Last Five Posts

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Salon - The Past Two Months - May 31, 2010

I'm back! These last two months have been crazy busy for me!  I think I've finally recovered enough to start actively blogging again!

I will be "joining" The Book Whisperer, Donalyn Miller, as she tries to read one book a day for summer vacation. I'll post as soon as my list is complete! For now, here are my fake challenge updates for April and May.

1. Reading Challenges - short updates on my unjoined challenges

Debut Author Challenge (10)
The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Happyface by Stephen Emond

In the Middle Reading Challenge (24)
The Red Umbrella
Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale
The London-Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd
Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
Tighty-Whitey Spider by Kenn Nesbitt
100 Cupboards by ND Wilson
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling

Young Adult Reading Challenge (43)
Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti
Asking for Trouble by Sandra Byrd
After the Kiss by Terra Elan McVoy
Heaven by Angela Johnson
The First Part Last by Angela Johnson
Sweet, Hereafter by Angela Johnson
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott
Happyface
Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski
Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve
She's So Dead to Us by Kieran Scott
The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong
The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

POC Reading Challenge (18)
The Red Umbrella
The Heaven Trilogy
The Summer I Turned Pretty
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Loving Your Library (24)
The First Part Last
Sweet, Hereafter
Rapunzel's Revenge
Here Comes the Garbage Barge by Jonah Winter
Happyface
Gregor the Overlander
100 Cupboards

2. Book Buying -I will still keep track of this but, clearly, I have a problem that I'm not willing to give up yet.

I'm on an HP kick so I bought all 7 Harry Potter books in the Adult Edition from the UK. Thought it would be fun to see if there are significant differences. Yes, I do own all 7 Hardcovers. Your point?

14 US books - ~$108
7 UK books - £64.82 (I'll let you figure this out!)

Total books read in April and May - 32 (16 each month)
Best Book of April - Happyface by Stephen Emond
Best Books of May - Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and The Cardturner by Louis Sachar


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Blog Tour and Giveaway - Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Let the Great World Spin
Colum McCann
Random House
400 pgs. 

My Thoughts
Let the Great World Spin is divided, not so much into chapters, as it is into lives.  "Those who saw him hushed."  We open with the tightrope walker but his is not the story we follow.  We start with Corrigan and Cairan, young Irish brothers living with their single mom.  Corrigan is beginning his life-long search to find God, "His theme was happiness -- what it is and what it might not have been...", and bring him to others while Cairan's job is to look after Corrigan.  We then move to Solomon and Claire, living on the Upper East side and trying to make sense of their lives post-Joshua.  These two tales, Corrigan's and Claire's, are the glue that holds the book together.  Corrigan spends time trying to help out the streetwalkers and other people down on their luck while Claire tries to find normalcy after her son is killed in Vietnam, even though he's not over there to fight but to work on a computer program.  Joshua's job is to count the dead.

Throughout the book we find out more about Corrigan, Claire, Cairan and a host of other characters, most notably Tillie and Jazzlyn, a mother-daughter streetwalking duo and Gloria, a mother who's also lost sons to war.  While Petit's tightrope walking between the towers begins the book, it's his rope that leads us through the book, the way the rope connects the towers, his walk serves to bring these stories together.  As we unravel each person's story, we see how they are all connected.

Caveat:  McCann uses some beautiful language throughout the book but he overused one very offensive term for African-Americans.  I noted at least 12 times without a context that would put this in a historical perspective.

Author Interview from Amazon



About The Author
Colum McCann is the internationally bestselling author of the novels Let the Great World Spin, Zoli, Dancer, This Side of Brightness, and Songdogs, as well as two critically acclaimed story collections. His fiction has been published in thirty languages. He has been a finalist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and was the inaugural winner of the Ireland Fund of Monaco Literary Award in Memory of Princess Grace. He has been named one of Esquire’s “Best and Brightest,” and his short film Everything in This Country Must was nominated for an Oscar in 2005. A contributor to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Paris Review, he teaches in the Hunter College MFA Creative Writing Program. He lives in New York City with his wife and their three children.

The Giveaway
If you want to get a glimpse into Petit's training as well as the lives of those who "saw" him that day, I'm giving away this finished paperback copy of
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
to one lucky, random commenter.
The giveaway is open to all. All you have to do is a
leave a comment stating why you want to read this one. Don't forget your email address.
Giveaway is open until Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 11:59pm
Only one entry per person.


Other TLC Book Tour dates
Thursday, May 13th: Diary of an Eccentric
Friday, May 14th: Lit and Life
Monday, May 17th: Book Club Classics
Tuesday, May 18th: Beth Fish Reads
Wednesday, May 19th: Book Chatter
Thursday, May 20th: Evening All Afternoon
Friday, May 21st: Brunette on a Budget

Paperback provided by publisher and TLC Book Tours.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Granted! Technically, I'm Still Reading - Kindles in the School

I won a grant to purchase 12 Kindles for use in our school for the 2010  - 2011 school year.

The reason I went with the Kindle, is it's first and foremost an ereader.  In addition, I love that you can highlight and annotate books as well as add your own documents to the Kindle.  You can search the book you're reading and you can look up words.  It also has basic, built-in internet access.  Students can go to websites for more in-depth study on a variety of topics.  The interface makes it less distracting than a computer while also increasing the time students will spend reading due to the number of materials that can made available as well as the ability to customize the reading experience through text size, words-per-line, and text orientation.


Six Kindles will be designated for library use.  These Kindles will have a few of the more popular titles loaded: The Hunger Games, Twilight, Someone Like You, Leviathan, The Lightning Thief, The Ruins of Gorlan, Blue Bloods,  and The Maze Runner as well as some titles used in the classroom: Don't Feed the Bully, Tangerine, and Letters to a Bullied Girl. Unfortunately some of the titles we use in the classroom are NOT available on the Kindle and we may look for replacement titles to expand access.

Six Kindles will be designated for classroom use.  These Kindles will have the novels teachers use in the classroom as well as a newspaper, magazine, and/or blog subscriptions on a teacher designated Kindle.  They will be checked out for short term teaching units. Students will be able to highlight and annotate passages, like they would normally do, but then we can print out the notes/highlights and it will be easier for students to reference them during classroom discussions.  Once the unit is over, we remove the highlights/notes and we can reuse the book.  Classroom sets can last a lot longer!  We can also add audiobooks and music to the readers.

I'm looking to have teachers take the Kindle 2 home for the summer and practice using it's many features: MP3, audiobooks, annotating, highlighting, and basic internet browsing. The teachers will also load their syllabi, notes, and any study guides for a particular unit on the Kindle.

**SOAPBOX ALERT**
Weirdly, when I wrote the grant, April 16, The Giver by Lois Lowry was available on Kindle and now it's not!  The two companion novels, The Messenger and Gathering Blue, and many other Lois Lowry books ARE available.  Also, you could put a book on 6 devices but now publishers are limiting it to 5 devices.  Publishers are also increasing the prices of e-books, further pushing schools out of this market. I wish publishers would stop looking at Amazon as the enemy and make more books available on the Kindle because it expands the school library's budget.  I have a small amount of money and space and I could maximize it with Kindles. 


What do you think?  Do you have a Kindle, Nook, or other e-reader?  How do you see them being used in schools?  Do you think I should have went for the iPad?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Blog Tour and Giveaway - Dead End Gene Pool by Wendy Burden

Dead End Gene Pool
Wendy Burden
Gotham Books
279 pgs. (ARC, Prologue, Epilogue)

My Thoughts
Let me start by saying I couldn't finish Dead End Gene Pool. I felt disengaged from the first chapter and never found my entrance into the material.

 Burden starts out with a prologue introducing us to Cornelius Vanderbilt and taking us through her family line on down to the birth of her father and eventually to her brother, Will, and finally herself. Once we get into the memoir itself, I start to lose interest.  The Burden children are seven and eight and enroute to visit relatives when their plane meets some turbulence and we get our first glimpse of Wendy Burden's sense of her place in the family. "Being a girl meant squat in my father's family."

Using this plane ride as an introduction, we jump to the grandparents, or Gran, or Popsie with small bits of the children's mother as well as her uncles on her father's side.  The major disconnect for me starts with the description of the grandparent's German chauffeur, George, who is suspected of being a Nazi.  This fascination with George's heritage is fueled by Uncle Ham's deep interest in all things regarding the Third Reich as well as Wendy Burden's "humor." "German people liked to cover their lamps with...the skin of Jews gassed at Auschwitz."  I didn't find it "wickedly funny", "intriguing", "quirky" or any of the other adjectival words on the back.

We move on to Christmas with Wendy Burden's paternal family.  Uncle Ham is excited to receive a book on Hermann Goring while Wendy receives an Easy Bake oven which she calls a "crematorium." I'm sure, again, this is meant to be funny because she probably means putting dolls or other toys in the Easy Bake but, for me, here is where I give up.

The Author
Wendy Burden is a confirmed New Yorker who, to her constant surprise, lives in Portland, Oregon. She is the great-great-great-great granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt, which qualifies her to comment freely on the downward spiral of the blue blood families. She has worked as an illustrator, a zookeeper, and a taxidermist; and as an art director for a pornographic magazine from which she was fired for being too tasteful. She was also the owner and chef of a small French restaurant, Chez Wendy. She has yet to attend mortuary school, but is planning on it.



The Giveaway
If you want to read about the Vanderbilt's here's your chance. I'm giving away this
ARC of Dead End Gene Pool by Wendy Burden 
to one lucky, random commenter.
The giveaway is open to all. All you have to do is a
leave a comment stating why you want to read this one. Don't forget your email address.
Giveaway is open until Thursday, May 13, 2010 at 11:59pm
Only one comment/entry per person.

Monday, May 10th: The Serpentine Library

Tuesday, May 11th: Books Are Like Candy Corn

Monday, May 17th: Sophisticated Dorkiness

Tuesday, May 18th: Starting Fresh

Tuesday, May 18th: Books on the Brain

ARC provided by TLC Book Tours and Penguin Books.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez - Review

The Red Umbrella
Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Random House
May 2010
272 pg (ARC, Author Notes)

Fourteen-year-old Lucia has a wonderful life; her dad has a lucrative position as the local bank and her mom is able to stay home with her and her brother, Frankie.

Frankie and Lucia have been enjoying Fidel Castro's imposed school vacation when soldiers show up in there town, bringing the revolution close to home.  Children are expected to become brigadeers or their families are accused of being "anti-revolutionary" and subject to jail, or worse, execution.

Lucia's family is suddenly betrayed soon after she confesses secrets to her best friend, Ivette.  Before the dust settles, Ivette is off teaching the peasants about the revolution while Lucia and Frankie are sent to America.

Christina Dia Gonzalez adds actual headlines to the beginning of each chapter of  The Red Umbrella.  This serves to not only move the story forward in time but to ground it in historical turmoil.  We follow Lucia for almost a year, August 1961 - April 1962, as she grows from a naive child into a mature young lady.  From being concerned about playing with her brother to a being interested in boys and fashion.

Good middle grade read about a time period most are not familiar with. There were so many things that happened to the children in one year that it makes it hard to believe, the author notes at the end coupled with the headlines serve to give the story more credence.  I will definitely purchase this for the library and I'm hoping to get it used in the classroom as all students study "war time" and many look for more to read.  I give this 3 1/2 copies.

Recently Released Historical Fiction:
Born To Fly by Michael Ferrari
The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon
Tropical Secrets by Margarita Engle

ARC supplied by 1 ARC Tours.


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