Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Blog Tour - Betsy In Spite of Herself by Maud Hart Lovelace

Heaven to Betsy and Betsy In Spite of Herself
Maud Hart Lovelace
661 pgs.

In Heaven to Betsy, Betsy goes to high school. The summer before freshmen year she visits a family friend and becomes homesick. Luckily, her family calls her home to give her a huge surprise. The surprise makes it more fun to go to a new school with Tacy. Betsy makes many new friends, boys and girls, and finds herself paying more attention to The Crowd and Joe Willard than her school work.

In Betsy in Spite of Herself Betsy enters sophomore year and decides it's time to re-invent herself. All the boys love coming to her house and hanging out but none of them harbor romantic feelings towards Betsy. And Betsy feels the same. She wants to find a beau and she believes becoming "Betsye" will help.

My Thoughts
Betsy's stories are as relevant today as they were in 1945 and 1946! Betsy's longing for a boyfriend, trying to find the most flattering clothes and hairstyles, hanging out with friends - things teenagers still engage in. I was surprised to find that not only did I enjoy the stories, I looked forward to reading more. Maud Hart Lovelace intertwines as much related history as she can while putting each story into a better context.

I thought I was going to be bored with these stories because of the time period and Maud's past being so unrelated to mine. I was pleasantly surprised to find the stories entertaining and so readable. I thought I would skip over book 5 and just jump into book 6 but the story was captivating and I found myself engrossed - what happens with Betsy and Joe? She met him on her way home from her summer trip and then find he's going to her high school and he's also a freshman! Joe being able to live on his own with no parents fascinated me and I found myself trying to find more information about him. I can't wait to see what happens with him because Betsy is courted by two other boys and forgets about Joe.

Betsy tales of romance and self-identity are well worth a read and I look forward to reading the final two volumes - four stories in all.

These stories are based on Maud's childhood and my volume includes a chart showing who the real life "characters" were in the books. There are many pictures of the actual "Crowd" as well as pictures of many places mentioned in the books. Don't look at any of these extras unless you're dying to know what happens!

About the Author

Maud Hart Lovelace is best known for her beloved series of Betsy-Tacy books which were set at the turn of the twentieth century in Mankato, Minnesota (Deep Valley). These captivating stories of small town life, family traditions and enduring friendships have captured the hearts of young and old for over 65 years.

Betsy Upcoming Events
9/30 Aliso Viejo, CA at the Aliso Viejo Library
10/3 Mankato, MN at the Betsy Tacy Houses
10/3 Mesquite, TX Borders
10/23 Bainbridge Island, WA at the Library -island this date is still a bit tentative
11/7 Highland Village, TX Barnes and Noble
11/8 St. Paul, MN at the Red Balloon Bookshop
4/17/10 Dallas, TX, Dallas Heritage Museum

More TLC Tour Stops - scroll down
Thanks to TLC and HarperPerennial for supplying the information and books!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Salon - September 27, 2009

1. Ghostgirl 1 and 2 - This week I sent out Ghostgirl 1 and 2 by Tonya Hurley to those July 10 winners! Over 2 months late! I sent them first class so they should have them now!

2. Bram Hambric - I picked the winner for my ARC of Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse by Kaleb Nation that comes complete with interview questions. The winner is

Carrie K at Books and Movies

3. Stray Affections - I decided to pick two winners for Stray Affections by Charlene Baumbich. The winners are:

4. When The Whistle Blows - The winner of the signed ARC of When The Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton is

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo (Teacher Mock Newbery) - good but wonder what audience DiCamillo had in mind. I think it will be great as a readaloud. I want to "attend" the webcast on October 25 and get into her though process.

Notes From the Dog by Gary Paulsen (Teacher Mock Newbery) - liked this better than Hatchet. Simple but entertaining.

Almost Astronauts by Tanya Stone (Teacher Mock Newbery) - loved the formatting in this book but it was very wordy. Learned much about these women who couldn't become astronauts. Sad to remember it wasn't that long ago.

B is for Bufflehead by Steve Hutchcraft (NetGalley) - this was an interesting ABC book. The pictures were incredible and the variety of birds, mixing common with the not-so common, kept me reading. The formatting was a little bit of a challenge since it didn't stay the same. Also, this is definitely one that would have to be read to someone. After going through each bird Hutchcraft gives a miniquiz on each bird - picture and a question with four birds per page. After the miniquiz, Hutchcraft gave more information on each bird which also included four birds per page. The additional facts looked crowded on the page so I pretty much skimmed for the birds I was intrigued by and wanted more info on. The pages included the birds': range, habitat, photo information, food, and "fun feathered facts". Good addition to a school library.

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause (book talk) - better than I expected. I've been wary of everything vampire, werewolf, etc because I have some students who won't pick up a book without those characters. I enjoyed this. The level of sensuality makes it upper YA.

Invisible by Pete Hautman (book talk) - another request. This was good. The Hautman books I've read are all slightly outside the mainstream. This one fooled me and I didn't get it until it revealed its secret. I then had to go back and certain things clicked. I enjoyed this one! It took me until the 3rd book talk class before I had an epiphany on the title. My mind was stuck on a certain idea until I was acting out the main character to the class...

Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble (blog tour) - finished this one. Got me thinking about Russian history. Loved the way Preble weaved the story of Baba Yaga throughout and mixed in her own thoughts.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman - started out strong but then sort of fizzled for me. I liked it well enough but thought the ending was just blah after so much promise. Good enough to pass on to other adult fantasy readers though.

Betsy in Spite of Herself (6) by Maud Lovelace (blog tour) - would be done but I accidently left it at school Friday! I'm liking it because Betsy thinks she needs to be someone "more". So many students (and grown-ups) go through that stage. I Like how Lovelace intersperses history throughout her story. So far, Heaven to Betsy (5) is my favorite!

The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl (blog tour) - good but not great. It's entertaining but it covers similar ground to Drood by Dan Simmons which I've yet to finish but will before the new year!

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake (BN First Look) - just started. Blake will be on BN.com starting October 12. Waiting for the reading schedule before posting.

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick (St. Joe Mock Newbery) - this is my second time trying to read this book. The first time I couldn't get past the cover. This time I've made to page 40. I'm hoping to be at least 1/2 done by the 10/8 meeting! Good thing I'm not in charge! There's just something about it that I'm resisting...

Book Buying Ban
This week I received three books that I requested to review so I gave away three books then I went a little crazy and donated 2 bags of books to our school library! Why haven't I thought of that before??? I mean I've given books to our school before but never officially - like this. It was awesome. Except now I must catalog them all :(. I have one more bag to bring in. I did not buy one book this week. It was hard. So, I made a trip to the library and brought home a few reads I hope to get to in October.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown - read and liked the Da Vinci Code.
The Soloist by Steve Lopez - loved the movie and want to know more about the journalist, Lopez, as well as the prodigy, Nathaniel Ayers. Very intriguing.
Stitches by David Small - graphic novel memoir that I've heard good things about.
Sent by Margaret Peterson Haddix - loved Found and want to see where she goes with this story.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly - will return unread and just wait until one of the Newbery clubs I'm in reads it in November.

Banned Books Week - September 26 - October 3, 2009
To celebrate my Freedom to Read I'm going to read and post about To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee this week and then give it away on the 3rd!
The Banned Book Week image is used by Creative Commons license courtesy of newprotest.org.

Long-winded! No more waiting two weeks! I will be mailing out new winners by media mail this week and Vanishing Sculptor to an old (not age!) winner by first class. Have a great week everyone!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Blog Tour - Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble

Dreaming Anastasia
Sourcebooks, Inc
302 pgs. (ARC)

Anne keeps having these weird nightmares. She swears these people are real, it's like she's really there. They want her to do something but it's not making any sense. Then she meets Ethan. What is this connection they have? Could Anastasia Romanov really be alive? Is Ethan crazy...or is Anne?

My Thoughts
Dreaming Anastasia had me looking up more information about the Romanov's while reading parts of the story aloud to my daughter. I thought Joy Preble brought in just enough history - it didn't impede the flow of the story nor did it take the story over.

I enjoyed the relationship between Anne and Ethan. Anne remembered that Ethan was immortal and over 100 years old. They fought their attraction to each other as they tried to understand what was this mystery that brought them together. Their alternating voices telling the story enhanced my awareness of their growing relationship.However, Anne's friend Tess didn't ring true. I didn't buy her as strong but more as an unfunny girl obsessed with her ex.

I would love to know more about the sources Preble used for her Baba Yaga story and for her information on the Romanovs. I not only want to see what happens to Ethan and Anne, especially since Ethan is now mortal again - which is a great twist - I also want to know more about the betrayal and why it happened. Dreaming Anastasia is a great addition to any middle school library and will be joining ours.

About the Author

Preble grew up in Chicago, though she moved to Texas and inexplicably began listening to country music, which she claims she didn't like until then. She has an English degree from Northwestern University, and she teaches high school English. Dreaming Anastasia is her first novel. She can be found online at www.joypreble.com

Monday, September 14, 2009

Review and Giveaway - When The Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton

When The Whistle Blows
Fran Cannon Slayton
159 pgs. (ARC)

Jimmy tells the history of his family. His father's work with the railroads and how his dad, WP, never wanted any of the children to follow in his footsteps. But that's what each boy dreamed of, it was in his blood. Another thing each boy wants is to belong to The Society - just like their fathers before them...

Each chapter, with the exception of the first, starts on Halloween. It just so happens that All Hallow's Eve is old WP's birthday. Each year, Jimmy recounts the events of that day: focusing mostly on the tricks and the doings of "The Society". It serves to move the story quickly but at the same time allows us to focus on the growing and changing relationship between Jimmy, his dad, and his brothers.

My Thoughts
I've read this book twice in as many months. The story rings true and the tales are honest, open and sometimes, heartbreaking. We meet Jimmy when he's around 11 or 12. His brother Mike gets him outta bed and takes him on a secret adventure to see The Society in action. They see their dad, their brother Bill and some other townsmen. They're in a circle around Uncle Dick who died just two days ago...

"I remember Dick...the day he met Aunt Mary...I never heard half of this stuff before. I knew he was a really great uncle, but...how come I never really knew?" (16)

We follow Jimmy through grade school. Laughing at the Halloween prank they barely survive on until he gets to the high school football team. Each year we see them grow older, Jimmy and WP.

"I cut my eyes back towards him and see just about the orneriest grin I've ever seen on a person. And even though I don't really want to, I can't help but crack a half smile myself. Because I know I'll never understand that man." (106)

Throughout the story, Jimmy continues his love affair with the railroad. He wants to be just like dad, and Mike and Bill. But his dad is just as adamant that he cannot do that.

"Promise me Jimmy...promise me you'll...(122)

When the Whistle Blows is beautiful. We are reading this at school as part of our teacher's book club. Look for thoughts from the teachers!

When The Whistle Blows book trailer with Fran Cannon Slayton

Fran Cannon Slayton is giving away a SIGNED ARC of When The Whistle Blows!
If you want to see for yourself what it's all about - please enter!
Just leave a comment with your email address.
I would appreciate if you let me know if you review the book! One entry per person. US ONLY!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Sunday Salon - Dropping The Ball and Banning The Buying - September 13, 2009

Happy Sunday! I hope you are having a great day. Two huge things I want to talk about today - Me dropping the ball on some things and be NOT buying any books for a while!

Dropping The Ball
Three places I've dropped the ball in my life and I intend to rectify them starting now:

1. Health - My doctor says over the past 2 1/2 years my blood pressure and resting heart rate have steadily increased. And she is concerned. Now, I'm concerned. Even though I'm still down 4 of the 8 lbs. I lost during The Game-On Diet Challenge, my weight is still over where it should be. So, diet and exercise must be more consistent. She gave me one month to make some changes before she put the hammer down...

2. House - over the past 2 1/2 years, I've neglected things around my house while I went back to school and worked my new job. I would show you some pictures of my un-landscaped, weedy, boring outside and inside house but that would require me to make an effort.

3. Giveaway Winners (I know, it doesn't start with an "h") - I have SEVEN packages sitting on my desk that contain books that need to be sent out! I owe so many apologies to these readers. They prolly don't read anymore but I am sorry anyway! I can't afford to mail them all at once, and yes, I have more giveaways going! I will try to send out 1 old package and 1 new package every other week until all packages are sent. That's the only way to do this. Old packages will go first class while all new stuff will go media mail.

So, as you can see, I've got some changes to make and part of that means LESS computer time. My daughter's extremely happy about this. So am I.

Book Buying Ban
My house is overflowing with books. Literally. Also, the newer ones are covering up older ones so that I forget that I bought them and wanted to read those particular ones. I've been reading some posts that have convinced me that my past efforts lacked a plan and that's why they failed. So, the plan is now in place. This current ban will go until year's end, when it will be revisited.

Ban Plan
  • Need - book must be needed for something specific where it would be too late by the time I get it from the library.
  • Budget - it's within my monthly budget. This includes shipping/handling costs.
  • Room - I must get rid of one book for every new book that comes into the house - including blog tours and requested review books.
  • Borrow - look for bloggers who want to trade or are hosting a giveaway for the book I want.
  • Top 25 - it should be one of the top 25 books I want to read. I don't own 6 of my top 25. Which means I do own 19 of them!
So, that's my plan to keep me from the poor house!

I had a pretty slow reading week. I'm finding myself reading more newspapers and less books. Here's where I'm at:

Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse by Kaleb Nation - finished this one. Review and ARC giveaway. (blog tour)

Amulet: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
- review.

Those are the only two I finished and I'm working on the following:

The Magicians by Lev Grossman - 1/2 done. Took an unexpected turn. I still like it.
Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble - 1/4 way through. (blog tour)
The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo - 1/4 way through. (Mock Newbery)
Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner - 1/4 way through.
Goose Girl by Shannon Hale - 1/2 done.

Will have to put a couple of those aside while I do some blog tour reading for this and next week. I usually give those books away so look for them!

Have a great week!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Review - Amulet: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi

Amulet: The Stonekeeper
Kazu Kibuishi
186 pg, Graphic Novel

Emily and Navin move from their house of new things to an old house with nothing. The house is run-down and dirty and the neighbors swear it is haunted. The man who used to live there, disappeared one day. He just happens to be Emily and Navin's great-grandfather. As they are trying to make the house livable, Emily finds this cool necklace that talks to her. She keeps it and the next day, their mother disappears. When they are looking for their mother, they go deep into the house where the stairs disappear behind them and they have nothing else to do but keep going - so they do.

My Thoughts
The Stonekeeper moves quickly through the story with lots of action. Emily and Navin have to make decisions on the spot under pressure. They make them the best they can and then move on. The drawings are AMAZING. They are detailed and colorful and you must look at each one because they help to move the story forward. I was thrilled by the way Kibuishi illustrated how the amulet "talked" to Emily. I give Amulet: The Stonekeeper, book 1 4 copies! Read it if you like fantasy, action, and great art!

About the Author
Kazu Kibuishi is the founder and editor of the Flight Anthologies, a critically acclaimed comics series, as well as the creator of Daisy Kutter: The Last Train, a winner of the YALSA Best Books for Young Adults Award.

Born in Tokyo, Japan, Kazu moved to the U.S. with his mother and brother when he was a child. He graduated from Film Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara, and then moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. He currently works as a full-time comic book artist.

Meet The Artist!
Kazu Kabuishi just released Amulet: The Stonekeeper's Curse, book 2 and I'm excited about reading it. I wish I lived in San Francisco because he's doing a signing at Nucleus Gallery at 1pm Saturday, September 12, 2009. That's today! How cool is that? He is going sign his books and talk about his art! Kabuishi will be putting on a workshop on creating comics and when you're done - you will have 10 pages done! I want to go :(!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Blog Tour and Giveaway - Stray Affections by Charlene Ann Baumbich

Stray Affections
Charlene Ann Baumbich
Multnomah/Random House
303 pgs., Reader's Guide, recipes

Cassandra Higgins loves animals. She grew up rescuing them whenever she saw they needed help. She especially loved her dog Toby. Now Cassandra lives in a small town, in a small house, with four boys, a husband, and a living room full of animal collectibles. After what happened with Toby she doesn't trust herself around real animals anymore. So, each year, she satisfies her heart's longing by attending a convention and finding a material animal for her shelf. She'll never forgive herself, or her mother Betty, for what happened twenty-four years ago.

My Thoughts
I really enjoyed this book. I felt as if I as able to get inside Cassandra's head and find out why she felt the way she did. I also understood Betty. Sometimes, as a single mom, you have to make tough choices and you can't always make the right ones. But they usually feel right when you make them.

I thought Baumbich introduced too many characters though. The addition of Cassandra's friend Margret, Marget's husband Leo, and Margret's family felt like I was trying to keep too many people straight. Also, Ken, Cassandra's husband, was a little too good to be true. When Margret told him things about Cassandra's past that he didn't know, he just accepted them and moved on. He didn't really talk to her about being open and honest with him. That said, I still liked the way he took care of her.

The plot was a little predictable, you could figure out how things were going to come around long before the story wrapped itself up. But, it moved at a nice clip and I kept turning the pages. I actually read the entire book in one sitting.

Stray Affections was an easy, relaxing read that made me pause and think. I liked how Baumbich showed her love for God without making me feel condemned or damned. The book showed a promise without making all the characters immediately repent and turn from their ways. The broken relationships didn't heal overnight but there were quite a few "feel good" moments. And I absolutely loved the twist with the snowglobe. That was unexpected and brought tears to my eyes.

About The Author

Charlene Ann Baumbich is a popular author and speaker and an award-winning journalist. In addition to her Dearest Dorothy series of novels, she has written seven nonfiction books of humor and inspiration. A bungee-jumping, once motorcycle-owning grandma and unabashed dog lover, Charlene lives with her husband and rescued dog Kornflake in Glen Ellyn , Illinois . She loves telling stories, laughing whenever possible, and considers herself a Wild Child of God. Check out Charlene's website - Don't Miss Your Life. Charlene will be at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, IL on Tuesday, September 29, 2009.

I'm giving away one copy of this book courtesy of Ashley and Random House. Just mention in the comments that you'd like to read this and leave your email address.
The giveaway will run until Thursday, September 17, 2009 midnight.
US and Canada entrants only, please.

Stray Affections - Charlene reading from book

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Blog Tour and Giveaway - Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse

Bran Hambric: Farfield Curse
Kaleb Nation
430 pgs. (official HC)

Bran Hambric has no memory of his life before he was found in a locked vault in the bank at the age of 6. We catch up to Bran, 14, living with the Wilomas on Bolton Rd. Bran's not so much a son but closer to a servant. He lives with the Wilomas' and helps out his Accidental Dad, Sewey, with bank business. One night, while helping Sewey, Bran meets Shambles and starts on the journey to finding out who he really is.

My Thoughts
Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse has a very strong start. The prologue opens with action that pulls you into the mystery. Then we jump to Bran at home on the roof with Sewey. We meet Shambles who seems to know more about Bran than Bran himself. He has a sinister air about him and leaves behind a piece of paper that covers up as much as it uncovers.

Things slow down a little as we get into more of the story. We're introduced to Sewey, who found Bran, Mabel, his wife and their two spoiled children. Sewey is obviously "dimwitted" and is determined to find an outlawed gnome. Mabel is obsessed with cleanliness. Rosie, the maid, is stuck in what she sees as her heritage. Her family has always served the Wilomas family. We also meet a host of other characters - the good guys - Adi, Astara, and Polland as well as the bad guys - Joris and his gang. My main problem was the sheer number of characters. There were so many that none of them felt fully formed.

The action picks up again towards the end as we start pieceing together clues to Bran's past. We find out more about his mother and how Bran is tied to the things she'd been involved in. Bran discovers his talents and eventually uses them to great success.

I thought Kaleb's writing showed a sense of humor and creativity.
"What an odd and unusual notion...a store that sells nothing but books..." (105)

I admired the magical language he invented and enjoyed trying to figure out the translations.
"lite yirou diyestini lidea you...adni micagi geuida yirou wiya." (113)
This was a fun read and I would recommend it for middle grade students.

About the Author
As a child, KALEB NATION had to be forced by his mother to write one page a week in creative writing. But by the time he finished his first story, no one could make him to stop. Age twelve, Kaleb promptly telephoned the senior editor of a major publisher to pitch the book…and got to talk with security instead.

But as with most writers, not even that could stifle his dream. On the third night of the third month in 2003, age 14, Kaleb had a sudden idea that began the story of Bran Hambric, a novel which would take most of his teenage years to write. In early 2007, Kaleb finished the first book in his series.

In mid-2008, Kaleb launched a second blog at TwilightGuy.com, giving chapter-by-chapter insight, from a guy and writer’s perspective, on reading the Twilight Saga, a series of popular novels. The website went on to receive over 5 million hits, and was featured in BusinessWeek and Entertainment Weekly magazines, as well as on MTV, ReelzChannel and other TV outlets. Kaleb also began posting regular videos on his Youtube channel, with a combined total of over 8 million plays.

ARC Giveaway
To celebrate the release I'm giving away my ARC!
Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse ARC (353pgs)
Interview with Kaleb Nation in the front!
Please leave a comment with email for entry.
1 entry per person. Contest closes Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 11:59 PM. No email entries will be accepted! Winner announced Friday, September 18th.

More Tour Stops
The Children’s Book Review
TV Watch Online
Teens Writing For Teens
Bran Hambric blog tour schedule - scroll down

Kaleb Nation online
Bran Hambric playlist
Bran Hambric website (has sound)
Kaleb Nation book tour schedule

Blog Tour - The Purloined Boy by Mortimus Clay

The Purloined Boy - Book 1, The Weirdling Cycle
Mortimus Clay
Finster Press
Pages - 249
Reading Time: 3.5 hrs

Trevor is in an orphanage where he meets Maggie and Epictetus. They tell him that his "nightmares" of home are actually memories. Contrary to the Guardians lies, there really are places called "home" and there really are people called "parents". Maggie and Epictetus want to help Trevor get home.

My Thoughts
The Purloined Boy is a fast-paced, action packed mystery. We travel with Trevor as he tries to find his way "home". Time passes strangely in the Purloined Boy. I had a hard time telling "when" things were happening. The humor was subtle but effective. My favorite kind.

"She was wearing the standard white robe of the Guardians, but her immense girth filled it so completely that every fold and ripple of her ample body was outlined for a defenseless world to see." (8)
"Soon you will be take to where you don't want to go. Someplace awful." (25)
Clay used a lot of words that I had to look up and I also looked up many of the names. You should too because the characters names give you insight into who they are. Very clever. There were a few lessons I learned in this book:

"...where there's life, there's hope..." (23) "Stop trying to help yourself! Let me do the work..." (53)
I have a tendency to want to give God a hand. Yes, this is Christian Middle Grade fiction! But the lessons are understated. You take what you need. Leave the rest. So well done.

About the Author
Professor Clay is not given to sweeping generalizations but he has this on the highest authority. When living, Professor Clay was, unfortunately, a dismal failure as an author. Passed over by editors and snubbed by former schoolmates like Charles Dickens, Clay spent his life living like a character in a Dickens novel. When Clay wrote Dickens to this effect in the hope of at least appearing in print as a character in a book even if he could not see his name on the cover of one, Dickens is reported to have said, “Mortimus Clay? Never heard of the fellow.”

To this day Dickens denies saying any such thing. But Professor Mortimus has his sources and Dickens always was so full of himself. It gives one a chuckle to know the old snot has not written anything in over a century and here is his old shoe, Mortimus Clay, as dead as a doornail, still writing after all these years! How absolutely delicious!

While living, Mortimus Clay served as Professor of Arts and Letters at the Her Majesty’s Knitting College for Wayward Girls. After teaching Beowulf and The Faerie Queen to unappreciative knitters for 50 years in the backroom of a Manchester warehouse, Professor Clay died in 1885 a gray and wizened man.

It was the best thing that ever happened to him as his writing took an immediate turn for the better.

Mortimus Clay Links
TLC tour stops
Mortimus Clay website
Finster Press

I'm impatiently awaiting The Quest for the Fey Brand, Book 2 to be published!

Blog Tour - Fearless by Max Lucado

Max Lucado
Thomas Nelson Publishers
180 pgs, Discussion Guide, Author Notes

Fearless is divided into sections and each one, except the first, tackles a different fear. In the usual Max Lucado style, there is an anecdote illustrating the fear in action and then illuminating what we would be better off doing, complete with corny jokes.

Summary (from the publishers)
Each sunrise seems to bring fresh reasons for fear.

They're talking layoffs at work, slowdowns in the economy, flare-ups in the Middle East, turnovers at headquarters, downturns in the housing market, upswings in global warming. The plague of our day, terrorism, begins with the word terror. Fear, it seems, has taken up a hundred-year lease on the building next door and set up shop. Oversized and rude, fear herds us into a prison of unlocked doors. Wouldn't it be great to walk out?

Imagine your life, wholly untouched by angst. What if faith, not fear, was your default reaction to threats? If you could hover a fear magnet over your heart and extract every last shaving of dread, insecurity, or doubt, what would remain? Envision a day, just one day, where you could trust more and fear less.

Can you imagine your life without fear?

My Thoughts
I've mentioned before that I wear two rings - one engraved Pray Hard and one engraved Fear Not. Fear is my biggest, ummm, fear. It puts caution where none is needed and stops me from doing the very things I so want to do. So, the rings serve as my daily reminders. If I remind myself to look at them.

I wanted this book as another hedge against stopping myself from "being all that I can be." I'm familiar with Lucado's work: I've read his children's books, You Are Special and Because I Love You as well as his adult book, Every Day Deserves A Chance. I like his upbeat style and the way he doesn't let things get bogged down in seriousness.

Fearless tackles the various ways in which people get stalled by fear. Lucado walks us through overcoming our fear that what we do doesn't matter. "Fear of insignificance creates the results it dreads..." (26) He reminds us that fear can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. We can think we can or we can think we can't. Lucado looks at they way we let our worries overtake us. He gives us "eight worry-stoppers" (50) including living in the present. Which we forget to do. We get pre-occupied with the future but Max says "Everything will work out in the end. If it's not working out, it's not he end." (157) I think Fearless attempts to teach the reader to be intentional. To "make the deliberate decision to set your hope on him." (73)

Fearless was encouraging without being condescending. Max Lucado didn't pretend to have all the answers. I enjoy his corny sense of humor which also helps me to to laugh at myself. Fearless is timely without being dated It served to remind me that I'm not in this alone. so "Pray Hard" and "Fear Not".

Be Fearless
The Fearless Times
Fearless Excerpt

Fearless Book Trailer

No Fear Year

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday Salon - September 6, 2009

Slowly easing myself back into a life without classes. Trying to make sure I fill the time with something meaningful. I seem to have forgotten what that entails. I'm taking it slow though, in the meantime I'm catching up on some reading.

This week I read:
Fearless by Max Lucado - about trusting in God and not yourself. Tackles my tendency to trust Him until I feel things are going my way and then I forget and think it's all me. (blog tour)

Stray Affections by Charlene Ann Baumbich - Woman who loves animals but surrounds herself with fake ones because of a tragedy in her past. She also has problems with her mother. (blog tour)

The Giver by Lois Lowry - Our 8th graders will read this starting next week. Somehow I'd read The Messenger and Gathering Blue, companion novels, and skipped this one. Some things make so much more sense. Ending was a little fantastical though.

The Last Summer of You and Me by Ann Brashares - have had this on my bookshelf since March and felt like reading it. It was a good beachy read. It had some romance, love and loss. The infidelity didn't seem like it belonged but it didn't distract from the story much.

I also started:
Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse by Kaleb Nation - It has a fast start and then it sorta slows down while we pick up the back story. It's starting to get interesting again. I'm about 1/2 done. (blog tour)

The Magicians by Lev Grossman - I'm liking this one. I'm only a quarter of the way in and it's entertaining.

Goose Girl by Shannon Hale - I'm reading this one to get some background information for Forest Born which I'll read for the Mock Newbery book club. I'm a quarter of the way in and will read the next 2 in the series over the coming months.

I also read some blogs - thanks to whomever pointed out the Next button for Firefox. Instead of going to Google Reader you just hit next and read what comes up. It's pretty neat and feels less overwhelming than looking at those unread posts in the Reader.

This week I've got more blog tour reading, more school reading, and a meeting that will define some of the other reading I will do this month.

Have a great Sunday! Relax and enjoy your life.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday Five - September 4, 2009

Happy Friday! So I thought I was going to be able to post everyday in September but that is not going to happen. So I will stop making promises and just post as often as I can!

Anyway, it's Friday! I went to a literacy workshop with some of our teachers this past week and it was so affirming. We talked about practices that keep students engaged in reading, writing, listening, and speaking in all classrooms not just language arts and not as something additional but as a part of teaching. I also enjoyed meeting teachers from our other two middle schools. Some of the books that were talked about this week will make up my Five.

All summaries are from Amazon unless otherwise noted.

1. The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller - the Gifted and Talented Coordinator told me I needed to read this. I ordered it for my personal library and will tackle it this month. Here's a starred review - Miller, a sixth-grade language arts and social studies teacher and blogger, has enabled students of many different backgrounds to enjoy reading and to be good at it; her students regularly score high on the Texas standardized tests. Her approach is simple yet provocative: affirm the reader in every student, allow students to choose their own books, carve out extra reading time, model authentic reading behaviors, discard timeworn reading assignments such as book reports and comprehension worksheets, and develop a classroom library filled with high-interest books. Her students regularly read more than 40 books in a school year and leave her classroom with an appreciation and love of books and reading. Miller provides many tips for teachers and parents and includes a useful list of ultimate reading suggestions picked by her students. This outstanding contribution to the literature is highly recommended for teachers, parents, and others serving young students.

2. In The Middle by Nancie Atwell - our 8th grade ELA teacher mentioned this as one of the books that changed him. From Heineman - When first published in 1987, this seminal work was widely hailed for its honest examination of how teachers teach, how students learn, and the gap that lies in between. In depicting her own classroom struggles, Nancie Atwell shook our orthodox assumptions about skill-and-drill-based curriculums and became a pioneer of responsive teaching. Now, in the long awaited second edition, Atwell reflects on the next ten years of her experience, rethinks and clarifies old methods, and demonstrates new, more effective approaches.

3. Why Don't Students Like School by Daniel Willingham - This was mentioned a few times and is said to go beyond brain research theory and into how to put it into place in the classroom.
Kids are naturally curious, but when it comes to school it seems like their minds are turned off. Why is it that they can remember the smallest details from their favorite television program, yet miss the most obvious questions on their history test? Cognitive scientist Dan Willingham has focused his acclaimed research on the biological and cognitive basis of learning and has a deep understanding of the daily challenges faced by classroom teachers. This book will help teachers improve their practice by explaining how they and their students think and learn?revealing the importance of story, emotion, memory, context, and routine in building knowledge and creating lasting learning experiences.

4. The Number Devil by Hans Enzensberger - mentioned in the Subjects Matter book we were studying and sounded like it would be an interesting read. Young Robert's dreams have taken a decided turn for the weird. Instead of falling down holes and such, he's visiting a bizarre magical land of number tricks with the number devil as his host. Starting at one and adding zero and all the rest of the numbers, Robert and the number devil use giant furry calculators, piles of coconuts, and endlessly scrolling paper to introduce basic concepts of numeracy, from interesting number sequences to exponents to matrices. Author Hans Magnus Enzensberger's dry humor and sense of wonder will keep you and your kids entranced while you learn (shhh!) mathematical principles. Who could resist the little red guy who calls prime numbers "prima donnas," irrational numbers "unreasonable," and roots "rutabagas"? Not that the number devil is without his devilish qualities. He loses his temper when Robert looks for the easy way out of a number puzzle or dismisses math as boring and useless. "What do you expect?" he asks. "I'm the number devil, not Santa Claus."

5. The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease - each day before lunch they read a short story to us. We loved it. I want to work this back into library time or convince teachers to do this in class. This will be one that I buy for my personal library also. Jim also lists the Read Aloud of the Week. I think I'll start there.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday (1) - Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse

Waiting on Wednesday is brought to you courtesy of Jill at Breaking The Spine. Check out Jill's blog to find out what she's waiting on.

Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse by Kaleb Nation

Back in May I wrote a post about all the BEA Galleys I wanted. This was one - solely because the writer's name was Kaleb Nation. Turns out that is NOT a made up name (I think)! Mr. Nation's publicist happens to be on my twitter feed @psamuelson01. He was hyping up this book and I begged to read it. Mr. Samuelson did me one better - so without further ado -

The Bran Hambric pre-order Prize Extravaganza!!

Any person who pre-orders Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse, and sends their e-receipt or scanned receipt to sbpublicity@sourcebooks.com will be entered into a drawing to win one of the following prizes:

- Personalized copy of The Farfield Curse (give your copy to a friend!)

- Personalized early reader copy of Book 2

- Personalized Bran Hambric poster

- Half Moon Necklace

- Signed CD of soundtrack

- $25 gift certificate to local bookstore

- Kaleb Nation event at local bookstore (fall 2010)

One entry per book ordered (so as many entries as books ordered). Receipts must be dated prior to pub dateSeptember 9, 2009 and bear the subject heading “Bran Hambric Pre-Order Competition.” Winners to be announced September 30, 2009!

Check out the site for Bran Hambric and sign up to read the first five chapters!!

Well, that's what I'm waiting on! What are you waiting on?


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