Saturday, March 31, 2007

New Moon done Sims style

Sloppy Firsts

McCafferty, Megan. 2001. Sloppy Firsts.

Sloppy Firsts chronicles the second half of her sophomore and the first half of her junior year in high school. Upset by the loss of her best friend, Hope, who moved away in December, she spends a lot of time focusing on what is not going right in her life. None of her other friends are good enough. There are no guys she wants to go out with. There is nothing she wants to do except complain. Not that I'm entirely unsympathetic, but surely she could have found something worth focusing on other than complaining...after a month or so. Sloppy Firsts is a novel about friends, boys, family life, dating, shopping, etc. The highlight of the novel--it's redeeming factor--is her strange new relationship with Marcus Flutie. Marcus is an 'outsider' of sorts. He is a nonconformist. Known to have had more than his fair share of women, booze, and drugs. Yet, she's oddly drawn to him when he begins seeking her out. He teases her. It's not flirting so much as teasing. He says things that he knows will provoke her. Irritate her. Why? He speaks the truth. For example, he recognizes her distaste for her shallow, superficial friends. He calls her on her stuff. (Which is probably why the reader likes him so much!) But during their junior year, their relationship deepens. Suddenly, he's her cure for insomnia. A phone call at midnight each which they discuss anything and everything...and she's a new person. She doesn't know if he likes her likes her. She doesn't know if she likes him...but she thinks deep down that she just might. Which is why their relationship is flirting with danger. Does she really know him? Does she want to know him know him? Is she ready to give her heart away to a reformed druggie? Should she?

Heavy on profanity, but full of humor. This one had me giggling with glee and smiling with secret pleasure. I can honestly say that without the presence of Marcus this book would not have hooked me. It would never have moved beyond a bitter, sarcastic, angry teen documenting the silliness and shallowness of her skanky friends. She hates her supposed friends. She hates so much of her life. Marcus makes her think. Marcus makes her a better person...he releases her from her trap.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Seemingly Random Thoughts with a Common Thread

Item #1

I was reading Sarah Dessen's blog--like I do every week day--and I started thinking about something she wrote about on Wednesday. Read the full article here. The main focus of the second part of the posting was her response to an angry email from a parent who was unhappy with Dessen's use of profanity in one of her books. Here is a brief excerpt. The bold texting is highlighting what I think is most important to take away from the whole issue.

In other news, I've spent the last couple of days catching up on my emails, which got entirely backlogged as I went laptop free for the weekend. Among them was one from a very angry mother, whose daughter was apparently reading---and enjoying---my books until she came across a word that offended her (it began with an F, for clarity's sake) at which point she decided to stop reading it. Now, that's her choice, and it's not my place to judge her either way for her decision. The email did not say which book it was, although I have a feeling it might be This Lullaby or even Just Listen. I am not entirely sure, though. But it did say this, in closing:

I was very angry at you and the choice you made by including four-letter words in your “teen”books. Don’t you think these kids are subjected to enough vulgarity in the world today without you adding to it? Shame on you! Ms. Dessen, I don’t know about your household, frankly that’s none of my business, but we don’t use the “f” word EVER. I also don’t understand why you feel the need to use foul language in your books. You may say, “Well,it’s just the times we live in…” I say, whatever excuse you use just doesn’t cut it. We all choose what we say and how we act. You chose incorrectly. We choose now to dispose of your books. Yes, they may have some redeeming value– but at what cost?

Well, this is a good question. I can't begrudge someone for putting my book aside because a word in it offends them, but at the same time I'm not going to change the way I write simply to insure this never happens, because then I'm not writing my books: I'm letting someone else have a say in something that is really very much all my own, and needs to stay that way. I will say that if my editor points out that she thinks something is gratuitious or unnecessary, I have been known to rethink it. But I also believe you get into dangerous territory when you start trying to please EVERYONE, whether it be in life or on the page or anywhere else. It's just not possible. So I have to do the best I can, trust my gut, and write the way I believe I need to write. If that makes someone upset, then I respect that. But I can't change solely because of it. And I guess that reader is the cost that I pay. Which is unfortunate, but that's just how it goes.

Item #2
On Thursday, Shannon Hale commented on the Higher Power of Lucky controversy highlighting how important word choice is to an author in general. Read her posting here.

Here's what I can't shrug off--the idea that some think Patron included the word in her book for "shock value." Wha....?! I don't know Patron, so I can only think about it from my own perspective as a writer. What a huge waste it would be to put a word in a book that didn't fit character or story just for shock value. I can't imagine any writer worth her salt stooping to such silliness. The only tools we have to tell a story are letters, punctuation, and spaces--odd abstract symbols. No voice inflection, no gestures. Just words. That's a tall order. Why would we waste a single one just to shock and risk ruining the story? Much of the labor of rewriting for me is trying out every single word, checking to see if it's the best one, changing them again and again until I get it just right. The writers I know consider words magical, sacred, powerful. I feel a reverence for the written words that are a storyteller's tools and try not to ever use them lightly.

Item #3
On Monday, Emily from Whimsy Books posted that she is starting a new blog focusing on 'clean reads' that are free from profanity and sex. She writes, I'm starting a blog in blogger called (If you visit it now, please understand that it is under construction.) I want it to be a place for teens and adults to come together and recommend/discuss great fiction novels that happen to be clean (mainly free of swearing and sex). And goes on to write, I'm the kind of person that hates conflict. And I'm sure a few of my readers will think this is a bad idea and may even call it a subtle form of censorship. But I'm not starting to keep people from reading anything. It is meant to be a resource for those who choose to read clean books. Her post can be found here and the new blog can be found here.

Random Comments
These three posts (and the ideas therein) have been floating around in my head all week. Some for more obvious reasons. I will be contributing reviews of 'clean books' to the new blog site. I like the idea of creating a resource for family-friendly reads. It does raise a few questions though. It is everyone's right to choose what they read. It can be daunting and overwhelming to find 'clean reads' within the YA genre. You can't always tell by the author's name...or by the cover...or by the publisher...or by the back of the book...if a book is going to be to your liking. If you're easily offended by bad language and sex, then you can get frustrated very quickly. A book can look great. It could have gotten great reviews, but it could have a few scenes that could potentially 'ruin' it in your eyes or opinion. You could get frustrated and overwhelmed and feel like there are no books available out there for you to read. After one or two bad experiences you might give up altogether. You might feel like you'll be stuck reading Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights or Great Expectations or Little Women forever because there are no modern-day books out there that are 'good.' Having a resource like available could potentially help a lot of readers. It could provide young readers with a chance to connect with some of today's modern-day greats. It is just getting started, but the potential is there. I see the site as being all about choices. No one is trying to dictate or control what other people are reading, but it is there to help people who do want to find clean, family-friendly titles that they can read and enjoy.

I attended a Christian school k-12. We didn't even have a library at all until I was in fifth grade. But I can tell you this...that library may have been supposed to serve up through twelfth grade...but it had NO young adult books by any of today's standards. It was "Little Women" and "Jane Eyre" or "Charlotte's Web" or "Little House on the Prarie." You either had to read about eight year olds...or read books that were a hundred years old and a little towards the boring side. Although I graduated a year or two before the release of Harry Potter...I have no doubt they would never have made it into the collection. Nothing remotely offensive would have. It was a very sheltered collection of books. It may also be partly why I have come to 'relish' or 'devour' YA books now as a twenty-something. I never had the chance to read them as an actual teen...but I can't get enough of them now.

All that being said, I refuse to judge greatness or quality by the presence or lack of profanity. My site has never focused on providing only'clean reads.' It presents anything and everything. Why? Because I read anything and everything. I enjoy reading books--all kinds of books. I don't need a sanitized or filtered presentation of reality. I want something real. I want something authentic. It doesn't matter to me what is or isn't in them as long as they are written well and are enjoyable. It's the author's choice, the author's voice. They've got to make it work first for themselves and then for other readers. Personally, I think it's sad that people would miss out on a great book solely because of a few words or a few scenes. For example, Looking for Alaska is a great book. One of my favorites. A book I've come to judge other books by. But at the same time, I know that the sex, the drinking, the smoking, the language would make it reprehensible to some folks. It doesn't stop me from loving it. And part of me wishes that they could look past it and see the beauty in it. But that is their choice to make. Not mine.


Van Draanen, Wendelin. 2001. Flipped.

Bryce and Julianna have had a love-hate relationship since the day they second grade. For Julianna, she falls for his amazing blue eyes. She can't help but want to be around him. Bryce finds Julianna annoying...a pest. Just because she lives next door doesn't give her any right to always be showing up at his house. Flipped chronicles their relationship from second to eighth grade. The novel is narrated alternately by Bryce and Julianna. It is a "He Said/She Said" novel for middle schoolers. I find it interesting to read the differences between the two. How she interpets events as opposed to how Bryce perceives things. All very interesting indeed. I really enjoyed this novel. And it probably won't surprise you that by the time he's in eighth grade, Bryce is beginning to finally open his eyes to who Julianna really is...and beginning to find a use for girls after all.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Once Upon A Time Challenge

The Once Upon a Time Challenge will take place beginning Thursday, March 22nd (I’m late, per usual) and will end on Midsummer Night’s Eve, June 21st. It is a reading challenge to celebrate spring, the time of rebirth and renewal, by experiencing the type of storytelling that connects us with our past. This challenge originated on Stainless Steel Droppings There are several different quest options:

Quest One: Read at least 5 books from any of the 4 genres. This is set up more along the lines of the R.I.P. Challenge. Given the time frame it may not seem to be a big deal to commit to 5 books, but we all know how time, and reading, can get away from us.

Quest Two: Read at least one book from each of the four genres of story-Mythology, Folklore, Fairytale, and Fantasy.

Quest Three: Read at least one book from each of the four genres of story, and finish up the challenge with a June reading of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Quest Four: Read at least one book from the four genres. This is for those who don’t read much, or those who feel that this type of story is so far out of the realm of what they normally read that committing to anything beyond one story is asking too much.

I haven't decided which quest I'm going for...but here is my reading list...

1) Cupid by Julius Lester
2) Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan
3) Corydon & The Fall of Atlantis by Tobias Druitt
4) Nobody's Princess by Esther Friesner
5) Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know

Sones, Sonya. 2007. What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know.

Robin Murphy's luck has started to change. Ever the school-loser, 'Murphy' is finally getting to see the brighter side of life. Sophie, beautiful and popular though she is, has become his girlfriend over the winter break. He's had two glorious weeks of being by her side. And it looks like the magic may just continue because on their first day back at school...she chooses him over her friends in the crowded cafeteria!

Sophie Takes Hold of My Hands

in front
of everyone--
sending supersonic shockwaves all through me.

And we just sit here,
grinning at each other like Muppets,
knees pressed together under the table,
eyes locked . . .

Until the bell rings.
'Check, please,' I call,
snapping my fingers at an imaginary waiter.
This makes Sophie laugh.

And the sound of that laugh,
and knowing that I'm the one who made it happen,
makes me feel sort of all-powerful,

immortal even.

Then another great opportunity is handed to him. He is chosen to be part of a select group of high school artists to audit a college-level art class taught at Harvard! Suddenly, Robin is transformed. He's no longer 'Murphy'--dork and loser extraordinaire--he's a talented and respected artist. His classmates like him and include him. He's part of something. It feels wonderful to shed his 'outsider' persona each week even if it is only for a few hours. It gives him hope that there is life outside of high school that can be welcoming and inclusive.

Robin's life becomes a balancing act. He feels wonderful when he's alone with Sophie. He feels wonderful when he's in his Harvard class. But he's still got to come back down to earth each day in high school. The kids are treating him--and Sophie--horribly. There are the drawings on the chalkboard. There is the name-calling. There is the writing on the bathroom walls. There is the humiliation of the cafeteria. But Sophie is determined to not let anyone break them up. With her fearless slogan of "Outlaws Rule," they are tackling the school bullies together as a team.

Can Robin and Sophie handle the stress of being outlaws? Will the conflicts bring them closer together or drive them further apart? Can Sophie really adjust to being an outcast? Or will missing her old friends put a wedge in their relationship?

In Sonya Sones sequel to What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know, she continues to tell the relationship between Sophie and Murphy. Robin is an honest and vulnerable narrator whose voice resonates with readers.

It will be published in June 2007.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Looking for Alaska done Sims Style

Reshufflings and Progress Report #1

This is my first progress report on how I'm doing on the Spring Reading Challenge created by Katrina from Callapidderdays. To see others participating visit here.

Reshuffled Priorities
    Books Due At the Library 4/4/07
  • Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty* (started and finished 3/29/07)

*Since this is a second book in a series, I need to make Sloppy Firsts a priority as well, even though it's not due until April 18th.

    Books Due At The Library 4/11/07
  • Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn (started and finished 3/29/07)
  • Rules by Cynthia Lord (started and finished 3/29/07)

    Books Due at the Library 4/18/07 (previously due 3/28/07)
  • Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen (started 3/26/07; finished 3/29/07)
  • Keys to the Kingdom: Mister Monday by Garth Nix
  • At the Sign of the Star by Katherine Sturtevant
  • The Black Canary by Jane Louise Curry (started 3/30/07; finished 3/30/07)
  • Confessions of A Not It Girl by Melissa Kantor (started 3/31/07; finished 3/31/07)
  • Sunshine by Robin McKinley (started 3/30/07; finished 3/30/07)
  • Millions by Frank Cottell Boyce (started 4/1/07; finished 4/1/07)
  • The Truth About Sparrows by Marian Hale
  • Dark Water Rising by Marian Hale
  • Midnighters: Blue Noon # 3 in series by Scott Westerfeld
  • The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
  • The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau
  • What I Call Life by Jill Wolfson
  • Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass
  • Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty (started 3/28/07; finished 3/29/07)

    Books that I'll be reviewing as soon as my library books are completed
  • Remembering Mrs. Roggi by Amy Hest
  • Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Jamie Hogan
  • How To Be A Baby by Me the Big Sister by Sally Lloyd Jones and Sue Heap
  • One Naked Baby by Maggie Smith
  • Duck, Duck, Goose by Tad Hills
  • The Annotated Cat: Under the Hats of Seuss and His Cats: Introduction and Annotations by Philip Nel
  • Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
  • Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith
  • The Decoding of Lana Morris by Laura and Tom McNeal
  • Top Ten Uses for An Unworn Prom Dress by Tina Ferraro
  • The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
  • Grief Girl by Erin Vincent
  • Cures for Heartbreak by Margo Rabb (started 3/31/07; finished 3/31/07)
  • Anatomy of A Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • Nobody's Princess by Esther Friesner
  • Would-Be Diary of a Princess by Jessica Green
  • Exploits of a Reluctant (But Extremely Goodlooking) Hero by Maureen Fergus
  • Story of A Girl by Sara Zarr
  • The Neddiad by Daniel Pinkwater (started 4/2/07; finished 4/4/07)
  • A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd
  • Booth's Daughter by Raymond Wemmlinger
  • Letters from Rapunzel by Sara Lewis Holmes
  • Corydon & The Fall of Atlantis by Tobias Druitt

My Original Five for the Challenge
1) Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
2) Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
3) Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan
4) What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones (started 3/28/07; finished 3/28/07)
5) So Not The Drama by Paula Chase

    Books Eliminated from the List for various reasons
  • Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
  • Playing In Traffic by Gail Giles
  • Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
  • The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney
  • Godless by Pete Hautman
  • Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett
  • The Cupid Chronicles by Coleen Murtagh Paratore

10 Books I CAN live without

A few weeks ago I wrote a list entitled 10 Books I Cannot Live Without. I wouldn't have thought of creating this list of books that I could happily live without if I hadn't been inspired by Josette of Books Love Me. They appear in the order that I think of them--not arranged in any specific order.

1. Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson. Quite possibly the world's most boring book. But without a doubt the most overrated book of 2006. I consider this one to be a case of "The Emperor's New Clothes" where people are too timid to say that the winner of the National Book Award (not to mention EVERY other award imaginable) is a boring, difficult, unpleasant read.

2. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy. I don't think there are enough words to describe how much I hate this novel. Avoid it at all costs. This is how much I hate it: I would rather read Octavian Nothing again then even think about picking up Jude the Obscure.

3. Wideacre by Phillipa Gregory. Awful. Awful. Awful. Shudder. Awful. Who thinks incest is sexy??? Anyone at all??? Nope. Didn't think so. Seriously disturbing and weird. Full of murder. Incest. Weird Sex. Distasteful on all levels.

4. Favored Child by Phillipa Gregory. The sequel to Wideacre. Still awful. But deceptively awful. The hero and heroine don't know their brother and sister. The novel is devoid of murder, rape, incest, etc. until the last seventy-five pages or so. So you're several hundred pages into the story and thinking...okay...this is much better than Wideacre...I think it's going to be okay after all. She's in love with someone not her brother. Everyone seems like they could live happily ever after. But nope. Rape. Murder. Incest. And the book ends with her giving away her baby to a gypsy woman and going home and dying. Dying AFTER she sees/encourages her brother-husband's murder.

5. The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs by Jack Gantos. Proclaimed to be a "modern Frankenstein," The Love Curse fails to deliver. The thing that made Frankenstein wonderful was the humanness of the monster and the exploration of what it means to be be alive. The Love Curse makes Victor Frankenstein look like he's got morals. A story about a family who thinks they are genetically cursed to stuff their mothers after death instead of burying them. The story is about two middle-aged twins and their niece/daughter who share this 'genetic' bond of insanity. Unless you like the idea of stuffing your mother and pretending that she is a life-size doll and playing with her everyday...then this book isn't really right for you.

6. Deliver Us From Normal by Kate Klise which unexplainably has an equally horrible sequel Far From Normal. (Note: I haven't read the sequel, but a good friend tried to read a few chapters from it and gave up. We both had read the first book.

7. To Catch a Prince by Gillian McKnight. Waste of Paper.

8. Rainbow Party by Paul Ruditis. Poorly written trash disguised alternately as lectures and porn.

9. Romeow and Drooliet by Nina Laden. Doesn't the title say enough???

10. Summer Boys by Hailey Abbott

I could probably think of more...especially if I went out searching and browsing...but I think these shall suffice for now!

New! 11. The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O'Neill. Yuck. Double Yuck.

Dunk the Bozo

Lubar, David. 2002. Dunk.

Dunk is the story of a difficult summer in Chad's life. It all starts out well. Chad and his best friend, Jason, are walking the Boardwalk and having fun laughing and playing. Chad's favorite hangout is near the dunk tank. He loves watching Bozo draw the crowd. He loves hearing the insults that Bozo throws out. He loves watching the marks try to get their revenge. Chad knows that he would make a great Bozo. He wants the chance to sit in that cage and watch the crowds go by. He wants the chance to shout at the world through the protection of the cage. Meanwhile, he's happy just to be out strolling in the crowds and having fun. But for whatever reason, he's a target of the police. One policeman at least seems to have pegged Chad as a bad boy who needs to be taught a lesson or two. When Chad is hanging out with Jason and Jason begins having a seizure, the police ARREST him. They're convinced that Jason and Chad must be druggies. The truth? Jason is diagnosed with a serious illness. There is no way that Chad could in anyway be responsible. But does that stop Jason's mom from blaming him and barring him from visiting the hospital? No. Life isn't fair for Chad these days. With more time on his hands than ever before, he throws all his energy into training to become a Bozo. With the help of a few friends, he's on his way to learning how to be a clown and how to truly live life.

Chapter One of Dunk

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

All About Maude March

Couloumbis, Audrey. 2005. The Misadventures of Maude March or Trouble Rides A Fast Horse.

Sallie March, and her soon to be infamous sister, Maude, didn't intend to become outlaws. It all started one perfectly ordinary day when their Aunt Ruthie--their only known living relative--was shot down outside the mercantile. Joe Harden, the outlaw made famous by a series of dime novels, didn't mean to shoot Aunt we come to find out. But the damage had already been done. The bank forecloses on the girls' home even before Ruthie is put in the ground. Now Sallie and Maude are dependent on the town's charity. Taken in by the preacher and his wife, all seems to be going well. True, the two work all day slaving away. But there is at least a roof over their heads and food in their mouths. But when the preacher tries to force Maude, then 15, into marrying a middle-aged man...Maude does the only thing she can think of: to run as far away as possible. While it's true that Maude and Sallie take two horses--a buggy pony and a plow horse. But they left them their milk cow. I figured we're owed the buggy pony and the plow horse, I told her. The one is gassy and the other is so old it would have died soon anyway of overwork. Aunt Ruthies cow is worth more than the two of them put together. That was only too true. I'd have happily ridden our cow if she could be counted on to run when I dug my heels in. She could be counted on in every other way that mattered, but she wasn't built to run(44). Now Maude and Sallie are on the run carrying what food and supplies they can. Their goal: Independence, the last known residence of their Uncle Arlen who disappeared when the girls were still young. They can barely remember him. They can only hope he's made it out west. What the girls don't know is that trouble will follow them all the way on their journey...and by the time they reach Independence, Maude's reputation will be lost forever.

I tell you all this to make you understand that Maude was an upright young woman who never made mock of the truth or questioned the dark ways of justice until she saw how truth could be mangled to make a shape unrecognizable. To have you know her for a rightly praised person who never complained about the awful twists of fate that made her life less comfortable than it might have been. To show you how impossible it was for her to do the things everyone claimed that she did. For this is the true story of how my sister, Maude March, came to be known far and wide as a horse thief, a bank robber, and a cold-blooded killer. (6)

Couloumbis, Audrey. 2007. Maude March on the Run: Or Trouble is Her Middle Name.

They say my sixteen-year-old sister passes for a man and shoots like an outlaw, and I cannot argue it, since she has done both in her day. Maude has been called a hardened criminal, and of this I must tell you, do not believe it. People say a great many things and only some of them are true. (1)

A year after the conclusion of The Misadventures of Maude March, Sallie and Maude are about to be in danger yet again. Although their simple life blending into the town has been successful so far, their cover--or Maude's cover--is about to be blown. When Maude is arrested, it is up to Sallie and the girls' friend Marion Hardly (aka Joe Harden) to break her out of jail and make a run for it. They succeed in their mission--although they end up freeing another outlaw as well--and Maude's reputation is once more being slandered. At each stop along the way, Sallie reads more and more about the supposed adventures of Maude March. One day in Kansas. The next in Arkansas. The next in Texas. It seems she can be in four or five states at once. One town even claimed to have killed and buried her. But rumors of her death don't last long. The girls soon figure out that there are dozens of women--ranging from young to old--who are out running about the west using her name and giving HER the bad reputation. In fact, they meet a few of these pretenders along the way. Yes, life is full of adventure and danger when you're on the trail with a bunch of outlaws.
Chapter One of Maude March on the Run
Chapter One of The Misadventures of Maude March

Monday, March 26, 2007

If I Have A Wicked Stepmother...

Kantor, Melissa. 2005. If I Have A Wicked Stepmother, Where's My Prince?

Connor Pearson knows who I am, I found myself thinking. He knows my name. Of course, my name was just about the only thing he did know about me, but it was something. After all, what did Prince Charming know about Cinderella besides her shoe size?

Lucy Norton is one bitter, angry teen. After her father remarried, she finds herself moving across the country to live with her new stepmother and two stepsisters while her father, who is a lawyer, stays and finishes up on his cases. In her new home, she is given the unfurnished basement room with the promise that furniture will come soon. Meanwhile, she is told to make do with cardboard dresser drawers. Needless to say, seven months later, Lucy still has no furniture and is living in a room with only an air mattress. No closet. No dresser drawers. No tables. No chairs. No desk. Nothing. So who wouldn't be mad? The stepmother has had time to furnish and decorate every other room in the house. And Lucy's dad is deaf to her complaints. Yes, as Lucy sees it...she is the modern-day Cinderella. For her, Cinderella is a state of mind. As long as she's Cinderella she can't be herself. She can't face reality. The reality??? Her stepmother and stepsisters are not wicked. The reality? Her Prince Charming, Connor Pearson, is anything but a Prince. (As a reader you find yourself questioning...and she is attracted to him because of...?????) But as long as Cinderella is a game she plays with herself, she can't make peace with reality and who she really is. Cindrella is a victom role she plays for the majority of the novel. It's a role where she is always right. The poor girl who is so sweet, so right, but so unjustly treated.

Chapter One of If I Have A Wicked...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Prom Anonymous

Nelson, Blake. 2006. Prom Anonymous.

Three friends, one prom, and just twenty-one days to get ready.

Chloe, Jace, and Laura are three teen girls (juniors) who have grown apart through the years. Although they were BFF in middle school, high school found each one making new friends in new groups. Chloe became part of the weird "world history geeks" clique. Her best friends all tend to be gay. She loves writing poetry. And her hero is Sylvia Plath. Jace became part of the athletic world--particularly the world of tennis. And Laura became part of the popular, partying mall-shopping gang. So why after two or three years are all the girls being brought back together? One word: prom.

Laura, the only one with a boyfriend, has convinced her two former pals to come along with her to prom. She even helps Chloe find a date--a blind date. Jace has a boy she likes, but she's lacked the courage to ask him out before now. So the three girls rediscover each other as they talk, shop, and generally prepare for the chaos that is prom.

The narrative is mainly told from Chloe's perspective--although it does rotate between all three girls. While the plot tends to be light-hearted and silly, there is some level of depth and quality to the text.

The pursuit of memories was what youth was to most people, everything done for that video camera in your soul: Look at me! Look at how I used to be! Look at the people I used to love! (7).

I may never be happy, but tonight I am content, Chloe said to herself as she walked across the Denny's parking lot. It was the first sentence in Sylvia Plath's Collected Journals and Chloe often repeated it to herself at odd times. Tonight it seemed more appropriate than usual. Chloe wasn't exactly happy about going to the prom. But in some strange way, it had filled up her life. It had made her feel real and whole and in the middle of things. (41)

Here is a poem that Chloe writes called 'Prom Anonymous'

boy, date,
zach who
likes yellow,
zach who is
tall, will like me
or not (nothing to
be done)
we'll take
pictures, dance, run through
the streets,
maybe one moment of
"yes, the stars are lovely,
and the trees are like kings"
and then:
see ya,
good night
(they say
I'll remember you forever)

(p. 112)

What I liked about this novel, for the most part, was Chloe. She was a genuinely likeable character. She is the most developed. Her friendships--outside of Jace and Laura--are more developed than even the ones with her former friends. I liked how the novel showed that even though she had begun to see her old friends...she really and truly had changed and outgrown them. She had new friends that loved her, that understood her, that were good for her. You got the feeling that there was no going back to the way things had been--everyone had changed...but that was okay. You could remember the past, and accept people for who and what they are now.

And he has a new book that was just released this March entitled: They Came From Below.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie

Sonnenblick, Jordan. 2005. Drums, Girls, & Dangerous Pie.

Jordan Sonnenblick is one my new favorite authors. I read NOTES FROM A MIDNIGHT DRIVER a few weeks ago--although I haven't written the review yet--and absolutely loved it. This past week I read DRUMS, GIRLS, AND DANGEROUS PIE. I loved it too. Steven is a young teen--an eighth grader--who is about to face the toughest year of his life. In October, his younger brother (5 or 6???) is diagnosed with a serious life-threatening illness: leukemia. Suddenly, Steven's life is out of control. He's expected to behave much like before: go to school, do his homework, take his weekly drum lessons, practice for his All-Star Jazz Band...but he has even more responsibilities to shoulder. Now he has to tend for himself while his mom and brother are out of town a good percentage of the time. He has to deal with the fact that his father is emotionally shutting down and isolating himself from his family. He has to deal with the knowledge that his annoying little brother may not live very long. His brother's requests for games and attention can't be swept away and filed under "bothersome" any more. After facing days and weeks of horrible medical procedures, how can Steven be cruel and refuse to play a couple of games a night? And how can he beat his brother? Shouldn't his brother be allowed to win something at the end of the day. Yes, life is full of changes for Steven. Drums, Girls, & Dangerous Pie is the story of how he copes with those changes and becomes a stronger, more compassionate young man because of it.
Author Interview Jordan Sonnenblick at Cynsations
Another Interview with Jordan Sonnenblick
PW interview with Jordan Sonnenblick

Friday, March 23, 2007

My Good Friend, Bartimaeus

Stroud, Jonathan. 2006. Bartimaeus Trilogy Book Three: Ptolemy's Gate.

Last night--late last night--I concluded the Bartimaeus Trilogy. Ptolemy's Gate is a GREAT book. I love the series. Love the characters. Ptolemy's Gate occurs three years after the conclusion of GOLEM'S EYE. Now our main characters Kitty and John Mandrake (aka Nathaniel) are seventeen or eighteen. A lot of things have changed, but Bartimaeus' sarcasm hasn't. John Mandrake is now one of the must trusted members of the council. He's a prestigious magician in charge of marketing war propaganda. The war in America which was just getting started in Golem's Eye has been going badly. It's hard for the commoners or 'the people' to understand why the war is just...and why they should sacrifice themselves for a cause they don't believe in or support. One thing is certain--people within and without the empire are tired of the corrupt magicians running the show. Most people want change...and they want it now. Kitty has been living under a false name (two false names really) and she has a few secrets of her own. She has started to learn magic! A 'commoner' has started to learn magic--if people only knew she'd be in BIG trouble. And Bartimaeus, poor, poor Bartimaeus enslaved to Mandrake for three long years. His essence is fading; his strength is diminishing. Yet John won't be reasoned with. The Bartimaeus books are always full of danger, adventure, lies, secrets, etc. Ptolemy's Gate is no different. Expect the chase scenes. Expect the close calls. These three characters we've come to know (and perhaps to love) will have to learn to work together and trust one another if they expect to win the BIG battle and save the day. It won't be easy. It won't be fun. But their very survival depends on it.

Interview Meme

These questions come from Miss Erin

Here's your questions, Becky:

If you were a villain in a book, who would you be?

I can think of some picture book villains offhand...such as the wolf in the True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka...that I’ve always loved. But if that doesn’t count...I guess I’d go for the Queen of Hearts in Alice and Wonderland. She’s a fun villain at least. So take your pick from those two...

If you could co-star in a movie with a famous (or not-so-famous) actor or actress, who would you pick?

Another hard question but not for the reason you might suspect. Being in a movie--even as an extra for like ten seconds would freak me out. And the thought of co-starring in one--even a hypothetical and imaginary one--doesn’t sound like much fun for me. I’m much better at admiring from afar. I’d be too star-struck to even speak. If you’re asking me ‘who I’d like to admire from afar’ than my choices are probably somewhat typical...Orlando Bloom or Johnny Depp--because I love my pirates--and not so longest-running crush on Steve Burton (aka Jason Morgan) on General Hospital (ten years if you’re curious).

Best book you've read this year? I haven’t read any 2007 books yet. I really, really, really want to read Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson. I’ve heard such great things about it. But I haven’t got my hands on a copy of it yet. So my choice would have to be a 2006 book I just recently discovered...which leaves me with Julia’s Kitchen by Brenda Ferber for younger readers OR The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin also for younger readers. And for older readers...hard choices again...Notes From A Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick is a new favorite. And I loved Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle. What both of those have in common--in case you’re curious--is intergenerational friendship.

If your life were a book, what genre would it be? I’ll answer your original question...and then I’ll add to it. I guess comedy. If my life was a movie, I’d definitely be a musical. Not that I can or should sing...but I do find myself singing and breaking out into songs I make up myself and whatnot. So a wild and crazy (offkey) type of musical.

What's the funniest book you've read? I have several answers for this. I haven’t read this book in a really long time...going back ten years...Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults Upon Our Language by Richard Lederer and its sequel More Anguished English: an Expose of Embarrassing Excruciating, and Egregious Errors in English. Both books had me laughing...and at times when I shouldn't. I was a library aide in high school. And I was on desk duty. Librarians on duty really shouldn't be giggling away...

Have fun!

If anyone should want to play along and have me come up with five questions to ask them...leave a comment and I'll be happy to do so.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Book Candy Challenge

When I start on a printed page, I tend to eat it down like a peppermint stick. From PREACHER'S BOY by Katherine Paterson, p. 84

The idea that 'reading is like candy' came to me when I was reading Preacher Boy a few months ago. I really loved the concept. The more I thought about it, the more connections I was able to make. Both are pleasurable. Both are satisfying. Both are delicious. Both are addictive. Both can give cravings. Both make life more fun. And the list goes on and on...

Now I know technically there are many kinds of candy. But I tend to think of candy coming in two varieties: chocolate and everything else. (And I am very opinionated when it comes to chocolate. For example, why oh why RUIN good chocolate by adding crisped rice???) Similarly, there are many genres of books. Not every candy OR every book will appeal to everyone. Everyone's favorites are different. Everyone has a different idea of a *perfect* treat. Here are my favorite candies (in no particular order) and their book equivalents. I am curious to know what YOUR favorite candies are and YOUR book equivalents.

Raisinets = Anne series by L.M. Montgomery
Almond Joy = Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Mounds = New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
Three Musketeers = Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Milky Way = The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Cadbury Eggs = Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
York Peppermint Patties = Looking for Alaska by John Green
Junior Mints = Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer
M&M’s = Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar = Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Hershey Special Dark = Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Hershey Cookies ’n’ Creme = What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
Hershey Kisses = Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

One of the reasons I love this concept is because it *explains* or *highlights* the differences in pleasure. I can say the phrase "I enjoyed" or "I loved" a thousand times or more. I enjoy probably 80 to 90% of what I read. What do I mean by enjoy? I find it entertaining and pleasurable enough that I'm motivated by the book to keep reading. That doesn't mean I *feel* the same way about every book I "enjoyed." And *love* what do I mean when I say I *loved* a book? I end up loving about 50% of what I read. I could mean it's memorable. I could mean I want to recommend it to everyone I know. I could mean I want to buy my own copy and reread it every year. I could mean I want to hug it and pat it and keep it close. I could mean that I found a part of myself in the book. It could be something I savored. It could be something that changes the way I see the world or changes the way I see myself. I could mean that I fell in love with the book at first sight. I could mean hundreds of things. That is why I found it so delicious to think of books in terms of different kinds of candy. All chocolate is good, but there are differences between filling your craving with M&M's and filling your craving with a Milky Way bar. One isn't *better* than another. They're just different.

And for the record, I read more books than I eat candy! Candy is a sometimes treat and books are an everyday treat!!!


Cary, Kate. 2005. Bloodline.

Set in France, England, and Romania during World War I, Bloodline is the story of four young people: the brother and sister team of John and Lily Shaw; Mary Seward, a young nurse who falls in love with John; and Colonel Quincey Harker, John's Commanding Officer and Lily's love interest. The story is told through diary/journal entries and/or letters of all the characters involved. When John arrives at the front and meets his new Commanding Officer, he has little idea what torments await him in the following weeks. It is more than the war. It is the horror of watching the twisted cruelty of humanity. John gets the feeling that there is something not quite right about Colonel Harker. He's mysterious. He's dangerous. He seems to have superhuman strength and an uncanny ability to return always unscathed from his nighttime raids and skirmishes. Witnessing a few scenes AND being injured, he ends up returning to England and becoming a patient in a sanatorium delirious with trench fever. His ravings and mumblings convince doctors he's mad--crazy, delirious. But what no one suspects is that his nightmares are rooted in truth--a dangerous, horrifying truth. Mary is the only one who senses there may be something to his suspicions about Colonel Harker. She's the only one who distrusts him when he comes to visit...and when he moves into the Shaw household. Is there really something dark and sinister lurking beneath his charming, charismatic persona? Will Harker endanger them all?

This war is as bad for the mind as it is for the boy. In the fog of combat, we aren't always able to see things for what they really are. (26)

My dear daughter, I fear an old enemy has returned. An enemy my friends and I had hoped our children would never know. He turned to John. "My boy," he said, "I do not believe your testimony of Quincey Harker's demonic activities is that of a fevered mind. For I have encountered such behavior before. From what you have told me, I believe Quincey Harker must be descended from the same evil, parasitic presence I helped remove from the world thirty-five years ago. One Count Dracula... (151)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Touching Darkness

Westerfeld, Scott. 2004. Midnighters #2: Touching Darkness.

Like the first book in the Midnighters series, Touching Darkness is an exciting, adventurous read. Five young teenagers are exploring a world that they're not quite sure of...a world that's dangerous and risky...a world that threatens their own existence. In Touching Darkness, our Midnighters learn that danger lurks even in the other twenty-four hours of the day. So while they're used to being prepared in the Midnight Hour (Blue Hour, whatever you want to call it) to fight the enemy of Darklings...they are not used to the idea of humans being manipulated and controlled by darklings during the rest of the day. It's a new, disturbing idea that becomes all too real to the teens. Can the team forget their differences and learn to work together to fight the enemy? Or will inside bickering weaken the team enough to let one of their own be captured?

Spring Reading Challenge

Katrina from Callapidderdays has created a new reading challenge called "Spring Reading Thing 2007." Always having a long TBR list and enjoying a challenge, I have decided to participate. To see others participating visit here.

Progress Report Week 1
Progress Report Week 2
Progress Report Week 3

1) Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
2) Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
3) Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan
4)What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones (started 3/28/07; finished 3/28/07)
5) So Not The Drama by Paula Chase

combined with my list of borrowed books that have to be read and returned June 18th...

    Books that I'll be reviewing as soon as my library books are completed
  • Remembering Mrs. Roggi by Amy Hest
  • Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Jamie Hogan
  • How To Be A Baby by Me the Big Sister by Sally Lloyd Jones and Sue Heap
  • One Naked Baby by Maggie Smith
  • Duck, Duck, Goose by Tad Hills
  • The Annotated Cat: Under the Hats of Seuss and His Cats: Introduction and Annotations by Philip Nel
  • Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
  • Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith
  • The Decoding of Lana Morris by Laura and Tom McNeal
  • Top Ten Uses for An Unworn Prom Dress by Tina Ferraro
  • The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
  • Grief Girl by Erin Vincent
  • Cures for Heartbreak by Margo Rabb
  • Anatomy of A Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • Nobody's Princess by Esther Friesner
  • Would-Be Diary of a Princess by Jessica Green
  • Exploits of a Reluctant (But Extremely Goodlooking) Hero by Maureen Fergus
  • Story of A Girl by Sara Zarr
  • The Neddiad by Daniel Pinkwater
  • A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd
  • Booth's Daughter by Raymond Wemmlinger
  • Letters from Rapunzel by Sara Lewis Holmes
  • Corydon & The Fall of Atlantis by Tobias Druitt

and my seemingly unending library stack...which will most likely have to be renewed...

    due 3/28/07
  • Ptolemy's Gate (Book Three in Bartimaeus Trilogy) by Jonathan Stroud (started 3/20/07; finished 3/23/07)
  • Maude March On the Run by Audrey Couloumbis (started 3/25/07; finished 3/25/07)
  • Prom Anonymous by Blake Nelson (started 3/23/07; finished 3/24/07)
  • Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett
  • The Cupid Chronicles by Coleen Murtagh Paratore
  • Dark Water Rising by Marian Hale
  • Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke (started 3/25/07; finished 3/25/07)
  • If I Have A Wicked Stepmother, Where's My Prince? by Melissa Kantor (started 3/22/07; finished 3/23/07)
  • The Truth About Sparrows by Marian Hale
  • Bloodline by Kate Cary (started 3/21/07; finished 3/21/07)
  • Millions by Frank Cottell Boyce
  • Hole in the Sky by Pete Hautman (started 3/25/07; finished 3/25/07)
  • Godless by Pete Hautman
  • Confessions of A Not It Girl by Melissa Kantor
  • Sunshine by Robin McKinley
  • Dunk by David Lubar (started 3/24/07; finished 3/24/07)
  • The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney
  • Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick (started 3/21/07; finished 3/21/07)
  • The Black Canary by Jane Louise Curry
  • Playing In Traffic by Gail Giles
  • Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
  • At the Sign of the Star by Katherine Sturtevant
  • Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
  • Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
  • Keys to the Kingdom: Mister Monday by Garth Nix

    due 4/04/07
  • The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
  • The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau
  • What I Call Life by Jill Wolfson
  • Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass
  • Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
  • Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty
  • Midnighters: Blue Noon # 3 in series by Scott Westerfeld

    due 4/11/07
  • Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
  • Rules by Cynthia Lord

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

No ordinary girl...

Stanley, Diane. 2006. Bella at Midnight.

If you think Bella at Midnight is just another Cinderella-type'll be surprised with what you get. Yes, there are trace elements of the fairy tale here--a mean stepmother, two stepsisters, glass slippers. But there is much more than that. Bella, the daughter of a knight, was raised by a very loving peasant family. After her mother's death (during childbirth), her aunt takes her away and finds her a wet nurse. The girl's father wants nothing to do with her. Wants no reminders of his wife around. Years go by. Bella grows up. She makes friends. She is happy and secure in her own little world little thinking that she is more than just another peasant girl. Her best friend, the prince, seems to think she is much more too. Yes, she not only knows of the prince--he's her best friend. But as they grow up, things begin to change. Differences begin to matter. Julian, the prince, goes away to resume princely duties--even if he is the third son of the family. Bella's aunt comes for her. Her father has remarried a widow with two daughters. Now Bella must try to blend in with the aristocracy...she must shun her peasant-like behavior and learn how to be a *real* lady. Problem is, Bella doesn't want to change. She doesn't want to become a shallow, fake, insincere creature like her stepsister who is a lady in waiting (or perhaps a maid in waiting) to the Queen. She is happy being herself. But Bella's world is soon to be turned upside down when the latest gossip reaches her--the Prince is in danger...and only she can save him. Will she have the courage and strength and know-how to succeed in her mission? And just how do those glass slippers come into play during that rescue mission? Find out in BELLA AT MIDNIGHT.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Carnival and Haiku

This month's carnival is hosted at Midwestern Lodestar!
Welcome to the 12th Carnival of Children's Literature.
There were so many submissions, that it felt more like the State Fair.

So, come on in.
Be amazed, enlightened, inspired.
And yes, by all means.....


One of the new-to-me blogs that I found thanks to the above carnival is a blog called "Emilyreads." I plan to add it to my links over on the right as soon as I hit "publish." What makes Emilyreads unique, you say? It's all about the haiku. She reviews children's and young adult books in haiku form!!! How fun and clever is that??? I NEVER would have thought of doing that...I'm much more long-winded. :)

Here are just a few of the books she's reviewed:
Higher Power of Lucky
Hattie Big Sky
Book Thief
Story of A Girl
Forever In Blue
A Drowned Maiden's Hair
Toys Go Out
Life As We Knew It

Oh how I wish I felt *right* borrowing a haiku or two so you could know the *glory* of the site...but that would be stealing.

Baba Yaga Addicted to 'Days'

I have been having the best time reading The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley. On Friday I reviewed THE FAIRY-TALE DETECTIVES. On Sunday I reviewed THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS. And today I bring you the third installment: THE SISTERS GRIMM: THE PROBLEM CHILD.

Buckley, Michael. 2006. The Problem Child.

The adventures never end for the Grimm family, just as the family was stepping out of danger in THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS, Sabrina is off for an adventure of her own trying to solve the big mystery of who kidnapped her parents. Fortunately, Puck is never far behind. (Not that Sabrina likes being rescued by Puck!!!) The danger they face this time--none other than Little Red Riding Hood and her pet "kitty" Jabberwocky. Yes, Sabrina now knows WHO took her parents and even WHY her parents were taken by the psychotic "little girl." But she still doesn't know WHERE they are or HOW to save them. Sabrina does realize that one person (even with unexpected help now and then) CANNOT hope to win against the bad guys. This is a family situation. How 'lucky' that the Grimm family is about to increase in numbers. Who should appear out of thin air but the girls' uncle??? Yes, Uncle Jake is in town...but does he create more problems than he solves? Uncle Jake is back and he has a few secrets...

The story will be continued in THE SISTERS GRIMM: ONCE UPON A CRIME which releases May 1, 2007, according to Amazon. (Oh how I'd love to get my hands on an ARC of this!!!!) It will be added to my "wish list" on the right as soon as I click "publish."

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Big Bad Wolf Does Yoga

A few days ago, I reviewed The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy-Tale Detectives. Today I am reviewing the second book in the series entitled THE SISTERS GRIMM: THE UNUSUAL SUSPECTS.

Buckley, Michael. 2005. The Sisters Grimm: The Unusual Suspects. Pictures by Peter Ferguson.

In most towns, the police do not rely on an old woman, two kids, and a sleepy dog to solve crimes, but Ferryport Landing was no ordinary town. More than half of its residents were part of a secret community known as the Everafters. Everafters were actually fairy-tale characters who had fled Europe to escape persecution. Settling in the little river town almost two hundred years ago, they now used magical disguises to live and work alongside their normal neighbors. Ogres worked at the post office, witches ran the twenty-four hour diner, and the town mayor was the legendary Prince Charming. The humans were none the wiser--except the Grimms. As fantastic and thrilling as it sounded to live among fairy-tale characters, it wasn't a dream come true for Sabrina Grimm. Being the last in a long line of Grimms (descended from the famous Brothers Grimm), she and her sister had had the family responsibility of keeping the peace between Everafters and humans thrust upon them no less than three weeks ago. And it wasn't an easy job. (2)

Our story begins roughly three weeks after Fairy-Tale Detectives concluded, the two sisters are still adjusting to their new home. Still adjusting to living with 'the big, bad wolf' in his disguise as Mr. Canis. Still adjusting to their new stepbrother of sorts, the infamous Puck. But even more change is on the way: the two must begin attending school OR they'll be taken back into foster care and into the care of the dreaded Ms. Smirt. Changing schools is difficult for most kids, but it becomes even more challenging in Ferryport where some of the staff are Everafters...and some of the students are children of Everafters.

Sabrina had been to a lot of schools in the last year and a half, and they all had a few things in common. Every one of them had a couple of grouchy teachers, a bully, a bully's punching bag, a weird cafeteria lady, a bathroom that everyone was afraid to go into, and a librarian who worships something called the Dewey Decimal System. None of those schools, however, had a teacher-killing monster scurrying through its hallways. And they said New York City had everything. (90-91).

Even with all of the new adventures and mysteries to solve, Sabrina cannot and will not forget her most important mission; she's determined to find her missing parents and the Everafters responsible for their disappearance. But is her anger and frustration even more dangerous than she knows??? Find out in this second exciting installment of The Sisters Grimm.

Name-Book Meme

I saw this one over at Meme Girls and thought I'd join in the fun. I like to challenge myself--if you remember I've done several A-Z listings in the past.

This is a Meme Girls Original Meme. What's in a name? To find out, use the letters of your name to make a list of book titles. If you want to get crazy, assign a different genre to your first and last names.

Rash by Pete Hautman
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Endymion Spring by Matthew Skelton
Crooked River by Shelley Pearsall
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Mary, Bloody Mary by Carolyn Meyer
I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have To Kill You by Ally Carter
Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Little House on the Prarie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card

Lion the Witch And the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga
New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
Enchantment by Orson Scott Card
Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty

Friday, March 16, 2007

Random Late Night Thoughts

Okay, so I spent some amount of time pondering my list of books I can't live without...and then I went over to Kailana's Written World and read her post of comments about the article in the Guardian. Some of her comments were quite amusing, and overall I enjoyed my visit to her site. Quite honestly I don't have thoughts on all of the books...but thought I'd share the ones I do...

1. Pride and Prejudice...glad to see it on the list...glad to see it's a book that makes me happy just thinking about it.
2. Lord of the Rings...glad I read it...but quite honestly did it have to focus so much on Frodo??? Why couldn't it focus on the *interesting* characters???
3. Jane Eyre...not in my top 100...but whatever.
4. Harry Potter...won't go there...not a fan...but then again...I did only read the first book. I suppose the series could have gotten much better since then.
5. To Kill A Mockingbird...loved it.
6. The Bible....loved it...agree it belongs there...although I'm not sure how sincerely it was placed there...still I'm glad it beat some of the others on the list. It would be really sad if Bridget Jones Diary or Charlie and The Chocolate Factory beat out the Bible...
7. Wuthering Heights...naptime anyone??? When I was in high school "Wuthering Heights" or should I rephrase that... the sentence "I'm going to go read Wuthering Heights" actually meant "I'm going to go take a nap now."
8. it and enjoyed it...don't know if it's one I'd go back to again...
10. Great Expectations. Quite possibly the world's most forgettable book. I've read this book twice. Twice...and if my very life depended on it...I couldn't remember anything about this book other than the name "Pip" and the fact that there's a weird old lady dressed in a wedding dress in it. None of the plot has stuck with me. Completely blocked from my memory. It must have been really awful for me to block it out that much...
11. Little Women. Sad but embarrassingly true fact about me...I didn't read Little Women until 2003...when I was in graduate school. I tried--oh how I tried to get through it in junior high and high school. But Beth would begin to get sick...and I just couldn't bear it. Also, love the fact that Joey (from Friends) had to put Little Women in the freezer :)
12. Tess of the D'urberville. Didn't hate this book. It's actually my favorite Hardy. But that isn't saying much. Little known fact about me: I voluntarily took a graduate course in Thomas Hardy having never read anything by him or about him before. True, there weren't many options open in summer school. But not the best way to spend the month of June...I loved the teacher...he was a favorite of mine...but Hardy is the most depressing author I've read to a certain point. But then again, I try to stay away from authors if I know they're depressing. So my experience isn't that vast.
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare...good to see an old friend...
15. Rebecca....again another old friend...this time from high school
16. The Hobbit...nice book...much more accessible than LOTR...I enjoyed it very much
20 it in graduate school...really enjoyed it...great class...but hard semester. It was the Fall of 2001... Isn't it odd how books are connected with certain memories...
21. Gone With The Wind....loved it...but then again you know that.
22. Great it and forgot it shortly thereafter...
24. War and Peace. I'm waiting for the miraculous "third time's the charm" approach for this one since the first two attempts failed a little under halfway through.
29. Alice in Wonderland...loved it...
30. Wind in the Willows. I can't believe I missed out on this book as a kid simply because the copy I had growing up was so scary looking...but I found it as an adult and loved it.
31. Anna Karenina...mostly loved it...
33. Chronicles of Narnia...really love it...
34. Emma...would be much further down on my list...
35. could anyone rank Persuasion lower than Emma???? It's so wonderful...
36. Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe...I think whoever compiled this list was a bit slow...since this one was already in "Chronicles of Narnia"...
40. Winnie the Pooh...glad there is Pooh on the list...
41. Animal Farm....some books should come with warning labels that they are emotionally disturbing and should never be read by the timid...poor me...who had put off Little Women so be traumatized by Animal Farm because I didn't know what was coming. Seriously bad mistake.
46. Anne of Green Gables...loved it...can't express how much I loved it :)
47. Far From the Madding Crowd...why oh why is there so much Hardy????? Is it to taunt me???
54. Sense and Sensibility....Emma beat Sense and Sensibility???? Really???? How does stuff like this happen?
64. The Lovely Bones. Not my thing. It had me to a certain point. But why does this *ghost* of sorts have to come and take possession of a girl's body so she can have sex??? Why was that necessary?
65. Count of Monte Cristo. Loved it. Can't believe that it's ranked under Lovely Bones. Not to mention under Emma. It's so much better than most of what's on this list...
67. Jude the Obscure. Shudder. There are not enough words in ANY language to describe how much I hate and despise this book. Worst book ever written. It exists just to torture people.
68. Bridget Jones' Diary. I actually really like this book. Serious literature it isn't....but I'd rather read Bridget than so many others on this list. It's funny. It's accessible. It doesn't bore you to tears. It doesn't put you to sleep. And no matter what you think of this's got to be better than Jude the Obscure...anything is better than Jude the Obscure.
73. The Secret Garden...loved it growing up.
79. Vanity Fair. Never made it through this one...I read up until she was grown up and leaving school...but never made it to when she was married. I hope that it's slightly better than the movie at least.
80. Possession. Liked it. Read it in college.
81. A Christmas Carol. Liked it just fine. Probably the only Dickens I've read and enjoyed.
87. Charlotte's Web. Liked it just fine. Loved Trumpet of the Swan.
97. The Three Musketeers. Liked this one very much. Certainly better than Jude. And much more enjoyable than Emma. Better movie version too.
98. part of The Complete Works of Shakespeare...did they not have more than 100 entries...did they have to use repeats???
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Loved this book. Not sure quite how it made it onto a list of mostly classics. But it's worthy of reading at any age.
100. Les Miserables. The summer of 2000. My goal of the summer. I finished it. But I must admit I skimmed some of the battle scenes. But I'm glad I read it...

Top Ten Books You Cannot Live Without

This 'meme' comes from Kailana's Written World...

Also, do not forget that it would be best to only include books that you have read, and they do not have to be your favourite books of all time, just the books that you think that you or the world could not be without. Try and limit yourself to ten, but if you need one or two extra, like for a Thursday Thirteen, that would be fine. Try not to go overboard!

1. The World's Best Fairy Tales. A Reader's Digest Anthology. Edited by Belle Becker Sideman. Illustrations by Fritz Kredel. Published circa 1967. Around 830 pages of pure storytelling :) While I can't testify that I've read the book cover-to-cover, I must say it's been a favorite since I learned to read twenty-plus years ago. And it's always made my desert island list.

2. Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I don't know if it's fair to bend the rules and count the whole series as one book...but if no one calls me on it...I'll let it stand. These books make the list because they became a part of me. (And I don't think I'm alone on this.) I wanted TO BE Laura Ingalls Wilder when I grew up. (I may be alone on that.)

3. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery...again if I can count the whole series...but if I can't, I guess the first one will suffice. I loved this book when I was growing up. Probably discovered it around the age of eleven or twelve...and have never stopped loving it.

4. The World of Pooh. A.A. Milne. A world without pooh???? Who could imagine it...certainly not me. (Although I'm more Piglet than Pooh). One of the few books whose lines and hums I can still remember. Is it normal to go around humming the hums of a Pooh???

5. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. Maybe some people could live without Peter Pan...but I sure wouldn't want to. Some may think the writing's a bit too sentimental...but me I'm in love with the boy that will never grow up.

6. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. This book has gotten me through a lot. I fell in love with it at twelve or thirteen. And I've worn out three or four copies of the book. In times of stress, I CRAVE this book. I don't know why. My mom always thought I was a bit crazy that I *had* to start reading Gone With The Wind every semester right before finals week...but it worked for me somehow. Oddly enough since I've been out of school for the most part, I haven't been needing to read it as often. I don't think I've read it since 2001 or 2002....

7. Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. All 7 books...but they have been available as one book for so's not really cheating to list all seven as one book. I *discovered* the glory and wonder of Narnia in fourth grade. I've been back to visit regularly ever since.

8. Jane Austen: Her Complete Novels. Again one volume. Not cheating. The romantic in me would *have* to have Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion nearby...I love getting lost in her books.

9. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Okay, I know not *everyone* loves Alice. But I love Alice. I can't imagine a world without her. Maybe it's the happy childhood memories of my mom, my sister, and I reading side by side taking turns reading aloud. Maybe not everyone 'gets' Alice and her crazy world...but I just love these books.

10. Ender's Game is my final choice. It isn't an easy one. But I can't imagine a top ten list without it. I absolutely love this book. I love Orson Scott Card. I can't imagine not reading this book every year. It's one I've devoured time and time and time again. I could have easily chosen others...I could probably come up with a Top 100 List of books I can't live without out...but Ender's Game wins the final slot.

Shoes, Toys, and Cookies: The Elvish Handcraft Tradition

Buckley, Michael. 2005. The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy-tale Detectives. Pictures by Peter Ferguson.

The dense forest branches scratched at their faces and arms, but Sabrina and Daphne couldn't stop running, though they had long since passed the point of exhaustion. Fear was fueling each step now. Another thunderous bellow rang in the distance, followed by the terrible sound of falling trees and shrieking animals.
"We have to find a way to stop it," Daphne cried between gasps. Sabrina knew her little sister was right. But how? They were two children versus a vicious monster.
"I'll think of something," Sabrina said, dragging her sister behind an enormous oak tree for a much-needed rest. Sabrina squeezed her sister's hand to reassure her, while she forced oxygen into her burning lungs. Her words were empty. She didn't have a plan. The only thing going on in her head was the thumping of blood roaring through her eardrums. But it made no difference. It had found them. Splintering wood and damp soil rained from the sky as the tree they stood next to was violently uprooted. The two girls looked up into the horrible face above them and felt hot breath blow through their skin. What's happened to our lives? Sabrina wondered. When had their world become unrecognizable? And what had happened to her, the eleven-year-old girl who only two days ago had been just an orphan on a train?

Sabrina and Daphne are young sisters with a legacy or heritage about to catch up with them. When their parents disappeared over a year ago, the two had been placed into foster care or social services. Bounced from home to home, now the girls are on their final journey to a new home. A mysterious relative has stepped up to claim them. Now Ms. Smirt, their social worker, has only to deliver them to Ferryport Landing and her work will be done.

Smirt had made a mistake when she chose a career with children, Sabrina thought, especially since she didn't seem to like them. Ms. Smirt complained whenever she had to touch their sticky hands or wipe their runny noses, and reading bedtime stories was completely out of the question. She seemed to especially dislike the Grimm sisters and had labeled them rude, uncooperative, and a couple of know-it-alls. So, Sabrina was sure it was Ms. Smirt's personal mission to get the girls out of the orphanage and into a foster home. So far it had failed miserably. She'd sent them to live with people who were usually mean and occasionally crazy, and who had used them as maids, house sitters, or just plain ignored them. But this time she had gone too far. This time Ms. Smirt was sending them to live with a dead woman. (2-3)

This 'dead woman' is their grandmother Grimm. Eccentric, yes. And the environment is odd at best. And their are certain rules the girls will have to adjust to...but it soon becomes least to the reader that this will be a loving, adventure-filled home.

Here is a description of the house beginning with the living room: (can you guess why I like it???)
It was enormous, a much larger room than seemed possible in a cottage so small. Each wall was lined with bookshelves, stuffed with more books than Sabrina had ever seen. Stacks of them also sat on the floor, the tables, and every other surface. A teapot perched precariously on a stack that looked as if it would fall over at any moment. Books were under the couch cushions, under the carpet. Several giant stacks stood in front of an old television, blocking any chance that someone could watch cartoons. On the spines Sabrina read the strangest titles: BIRDS OF OZ, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN EVIL QUEEN, and SHOES, TOYS, AND COOKIES: THE ELVISH HANDCRAFT TRADITION. Mrs. Grimm led them through another door where a dining room table sat littered with books, open and waiting to be read. Sabrina picked one up and rolled her eyes when she read the title: 365 WAYS TO COOK DRAGON. (15)

And it doesn't take long for the adventures to begin....but I won't spoil them here!!! This is one you'll have to read for yourself.

About the Author:
The Sisters Grimm series is Michael’s first venture into the world of children’s book writing. His mom and dad insist they are proud of him, even if the whole “I’m going to write a book” idea sounded like another one of their son’s poorly thought out money-making schemes he claimed was “life experience.” Michael lives in New York City with his wife Alison and their dog, Daisy.

My Opinion: Loved this one, can't read to read #2 and #3!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Toys Go Out

Jenkins, Emily. 2006. Toys Go Out: The Adventures of A Knowledgeable Stingray, A Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic. Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky.

Toys Go Out is a book that I loved. It is a book I love now as an adult. And it is a book I would have loved as a kid. It stars three lovable, unique characters: Lumphy, a stuffed buffalo, StingRay, a stuffed stingray, and Plastic, a red ball. The three share adventures in and out of the Little Girl's room--and on and off the High Bed. The book is told through six short stories.

"In the Backpack, Where It is Very Dark" explores the strangeness of going to school for show and tell through the eyes of toys that DON'T know where they are going or why. Did they do something wrong? Are they on their way to the dump? Why is it so dark? And why does it smell so bad?

"The Serious Problem of Plastic-ness" focuses on Plastic's identity crisis. Told that "the truth" can be found in books...and that the books hold the answer to everything. She tries finding out what kind of animal 'Plastics' are--their natural environment, what they eat, what they do, etc. What she finds shocks her. It seems that there are no animals named plastic. In fact, it says she's artificial. What does artificial mean anyway? As Plastic explores her environment and asks probing questions, she finally realizes who and what she is.

"The Terrifying Bigness of the Washing Machine" focuses on the adventures of Lumphy, who by chance gets dirty and has to brave the washing machine, Frank. What he finds through it all surprises him.

"The Possible Shark" focuses on StingRay as she is left home from the family beach-trip because she is "dry clean only." And follows the dangerous adventures of Plastic as she experiences some of what the ocean and beach have to offer.

"How Lumphy Got On the Big High Bed And Lost Something Rather Good-Looking" focuses on Lumphy and StingRay. Lumphy has always been jealous that StingRay got to sleep on the High Bed with the Little Girl. He wants his chance to become a favorite. A bedtime essential. He begs and begs to get his chance. Can StingRay deliver? Will Lumphy get his wish? Or will he find that sometimes you don't want what you wish for after all...

"It is Difficult to Find The Right Birthday Present" focuses on all three toys as the Little Girl's birthday approaches. It's hard to find a birthday present when a) you're a toy who can't leave the house b) you have no money or no clue as to what money even is or what it can buy and c) everything in the house already belongs to the Little Girl or her family. Are gifts of the heart just as exciting to receive?