Last Five Posts

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Trauma Queen by Barbara Dee - Review and Giveaway

Trauma Queen
Trauma Queen
Barbara Dee
Simon and Schuster
272 pgs.

"You'll figure it out. Soon this will all seem normal."

Marigold has moved "3 times in the last 4 years" and just started Aldentown Middle School in the last three weeks of the school year.  After the fiasco with her mom and Trisha Hartley, her bff Emma's mom, she just wants to be unknown. 

"Get in there and sniff everyone's butt, Marigold."

But, her mom is not going to allow that.  She wants to do an improv class at Aldentown and Marigold is trying to stop her, to no avail.  Of course, everyone loves her mom so Mari has to hear about her all.the.time.

What I connected with in Trauma Queen is the relationship between Marigold and her mom, Becca.  Becca is a performance artist and she's totally in her own world. This isn't a job for her, it's who she is.  She sometimes seems to forget that there is a world outside of her work and that what she does has an impact on her children.  She's sure that she is doing the right thing and if Marigold just put herself out there, things would go well.

In the meantime, Marigold is trying to figure out where she fits in.  She's losing touch with her best friend Emma and she's landed in the middle of a drama at her new school. There's a boy she likes, a girl who dislikes her but likes the boy, and some other supporting characters. 

I loved how Barbara Dee wove the story of the family around the story of Marigold's troubles at school. Marigold's struggles with how her mom mirrors her struggles to assert herself at school. It really reminded me of my relationship with my own daughter and her quest to find her niche at school.  When I finished the book I texted her:

I've always been happy that we were in the same school system, even the same schools, because I knew all of her teachers and her friends.  When she went to high school, she told me she was excited to meet kids that I didn't know! I really think Barbara Dee nailed the interactions between Becca and Marigold.

My only disappointment was the cover of the book. It doesn't reflect Marigold and her situation at all! Marigold's trying NOT to be noticed and being onstage would be mortifying.

I recommend this one to anyone looking for good realistic middle grade fiction.  The daughter and I also enjoyed This Is Me From Now On This Is Me From Now Onand
The Melting of Maggie BeanThe Melting of Maggie Bean, two great Aladdin Mix titles, an imprint from Simon and Schuster.

GIVEAWAY
Three lucky winners will receive one copy of TRAUMA QUEEN by Barbara Dee along with a limited edition t-shirt!
 To enter
Send an e-mail to TQgiveaway@gmail.com.

include your name and e-mail address
(if you're under 13, have a parent enter for you).

One entry per person.
US or Canadian addresses, Only
Entries must be received by11:59pm (PDT) on 5/13/11
Winners will be selected in a random drawing on 5/14/11 and notified via email.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster and Barbara from Blue Slip Media for this eARC.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Trauma Queen by Barbara Dee - Guest Post

Trauma Queen
Trauma Queen
Barbara Dee
Simon and Schuster
April 2011

I'll be reviewing Trauma Queen later today here on the The Brain Lair.  Trauma Queen is a great story about a middle school girl who just wants to fit in. One of the things keeping Marigold from fitting in is her mother, which I'll talk about in my review.  This book really spoke to me about my relationship with my daughter and how she might feel about us being in the same school and also how my actions affect her.  Very powerful for me.  But, the other thing Trauma Queen deals with is friendship among middle school girls.  Middle school can be very challenging for tween girls, I know this as a teacher and a single mother.  There were times I really wanted to rip some kid's head off for messing with my daughter and other times I wanted to rip mine off for having to live with my child!

Read on as Barbara Dee discusses one of her real-life tween friendship experiences:

When you’re twelve, sometimes friendships end, and you don’t even know it.

When my best friends dumped me, it didn’t happen all at once. The three girls I went bicycling with every afternoon started hanging out with a new girl I’ll call Monica. This Monica seemed older than the rest of us: she had a shaggy haircut and wore tons of mascara (even to school) and talked about BOYS all the time in a voice I could barely hear. Honestly, I thought she was boring.

And little by little I realized that my best friends weren’t around much anymore. They never said, Sorry, Barbara, we’re hanging with Monica instead of you. But it was pretty obvious. I’d hear snatches of conversations referring to parties I hadn’t been invited to. My phone calls stopped getting returned. And soon I began to notice changes in my friends: shaggy haircuts. Mascara at school. Muffled voices I could barely hear. And when I could hear, the topic was BOYS.

Boring, I thought. Honestly.

Then one day one of my best friends announced she had a new name: Happy. You weren’t supposed to call her by her normal name anymore, just by the stupid nickname. And guess who’d given her the stupid nickname? Monica.

“Well, I’m not calling you that,” I informed my friend. “It’s stupid. And it makes you sound like one of the Seven Dwarves.”
photo credit Randy Matusow

Right then she didn’t look like a Happy. “You know what, Barbara?” she said. “Monica doesn’t like you.”

“So what? Who cares about Monica?”

“I do,” she replied. “She’s my best friend now, okay? So it really doesn’t matter what you think!”

It didn’t? I was shocked. Looking back, I probably shouldn’t have been.

Why does this sort of thing happen to tween girls? Why does a girl who was once comfortably part of a group get kicked out? You can blame the Monicas of the world—and certainly, a powerful girl choosing a socially weaker girl to ostracize is a very common form of tween bullying. But what makes the weaker girl vulnerable? How did Monica—in a few short months—get to be so powerful? And why did she choose me to ostracize? Was it really as random as it felt?

Maybe not. Maybe it was because I’d challenged her authority—after all, I refused to wear mascara, and get the haircut, and to use the stupid nickname. Maybe it was because I was a very young twelve—tweens have no tolerance for immaturity. Whatever the reason, Monica expelled me from my group with an almost military precision—and none of my (former) best friends came to my rescue, or apparently even tried.

The whole Monica incident has always really bothered me.

But I guess one of the perks of being an author is you get to change history. So in my new book, TRAUMA QUEEN, the main character, Marigold, finds herself in a brand new middle school where this type of ostracism is taking place. Because Marigold’s performance artist mom is always making a spectacle of herself, Marigold’s one goal is to keep a low profile. But as she sees that one of her classmates is being unfairly ostracized, Marigold confronts the bully. And (spoiler alert!) she forms a new group in the end—one that includes not just the misfits of the school, and the bully’s victim, but also a really cute boy.

After all, she’s thirteen.

Stay tuned for my REVIEW and A GIVEAWAY.  And all you middle school librarians - put this book in your library, better yet, put it in the hands of some of your middle school girls. You won't regret it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Clubs in the School Library - Part 2

I Am Number Four Movie Tie-in Edition (Lorien Legacies) For the second semester book club, I took requests.  Each student who wanted to join turned in 3 books they wanted to read.  They also chose how often they wanted to meet.  We ended up with every three weeks and I compiled a list from their choices.  I also threw in a meeting over spring break - which is what you are seeing here.  These are 6th and 7th graders, and one intern, meeting to discuss I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore.  Now, I know many of you had issues with this book but it was a number one choice across the board, so we read it.  They loved it!  We met for 1 1/2 hours alternately discussing the book, the movie casting, and the Hunger Games casting.  We then speculated on what the Power of Six stood for - the girl Number 6 or all the Numbers together.

The Hunchback Assignments(BEASTLY)) by Flinn, Alex(Author)Hardcover[Beastly] on 01 Oct-2007
Our next meeting will be at the end of the month, during lunch with 6th graders discussing Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade and 7th graders discussing Beastly by Alex Flinn. BTW, our spring break meeting was in the public library branch walking distance from the student's houses.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Sunday Salon - ReadAThon April 2011 - Final Update

Beauty QueensI just need to admit to myself that I will only read 4 or 5 books and I will not make it past 2:30am. These truths are evidenced by this final update.  I made it to hour 18 - 2 short of goal! No, I didn't read for all those hours...

ReadAThon Update
Title of book(s) read since last update:
Reading Beauty Queens

Number of books read since you started:
4 and a short story plus some audio
The Death of Joan of Arc: A Lost Story by Michael Scott
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
It Only Looks Easy by Pamela Swallow
Loser List by HN Kowitt
The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan - 30 min audio

Pages read since last update:
230

Running total of pages read since you started:
980

Amount of time spent reading since last update:
3hr 20m

Running total of time spent reading since you started:
12 hours

12 hours of reading - with only 2 planned books.  That was quite fun.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

ReadAthon April 2011 - Update #4 - Beauty Queens by Libba Bray - Pt1

Beauty QueensBeauty Queens
Libba Bray
Scholastic Press
170 of 396pg ARC

I'm almost half done with this one. Just wanted to check-in. I am loving this book. As I loved Going Bovine. As I loved The Great and Terrible Beauty. Libba Bray is a comic genius but she also sends a message. Pre-order this one folks!

ReadAThon Update
Title of book(s) read since last update:
Reading Beauty Queens

Number of books read since you started:
3

Pages read since last update:
170

Running total of pages read since you started:
750

Amount of time spent reading since last update:
2hr 10m

Running total of time spent reading since you started:
8h 40m

Well, I'm in over 14 hours. Trying to make it to at least 20. Didn't get much cleaning done so that shipped sailed. Will try to read only exciting books from here on out!


ReadAthon April 2011 -Mid Event Survey

12 hours in! Can I make it all the way through?

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

2. How many books have you read so far?
3

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
Not sure.  I have a couple of fantasies I want to dive into! 

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?
I didn't make any arrangements, I thought I would be out of town but someone else's plans changed and left me with the day free!

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
No interruptions.  Unless you count twitter and food!  Had a great convo with daughter too!

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
I'm not reading as much as I'd hoped.  I thought if I didn't sign up for cheerleading and didn't do the mini-challenges I would read more but no, those things actually left me restless during breaks instead of renewed!

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
I somehow missed the call for cheerleaders and wished I had received an email since I did it last year.  Other than that? Great as usual.

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?
I would plan to read all my fave genres like I did in October! It was a blast!

9. Are you getting tired yet?
Not really tired but my last two books were boring! But this one is super funny although long!

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?
 It's better if you cheerlead! You have blogs to comment on and tweets to do, it makes the day go by much faster and your reading more focused!

ReadAthon April 2011 - Update #3 - It Only Looks Easy by Pamela Swallow

It Only Looks EasyIt Only Looks Easy
Pamela Curtis Swallow
Scholastic/Roaring Brook
168 pgs

Kat is going into seventh grade and things are not going well.  They get even worse when she's implicated in a bike theft ring.  In the meantime, she's babysitting Mrs. Lawrence, who has Alzheimer's and tutoring Grace, who is doing terrible in math.  This was recommeded to me by a student and I thought is was ok.  Some of the language was overly formal and I didn't feel tweenish - pocketbook, blunder, fat understatement, jerk - words that I can't imagine kids saying.  Though, my older siblings have said pocketbook before, but they are old, I mean really old!

I didn't feel one way or another about this one.  It was just sort of blah.  It did make me want to read other books about characters with Alzheimer's though.  I remember enjoying Heartbeat by Sharon Creech, so can recommend that one.  It's also a verse novel and can easily be done reader's theater style.

ReadAThon Update
Title of book(s) read since last update:
It Only Looks Easy by Pamela Swallow
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan - 30 min audi

Number of books read since you started:
3

Pages read since last update:
168

Running total of pages read since you started:
580 + 30 min audio

Amount of time spent reading since last update:
2hr 35m

Running total of time spent reading since you started:
6h 30min

Well, we are 9 hours into the readathon and I've only read 3 books.  I've spent almost as much time not reading as reading! Looking forward to the next 11 hours!

Update - had my time wrong on this post so changed it.  It said 11 hours of readathon but I counted wrong and only 9 hours! Yeah, I still have a good amount of time left!

ReadAThon April 2011 - Update #2 - The Loser List by HN Kowitt

The Loser ListThe Loser List
HN Kowitt
Scholastic Press
207 pgs ARC

Danny is a "art geek" - he loves to read and draw comics. His best friend Jasper is also a geek - he likes to invent stuff and wear weird shirts. There were so many cliches in this book. The big bully - Axl - wore a doo-rag and a skull jacket - things that would not be allowed in our middle school. People even wore their hoodies - in school! They sneak into the girls bathroom and break a cinder block wall and DO NOT get in trouble. In detention, no work gets done and it's ok. They fight and take people's money in the lunchroom. There's even a food fight, where only one person gets in trouble.

When the big crime is revealed at the end, the students involved get to work somewhere off campus not under school or parent supervision.

Now, I confess, I do not know how all schools work. I've been an educator for 10 years but I've worked in one system the whole time. Granted, I went to school and did my practicums and student teaching at a variety of schools, but I don't know everything there is, but I know this - this stuff would NEVER work. Yes, I believe in suspension of disbelief, but sometimes, and this is one case, too much can be asked of the reader.  I would much rather give a kid Diary of a Wimpy Kid. But that is just me.  Other people seemed to like this one - Goodreads Loser List - so, check out.

ReadAThon Update
Title of book(s) read since last update:
The Loser List by HN Kowitt


Number of books read since you started:
2

Pages read since last update:
207

Running total of pages read since you started:
412

Amount of time spent reading since last update:
1hr 10m

Running total of time spent reading since you started:
3h 55m

I took a nice lunch break and also changed rooms to get a little sunshine.  I think I'm going to take a quick nap and possibly clean something.  I check in later!

ReadAThon April 2011 - Update #1 - The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

The Emerald Atlas (Books of Beginning)The Emerald Atlas
John Stephens
Knopf
417 pg ARC (AV)

This is a good middle grade swashbuckling fantasy.  Three children are separated from their parents at a very young age, 4, 2, and 1, and end up living in orphanage after orphanage.  They've convinced themselves that they are NOT orphans and, even though it's been ten years, their parents are coming back.  They reach their last hurrah and are sent off to live with Dr. Pym in Cambridge Falls.  Only thing, no one has heard of him or the town.

That's just the beginning of the strangeness.  Kate, the eldest, had seen the house they arrive at in a vision.  But the only two people in the castle are Ms. Sallow, the mean but funny cook, and Abraham, the all around handyman.  Kate, Michael and Emma decide to explore and catalogue the place so they don't get lost and find a secret room in the dungeon.  In the dungeon is a big, blank book.  And that's how the adventure begins.

There's magic, time travel, a deranged countess, and crazy, grandfatherly wizard, dwarves, and a herd of captured children.  Emerald Atlas is fast-paced and there were even parts that made me tear up! While Kate is the strong, family leader, and Michael is the bookish, family historian, Emma is the brave, smart-aleck family defender. She is quick to fight for what she believes is right but also never lets a moment pass to gibe at Michael.  I loved her feisty wit.

The Emerald Atlas is the first book in what should be, at least, a trilogy as there are three Books of Beginning.  I'm hoping that each sibling gets to star in one!  Looking forward to the next book in the series and I highly recommend you get your hands on this one!

Readathon Update
Title of book(s) read since last update:
The Emerald Atlas

Number of books read since you started:
1

Pages read since last update:
205

Running total of pages read since you started:
205

Amount of time spent reading since last update:
2h 45m

Running total of time spent reading since you started:
2h 45m

The rest of my time was spent cheerleading on twitter, snacking, and walking up and down the stairs at home.  Oh, and writing this post!  Now back to reading!

ReadAThon April 2011 - Kickoff Post!

It's here! Only 15 minutes till the April Dewey 24 hr Readathon! And, yes, I've already made some changes. I'll be reading and cleaning today hope to shampoo the carpets! I also want to take a stroll around Borders before it closes.

Well, my coffee is ready and I need to get a good breakfast before my 8am kickoff. My first book will be The Emerald Atlas by John Steptoe. I'll be serving that up with a bagel with cream cheese and lox. Mmm!

The Emerald Atlas (Books of Beginning)

Here's how my posts should look:

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:


I'll update either after each book or every few hours. You can also find me on twitter at http://twitter.com/thebrainlair. I'll be cheerleading and checking in there using the hashtag #readathon.  Happy Reading and
May the books be ever in your stack! (Sorry Effie!)


Friday, April 8, 2011

Spring Bookaday #3 - The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel (Thursday Next Novels (Penguin Books))The Eyre Affair
Jasper Fford
Penguin
374 pgs.

The heroine's name is Thursday Next.  Greatest Name Ever and reason I wanted to read this.  Plus, the author has two effs in his last name. Yeah, that's how I roll. 

Turns out Thursday works as a Literary Detective in SpecOps.  She's an SO-27, the higher the number the lower the status, or a LiteraTec.  They investigate when books change, when manuscripts are stolen, who wrote Shakespeare's plays, when people tried to sell fake versions of classics, etc.  Sounds awesome right? Well, two other members of Thursday's family are SpecOps too but different levels.  The coolest being her uncle Mycroft (don't you love these names!) who has created a Prose Portal, into which he sends his wife only to find out she's being hit on by Wordsworth.  This Prose Portal is stolen by a big bad company, Goliath, run by a guy named Jack Schitt.  No, I am not making this up.  There is also a dangerous criminal named Hades who has a brother named Styx.  So.Much.Fun.

There is an actual story that involves Hades and Jane Eyre and Rochester and kidnapping and killing and 8 people named Felix too.  Fforde includes passages from Jane Eyre and his version ends differently than ours.  I really liked this one.  If you get it, make sure you get one with big print though! I had a slow time reading it because the print was sooo small, I almost needed a magnifying glass.  Maybe if I had one, I would have been able to meet some famous characters!  I'm off to find the sequel to this one!


Read A Thon - What Am I Reading? April 2011

Twice a year I participate in the Dewey 24hr ReadAThon.  Every time I make crazy promises about how much time I will stay awake and how many books I will read.  Let this time not be different! 

The ReadAThon starts at 8am Saturday for me and my goal is to participate for 20 hours! That includes reading, cheerleading, and tweeting.  Back in October I read four books.  Not sure how many I will read this time but here's (an idea of) one of my stacks.


Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
Foiled by Jane Yolen (GN)
Evolution by Jay Hosler (GN)
Geek Fantasy Novel by E. Archer
The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens
Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez
The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
Blink and Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones
The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagles (GN)
The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Reiner (GN)

I also have the books listed in my Spring Break Bookaday  post.  So, really, I am not sure what will get the play on Saturday, but I'm hoping to read at least 7 books. I do know I will be picking up some great snacks to keep me going and I will make the 20 hours.(I can un-promise this right?)

Are you doing the #readathon?



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