Friday, December 28, 2012

Merry Post-Christmas!!

Are you basking in the glow of a successful Christmas?  I certainly am!  Not only did I get all of the books on my Christmas list, but I was able to read all the books on my Christmas Break Reading List.  That's right, here's what you can look forward to in the coming days:

Reviews of:
1.  Skippyjon Jones Picture Books
2.  Going Bovine by Libba Bray
3.  Fiona Frost and the Murder at Foster Manor by Bon Blossman
4.  Stupid Perfect World by Scott Westerfeld
5.  Feed by M. T. Anderson

Now, I need to formulate a reading plan for the New Year!  I realized that I have a ton of galleys piling up on my Kindle, and other Kindle Daily Deal books that have been wasting away on my virtual shelves, hence the upcoming review of Feed, so I am going to try to get to some of those books before long.  Also, when I came home from a long Christmas trip last night, I had four review books straight from the publisher!  I'm moving up in the review world!  So, I'll have to employ my mad skimming skills and get those out to you too.

Also, I received The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, both by Gretchen Rubin, from my sis-in-law.  The chapters are divided by month, but I've always been a fast learner, so I figure that I'll read a new chapter every other week, so at that rate, I should be crazy-style happy and organized by this time next year.  Not that I'm not happy now, because I am, but there's always room for more happy!

And, I need to dig into Blog, Inc. by Joy Cho and find out how to make this blog bigger and better.  How's that for a New Year's Resolution!

Speaking of New Year's Resolutions, I'm still mulling mine over, but most years I vow to read more big kid books, but this year I am going to make a resolution that is a little more attainable-I'm going to keep reading books that I enjoy and are shaking up the children's book world.  Although I think that I'll make  more of an effort to read the Caudills this year.

Any reading resolutions for you this year?  Let me know!  And if you just can't wait for my book reviews, check out my reviews on Goodreads.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Kit Tyler is making the journey from Barbados to Connecticut on The Dolphin, but while being rowed ashore, she dives into the river to retrieve a child's toy, which begins her troubles.  Kit is traveling to her Aunt Rachel's home after the death of her grandfather, but she is arriving unannounced.  Now, this carefree young woman must bend to the strict ways of her Puritan extended family.  Her life gets a little more interesting when she finds that William, a wealthy young man in her community, has intentions of courting her, while her beautiful cousin Judith has set her sights upon John Holbrook, the new ministry student.  This new life is difficult for Kit, but she finds an unlikely friend in Hannah, the so called witch who lives in the meadow, and her friend, Nat from The Dolphin.  Kit finds herself in danger, but by keeping her head about herself and staying true to her upbringing, she comes out of all her trouble better for it.

After my reading of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, this seemed like a natural choice.  It's another Newbery, although older with a publication date of 1958.  I had passed by this book quite often in the library while straightening or shelving and always wanted to read it, but I never made the time before.  I'm quite glad that I did.  I found that this was a lovely historical fiction that wasn't as dry as I feared.  I think that with the right encouragement, this could find a place with today's readers and it certainly has connections to history units on religious persecution.  

Also, a note on the cover.  This is the cover that I read, although there are some much better covers out there.  I would highly recommend updating your copy to get more checkouts.   Surprisingly, the paperback cover from 1978 is my favorite, but there are others that will look much nicer than the original 1958 cover, so update if possible to attract a new readership.

This was another snow day read.  If this weather keeps up, I'll be through my To Read list in no time!

Happy Reading!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Lucky Ones

The summer is ending and Cornelia, Astrid, and Letty are delving deeper into the life of bootleggers and movie stars.  Astrid is finding out that married life is not all it seems with Charlie running off on dangerous errands and confining her to the house more and more often.  Cornelia wants to live her life with flyboy Max Darby, but her families feud with the Hales reaches a point she can no longer ignore.  Poor Letty sees stars in her eyes and is drawn in by Valentine O'Dell and his pick up lines.  All the girls are changed by their summer, but they are all especially changed by the last party of the summer for Astrid's birthday when all the activities come to a dangerous peak.

I knew going in that this was the last Bright Young Things novel, but it didn't feel that way until the final chapter.  Even after that, there seemed like there were some loose ends that could become new stories, but the Epilogue sadly concludes the series with bittersweet memories as related by Billie, Astrid's step-sister.  

While this is a sad conclusion, it is a satisfying conclusion to the series none the less.  It is quite easy for the reader to forget that the characters are only 17-18 years old, which makes this a reasonable cross-over book.  Granted the themes in the book more closely relate to teen readers, the setting and time period are wonderfully drawn by Godbersen and will delight readers of historical fiction.  

While reading this book, I found myself longing for The Diviners.  After reading that book, I said that I likely wouldn't return to this series, but after a couple of free preview chapters, I was hooked, and due to a snow day, I was able to breeze through the book by the fire with some hot chocolate.  It was a wonderful way to pass the afternoon. 

I have greatly enjoyed Godbersen's telling of the 20's and the late 1890's in her previous series, The Luxe.  I wonder what she's going to come out with next.  I'm not anxiously awaiting her latest work like some other authors, but her books provide a wonderful escape, just light reading for a snowy day!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, December 20, 2012


S. Wendell Palomino is back and wants his dog, so armed with a court order, he demands Luthor, the oversized Doberman, back from Savannah Drysdale.  But the gang can't let that happen, so Griffin, The Man with the Plan, hatches an idea to hide him at his summer camp.  Too bad that plan fails when Swindle sends a lackey to get the dog.  Then it's off to Logan and Melissa's camp, but that doesn't last long either.  Finally, Luthor lands with Pitch and Ben, but of course, Swindle and his henchmen are not far behind.  Utter unbelievable, but very entertaining, Hideout is great for fans of the caper story and dog lovers alike.

Gordon Korman's Swindle books are great for middle readers, despite the complete lack of consequences of the children's actions.  Or maybe the reader is to assume that consequences comes between books.  So far the gang has liberated Luthor and a very valuable baseball card from Swindle, saved a monkey and many other animals from a floating zoo, sprung Griffin from juvenile detention, helped Luthor win best in show, now finally keep Luthor from Swindle.  It's full circle.

The first in this series was delightfully witty and the characters came together so well.  The next books have all been nice, and readers will enjoy Griffin's plans.  Dog lovers will be able to relate to Savannah's fierce love for Luthor and how much he means to her.  But I think that most readers would agree that it's time for Luthor, Savannah and the gang to live happily ever after.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Scaredy Squirrel Extravaganza!

After reading Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas, I realized that I was really missing out on a great picture book series.  I had always dismissed Scaredy Squirrel as too intricate for storytime since the books have several diagrams and lists and such in them.  I still hold that idea to be true, but now I'm thinking that Scaredy Squirrel would be great for a grade school program.  With that idea in mind, I checked out all the SS books from my local library (don't worry, they will all go back tomorrow) and got to work!


These books all follow a theme:

1.  Give an instruction to the reader, like washing hands with antibacterial soap, or checking under bed for monsters.
2.  State what Scaredy Squirrel does not do, like have parties, or leave the nut tree.
3.  State what Scaredy Squirrel is afraid of, like germs, Godzilla, and bunnies, that makes him not do the activity.
4.  State Scaredy Squirrel's plan of action, like how to build a beach, or make a friend.
5.  State how the plan goes wrong.
6.  Play dead.
7.  Discover that dreaded activity is not so bad.
8.  Adapt new activity to old level of scaredy-ness. 
9.  The end

With that all being said, this would make a great jumping off point for a program for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders.  

First, your scenario:  Scaredy Squirrel Goes to the Movies

Next, why doesn't SS got to the movies?  Is it the dark, the dust bunnies that lurk under the chairs, the sticky floors, those oddly authoritative ushers?

Then, give the children a ton of random objects, like oven mitts, flashlight, stuffed monkey, rope, water, notepad, frisbee, fake fruit, etc, and ask them to come up with an action plan for SS to go to the movies and be safe using those items.  

Next, work through the action plan.  What's going to happen?  How will the plan go wrong?  

Of course, the participants will have to play dead.  But how will SS realize that their is nothing to be afraid of at the movies?  

Then, how will SS adapt the movies to his scaredy lifestyle?  Have a movie night under the tree with his friends?  Invite the garden gnomes into the tree for movies?

Or, you could always simply act out of the books, instead of making up your own scenario.  Scaredy Squirrel Goes to the Beach or Has a Birthday Party would both be great options.  Most importantly, by having the kids act out the book, or create their own story in a group, you are showing them how to create a story like the author.  It's a simple enough outline that any child could use a little imagination and come up with a great story.

Unfortunately, I don't have a library to try this out in, but you might!  If you have ideas to share about a Scaredy Squirrel Program, let me know.  If you want to use my ideas for your program, please go ahead, but I'd appreciate it you'd check back in and let me know how it worked out.

And the fun doesn't stop there-Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping will be out in 2013!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Sweet Far Thing and an Update

My breathless run through the Gemma Doyle Trilogy is complete.

Gemma, Ann, and Felicity search for ways to change their own fate and save the realms while still conforming to society's standards.  The girls are equally concerned with their debut, or future employment in Ann's case, and their dear friend Pippa and the Winterlands creatures that threaten to take over the realms.  With help from her visions, Gemma discovered Wilhelmina Wyatt, a Spence girl that discovered the truth about the Tree of All Souls, but her addictions were her downfall, so now the task is left to Gemma.  Again, their is the question of who to trust, as Circe is making more sense, Miss McCleethy is still being cruel, Lord Denby is using Tom as a pawn, and Pippa is making herself queen of the Borderlands.  Even Katrik seems to have a different agenda.  The plot races toward the end, with short reprieves and a few spots were it is hard to keep up.  The ending is satisfying without being too predictable and it is a fitting finish to this series.

My only compliant about this series is that the last book was far too long.  It weighed in at over 800 pages, with the first being only 400 pages (I say "only", but that's half the length of the last one).  But, given the opportunity, I'm not sure what I would have cut out of the book.  It seems that a lot of time was spent in the realms, which was necessary, and on Pippa's little kingdom, but that was also necessary.  Their debuts were important given the time period, and Ann's experience auditioning as Nan Washbran was as well.  This could have been split into two books, I feel, but very few series are four books instead of three.  It you are going to go four books, you might as well go to five, then you're just so close to six, so why not stretch it a little longer.  No, three seems to be the magic number, so I guess my point it moot.

That being all I have to say on this series, next up, Going Bovine, The Witch of Blackbird Pond and Fiona Frost:  Murder at Foster Manor.  The first because I'm on a Libba Bray kick, the second because I never read it, and the last because I love Big Rich Texas and just want to see what it's like.  I'm thinking marginal, like a 2, but I'm willing to be surprised.

Also, I am getting over my Kindle book addiction quite well, thanks for asking.  I actually put The Lucky Ones on hold at my local public library after reading the preview chapters instead of hitting BUY NOW!  I've only purchased two Kindle books this month, both very weird ones too.

First, The Supernatural Bible from Zondervon.  It was $0.99 and I more so got it to see how they sensationalize the Bible to fit the ever growing vampire trend.  Plus, I told my pastor about it and he is interested in checking it out too.  So really, it's research.

Next, Stupid Perfect World by Scott Westerfeld.  I have come to love Scott Westerfeld, but his Levithan trilogy is a little beyond me.  I'm not a steampunk girl, but this is a way for me to get back into this world without so many jacked up animals and old-timey flying machines.  It's a short story, which not only means it was $1.99, but it will probably only take an hour to read, so instant-instant gratification.

Since I've only spent $3 on Kindle Books this month, I think that I'll spring for The Mark of Athena over Christmas.  I have the other two Heroes of Olympus books on my Kindle, so I feel like I need to stick with it.  And that will be another book that once I sit down with it, I won't come up for air, plus I know I'll enjoy it.

Even with Doug's new Kindle Fire,  and all of his Kindle purchases, my credit card balance was quite reasonable.  Maybe it's not the Kindle books that was doing me in, maybe it was all the online purse shopping (JK-but those Kate Spade flash sales were not helping!).

What will you be reading over Christmas?  You've seen my convoluted list.  Anyone else reading a Newbery, a vanity press release and a possibly blasphemous version of the biggest seller of all time?

Just me then.  Alright.

Happy Reading!

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Point of No Return

Here's another one of my reading theories:  The Point of No Return.  It's that point in the book when you know that if you read any further, you have to stay up all night and finish.  Where that point comes is different for every book, but all good books have that point where you are forced to keep going until the very end.

This is more than just needing to know how the story ends.  Plenty of books end with an apathetic, whatever, I'll just read the last chapter and be done with it.  No, this is an outright sprint to absorb every last detail and discover the resolution as quickly as possible.  And, if it's the last book in a series, it only heightens the point of no return.  Really that whole last book is the point of no return.  I read Mockingjay in under 6 hours, with a short dinner break.  HP Book 7 took me nearly 12 hours, with a mac and cheese break.  And now I'm finishing up A Sweet Far Thing.

I have moved pretty steadily through this book despite the length, just over 800 pages.  And last night my goal was to get the 600 page marker.  I've mainly been reading in 50 and 100 page increments, so when I go to page 670 last night, I wondered if I should just finish it up.  The action had greatly increased, Gemma is starting to discover the truth, or variations of it, the previous few chapters had been a flurry of furious activity and the ending was drawing near.  But it was 11:00 pm, and I was getting tired.  So, I closed the book, went to bed and tried to sleep while battles were raged in my head between Pippa and her army of factory girls and fairies and centaurs and Hadjin.  

I feel like I was already at the point of no return with The Sweet Far Thing, but since it was so late, and I had to get up for work, I had to reel myself back in.  I know that tonight I'll sit down, run through these last few chapters and reach the conclusion.  Then it's off to the next book and this will all start again.

Happy Reading!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Fan Girl Jewelry

It does seem like you can get jewelry inspired by any young adult series now, whether officially sponsored by the publisher, or on Etsy.  I showed you the Daughter of Smoke and Bone jewelry line weeks ago, and now The Huffington Post is getting on the action.

Now, you can pretty well search any major series on Esty and come up with inspired jewelry.  I highly recommend you try it!  I personally found my own look-alikes for the pricer DSB jewelry on Etsy.

Please disregard my mannish hand.  I never realized how difficult it is to photograph your own wrist.  Anyway, these are some bracelets that I ordered from NanaStudio (although I just checked and she's on vacation for a bit, but there are other vendors that sell similar items).  The first bracelet is a gold wishbone on black cord.  The second is a gold feather on a dark purple braided cord.  Finally, there's a gold hamsa on the aqua-ish cord.  I've worn them pretty often ever since I bought them and I really like them all tangled and stacked up together.  Plus, each one has a little charm on the clasp that says "Be Happy".  Not that happiness is a primary theme in DSB, but it's a nice reminder to me.

I find myself playing with my bracelets pretty regularly during the day and it's a good reminder of the book that I love so much, and they are temporary.  Not like a tattoo.  I can proudly wear my love for Daughter of Smoke and Bone but remove it when the time strikes.  Jewelry is great like that.

If there's a series that you are crazy about, I recommend you just go type it into Etsy and see what happens.  Or, just search out your own jewelry, since DSB won't yield too many results.  Instead, try "tooth necklace" or "wishbone bracelet", or whatever other reminders you would like from the book.

If you are thinking Christmas presents, then hurry!  Contact the Etsy seller and see if they can fill your order before Christmas, because nothing stinks more than getting a note in a box saying "I bought you an amazing Hunger Games necklace, but it won't be here until 2013.  Merry Christmas!"

This weekend I'll be gathering up all the Christmas presents to make sure I have enough, then starts the frantic rush to get last minute presents, wrap everything, and start thinking about how we are going to fit everything in the car, and still have room for the dog.  Hopefully we make it this year!  Last year the poor little girl had boxes piled on top of her crate in the car.  Good thing she's a good traveller.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Burn for Burn

Small town problems, high school drama, and revenge, plus something just a little darker.  Kat, the outcast, wants to get back at Rennie for being a spoiled queen bee who makes her life miserable.  Lillia, the perfect one, wants to get back at Alex for hooking up with her younger sister, Nadia.  Mary, the new girl, wants to get back at Reeve for ruining her life.  Kat hatches a plan for everyone to get what they want and for no one to get caught.  

What's interesting here is the back story.  All of the action takes place on a small, remote tourist trap, Jar Island.  This is the type of place where the rich come to play, but the townies can't wait to escape.  Plus, Kat, Rennie, and Lillia all used to be best friends, and Lillia and Rennie still are best friends, even though Lillia is helping to plan her demise.  Mary is just a stranger on the outside, and there is much more to her than this book can even hint at, and honestly, her plot line is so out of place that it is jarring against the rest of the book.  Hopefully further installments of this series will balance this out.

This was a NetGalley download, so it was free.  I greatly enjoyed Jenny Han's earlier book Shug, so that is what lead me to pick download and actually read this title.  As you may know, I love downloading NetGalley books, but I don't always finish them.  But this book, with it's talented authors, compelling premise, and Gossip Girl-like cover seemed like a sure thing.  

And while it is an easy read, it's quite predictable, aside from Mary's rather paranormal abilities, which are only hinted at in this first book.  The supporting characters are rather shallow, the high school is a little too cliche, and the revenge of course has unintended consequences.  But readers who have always wanted to stick it to the head cheerleader and the captain of the football team will not be disappointed.  

Happy Reading!

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

Charlotte has been living in England attending finishing school, but now it is time for her to travel back to Providence, Rhode Island to be with her family.  Her family went on ahead, so she could finish her studies, so Charlotte will be traveling with several other families aboard the Seahawk.  However, those families do not arrive at the ship, and even Charlotte see how few people want to help her reach this ship, but she has no choice in the matter and is onboard with a crew of rough sailors and one seemingly gentlemen-like Captain Jafferty.  At first, Charlotte has an easy friendship with the captain and an uneasy friendship with a crew member Zachariah, but that changes when she discovers the captain's cruelty.  What follows is Charlotte's adventure and discovery of strength.

This is mainly an adventure story, although there is the theme of proper behavior as well.  Charlotte is a compelling character, but it is a little hard to believe that she changed so drastically in such a short amount of time.  The reader must assume that she always had a adventurous side deep down, otherwise most proper girls of her time would have simply stayed in the cabin for the whole adventure.

It does make sense that the main character be a girl and not a boy.  A boy of higher birth, even at that time, would have lived under a different set of rules.  Of course, the work of a sailor would still have not been acceptable, but it would not be as forbidden as what Charlotte did.  It would have been a good adventure story with a male protagonist, but it would not have been exceptional, as this story was, having received a Newbery Honor.

Above is the cover of the book that I read.  However, I was lead to this book by an advertisement for the new cover.

Much better.  I didn't know anything about Charlotte Doyle, other than the Newbery Honor (which can be a blessing and a curse), but this cover more accurately portrays the danger and daring in her journey.  It draws the reader in much more than the original cover.  Covers are quite important.

Here are some other covers for your enjoyment.

 Here we have the covers from 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2003, and 2005.

The 1992 cover looks much too girly and does not convey the adventure inside-FAIL.
The 1993 cover looks like a creepy story and just looks pretty cheap.  If your library has this cover, toss it please.
The 1997 cover is pretty good.  Charlotte looks androgynous so this cover might be more easy to sell to male readers.
The 1998 cover is wretched.  It reminds my of the cover for The Devil's Arithmetic.  I'm sure that publishing was going through some type of fad with altered reflections back then, so let's all be glad that's not the style anymore.  Toss this cover too.
This 2003 cover was a limited release I believe, but it's a pretty lovely cover.
The 2005 cover is quite nice, despite the ugly price sticker.  It still has the same woodcut design, but with color, and movement.  I like this one too.

It is always so fun to compare covers and see how they have evolved over the years.  I much prefer the modern covers, and the original is not bad, although Charlotte looks quite manly, rather like Hagrid without the beard.  Maybe that's why she made such a good sailor-she's half giant and we never knew it.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Gifts for the Reader

Or, I'm Not Finished with The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.  Pick your title!

I didn't finish up Charlotte Doyle last night because I had a Christmas party to attend for my church.  To the right you will notice an adorable owl gift bag that I crafted myself for the occasion.  Then one woman asked me how to open it, and I said-I'm afraid you'll have to decapitate him!  That part was not festive, but it was cute while it lasted!

I mentioned earlier that books dominate my Christmas list.  Specifically I'm asking for:  Blog, Inc by Joy Cho, Bossypants by Tina Fey and The Happiness Project and Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin.  Do I get extra points for asking only for big-kid books?  Double points since they are all non-fiction?  Triple points just because?

But what should you get the readers on your list?  Let's find out!

For the Picture Book Crowd:  Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas by Melanie Watt.  Why?  It's hilarious.  And readers will love to talk back to this anxious little squirrel.  I really want a copy for myself, but I'm only asking for big kid books this year.  I have to keep my resolve!

For the Coloring Book Crowd:  Don't Let the Pigeon Finish This Activity Book! by Mo Willems and YOU!  This is the perfect book for all the Pigeon Lovers out there, myself included.  It's weird that I want this book too, isn't it?

For the Middle Reader:  Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver.  This book is just magic!  I would highly recommend for the boy or girl in your life.  I loved it so much after reading it that I bought my own copy-it's that good.  And I bought it in hardcover-so truly-that good.

For the Junior High Reader:  Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.  I'm exploring the back list for you since I realize that my junior high level reading is sorely lacking.  But this is still a great book.  Revisionist History with Steampunk flare and flying whales.  Plus, it's a series that has just wrapped up-so it already has built in potential for future gifts.

For the High Schooler:  Every Day by David Levithan.   You thought I'd say Days of Blood and Starlight here, didn't you?  Yes, I'm a fan girl, but I think that Every Day has more mass appeal.  Not to mention that it is one wonderful book.  If you have a high school reader on your hands, this book will be appreciated.  I just don't see any fault in this book.

For the Adult YA Reader:  The Diviners by Libba Bray.  Ha-fooled you again!  I think that The Diviners is more accessible to readers than my fan-girl pick.  The historical setting will draw you in, and the fantastical themes don't take a lot of work or imagination on the part of the reader.  It's all pretty easy to accept.  This could be under my Christmas tree too!

For the College Student Whose Brain Just Exploded From Finals:  Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson.  I've seen the looks on students faces as they emerge from finals.  It's not a good look.  They need some wildly inappropriate humor.  Re-establish yourself as the cool aunt by giving them this book.

For the Person Who Insists on Only Reading Adult Books:  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  Argh, these adult-book-only people, but here's a book that will fill their need for literature, but introduce some magic and whimsy into their lives.  Also, this is a great high school book, or college student book.  Pretty perfect for anyone, any occasion.

Finally, For The Person Who Has Everything:  Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor.  You had to know this was coming.  How could I not recommend these books as gifts?  Here's why this is the perfect gift for the person that has everything:  do they have Chimera, a Wishmonger, a necklace of animal teeth, leagues of Seraphim, and a blue-haired step-daughter that drives them crazy?  Okay, some might have that last one, but everything else is pretty unheard of, so give them the gift of adventure, without all the pesky vaccinations and travel restrictions.

So tell me, did I leave anything out?  Are there any reader-related gifts you would recommend?  Or maybe you're hoping that Santa shops at the bookstore too!

Happy Reading!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fun Bookmarks At Last!

I figured out how to get my pictures from Instagram.  I'm still not happy about the Twitter thing, and honestly, this might not be a totally legitimate way to take back full possession of images that I took, but, that's just how it goes sometimes.

Moving on:  Fun Bookmarks!

Like I said just minutes ago, I went to a local art sale last night and actually picked up a bunch of stuff.  Most of the items that I bought are Christmas presents, so I can't exactly post pictures of those, but I did find the perfect bookmarks for every occasion.

First up:  The Book Club Bookmark.  Perfect for those long-winded books that make you want to take a nap.  Witty and functional.

Next:  The Inappropriate This-is-How-I-Feel-Sometimes Bookmark.  Notice that I not so cleverly censored it.  This is a children's lit blog after all.  It's also worth noting that I got the last of these babies so I'm guessing that there are a lot of readers out there who would like to be left alone.

And finally:  The Perfect for Every Occasion Bookmark:  I just like this one.  It's great for virtually any book that you know will suck you in and not let go.

Each bookmark was $1 each, which I guess is kinda steep for a bookmark, but these are witty bookmarks, so it's okay.  And the money goes to the starving students artists in the area, so it's a purchase that you can feel good about.  Shop local and all that.

If you're in my area (and if you are, then you know it), the art sale is going on at the WCI Art Center Downtown until Wednesday evening.  It's a great place to pick up some great presents-I would know.

Happy Reading, and Shopping!


 So, I had this great post planned for today all about the fun little bookmarks that I bought last night at a local art sale.  I took a couple pics of them with my Instagram app and uploaded them to Twitter, like always, so I could add them to this blog later.  Twitter is like my little Instagram Album, my place to store the pictures I want to share, but maybe don't want out on my Facebook.  Accept, that doesn't work anymore!!

ARRGH!  I'm so frustrated with digital content and rights that have nothing to do with the user.  You can read more about the Twitter/Instagram Feud here from CNN.  Also, since Blogger is a Google product, and Instagram is a child of Facebook now, Blogger and Instagram don't play nice together.  And then you have the fact that my phone is a Droid and my computer is a Mac, and my reader is a Kindle, but I love my iPod, and I'm in a very dysfunctional relationship with social media and technology.  Why can't everyone just play nice?

And why can't I save and use the photos that I took how I see fit?

Maybe I should have paid more attention during all of those DRM lectures in grad school.  Maybe I wouldn't be in this mess if I actually did my term paper instead of just BS-ing exactly what I knew the professors wanted to hear.  Digital Rights Media is topic that librarians must be educated on, but as a children's librarian, I never thought it would come back to bit me so hard.

ARRGH!  So, tonight, I will go home, take new pictures with my icky Samsung camera, and tell my hubby again how I need to get a new camera, since Instagram is being mean.  If Instagram were a kid on the bus, my mom would be talking to his mom-that's how mean he is.

Moving on to a better topic-my newest batch of reviews came in!  Just as I expected, I have been demoted to the world of series non-fiction.  I understand, I'll do the time.  I received four books from the same series of craft books for tween girls.  Fantastic!  I get to read about bedazzling for hours!

But, I also received a Book/CD kit that was pure gold.  Let's just say this book wishes a pleasant evening to implements used to build roads and such.  I immediately read it to Doug, despite his eye-rolling, and he liked it.  And Lucy was mellowed by it too, so I'd say it's a great book.

Hopefully, I will have two reviews done by the end of the weekend.  Then it's just slow and steady until the rest are finished.  Actually more steady than slow.  I have that slow part down to a science!  And maybe tomorrow I'll sneak in a quick review of The True Confessions of Charlottle Doyle.  I've been checking out some backlist stuff lately, just to mix it up.

I hope that your day is blissfully free of technological annoyances, and if not, then have a cookie!

Happy Reading!

Monday, December 10, 2012


I am a huge fan of skimming.  As a busy reader, I don't always have the kind of quality time I would like with all of the books begging for my attention, especially when I was working.  So, I employed the skim.  I figured that it let me get a good enough picture of the book to book talk it and recommend, or never speak of again.

My system of skimming is one that I honed during grad school, when I was assigned at least 2 YA books per week, along with my 3 other grad classes.  Note:  I was crazy in grad school and did the whole program in 12 months, which is fast.  I honestly would not recommend that to anyone, not that it's that terrible hard, but more so because grad school was fun and I wish I'd had more of it.

How to skim like a pro:

1.  Read the first chapter-this most often establishes all the biggies like character, setting, and main conflict.
2.  Read the first and last paragraph of every chapter.  This is usually a quick and easy way to find and resolve cliff hangers.
3.  Read the first sentence of every paragraph.  Again, gives you an overview.
4.  Read all dialogue.  This will give you the high points of the plot.

Now, this system has served me very well.  That's how I got through The Golden Compass.  Come on, there's a six page bear fight in that book, and all I needed to know was who won.  I also think this is the system that I used on Crime and Punishment in high school, because I couldn't tell you two things about that book today.  When used on middle grade chapter books, this is a very effective system to blow through a bunch of books in a short amount of time, and it's a great librarian tool.

I admit that I often skim my book club books.  My book club books are often books that I would never pick up, or even know exist because they are real big-kid books written by literary type authors that all live in some writing commune in Vermont or something.  Okay, that might not have been too nice, but that's how I feel.

Anyway, this Thursday we will be talking about The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.  I was looking forward to this book.  The short summary is that a girl name Rose can taste the emotions of the person that baked the food she eats.  This reminded me of Savvy by Ingrid Law, which I loved!  But, this is not a middle grade book, this is a literary adult novel, so no such luck.  Instead of a book about Rose's ability and how she uses it, or grows into it, it's more a book about her family denying their feelings and falling apart.  It's a short book, but it's heavy and there was nothing in it that made me what to read it.  I just did not care about these people at all, what so ever.  Blah.

And, the worst part was that my skimming technique was not effective because there were no quotation marks!  Somewhere my high school lit teacher is crying.  It was so annoying, and I think just served to keep the reader even further from the characters.  It was like the author didn't even feel like putting the work into it, so why should I?

Ugh.  So that's my fail in skimming.  Actually, I did still skim, it was just a little less precise, so I probably missed a bunch of stuff that might make this book redeemable, but judging by the GoodReads reviews, there is precious little here anyway.

I hope that my skimming technique works for you!  I'll likely be employing it again soon as I blaze through Caudills.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Rebel Angels

After releasing the magic of the realms in A Great and Terrible Beauty, Gemma must now find the Temple and bind the magic, but she doesn't know who to trust.  Just before Christmas break is set to begin, a new teacher, Miss McCleethy joins Spence and seems to both loathe and like Gemma, but she has bigger issues, like the three strange girls that come to her in visions and watching Pippa become more and more a part of the realms.  Once the girls finally go to London, Felicity takes Ann with her, concocting a story that she is the long-lost cousin of Russian royalty, a lie that works only for a time.  The girls also seek out Miss Moore for more help and knowledge of the Order, and how to possibly find the Temple.  Gemma catches another break in the form of a girl committed to the sanatorium, Nell Hawkins, who speaks in riddles and codes to teach Gemma the way to the Temple.  Outside the realms, the girls attend dances, operas and enjoy all types of Christmas celebrating, and all the while Gemma is being courted by the handsome Simon Middleton.  All in all, this book is full to bursting, and not only nicely wraps up some questions, but leaves readers ready to seek out the final book.

I was alternately pleased and disappointed in this book.  There seemed to be some points that didn't quite work for me.  For instance, in the first book, Felicity's mother is gone, she's in Paris and had been for quite some time, making it seem like she had left Felicity and her father entirely.  However, she is a staple in this book, seemingly only run off to Paris for a month or so, not three years.  Her easy placement in this volume was upsetting to me, and it was something that I could not quite get over.

On the other hand, Miss McCleethy and Miss Moore were characters that really kept you guessing.  I felt all along that Miss Moore could not be the good character, but the book kept leading me to that conclusion, even though I felt like she had to be the enemy.  Libba Bray did an excellent job of keeping the readers guessing on those two, so much so that you still have a hard time believing what you'd suspected all through the book.

Also, the treatment of Pippa was heartbreaking.  I have a feeling that she will have a big role in the next book, and that it will be a defining part of the story, especially for Felicity.

Time for my two biggest questions:  Expiration Date and Sequel Slump.  Historical fiction is wildly popular, as is supernatural fiction, and this blending is pretty masterful, so I think that this trilogy can be sold to lovers of both genre.  Bray has proven again and again that she has a talent for writing, winning multiple awards for this series.  And that is quite a victory since it is often hard to get recognition for a sequel.  I would say that Rebel Angels stands up against A Great and Terrible Beauty, so this is not a slump at all.

Now, if only I could read The Sweet Fair Thing before I have to read my book club book for next week.  But there's no way I can finish both by next Thursday.  Although, I do have to return Rebel Angels to the library, so it would just be silly to not check out The Sweet Fair Thing, and if it would happen to fall open, I couldn't be blamed for reading it, and from there it's all Libba Bray's fault for writing such an engrossing, captivating book.  So, really it's all Libba Bray's fault that I won't get the reading done for book club.  That's how I'm going to justify it anyway.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I'm Kinda a Big Deal

I was chosen as Employee of the Month!  Now, I don't want to disclose exactly where I work, since this blog has absolutely nothing to do with my job, but this is still kinda cool.  I get a super close parking spot, a small (taxable-sad) monetary award, and I'm in the running for Employee of the Year.

And I had a photo shoot!  Ha!  The guy said I was a blinker-yep, knew that.  And this was the best photo that he got, which everyone else says is lovely, but I think could be better.  I'm sure everyone looks at their photos and thinks they look less-than-stellar, so whatever.   But I do think my hair looks great, which is really half the battle.

As for why I was nominated-my Homecoming Decorating, which you can see here.  I didn't get judged due to a mix-up in the paperwork, but I got something even better out of the deal.  Maybe this whole secretary gig isn't so bad afterall.

My reign as Employee of the Month has been interesting.  Someone has already parked in my spot, so I called and had them ticketed.  True story.  It's just like on The Big Bang Theory, except I'm not crazy like Sheldon and I have a car.  Also, I've already had that one person with the attitude of: you think you're so good, well let's see how you do with this ridiculously outside of your jurisdiction task.  And the same unnamed individual told me that today's high-powered cameras don't make anyone look good.  Yeah, it's a pleasure sometimes.

But for the most part it's really cool to know that all the random stuff I do is appreciated.  It's nice to feel the love sometimes.  Especially when there were times when I was longing for libraryland (more on that here and here).  I never won any awards when I was a librarian, although I was Pro-Bowl caliber.  Honestly, I was the Brian Urlacher of story time.  (Let's all take a moment to imagine Brian Urlacher doing a story time.  I actually bet he'd be pretty good.)

All that to say that maybe I'm not such a bad secretary.  True, it's not were my passion lies.  I don't get excited about filing, or typing, or answering phones.  But I do like the students, the atmosphere, the slow summers, and Super-Sticky Post-it Notes.  If only I could sneak more story times into this job, I just might stay here forever.

Also, this just goes to show that you need to try your hardest at what you're getting paid to do.  I might not love the fact that I'm working as a secretary, but that doesn't mean that I can't be good at it.  I am getting paid to do this job, so I'm gonna do it right.  It's well within the scope of my abilities, so I just blow 'em away.  Plus, if I keep working this hard, maybe they'll let me do storytime for the 101 class.  I'm sure that students wouldn't mind.  It would be awesome, in fact.  We'd do Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, read some great star books, I could tell The Pirate Who Tried to Capture the Moon, and then we'd all make star gazer telescopes and eat Moon Pies!

She calls me Moon Pie because I'm nummy-nummy and she could just eat me up.  Sorry TBBT slipped in there again.

And that is my inspirational speech for the day.  Go out and be the best you can be doing whatever you are doing, even if that means working in a field completely outside your education and kinda wasting that fancy Master's Degree you have.  I know I'm not alone in that.

Happy Reading!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Little Dinos Don't Bite and an Update

Jane Yolen started it, you know.  Showing young children how to behave by using dinosaurs.  Now, Michael Dahl is taking his turn with a series of board books aimed at teaching positive behavior through dinosaurs.  First up, the biter.  Like little dines, little children sometimes like to bite things, toys, chairs, mom (uh-oh), but this book uses bright, simple illustrations to show that the best thing to bite into is a healthy snack.  A nice board book that teaches a simple lesson, although you do have to wonder how many children will be cutting their teach on this very book.

As I said last week, board books make a great gift for new parents and their lovely (although bitey) children.  They are often reasonably priced and somewhat disposable.  This isn't an heirloom book that will be around forever.  Rather, this is a book that will be loved to death and retired early-but at least it will have lived with purpose.  And it will be hilarious to see those darling Instagram photos of the little baby teething on a book about biting.

And now for the update!  I gave you my to-do list for the weekend, and I actually did quite well on it.  The house is clean and full of holiday cheer (pictures to come, once I find my camera.  I'm really tough on cameras).  I finished Road Trip, as promised, but I struck out on Scaredy Squirrel and Skippyjon Jones at my library.  I'll have to try the other one later this week.  And I am blowing through Rebel Angels like nothing.  But the biggest news is:  I FINISHED BY BOOK REVIEWS!!  Wooo!

Here's the break down of my reviews:
1.  Mediocre middle grade fiction
2.  Graphic biography of a deceased pop sensation that I will give to my school librarian friend to give her old-school librarian boss a coronary
3.  Beginning reader on pee-wee America's favorite pass time
4.  Defensive book about the importance of playing outside
5.  Geisel Award winning book and CD kit

Not too bad of a haul.  I've had worse for sure.  That Geisel winner really saved it.  Had that been a non-fiction book on the joys of goat herding it would have gone a completely different direction.  New books will be arriving soon, so I'll give you a break down and estimated review date.  You've got to keep me accountable!!

Happy Reading

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Road Trip

Note:  No dogs were harmed in the writing of this book!

On the first day of summer vacation, Ben is sitting in his dad's truck, on the way to rescue a border collie pup when he learns that his dad has quit his job to start flipping houses, and it's before 6:00 am.  Thus starts an unbelievable whirlwind trip.  To get back at his dad, Ben invites his friend, Theo, who is rather troubled but trying to set his life straight.  Also there's Atticus, a 15 year-old border collie that has his own opinions of this trip.  This strange group sets off to rescue a border collie and they pick up a mechanic, Gus, and a bus when the truck breaks down, then pick up Mia at a diner where she's just quit her job.  All throughout this book, there are wacky hijinks and soulful heart-to-hearts, all culminating in the retrieval of a very lucky pup.  Atticus has his own say at the end of each chapter, and his insights are what really make the book.  A great book for dog lovers!

Gary Paulsen wrote this book with his son, Jim, which I was not thrilled about that at first.  The introduction explains how they came about this arrangement quite by accident and it turned into a story.  All in all, it works.  This book is extremely fictional--no adventure would run so smoothly and it's hard to believe that the characters would be so accepting and forgiving to Theo, but it's a wonderful what if?.  What if the world were really that way?  What if a saving a troubled kid were as easy as adopting a puppy?

But young readers are not going to ask these types of questions most likely.  They will be laughing about the drag race between the police cruiser and school bus.  This is a charming book.  It's a perfect book for fourth or fifth graders that don't really want to read, but will get hooked anyway, because who doesn't love a border collie?  It's heartwarming, and I hope to see it on the Bluestem list in a couple of years.

This is a solid Middle Grade Fiction novel and as such, it's not a cross over book.  Adults will not be clamoring to read this, but it's a sweet book that teachers and librarians will have no trouble reading and recommending.  If this book finds it's way to your to-read pile, pick it up, it's a quick light read that will make you smile.

Happy Reading!