"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Top Ten Literary Heroines

The Broke and Bookish
My top ten literary heroines:
1.  Scout - To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2.  Lucy- The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
3.  Anne Elliot- Persuasion by Jane Austen
4.  Katniss Everdeen- Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
5.  Flavia du Luce- Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
6.  Viola- Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness
7.  Katsa- Graceling by Kristen Cashore
8.  Elizabeth Bennet -Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
9.  Jo March- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
10. Taylor Greer- Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver

Runner-ups:
Miranda- When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Bea- How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
Fire- Fire by Kristen Cashore
Elinor Dashwood- Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Melinda - Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
All the females in Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Monday, August 30, 2010

Nothing by Janne Teller

Nothing by Janne Teller may very well be the most disturbing novel I have ever read. The story begins with a bunch of 7th graders in Denmark coming back to school after summer vacation.  Just as they are settling in a classmate,Pierre Anthon, gets up, declares that nothing matters, that there is no meaning in life, leaves the classroom, scales a plum tree, and sits there. He sits in the tree day after day taunting his classmates. When ignoring him and then pelting him with rocks doesn't work the classmates set to the task of building a pile of meaning from the things that they treasure.  What starts off as seemingly harmless and possibly fun task soon evolves into a grossly perverse and sickening one with each item added to the "pile of meaning" worse and more dear than the last.

This short book took me less than two hours to read but I did so with my hand over my mouth in horror the whole time. Nothing has won all kinds of awards in Europe and I wonder if it will be an award winner in America, too.  I certainly am considering it for one of the 10 books for my Mock Printz Workshop.  The only problem is that it is so disturbing.  This book begs to be discussed, perhaps as a form of therapy, after completion. On a weird but lighter note, I kept thinking of Dr. Seuss stories like Yertle the Turtle, The Butter Battle Book, or The Lorax while I was reading Nothing.  It certainly has that cautionary-tale quality to it that a lot of Dr. Seuss books have, minus, of course, the cute pictures and the happy endings.

So with this kind of recommendation do you dare read the book?  I say you should.  If for no other reason that we can discuss it after you are finished.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My college-age daughters and I all reading Mockingjay at the same time.
It's been tough.  I practically had to stay away from the computer for days because I didn't want to see a single review for Mockingjay, the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy, until I had a chance to finish it. I was afraid I'd bump into a review from some of you speedy readers out in the blogosphere.  Well, I finished it last night and loved it. Like the second book in the series, Catching Fire, this book had a lot of plot twists and turns that I wasn't expecting.  For example the part when Peeta... oh yes, I wasn't going to put any spoilers in my review because you will want to figure it out for yourself.

All three of the books in the series had slow starts, in my opinion, and Mockingjay was no exception.  Though there were moments of excitement, the real action didn't start until after page 100, with the excitement we've come to expect in the Hunger Games series not reaching any kind of fevered pitch until part 3.  I'm hoping the readers, especially reluctant readers, won't get discouraged before getting to the climax and to the satisfying, if not a little sad, conclusion. As soon as I finished the book I wanted to reread the last chapter again. In fact, I did, just to make sure that....

I think it will take a few days for the full impact of the story to sink in and I will want to have a copy of the book nearby so I can look up passages as I think through the storyline.  In other words, I plan to savor this book, this series.  My eldest daughter told me today that this is a series that she hopes will come out in a movie.  I'm not sure I agree, because I have made such vivid pictures in my head of all the characters and the wild settings.  I'm not sure I am ready to give those up to Hollywood just yet.

If you haven't done so, read the book.  Read the whole series.  You won't be disappointed.  I promise.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ten Books I Can't Believe I Haven't Read

The Broke and the Bookish

OK, OK, I know it is Saturday not Tuesday but I wanted to participate in this meme. Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because they are particularly fond of lists at The Broke and the Bookish. I'd love to share this list with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists! Head on over to their blog if you'd like to sign up or just include your list in my comment section.

The Top Ten Books I Can't Believe I've Never Read

1.  Anything by Charles Dickens...I've only read David Copperfield when I was in 6th grade (so that hardly counts), and of course, A Christmas Carol.  All others I've not read.


2.  Lord of the Flies by William Golding...I think every kid has to read this in high school and somehow I escaped.


3.  East of Eden by John Steinbeck... many people have told me that this is their favorite book.


4.  Beloved by Toni Morrison...this book shows up on the Top 100 Books of all-time and she is a living author.  I must, must, must get to it.


5.  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.... see #2


6.  A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams...everyone in my generation has read this but me, I think.


7.  The Color Purple by Alice Walker...I'm not even sure if I know the storyline.


8.  Frankenstein by Mary Shelley...OK, this is starting to feel like "true confessions."


9.  Middlemarch by George Eliot...I'm a huge Jane Austen fan and this book seems like it would be right up my alley, but who knows?  I haven't read it.


10.  A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy OToole...I've been told that this is one of the funniest, most irreverent books ever written.

11.  I could go on and on ..... so many books, so little time to read the old when I want to read the new.

Friday, August 27, 2010

YA Top 100 for 2010

Persnickety Snarks List of Top 100 YA Novels (2010): based on a reader poll conducted for five weeks between April and May 2010. Over 735  respondents shared their top ten YA books from all over the globe; 80% were female.


Bold= Books I've read;  
Italicized=on my list of books to read; 
Red=books I didn't finish;
(Parenthesis)=title in USA/North America.

1. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's (Sorceror's) Stone - J.K. Rowling
3. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
4. Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson

5. Northern Lights (The Golden Compass)- Philip Pullman
6. The Truth About Forever - Sarah Dessen
7. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
8. The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton
9. Twilight - Stephenie Meyer
10. This Lullaby - Sarah Dessen
11. Looking for Alaska - John Green
12. Just Listen - Sarah Dessen
13. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling
14. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott

15. City of Bones - Cassandra Clare
16. On the (Jellicoe Road) - Melina Marchetta
17. The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
18. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling
 

19. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
20. Along for the Ride - Sarah Dessen
21. Shiver - Maggie Stiefvater
22. Vampire Academy - Richelle Mead
23. Graceling - Kristin Cashore

24. Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher
25. Sloppy Firsts - Megan McCafferty
26. The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien27. Alanna: The First Adventure - Tamora Pierce
28. Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
29. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling
30. Uglies - Scott Westerfeld
31. A Great and Terrible Beauty - Libba Bray

32. Tomorrow, When the War Began - John Marsden
33. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks - E. Lockhart
34. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen35. The Westing Game - Ellen Raskin
36. Paper Towns - John Green
37. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling
38. Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins

39. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn - Betty Smith
40. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie
41. Lock and Key - Sarah Dessen
42. The Amber Spyglass - Philip Pullman 43. Evernight - Claudia Gray
44. Sabriel - Garth Nix
45. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling
46. Beautiful Creatures - Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl 47. Forever - Judy Blume
48. I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith
49. Ella Enchanted - Gail Carson Levine
50. The Princess Diaries - Meg Cabot
51. Stargirl - Jerry Spinelli
52. Howl's Moving Castle - Diana Wynne Jones
53. The Dark is Rising - Susan Cooper
54. Hush, Hush - Becca Fitzpatrick
55. Saving Francesca - Melina Marchetta
56. Second Helpings - Megan McCafferty
57. Dreamland - Sarah Dessen
58. Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer
59. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist - Rachel Cohn, David Levithan
60. Fire - Kristin Cashore
61. The Chocolate War - Robert Cormier
62. Weetzie Bat - Francesca Lia Block
63. The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank

64. Looking for Alibrandi - Melina Marchetta
65. How I Live Now - Meg Rosoff
66. City of Glass - Cassandra Clare 

67. Keeping the Moon - Sarah Dessen
68. Breaking Dawn - Stephenie Meyer
69. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging - Louise Rennison
70. If I Stay - Gayle Forman
71. The King of Attolia - Megan Whalen Turner 

72. Wintergirls - Laurie Halse Anderson 
73. Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast - Robin McKinley
74. The Blue Sword - Robin McKinley
75. Feed - M.T. Anderson
76. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants - Ann Brashares
77. Go Ask Alice - Anonymous 78. Wicked Lovely - Melissa Marr
79. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
80. Someone Like You - Sarah Dessen
81. The Forest of Hands and Teeth - Carrie Ryan
82. Jacob Have I Loved - Katherine Paterson
83. The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness
84. Poison Study - Maria V. Snyder
85. Shadow Kiss - Richelle Mead
86. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle - Avi
87. An Abundance of Katherines - John Green
88. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
89. A Ring of Endless Light - Madeleine L'Engle
90. Glass Houses - Rachel Caine
91. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party - M.T. Anderson
92. Walk Two Moons - Sharon Creech
93. Whale Talk - Chris Crutcher
94. Perfect Chemistry - Simone Elkeles
95. Going Too Far - Jennifer Echols
96. The Last Song - Nicholas Sparks 

97. Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver
98. Hatchet - Gary Paulsen
99. The Pigman - Paul Zindel
100. The Hero and the Crown - Robin McKinley


There is a nice mixture of very current title and a few classics. I think there are a few obvious omissions:  I am the Messenger by Zusak; Percy Jackson and the Olympians (series) by Riordan; Going Bovine by Bray; Tales of the Madman Underground by Barnes; Monster by Myers; Liar by Larbalestier; Marcelo in the Real World by Stork; Little Brother by Doctorow; and Son of the Mob by Korman, to name a few.  Perhaps these titles didn't make the list because 80% of the poll respondents were female and most of the books I mentioned appeal to males. At any rate, it is a fun snapshot in time of what teens are reading/like right now. I definitely need to read some Sarah Dessen and Tamora Pierce.


My count to date: 48.  How about you?  
How many have you read on the list?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's Friday! Book Blogger Hop Time!

Book Blogger Hop
August 26, 2010
Hi!  It is my second time on the Book Blogger Hop.  Please take your time looking around.  Comment on any reviews or join in any discussions.  Welcome!


Answer to the question of the day ---
Do you use a rating system for your reviews and if so, what is it and why?

At first I used a rating system but abandoned it after I gave a poor review to a book.  A week later, the book was still on my mind and I started thinking about all the favorable features of the book.  I decided that I didn't want to go back and change my rating each time my thinking on the book evolved, so I dropped the rating system.  Do you think they are helpful or harmful?

Booking Through Thursday - Question of the Week

Booking through Thursday
If you’re not enjoying a book, will you stop mid-way? Or do you push through to the end? What makes you decide to stop?

***************************************************************************
Yes, I will  stop midway through a book if I am bored, don't care for the writing style, or just lose interest.  Quite often I won't make that determination for months, though, and the book may languish on my bedside table partially read until I finally decide that I am not going to finish it. Nancy Pearl, a librarian at Seattle Public Library and the author of Book Lust has the Rule of 50 which states "If you still don't like a book after slogging through the first 50 pages, set it aside. If you're more than 50 years old, subtract your age from 100 and only grant it that many pages."  (Wikipedia) I usually will read 100 pages before I abandon it, the only exception is if I am reading the book for one of my two book clubs.  I try really hard to finish those books no matter if I like them or not.

Now it's your turn to answer the question.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon was originally published as El Príncipe de la Niebla in Spain in 1993. It was the first novel published by Ruiz Zafon. After writing several more YA novels he has since gone on to write and publish several books for adults, most notably, Shadow of the Wind, which I haven't read. Even though the book was written 17 years ago and the translation for it was just completed this year, it has a timeless quality to it.  The beginning of the story is set somewhere in the world during World War II, probably in England, France, or Spain. That fact that the war is going on is only important to the story in that it gives the Carter family cause to move out of the city to the relative safety of the countryside near the ocean. Other than that the story could have been set anytime in the last 60 years and on any beach, as long as there was a lighthouse nearby. And according to the author interview at the end of the book, that was intentional.


I had no idea when I picked it up that it was a horror novel or a ghost story.  I don't normally read this genre of book because I truly do get scared and have trouble sleeping.  But by the time I figured out what this book was, I was already hooked by the plot. Three children move to this ocean-side town with their parents and meet Roland, a local teenager, the grandson of the lighthouse keeper. Roland takes the two oldest children to see an old ship wreck right off shore. In the meantime the youngest, who stayed at home, meets the Prince of Mist in a terrifying circumstance.  Events unfold quickly as the Prince of Mist comes back in many forms to claim what is rightfully his.


Though the book is relatively short (200 pages) it takes quite a while for the plot to develop and for the tension to build.  Dr. Kane, or the Prince of Mist, is a dastardly villain who shows up so many times and in so many forms that one is never quite sure what to expect next. I was on the edge of my seat for half the book.  The book, however had a few flaws that were hard for me to overlook, several of them were translation problems, I think. For example, occasionally words would be used that weren't even invented in the 1940s, such as paramedic, which wasn't coined until the early 1950s in the United States. Also, Carlos Ruiz Zafon attempted to speed up the action by having the grandfather tell long stories from the past about the Dr. Kane rather than have the events unfold and have the reader discover them along the way.


I read this book as a potential book for my Mock Printz workshop.  Though I've decided not to include it on my list I will certainly recommend it to readers that enjoy this genre of books.  I think that fans of The Monstrumologist and of Stephen King will find a lot to like in this book.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness suffers a bit my middle-book-syndrome.  Don't get me wrong.  It is a tremendously exciting and unique storyline but throughout the book I was left with the thought that I knew there was a third book which meant that the heroes wouldn't prevail or the villain wouldn't get his due.  I was right on both accounts. My daughter tells me that middle books in trilogies are always a version of The Empire Strikes Back, where the hero is left clinging to life and we start to wonder if this is the series where the villain will finally win.  Who am I to argue with that logic? That said, the book retains much of the charm of its predecessor, The Knife of Never Letting Go. Our heroes, Todd and Viola, tell the story in alternating chapters written in first person which would usually throw me for a loop until I adjusted to the new narrator. Todd, who is illiterate, writes in pigeon-English, often spelling words how they sound. The first chapter opens days or minutes after the last book ended with both children in Haven but it is not the town that they had hoped and striven for. The new ruler of the town is Mayor Prentiss and he is a tyrant capable of mind-control and under him things seem to go from bad to worse quickly. Resistance to the new order springs up and the leader of this group is the new hero, or is she?

I was never quite sure who the true heroes and villains were.  Nor was I ever quite sure which side was the right side. And I think that was the point of the story. Ness is quoted as saying: "Even in a society where we are constantly told to 'be ourselves,' the pressure to conform is terrible, especially for the young. If the Chaos Walking trilogy is about anything, it's about identity, finding out who you are. How do you stay an individual when the pressure to conform, to change who you are, is life-threatening?" (Back Cover Flap)

Like any good middle book of a trilogy, The Ask and Answer leaves the reader hanging, ready for the sequel.  That is where I am now. Fortunately for me I won't have to wait long.  Monsters of Men, book three of the Chaos Walking trilogy, is due out on September 28.  I'll be the first person in line at my library to read it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Better late than never? Jane Austen Challenge

Jane Austen Challenge January-December 2010...How could I resist?  Better late than never?

Rules:
--Anyone can participate.Sign up here:
--Levels:
**Newbie 2 books by J. Austen, 2 re-writes, prequels, sequels, or spoofs (by other authors)
**Lover 4 books by J. Austen, 4 re-writes, prequels, sequels, or spoofs (by other authors)
** Fanatic 6+ books by J. Austen, 5+ re-writes, prequels, sequels, or spoofs (by other authors)
--Challenge books can overlap with other challenges.
**************************************************************************
Books I've read so far:
(I reviewed the first four at the same time here:)
Jan. 2010 -Confessions of A Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
Jan. 2010- Captain Wentworth's Diary by Amanda Grange
Jan. 2010- These Three Remain: a novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy by Pamela Aidan
Feb. 2010- Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
Next up: Emma by JA herself!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Book Blogger Hop ...First time!

Book Blogger Hop
August 20, 2010
Hi!  It is my first time on the Book Blogger Hop so I would really appreciate if you would spend a moment on my blog and let me know what you like or join in the discussions on my reviews.   Thanks.

Answer to the question of the day ---


How many blogs do visit regularly?

I have only recently started reading other book blogs.  I'm regularly visit between 5-10 but I am finding those numbers are creeping up every week.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I chose to read this book via a circuitous route. My beloved hubby and I went to see a movie at the artsy movie theater in town. As we waited for the feature film we'd come to see we munched popcorn and watched the previews. One preview started with this statement: "Based on the best novel of the decade."  I sat up straighter.  Suddenly I was more interested in the preview than I was the popcorn.  What book was the best book of the decade?  I hadn't heard anything about this before. Had you?  As soon as I got home I ran to the computer to find out about the best book of the decade.  Here's what I found out:---there were lots of lists of best books of the decade that were published late in 2009.  Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro was the 24th best book of the decade on the London Times list published November 14, 2009.  Not exactly the novel of the decade, but good enough to make me want to read the book, if for no other reason than to be ready for the upcoming movie. Time Magazine named it as one of the top 100 best novels of the 20th-21st Centuries.

Never Let Me Go is a mesmerizing yet mortifying story about human clones being raised to be organ donors. But those facts unfold slowly as the reader is introduced to the characters, all children attending a special school named Hailsham. The narrator of the story is Kathy and she recounts her experiences with her friends at the school and after they move away from a vantage point of passing years.  It is not really until you get to the end of the book that you are really confronted with the actuality and eventuality of the why these people even existed.  The reader is never told why Kathy and her friends were so passive about their plight or demise. The story unfolded in a rather slow, even-metered pace.  I often felt as if I were having a dialogue with Kathy where she would have to digress to catch me to points in the story.

Because of it's slow, metered tempo I don't think that most teens would have the patience to plod their way through this book, though it is certainly worth the effort. Ishiguro has certainly written a masterpiece in Never Let Me Go and it deserves to be on the list of the top 100 books of the past decade.

By the way, as a little aside, several YA books made this list too, but I found the selections or their placement on the list odd:  Twilight by Stephanie Meyer #90---after Harry Potter by far the most popular YA series of the decade only awarded #90? In contrast Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was #17. Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver the first book in a very good fantasy series was named #53. I like the book and the series is fairly popular but not even close to the wild popularity of the Twilight books. The other two YA books on the list are How I Live Now (#36) by Rosoff and The Amber Spyglass (#22) by Pullman. Pullman's book, part of the His Dark Materials series, is excellent and deserves it spot on the list.  How I Live Now was a Printz award winner and certainly got good reviews but its placement on the list sheds a light on the books that aren't on the list that should be, most specifically The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.  I would argue that Zusak's masterpiece will continue to be an important piece of literature for years to come and IT ISN"T EVEN ON THE LIST!  ARG!  (Can you hear me yelling from your house?)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Booking through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday
The meme of reading question(s) of the week :
1. Favorite childhood book?
A Wrinkle in Time by L'Engle
2. What are you reading right now?
The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness and The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
3. What books do you have on request at the library?
Mockingjay (audio version)
4. Bad book habit?
None.  I’m a librarian!
5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
I have over 16 books checked out from my library for the summer. From the Public Library I have four audio books out right now.
6. Do you have an e-reader?
No. I almost always get my books from a library!
7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
I always have at least two going at once, often more.  I always have an audio book going in the car.
8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
Yes, I pay attention to favorite quotes or facts I want to include in the reviews as I read.
9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
Rosewater and Soda Bread by Marsha Mehran
10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes
11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Often and my comfort zone is enlarging every year.
12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Realistic fiction; historical fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, memoirs, non-fiction, etc.
13. Can you read on the bus?
Yes, if I’m facing forward
14. Favorite place to read?
The hammock in the backyard or bed.
15. What is your policy on book lending?
Only to family and only if I don’t care if I get it back or not.
16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
Never.
17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
Yes, sometimes if I own the book
18.  Not even with text books?
See above
19. What is your favorite language to read in?
English.
20. What makes you love a book?
Vivid descriptions, full characters, well-written, poetic language
21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
I recommend books for a job, so I find myself having to recommend books that I haven’t read or read and didn’t like.  I know how to stay neutral or to gush depending on the situation.
22. Favorite genre?
Realistic YA fiction
23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
Science Fiction
24. Favorite biography?
Dreams of My Father by Obama
25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Lots.
26. Favorite cookbook?
Taste of Oregon Cookbook
27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Fransisco X. Stork (fiction)
28. Favorite reading snack? 
Pretzels
29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
Eat, Pray, Love...Everyone was raving about it but I didn't care for it and didn't finish it.
30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
Hum.  Not sure.
31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
I really struggle with adding bad/negative reviews to my blog.
32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
French
33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
Moby Dick by Melville
35. Favorite Poet?
Maya Angelou
36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
4-5
37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
Quite often
38. Favorite fictional character?
Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird
39. Favorite fictional villain?
Snape in Harry Potter.
40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Not hardbound books, all others are fair game
41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
A week?
42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
Blind Assassins by Atwood; Saturday by McEwan
43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
TV
44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
Schindler’s List by Kennelly; Stardust by Gaiman; Holes by Sachar
45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
Eragon
46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
$300+
47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Hardly ever.
48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
Bored, tedious, offensive, too difficult subject, too juvenile
49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
at work-yes; at home-no
50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
It depends on if I think I might want to reread it.
51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray...I want to read it, I just can never find the time
52. Name a book that made you angry.
Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (not the book, the subject matter)
53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
Monstrumologist by Yancey
54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
Water for Elephants
55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Janet Evanovich books
 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson

Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson is a delightful retelling of a classic French tale by Charles Perrault. In the original tale a widow has two daughters.  The eldest is very bad tempered and disagreeable.  The youngest is beautiful and sweet.  The mother dotes on the first and dislikes the youngest making her eat in the kitchen and sending her to get water at the well over a mile away two times a day.  While at the well one day the daughter is asked for a drink by a beggar and she gladly gives her some.  For this the girl is blessed and every time she speaks either flowers or gems come from her mouth. When she returns home her jealous mother sends the eldest to the well in hopes that she too will receive such a blessing.  She is also asked for a drink but her manner is not pleasing so she is cursed. Now when she speaks, toads and snakes come from her mouth.

In Tomlinson's version of Toads and Diamonds the girls are step-sisters who love each other very much and the mother is kindly.  They live in an imaginary country which I pictured to be something like India and they practice a religion which could be a combination of many different religions today. Each girl meets up with the goddess who blesses/curses her and they are forced to leave their home because of riots and panic that occurs when they speak. Are diamonds and flowers blessings and snakes curses?  You are never sure in this tale as they both bring about wonderful and disastrous events.  To be sure the tale acknowledges that gifts are not always what they seem.

The book is told in alternating chapters about the sisters.  As they are separated and their stories diverge we see a very different live for each because of their gifts.  But these gifts eventually bring the girls back together again in a very satisfying, fairytale-type ending.

There is a lot of like in this tale and I hope that it will get the attention from reviewers and readers that it deserves.  However, I fear that it won't.  The reviewers for School Library Journal and for Booklist both commented that the difficult language in the tale will likely pose a challenge to many readers, but it worth the effort. The book was on my Mock Printz consideration list because it had two starred reviews. I am still trying to decide if I'll make it one of my ten picks for that list of books.  At this point I will give it a day or two to simmer and see what I think after getting your feedback and as the story settles in to my memory.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mockingjay coming soon....real soon! Yeah!

Rick Morgalis, editor for School Library Journal, interviewed Suzanne Collins the author of the Hunger Games Trilogy in preparation for the unveiling of the third book, Mockingjay, later this month.  Though Ms. Collins wasn't able to reveal any tantalizing tidbits about the upcoming book she did reveal some of her thoughts about different aspects of her plot and character development.  For example she compares Katniss to the Mockingjay:

"Now the thing about the mockingjays is that they were never meant to be created. They were not a part of the Capitol’s design....Symbolically, I suppose, Katniss is something like a mockingjay in and of herself. She is a girl who should never have existed. And the reason she does exist is that she comes from District 12, which is sort of the joke of the 12 districts of Panem."     

In answer to the question about how disturbing the Hunger Games are because children are killing children she says that she believes that the protagonists in the story shouldn't be on the sidelines:   

"If I write a war story for kids, they’re going to be the warriors in it."   

And all English teachers will be delighted to learn that Collins has classical underpinnings to her storyline.  She sees the beginning of the story of as a takeoff of The Tale of Minos of Crete but she views Katniss as Spartacus: 

"I actually would say that the historical figure of Spartacus really becomes more of a model for the arc of the three books, for Katniss. We don’t know a lot of details about his life, but there was this guy named Spartacus who was a gladiator who broke out of the arena and led a rebellion against an oppressive government that led to what is called the Third Servile War. He caused the Romans quite a bit of trouble."   

I love it.  Don't you?  Head over to SLJ and read the whole article here: School Library Journal

Also: congratulations go out to Suzanne Collins on being named to the Time Magazine's Top 100 people of 2010.

Mockingjay.  August 24th.  Can't wait! 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson


The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

-#1 book of all my summer reads.

-"OK, I admit it.  I've got a huge crush on this book." -Author, Sonya Sones

-This book had me from the first paragraph.

-I want to savor this magical book.  It's almost as if I'm the only one who has read it and loved it.  I'm afraid to share it for fear that other people won't love it as much as I do or might even criticize it for some reason or another and that might break the spell.

-"Jandy Nelson's story of grief somehow manages to be an enchantment, a celebration, a romance---without forsaking the rock-hard truths of loss." - Author, Sara Zarr

-I'm in love...with a book, with a story.

-My heart was broken and repaired, over and over.

-A love story and a romance.  The love of a sister for her sister and the awakening of young love amidst all the grief.

Most of the above quotes were written by me as if they were the quotes on the back of book taken from famous people. I, obviously, loved this book.  It is a celebration of love on so many levels and phenomenal for the depth of understanding it portrays of grief and loss.  My favorite bits were the poems that Lennie scattered everywhere as a tribute and in memory of her dear sister, Bailey. I felt like I was reading a song while somehow soaring above the earth.  I've already reread half the book and I'm thinking of starting it again once I get down clutching it to my chest.  Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

"...The grief was a room filled
with hungry, desperate light.
We clapped for nineteen years
of a world with Bailey in it. "  p. 23

"When I get to the path, I take off, trying to outrun the heartache that is chasing me down." p.92

"I'm afraid to open m eyes, but I do, and he's standing at the end of the bed looking at me---and army of ninja-cupids...draw their bows and release---arrows fly at me from every which way." p.264

"A flock of hysterically happy birds bursts out of my chest and into the world." p.268

"I try to fend off the oceanic sadness but I can't.  It's such a colossal effort not to be haunted by what's lost, but to be enchanted by what was." p.275


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Reread favorite books


I just finished rereading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Earlier in the summer I reread the third book in the Chronicles of Narnia series The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I decided to reread both of these books because of their up-coming movies.  Both books are magical and I was surprised how much I had forgotten since I last read them each.  The movie for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1 comes out Nov. 18th. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader will be out December 10th. I recommend rereading (or reading) them before the movies come out.

PS-If you haven't read the Chronicles of Narnia yet I suggest that you read them in the order that C.S. Lewis wrote them, not the order that the publisher presents them.  1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; 2. Prince Caspian; 3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; 4. The Silver Chair; 5. A Horse and His Boy; 6.  The Magician's Nephew (prequel); 7. The Last Battle. So far this is the same order as the movies.

What books have your reread lately?  What do you like about rereads?

 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summer Reading Challenge: Beach Reads!

Summer "Beach Read" Challenge
Here I go again.  Starting another reading challenge...and this one so late in the game, too.  The Summer "Beach Read" challenge. Ah, but I must confess that I am sort of cheating because I have already read enough books since July 1st to nearly qualify me to be a SHARK!  (And, btw, I do remember being in swim lessons and wishing, wishing, wishing that I would pass my test so that I could get up to the shark level!)

I suggest that you pop on over to A Fanatics Book Blog for the details and to sign up on this challenge if you too want to jump in the pool so late in the summer and try to win your shark award.  Here are the details in a nutshell: Read books that would qualify as any book you'd be willing to read while sitting at the beach. Since I was just at the Oregon Coast earlier this week and I sat reading Olive Kitteridge, I think that tells you that I think just about anything would qualify as beach reading, maybe with the possible exception of some big, heavy book that might get wrecked if it was dropped in the sand.  Ha!  Just like swimming lessons of old you will rise to a higher fish order the more books you read and prizes will be awarded.  Cool huh?  Now let me get out my fingers and toes to see how many books I've read already that would qualify....

P.S. Reading books at the Washington Coast would often be a negative experience since it is often overcast, windy, and cold.  One would have to huddle behind some wind barrier and wear goggles to keep the sand out of the eyes.  But laying on the "beach" at Lake Chelan, now that's more like it!

August 30, 2010 Update:  I completed the challenge.  And yes, I am swimming with sharks!  I've read 31 books this summer and may finish a few more before the end of the Labor Day Week-end.  Here it the list of books that I placed on the Beach Reading Challenge list:
18. The Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
17. The Prince of Mist- Carlos Ruiz Zafon
16. The Ask and the Answer – Patrick Ness
15. Toads and Diamonds- Heather Tomlinson
14. Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout
13. The Sky is Everywhere -Jandy Nelson
12. Ship Breaker - Paolo Bacigalupi
11. Staying Fat for Sarah Brynes-Chris Crutcher
10.  Numbers- Rachel Ward
9. Deadline- Chris Crutcher
8. Mrs. Mike-Benedict & Nancy Freedman
7. Last Summer of the Death Warriors-Francisco Stork
6. Acceleration- Graham McNamee
5. The Knife of Never Letting Go- Patrick Ness
4. Wake- Lisa McMann
3. The Body Finder- Kimberly Derting
2. Purple Heart- Patricia McCormick
1. The Summer of My German Soldier- Bette Greene

Versatile Blogger! Me?

Yeah!  My first blogging award!  Jane over at moydrook reads awarded me a Versatile Blogger Award. Wow.  I am honored. Thank you, Jane!  And now I get to pass this honor on to others.

Here are the rules for this award:

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason! (In no particular order...)
4. Contact the bloggers you've picked and let them know about the award.

Seven things about me:
1.  I live in the Puget Sound region of Washington State with my husband, two daughters, one dog, two cats, and a fish.  On sunny days we can see Mt. Rainier from one of our upstairs windows if we peer around the corner just right. My husband is my best friend.
2. I have been an educator for thirty years, the last five as a high school librarian. I love my job.  And I can see Mt. Rainier clearly from my library windows (detect a theme?).  It is like I get to work in heaven!
3. I consider myself to be a "Janite"...which used to be a derogatory term used about Jane Austen fans, but now is used to mean someone who loves everything Jane Austen. That's me! I hosted a Jane Austen Week in my library last year and I think it will become an annual event.
4.  I became a reader late in life.  I don't recall reading much in junior or senior high school and I only read what I was assigned in college. My reading "took off" as an adult after I read Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns and I discovered good literature. Now I'm in two book clubs and I get to read as part of my job (see #2.) I always have at least two books going at once and one audiobook going in the car.
5. I started reading YA Literature when I became a high school librarian five years ago and I love most of what I've read so far but I always feel like I need to catch up and make up for all the years I wasn't reading YA lit.  I constantly have some reading challenge going such as the YA through the Decades or the Printz Challenge.
6.  My favorite flowers are roses but I have a deer who keeps coming into our yard to eat them so I haven't had any to cut and enjoy this year.  One of my favorite foods is BBQ salmon marinated in our special  homemade sauce.  Yum! My favorite book that I've read so far this summer is:  The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson.  I'll blog about it this week.
7.  When my whole family gathers for a reunion there are nineteen of us, including my parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, etc.  We just got together for four days for a reunion/vacation at the Oregon Coast. 

Fifteen blogs I am passing the award on to:
The Prairie Library
Tattooed Books
A Flight of Minds
The Reading Ape
Readergirlz
Teen Book Discussion...all grown up
Great Books for Kids and Teens
Bookmarked
I'd So Rather Be Reading
YA Reads
The Tales Compendium
Lusty Reader
What to Read What to Read
About Books Blog
21 Pages YA Blog

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Printz Project

 

Today I became aware of a website, The Printz Project, that encourages YA readers to read all the Printz Award and Honor books.  I started doing this very thing several years ago so I decided to pull my list onto one blog for easy viewing of my progress.  Take a look at my original posting for other lists and challenges that I am working on as well.

Micheal J. Printz Award and Honor Books. 
My reading project is to read all Printz Award/Honor books and then to stay current. I started this project when I became a librarian in 2005. 
                       Red= completed. *=Award Winner for the year


2010
Going Bovine, by Libba Bray*
Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith, by Deborah Heiligman
The Monstrumologist, by Rick Yancey
Punkzilla, by Adam Rapp
Tales of the Madman Underground: An Historical Romance 1973, by John Barnes
2009
Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta*
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation; Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves, by M.T. Anderson
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart
Nation, by Terry Pratchett
Tender Morsels, by Margo Lanagan
2008
The White Darkness, by Geraldine McCaughrean*
Dreamquake: Book Two of the Dreamhunter Duet, by Elizabeth Knox
One Whole and Perfect Day, by Judith Clarke
Repossessed, by A.M. Jenkins
Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath, by Stephanie Hemphill
2007
American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang *
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation; Volume I: The Pox Party, by M.T. Anderson
An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green
Surrender, by Sonya Hartnett
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
2006
Looking for Alaska, by John Green *
Black Juice, by Margo Lanagan
I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak
John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth, a Photographic Biography, by Elizabeth Partridge
A Wreath for Emmett Till, by Marilyn Nelson
2005
how i live now, by Meg Rosoff  *
Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel
Chanda’s Secrets, by Allan Stratton
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, by Gary D. Schmidt
2004
The First Part Last, by Angela Johnson *
A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly
Keesha’s House, by Helen Frost
Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
2003
Postcards from No Man’s Land, by Aidan Chambers *
The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer
My Heartbeat, by Garret Freymann-Weyr
Hole in My Life, by Jack Gantos
2002
A Step From Heaven, by An Na *
The Ropemaker, by Peter Dickinson
Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art, by Jan Greenberg
Freewill, by Chris Lynch
True Believer, by Virginia Euwer Wolff
2001
Kit’s Wilderness, by David Almond *
Many Stones, by Carolyn Coman
The Body of Christopher Creed, by Carol Plum-Ucci
Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, by Louise Rennison
Stuck in Neutral, by Terry Trueman
2000
Monster, by Walter Dean Myers *
Skellig, by David Almond
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
Hard Love, by Ellen Wittlinger

Numbers (Num8ers) by Rachel Ward

I really debated if I should even blog about the book Numbers (Num8ers) by Rachel Ward. You see, I am ambivalent about it---I can see why some people might like it, but I don't think it is very well-written---and that makes me think that maybe I shouldn't write anything. When I started this blog a year ago I did so with the hope that my students would actually read and use it to make reading selections.  I know that a few of my students do look at it but not as many as I had hoped.  Perhaps if I knew that more teens were actually reading my blog I still would question whether I should/should not write about books that aren't my favorites.  But I have a feeling that I might be less likely to highlight books that I'm not crazy about because I wouldn't want to put anyone off reading anything.  If students read my negative reviews for books that they have already finished and liked will I lose credibility in their eyes? On the other hand, if I never say anything negative here doesn't it look like I love all books and all books are essentially equal, which we all know is not true?

So the debate within me rages on. In the meantime I will tell you a little about why I am so conflicted about this book.  For one thing I have read some really great books this summer... books that have stood the test of time (Mrs. Mike;  The Summer of My German Soldier; Staying Fat for Sarah Brynes) and books that may very well be the next award winners (The Last Summer of the Death Warriors; The Sky is Everywhere) and this book suffers by comparison. The plot, which falls into the paranormal category that is so popular right now, seems to have potential: a girl, Jem, can see everyone's death date if she looks into their eyes. This is quite disconcerting, obviously, so Jem has a difficult time making friends or fitting in especially since she has to live in foster homes after the death of her mother.  She becomes an angry loner.  At this point the story takes a twist I wasn't expecting---Jem and another misfit, Spider, are accused of an act of terrorism and go on the lam.  It felt like the story wasn't fully flushed out and the characters never became fully developed.  The ending was too neat and tidy.  The writing wasn't bad, it just wasn't good.  In this day and age with so much great YA lit available I will find it hard to recommend this book to many students.

P.S.  I just back from the blogosphere where I found over ten book reviews of this book and all the reviewers except one loved the book.  So I guess you will have to read the book yourself and then let me know what you think.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

There is a lot to like in Ship Breaker by Bacigalupi. Teens who enjoy fantasy or science fiction novels will undoubtedly find this book inventive and compelling.  In addition, I believe that boys who crave adventure stories will find enough "journey and conquest" to satisfy them. I have the hardest time locating books that fall into the adventure genre or category of books, probably because it is an not the type of book that I prefer to read, so I am always delighted to find a book that will work for these mainly reluctant-reading boys who crave adventure stories above all else.

Ship Breaker is set on the Gulf Coast in a post-apocalyptic time frame after a series of events caused by climate change and the destruction of the barrier islands has completely submerged New Orleans and other towns on the coastline. The only oil available is that which is found in old reserves, such as the holds of old tankers.  The waters of the Gulf are black with pollution.  Sound familiar? Nailer and his light crew go into the bellies of these old tankers looking for anything they can scavenge.  Life is all about meeting quotas and eeking out an existence day to day until, after a storm, Nailer comes across a newly wrecked clipper ship.  He intends to scavenge it but finds instead a beautiful young girl, a swank, in need of rescue. And so the adventure begins.

As distressing as it is to reflect upon how we are treating our planet today it isn't hard to believe that in two hundred years something like this book may be our reality---pollution and lack of natural materials, piracy and scavenging, the haves and the have-nots. Bacigalupi, a Science Fiction writer new to YA literature, has given us a lot to ponder about our future and at the same time he has also spun a good, swashbuckling tale. In addition to a great story writer, as an educator I am totally impressed by Paolo Bacigalupi adding an Educator's Guide to his website for the book.  Take a look at it.  Good, huh?  Also cool is his three minute video about the book and his inspiration for it.  I found it to be very informative.

This book is one of the books in consideration for my Mock Printz event this coming January.  I just placed a star next to the title.  This one is going on the list.