Monday, July 30, 2012

Middle Grade Monday - Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker

Pennypacker, Sara. Summer of the Gypsy Moths. Balzer+Bray (HarperCollins), April 2012. 288p. $15.99. 978-0-0619-64206.

Genre: Realistic (foster kids)
Rating:  I really liked it!

Meet Stella, an 11-year-old who is just at her Great Aunt Louise's for the summer she hopes or as soon as her mom pulls her self together to come and get her. And then meet Angel, an 11-year-old determined to save up enough money to leave Louise's and get back with her family.

These two girls are being fostered by Louise in a small beach community. Louise lives in a big, old house with a wonderful garden. She's big and old herself but that doesn't stop her from taking care of the six cottages they rent to tourists each summer. But, this year, she's glad to have the help of Stella and Angel. Unfortunately, those two don't get along. And that's just the beginning of their unfortunate summer!

The first unfortunate part for me was the ease I found in putting this book down. I was mostly vested when I was reading it, but, if anything else looked interesting, I did it.  I think it was because there were too many points where the author told us things we should have been trying to figure out. Like "the back of my neck felt the way an alarm bell sounds, as if my skin were ringing." the first part of that sentence was perfect, I could picture the tight, loud feeling of her neck. I wonder if it's because Pennypacker normally writes for a much younger audience? The second unfortunate part for me was how long the girls were able to fool everyone around them. Are grown-ups really that clueless?

Overall, though, I liked how Stella and Angel accepted their differences and started working together. I also loved the ending. Give this one to fans of Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LeFleur.

Oh, don't you just love that cover? I do. It's what pushed it up on the TBR pile for me.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Casual and Dressy Summer Outfits - Guest Post

The Amazing Dancer is starting a YouTube channel with a friend focusing on affordable fashion, beauty, and hair tips for teens. The Dancer has supercurly hair and is always looking for ideas to make it work. She'll eventually share tips on how to take care of your curly hair.  To start, they focused on outfits to wear to close out the summer.

If you have a teen looking for some fun, inexpensive ideas for back to school and beyond, please have them subscribe to MandJBeauty47. (shameless plug ended)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier - Blog Tour

House of Shadows
Rachel Neumeierwebsite)
Publisher: Orbit/Hachette Book Group (July 2012. 352p. $14.99. 978-0-316-07277-9)
Source: TLC Book Tours (more tour dates)
Genre: Fantasy (mages, magic pipes)
Buy It: ( amazon
| indie )

Eight daughters have to fend for themselves after their father dies suddenly. They are left with a house and money that is tied up in a business deemed worthless without the merchant to run things. They try to sell the business but no one is offering enough for survival.  They decide to sell two of their sisters instead.  They hope the girls can go to one of the best local Keiso houses, Cloisonne House. Half their dream comes true. Karah is immediately accepted but it was suggested that they take Nemienne to Mage Ankennes, where she is sold on a trial basis.  While the sisters adjust to their new lives, we are introduced to Leilis, a former keiso wannabe, and Taudde, a bardic sorcerer whose very presence in Lonne is cause for death. Taudde is blackmailed and the only way out is to assassinate the prince.

House of Shadows proved to be a slow read for me. I thought the prose repetitive and the names so similar as to be confusing.Throughout the book we get glimpses of the girl's characters; Karah is beautiful and naive and that protects her from permanent harm while Nemienne is plain but determined and that helps her make the tough choices.  Karah is envied for her beauty and constantly being taken advantage of, only to come out on top each time. Nemienne has a hard time learning the simplest of spells but can accidentally do some of the strongest magic.  Taudde is supposed to be clever and an accomplished bardic sorcerer. His goal is to make magic by studying the "music of the sea". And we are told this over and over.  The three of them, along with Leilis - who has been cursed for some reason that's alluded to but never revealed - uncover a plot even more dangerous than the attempted assassination. I learned more about the setting than the characters in House of Shadows. Neumeier's descriptions of the mountains, the water and the candlelight district were detailed and vivid. But, they didn't save the book for me.  I was disappointed in the end because everyone needed to be rescued by an unexpected and implausible source. The girls did not turn out the way I had hoped, strong characters that save the day, nor in a way that had been hinted at throughout the book. I didn't even recognize Nemienne in the ending scenes. And even though there are dragons on each chapter's beginning page (at least in the eARC I read), the dragon played such a minimal part in the book as to seem an afterthought. Neumeier's resolution was as expected down to the last scene, which suggests a book two. 

About the Author
Pic courtesy of TLC Book Tours
Rachel Neumeier started writing fiction to relax when she was a graduate student and needed a hobby that was totally unrelated to her research. Before her first novel hit the shelves, her only previous publications were in journals such as the American Journal of Botany. However, finding that her interests didn’t actually lie in research, Rachel let her hobbies take over her life instead. She now lives in southern Missouri with a large garden, a small orchard, and a variable number of extremely beautiful Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. You can find out more about Rachel and her books at

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Batty About Books - Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman - Pt1

We are back on track and this week Maria (@mselke01) and I are
Batty about 
Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman

Don't forget to stop by Maria's Melange to get the rest of the story! As usual, I'm in the blue and Maria's in the purple!

The Prologue
Sometimes I dislike books that have a prologue because I want the whole story to be told within its chapterly confines.  I wonder how many people actually skip the prologue and just start the story? The language in this prologue would probably lead people to skip it.  There isn’t a glossary to define the words and it might be off-putting to students.
I’m always fond of a prologue, especially one that jumps right into the strangeness of a tale. I can see that this is an acquired taste, though, as many of my students don’t appreciate a prologue. I have to convince them to always take the time to stop and read a prologue, unless they KNOW it’s not required (like in Magic Treehouse where the prologue is always just a recap of the previous books in the arc). I loved the odd terms and the sharply different tone from our reality - but again I can see where this would be very challenging for students who aren’t used to this kind of setup. This is another thing I have to teach my students. When they begin a book that is set in an alternate world, it often takes a while to get into the swing of the world. Some kids can handle this, and some can’t (or just don’t like it). I did mention that I thought the setup section of this book was ENTIRELY too long. A full half of the book was devoted to setting the scene. Using 150 pages for setup might be okay in a really long book (like a Game of Thrones length tome) but in a book that is only 300 pages it was too much. Will kids stick with it?? I will definitely mention the prologue in my booktalk but do I mention that incredibly long setup??? Would turn off a lesser reader I think.

Part 1 The Swing (why so called?)
The disappearance- Tucker’s dad disappeared and then came back and hour later much darker and with a young girl in tow.  The mom accepts his explanation even though he really didn’t have time to pick her up from an orphanage and she was dressed weirdly.  Also, the dad looked different and now doesn’t believe in something he spent his whole life studying.  That’s a lot of impossible things to believe.
True (and now I wish I hadn’t read the whole book and could only respond with my knowledge of the first chunk). hahaha - I read it too! I went back and just took notes on this first part so I wouldn’t ruin it!!) I have to say that I liked this when I read it, though. It really was jarring - but since the prologue set me up to be jarred I didn’t mind it. It was the first indication that the story wasn’t as realistic fiction as parts of it seemed. I accepted it and moved on - and maybe it was the prologue that allowed me to feel that way.

The town - if the town is going downhill and isn’t growing, why would a preacher stay there? Why would he raise a child there?

The mom - I wonder why Hautman chose adult autism for Emily? Will there be a message forthcoming on what he believes “causes” autism? The doctor called it Rapid Onset Autism which is something that exists but not in adults - at least that I could find. What about the “ghosts” and “men in black” that the mom sees?
Yes, from all I have learned about autism (and I worked in a school with a special program for autism so we got a decent amount of training on the topic) this is not anything that is “currently seen” or known with this set of disorders. I started to feel like maybe there was more of a connection between Lahlia and his mom. Like there was something about her (since she was also adopted as a small child and knew nothing about her background) that meant she was from an alternate time as well. I’m also starting to feel like I read the book too quickly, and I’m going to need to go back through the second half again before I write about it! That’s what happens when I get competitive and try to read too quickly for Summer Throwdown! (you crazy teachers! Though I admit I have been staying up WAY TOO LATE trying to read as much as possible!!)

The language of the story - something about the language of the story seems odd to me. I don't know what it is.  The story may be told not using contractions and then switch over or maybe it’s a change in POV? I can’t put my finger on it.
I don’t recall noticing that, but I did feel like the flow wasn’t quite what I expected.

Kosh - weird that his father would leave him with a brother he doesn't see or talk to but who lives only a few hours away. I know there is a big age difference but if he felt he failed his brother, shouldn’t he try to make amends? Being a preacher?  Would you leave your 14 year old alone not even knowing if this estranged brother is going to come and get him? And Tucker wasn’t even at home.
Agreed. I thought that was very odd. Again, I felt like maybe there was some connection between Kosh and Emily - and I felt like maybe Emily had a connection with the Klaatu. But there is a family resemblance, between Kosh and Tucker - so that can’t be right either. I wonder if there will be more connections we get later in the book (that I missed because I was reading too quickly) or maybe even in the next book. I feel like the setup in this book was also more about setting up a series than just about this story. Setting up a series, I sometimes dislike that. I would rather an author told me a mostly complete story. Like the first Hunger Games. I never felt like I had to read the next book. I just did because I wanted to. This is exactly the example that I thought of as I was typing this, too!

Part 2 Kosh
Kosh - weird that Kosh has also seen the “men in black”.  Are they the same men Emily saw? I assumed they were - which made my feeling that there is a connection between Emily and Kosh stronger.

Plot device - He made Tucker stay at home even though he knew he could be in Eau Claire the whole day. Does not make sense so could only be used as a plot device to provide Tucker with the alone time he needed for the diskos.

The Twin Towers - why did Hautman choose the top of the second tower for a disk? I know it has something to do with Iyl Rain and putting the diskos near spots of historical turmoil but why did Hautman make that particular choice?
My assumption was that it tied into Hautman’s age. I didn’t look up to find out how old the author is - but the Towers event could have been one of those defining historical events for him... leading to him choosing to use that one in his story. *now looking up his age. Nothing fascinating but I’d forgotten that he’d also written Godless.  Turns out I’ve read quite a few of his books.  

The Time Traveling - Hm. Now, I like books that have time travel. If it’s straight-forward. I am having a hard time figuring this one out - so bear with me here: When Kosh goes on top of the tower it’s 2001, a week after September 11 in his time period.  When Tucker goes it’s at least 2011 (picked date based on his age, says he knows about it but too young to remember) in his time period.  But when you come back, it’s the same date you left.  But not always in same spot? Why did reverend end up in a different spot? So, are we experiencing all time periods at the same time really? Are they on top of each other?
I’m going to hold off on answering this one - since I feel like Hautman did a reasonable (but not fantastic) job of explaining this later in the book.

Hm.  I’m hoping I get answers to many questions in the rest of the book.  Where did his parents go? Why did the dad change? Who is Lahlia? Who are the priests? What happened to his mom? How does the time travel work.  Well, back to reading!
Yes! And what I really wanted when I finished this section of the book was to get into some more science - less of the realistic fiction with just a splash of the science fiction.

Batty About Books - Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman - Part 2

The Bat-Girls are 
Batty About
Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman

Part 1 here.
This is the story of Tucker Feye. It's realistic fiction with a sci-fi twist. Tucker does some time travel through controlled portals, called disks or diskos, that only lead to terrible events. His parents disappeared and he's trying to track them down.

Obsidian Blade Part 2 - there are spoilers so please don't proceed if you haven't read it yet! My thoughts are in blue while Maria's are in purple.  Get more from Maria (@mselke01) at Maria's Melange.

I re-read this last half and found my feelings changed from my first read through of Obsidian Blade. This time, I had way more questions.

1. Why did Hautman decide to have the story of Iyl Rain and the diskos and the Klaatu interspersed with Tucker’s story? It was almost like those sections could have been at the beginning as a prelude.  They served to pull me out of the narrative as I struggled to make sense of them and where they would fit with the following chapters.
I liked this style - though some of the pieces felt like they fit better than others. I think I would have liked it more if I could have seen how it fit together better by the end of this book, though. Now I just have to trust that it will come together in the next book.

2 Why a 5-sided pyramid? Were the names of the five gates derived from five languages? (Heid, Bitte, Aleph, Gammel, Dal)
I had the same question (about the number of sides). Five seems like an odd choice. I’m just not sure what to think about that number.
On my second read the names stood out to me more. I noticed the spin of the altar. Is it random - which gate the sacrifice is tossed into? Bitte has a German flair... Heid also. Aleph and Gammel seem Hebrew. So maybe this is a tie in with the Amish Jewish thing? Kathy: Yeah, that makes sense, I looked up Aleph and Bitte because at first I thought it might be some sort of Alphabet or numbering system. Wonder if it’ll come up in book 2.

3. Agree or disagree: Alterations to the past lead to a change in the future and the further one goes back in the past the more profound the changes. (167)
Agree in theory - though the book seems to be making the case more for “the changes you go back and make reinforce the path you are already on”. Maybe there are alternate futures we haven’t seen?

4. Maggots = Timesweeps whose job it is to fix changes time travelers make. Did they do this? How was eating the gates fixing time?
This was a feature I found very confusing. Unless “eating” the gates was a way of capturing and then moving them? The maggot at the end had a gate within... maybe that was a gate it had eaten and captured?

5. Were you able to construct a time lime? I got Medicants-->Lah Sept-->Time of Awn. Also, the Digital Age was during the Medicants time. Did it end when the lah sept came into power? Were they in power? Confused.
Yes... but it seems like the Medicants and Lah Sept both actually STARTED at the same time. (Mom was an early Digital Plague carrier and Dad started the Sept). Then there was the fact that Tucker visited two different times with the Medicants - second visit had more sophisticated technology. I’m assuming the Klaatu came from the Sept and the Boggsians maybe are related to the Medicants... so there is some interweaving of the timelines. That’s what happens when people can jump around in time!

6. How did Hautman decide which events in time were horrible enough to warrant Klaatu wanting to visit? Some were obvious - Auschwitz, Bubonic Plague, “death of a prophet”.  Others not so much.
I have to say, I picked up on the prophet section the instant it was mentioned. I was a bit surprised that the son of a pastor didn’t get it more quickly. I’d be interested to hear him discuss how he chose them as well.

7. Did Hautman do a shout out to Bradbury with his “martian genocide” ? Brings to mind a story in the Martian Chronicles but I could be mistaken.
Sadly, it’s been too long for me to be sure on that one. I need to reread those.

8. When Tucker finally makes it back to Hopewell, Will does not seem surprised to see him.  Wasn’t he supposed to have been aged? He has a beard for goodness sakes.  Wasn’t he gone for a few years?
This was something I mentioned (being confused about how long it had been). In some ways it seemed like not too long, and in others it seemed years. Either way, Tucker has aged more than those around him... so it should have been more surprising.

9. Master Gheen is truly evil. How did he convince Reverend to want to sacrifice his son?
Ooo... this ties way into religion. How did God convince Abraham to sacrifice his son? Maybe Reverend thought it was a similar situation, and that he was just supposed to prove his faith? This brings another endless cycle in.... did the Reverend start the Sept or did Gheen? Chicken and the egg... if it hadn’t started here, there would BE no Sept... Kathy: Oh, so time-travelesque! But, hadn’t the Reverend already given up his faith? Does time move faster when you are away? Even though you come back not too long after you left? Because that first time he no longer believed. So whatever happened the second time, that changed him but I wouldn’t think it remade his faith...

10. Religion plays a huge role in this book. Ok, not a question but discuss it anyway.
This was a huge piece of the story. I like how Hautman didn’t take the easy road. Tucker’s father lost his faith - then found it again in a rather questionable source. Yet Tucker sticks with what he believed. Often science fiction plays down the importance of faith... so I’m curious to see where this goes. Kathy: Have you read Hautman’s Godless? Not science fiction but an interesting treatise on religion.

Okay - adding a question to this list. Why on earth did the Klaatu harvest the bacteria in Tucker’s appendix? Very odd.
Kathy: Another random happening, like the curing of Henry’s alcoholism, that we may have to wait for the sequel on. Though I don’t hold out much hope as that will be the second book in a trilogy. Which is not usually the question answering book but the place holding book. I do not love a trilogy.
Interesting thought... I’ll have to think back to other trilogies that I adored. I think the ones I really like still do feel like they have some “closure” - that or I can blow through the entire thing in one sitting so I get all the information I need.

Librarians v Teachers - Summer Throwdown Round 2

It's B-A-C-K!

Welcome to Summer Throwdown
Librarians VS Teachers
Round 2

We had so much fun reading with everyone we decided to continue the challenge before we head back to work! (congratulations to the League of Librarians!)

Based on feedback, we've tweeked a few things to level the playing field.  We've kept the same hashtags: #leagueoflibrarians, #teamteacher, and #summerthrowdown.  You can also use #bookaday with your #summerthrowdown tweet! More bang for your hashtag!

Rule Number 1 - The #summerthrowdown challenge runs from Sunday, July 22 - Saturday Aug 18.
You can start a book before the 22nd and then finish it on the 22nd, that counts. But, if you start a book on the 18th and don't finish it by 11:59pm, it does not count. YOU MUST HAVE LESS THAN 50% OF THE BOOK COMPLETED BEFORE JULY 22ND FOR IT TO COUNT! DON'T TRY TO SAVE 1 OR 2 PAGES!

Rule Number 2 - Books count (here's a change)
0-49 pages: 0.25
50-149 pages: 0.5
150-349 pages: 1
350-549 pages: 1.5
550-749 pages: 2
750-949 pages: 2.5
950-1149 pages: 3

Rule Number 3 - We need stinking badges - clicking will take you to the signup/log sheet!

Make sure you grab the right one for your blog! When signing up, check the tab at the bottom to make sure you are on the correct spreadsheet! Please show your support! You can also add a twibbon on twitter! (say that fast 5 times)

Round 1
If you are still unsure what #summerthrowdown is because you were in a cave (literally, cuz you were vacationing), check out Heise Reads and Recommends for details.

We are giving away a couple of ARCs/Finished Books to those who participated in Round 1.  Enter the raffle for your chance at one of these fabulous prizes! Ends July 24th!

Would you like to tell the world about your love for #summerthrowdown? We're looking for a few good readers to write guest posts for us! We want to know your Top Ten books you read during throwdown or something like that! Complete THIS FORM if you are interested! We will randomly select 4 people to participate!

For more information on #summerthrowdown Round 2, check out Sherry's post at Ms. Library Fanatic.

Get those #bookstacks ready! Go #leagueoflibrarians go! (oh, and you too, #teamteacher)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

SummerThrowdown Round 1 - Wrap up

Holy moly, I can't believe it's over!

From Monday, June 18 - Tuesday, July 17, 2012 we ran the most awesome challenge:
Teachers vs Librarians in a read-off!

It's over and it was amazing!

73 teachers read 1215.25 books! That's an average of 16.65 books! 

How cool is that?

But, wait, that's not all!

88 librarians read 1656 books for an average of 18.81 books per person!

What?? Yes!

In one month 161 teachers and librarians joined forces and read 2871.25 books!

Did you read that carefully? We read almost 3,000 books in a month!!!!!!!!! Honestly? We read more than that because some picture books and graphic novels and shorter chapter books were worth different point values.

My mind is boggling right now! 

To say this was a success would be a gross understatement. Can you imagine what this means for students and other staff? How will this translate into suggestions for books in the fall? Wow.

Oh, and did I mention GO #LEAGUEOFLIBRARIANS! We are the champions my friend! We kept on reading till the end! 

Anyway, thanks to Sherry, Jillian and Brian for letting me help out with this! Jillian and Brian came up with the whole #throwdown idea and modified it for us to do this summer. They are the best.

Round 2 and You
We had so much fun that we are doing a round 2! The challenge will run from Sunday, July 22 - August 18, 2012.  Come back tomorrow, Friday, July 20, 2012 for details! Or visit, Wyz Reads right now!

We are looking for a few, good readers. Ok, four really. We would love if you would write a post about the top books you read during Round 1. Please fill out the Guest Post form if you are interested!

If you participated in #summerthrowdown Round 1, please enter the raffle! We'd like to say thanks to everyone who took this ride with us. We are giving away 4 books as a token of our appreciation! Please stop by and enter.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer Throwdown Round 1 Raffle

designed by
Did you participate in the First Annual Summer Throwdown?

If so we,  Sherry (@libraryfanatic | Library Fanatic), Jillian (@heisereads | Heise Reads and Recommends ) and Brian (@brianwyzlic | Wyz Reads) and me (@thebrainlair), want to thank you!

We are giving away ARCs/Finished Copies to 2 librarians and 2 teachers who participated with us in #summerthrowdown!

Make sure you choose the correct entry form!! 
US addresses - free shipping
INTL addresses - pay for shipping 
One entry per person. 
Ends July 24, 2012.

#TeamTeacher enter here
a Rafflecopter giveaway

#LeagueofLibrarians enter here
a Rafflecopter giveaway

P.S. The League of Librarians image was designed by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, the creator of the Lunch Lady comics! You can order a tshirt at: League of Librarian Tshirt

Friday, July 13, 2012

Tracing Stars by Erin E Moulton - Review and Giveaway

Tracing Stars
Erin Moulton (facebook | twitter)
PublisherPhilomel/Penguin (May 2012. 240 p. $16.99. 978-0-399-25696-7)
Source: author
Genre: Realistic (theater)
Rating: 4/5
Buy itAmazon | Indiebound

"I mean, if life is crummy, don't expect life to be great just because you wished on a shooting star. It's just a meteor meeting the Earth's atmosphere...There's nothing magical about it. It's just science."

Indie Chickory has always lived with her head in the clouds. But after a day of one too many mishaps, including the disappearance of a beloved pet, Indie convinces herself it's time to join the real world. She'll enter 6th grade in the fall, so this is the perfect summer to re-invent herself and, hopefully, grow closer to her sister, Bebe. On her way to normalcy, Indie meets Owen. Owen is just in town for the summer. He's a quirky kid, like Indie is, er was.  His "observational log" is full of notes about inventions, people he's met, and anything that catches his interest.  He and Indie quickly hit it off. But for new Indie that could prove to be a problem.

Moulton's Tracing Stars captures the sister's relationship perfectly. Bebe and Indie struggle between pulling together and pulling apart as they each try to find their own identities.  Bebe, being the oldest, has slightly more pull, and she uses that, sometimes to Indie's detriment.  I love the seaside town descriptions.  Moulton's writing clearly describes the shops, the streets, and the wonderful tree house that Indie and Owen modify.  Tracing Stars builds in an unhurried summery style. Moulton uncovers the true Indie Chickory for us, warts and all. She's a real girl with real problems and makes decisions we may not agree with but makes sense for who she is.  I recommend this one and would buy 4 copies.  Definitely one for a 4 - 6th grade book club to read and discuss. I would pair it with Nice and Mean by Jessica Leader.

About the Author
pic courtesy author
Erin E. Moulton graduated with an MFA in Writing for Children from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2007. She is the author of Flutter: The Story of Four Sisters and An Incredible Journey (Philomel/Penguin 2011), and Tracing Stars (Philomel/Penguin 2012).

Erin is co-founder of the Kinship Writers Association and is currently the YA librarian at the Derry Public Library. Erin lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband and puppy where she writes, reads, drinks tea and dreams. You can visit her online at or on Facebook as Erin E. Moulton (Author), or find her on twitter @erinemoulton.

Check out my interview with Erin E Moulton.

Would you like a signed hardcover of Tracing Stars?
Just fill out the form!
July 13, 2012 - July 16, 2012 11:59pm

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tracing Stars by Erin Moulton - Interview

Tracing Stars
Erin Moulton (facebook | twitter)
Publisher: Philomel/Penguin (May 2012. 240 p. $16.99. 978-0-399-25696-7)
Source: author
Genre: Realistic (theater)
Rating: 4/5
Buy it: Amazon | Indiebound

Tracing Stars is what Indie and her sister, Bebe, do when they need to make an incredibly important wish.  And this particular summer, after 5th and 6th grades, when they are starting to grow apart, when they make separate friends, when Indie suffers a loss, every wish is incredibly important.  Indie wants to re-invent herself and Bebe wants to help, but at what cost? Tune in July 13, 2012 when I review Tracing Stars!

Here, Erin E. Moulton answers my questions about work, writing, researching, and sticking up for the people you care about. Oh, and the importance of reading.

1. What type of librarian were you and why aren't you one now?

Actually, I am a librarian currently. Not by schooling, but because it is something I am pretty ok at, I guess. I also have the benefit of a great boss and team at work who can get me up to speed with questions that would be more easily answered if I had an MLS. I used to work as an educational director. Before that, a theater technician. And somewhere in between, I was a tutor. I have worked with kids throughout most of my careers, and I currently am the teen librarian at the Derry Public Library. I love the 12-18 age group. They are wonderful, inventive, smart and honest.

2. Some of the characters' names are so unique. How did you come up with them? ( Indie, Bebe, Mr. Squiggles, Mr. Lemur)

Sometimes names just peek in and then they are gone in a flash. By that I mean, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking on character’s names. Indie was a natural choice because she finds her individuality. Mr. Squiggles, well, in my head Mr. Squiggles just looks like a Mr. Squiggles. Actually, now that I am looking really close, he kind of looks like the Swedish Chef. But Mr. Squiggles is a fun sounding name for a guy who makes fried calamari. There really is no special formula, I am afraid, and that is why I have a sort of lame answer. They literally just pop into my head and I usually go with the flow.  

3. As a middle school librarian, we remark often how the new sixth graders are emotionally so far from the seventh graders. How did you capture that so well between Indie and Bebe?

Huh, I am glad I hit on that. I hadn’t done it on purpose, but it is a good thing that it worked! I do have three sisters, though, and I am the second oldest. So whenever I am working with a sister relationship I try hard to look at relationships I know and get the pecking order straight. Because I am second oldest, I get the benefit of knowing what it is like to feel like a big sister AND a little sister. I bet that is where the authenticity came from J.

4. Do you have a diary? I mean an "observation log'? If so, what's your deepest, darkest secret?

Oh, I have lots and lots of journals. I can’t tell you my deepest darkest secret because then it would no longer be a secret. Don’t worry, it’s not like I murdered anyone. I will tell you, though, that if you look in my old journals, you will be super confused. When I was in 7th grade I was reading Romeo and Juliet, and liked to write in iambic pentameter. 

Then I got to 9th and 10th grade, I liked to read things in Middle English so I started throwing in middle English symbols and words. Especially with the TH and CH digraphs. 

Around the same time I was questioning grammar, apparently. I know, what is there to question? NO idea. But I was, Rebelling/against;the proper”way of doing things--. You see what I mean. 

In college I was relatively good about record keeping. Now, I do a lot of lists and chicken scratch story boards. I feel pretty certain no one will ever be able to decipher them, but will probably burn them before I die. Well, I’ll burn all but one that has a treasure map in it.

5. Indie is always reciting fish names and making fish faces. What type of research did you have to do about fish and fish names?

The fish faces were easy. I had to step in front of a mirror a few times to describe it right.  I had to look at the fish of course and compare it to my own face, which was both comical and complicated.

 I did do some research for the fish names. It didn’t require a whole lot because of the context it was used in. Instead of Indie using a lot of fish terminology, she uses a lot of names. So I looked up and made a list of Atlantic Ocean fish. I worked with that to make sure she didn’t repeat herself too much. 

I think most of the technical language is in the theater parts. I used to work in the theater and I worked in theaters in Boston when I was right out of college, I have that filed away in the back of my head.

6. Is there any truth behind the story of The Lobster Monty Cola?

No! Well, I mean, there is no golden lobster --to my knowledge--that likes to drink Coca-Cola. However, there are golden lobsters and they are one in 30 million. Though, it is important to note: I have been told that even golden lobsters, when boiled, will turn red. So you wouldn’t know if you were at Red Lobster and were chowing down on Monty!

7. Have you ever had a friend you wished you'd stuck up for? If not, how did you dream up that scene with Indie and Owen?

There was one incident on the playground when I was in second grade where I should have stuck up for my little sister. A kid had her by the arms and was swinging her around. I thought he was going to let go and she would go flying. I didn’t want to escalate the whole situation, so I was playing it cool, trying to stand close by and not scream. I joked around like it wasn’t bothering me. My little sister, who was being swung around, did the same: laughed like it didn’t bother her. Luckily, he got bored of it and set her down and we went on our merry way.

Otherwise, I think I held up with integrity. I THINK. High School friends correct me if I am wrong. I read a lot as a kid. I think reading teaches you things like empathy and loyalty and what it feels like in another’s skin. So honor, loyalty and empathy were very important to me growing up. If there was a circumstance that required me to be bold, well, I would be bold. For example, my mom always worked with the mentally ill and I grew up around many people who were either mentally ill or in need of other special services. I often had to correct my acquaintances on their notions of people they dubbed as “strange and crazy.”

Don’t get me wrong, my friends kept me in line as well. We had a good community and looked out for each other.

Honestly, that scene was VERY hard for me to write. I was concerned Indie would come off as callous and thoughtless. I was annoyed with her weakness. However, she needed to hit her weakest moment in order to grow, so I had to send her to the brink. I had to grit my teeth and write through it a few times. In that moment, I love Owen and Sloth so much more than Indie. Sloth who says, “Shhh, Shhh, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks.” That’s something I honestly believe, and have believed for a long time. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I am NOT The Walrus by Ed Briant - Review and Giveaway

I am NOT The Walrus
Ed Briant (website)
Publisher: Flux (July 2012. 228p. $9.95. ISBN 978-0-7387-3246-6)
Source: netgalley/BlueSlip Media
Genre: Realistic/Mystery (Beatles cover band, mystery guitar)
Rating: 3.5/5
Next Tour Stop: Guys Lit Wire
Buy it:  (Amazon | Indiebound)

It's a mystery! Toby and his best friend, Zack, are trying to come up with a name for their Beatles cover band in time for their first gig.  Toby also needs to figure out what's wrong with his bass guitar. And who is the strange dude who keeps following him? And, most importantly, is he worthy enough to date a Frost? These mysteries will hopefully be solved by the time you reach the end of I am NOT the Walrus by Ed Briant.

Memento Park pic courtesy
Toby, Zack, and friends live and breath around the coastal town of Port Jackson, somewhere in England. How do I know it's England? They were playing Rugby and said things like "bollocks" and "blimey, mate".   The Port Jackson and surrounding areas, down to the bus stations, were vividly portrayed. I could almost smell the water and really wanted to go visit.  I could especially picture the walk Toby and Michelle took around the park.  

Toby's borrowed his guitar from his brother Shawn, who's off in the Navy, and he needs to fix it before the show.  He can't afford to have any work done so he does it himself.  Finding the note inside the p-bass sets off the mystery. Should he try to find the owner of the note and risk having to return the guitar? How long has the note been in the guitar anyway? Being a stand-up lad, Toby  tries to right what might have been a wrong done to someone long ago.  Only things turn just a little bit scary and creepy and he wishes he hadn't bothered. 

I am not the Walrus is at times charming and at times alarming. The budding relationship between Toby and Shelly is sweet and fun. 
" I thought you two were getting along like a house on fire." "More like a house of pain".  
 I thought Toby's character was realistic and smart-alecky in a good natured way.  Shelly's and Zach's characters could have used a bit more fleshing out but overall they came across as believable, too.  I had a qualm with Rupert. Not so much his character as his character defect.  It was unrealistic based on all his actions throughout the book - showing up in different places and the scary chase. So, that kind of marred the ending for me. 

 I also had a tough time with the beginning of the book. The horoscopes at the start of some of the chapters threw me off as I kept trying to figure out their significance to the rest of the chapter and wondering how they fit. They seemed like an unnecessary element. The middle of the book was solidly written.  You got to know Toby and his absent brother Shawn.  The story moved logically as we followed Toby's footsteps while trying to uncover the mystery of the bass. Things seemed to fall apart when Toby confronted Rupert near the end.

Overall, the story is humorous and fast-paced. Kinda like Gilmore Girls as a book. Only with boys so not as pop-culturey as it is one-linery.  I would give it 3.5 copies and recommend it to the language arts teacher as a decent addition to her mystery unit.  I would also give it to students who like music as you don't find many books that cover the arts for this age group. Other bonuses is it's not about sports and the kids take the bus! Too many young adult books feature characters who have cars at their disposal!

Ed Briant on right Pic courtesy
About the Author
Ed Briant grew up in Brighton, England, but now lives just outside Philadelphia, where he writes, illustrates, and creates the popular comic strip "Tales from the Slush Pile." He has two daughters, teaches creative writing, and plays the alto saxophone (quite badly). Choppy Socky Blues was his first book for young adults. He can be found online at

One copy of I Am (Not) the Walrus by Ed Briant along with a guitar pick, is up for grabs.  
Just fill out the form with your name, email address, and twitter handle if you have one. 
 Open to US Residents only. 
July 10, 2012 - July 13, 2012 11:59 pm. 
One entry per person.

I am NOT the Walrus excerpt.

Check out Ed Brian't guest post where talks about a family who is all about deception. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

I Am (NOT) The Walrus by Ed Briant - Guest Post

I am NOT The Walrus
Ed Briant (website)
Publisher: Flux (July 2012. 228p. $9.95. ISBN 978-0-7387-3246-6)
Source: netgalley/BlueSlip Media
Genre: Realistic (Beatles cover band)
Rating: 3.5/5
Next Tour Stop: Guys Lit Wire
Buy it:  (Amazon | Indiebound)

I Am (Not) The Walrus by Ed Briant follows Toby as he tries to find the last legal owner of a p-bass fender caster guitar he is almost sure his brother stole!  In the meantime, he's got just enough time for his yet unnamed cover duo (The Nowhere Men? The Sand Tigers?) to open for the Disappointed Parents, fall in deep, deep like, and stay one step ahead of the guy who wears sunglasses at night.

 I'll review I Am Not The Walrus (and giveaway a copy!) on July 10, 2012 but for now Mr. Briant tells us where he got the idea for Toby's family background.  A background you can't fully believe!

I used to have this friend whose family was known as “the salt mine.” All of them, the mother, father, and three sons, were so devious, that everything they said had to be taken with––at the very least––a grain of salt, or preferably with an entire salt mine.

The funny thing was, though, they weren’t bad people, but they were just into deviousness. They were into deviousness like other families were into fondues, or snorkeling. If you pay a visit to a snorkeling family any conversation will soon veer towards subjects such as how cold the ocean is this year, or which of their friends have recently been carried off by barracudas. This family was the same. They just liked being evasive, even when there was no obvious reason for being evasive.

One summer I bicycled over to their house just as they were packing up the car to go on vacation.

“Where you off to?” I asked my friend.

He shrugged, then glanced over each of his shoulders in turn. I think he was making sure his parents weren’t listening. “Um . . . France,” he said, leaning close to me. “We’re going to France.”

I got back on my bike, waved at my friend and his parents, then said, “Bon voyage!” The parents gave each other baffled looks while my friend seemed suddenly fascinated by a gap between two slabs of paving on the sidewalk.

The next time I saw him, he was nicely tanned and it was two weeks later.

“Here,” he said. “Souvenir.” He tossed me a key ring with the word Spain stamped on it. I was just about to say I thought you were going to France, but I stopped myself.

What would be the point? It was just the way he was.

Ed Briant
We stayed good friends until a year later when he joined the army, and we lost touch. I heard through the grapevine that he’d ended up in Military Intelligence, which is a nice finish to the story. Now he can be as devious as he likes with the Russians, or the Iranians, or whoever we aren’t on good terms with at any given moment.

I suppose Toby’s family is a bit like that, especially his mom and his older brother. It’s not so much that they’re going to tell you blatant lies. It’s just that whatever they do tell you will be slightly off to one side of the truth.

For Toby’s friend, Zack it’s no big deal. He knows Toby and his family, and adjusts his expectations accordingly. For Toby himself, though, it is more of a problem. He’s on the rebound after being chucked by his girlfriend Katrina, and one of the reasons she gives for dumping him is that he’s dishonest. Toby, being a conscientious kind of bloke, takes this to heart and resolves to become meticulously honest from here on in.

But Toby’s resolve is put to the test when he encounters Rupert. Rupert’s a psychopath, and you can’t really tell a psychopath where you live, no matter how nicely he asks you, and Rupert doesn’t even ask nicely.

So, Toby has to go back to his old habits of being evasive, because who but a crazy person wouldn’t be evasive when a psychopath asks you where you live?

Toby’s older brother Shawn has a different kind of dishonesty. He’s a thief, and thieving requires a certain amount of dishonesty, but he’s never more dishonest that he absolutely needs to be. He assumes everyone knows that he’s a thief, so he’s evasive about where his goods come from in order to protect his clients in the event that someone gets curious.

Toby’s mom, on the other hand, is an expert at deviousness. She skirts the truth about Shawn to protect Toby, but really, isn’t her deviousness more to protect Shawn? Take a look at the scenes between Toby and his mom. It seems like it’s beyond her capabilities to give Toby a straight answer about anything. She lies to him, and then pretends the lie is a joke. He can’t phone her at work. She can’t even give him the long-distance code when he tries to make a call to a neighboring town.

Toby’s mom is without a doubt a virtuoso among salt-miners.
Don't forget to come back tomorrow for a REVIEW and GIVEAWAY.   One copy of the book along with a guitar pic will be up for grabs! Open to US Only!


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