The first book is The Amanda Project: Book 1 Invisible I.  If you want to follow the tweets or if you're so excited that you want to post about it, the hashtag is #28daygiveaway. This will be so exciting!


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Booking Through Thursday - Twisty

Jackie says, “I love books with complicated plots and unexpected endings. What is your favourite book with a fantastic twist at the end?”
So, today’s question is in two parts.
1. Do YOU like books with complicated plots and unexpected endings?
 I don't know about complicated plots - it's like a large Russian novel - too many characters - too many subplots - and suddenly reading becomes an assignment rather than an experience. HOWEVER, I love unexpected endings! 
2. What book with a surprise ending is your favorite? Or your least favorite?
 My favorite twisty books I've read recently: 
Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

If I want to hunt down the author, kidnap them and force them to finish the next book, then it's a keeper.

I look forward to your own list so I can expand my TBR list. So far: Sister's Keeper

Monday, January 25, 2010

Crossing the Bridge - Michael Baron

Title: Crossing the Bridge
Author: Michael Baron
Publisher: The Story Plant
Publication Date: January 5, 2010
Paperback: 352 pages
ISBN: 978-0981956817
Genre: Romance

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

From the back cover: Hugh Penders has been stuck in neutral for nearly a decade since his brother Chase died in a car accident. He carries with him two secrets that he has never been able to share with anyone: that he believes he might have been able to prevent the accident, and that he was deeply in love with Chase's girlfriend, Iris.
My thoughts:
When Hugh is called back to Amber, his hometown, in order to help his parents deal with his father's heart attack and look after the stationary store, Hugh must stop running away from his past and face the fact that he hasn't moved on after Chase's death. He has gone from one mindless job to another, not able to take a chance on success or on love. Instead, he's been pining for his brother's girlfriend, Iris. I think the premise has the makings of a great love story, but it takes Hugh so long to realize that he's sabotaging himself, that I felt myself getting really irritated by this protagonist.

Iris didn't fare much better for me. It's not just Hugh that is stuck in neutral. When Hugh comes to help in his father's stationary shop and he runs into Iris, all his feelings for her come raging back. At first Iris seems to want him. Then she just wants to be friends. Then she seems to want him again. Then not.

Hugh's dad is depressed about his illness and refuses to go out of the house or even attempt to go upstairs to his bedroom. The first half of the book is about people who are stuck, in one way or another, and I wanted everyone to shout or cry or rage instead of being polite, and logical and safe.

Despite my irritation with Hugh, Baron kept me reading because I just knew that Hugh had to wake up sometime, and after half the book, he finally starts showing initiative, and Baron expertly reveals each person's secrets at the right time to keep me interested. In the end, it was a pretty satisfying read.

I received Crossing the Bridge by Lou Aronica from The Story Plant for an honest review.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

In My Mailbox (2)

In My Mailbox is a cool meme by The Story Siren.

Now that my youngest son has Saturday baseball practice across town, it's a perfect opportunity to visit our public library- especially since he now has his own book blog and he reads so fast. I need to keep him supplied. Here's what I got:

Ghostgirl: Homecoming by Tonya Hurley
This is the second ghostgirl book. In this one, Charlotte is abandoned by her friends, stuck in a cubicle doing a job she doesn't want to do. This is not her idea of heaven. Ace of Cakes did a great ghostgirl cake, and this is probably a book that I'll end up buying because of the cover.

 My Most Excellent Year: a Novel of love, Mary Poppins and Fenway Park by Steve Kluger
From Booklist:Boston teens T. C. and Augie are such close friends that their families acknowledge them as brothers. Alejandra has recently arrived from Washington, D.C., where her father served as a Mexican ambassador to the U.S. Written in multiple voices and nontraditional formats, including instant messages and school assignments, Kluger’s crowded, exuberant novel follows the three high-school freshman through an earth-shaking year in which musical-theater-obsessed Augie realizes that he is gay, Alejandra reveals her theatrical talents to disapproving parents, and T. C. tries to make a deaf child’s greatest wish come true.
What did you get?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Free Online Book: Wondrous Strange

Thanks to Harper Teen, read Wondrous Strange  by Lesley Livingston for free (limited time).
From the publishers:
For seventeen-year-old actress Kelley Winslow, faeries are just something from childhood stories. Then she meets Sonny Flannery, whose steel-gray eyes mask an equally steely determination to protect her.
Sonny guards the Samhain Gate, which connects the mortal realm with the Faerie's enchanted, dangerous Otherworld. Usually kept shut by order of icy King Auberon, the Gate stands open but once a year.
This year, as the time approaches when the Samhain Gate will swing wide and nightmarish Fae will fight their way into an unsuspecting human world, something different is happening . . . something wondrous and strange. And Kelley's eyes are opening not just to the Faerie that surround her but to the heritage that awaits her.
Now Kelley must navigate deadly Faerie treachery—and her growing feelings for Sonny—in this dazzling page-turner filled with luminous romance.
Sounds fabulous! Enjoy.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Recommend Me Friday

Recommend Me is a new meme hosted by Neverending Shelf. Each Friday, pick a favorite read, whether it's a recent read or one that is a touchstone book for you.

To play along, grab a favorite read and tell us about it. You can include your thoughts about the novel, its summary, your favorite memory related to the novel... the possibilities are limitless. If you are up for a challenge, you can also include:
  • Your review of the novel
  • Links to others' reviews of the novel
  • Recommending to a general group of readers or if you want to be extra daring, to specific reader friends
 My pick:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

From Goodreads:
Lawyer Atticus Finch defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic, Puliter Prize-winning novel, a black man charged with the rape of a white woman. Through the eyes of Atticus's children, Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unanswering honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930's.

Throughout my teaching career I have been an outlier in my departments because I chose to close the door in my classroom and shun the sacred literary canon, replacing the "classics" with more contemporary, minority literature. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the exceptions. Yes it's a classic, but the story was so far ahead of its time that Scout is still fresh and sassy and timeless. Lee is a master storyteller  with strong subplots and memorable characters: Scout, Jem, Atticus, Dill and Boo Radley.

BTT: Favorite Unknown

Who’s your favorite author that other people are NOT reading? The one you want to evangelize for, the one you would run popularity campaigns for? The author that, so far as you’re concerned, everyone should be reading–but that nobody seems to have heard of. You know, not JK Rowling, not Jane Austen, not Hemingway–everybody’s heard of them. The author that you think should be that famous and can’t understand why they’re not…
Join this meme here.

In Hawaii, we have so many wonderful authors that just are not as well known outside of the islands. I have been blessed to meet so many of them, and they are strong advocates for our kids and for local literature in the schools. Ian MacMillan who passed away at the end of 2008  was a prolific writer, a willing mentor and an all-around kind spirit. He was a recipient of the Hawaii Award for Literature, the Elliott Cades Award for Literature, and numerous other prizes and distinctions. Ian passed away on 18 December after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer. 

Some of my favorite reads from Ian:

The Seven Orchids about a crew of misfit women canoe paddlers who find each other on Moloka'i. They are dealing with depressison, divorce, alcoholism. . .but when they find an old koa canoe linked to a tragic love story, the women find new strength in dealing with their lives as well as a new purpose: to cross the Moloka'i channel in the koa canoe.

Village of a Million Spirits: a novel of the Treblinka Uprising is part of a trilogy about the Holocaust, but what makes this book so disturbing and profound is the way that he introduces a character only to lead him shortly afterwards to the door of a gas chamber. The technique kept me off balance and horrified, and yet I kept reading. 

Ullambana and other stories of Hawaii   From the lead story, in which a boy learns an important lesson in life from a prostitute, to the title story, a novella in which a young man does his best to comfort his mother and help her through her final days, these are stories about life in Hawaii.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Booking Through Thursday Flap or Not?

Suggested by Prairie Progressive:
Do you read the inside flaps that describe a book before or while reading it?
If the book grabs me on the first two pages, I don't read the flap unless I hit a confusing patch in the novel. If I start wondering why I'm reading, then I'll read the flap. However, I like the option of reading the flap or not reading the flap. Pet peeve: publishers and authors that don't write anything useful on the flap.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Manga Thursday 1/14/10

To celebrate manga and graphic novels, highlight one you read/are reading this week by

  • posting a picture of the book
  • posting sample artwork 
  • posting a 7-word synopsis 
That's it.  If you don't have a blog, use the comments or post to Mr. Linky below.
My example:

Shaun Tan
Arthur A. Levine Books, February 2009

"the water buffalo"

Look closely: suburbia holds fantastical, magical oddities.

What are you reading?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

 Tales from Outer Suburbia
Shaun Tan
96 Pages
Young Adult
Arthur A. Levine Books (February 1, 2009)

Shaun Tan's graphic novels are quirky in their vision of a world that looks like our own, and yet it opens up all the fantastical aspects hiding under the mundane. Like Tan's wordless graphic novel The Arrival, Tales tells layered stories even without words. These are tales of suburbia with a twist. The tales start with our separation from ourselves, from our neighbors, even from our environment, but somewhere very close, there is hope and redemption.

In these tales we see desolation: the green painted concrete front yards where no tree will grow, the attic that's so hot that the plastic Christmas tree melts to the bottom of the roof. But the people on these pages, mostly through sheer dumb luck find beauty - whether it's a lush inner courtyard hidden until someone accidentally falls through the ceiling, or the unique uses of our own intercontinental ballistic missile, there's hope that we won't totally lose our humanity.

My favorite was the piece called "Distant Rain" written like a found poem and looking like a collage of random words and phrases pieced together into "accidental verse" about what happens to poems that people write but never show others, attracted, pieced together and forming a ball of poetry until it comes back to earth in a billion soggy shreds.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Books to Movies Teaser - February

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Release Date: February 12
MPAA (not yet rated)
based on the book by Rick Riordan

Friday, January 8, 2010

Stop My Heart and Execute Me

There was a NY Times Op-Ed piece by Colum McCann on December 27, "Titles of the Times" that talks about the author's relationship with America, and literature and history. It's a well written piece with prose that begs to be read aloud, but one sentence continues to haunt me.
Literature can stop my heart and execute me for a moment, allow me to become someone else.
When I think about the literature that I love. . . when I think about the characters that I still wonder about, as if they are good friends that I've lost touch of, but still wonder about. . .these are the books that have stopped my heart. These are the books that have wedged themselves into my na'au (my guts). I reread them over the years and still find myself gasping for breath, even when I know what will happen. I mourn anew. I rage against the injustice as if it were the first injustice.

I think we, as avid readers, continue to be avid readers because there are books that stop our heart for a moment. When we read a really good book, we mourn at the last page, not ready to let go of the world we've occupied, the friends we've made, the enemies we've battled. A really good book requires a little quiet time at the end to decompress and return to reality. Like addicts, we are looking for the next high. We are willing to search our whole lives.

Here's one of my heart stoppers (I notice that I carry around tragedies - I don't know what that says about me).

Set in South Africa, Zulu priest Stephen Kumalo leaves his village to travel to Johannesburg in the 1940s in search of some relatives that seem to have gotten swallowed up in the modern city. He finds out that his sister is now a prostitute, his brother is a labor protestor and his son, Absalom, has been arrested for the murder of a prominent white man. This book is about a loss of culture, a loss of self, a quiet desperation and the seething rage of the blacks in South Africa, mirrored by the description of the changing landscape.

What are those books that you carry with you in your heart?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Manga Thursday, 1/7/10

To celebrate manga and graphic novels, highlight one you read/are reading this week by

  • posting a picture of the book
  • posting sample artwork 
  • posting a 7-word synopsis 
That's it.  If you don't have a blog, use the comments or post to Mr. Linky below.
My example:

T-Minus: the race to the Moon
Jim Ottavian (author)
Zander and Kevin Cannon (illustrators)
Aladdin books, May 19, 2009

"deet, deet, deet" we "mooned" for space.

What are you reading?

Monday, January 4, 2010

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

When You Reach Me When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Young Adult
208 pages
Wendy Lamb Books (July 14, 2009)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

6th grader Miranda lives in New York City in 1978 with her mother, and carries around a battered copy of Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, her security blanket and compass. When she receives a  series of cryptic notes about something that will happen in her future, she starts watching the people around her, both her friends, and especially the odd laughing man that sleeps near her building.

Part mystery, part historical fiction (yes, the 70's are historical fiction to twelve year olds), part science fiction, When You Reach Me is a fun romp of enough interesting subplots to keep the reader guessing. My favorite subplot is the preparations that Miranda and her mom's boyfriend make to prepare Miranda's mom for her turn at the $20,000 Pyramid. I forgot how much I loved the game show, and especially Dick Clark's banter with the contestants before the final round. Thank goodness for The Game Show Network. 

It's Monday! What are you reading 1-04-10

Christmas break is officially over and I'm back in the classroom. Whaaahhh!! Ok, no more pity. Back to the routine with this great meme.

Books read (within the last 2 weeks):
Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
Shiver by Maggie Steifvater
Brsinger by Christopher Paolini
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Books reading:
Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn

Next up:
books I brought home and what sounds interesting from the blogosphere.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

In My Mailbox (1)

I'm trying this meme for the first time. In My Mailbox lists the books that come weekly in my mailbox. Items mentioned have been received from various sources, such as the library, the publisher/author, or bought by me. This event is hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren.


Crossing the Bridge by Michael Baron


The Ask and The Answer: Chaos Walking, Book 2 by Patrick Ness

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why
Jay Asher, author
Young Adult 
My rating 2/5 stars
Clay Jenson comes home to find  a shoebox of casette tapes with the following instructions: listen, and pass it on. He's surprised to hear the voice of dead classmate Hannah Baker, who in 13 tapes will reveal 13 names, 13 stories, and 13 reasons why she killed herself.  Clay spends the rest of the day and long into the night listening to Hannah's voice and going to the locations she wants him to visit. 
 My thoughts:
I don't hate the premise of the story. I think it's a unique way to tackle the subject of bullying, depression, betrayals, secrets, consequences of small, seemingly innocuous actions, suicide. However, a unique premise, a novel way of telling a story should not be the only reason why authors feel the need to write and publishers feel the need to publish. What about the efferent nature of reading? The vicarious experience of reading that adds to our knowledge as readers and helps us to make connections with our own life, and thus to create meaning with the world (Rosenblatt)? Why does Hannah and Clay's story need to be read? Who needs to read it and what will they learn from it?

In my 20 years of working with teens, I've heard similar stories, but I couldn't sympathize with Hannah. In fact, the more I read, the angrier I got. I kept waiting for a climax, for a story so horrific that it could justify her actions, her whininess, her decision to pull Clay into her sick drama. Nothing. 

I usually have students in mind when I've read a book. I can usually see students that I'll pull into booktalks with me during SSR on Mondays, but I'm still stuck on the question, "who needs to read this, and why?"


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