Friday, October 30, 2009

Mock Newbery 2010

Here's a list of books that I've read so far for two Newbery Clubs. The ones in bold are ones I think have a shot at the Newbery not necessarily ones I like. I'm also adding links to Newbery sites I follow.

Newbery Reads (as of 10/30/09)
Reality Check by Peter Abrahams
The Red Blazer Girls by Michael Biel
Diego Bigger Than Life by Carmen T. Bernier Grand
All The Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg
Fire by Kristin Cashore
Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko
The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochrane
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French
Emmaline and The Bunny by Katherine Hannigan
Scat by Carl Hiaasen
Pop by Gordon Korman
Crow Call by Lois Lowry
Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle and Other Lies by Muscle Man McGinty Told Me by Nan Marino
Notes from the Dog by Gary Paulsen
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by W. Rodman Philbrick
SLOB by Ellen Potter
The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
When The Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Almost Astronauts by Tanya Lee Stone
Perpetual Check by Rich Wallace
Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson

I have many more books to read before announcements in January! Here's a good list of books that have received starred reviews but keep in mind that books must also meet other Newbery criteria and some of the books on the list might not be eligible for the award. New books are also still being released!

Newbery Sites I Follow
ACPL Mock Newbery
Eva Perry Mock Newbery
Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog (SLJ)
Goodreads Newbery Group
SJCPL Mock Newbery

Monday, October 26, 2009

Blog Tour - After The Moment by Garret Freymann-Weyr

After The Moment
Garret Freymann-Weyr
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
328 pg. (HC provided by TLC Book Tours)

Leigh only wanted to help his stepsister get through her crisis. His life was on a path, one he couldn't see clearly, but at least he was on the map. Maia Moreland brought questions about his next step. Was he headed in the right direction? Could he include Maia in that plan?

My Thoughts
After the Moment starts at the end. Leigh runs into Maia at a party. She looks the same but different; better somehow. He jumps back four years and remembers what brought him to this point.

Leigh is seventeen in most of After the Moment. We learn most of what we know through Millie, his stepsister, and Lillian, his mother. We understand how his father, Clayton, played a part who he is. How he doesn't want to be like Clayton but he's not sure what that means. Leigh's hesitant to make some decisions because he wants the people around him to be happy and he understands he plays a role in that. We get a clear picture of Leigh and can feel his joys and his confusions.

Although I could connect with Maia, it was a tenuous connection based on the very small fragments of her behavior I understood. Sometimes her actions didn't make sense. I believe Freymann-Weyr wrote her that way on purpose. Maia Moreland didn't really know herself. She was putting her life back together, working with the pieces she had and connecting those to the pieces she was currently fashioning. When Leigh talks about his collage, it reminds me of Maia's life.

After the Moment moves slowly and deliberately. We start at the end, flashback to the all important year, and then return to the present to wrap things up. Throughout the story we are treated to Leigh's thoughts on the war. I think these glimpses of Leigh trying to understand what's happening over there are supposed to mirror what's happening with him and Maia but I'm not sure. I don't see why else they would be included because I think this story could be told without this angle.

This little books packs quite a few writing gems. I stopped noting them after a while but here are some I enjoyed:

"The kind of mess that can only be created by lawyers, parents, and threatened charges of criminal negligence."

"...Maia Moreland was the object of his sister's crush--the kind a twelve-year old girl develops on the girl she wants to become." (love this!)

"...he built his universe on Maia's smile..."

I enjoyed After the Moment. Although it's not a book that you gulp down it is a fairly quick read. I thought most of the characters were well-written and the uncertainty of love described beautifully. We have another of Freymann-Weyr's books in our library and I'll be sure to read it, too.

About the Author
Garret Freymann-Weyr grew up in NYC and often sets her books there. She went to college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received an MFA in film from New York University. She has written four books for young adults including My Heartbeat which won the Printz Honor for excellence in literature for young adults. She currently lives outside Washington, DC with her husband. She has said that the best way to get ideas is to read a lot because that "gets you thinking in terms of story, character, and image."

Freymann on the Internet
Garret discussing After the Moment

Garret Freymann-Weyr website
Wednesday, October 28th – Luxury Reading
Thursday, October 29th – Pop Culture Junkie
TLC Tour Schedule - scroll down
Publisher's Weekly Starred Review - scroll down
Booklist Starred Review
Surprises About Men: Unexpected Lessons from the Other Side

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Read A Thon October 2009 - Update 1

Hours: 2.5
Books Read: 0
Pages: 177

Brooklyn by Coim Toibin - We meet Eilis and her family in part 1. Rose, Eilis' sister, teams up with her mother to get Eilis to America. They live in Ireland and there aren't many jobs or any other type of prospects for Eilis. Without saying as much Rose intimates that she herself has no options and so she wants to help Eilis. In part 2, Eilis goes to Brooklyn where she gets a job in Bartocci's department store. She lives in a boarding house run by Mrs. Kehoe, a widow. There are other single women in the house but Eilis avoids them. The local parish, run by Father Flood, starts having weekly dances and the first time Eilis goes, she's stuck with two of the women from the house who are intent on NOT having a good time. The next time she goes she meets Tony.

Front and Center by Catherine Murdock - the last in the DJ Schwenk trilogy. DJ is back from taking care of her brother Win and looking forward to playing basketball. She's hardly into the season when it's impressed upon her that she needs to start working on her leadership skills and contacting schools even though she's only a junior. Beaner, one of DJ's best friends from football, decides he wants to take their friendship to the next level since there's no more Brian Nelson and DJ agrees. But where is Brian?

Ok, back to babysitting and reading.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Outta Commission

The Brain Lair is experiencing technical difficulties!

My computer has collapsed and I'm waiting to have it fixed and looking to find a new one since my daughter's computer has also died. I've been able to check some emails, twitter, and facebook through my Itouch but nothing extensive.

I'm still reading and hope to find some time to update during my extremely short lunch breaks!

Monday, October 19, 2009

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? - October 19, 2009

Here's where I list what I've read, what I'm reading and what I want to read this week.

Pop by Gordon Korman (Mock Newbery) - different than other Korman books I've read (Son of the Mob 1&2, Born to Rock, On The Run series, Everest series, No More Dead Dogs). The action was low-key and the boy was more hormonal. We knew the problem in the beginning and that seemed to "lessen" the main character in my eyes. In the end, everything wrapped up nice and neat. (pub supplied)

The Lost Conspiracy by Francis Hardinge - would be on our Newbery list but was pubbed in Britain first. The plot moves along steadily until the "big event" then things seemed to drag. It became a little easier to put down and walk away. Then the action picked up a little more as all the "threads" started pulling together. (purchased)

Stitches by David Small - National Book Award - Young People's finalist, which caused much blog hoopla. I like hoopla. Read in one sitting, loved the format, readaloud parts to daughter who, along with me was alternatively grossed out and fascinated. She thinks we should have in our library. I agree. (library)

The 13 Days of Halloween (blog tour) - so fun. My daughter kept singing each verse when I turned the page while I was engrossed in the pictures. Great fun!

Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding (Everything Austen Challenge) - kinda ruined by the movie. Really boring and easy to put down. May have to change my list. I only have until January and I've only completed 1 item on my 6 item list!

The Pigman by Paul Zindel (Jr. English Academic Superbowl) - breaking it into parts, defining words, etc to help students understand it for the competition.

The Way Home by George Pelecanos (rvw from Hachette book group) - brilliant cover. Gritty mystery.

I have a blog tour coming up next week and I signed up to participate in the Dewey 24 hr Read-A-thon. Unfortunately, my back-up babysitting card has been called in and I'm not sure how much reading I'll be able to complete! Whine! So my modest plan is:

After the Moment by Garrett Freyman-Weyr (TLC book tour)
Brooklyn by Coim Toibin (50 books for our Time)
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
Candor by Pam Bachorz

Sorry about the lack of formatting and graphics, I'm on a borrowed computer on borrowed time!

Check out J. Kaye's blog to see what others are reading.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Salon - October 11, 2009

Al Capone Shines My Shoes

It was an uneventful reading week for me. My reading mojo has not made it's reappearance yet. I'm hoping to get it back in November when my "required" reading list decreases dramatically!

Ok, they are not actually required since no one has actually assigned these books to me beyond myself that is...

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (library) - better than I expected. Will post a review later. My main thought - could this be considered a Christian Thriller?

Night by Elie Wiesel (school) - been a while since I'd read this. Will be used in some 8th grade English classes. They will be looking at indifference, faith, and night. It was interesting to read it from that perspective.

Scat by Carl Hiaasen (Mock Newbery club) - audio version by Ed Asner. Almost as good as Hoot. The club had this as their second highest pick.

All The Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg (Mock Newbery club) - about a boy from Vietnam who's unsure why he's here in America. Why did his mother send him? Great. Loved it. Not so much the students - no one even mentioned it.

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake (BN First Look) - read the first section Fall, for the book club. So far we've met Frances, a radio war correspondent, who's intent on putting a human face on World War II, Iris the Postmistress, and Dr. Fitch who wants to join the war to erase his father's past mistakes, hoping he doesn't become a failure himself. It's amazing but it's one that must be taken slowly.

Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko (Teacher Mock Newbery) - must finish this by Friday.

Pop by Gordon Korman (Mock Newbery club) - very different than his other books I've read. The main character is new in town and wants to join the high school football team. He's been practicing in the park with a strange guy who seems to know all there is about football. This guy also seems to have some mental issues. I'm a huge fan of Korman's work and I'm interested in adding this to the school library.

On my radar

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
After the Moment by Garret Freyman-Weyr
13 Days of Halloween by Carol Greene
Candor by Pam Bachorz
Mrs. O by Mary Tomer
Ansel Adams In Color edited by Harry Callahan
What Difference Do It Make by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, and Lynn Vincent
The Van Alen Legacy by Melissa De La Cruz
The Secret of Indigo Moon by GP Taylor
Splendor by Anna Godbersen
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (re-reading for an assignment)
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
ArchEnemy by Frank Beddor
Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Fat Cat by Robin Brande
A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

Plus all the books at my bedside and my library books. With only 20 days left I shall have to give up sleep.:) So looking forward to November. I've only accepted two blog tours. I will keep to that so that I can decrease my TBR pile! (she says with all good intentions...)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

What My Daughter is Reading - October 8, 2009

School is in session and The Amazing Dancer has been doing her required reading these past two months. She just finished The Giver by Lois Lowry and now she's reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

The students had to pick a classic and a partner, who would also read that classic, and then they will debate whether it should still be considered a classic. The students have discussed what makes a book a classic. The teacher and his student teacher have talked about a couple of books they disagree on. It's an interesting assignment although the person who gets to support the book as a classic seems to have an easier job. I would love to see the teachers actually go through each point and debate it for the class as an example.

What do you think defines a classic novel? Can a novel become UN-classic?

What My Child Is Reading is hosted by Jill at the Well Read Child.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Blog Tour - The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl

The Last Dickens
Matthew Pearl
Random House
p. 383 (HC with notes from the Author)

The Last Dickens unravels three tales - Dickens' last visit to America, James Osgood and Rebecca Sands visit to England, and Frank Dickens' stint in law enforcement. James Osgood sets out to find the other half of Charles Dickens' last novel: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Osgood's company are Mr. Dickens' American publishers and they need to put this book out in order to stay afloat. James Osgood travels to England to trace Dickens' last steps and find out where the rest of the manuscript is hidden before anyone else can get their hands on it.

My Thoughts
Although I found The Last Dickens entertaining I felt like I was attempting to keep too many balls afloat. The story bounces back and forth between three time periods and your mind is constantly trying to make connections between them.

Charles Dickens' visit to America is the strongest story line. Pearl gives enough information about Charles Dickens, coupled with common knowledge, to make a solid character. In the same tale, Tom Branagan's and James Osgood's characters are also fully realized. This was the part of the book I enjoyed the most. The mystery of the stranger who was stalking Dickens and the descriptions of the shows Dickens would put on for theatre patrons were intriguing and fast-moving. I felt the character of "Boston" was also three-dimensional and I could "see" the places Pearl described.

My least favorite part involved Frank Dickens in India. Mason and Turner seemed to be the stereotypical good cop/bad cop. This part seemed no more than a vehicle to describe how opium is sanctioned and travels from India to other parts of the world. It felt forced and I didn't feel it was well-developed.

Osgood's visit to England, accompanied by Rebecca Sands, left him a little less like the character I felt I knew. His travels to the opium den and his willingness to be taken in by Datchery rang false. They didn't sit well with the Osgood we knew from Dickens' travels to America. However, I enjoyed how Pearl wove the tale of Edward Trood into The Mystery of Edwin Drood. That little part of history lifted this part of the book.

The Last Dickens is good mix of history and mystery. The tone of the novel is dark and accurately reflects the time period it portrays. Overall, I liked the book but felt it could have been tighter in some places. That said, I might need to read more Charles Dickens to fully appreciate what Pearl has created.

About the Author

Matthew Pearl is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dante Club, The Poe Shadow, and The Last Dickens. His books have been New York Times bestsellers and international bestsellers translated into more than 30 languages. His nonfiction writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, and He has been heard on shows including NPR's "All Things Considered" and "Weekend Edition Sunday," and his books have been featured on Good Morning America and CBS Sunday Morning.

Matthew Pearl grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and is a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School. He is the editor of the Modern Library editions of Dante’s Inferno (translated by Henry Wordsworth Longfellow) and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue: The Dupin Tales. He has also taught literature and creative writing at Harvard University and Emerson College, and has been a Visiting Lecturer in law and literature at Harvard Law School. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Pearl Around the Internets
TLC Book Tour Schedule (thru October 22, 2009)
LibraryThing Chat (Oct 5 - Oct 16, 2009)

Want to form your own opinion of the book? TLC Book Tours and the publishers are letting me giveaway a copy of this book! To enter:

Comment letting me know your favorite Dickens title.
Please leave your email address!

US Residents only. Giveaway ends October 21, 2009.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Sunday Salon - October 4, 2009

Wow! Hard to believe it's October already. It's been busy at school/work. Lots of booktalks and conferences and planning sessions. I've been so busy doing talks about books that I haven't had much time to read any books!

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick (Mock Newbery club)- glad I stuck with this one. As the story progressed I found myself invested in Homer and what was going to happen to him. I don't think it was distinguished enough for Newbery even though I enjoyed it.

Crow Call by Lois Lowry (Mock Newbery club) - good, especially since it's based on Lowry's life, but again, not distinguished enough for a Newbery.

The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl (TLC blog tour) - good but not great. Review on October 6th.

Betsy in Spite of Herself by Maud Lovelace (TLC blog tour) - enjoyed these and will be forwarding to school library.

Scat by Carl Hiaasen (Mock Newbery club) - I'm listening to this one. It's read by Ed Asner. I like it but reminds me of Hoot. The same kind of environmental premise. I'm not sure what I think of the side story of the student's dad being hurt in Iraq. We'll see how it pans out.

Breaking the Bank by Yona McDonough (blog tour) - interesting premise but easy to put down. Review October 5th.

Mrs O: The Face of Fashion by Mary Tomer (rvw) - I requested this one and think it is a great coffee table book. Look for more later in the month.

Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko (Teacher Mock Newbery) - will put this aside since our meeting date has been changed.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - was supposed to finish this yesterday and give away but I'm having a hard time with it. I'm distressed by the excessive use of the word "ni*****". I was put off by the phrase "the warm bittersweet smell of clean Negro..." I'm only 1/2 finished so I'm hoping for redemption. Will giveaway when done.

All The Broken Pieces by Ann Burg (Mock Newbery Club) - verse novel. I'm really impressed by this one so far.

Mock Newbery Club
I'm learning about one of the many ways to run a Mock Newbery club by assisting the Children's Librarian at St. Joseph County Public Library, main branch. We've had an initial meeting where Kris explained how the club would work and patrons picked their first reads. We have our first book discussion meeting on Thursday, October 8. I can't wait!

Book Fair
We're running a book fair until October 15th. I'm using Lowry's Books and More to supply the books. They are an independent bookstore in
Three Rivers, MI, about 1 hour north of here. They send a great variety of books at all price points. I'll be hosting a Scholastic Book Fair at the beginning of December as a comparison. Book fairs allow me to raise money for book marks, book club purchases, giveaways, posters, and small decor updates. The money stretches my budget and it's not as restricted as money from the corporation. This year we were able to buy some "trees" and a wireless scanner. It will make inventory so much easier! Do you host book fairs? How has your experience been? What company do you use?

Dewey's Read-a-thon
It's almost here! I'll start at 8am on October 24th. Not sure what I plan on reading yet. I have a fair number of books on my piles that I want to tackle and challenges I want to finish. I do plan on reading more these next few months and spending less time online, this could be my kick-off!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Review - Fire by Kristin Cashore

Kristin Cashore
Dial Books
461 pg (ARC)
Rdg time: 6 1/2 hrs. (almost straight through)
October 2009

Fire is a human monster, born of a human mom and a monster dad. She never met her mom and she's trying to live down her dad's reputation. She lives with Archer and Brocker. Brocker is her substitute dad while Archer is her sometimes boyfriend. Monsters can read minds. They can change the mindsof others. They can also send their thoughts into others head. This ability earns Fire a call to the King's City. King Nash, Prince Brigan, Prince Garan, and Princess Clara want her to come and help them as they prepare for war. They want to use Fire's talents to spy on their enemies.

Although this is a prequel to Graceling, it is really nothing like it! Both books have Leck - here we see him as a child - but that's where the similarities end. Fire and company know nothing of these Gracelings and though Fire and Leck have similar sounding powers - Leck's power is really basic.

Brigan is my favorite male character so far this year - move over Mr. Darcy. The book is so engaging, I had a hard time putting it down, and when I did, I kept thinking about it. The last 100 or so pages found me crying off and on - they were so beautiful and well-written. Fire reads more like a love story than an action book. Yes, it had action and intrigue. Brigan was always going off to some battle front. Fire was always guarded by 6 0r 7 soldiers. Someone may have been killed in every chapter. There was also revenge and double crossing. But ultimately we follow Fire as she learns to love herself, learns to separate love from lust, learns what it means to love someone else.

I have some concerns with some of the subject matter - rape, sleeping around, unwanted pregnancy, morning after herbs, herbs to prevent pregnancy - seemed to have been more of that in this book than Graceling. Seemed a little preachy on Cashore's part - we got her views on marriage in Graceling and Fire seemed to promote her views on sex.

Those concerns give me pause when it comes to rating this book. If it was an adult book - no hesitation - but it's for young adults - 14 and above - at least that's how it's marketed. I'm gonna give it 4 copies with hesitation. I loved this book. I actually kept going back and re-reading parts of it. I had to read something else, at 2 in the morning, bcuz I couldn't get my mind off of it. AARRGGH! BN a school librarian iz hard.


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