Friday, April 23, 2010

Happyface by Stephen Emond

happyface Happyface
Stephen Emond
Little, Brown
March 2010

After going through traumatic times, a troubled, socially awkward teenager moves to a new school where he tries to reinvent himself.

My Thoughts
Wow, this is one great book.  First off, underneath the smile on the jacket is a sad face.  Genius.  This book is part comic, part diary in the style of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. And it works.  That's a hard format because you have to keep the story going throughout the art that's included.  I think Stephen Emond did a great job with this.  The topper for me is, I have NO idea what the main character's name is!  They call him Happyface and his IM name is Cartoonboy but I couldn't find it anywhere. Love it!

Happyface is totally in love with the hot girl neighbor, Chloe, who also happens to be his BFF.  She is also the only person he thinks he needs.  His family is falling apart before his eyes.  He decides to chronicle everything in a sketchpad he received from his dad. Unfortunately, things start going from bad to worse and he hits rock bottom on August 23rd:

"Today is the Day the World Changed, and that is all I will say because I don't ever want to think of it again."

Happyface moves to Crest Falls with his mom. "You lose your money and then you come here, with everyone else who's lost money."  But then things start getting better because he figures out he can be whoever he wants because he's in a new town at a new school and nobody knows his past.  So he changes background and becomes cool, confident Happyface.  He has friends and he's funny and he may even have a girlfriend.  But like all good things, this too must end.  In the age of internet access, you can find out almost anything and his past gets Googled. Happyface finds he is still very angry about everything.  And maybe there is more about his past he needs to uncover.

This was a powerful book.  When Happyface first moves to his new school, he takes an oath.  He will be himself despite his past.  But then he decides that he will be someone else due to his past.  And of course, we know it won't work, it never does.  But Stephen Emond puts a little twist on it because Happyface's past didn't just come and jump him out of the blue, instead it snuck up on him so he thought he was ok and that if he just kept going like nothing happened, no one would be the wiser.  It was painful and sad as things slowly started to unravel.  He has to let the smile go.

The story was good and the characters interesting. Each one of Happyface's friends could have their own books.  I would especially have loved to see this story continue with more about Gretchen, Happyface's second love.  Gretchen always had at least two ex-boyfriends around her, she enjoyed drinking, and had a terrible relationship with her parents.  As Happyface points out, she was also wearing a mask. 

The Amazing Dancer snagged this one before I could read it and had passed it around to seven or eight other students before I got it back.  That tells me I need at least 4 copies

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Blog Tour - Love Will Keep Us Together: Miracle Girls #4 by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

FaithWords (April 30, 2010)
***Special thanks to Miriam Parker of Hachette Book Group for sending me a review copy.***


Anne Dayton graduated from Princeton and has her MA in Literature from New York University. She lives in New York City. May Vanderbilt graduated from Baylor University and has an MA in Fiction from Johns Hopkins. She lives in San Francisco. Together, they are the authors of the Miracle Girls books, Emily Ever After, Consider Lily, and The Book of Jane.

Visit the authors' website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (April 30, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446407585
ISBN-13: 978-0446407588


The whole world has gone maroon. The bricks are maroon, the dress code is maroon, and even our peppy tour guide’s hair is dyed a deep maroon. -

“Hi, I’m Kiki, and I’m a real student here.” She grins from ear to ear as she walks backward across the giant lawn. “Welcome to the home of the Harvard Crimson.”

Pardon me. The whole world has gone crimson . The parents and prospective students around me press forward, following after our tour guide, but I slowly edge toward the back, hoping the rest of my family doesn’t notice.

The Great McGee Family College Tour is finally winding down, and not a moment too soon. We started off last week at Duke, then drove up to see Johns Hopkins, Penn, Princeton, Columbia, and Yale. This morning we got up early to do MIT, and if I can survive a little longer, we’ll check Harvard off the list and only have Cornell to go. Dad and I talked Mom out of Dartmouth. Way too much snow.

I thought it would be fun to tour colleges, but I didn’t realize everybody was going to ask me the same question again and again: “What do you want to do with your life, Riley?” Or sometimes they stick to, “What’s your passion, Riley?” And I haven’t figured out how to answer them. Somehow, “I have no earthly idea” doesn’t seem to be what they’re looking for.

“We are now entering the famous Harvard Yard.” The group falls silent, almost reverent, and Kiki stops on the other side of the crimson-bricked archway and waits while we file through. As she recaps the history of the university, which involves a bunch of dead white guys—just like every other school, Mom spies me slouching low at the back of the crowd.

“Isn’t this beautiful?” She takes a deep breath and closes her eyes. “I could really see you being happy here, Riley.” I nod because it’s easier than trying to explain. “Did you know the Latin word veritas on the seal”—she holds out a brochure for me—“means truth?” She flips the brochure open and starts paging through photos of students sitting under autumn trees.

I put my pointer finger over my lips, then point at Kiki. Mom nods and jogs back to my brother, Michael, who has Asperger’s syndrome, or high-functioning autism. Mom and Dad have done a ton of work to help him with his social skills, but he’s still prone to legendary meltdowns. After the scene he caused at MIT this morning, she’s been watching him like a hawk.

“This really seems like a good one.” Dad comes up behind me in a sneak attack. I glance across the group and see Michael pulling on Mom’s hand, trying to get over to a statue of a seated man. “These kids seem like your kind of people.”

Dad and I look around the yard at the students hauling mattresses and carrying plastic crates stuffed with junk. A group lounges on the steps of one of the historic buildings, drinking from eco-friendly metal thermoses.

I shrug and pull my short hair into a pathetic ponytail. Not my best look, but it’s sweltering today.

“Do you like it better than Princeton?”

I try to avoid his stare, but he follows my eyes until I give in and focus on him. In the weak afternoon sunlight, I notice that the gray patches at his temples are spreading through his warm brown hair, like two silver streaks down his head.

“I don’t know. Princeton was fine.” Princeton is Ana’s thing, her dream. All I could think about the entire time I was there was, How did she choose this school? How did she know it was for her? Is there a feeling you get? Is it like how I knew about Tom?

Kiki climbs a few steps up to an old brick building and claps excitedly. “Massachusetts Hall is special for two reasons.” She beams at our group and holds up one finger. “First, it’s the oldest building on campus, dating back to 1720.” Everyone in our group oohs, and Mom whispers something to another mother. “And”—Kiki makes eye contact with the prospective students in her pack—“it’s a freshman dorm! Let’s go take a look, shall we?”

We walk in a tight-knit pack up the stairs and down the third-floor hallway. Loud music pours from the rooms, the beats clashing. Finally we stop at a dorm room with two neatly made beds and two tidy desks with crimson folders emblazoned with the Harvard seal. I realize there’s nothing real about this room or this choreographed moment, like almost every moment of every college tour we’ve taken. How am I supposed to get a feel for the campus with these phony experiences?

As Kiki begins explaining dorm security, I slip out of the room and try to collect my thoughts. This is merely a minor case of butterflies, nothing more. I’m sure everybody gets them when touring colleges. I’ll call Ana, and she’ll talk me through this.

I rummage through my purse, searching under all the brochures and school spirit junk until my fingers find my phone’s smooth edges.

Wait, I can’t call Ana. She loved every second of her college tour. When she came back from the East Coast a few weeks ago, she couldn’t stop talking about Princeton’s amazing science labs. Plus, she already knows beyond a shadow of a doubt she wants to be a neonatal surgeon. She had open-heart surgery as a baby and has always felt called to follow the path of the doctors who saved her life.

Zoe would totally get it. I scroll through my contacts, all the way down to Z .

But maybe it isn’t fair to call Zo. Her parents are doing a little better, but money is still tight. She didn’t get to go on a college tour this summer, and I’m not really sure there’s any money put aside for her education. I’d be a jerk to call and complain.

I scroll back up to Christine. She’s headed to New York next year to become a painter. All she’s ever wanted is to get out of Half Moon Bay. We’ve always understood each other in that way.

But as I’m pressing the button for her name, I remember that today is Tyler’s birthday and she was going to surprise him with a scavenger hunt through town.

That leaves one person. I find his name and quickly punch the button. “Pick up, pick up,” I chant quietly. A voice in my head reminds me I shouldn’t be calling my ex-boyfriend, the only guy I ever loved, the one who went off to college and left me behind, but I try to quiet it. All these months I’ve been strong and not e-mailed him, not called him, but I don’t have anyone else right now.

“Hey there.” Tom’s deep voice is a little scratchy, like he just woke up, and it sends a shiver down my spine. The guys at Marina Vista still sound like chipmunks. “How… What’s up?” he asks.

Technically the breakup a few months ago was mutual—technically. I want to talk to him, but it’s just as friends. He’s already gone through the whole college application process, so he’ll help me get my head on straight.

“I hate Harvard.” A woman glares at me as she passes down the hall. I lower my voice. “Well, I don’t hate Harvard—that’s not it. My parents love it, and the teachers all love it. Actually, everybody loves it except me.”

“What are you talking about?” He yawns loudly.

“I’m on my college tour, standing in the hallowed halls of Harvard right now. Well, a dorm hallway anyway.” Two girls pass me, talking loudly. “They want me to go here, but it doesn’t feel right.”

“So don’t apply. You’re not like everybody else.”

I bite my lip. It’s such a Tom thing to say and exactly what I need to hear. After months of not talking, he still knows how to make me feel better. Tom always put the Miracle Girls on edge, but they never got to see this side of him, the big heart hidden inside his chiseled chest.

The noisy tour group pours out of the dorm room, and Kiki ushers them toward the exit at the end of the hall, pointing at some posters on the wall. Mom spots me on the phone and motions for me to rejoin the group.

“It’s funny that you called,” Tom says. “I actually wanted to tell you something.”

The tour group files into the stairwell. Dad lingers for a moment, frowning, and then goes with them.

“I’m transferring to UCSF and moving back to San Francisco.”

“What?” I press my finger to my ear, trying to block out the noise in the hall. That can’t be right. I’ve just gotten used to him being in Santa Barbara, which isn’t that far, but far enough for him to feel really and truly gone from my life.

“Santa Barbara wasn’t working out, and now I can live at home and save some cash.”

My heart begins to pound.

“I miss my old friends, you know—crazy blond girls who call me out of the blue and stuff. I miss… talking.”

My pulse drums loudly in my ears.

Mom peeks her head back in the door and widens her eyes at me. “You’re missing everything!”

“I—” I wave at Mom. “I’ve got to run, but I’ll call you later.” I snap the phone shut before he can respond and chuck it back into my purse. He’s coming back? I lean my head against the wall to keep it from spinning.

“Riley!” Mom plants her hands on her hips.

“Coming.” I jog over to her lingering in the stairwell. I file in at the back of the group and wind down the few flights of stairs with Mom hot on my heels. I can’t think about Tom now. I’ll deal with that later, once I’m back home and I’ve had time to wrap my mind around the fact that he isn’t gone, that his voice almost sounded like it used to before we drifted apart.

We re-enter the Harvard Yard, the sun stinging my eyes, and Kiki yammers on and on about the different types of architecture, pointing out stuff like Doric columns and neoclassical facades.

It’s not that Harvard isn’t beautiful. The campus is historic and hallowed and dripping in ivy, and there’s no question that it’s one of the best colleges in the country. If I went here, I’d get a great education, have opportunities I’d never get anywhere else, and meet all kinds of new, fascinating friends….

My mind flashes to Half Moon Bay, the faces of the Miracle Girls.

I can’t believe that in a year this is going to be my life. This could be my freshman dorm, but looking out over this crowded lawn, I can’t picture it. I try to imagine myself lounging in the courtyard, heading to fascinating lectures, eating in the dining hall, but my brain refuses. The only life I can imagine is at Marina Vista, hanging out with the girls, being close when Michael needs me.

Mom grins at me as Kiki explains how the meal plans work.

They think I want to go to Harvard, but I don’t. They think I’m excited about this, but I’m scared out of my mind. They think they know the real Riley McGee, but even I haven’t met her. They think I have it all figured out, but I’m totally lost.

So much for veritas .

Copyright © 2010 by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Salon - TV Turnoff Week - April 18, 2010

Happy Sunday! It's been an exceptionally busy week around here.  Work has been crazy as we re-write three classes as well as work on a local grant.  We are trying to determine if dedicated ebook readers and ebooks or laptops with ebook readers and ebooks lead to increased reading skills.  This has, ironically, led to a lack of reading time for me!

TV Turnoff Week - April 19 - 25
As part of TV Turnoff Week, I'm running a second Scholastic Book Fair at our school.  We also have ISTEP and NWEA testing coming up so I'm hoping these combined events will all encourage students to purchase more books.  We could really use some money to make the library a more inviting place.

In addition to the newsletter and flyers, I went on our school news and sang a song based on the Ting Tings, That's Not My Name

Come Buy Some Books
(tune of That’s Not My Name by The Ting Tings)

Starting Monday and running all week you should
Turn off your tv  find something to read

Reading this flyer will give you some ideas so
count your money save up all your change  and

come and browse
see what you can buy
We open at 850 and we close at 415 yo

Were selling books in the library
But it only lasts a week so
Come support the IMC C C C

Come buy this book
Come buy this pointer
Come buy this duck
Come buy this pen

Come buy some books
Come buy some books
Come buy some books
Come buy some

We sell these drumsticks
And we sell stickers
Plenty of bookmarks
To save your place

Come buy some books
Come buy some books
Come buy some books
Come buy some

Are you coming to the fair?
Are you buying some books?

I brought props and everything.  It was embarrassing but the students seemed to love it.

We'll be reducing our TV Time at home this week and I plan on carving out some time to read, play some games with The Amazing Dancer (we love Scrabble Slam), get outside in the yard (ok, not something I really want to do), and go to see David Sedaris with friends.  I haven't read any of his work but I'm hoping to get to some of his essays tonight.

Earth Day - April 22
This week also has Earth Day.  This Thursday, I'm hoping to do a few upgrades to my "landscape".  I want to put in a new mailbox, plant some flowers around it, upgrade some of my solar lights and add a few more, clean off my deck and think about some patio furniture.  Now, I'm no good at outdoorsy things and don't particularly like it out there but it really needs SOMETHING and I don't have any money. With the exception of replacing the mailbox, these sound fairly easy.  I definitely need some bushes and trees and a shed and other stuff but this will be a good start.  I don't have classes this summer, so if I don't get a job, I'm going to work more on the outside.  If you have any tips, please email me or leave them in the comments!  Thanks!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Poetry Review - Tighty Whitey Spider by Kenn Nesbitt

The Tighty Whitey Spider 
Kenn Nesbitt
97 pg ARC
4 copies

My Thoughts
What a fun book.  Kenn Nesbitt combines animals and craziness into some wacky poems.  Some of the poems are set to the rhythm of familiar tunes: Such as Tighty Whitey Spider (Itsy Bitsy Spider), Ferret Soccer (Frere Jacques),

Get Me Out of the Fish Tank (Take Me Out of the Ballgame)
Get me out of this fish tank,
Get me out of this bowl.
I was just trying to catch the fish.
They looked tempting and awfully delish
but I slipped and fell in the fish tank
and now my future looks grim.
I just went to see and found out something:
Cats don't swim.

Won't you give me a hand here?
All I need is a lift.
Help and I promise I won't come back.
I'll go elsewhere when I need a snack,
for I've learned a valuable lesson;
I know it's not safe in here,
and the next time I want the fish I'll bring
scuba gear!

There are more poems set to tunes you know as well as originals.  They all have a catchy beat and are fun to read aloud! This will be great for the 6th grade classes intro to poetry and I give it 4 copies. Tighty Whitey also includes drawings and you can download the audio of some of the poems.  The table of contents lists which poems are on audio and there's also a separate track listing all the poems that you can listen too.

About the Author
Kenn Nesbitt is the author of several collections of funny poetry for kids. His poems have appeared many bestselling anthologies, including every book in the popular Kids Pick the Funniest Poems series, and anthologies from Scholastic with nearly 2 million copies in print. His works have been in dozens of school textbooks around the world, as well as national television programs, and numerous children's magazines. Kenn travels the country sharing his wacky brand of poetry with kids nationwide, and helping to create a new generation of poetry lovers. His website, Poetry4Kids, is the most popular children's poetry website on the Internet.

Kenn's website - Poetry 4 Kids

Tighty Whitey audio download

As a special bonus, you can read Kenn Nesbitt's other book, My Hippo Has the Hiccups, for free until April 30th!

Read the book, spread the word, listen to the poems!

ARC supplied by publisher.

Blog Tour - South of Broad by Pat Conroy

South of Broad
Pat Conroy
Nan A. Talese/Random House
512 pg HC

My Thoughts
Up until the age of nine, Leo King's life was darn near perfect.  He had the best older brother anyone could wish for; gorgeous and protective.  Leo didn't even have to worry about making friends.  All that changed when Leo finds Stephen dead.

Leo King's life takes a sudden downturn as he battles with a depression so severe he ends up in a mental institution.  Later, Leo is accused of a crime he didn't commit, and thus begins his long, struggle back to reality. He's thrust into a group of people who would never be friends under normal circumstances and finally, at the age of eighteen, he feels like his life is starting to come together.

We really get to meet Leo King on his paper route.  Pat Conroy uses this route to describe Charleston, South Carolina in sentences that carry so many metaphors and similes you are lost in the language instead of the picture he's trying to paint.

"my it lay simmering in the hot-blooded saps of June while the sun began to set, reddening the vest of cirrus clouds that had gathered along the western horizon."

It was difficult to really get a feel for the people as the city has overwhelmed you with it's presence.  It was a struggle to continue reading.

Later, as we are introduced to Trevor and Sheba, the twins who move across the street from Leo, we start to make connections with the characters.  But it's never complete for me.  With the exception of Ike, each character's life seemed to be touched with so much sorrow and heartbreak, it was melodramatic.

Sheba, a world famous actress reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe, returns to Charleston in search of Leo, a world famous journalist. She asks Leo and the rest of the gang to help her find her brother, Trevor.  He's disappeared without a trace and she's sure something is desperately wrong. Everyone, except rich kids Chad and Frasier, travel to the underbelly of San Francisco, a world of sex and drugs and death, to see what they can do.  We uncover more of Trevor and Sheba's sordid and horrible past and wonder how the twins were able to get up each day.  Neither parent is a joy but their father is pure evil. The gang also try to track down the dad before he strikes again but aren't able to find him before he does some major damage to the group

South of Broad had some moments where I was completely immersed in the story but more parts were so unbelievable I never found myself enjoying it. It was if Conroy was trying to shock the reader with hints of racism, pedophilia, AIDS, cancer, suicide and rape. One or two would have been sufficient.  The issues so overwhelmed the story that I never recovered. I needed more hope than Conroy was able to offer.

Leo, on the other hand, was lucky.  He made some true friends who stuck by each other despite the turbulence. Through his friendships with this group,  Leo understood that although each person is a product of his or her upbringing, he or she can use those circumstances to make their lives better or they can be strangled and stifled by the past.  The friends Leo made and the people he encountered throughout Charleston helped him to move away from the specter of his brother's suicide and into his own life.

About the Author
Pat Conroy is the bestselling author of nine books: The Boo, The Water is Wide, The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides, Beach Music, My Losing Season, The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life and South of Broad. He lives in Fripp Island, South Carolina.

Visit Pat Conroy’s website for more info about his work.

Blog Tour Stops - all stops
Books and Cooks 4/12
Po(sey) Sessions 4/14
Life in the Thumb 4/15

Saturday, April 10, 2010

ReadAthon April 2010 - Update 3 - First Part Last by Angela Johnson

Angela Johnson is my new favorite writer.  First Part Last was even better than Heaven.  The voice of Bobby, the teen-aged father, was so real.  I loved how she went back and forth between the time periods: Then - before Feather was born and Now - having and taking care of Feather.  I thought the book would be spoiled because I knew he kept the baby, but it wasn't.  We follow Bobby as he learns to take care of, and be responsible for, his baby girl.  We also listen to him reminiscing about the months before Feather was born. Bobby and Nia had decided to give up the baby and were just trying to make it through.  They were still going to school and hanging out with friends.  If they could just make it through these nine months, everything would be ok, because they were intent on doing the right thing.  As Bobby tells the story of Feather's first few months, although he is extremely tired and at wit's end, you hear his love for her in his "voice".  Every time he has to get up in the middle of the night, change a diaper, go to the sitter, falls asleep in class, etc., the love is there. 
"I want to cry. I want to cry a lot these days, and sometimes I do, and this makes me crazy."  You feel for him and Feather.  Can hardly wait to get to Sweet, Hereafter!

Title of book(s) read since last update:
Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale
The First Part Last by Angela Johnson
Hotlanta by Denene Millner - 80/272

Number of books read since you started: 5

Pages read since last update:357 pg
Running total of pages read since you started:
687 pgs plus 15 min audio

Amount of time spent reading since last update:3 hrs 10 min
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 7 hrs

Mini-challenges completed:1
Other participants you’ve visited:
Nomad Reader

ReadAthon April 2010 - Update 2 - Heaven by Angela Johnson

Wow! Ok, you know how people talk about quiet books?  I use that term myself, but today, I really know what it means.  Heaven is like sitting around talking to a friend: you guys are on the porchdecksidewalkcouch and just chillin' and talkin'. That's what reading this book is like.  Marley is enjoying her life.  She has a good one.  She has two great friends, Shoogy and Bobby, a little brother, Butchy and her parents love her.  This she knows.  She's spending this summer, almost fourteen, hanging out doing the things she's always done, including going to the Ma's store and sending money to her Uncle Jack.  They've been "talking" since she was two, so even though he's not there, they know so much about each other.  Then a letter comes, not from Uncle Jack, but someone she doesn't know.  And it changes everything.  But does everything really have to change?  "...the past doesn't always make sense of the present."  This book is filled with the kind of sly humor you use at meetings when the bossteacherminister is just going on and you are whispering to friend rather than paying strict attention.  It's also filled with the idea of what makes you a family.  It was great.  I can't wait to read the next two!

Title of book(s) read since last update:
Here Comes The Garbage Barge by Jonah Winter
Heaven by Angela Johnson

Number of books read since you started: 3

Pages read since last update:170 plus audio
Running total of pages read since you started: 330

Amount of time spent reading since last update:1hr 43 min plus 15m audio
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 3hr 50 min

Mini-challenges completed:none
Other participants you’ve visited:
Presenting Lenore
Bookworming in the 21st Century
The Frappy Report
Fizzy Thoughts

ReadAthon April 2010 - Update 1 - Gregor The Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Gregor The Overlander by Suzanne Collins
Dare I say this was better than the Hunger Games? And I loved the Hunger Games.  Gregor and his baby sister, Boots, are pulled into an underground world full of rats, roaches, spiders, and other creatures.  And also humans.  They believe Gregor has been sent to them to fulfill the Prophecy of Gray.  He just wants to find his dad and go home.  Gregor is caring and quick to act for those he loves, so he agrees to be "the warrior", though he doesn't believe it in his heart.  They set out on a quest that involves much adventure and many great sayings.

"The hardest lesson for a soldier to learn is to obey an order he believes to be wrong" -isn't that the case for teaching too?
"He didn't have room inside him for any more unspoken words." - that's when I first cried.

Throughout the story, Collins reminds us that "where there is life there is hope".  We should keep believing in the future and keep moving forward into it.  Great book! Highly recommended. I will be pushing this one to all grades when we go back!

Title of book(s) read since last update:
Gregor The Overlander - Book 1 in The Underland Chronicles

Number of books read since you started: 1

Pages read since last update:160
Running total of pages read since you started: 160

Amount of time spent reading since last update: 112 min
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 112 min

Mini-challenges completed:none
Other participants you’ve visited: none

ReadAThon April 2010 - Kickoff Post!

Good Morning! Not quite the 8am start but close! It's 8:50 and I've had breakfast and am enjoying my first cuppa joe! Had a hard time sleeping last night so I started Gregor The Overlander by Suzanne Collins.  So, I decided to start the morning with that one!

This is the format the posts will take.  A little conversation at the top, possible pic in the middle and then the nitty-gritty at the end! See you in a few hours!  Oh, and I'll be updating on thebrainlair at Twitter using hashtag #readathon!

Title of book(s) read since last update:

Number of books read since you started:

Pages read since last update:
Running total of pages read since you started:

Amount of time spent reading since last update:
Running total of time spent reading since you started:

Mini-challenges completed:
Other participants you’ve visited:

Friday, April 9, 2010

Read A Thon – What Am I Reading?


The Dewey 24 hr. ReadAThon starts Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 8AM EST.

I have several books in my pile to start me out:


The Heaven Trilogy by Angela Johnson


The First Part Last and

Sweet, Hereafter

Sweet, Hereafter is on my Mock Printz list. 

readathon 004Happyface by Stephen Emond  which is also on the list.

Hotlanta by Denene Millner and Mitzi Miller – courtesy of Rasco from RIF.

readathon 002Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale – a graphic novel.

Here Comes the Garbage Barge by Jonah Winter – for the Mock Newbery list.


This gives me a variety:  long and short YA, a graphic novel, and a picture book. 

My only problem is (almost) everything is Realistic Fiction.  Even my two adult backup books – Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (which I’ve been reading for over 3 weeks!) and The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. 

I may have to search the house for some Action/Adventure or Fantasy to break things up!

If you have some suggestions, leave them in the comment area.

I’m heading out to pick up some snacks and finishing up some chores before off to bed and the big day! 

Also, for each book I read, I’m donating a book to Guys Lit Wire’s current charity! 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Review - Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman

Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials
Rosalind Wiseman
January 2010
288 pgs. ARC
3 copies

My Thoughts
First off, that cover is really NOT what the book is about.  This book is more about friendships and what it means to stand up for yourself and others.  There was very little romance.  Which is fine.

Charlie moves to a different high school as a way to escape two friends who'd become poison to her.  She figured it would be a good way to start over and be herself while distancing herself from the unpleasantness of her past.  Charlie's new school does offer new opportunities but she also finds she can't outrun herself; Nidhi, the girl she stood by allowed to be bullied, turns up at the new school and so does a boy she grew up with.  Charlie does a good job of moving forward and decides she needs to face herself so she can become a better person.  Wiseman doesn't spend a lot of time on boy-girl relationships as much as she does on Charlie's relationship with a variety of people, which was a welcome change and helped the book stand a little above other teen romance novels. Wiseman instead gives us a glimpse into a boy's life.  The boys suffer through hazing in order to survive and thrive on the soccer team.  Charlie's friend Will is on this team and she makes him promise that if things get out-of-hand he will contact her. Will turns out to have a higher tolerance than Charlie anticipated and she decides to help him anyway.

I stopped short of giving Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials my highest rating due to the way Wiseman described some of the characters in the book.

p20 preppy looking black guy - tall and skinny
p21 brown haired boy with freckles
p28 cutest tannest  brown-haired blue eyed guy
p47 perfectly messy brown hair and black rectangular glasses
p47 other was Asian huge and wearing a panther's jacket (named Gwo)
p72 I'm Raj, said a cute black-haired Indian guy

Is it me or does she only point out the race of the nonwhite characters?  I think an African-American can have "perfectly messy brown hair" or be "cute, [and] black haired".  The descriptions stopped me every time.  I didn't have the opportunity to create pictures in my head nor did I get the sense the descriptions moved beyond the stock, stand-in characters. These characters seemed to be there only to add a "multicultural" bit to the book. 

So, overall, I give the book three copies.  I think the cover will lead students to pick it up even though it gives a false portrayal of content and the book is well worth reading despite it's stereotypical character descriptions.

Rosalind Wiseman talks about Boys, Girls...

ARC provided by Around The World Tours.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Blog Tour - Asking For Trouble by Sandra Byrd

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Tyndale House Publishers (March 4, 2010)
***Special thanks to Christy Wong of Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Best-selling author Sandra Byrd has published nearly three dozen books in the Christian market, including her latest series, French Twist, which includes the Christy Award finalist Let Them Eat Cake (WaterBrook Press, 2007) and its sequel, Bon Appétit (WaterBrook Press, 2008). Many of her acclaimed fiction and nonfiction books target the tween and young adult markets. She has also published a book for new moms entitled Heartbeats. Several of Sandra’s shorter works have appeared in periodicals such as Relevant, Clubhouse, Pockets, Decision, and Guideposts. For the past seven years, she has shared her secrets with the many students she mentors through the Christian Writers Guild. Before turning to full-time writing, Sandra was an acquisitions editor in the ABA market. She lives in the Seattle, Washington, area with her husband and two children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $6.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (March 4, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414325975
ISBN-13: 978-1414325972


I hung back at the doorway to the cafeteria of my new supercool British school, Wexburg Academy. Most of the lunch tables were already packed, and the room was buzzing with chatter. The populars, whom I'd secretly nicknamed the Aristocats, commanded an entire table right in the center of the room. Their good looks and posh accents made up the sun around which all other tables orbited. The normal kids were in the second circle, arranged by friends or clubs or activities. The drama table was on the outer edge of the room, and so were the geeks, the nerds, and the punk wannabes--way out there like Neptune, but still planets. Most everyone had a group. I didn't.

Okay, so there was one table with lots of room. The leftovers table. It might as well have been the dark side of the moon.

No way.

I skipped lunch--again--and headed to the library. One of the computers was available and I logged on, desperately hoping for an e-mail from Seattle.

There was an e-mail from my grandmother reminding me to floss because British dentists only cleaned adult teeth.

Spam from Teen Vogue.

An invitation to join the Prince Harry fan club--​I opened it and gave it a quick scan. I'd consider it more later.

And . . . one from Jen!

I clicked open the e-mail from my best friend at home--well, it had been my home till a couple of months ago--hoping for a lunch full of juicy news served alongside tasty comments about how she missed me and was planning stuff for my next visit home. I craved something that would take me the whole lunch period to read and respond to and remind me that I did have a place somewhere in this universe.

From: Jen
To: Savannah

Hey, Fortune Cookie, so how's it going? Met the Queen yet? LOL. Sorry I haven't written too much. It's been so busy. Samantha took the position you'd been promised on the newspaper staff. She's brand new, but then again you would have been too. It seemed strange without you at first, but I think she'll do okay--maybe even better than okay. And hey, life has changed for everyone, right? Things are crazy busy at school, home, and church. We hang out a lot more now that a bunch of us are driving. Will write again in a few weeks.

Miss you!

A few weeks! My lungs filled with air, and I let it out slowly, deflating like a balloon with a slow leak. I poised my hands over the keyboard to write a response but just . . . couldn't. What would I say? It had already been weeks since we'd last e-mailed. Most of my friends texted instead of e-mailing anyway, but texting across the Atlantic Ocean cost way too much. And the truth was . . .

I'd moved, and they'd moved on.

I logged off the computer and sat there for a minute, blinking back tears. Jen hadn't meant to forget me. I was simply out of her orbit now.

I pretended to read Sugar magazine online, but mostly I was staring at the clock, passing the time till I could respectably head to my next class.

Five minutes before class I swung my book bag onto my shoulder and headed down the hall. Someone was stapling flyers to the wall. “Hi, Hazelle.”

“Hullo, Savannah.” She breezed by me, stapling another pink flyer farther down the wall. We had math class together--oh yeah, maths, as the Brits called it--first period. I'd tried to make friends with her; I'd even asked her if she'd like to sit together in lunch, but she'd crisply informed me that she sat at the table with the other members of the newspaper staff.

She didn't bother with small talk now either, but went on stapling down the hall. I glanced at one of the flyers, and one sentence caught my eye right away: Looking for one experienced journalist to join the newspaper staff.

I yanked the flyer off the wall and jammed it into my bag. I was experienced. Wasn't I?

A nub of doubt rose inside me--the kind that popped up, unwelcome, anytime I tried to rationalize something that wasn't exactly true or right.

This time I swallowed it back. I thought back to Jen's e-mail that kind of felt like a polite dismissal. I lived in London now.

It was time to take matters into my own hands.

My Thoughts
Asking for Trouble by Sandra Byrd is the first in a new YA Christian fiction series. It could actually be read by 5th/6th graders up. I thought it was interesting how Byrd portrayed Savvy as a normal teenager with temptations she didn't always resist. Asking for Trouble finds the family transported to London and trying desperately to make friends and fit-in. While most of the book centers on Savvy, we get a glimpse into the lives of her family also.

I liked how Savvy tried a variety of clubs and didn't give up even
when things didn't work out. The family also went to a variety of churches trying to find the one they wanted to make their own. Even with all of that and Savvy finding and reading her bible, not everything wrapped up neatly in the end.

Now, I did feel some of the dialogue was a little bit adult like here and there and it would throw me a bit. It was mostly when the nine-year-old, Louanne, was talking though. "So, Sav, do you have an article in today's paper? I noticed you brought a bunch home in your bag." - that just seems more like something an adult would say. I also didn't understand the importance the Au Revoir bag, I get that it's fashionable but, was it necessary to get a "named" bag? Maybe that's something that will come to light later.

For the most part, this was a good read and I give it three copies. I'm going to put it in the library and see what happens!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Poetry Review - Poetry Speaks Who I Am edited by Elise Paschen

Poetry Speaks Who I Am
Ed by Elise Paschen
March 2010
176 pgs ARC
5 stars

My Thoughts
Poetry Speaks comes with a CD that includes poets reading their own works.  The table of contents lets you know which poems are on the CD, since only about half of them are included.  The ARC also included a little 1/2 sheet with the selections listed on it.  That was really helpful since I didn't have to turn back to the beginning to check on a poem, I could just consult the sheet I was using as bookmark.  The poems looked like I might have typed them out on recycled paper and then added a design.  Spare but creative and encouraging.  Not a normal standoffish type of poetry book at all. There are even lines in the back to write your own poems.

I am not a huge poetry fan but this book spoke to me.  I loved the mix of contemporary and classic poets, the mix of ethnicities, the well-known with the not-so well known.  We had works from Langston Hughes, Edgar Allen Poe, Maya Angelou, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Sherman Alexie and Billy Collins. Some of my favorites were SEDNA by kimiko hahn, WHAT YOUR MOTHER TELLS YOU NOW by mitsuye yamada, and

kim stafford

At the dinner table, before the thrown
plate, but after the bitter claim,
in the one beat of silence
before the parents declare war

their child, who had been temporarily
invisible, but who had from school
a catechism, speaks: "Would you like me
to help solve the conflict?"  Silence.

They can't look at each other.  A glance
would sear the soul.  A wall of fire seethes,
Maginot line through the butter plate,
split salt from pepper, him from her.  Silence.

So the child speaks: "Three rules, then:
One--you have to let each other finish.
Two--you have to tell the truth. Three--
you have to want to solve the conflict.

If you say yes, we will solve it.
I love you.  What do you say?"

Another one I enjoyed

mary jo salter

Much less
the slam
than the slalom
gives me a thrill:
that solemn, no-fuss
Olympian skill
in skirting flag after flag
of the bloody obvious;
the fractional
while speeding downhill,
at the key
in a sort of whole-
body trill:
the note repeated,
but elaborated,
more touching and more
for seeming the thing 
to be evaded.

You can read these for fun as well as teach them.  So many terms you can define: metaphor, simile, enjambment, litote, rhythm, rhyme scheme, free verse, etc.  I think both teachers and students will love this.  I already bought some for our school library! I give this 5 stars because it's not one to be read in a normal lit circle but to put in your pocket and carry around with you.  My only issue is they printed it in hardcover. This needs to be paperback for portability and usability. 

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sunday Salon (on Monday) - SLJ Battle of the Kid's Book and ReadAThon

Posting the results of the SLJ Battle of the Kid's Books and wondering what I'll be reading for Dewey's Readathon.

Well, it's official, Marching for Freedom by Elizabeth Partridge has won the Battle of the Kid's Book.  It has survived Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck, Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan (my personal fave), The Frog Scientist by Pamela S. Turner and The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge.  This is one amazing book.  And it is amazing.  But from a school librarian's perspective?  It will only get read if a teacher uses it in the classroom. The Best thing about this battle?  I read some great books, had big fun and won a cool t-shirt!  It was incredible to hear from some of modern day's greatest authors as they laid out their thought processes and personal preferences.  Cause, really, that's what it comes down like it because of who you are and I like it because of who I am and sometimes we disagree and, to me, that's where the fun begins!  I'm hoping next year I can turn this into some sort of book club...

Dewey's 24 hr. Readathon
This weekend, April 10th, is the 24 hr. ReadAThon.  I'm looking forward to this as a way to jump back into Searching for My (mock) Printz.  I have amassed (can you use this for less than a bajillion items) a number of the books and will try to read at least 2 of them.  I'm going to go for Happyface by Stephen Emonds and Sweet, Hereafter by Angela Johnson.  I will also read the first two books in Angela Johnson's Heaven trilogy.  I'm going to read a few of the shorter SJCPL Mock Newbery books too.  That should get me through the day.  If not, I still have Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel to finish and The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver to start. 

Blog changes
I'll be fiddling with the blog layout and design over the next month.  I'm trying to reflect my new direction as mostly a blog looking at new MG/YA books for the upcoming ALA awards. Are there any changes you want to see?

I'm officially on Spring Break so, aside from three blog tour posts, I'm going to be offline until Friday!  I will possibly tweet from the Will Grayson, Will Grayson author visit Tuesday night but other than that, I'm just going to hang with The Amazing Dancer as long as she can stand the company!

So, that's it for this Sunday Salon on a Monday! Have a wonderful week everyone!

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