Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March Accomplishments

These are a few of my favorite 'first' lines read in March of 2009.

Once upon a time, I thought that the cheerleaders at my high school were no more capable of intelligent thought or true athleticism than the average dachshund. Suffice to say that unless the wiener dogs of the world have been holing out on me--big time--I was very, very wrong.

Not to brag or anything, but if you saw me from behind, you'd probably think I was perfect.

"Marcelo, are you ready?" I lift up my thumb. It means I'm ready.

"If I was going to kill the Prophet," I say, not even keeping my voice low, "I'd do it in Africa."

"The fairies flew suspended on wires despite their tendency to get tangled together."


March's Top Five:

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. 2009. Scholastic. 312 pages. (YA Realistic Fiction)
Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev. 2009. Feiwel and Friends. (July Pub) 368 pages.
Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck. 207 pages.
The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams. St. Martin's Griffin. 224 pages. (YA Realistic Fiction)
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. 2009. Random House. (YA Fantasy/Dystopia/YA Romance/YA Suspense/YA Thriller) 310 pages.

Honorable Mentions that so would have been in the top five if read during another month...

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. 2009. Viking. 278 pages. (YA Realistic Fiction)
Graceling by Kristin Cashore. 2008. Harcourt. 471 pages. (YA Fantasy/YA Romance)
TROPICAL SECRETS: HOLOCAUST REFUGEES IN CUBA. by Margarita Engle. 2009. (March 31, 2009 Pub.)Henry Holt. 198 pages.
Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck. 224 pages. (Adult/Classic)

Number of Picture Books: 8

The Night Before St. Patrick's Day by Natasha Wing. Penguin. 2009.
Chicken Soup by Jean Van Leeuwen. Illustrated by David Gavril. Harry N. Abrams. 2009. (May)
Scaredy Squirrel at Night by Melanie Watt. Kids Can Press. 2009. (February)
Little Oink by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. 2009. Chronicle Books.
Big Rabbit's Bad Mood. Ramona Badescu. 2009. Illustrated by Delphine Durand. Chronicle Books.
Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. 2009. Chronicle Books.
Wee Little Chick by Lauren Thompson. 2008. Simon & Schuster. Illustrated by John Butler.
Tiny & Hercules by Amy Schwartz. 2009. Roaring Brooks.

Number of Board Books: 5

Pajama Mamas by Kate Spohn. Random House. 2009. Random House.
Jacob Lawrence In the City by Susan Goldman Rubin. 2009. Chronicle Books.
Magritte's Imagination. By Susan Goldman Rubin. 2009. Chronicle Books.
In My Pond by Sara Gillingham. Chronicle Books. 2009.
Lullaby and Good Night. Illustrated by Janet Samuel. 2008. Scholastic.

Number of Children's Books: 4

Joe and Sparky Get New Wheels by Jamie Michalak. 2009. Candlewick Press. (Early Reader)
Zelda and Ivy: Keeping Secrets by Laura McGee Kvasnosky. 2009. Candlewick Press. (Early Reader)
No Kisses, Please! by Hans Wilhelm. 2004. (Paperback release 2009) (Early Reader) Scholastic
Houndsley and Catina: Plink and Plunk. 2009. (April 2009) (Hardback) (Early Reader) Candlewick Press.

Number of YA Books: 16

The Squad: Killer Spirit. 2008. Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Random House. 324 pages. (YA Adventure/YA Romance)
North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley. 2009. Little Brown. 373 pages. (YA Realistic Fiction/YA Romance)
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. 2009. Scholastic. 312 pages. (YA Realistic Fiction)
Love You Hate You Miss You by Elizabeth Scott. 2009 (June 2009) HarperCollins. 288 pages. (YA Realistic Fiction)
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. 2009. Viking. 278 pages. (YA Realistic Fiction)
Fade by Lisa McMann. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 248 pages. (YA Fantasy)
The Forest of Hands and Feet by Carrie Ryan. 2009. Random House. (YA Fantasy/Dystopia/YA Romance/YA Suspense/YA Thriller) 310 pages.
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. 2004. Random House. (YA Fiction/YA Romance/Dystopia/War) 194 pages.
The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry. 2009. Bloomsbury 308 pages. (YA Fantasy/YA Romance)
Graceling by Kristin Cashore. 2008. Harcourt. 471 pages. (YA Fantasy/YA Romance)
The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams. St. Martin's Griffin. 224 pages. (YA Realistic Fiction)
My Summer on Earth by Tom Lombardi. 2008. Simon & Schuster. 243 pages. (YA Science Fiction)
Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev. 2009. Feiwel and Friends. (July Pub) 368 pages.
Streams of Babel by Carol Plum-Ucci. 2008. Harcourt. 424 pages.
Amanda by Candice F. Ransom. Scholastic. 1984. 361 pages.
Caroline by Willo Davis Roberts. 1984. Scholastic. 361 pages.

Number of Verse Novels: 1

TROPICAL SECRETS: HOLOCAUST REFUGEES IN CUBA. by Margarita Engle. 2009. (March 31, 2009 Pub.)Henry Holt. 198 pages.

Number of Graphic Novels: 2

Maus: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman. 1986. 159 pages.
Maus II : A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began by Art Spiegelman. 1991. 136 pages.

Number of Nonfiction: 5

Who Lives Here? Forest Animals by Deborah Hodge. 2009. Kids Can Press (Nonfiction Picture book)
Have You Ever Seen A Duck In a Raincoat by Etta Kaner. 2009. Kids Can Press. (Nonfiction Picture Book)
The New Jumbo Book of Easy Crafts by Judy Ann Sadler. 2009. Kids Can Press. (Nonfiction/How-to/Craft)
1, 2, 3 I Can Collage by Irene Luxbacher. 2009. Kids Can Press. (Nonfiction/Picture Book/How-to/Craft)
Pop-Up House of Inventions: Hundreds of Fabulous Facts About Your Home. 2009. Candlewick. (Novelty/Pop-up/Nonfiction)

Number of Christian books: 6

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross. Edited by Nancy Guthrie. Crossway. 152 pages.
The Passion of Mary-Margaret by Lisa Samson. Thomas Nelson Publishers. 313 pages.
Journey to the Well by Diana Wallis Taylor. Revell. 329 pages.
Classic Bible Storybook by Kenneth N. Taylor. Tyndale. 270 pages. (children's book)
Michal by Jill Eileen Smith. Revell. 382 pages.
Fireflies In December by Jennifer Erin Valent. Tyndale. 343 pages.

Number of adult books: 12

Chocolat by Joanne Harris. 306 pages.
Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck. 207 pages.
Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck. 224 pages. (Adult/Classic)
The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck. 272 pages. (Adult/Classic)
Burning Bright by John Steinbeck. 128 pages. (Adult/Classic)
The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck. 304 pages. (Adult/Classic)
Mansfield Park Revisited by Joan Aiken. Sourcebooks. 201.
The Morgesons. Elizabeth Stoddard. 1862. 260 pages.
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. 1962. 272 pages.
The Love We Share Without Knowing by Christopher Barzak. 2009. Bantam. 288 pages.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. 1847. 246 pages.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. Quirk. 317 pages.

Number of short story collections/ anthologies/ poetry books: 2

What's The Weather Inside by Karma Wilson. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 170 pages. (Poetry)
Bedtime Sing To Me by Diane C. Ohanesian. 2009. Scholastic. (Board Book) (Poetry/Songs)


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Arthurian Challenge Sign-Up Here!

Big thanks go out to Robin who made this oh-so-awesome banner/button.

When: April 2009 through March 2010

Goal: To read books starring characters found in or inspired by Arthurian legends. (King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Merlin, Lady of the Lake, etc.) There are no set amount of books. Read one or two. Or read a dozen. You set the amount that feels good to you!

To sign up fill out the form below. Do NOT use your email address (I don't ask for it) because the form is public.

No lists are necessary. You can change your mind on WHAT you reading or should that be WHO you’re reading at any time.

If at any time you dislike a book, then feel free to discard it and pick up another. Don’t feel obligated to push through a book you don’t like on my account!!!

What about movies? What about graphic novels? What about comics? What about audio books? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. All of those things count. So though it says 6-12 books. It can be a variety of things–book, movie, tv show, comic book, graphic novel, etc.

Kids books. YA books. Adult books. All count.

What about series books? Or series books in all-in-one editions? I’m leaving it up to you.

What about short stories or poetry? Yes and yes. Anything really can go.

What about rereads? Sure why not!




Sign up here for the 2009-2010 Arthurian Challenge:



To view the list of participants:



To share your review:



To read participants reviews:



Don’t know where to begin? Here are some links that might help. To view last years' reviews click here.

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Amanda


Ransom, Candice F. 1984. Amanda. Scholastic. (Sunfire Romance). 361 pages.

It would be hard for me--quite honestly--to pick a favorite, favorite Sunfire Romance novel. But I can tell you this much. Amanda and Caroline would both be in my top five. Amanda is probably one of the Sunfires I read most. Meet Amanda. At the start of the novel she's quite the spoiled brat. Hardly a redemptive bone in her body. But by the end, by the end, wow, she has grown. Talk about turn around! But I'm rushing. Her father--a man whose reckless gambling has cost him almost everything--runs away from his debtors with his daughter. (She's told simply, put on your riding habit, pack two dresses, and hurry! Of course, she chooses two silk dresses; one is her fanciest dress!) Born into wealth, Amanda is forced to get real. A transformation that she fights and fights and fights. But once the pair have joined the trek west--going to Oregon--Amanda has no choice but to grow up and fast. For the first time in her life, she is working, she is living. She finds out what true friendship and true love is along the way. I loved this one. I loved it because it had substance. I loved it because Amanda is a great little heroine.

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Caroline


Roberts, Willo Davis. 1984. Caroline. Scholastic (Sunfire Romance). 361 pages.

I've mentioned this before, but I just loved the Sunfire romance novels (name books) published by Scholastic in the 1980s. Caroline was one of my favorites. In this story we meet Caroline "Caro" who is determined to follow her two older brothers west to California no matter the cost. She decides to cut off her hair, rub dirt on her face, don her brother's hand-me-downs, and go west disguised as a boy. She pairs up with Dan Riddle for the long trek west. But what Caroline didn't expect was that she'd fall in love on the way...and that her brothers would be so tricky to find. Will Dan forgive her for her deception? Can he return her feelings? Will she ever find her brothers? Can she have her happily ever after...gold nuggets and all? Read and see in this lovely little romance.

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The adventure continues...


It appears Winchester did run away after all! But would I be that cruel a mistress to this lovable cat?! Winchester tells all at Ellsworth Journal. (Isn't Winchester cute in his glasses?!)

The ironic thing? Hyperion is one of the publishing companies I don't have a contact with. Oh well. I would love a publicist contact. Because I would so love to review their line of books! So a Hyperion truck showing up at my house with a load of books...not a bad thing!

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Historical Fiction Completed

Royal Reviews is hosting the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2009.
3 Books. Historical Fiction.
January 1, 2009 - March 31, 2009

Becky’s Reads

1. Veronica by Jane Claypool Miner
2. Caroline by Willo Davis Roberts
3. Amanda by Candice F. Ransom

I’m thinking I’ll read three Sunfire Romance books.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Interview with Joni Sensel


I am thrilled to bring you an author interview with Joni Sensel. She has become one of my favorite authors in months past. Her three books are Reality Leak, The Humming of Numbers, and The Farwalker's Quest.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and your journey towards becoming a published author?

I spent about a dozen years writing screenplays, with minor success, before I realized I didn’t have what it takes to make it in Hollywood and decided to start courting rejection from New York instead of Hollywood. With a professional illustrator, I won a grant and self-published two picture books— which taught me an enormous amount about the business as well as garnering an award for one title — and then I turned one of my last screenplays into a novel. That eventually sold as my first tween fantasy, Reality Leak. Screenwriting was excellent training for novels, I think.

Were there any surprises along the way on your journey to publication? What do you know now that you wish you had known then? (if anything)

Ha! I didn’t know just how much I didn’t know about research for submissions. For many years, I didn’t really understand what networking was or how it worked. And there have been any number of surprises in the publication process itself. These range from how differently books may be promoted (or not) to the fact that some people actually read my books and like them.

What do you love about writing? What do you find the easiest? What do you find the hardest?

I adore the rush of the first draft, when the story just keeps rolling into my head and down my fingers to the keyboard, that sense of being plugged into a greater and external source. Not that it’s always that easy, but boy, how I love that inspired heat when it happens, and it’s certainly the easiest part. The hardest for me has changed; I used to really dislike revisions. Now that I’ve become convinced of their value, even if revision suggestions strike me as crazy to begin with, the hardest part is usually doing challenging, labor-intensive revisions under tight deadlines. In some ways, it’s shifted from emotional and intellectual difficulty to sheer physical and imaginative difficulty.

What is a typical day-in-the-life like as a writer?

I don’t know that there is one. I have a day job, so most of my writing, revision, and book marketing time (which is not insignificant) happens in the evenings. I often will shift gears between my day job and my writing by going for a run or walk with my dog in the late afternoon. I’m usually at my best creatively between about 7 p.m. and 1 a.m., and when things are going well, may be up until 2 or 3 a.m. Sometimes I feel glued to my laptop, but I think most of us have to be a little obsessive to finish books and then revise and revise and revise them. (I suppose if it doesn’t take other writers an obsessive amount of time and energy, they’re simply faster and better than I am.)

Can you tell us anything about your current work-in-progress? Do you have any upcoming releases?

The sequel to The Farwalker’s Quest, which will probably be called The Timekeeper’s Moon, will be out this next winter. I recently finished line edits and expect copyedits in the next month or two. I have several other WIPs, all in various stages of revision. One would be the third book in my Farwalker trilogy and another is more like my first novel — a boy book, full of humor and oddities, called Sniff. It’s about a boy who wants to become a human bloodhound and who manages to help solve a mystery with his sense of smell.



What inspired you to write The Farwalker’s Quest?

The biggest conscious influence was a trip to New Zealand, where I walked in Christchurch’s botanical gardens among fabulous old trees that radiated wisdom and compassion, and then sat musing on wonderful, charismatic boulders on the lakeshore near Queenstown. The landscape seemed so alive and communicative that it was easy to imagine characters being able to understand it. I’d already been noodling a story about a girl who had a calling she wasn’t yet aware of, and those things came together during that trip.

Do you have a favorite character? A favorite scene?

Well, if forced to choose, I guess Scarl is my favorite character, probably because I’m more like him than I am like Ariel, and because he’s more flawed. My favorite scenes are when he and Ariel are in conflict, although I don’t think I can pick just one.

What was your first impression of the cover art for The Farwalker’s Quest?

To be honest, I was surprised. It was very different from what I expected — I’d sort of imagined something more graphic, maybe with an impression of a telling dart — and I was worried that the sunny mood of the original image might mislead readers into thinking they were getting a light-hearted adventure that would shock them with its darker edges. (I really love some of the illustrator’s other work, but most of it is too dark and creepy for a middle-grade novel — even mine!) But the folks at Bloomsbury took that concern into consideration and darkened the image to make it more moody, and everyone seems to react positively to it, so I’m happy. I like the sketches I’ve seen for the cover of the next book even better.

What inspired you to write The Humming of Numbers?

Long-standing interests in synesthesia and illumination, with the catalyst of a trip to Dublin (sense a theme here?). Seeing the Book of Kells and the stunning Long Room in Trinity College Library were spiritual experiences for me. They sparked a desire to write a story grounded in those feelings of reverence, artistry, and awe. Almost exactly a year later, I was sitting in my hot tub late one night, being tickled by an idea — the ability to hear numerical auras. Abruptly Aidan introduced himself and offered to take on that story.

Do you have a favorite character? A favorite scene?

Aidan is my favorite in that story. My favorite scene, without giving too much away, is probably the one near the end where he realizes he’s not going to get everything he wants and must choose between illumination and Lana.

What was your first impression of the cover art for The Humming of Numbers?

Loved it. Again, it was nothing like what I had in my head, but was far more original, artistic, and dramatic than anything I could have imagined. I had art director Laurent Linn sign a copy for me when I met him (lucky me!)

How do you find the time--do you find the time--to keep reading? Do you have any favorites of the year?

It’s hard, and I probably “read” more on audio in the car than I do on paper, but I try. I’m usually about a year behind on current YA. My recent favorites? Hmm. Although I also read adult books, I still might have to say M.T. Anderson’s FEED, GOOSE GIRL by Shannon Hale, or THE WHITE DARKNESS by Geraldine McCaughrean.


What do you love about children’s books? What has kept you hooked?

I’m a bit of a cynic about adults; I don’t think most of us change much, so I have a hard time believing most character arcs in adult novels. But young people are still being changed radically by their experiences, and I like to write about those formative events and their impact on who we are. And I think they’re hopeful to read about, too, because people who can still change are the people who will create change.

If you had twenty-four hours, a time machine, and a limitless supply of money, what would you want to do?

Wow, that’s a hard one! If I was feeling brave and optimistic, I’d probably go 100 or 200 years into the future to see if I could recognize anything and what life was like. If I was feeling less courageous, I’d go back to watch Shakespeare work in the Globe on one of his plays, preferably The Tempest.


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Is Winchester Trying to Find a New Home?!


Maybe! Read all about it at Ellsworth Journal. Have you met Winchester yet? If you haven't you should. Especially if you're a cat lover! He is one of the cats owned by the ever-fabulous Candice F. Ransom (aka The Writer). And he shares the spotlight with Ellsworth, the stuffed elephant you see there. The Writer now has a (catless) new blog over at Under the Honeysuckle Vine. Winchester does not want you to visit that blog.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Salon: Reading, Read, To Read #13


Welcome, welcome! I hope you're having a pleasant Sunday. (Sometimes the lazier the better!) Have you read any good books lately? Any you especially want to recommend? I love hearing from readers!

What have I been up to? Besides reading you mean? Well, I've become immersed in watching FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON. I am three episodes in, and I am loving it. The drama. The music. The emotions. Wow is the only way to describe it. If you haven't seen this series about the race to the moon, spaceflight, you REALLY REALLY should.

I also watched Bolt. It was fun. Funnier than I expected. I liked it more than I thought I would.

What else, what else...well, I've started twittering. Not as much as some. Some people it seems twitter all day and most of the night. Still I have found it to be fun. If you twitter, I'd love to have you follow me. We can have bookish conversations :)

Random question for YOU. What comes first? Do you give priority to library books or books that you own? Does having a due date from the library influence you at all as to what gets read when? Or do you have a good stand-by friend called renew?

What I read in a previous week, but reviewed this week:

Fireflies In December by Jennifer Erin Valent. Tyndale. 343 pages.
The Love We Share Without Knowing by Christopher Barzak. 2009. Bantam. 288 pages.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. 1847. 246 pages.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. Quirk. 317 pages.

What I read this past week and reviewed:

Lullaby and Good Night. Illustrated by Janet Samuel. 2008. Scholastic. (Board Book)
Little Oink by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. 2009. Chronicle Books. (picture book)
Big Rabbit's Bad Mood. Ramona Badescu. 2009. Illustrated by Delphine Durand. Chronicle Books. (picture book)
Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. 2009. Chronicle Books. (picture book)
Bedtime Sing To Me by Diane C. Ohanesian. 2009. Scholastic. (Board Book) (Poetry/Songs)
Wee Little Chick by Lauren Thompson. 2008. Simon & Schuster. Illustrated by John Butler. (picture book)
Streams of Babel by Carol Plum-Ucci. 2008. Harcourt. 424 pages. (YA Novel)
Maus: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman. 1986. 159 pages. (graphic novel)
Maus II : A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began by Art Spiegelman. 1991. 136 pages. (graphic novel)

What I read this past week and haven't reviewed yet:

Eon Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman. 2008. Viking. 531 pages. (YA Fantasy)
Amanda by Candice F. Ransom. Scholastic. 1984. 361 pages. (YA Romance)
Caroline by Willo Davis Roberts. 1984. Scholastic. 361 pages. (YA Romance)
The Black Book of Secrets by F.E. Higgins. 273 pages. Feiwel and Friends. (YA Fantasy)
Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman. 477 pages. Revell. (Adult/Christian/Historical Romance)

What I've read and really really need to review:

None!

What I'm currently reading:

The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick. Sourcebooks. 592 pages.
Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary. By Brandon Mull. Shadow Mountain. 535 pages.

What I'm just fooling around that I'm reading: None
What I've abandoned: None

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Library Loot, Week End of March


Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Alessandra that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

No leftover loot to report. I decided not to risk the wrath of the renewing gods. Our Mutual Friend, sadly, got returned unread. I did read just enough in it to know that I want to read it at some point. But it's so very long--and the chapters are so very long--that this is more the type of book I need to own than borrow. Hence it will go on my wishlist. Maybe I'll find it for a good price--a price that won't make me feel guilty for owning it and not reading it right away.

Mar's Life by Ben Bova. This is a crazy impulse. I do own the first two Mars books by Ben Bova. But it's kinda silly to think I could get through those two novels...and tackle this one two...in three weeks with all the other library loot I've got below.

Powers by Ursula K. Le Guin
Voices by Ursula K. Le Guin

I'm not sure offhand which comes first, Powers or Voices, but I've got both titles out now. So we'll see how it goes.

In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck
The Pastures of Heaven by John Steinbeck
To A God Unknown by John Steinbeck

Three more Steinbeck. I'm not sure if my love affair with Steinbeck will last the month of April or not. But I'm willing to keep it going, one setback might be these library books have a bit of the musty feel about them.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks.

I *believe* that this is one of Dewey's books. So it should count for that challenge.

Zombie Queen of Newbury High by Amanda Ashby

The title says it all.

This is what I want to tell you by Heather Duffy Stone

I opened this one up, and the first sentence got me.

Truancy Origins by Isamu Fukui

Blame the jacket flap. I do.

Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia

This one looked good to me.

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Streams of Babel


Plum-Ucci, Carol. 2008. Streams of Babel. Harcourt. 424 pages.

I sat very still, waiting for the police and ambulance to arrive.

I liked this one. I really liked it. It wasn't quite what I was expecting. But I liked it all the same. Told through multiple narrators, the book follows a terrorist attack on "Colony One". The water lines for a neighborhood have been poisoned with "Red Vinegar." And the race is on to find just what this Red Vinegar agent is, and to discover a cure before (even more) people die from drinking tap water. At the heart of this story are teenagers. The year is 2002. The threat of terrorism--the doomsday fear--is large. But for this New Jersey community, it is all too real. Unfortunately. With two fatalities already, this is no laughing matter. Can the case be solved? And quickly?! Help may come from two unlikely sources: a boy named Shahzad Hamdani, a v-spy who for some of the book at least lives on the other side of the world (Pakistan); and an American hacker-boy, Tyler Ping, who suspects his own mother of wrongdoing (though not necessarily in this terror cell). They along with the American teenagers of Owen and Scott Eberman, Rain Steckerman, and Cora Holman, are the narrators of the novel. It is through their perspectives that we grasp the terrifying (and isolating) situation.

It's a complex novel, but a good one.

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Blog Tour: Bubble Homes and Fish Farts: My Interview with Fiona Bayrock


I'm happy to be hosting the final stop on Fiona Bayrock's blog tour. Her book, Bubble Homes and Fish Farts, is one example of how fun (and informative) nonfiction can be for young readers! I encourage you to seek out her book and see for yourself!

What do you love about writing?

All of it. Truly. No matter where I am in the process, I'm happier than the proverbial pig in mud. I love developing ideas, playing with word and sentence order, arguing the subtleties of synonyms, and creating structure and substance from a blank page. I'm constantly learning something new and interesting about the world. Add to that the flexible schedule and lack of commute, and I don't know that there's any other career that would be a better fit for me. I'm eager to get to my desk each morning and reluctant to leave it when the day is done. That's a nice position to be in.

What do you find the easiest?

Finding ideas. They're everywhere!

What do you find the hardest?

Getting that first draft down. At that point, I'm excited to start writing and there's an overload of information swimming in my head, bursting to get onto the page. Maintaining a controlled flow can be a challenge. It's like steering wild horses...exhilarating, but hard work.

What inspired you to write Bubble Homes and Fish Farts?

I'm captivated by the unusual ways animals survive in challenging environments, so quirky animal adaptations is one of my favourite things to write about. Plus, every author dreams of coming up with a book idea that's never been done before. Bubble Homes and Fish Farts got a full score on both counts. I had to write it.



What do you love—do you love—the research process that goes into writing nonfiction? What is your favorite and least favorite part of the research process?

I love research. I'm an intensely curious person and I relish learning new things and making new connections. My favourite parts of research are following a trail of information clues from source to source, and those times when I finally discover that one piece of information I've been seeking, or trying to confirm, for weeks. My least favourite part is waiting—for interlibrary loans or people to get back to me.

Have you got any research tips to pass along?

My research techniques are pretty standard, I think. Here are a few things I do:
— use only reliable sources (most of the internet is not reliable), primary when possible,
— mine bibliographies of my sources for more source ideas,
— copy, highlight, and store information so I can access it easily again even if the book has been returned or the webpage changed,
— sort research according to chapter or spread so I can find it easily,
— get at least three independent sources for each fact,
— keep track of photo references along the way to pass along to the illustrator or to make photo research easier.
— keep a running bibliography, adding new entries as I use material. Once the book is finished, so is the bibliography and I know I didn't forget to include any sources.

Do you have any favorite fascinating tidbits or facts that didn’t make it into the book, but that you’d like to share with readers?

My editor allowed me four pages in the backmatter to devote to "More amazing facts about bubble makers" (an author's dream!). This allowed me to include all those juicy bits that wouldn't fit into the main part of the book, so I didn't have to leave anything on the cutting room floor that I was aching to include.

While researching, one of the things I found most interesting was how much more scientists are able to learn about animals (seals and humpback whales in this case) thanks to filming their activities with crittercams. So, how *does* one go about attaching a camera to 30 tons of whale? Answer: with a big suction cup sucked on by a scuba tank. Then to get the camera back, you wait until the salt water dissolves the magnesium plugging a hole in the cup, water gets in, cup lets go, and camera bobs to the surface.

How did you decide what to include and what not to include?

My goal was to include the broadest selection of animals and bubble uses with little overlap for either. Where animals or uses were too similar, I eliminated all but one. Fortunately, the list of animals that use bubbles is a fairly short one, so I didn't have to make a lot of decisions to get a good cross-section. I searched every avenue I could think of to find a lizard or bird that used bubbles, but couldn't find any. If anyone knows of one, I'd love to hear from you!

How do you find time—do you find time—to keep reading? Do you have any favorites of the year?

I put reading in the same category as eating and breathing; there's always time for reading. I fit it into short snippets of time throughout the day, often while I'm waiting for something or someone. I read a wide range of children's literature with the odd adult book thrown in for good measure. A sampling of my favourite kids' books lately: Nic Bishop Frogs (Bishop), Tracking Trash (Burns), Stanley at Sea (Bailey), Not a Box (Portis). Punished (Lubar), the Clementine books (Pennypacker), The Darwin Expedition (Tullson), and Exit Point (Langston). Adult books: Predictably Irrational (Ariely), What Einstein Told His Cook 2 (Wolke), and The White Bone (Gowdy).

If you had twenty-four hours, a time machine, and a limitless supply of money, what would you want to do?

Wow, I'd love to be in a position to be wildly philanthropic, but I'd need more than 24 hours to figure out all the details. Aha, that's what I'd do...rig the time machine so I could keep going back in small increments so my 24 hours would go on as long as I needed it to.

Thanks for having me, Becky!

Other stops on the tour were:

On Monday, Fiona was at The Well-Read Child.
Tuesday's stop was at Abby (the) Librarian.
Thursday, she'll be at Celebrate Story.
And she'll end the week at Becky's Book Reviews.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Maus II by Art Spiegelman


Spiegelman, Art. 1991. Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began.

If Maus I was great, Maus II is even greater. If you thought the first one was heart-felt and moving, wait until you get to this one. Everything is more intense. The sorrows and griefs are even deeper; the actions even more troubling. For here we get to the heart of the story. The darkest place of all. Artie's father and mother have been captured by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp. (In this graphic novel, the name is "Mauschwitz" instead of Auschwitz.) In the contemporary story line, we see that Artie's father isn't doing well; in fact, it becomes obvious, that he's dying. This complicates things tenfold. More guilt. More anger. More frustration. Even in fine health, Artie had a difficult time getting along with his father. Now, when his father perhaps needs him more than ever, he's crankier and grouchier and meaner than ever. Life isn't easy. Never easy. This is a complex novel--graphic novel--with heart and soul. Highly recommended.


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Maus by Art Spiegelman


Spiegelman, Art. 1986. Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History.

This is a true-must-read of a book, well, a graphic novel to be exact. But still, must-read at all accounts. I loved the format of this one. No, not just the graphicness of it. But the framework of the story. How this novel is just as much about a father-son relationship--in all its complications--as it is about Jewishness, about the Holocaust. I also love the exploration of the psychology of it. So often with "Holocaust" books the issue of long-term effects, of psychological and emotional trauma that persists through the decades following such a horrific event, doesn't come up. It's a non-issue. Often memoirs are about a specific period of time. Liberation comes from either the Americans and the Russians. And voila. Horror over. But life isn't that easy.

In this first volume, we meet Artie, an artist, and his father, Vladek, a Holocaust survivor who is grumbling his way through a second marriage to a fellow-survivor, Mala. (Artie's mother, Anja, committed suicide in the late 1960s.) Artie seeks out his father in this volume wanting to hear his story, his past. Seeking answers to questions not only about his father, but his mother as well. Questions about the Nazis, the war, the Holocaust, how these two survived despite the odds. We, as readers, follow two stories, the contemporary setting where a son is asking some hard questions of his father and getting inspired to write about them in graphic novel form, and the historical setting--1930s and 1940s--where we meet his parents and learn their stories and backgrounds.

His father isn't in the best of health, and their relationship is strained. The book addresses the question of if parents ever really understand their children and/or if children can ever truly understand their parents. Can stressful tensions--ongoing issues and conflicts--ever be resolved peacefully? The drama is just as much about healing as it is the Nazis. And I think that is one of the reasons it's so powerful, so resonating. These characters--represented as mice in the novel--feel authentic. They're flawed but lovable. Their stories matter. (By the way, the Nazis are cats. The Polish are pigs. The French are frogs.)

The story is continued in Maus II.



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Herding CATS II Challenge

I've read:

1) The Bone Doll's Twin by Lynn Flewelling
2) Old Man's War by John Scalzi
3) Skellig by David Almond
4) Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

The oh-so-fabulous Renay is hosting the Herding Cats II challenge. I can't fine the start/end dates about the challenge anywhere. (APRIL 1, 2009 THROUGH DECEMBER 31, 2009) But these are the rules we do know:

1. Make a list of five books you love. Directions:

  • Five. I'm as serious as a beached whale.
  • All titles must be books you've read in 2007, 2008 or 2009.
  • Please don't list a series; just the first book. If you really want to list a book in the middle of a series, you can, but it has to be that specific book.
  • Feel free to share why you're putting the book on your list, because I am nosy.

2. Post your list:

  • in your own journal, in the comments here, whatever is fine. Share the list here.
  • Lists should be public (no locked entries, no logging in to view).

3. Browse the new book list. Stay a while. Read a few.

4. If you review your books, you can share the reviews. You know, if you want. No pressure. Definitely not.

The home page for this project is at http://www.echthroi.org/getliterate/herdingcats/ (or http://tinyurl.com/cdxk45). If you twitter, feel free to #herdcats over there. ;)


I have NO IDEA how I'm going to choose just FIVE BOOKS. But here it goes...

1) Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck. It's funny. It's short. It's accessible. Simple, straightforward, but oh-so-charming storytelling. No pretenses. What you see, is what you get.

2) The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus Book #1) by Jonathan Stroud. (Cough, cough) (Yes, I'm looking at you.) More people need to read this one. It's fantasy at its best.

3) Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. One of my favorite books of 2008. I just loved this one. (And it's the Printz winner from last year.) Just read how this one starts off, "My father took one hundred and thirty-two minutes to die. I counted. It happened on the Jellicoe Road."

4) Ten Cents A Dance by Christine Fletcher. One of the best historical fiction novels ever, ever. Give it a try!

5) Marcelo In the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. One of my favorites of 2009. I just LOVE this book. And I think you will too.

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Nonfiction Five Challenge

I don't know which five I'll be reading for the challenge. But I'll be reading something.

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

The Rules (unchanged from previous years)

1. Read 5 non-fiction books during the months of May - September, 2009 (please link your reviews on Mister Linky each month; Mister Linky can be found each month on this blog)

2. Read at least one non-fiction book that is different from your other choices (i.e.: 4 memoirs and 1 self-help)



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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Decisions, Decisions...the Chicken Zombie Award!


My Favorite Author has rewarded little-old-me the Zombie Chicken Award. The commentary on this one:

The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence is all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have th task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all ...


The last thing I need is the wrath of zombie chickens...so I'm more than happy to pass this one along:

Chris at Stuff As Dreams Are Made On...his address may have changed recently, but he's still as awesome as ever :)

Debi at Nothing Of Importance...one of my favorite bloggers :) Very down-to-earth and genuine. The blog world wouldn't be the same without her.

Nymeth at Things Mean a Lot...do I really need to explain this one? I mean it's Nymeth! Enough said ;)

Melissa at Book Nut...Just a kindred spirit. I love how her personality shines through on each post!

Deslily at Here, There, and Everywhere...Another blogger it would be near-impossible to replace. She's just a must-read :)


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Waiting on Wednesday: Goth Girl Rising


The sequel to Barry Lyga's The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl. Need I say more?


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Travel the World: England: Wuthering Heights


Bronte, Emily. 1847. Wuthering Heights.

In my effort to give books a second chance, I finished Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights over the weekend. My question was this, would I love it--or like it even--if I weren't being required to read it. If I could divorce my memories associated with the novel from English class. (Now, before I get jumped on in the comments, I'm not complaining about literature classes. I spent roughly six years studying literature.) But. I have to be honest. I'm still not that thrilled with Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff doesn't make my heart go pitter-pat. (I'd question my mental health if it did). Heathcliff and Catherine? More than a little annoying. I'd be hard-pressed to find a character that I feel sympathetic towards.

The story--in case you don't know--is about a hopeless love affair between two grouchy people. Perhaps grouchy isn't quite the word. Both are tempermental. Both are stubborn. Both are prone to melodrama. Both are selfish. One is more diabolically evil than the other. But neither one is likeable. Heathcliff and Catherine. The novel is about love and hate, revenge, bitterness, cruelty, heartache, greed, power, ambition, and above all manipulation.

I will grant the book this, I didn't fall asleep this go round. One thing that I think really and truly helped me out this time was Bella and Edward. Don't laugh. It was Eclipse where Bella oh-so-dramatically quoted on and on about Wuthering Heights and how the very fact that these two loved each other redeemed everything; it made two unsympathetic people be sympathetic. (The two wrongs make a right philosophy, I suppose.)

I can't believe you're reading Wuthering Heights again. Don't you know it by heart yet?

Not all of us have photographic memories, I said curtly.

Photographic memory or not, I don't understand why you like it. The characters are ghastly people who ruin each others' lives. I don't know how Heathcliff and Cathy ended up being ranked with couples like Romeo and Juliet or Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. it isn't a love story, it's a hate story.

You have some serious issues with the classics, I snapped.

Perhaps it's because I'm not impressed by antiquity. He smiled, evidently satisfied that he'd distracted me. Honestly though why do you read it over and over? His eyes were vivid with real interest now, trying --again-- to unravel the convoluted workings of my mind. He reached across the table to cradle my face in his hand. What is it that appeals to you?

His sincere curiosity disarmed me. I'm not sure, I said, scrambling for coherency while his gaze unintentionally scattered my thoughts I think it's something about the inevitability. How nothing can keep them apart -- not her selfishness, or his evil, or even death, in the end...

His face was thoughtful as he considered my words. After a moment he smiled a teasing smile I still think it would be a better story if either of them had one redeeming quality.

I think that may be the point, I disagreed. Their love is their only redeeming quality.


p. 28
The way Catherine spoke about Heathcliff, about love, her tendency to be so melodramatic reminded me so much of Bella. (True, Edward is a better hero than Heathcliff in that he isn't evil incarnate.)

My mind also kept jumping back to Frankenstein and trying to find comparisons between the two. I'm not sure what that was about. Perhaps it was the framework of the story, perhaps it was the harshness of some of the environments, perhaps it was the hopelessness of it all. But while Frankenstein had a soul to it, Wuthering Heights, I felt lacked it.


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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mansfield Park Revisited


Aiken, Joan. 1985/2005. Mansfield Park Revisited. Sourcebooks. 201 pages.

The sudden and unexpected death of Sir Thomas Bertram, while abroad engaged on business relating to his various properties in the West Indies, could be a cause of nothing but sorrow, dismay, and consternation to the baronet's friends in England.

I just LOVED this book. It was delightful and charming. But more importantly it is redemptive. With Fanny and Edmund out of the picture--for the most part--the narrative has a chance to focus in on other characters. Susan, Fanny's younger sister, and Tom, Edmund's brother, for example. But it also returns to us the brother-sister villains, Henry and Mary Crawford. (She's come back--and is actually renting a cottage from the Bertrams--but there's a catch: she's dying.) New characters are also introduced--the lovely Mrs. Osborne and her brother, the Reverend Francis Wadham. (He will be taking Edmund's place in the parish temporarily.) The book is full of characters you come to love...and those you love to hate.

Appearances can be deceiving, and such is the case here. All isn't as it first appeared, for example, in Mansfield Park. I have never been a fan of Mansfield Park, but I am a BIG FAN of this sequel. If you're like me, you might want to give this one a try. You might just find yourself surprised!

Like most Austen novels, this one has to do with love and matchmaking. And so much more.

I'm sorry I can't really describe it very well. But it is one of those where sharing a few details might spoil it. It is best to read for yourself and see where the story goes.


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Monday, March 23, 2009

The Love We Share Without Knowing


Barzak, Christopher. 2008. The Love We Share Without Knowing.

Everything you think you know about the world isn't true. Nothing is real, it's all made up. We live in a world of illusion. I'm telling you this up front because I don't want you thinking this story is going to have a happy ending. It won't make any sense out of sadness. It won't redeem humanity in even a small sort of way.

This isn't your traditional novel. If you know that going in, I think you will appreciate it more. Think of it more as a collection of loosely woven short stories. Some stories are more 'connected' than others. The stories share a common thread or two--mainly that of theme. To sum it up in one word: Humanity. What it means to be human, to experience the ups and downs, highs and lows of being human. Love. Loss. Pain. Anger. Bitterness. Frustration. Disappointment. Heartache. Homesickness. Loneliness. Some stories are darker than others. Some seem to be without hope or redemption. Others are more uplifting. What they all have in common, however, is the Barzak touch. He, quite simply, has a way with words. Even if you don't like where the story is going, he keeps you so in love with the words on the page, that you just have to keep reading.


Love isn't what we think. It's a living, changing creature that takes as many shapes as the fox women in the old tales my mother used to tell me. Love comes in and sometimes she's a woman who woos you with soft words and promises. Love comes in and sometimes he's a man with a strong smile and a grip on your shoulder. Love comes in and sometimes it's something beyond the usual circumstances of two people becoming one. It can slip through our hands before we even realize what it is we're holding. (97)


"But sweetheart," said her mother, "the things you don't speak of are the loudest things you say." (146)


We wear our masks in between dreams. It's one of the rules of living here. You can't not wear a mask in those spaces of time. But if you want, you can change the one you've been given. All you have to do is be strong and make it so. (188)


Have you seen Because of Winn Dixie? Do you remember the scenes where the librarian is sharing hard candy with Opal? And Opal is then sharing this candy with others? How every single person has a different way of describing how the candy tastes? That's what this novel was like. That's what this novel was trying to do, in my humble opinion, capture the 101 different flavors of life itself.

All of the stories are set in Japan.

My favorite chapter? Perhaps "If You Can Read This You're Too Close." Listen to how it starts off, "This is the truth. A blind man saw me on the train." Within this story there is a beautiful exchange from which the title of the book comes. But I'm not going to share it here! If you think this one is for you, I encourage you to pick it up and read it for yourself!

I won't lie and say I think this novel is for everyone. The book deals in quite a few chapters with the subject of suicide and the seeming 'hopelessness' of life. (I personally did NOT like the chapter with the suicide club. I do not buy into suicide as a good idea for solving life's hiccups.) It is an adult book, and some of the stories may not be appropriate for younger readers. (Though I think most teens could handle it just fine.)

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Well-Seasoned Completed

Thanks, Melissa, for hosting such a great challenge! I really loved participating. And some of the books that I read for this challenge are among my favorites for the year (so far)!

1. Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah (Australian author; Muslim culture)
2. Nerfertiti by Michelle Moran (Ancient Egyptian culture)
3. Beneath My Mother's Feet by Amjed Qamar (Pakistan; Muslim culture)
4. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (Spain)
5. Chocolat by Joanne Harris (Food in the title)
6. Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck (Food in the title)
7. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck (Travels)
8. Tropical Secrets by Margarita Engle (Cuba)


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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Salon: Reading, Read, To Read #12


Happy Sunday everyone! Still challenge happy this week! I was expecting the thrill of the Spring Reading Thing (which started Friday) because she'd been posting about it leading up to the big sign-up post, but I was ecstatic to see Carl's Once Upon A Time III challenge pop-up. I must admit I'd been checking his blog for days and days hoping that it would suddenly appear. :) If you've never tried joining a reading challenge, I'd really encourage you to join one of those. These were my very, very first challenges that I ever joined.

I also learned this past week the dates for the upcoming 24 Hour-Read-A-Thon. So consider joining that one when the time comes. (There isn't a post to sign up for being a reader or a cheerleader yet. Those posts will come at some point. And I'll try to let you know when they do.) Those dates are April 18/19th starting at noon GMT.

Have you seen Twilight yet? Are you planning on it? I got my DVD yesterday. And I liked it. There were parts I just burst out laughing. And there were a few places I got the giggles. (I could have done without the "sparkling" side effects. Couldn't anyone have admitted how lame that was?) But I liked it. I can't completely forget that unsatisfied feeling from reading Breaking Dawn. (Though it leads me to guess how anyone might film that into something...worth watching...what with it being 50% vampire marathon sex and 30% weird and creepy pregnant Bella with the horrifying birth scene and odd imprinting of the mutant baby with Jacob. Leaving the rest of the time for building suspense into a non-climax with the villains. It may be in this instance that varying from the book could salvage it. Maybe the script writers could actually spend time with it and have it have a climax worth waiting for. Who knows?!)

I've got a few interviews in the works. I've sent out interview questions to a few authors. And I've emailed a few others. Heard back from some, but not all. I need to write questions for Lisa Mantchev and Carol Lynch Williams. I've got a few questions (in my head, not on paper yet) but if you've got a few you want me to ask...leave a comment!!! Lisa Mantchev is the author of Eyes Like Stars. And Carol Lynch Williams is the author of The Chosen One. (Links to both of those reviews can be found below.)

What I read in a previous week, but reviewed this week:

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. 2004. Random House. (YA Fiction/YA Romance/Dystopia/War) 194 pages.
Graceling by Kristin Cashore. 2008. Harcourt. 471 pages. (YA Fantasy/YA Romance)
The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams. St. Martin's Griffin. 224 pages. (YA Realistic Fiction)

What I read this past week and reviewed:

No Kisses, Please! by Hans Wilhelm. 2004. (Paperback release 2009) (Early Reader) Scholastic
My Summer on Earth by Tom Lombardi. 2008. Simon & Schuster. 243 pages. (YA Science Fiction)
Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev. 2009. Feiwel and Friends. (July Pub) 368 pages. (YA Fantasy/YA Romance)
Michal by Jill Eileen Smith. Revell. 382 pages. (Adult/Christian Fiction)
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. 1962. 272 pages. (Adult/Science Fiction)
Chicken Soup by Jean Van Leeuwen. Illustrated by David Gavril. Harry N. Abrams. 2009. (May) (Picture Book)
Scaredy Squirrel at Night by Melanie Watt. Kids Can Press. 2009. (February) (Picture Book)

What I read this past week and haven't reviewed yet:

The Love We Share Without Knowing by Christopher Barzak. 2009. Bantam. 288 pages.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. 1847. Wordsworth Classics. 246 pages.
Fireflies in December by Jennifer Erin Valent. 2009. Tyndale. 343 pages.

What I've read and really really need to review:

Mansfield Park Revisited by Joan Aiken. Sourcebooks. 201.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. 2009. Quirk. 319 pages.

What I'm currently reading:

Streams of Babel by Carol Plum-Ucci (I'm exactly 100 pages in)
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens (middle of chapter twelve)

What I'm just fooling around that I'm reading:

Book Thief by Markus Zusak. (I listened to this on audio in January. I wanted to read along with the audio. But the book reading stopped. So technically I've finished this one already this year.)

What I've abandoned:

Riding by H.S. Cross


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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-11


For full explanations on this week's weekly geek, visit this post.

Is there a particular era that you love reading about? Tell us about it--give us a book list, if you'd like. Include pictures or some fun facts from that time period, maybe link to a website that focuses on that time. Educate us.


There are two time periods that I just *love* reading about. Regency England. And. World War II. But for this one I think I'm going to go with World War II.

My recommended book list

A Woman's Place by Lynn Austin
Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
Ten Cents A Dance by Christine Fletcher
Tropical Secrets by Margarita Engle
The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages
On the Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck
Jimmy's Stars by Mary Ann Rodman
Don't Talk To Me About the War by David A. Adler

I have dozens more to recommend. But they all break down into sub-genres.




As for informative websites, I could refer you here. But I like focusing on women (and children) on the homefront. (That is when I'm not focused in on the Holocaust.)


Do you have a favorite book that really pulled you back in time, or perhaps gave you a special interest in that period? Include a link to a review of it on another book blog if you can find one (doesn't have to be a Weekly Geek participant).

and

A member of your book group, Ashley, mentions that she almost never reads Historical Fiction because it can be so boring. It's your turn to pick the book for next month and you feel it's your duty to prove her wrong. What book do you pick?


I just have to give some love to Ten Cents A Dance. I just LOVE that book. Here are some other reviews of it: Finding wonderland, Em's Bookshelf, The Ya, Ya, Yas, Bookshelves of Doom, Teen Book Review, Reviewer X, Historical Tapestry, Shelf Elf, The Book Muncher, Jen Robinson. Abby the Librarian. The Written World.




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Eyes Like Stars


Mantchev, Lisa. 2009. (July Publication) Eyes Like Stars. Feiwel and Friends. 368 pages.

Part of me knows that it's mean to tease you. To taunt you with how very very wonderful a book is...and then reveal that it isn't going to be available until July. But. I can't resist. Why? Because I am head over heels in love with this book. I didn't just love it. I didn't just love, love, love it. I LOVED it. Take my normal enthusiasm of a book that I've gushed about in the past and multiply it a couple of times. Then you'll begin to understand how giddy this book made me.

The fairies flew suspended on wires despite their tendency to get tangled together.

Who are these fairies? None other than Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed. (These four are from Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream). Our heroine, Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, counts these four fairies as her closest friends. And they do have a bit in common: they're all mischievous. (In a good way.) Beatrice--as far back as she can remember--has lived in the Theatre. Her bedroom? One of the sets. Her friends? The characters from all the plays ever written. Her love interest? A minor player, a pirate from The Little Mermaid. (He's only ever had one line.) Her forbidden playmate whom she loves-to-hate and hates-to-love? Ariel from The Tempest.

When we first meet Beatrice, she's in trouble and doesn't even know it. The Theatre Manager has decided that it is time--past time really--for Beatrice to go. To leave her home, her friends, the only life she's ever known. His excuse? She's not contributing to the theatre. She--and others along side her--plead with him; he grants her a few more days to prove that she has what it takes, that she belongs there.

Her idea? To be a director! Though their productions generally never require a director--after all the originals know their lines backwards and forwards and then some--but if she were to change it up, change it around...then...maybe just maybe she'd find her place. Thus she seeks to recreate Hamlet...to give it an ancient Egyptian setting.

But life is never this easy, right? You know there are bound to be conflicts! I am not going to say much more. I don't want to spoil it. But it is oh-so-magical. It is fun and playful. It is giddy-making.

Here's the blurb--in case I haven't already persuaded you to put this on your wish list:

All her world's a stage.
Beatrice Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater.
She's not an orphan, but she has no parents.
She knows every part, but she has no lines of her own.
Until now.

Welcome to the Theatre Illuminata, where the characters of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Theatre by The Book--an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family--and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.
Great premise, great characters, great writing, great cover...this book has it all.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

The Chosen One


Williams, Carol Lynch. 2009. The Chosen One. St. Martin's Press. 224 pages. (MAY PUBLICATION)

"If I was going to kill the Prophet," I say, not even keeping my voice low, "I'd do it in Africa."

This one had me at hello, with that first sentence. Even if I wasn't already persuaded by the premise--which I was. (The premise: "Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated community without questioning the fact that her father has three wives and she has twenty brothers and sisters. Or at least without questioning them much--if you don't count her secret visits to the Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her. But when the Prophet decrees that Kyra must marry her sixty-year old uncle--who already has six wives--Kyra must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family.")

Several things caught my eye. Primarily the part about her love of reading despite the fact that all books are forbidden...to her and the others in her commune. For it is this love of reading that sustains her, that gives her hope, that gives her joy, that gives her normalcy. Small though it may seem, it is this act of disobedience, this strange-confidence of approaching the outside world, of speaking even briefly with an outsider, that is a catalyst in her life.

If you love books, you'll relate to Kyra. She names a handful of books throughout. The book shows her discovering these books, these characters. Kyra was out walking outside the boundaries of her community when she first notices the mobile library. Two or three weeks she notices him driving by. The third week, he stops. And that changes everything...for better or worse.

Dust billowed up around us. I could taste the dirt. Crunched sand between my teeth.
He rolled down the window. "You want a library card," he said adjusting the ball cap he wore. It wasn't even a question.
And I nodded, like he'd done to me these past weeks.
"You can take four books out at a time," he said when I inched my way into the truck, cooled by fans and air-conditioning.
I'd never seen so many books. Never. The sight made my eyes water. I mean, tear right up.
"Four?" I said. There was that sand on my tongue, gritting between my back teeth.
"Four."
I eyed the man. Eyed the books. Stood still, my heart thumping.
"Maybe just one," I said.
"You could start with this," he said and handed me something from a basket near his feet. "A girl just your age turned it in on my last stop. She said she loved it. I loved it myself."
His last stop? Another girl? He'd read this book?
I took the novel from him and glanced at the cover. Bridge to Terabithia.
I was there just a minute and I only took the one. One, I knew, would be easier to hide.
But oh, how my life changed with his stopping. My life changed when I started reading. I was different with these sinful words.
Who was this Katherine Paterson? Who was this Jesse and Leslie? People the writer knew? I could hardly read this book fast enough.
And when I did
when I got to the end
when I got to the end and
Leslie died
and Jesse was left alone without his best friend
I cried so hard that coming in from my hiding place, my tree, the book stashed in the branches, high in the prickles, Mother Victoria said, "Where have you been, Kyra? I needed help making bread." Then she looked at my face and said, her voice all worried, "Honey, what happened?"
I couldn't tell her a thing. Not about Leslie or May Belle or Jesse all alone. I couldn't tell Mother Victoria a thing about drowing or running or painting.
Instead, I threw my arms around her waist and said, my head on her shoulder, crying my eyeballs out, "I love you so much, Mother Victoria."
Then I set out delivering bread to my other mothers and to Sister Allred, who just had a baby, half-crying the whole way. (15-16)
But this book isn't just a book about a girl who loves to read...it's a book about a girl who's in love with a boy. Joshua Jackson. Their love innocent and pure as it may be is forbidden. Kyra--just thirteen--has been ordered by the Prophet and the elders to marry her uncle. Or else. Or else her family will pay the price for her 'sins'. No one in her family--her father or her mothers--wants to see her married to her creepy-old-uncle. But none are really willing to sacrifice that much for her. (I am not going to tell you what that sacrifice would involve because I think it would be too big a spoiler.)

This book is well-written; fascinating; compelling; powerful. I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend this one. I just loved it. Loved Kyra. Loved her story. It's an emotional roller coaster, no doubt, but definitely worth it!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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