Saturday, February 16, 2013

Doomed by Tracy Deebs

Deebs, Tracy. Walker Books for Young Children, January 2013. 480p. $17.99. 9780802723734

Genre: Apocalyptic (world will end if they don't solve the puzzles)
Cover Appeal: Science-fictiony, with numbers, an on button, and circuit board look. Eye-catching and great tag line: Beat the Game. Save the World.

Immediately after
"It's not my favorite shirt, but it is my least favorite shirt." Donna Meagle, Parks and Recreation (substitute book for shirt)

Right Before
On her 17th birthday Pandora gets an email from her Dad, who she hasn't seen since she was 7. Because she's mad at her emotionally and physically unavailable mom, she opens the email even though her mom warned her never to communicate with her dad. Inside is a link to a website that has 12 pictures of her and her dad. She decides she wants to keep these pictures and uploads them to her Walgreens account, emphasis mine, so she can pick them up later. It is this uploading of the pictures that sets all other events in motion. They are actually a computer program that sets off the apocalypse.

The first thing that threw me was the uploading of the photos to a local Walgreens account. In a fakepoll of 800+ students at school and my own child and her friends, 0% of them upload photos to be printed. If, for some reason, they want a printout of their photos, they print them. At home. It's noted that she is glued to her cell-phone and laptop. Her mom is a rich, corporate lawyer. Yet, they don't have an awesomely sophisticated printer?

The second thing was the introduction of newcomers, Theo and Eli. These two "seriously hot" guys have "all but revolutionized Westlake's social scene" but somehow Pandora did not know they lived next door to her. But when the computer virus strikes, these two spring to Pandora's rescue even though she continually tells us she doesn't need it. Continually.

Third the gaming aspect. First, we have Pandora. In the ARC, that's both the MC's name and the game that she has to beat to save the world. The game appears to be called Zero Day now. CAn someone who's read the final verify? Anywho, throughout the virtual reality game, these Grecian monsters come to fight the trio. They have to fight the monsters while trying to overcome the obstacles that Pandora's dad have built into the game. If they can beat it, they are 1/2 way to saving the world. The other 1/2 consists of solving clues hidden in the pictures Mitchell, Pandora's dad, sent her. They have to find the places in the pictures because they lead to coordinates that are used to open the gateways in the game. Or vice versa.

Sometime After 
What did I read? It was too improbable. I mean, she hadn't seen nor heard from her dad in seven years, yet she was able to remember so many small details about the pictures. Also, somehow the three of them are able to dodge every government agency, procure the necessary health care, food, and transportation despite the loss of all communication and banking systems and a nuclear meltdown. And there was NO internet. But her dad was the smartest of all because he figured out a way for certain people to still be able to play the game. Without internet. On the run.  And there's time for a love triangle. And they are brothers. Ew. I don't care if they are stepbrothers. Ew.

This book is all tell. All action. One tragedy followed by the next. All short sentences and quick hits.  None of the characters change or grow. And I didn't care. I couldn't connect with any of them and just wanted to finish this one. Some other people did like it. - check out the Doomed Goodreads reviews.

This review is from an ARC received on Netgalley. Details may have changed before publication.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Batty About Books - Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities by Mike Jung Final

Batty About Books
Geeks, Girls and
Secret Identities
by Mike Jung

(Arthur A Levine Books (Scholastic), 2012. 320p. $16.99. 9780545335485)

Genre: Science Fiction (superheroes, killer robots)

We've finished our first book in the 2013 Batty About Books Series!
Don't forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2 to see what went down before today!

As always, Maria, the one in purple, is posting her side at Maria's Melange
Sherry, the one in green, is posting her side over at The Library Fanatic.  

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
“Mad scientist versus regular scientist, winner take all. Awesome” (244)
There were some fun quotes in this section. I definitely enjoyed it.

This last part made me wish I’d read the whole thing through. Even though I enjoyed the book overall, I felt it was a little draggy reading this part separately. Yes! I think this is exactly the kind of book that needs to be read all at once.

During Professor Mayhem’s evil rant, he makes a point of saying “...only way to escape is reducing your body weight by 80%...” (210) I found it weird that neither Captain Stupendous or Vincent caught on to that right away.  But as readers, we got it! I think kids will appreciate being in on this and knowing what’s going to happen...I agree, I thought it was odd that they didn’t pick up on that. But it fits with several other “in jokes” that the reader will get. I know I love those kinds of things, and I think kids do, too.

Why does Professor Mayhem look and sound so much older than Vincent’s parents if they went to school together? He uses such words like “swoon” What? You don’t say swoon? I thought it was coming back in vogue?! (Does anyone say that anymore?) *laughs* Love you, Sherry! Perhaps Mayhem feels that he is keeping to the super villain code. Don’t they always talk like that? I think archaic language and monologuing are taught at villain school.   Not that I want to go to villain school, but wouldn’t those be two great classes? (Or one combined) The are probably one class The Art of the Monologue: How to Work in Archaic Language (required Year 3)

Detective Boyfriend Bobby Campbell
There is so much to like about him. He makes Bobby feel so valued. “I didn’t want a goofy smile to take over my whole face, but I couldn’t help it.” (2)

Max and George
I enjoying see how the boys have Vincent’s back even when they are teasing him but I couldn’t help but wish that whole ‘we weren’t jealous” thing (265) was explained better. Maybe defining what jealous meant? If my friend had battled supervillains alongside a superhero and was the president of the fan club, would I be jealous? Probably. But I know what Jung was getting at, I just wonder if kids will too. (now you are wishing I had explained things better!)

Polly and Vincent
The budding romance between these two is well done! The hand holding, the tingly feeling from a smile, confusion about enjoying being hugged during intense situations. BUT, can it really be sustained if Polly continues being Captain Stupendous? They are holding hands and being seen in public and generally hanging out. What happens when there is a Stupendous Alert and she has to go off and fight crime? Put that together with her new body and, even without the gap, people will start putting two and two together...Isn’t that always the issue with super heroes and secret identities?  They always “miss” the super hero sightings and fun because they’re busy being the super hero! And come on - how can people REALLY not figure out that Clark and Superman are the same - just because of the glasses? “Oh, you know Clark really looks a lot like that Superman guy.... but the glasses? Yeah, it can’t be him!” *chuckles* Haha! ::must watch more super hero thingies:: Also, Wait, What?? Clark Kent is Superman?? You have officially ruined my evening! :)

This is a book I can get behind. A solid entry into the middle grade science fiction field. Not overly sexy, scary, or confusing. Left me hoping for a sequel, I mean, stealing teddy bears only to put them in a different area? Were we sure they were the same teddy bears or had the villain altered them in some way? Hmmm. In addition to wanting to see the team in action, I want to know more about Max’s, George’s, and Polly’s families and  I’m dying to see the town’s reaction to the new Captain Stupendous. I agree a sequel/series could be a good thing.  Guess we’ll wait and see! Oh, I hope this is a series starter, too! I think this is a great middle grade book. Adventure without gore, sweet romance without angst... I love it.

“A dog barked somewhere in the distance.” (286) This phrase reminds me of one of my favorite articles on its use (overuse?).

I'm giving away my ARC of Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities since I bought the hardcover! One entry per person. 13 years and older. US only. Ends Saturday, February 16, 2013.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Witness to Fitness by Donna Richardson Joyner - Review and Blog Tour

Joyner, Donna Richardson. Witness to Fitness: Pumped Up! Powered Up! All Things Are Possible. Harper One, December 2012. 304p. $25.99. 978-0062112552.

I am out of shape and overweight. I don't feel comfortable in my skin right now. So when the opportunity to review Witness to Fitness, a 28-day diet and exercise plan, opened up, I jumped on it. Donna Richardson Joyner's book promises to bring together fitness tips, a meal plan, and bible study. Sounded good to me.

The Layout
The first nine chapters are your background information on Joyner and how she approaches life and fitness. They are divided into 3 segments: Mind, Spirit, Body.  Then comes the 28 day plan.

Each of the first 9 chapters include: Tweets, Tidbits, Step Out!, and Sound Bites. These are supposed to help motivate you and included lots of "rhyming" 2-line phrases.

Chapter 7 - Eat to Live - includes suggestions for swapping. These were difficult to use in the actual meal plan since you had to hunt them down each time.  They were also repetitive in that she would list substitutions then take each of those substitutions and list those same substitutions again.

Half a 6-inch whole-wheat pita pocket
  • 1 slice whole-wheat bread
  • 1 light whole-grain English muffin
  • 1 small whole-grain dinner roll
  • 90 calories wort of whole-grain crackers
Looking at the swap for the slice of bread reveals all the same things again. Seemed to be just a way to add to the page count.

The Plan
Each day on the plan includes: Be Faithful (bible verse), Be Grateful (motivational story), Be Positive (2-4 line quips), Be Fruitful (meals), Be Joyful (song of the day), and Be Fit (exercise). This is followed by 4-6 pages of Joyner demonstrating strength and/or cardio exercises. At the end of each week there is some space to journal.  The meals include nutritional information and calorie counts.The calories switched from near equal lunch and dinners to lighter lunches and heavier dinners.  They also became more time-consuming.

The Verdict
Although I liked having a verse, song, and story each day, the rest of the plan proved too much for me.
The lack of a weekly menu plan, too many Shakeology shakes, the food expense, the time-consuming and impractical meals, and an overwhelming amount of exercise drowned me before I made it to the end.

I work full time so I go to the grocery store once a week.  I may go back midweek if I need something special but that's it.  I like to plan out what I'm going to eat and then I make the shopping list from that menu. I had to go through each day and write down everything! It would have saved so much time to have a shopping list at the beginning of each week!

The first three days, as well as most days throughout the plan, required you to drink Shakeology shakes or their equivalent. This reminded me so much of the Slim-Fast plan.  It was hard to get past the first two weeks.  It just seemed like a marketing thing since the shakes are by the company that represents Joyner. The food required was expensive.  Once those shake days are over, Joyner tries to incorporate lots of variety, almost too much. Sometimes a food was listed (1/4 slice of avocado) and not listed again that week. That would mean you would have to waste the rest of the avocado or you and your family would have to eat separately. Many items were also seasonal. As a single mom, I couldn't afford to keep up with the plan.  It was about 3 times my normal food budget!

The meals were time-consuming and impractical, especially the lunches.  I don't have time to cook cheeseburgers for lunch.  If this was something left over from a previous meal, it may have worked, but it wasn't.  I found myself making many substitutions to stay on track.  The snacks (when you weren't having shakes) were not something I was used to. 2 figs and 2 tbsp blue cheese with 1 oz ham? Turkey, toast, ad 1/8 sliced avocado?

Joyner called for a MINIMUM of 50 minutes to start and I'm ballparking on the low end.  Warm up 3-5 minutes, Cardio 30-60 minutes, Strength Training 15 min or more (she demonstrated these so not all had times just the number of repetitions and suggested number of circuits), Stretch 3 - 5 minutes.  Sure you can break these down and do part in the morning and part in the afternoon but for someone to go from sedentary to this could be overwhelming.  Some of the exercise times didn't even add up: Hold for 3 seconds, do 16 reps, then switch and repeat. Alternate sides for 1 minute. It would take a minimum of 48 secs to do ONE side. No way to do this in a minute.  Each week you also went outside. Not possible here during the winter since you were at a playground or doing jump rope. Joyner tells you not to work the same body part two days in a row but the exercises do just that.

I expected to do some modifications but not to the extent necessary to make this work. I gave up after two weeks because the cons outweighed the pros. I did remember to eat more often, which helped me eat better. I scheduled lunches and snacks each day which totally eliminated the need for either the snack basket or the pop machine! I give it 2 out of 5 copies - Read it maybe.

Check out these other blogs to see what they thought of Witness to Fitness:

Tuesday, January 22nd:  Miss Aleck & Co.
Thursday, January 24th:  DopeReads
Wednesday, January 30th:  Running with Spoons
Monday, February 4th:  Living Outside the Stacks
Monday, February 11th:  EmpowerMoments

Thanks to Harper and TLC Book Tours for this review copy. Don't forget to stop by TLC for more Witness to Fitness information and to see what other books are out on tour! 

Monday, February 4, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? February 3, 2013

Inspired by the wonderful ladies over at Teach Mentor Texts who get together each week to share the books they've found. Head over to their blog to find more books for the TBR pile or to chat with someone about that awesome book you just finished!

In the Past
Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities by Mike Jung - Tune in to Batty About Books on Saturday for our final thoughts.

Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Obed - nice little read about how water not only changes to ice but how the ice changes throughout winter.

Doomed by Tracy Deebs - Apocalyptic title from NetGalley. Review to come.

In the Present
Jepp, who Defied The Stars by Katherine Marsh - catching up on my 2013 SLJ Battle of the Books reading. My favorite reading challenge. Can't wait to see who the judges are!

In the Future
Every hold I placed came in AND all the books are due PLUS I have a couple of Netgalley ARCs I want to knock out! The potential here is HUGE! Some ideas I have are:

Which one should I choose???

Sunday, February 3, 2013

What the Book Clubs are Reading - February 2013

*this is cross posted at the DMS School Library blog

These are our last free reads before our One Book, One School kickoff next month.

6th Graders - Wonder by RJ Palacio

One student has already told me how she passed Wonder around to people in her family. That's what you want to hear!

Wonder Discussion and Educators Guide - Random House

Choose Kind anti-bullying campaign

7th Grade Randolph - The False Prince (Ascendence Trilogy, 1) by Jennifer A. Nielsen

A favorite of mine and Mrs. Randolph's. Hope the students love it as much as we do.

False Prince Discussion Guide - Scholastic

Are You a False Prince? - quiz from Scholastic also includes excerpt from book

Jennifer A Nielsen blog

7th Grade Roberts - Starters (Starters and Enders, 1) by Lissa Price

8th Graders had mixed reactions to this one. My reluctant readers seemed to really like it and my avid readers gave it about 3.5.  We'll see how this group reacts.

Starters Readers Guide - Random House

Q and A with Lissa Price

Starters 1st Chapter

Starters Facebook Game

Reading Strategies using Starters - Youth Voices

8th Graders - Blood Red Road (Dustlands, 1) by Moira Young

This was the unanimous vote for this month's book. I need to re-read it and then dive into book 2!

Blood Red Road Discussion Guide - Simon and Schuster

Rebel Heart excerpt

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Batty About Books - Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities by Mike Jung pt2

GEEKSCHANGE2Batty About Books
Geeks, Girls and
Secret Identities
by Mike Jung

(Arthur A Levine Books (Scholastic), 2012. 320p. $16.99. 9780545335485)

Genre: Science Fiction (superheroes, killer robots)

Welcome to Part 2 of Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities! If you missed Part 1, where we get introduced to all the Geeky goodness, go here!

Don't forget Maria, the one in purple, is posting her side at Maria's Melange
Sherry, the one in green, is posting her side over at The Library Fanatic.  

Please take a moment to pay them a visit! I mean, after you are done here!!

Part 2 - Pg 100 - 201
This is one of those books you really need to read in one or, at the most, two sittings! Some stuff happens in this middle part but a lot of it’s a setup for the final third of the book. I commented on this, too. I wish we had only done this book in two weeks! Now you both know why I couldn't stop reading...especially on page 201!  What a cliff hanger at the end of the chapter!

“Old people like to talk about how young other old people look.” (101) I don’t know if kids will get this but it was so funny to me because it’s so true! When you get to be my age, you marvel at how young your friends or people you grew up  with look and you want to know their secrets! So funny! I don’t remember this line. It’s interesting to notice the things one of us notices as we read. I think that’s one of my favorite parts about doing book buddies. That line made me chuckle too. I get this impression that Maria just called me old. :)

“It’s not enough that my dad wishes I was a boy, now the entire universe is making me be one.” (121) We are still getting these boy-girl dynamic issues but, so far, staying pretty surface with them. I forgot to mention this one! I hope they go into this a bit more. This quote from Polly made me sad as I thought about girls who have actually heard this from their fathers. We say stuff, then we move on. A little bit earlier, we also had another of Max’s outdated girl notions: not into science fiction, role-playing games, etc. Is this supposed to be funny? I commented on Max’s comment in my discussion. When I got to that line I wrote a note “prove him wrong!”. I don’t think Polly will, because she doesn’t seem to be into such things. But it seems that guys have this opinion even in the face of seeing women and girls who ARE into such things. This is one reason I make a big deal of my passions for science fiction and geeky things at work. I want the boys and girls I teach to see at least one woman who is REALLY into this stuff - and proud of it. I think that’s awesome! You are a great role model! You are a great role model. But what about the kids who read this and don’t have that? Are these notions just going to be addressed through Polly’s actions? Will younger readers catch that or will they go with what they read the boys saying? Who will the readers identify with in this book???

When George mentions that Vincent’s dad and Professor Mayhem both created something indestructible at the same time, I had two thoughts: Red herring? or is Vincent’s dad Professor Mayhem??? And the mom! My suspicions were raised as well...great distraction technique. But then, no.  I was deflated. I comment on Bobby at this point. I think Bobby has more to him than we see right now.

3 Meteorite chunks! Professor Mayhem, Miquel Zazueta (old Captain Stupendous), and Vincent’s dad! Is the dad going to be a superhero or a supervillain??? Will this be who Polly turns to? Or will his career end with the super string??? And what is the deal with Bobby? I think I’ll be disappointed if there isn’t something to his piece of the story. I will be disappointed if it does! (that lines reminds me of Pride and Prejudice when the dad talks to Elizabeth about marrying Mr. Darcy)

Also, polymath??

And, Captain Stupendous’ voice sounds like Polly in my head!! It’s so weird! It reminds of kid snippets!  (you must watch this hilarious video!) LAUGH! :) That is great! Have you seen the Geek & Sundry “Written by a Kid” videos? This is my favorite - they even recruited Joss Whedon to act out this kid’s story. love this one! Hadn’t seen the Geek & Sundry ones! Will add to my subscription! Yay!

I’m not satisfied and really want to finish the whole book now!


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