Saturday, March 29, 2014

Batty About Not A Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis - Cover Appeal

Batty About Books presents
Not a Drop to Drink
by Mindy McGinnis

Welcome to the beginning of our discussion of Not A Drop to Drink! This week we look at the Cover. You still have time to grab the book before we dive into the reading!

Week 1 pgs 1 - 95
Week 2 pgs 96 - 195
Week 3 pgs 196 - end

We hope you join us!

Here’s what I (@thebrainlair) thought of the cover. Don’t forget to stop by Maria’s Melange to get her side of the story! (@mselke01)

Cover Appeal
The dried out hills and dusty-looking sky remind me of the covers of Blood Red Road by Moira Young. The original hardcover had a girl struggling against the wind/dust and the new one has the dried out brush and mountains. I don’t know why, but that’s what came to mind.  

I was actually attracted more to the title than the cover. I don’t really like the cover, except from a design aspect (just finished my first year as yearbook adviser, now I’m scouting for ideas!) The cover look computer designed. The water does not look appealing and the scale seems off. Maybe this is done intentionally?
Maria: Hmm… I got a different feeling from the cover. I liked the creepy color scheme, because it made me feel like what little water there is in this world is not safe. The small pond also looks like it’s drying out to me. I also can’t really see tiny details, since I don’t have a physical copy of the book to examine.

The lone girl, with the rifle slung on her back, on top of the roof looks like she’s facing away from us - so the water is in the backyard. The house looks dilapidated. Does this mean the water is their only treasure? Is she alone?
Maria: I love the solitary - isolated feeling this cover shows. It fits well with the blurb on the back about how the story is like “Laura Ingalls Wilder meets Cormac McCarthy”... creepy!

The house is also very isolated. Doesn't appear to be another house as far as the eye can see. This also reminds me of Blood Red Road.

I love the quote on the inside flap:

“She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty or doesn't leave at all.”

Apart from the cover, with its cool font design, and the title, this is what really makes me want to dive in!
My biggest worry about reading this book is that I’ll start stockpiling my house with water and supplies. Time to prepare for our own zombie apocalypse!

I’m ready to read! Look for quotes from the first part to be posted throughout the week with our discussion being posted Saturday, April 5, 2014. Fair warning - that’s the first Saturday of Spring Break! Anything can happen!

Don’t forget to check out our

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Ninja Librarians book trailer and excerpt

The Ninja Librarians

By Jen Swann Downey
April 2014 ● ISBN: 9-781-4022- 8770-1
Hardcover/$16.99 ● Ages 9 -13

It's almost here! Stay tuned for some fun activities leading up to the release of
The Ninja Librarians 
by Jen Swann Downey

The first book, The Accidental Keyhand, will be released April 2014.

Here's your chance to get some inside scoop! Watch the trailer then read an excerpt.

About the Book (publisher supplied)
Your mission should you choose to accept it: support and promote the unsung heroes of literature, the defenders of the Dewey Decimal system, the freedom fighters of free speech -- Ninja Librarians!

Dorrie Barnes had no idea an overdue library book would change her life. When Dorrie and her brother Marcus chase her pet mongoose into the janitor’s closet of their local library, they accidentally fall through a passage into Petrarch’s Library —the headquarters of a secret society of librarians who have an important mission: protect those whose words have gotten them into trouble. Anywhere in the world and at any time in history.

Dorrie and Marcus meet highly trained, dangerous, sword-fighting, karate-chopping freedom fighters with an important mission: protect those whose words have gotten them into trouble. Here, Hypatia of Alexandria and her colleagues train many of the world's librarians to not only catalogue and sharpen short pencils, but to pull heretics off of stakes in fourteenth century Spain, and track down stolen manuscripts through the wilds of ancient Persia.

Dorrie would love nothing more than to join the society. But when a traitor surfaces, she and her friends are the prime suspects. Can they clear their names before the only passage back to the twenty-first century closes forever?


Sneak Peek - The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand from Monica Babaian on Vimeo.


About the Author
Jen Swann Downey’s nonfiction pieces have appeared in New York Magazine, The Washington Post, Women's Day, and other publications. She’s never visited a library in which she didn't want to spend the night. Jen lives in Charlottesville, VA with her family.

While we are waiting for the release - which character from any book, would you like to meet?

Come back next week for more Ninja Librarian fun!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Batty About The Archived by Victoria Schwab - Wrapping it all up

Batty About Books presents
The Archived
by Victoria Schwab

Here we are wrapping up this edition of Batty About Books. I enjoyed learning about The Archive and visiting with Mac and Wes. I look forwarding to learning more about them in The Unbound. As I look back over the past weeks, I wonder, were my questions from the beginning of the book answered? Let's take a really quick look.

In case you missed it:
Week 1 - Cover Appeal

Week 4 - The End - pg 215 - end
Here we are in the final pages of The Archived and I want to step back and see if some of my questions were answered - spoiler free…  It’s so hard to discuss without some spoilers! I’m hoping I can gather some local friends over a glass of wine and just let loose with no concerns.

Why Mackenzie?
Hm. I know she takes the job seriously and she can’t imagine her life without the Archive in it. “Truths are messy and lies are messy, and i don’t care what Da said, it’s impossible to cut a person into pielike pieces, neat and tidy.” (281) Her dedication to the Archive, which constantly puts her life in danger, shows she was the right choice. I’m guessing he saw this in her. And that she would do even better than he did.
I agree. I also would like to know how Da ended up with the job. He sounded so cynical near the end of his life. Did he have a smooth transition into his job? Mac not only is dedicated, she’s willing to pick herself back up when she falls. I love that she knows she’ll make mistakes, and she understands there are consequences, but she still wants to persevere. That’s a fabulous example.

Why The Archive?
“Because the only way to truly record a person is not in words, not in still frames, but in bone and skin and memory.” “...I don’t know whether that should terrify or comfort me, that everything is backed up like that. That somewhere my History is compiling itself.” (301)
I am still fascinated by this. Do we get more or less bias when our History comes directly from the skin and bone of the person involved? I know I try to impress upon my students that even “nonfiction” carries bias. Even primary sources are inherently biased. It is our job as historians to understand that bias and let it inform our understanding of the time period we study.

Why is Wesley at the Coronado?
“...the Coronado is being hit harder than other territories...”(228) ”...if any evidence presents itself that Mr. Ayers is unable to keep his own numbers down...” (258)
So fascinating. I’d like to think that Roland also hoped that Wesley would be a good partner for Mac. He seems to have her well being in his heart in each decision he makes.

Why isn’t Owen slipping?
Ah. “...our histories don’t slip.” (296)
Oooo… clever use of a quote here, my friend. Very ambiguous, and yet for those who have finished the book it helps us remember the reveal.

What happened to Robert?
“I know and I made him pay for that.” (288)

Were those other residents murdered?
Ah. “...Those people saw...” (285)
I LOVED this. I felt it really tied everything together well. The magical nature of The Archived also housed a wonderful murder mystery.

Did your questions get answered?
These past two weeks we’ve jumped into The Archive and learned about what we would do for the people we loved. How some of that stems from who we are and what we want. We strive to carry on the legacy of those we love and admire but sometimes it’s too much and we get tired. And we make mistakes. How do we honor the memories of the people we loved? While staying true to who we are?

I think Victoria Schwab did a great job of answering my questions.  The questions I have now come from me wanting to know more about this world, and one or two from the ending. I feel satisfied with the story and look forward to visiting The Archive again in The Unbound later this year.
I agree! There were just a few things that didn’t completely gel for me at the end. I’m hoping that the main questions - the ones that are about this fascinating world - get filled in during the next book.

We hope you enjoyed traveling with Batty About Books!  If you like this style of book discussion stay tuned! 

Next up we will have Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis (Goodreads). We’ll discuss the Cover on March 29th.   It’s a fairly new release so available in Hardcover or ebook.  Here’s the trailer:

Hope you can join us!

Don't forget to stop by Maria's Melange where she explores the end of the book and talks about the different ways we feel about mysteries in novels.

Batty About Books - Facebook - join our page and post your questions for Victoria Schwab.

Have a great reading week!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Batty About The Archived by Victoria Schwab - Week Three

Batty About Books presents
The Archived
by Victoria Schwab

This week we meet Owen, find a knife, people are shelved where they died not where they lived, about alterations, that Wesley carries a bo staff, that archive paper can be used to send messages both ways, the Histories are getting older and more numerous, that either Wesley or the Coronado are bringing Mac's parent’s back to life, and Ben is awakened. Oh, I forgot to mention the bo staff… so cool!

If you missed it:
Week 1 - Cover Appeal

Here are my thoughts in blue (@thebrainlair) and Maria's (Maria's Melange, @mselke01) in purple.

Don't forget to head on over to Maria's Melange to see what she was thinking and my responses to her!

Week 3 - The Middle - pgs 111-214

Being Mackenzie
“I should backtrack, but it’s too late to lie when the truth is halfway up my throat.” p142

“...there’s finally something good in my life and I’m already making a mess of it” p143

“...hanging up feels like letting go” p147
Maria: Great selection of quotes! I’ll have to make some of these into images for the page.

Mackenzie is this strange mix of teenager and adult. On the one hand she wants be “M”. Just a girl who hangs out with friends but she is so steeped in being a Keeper that she doesn't easily communicate with other teenagers. She takes life seriously and thinks it would be easier to just be alone. She wouldn't have to remember to lie and she could focus on her job.  But, she recognizes that she is missing out. That having Wesley and Lyndsey in her life are “something good”. I wonder how she will deal with this now that she has Owen.

Maria: While Mac’s life is extreme - I think it’s a good reflection of that awkward time in our lives when we are stuck ‘between lives’. I think that’s one of the reasons I identify with Mac in some ways. There are always the lies we tell our parents, the lies we tell our friends… I guess even as an adult, right?
Kathy: Right!

“Mom squints at me, and for a moment, part of me begs for her to see through this, a flimsy, half-concocted lie. p148

“He’s supposed to care. ...And suddenly I need him to care.” p164

“I’m not, not at all; but his worry gives me the strength I need to lie. To pull back and tell him I’m fine.” p165

These two scenes with her parents also remind me that she is still a child. And no matter how old we are, we want to know our parents care. The scene with her mom illustrates how far apart they’ve grown. She wants her mom to know she is lying so they can talk but she doesn’t expect her to, really. The scene with her dad also illustrates their relationship. While she doesn’t think her mom will get it, she depends on her dad to be there for her. Even if she can’t tell him the truth, it’s somehow ok if he knows she’s lying. He must have always supported her in the past. Again, it makes me think he knows she’s a Keeper.

Maria: I think the loss of her brother really made the rift between Mac and her mother bigger. It sounds like Mac’s thought her mom was a bit “wifty” for a while… her strange predilections and impulsive behavior sound like an established pattern that just got worse once Ben died. I wasn’t happy with her father in the first section of the book, but I think this chunk really helped show that there is strong relationship there. She WANTS their help… but she knows she can’t have it. Another big part of Mac’s journey to adulthood.
Kathy: "Wifty", yes. We hope that her mom settles down with the coffee shop and they can start sharing again. They love each other. They just need to find their way back to each other.

M  - “I understand clinging to one’s own past, but when it comes to the pasts of other people, I don’t get it.”

A - “Everything is valuable in it’s own way. Everything is full of history...”
“A tether to other people in other times. As long as I have that, I’m not alone. And they are not really gone.”

A - “Some things should be allowed to fade.”

M - “Everything deserves to be remembered.” p145

This conversation between Ms. Angelli and Mackenzie brings to mind an earlier conversation about memories and the purpose of Histories.

In a way, it seems like Mackenzie is of two minds, that she doesn’t care about other people’s past, just her own but she also says that everything should be remembered. Does she just mean, each person’s family should be responsible for their memories? But what about your friends? Wouldn't you want to help them preserve their memories? Ms. Angelli is an antiquities collector because she wants to remember the past. It gives her a connection. But she also says that some things aren’t worth remembering. So, like Mackenzie, she is of two minds. They both want to select what should be remembered.

Like we do, though it doesn’t always work. I sometimes remember painful experiences that I’d like to forget and sometimes forget the good things. But, can we really forget or do we just have a hard time accessing those memories?

Maria: I think the theme of memory and history is so important to this story (I talked about it, too!) As a history minor in college, I have to say I think history is vital. When we lose our connection with the past, we lose so much. We lose our ability to learn from the patterns of success and failure. We lose our sense of being part of a bigger picture. We lose the idea of how far we have come - or how much farther we have left to go in issues of human rights and equality. When people ask me what superpower I would like to have, I often respond with “memory”. I want the ability to choose, though. To choose what to remember with crystal clarity and what to blur into just the shape of what has gone past. I hate the idea of losing my memories, and especially the idea of having someone ELSE choose what I can keep and what gets tossed.
Kathy: I wish social studies classes focused more on the connections through history instead of just trying to memorize dates or judge the leaders of the past. It would be great if we thought more about what was happening in society that allowed each leader to "succeed" or led some to "failure". What had the people experienced or what were they hoping to experience? How does that relate to us now? Students would get so much more out of school, I think.

“But it’s not just the simple absence of sound and life. It is a silence that spreads behind my eyes, where memories should be. It is a silence that doesn't stop at our skin, but reaches into me, fills me with cottony quiet, spreads through me like calm.” p166

This passage brings two things to mind; being so busy that your mind can’t rest and the silence reaching where “memories SHOULD be”. There are times I need to slow myself down and just be. I’m running myself ragged and need to get some downtime and some sleep. I know that relaxation and sleep are restorative but have also led myself to believe that I’m too busy. And when I want to relax, I can’t. So I crave this silence Mackenzie finds with Owen. This absence of not just noise but thoughts and this bearer of calm. This was why I chose the word preparation this year. Because the more prepared I am, the more time I have to step back and relax and reflect.

What do you think of the statement “where memories should be.”Does Owen’s silence bury Mackenzie’s memories?
Maria: That’s an interesting question. I know I’m often so busy that I can’t take the time to really reflect and store my memories. I feel like Owen’s gift of silence gives Mac the chance to rest, but I didn't get the sense that it would damage her memories in any way. Sometimes just the break from the constant barrage of noise and thoughts can help me regain the energy to deal with things. But maybe that’s just my introversion talking.

Just for fun
“You know...that despite my title, this isn't really a library, right? We don’t lend, we don’t check out, we don’t even have a reference-only reading area. ” p173

Ha. Even though the first two things mean the same thing - lending and checking out - I find it funny and sometimes tease the students that I’m not there to help them, I’m too busy reading all the books!
Maria: This also reminds me of one of my bigger questions about this world - what IS the point of the Archive? What role do the Librarians play? I get what Keepers and Crew do… as long as we accept that the Archive is needed. But what is the actual role of this library of memory?
Kathy: I'm going to search for this - to see if it's answered in the next part. That's a great question.

So we answered the question of who Owen is but not the question of why? How did he die and why isn't he slipping?  I also wonder what happened to Robert. And who killed all the Coronado residents? Time to finish the book and, hopefully, get all my questions answered!

Check out our Batty About Books Facebook page where we will post quotes from the final pages of the book. Or at least Maria will! What are your thoughts so far?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Little Slice of Life - Wrapped Up in Books

In the middle of last summer, several teachers got together and we started a book club. It's been so much fun. I think we spend more time catching up on the past month than actually talking about the books. We've read a wide selection so far

  1. The Ocean At The End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  2. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
  3. The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
  4. The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan - most of us did not finish this one.
  5. Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster
  6. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton- only 4 of us finished this one 
  7. The Archived by Victoria Schwab
With the exception of number 4, I would say pick any of these if you have a book club.  Some I really enjoyed reading and some I really enjoyed discussing! Although I've lead many book clubs at school, this is the first adult one I've ever been involved in and I highly recommend it!  Next up, The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson.

I'm slicing it up with Two Writing Teachers for the month of March. The goal is to write something each day in March.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Storm Watcher by Maria V. Snyder - Review and Giveaway

Snyder, Maria V. Storm Watcher. Leap Books, 2013. 184p. $10.99. 978-1-61603-033-9.

Affiliate Links: Amazon
| IndieBound

Genre: Adventure (search and rescue, storm watching, dog training)

Cover Appeal: Action lovers, kids who like storms

Immediately After: The cover doesn't do the book justice and is slightly deceptive. Really should have put at least one of those dogs on the cover.

Luke is having a hard time coping with his distant father and annoying older brothers. His twin brothers, Jacob and Scott, spend a lot of time teasing Luke and his father never stopped them. Ever since their mom died, Luke doesn't feel like he is a part of the family any more.  In addition, his birthday is coming up and he doesn't know how to tell his dad that he doesn't want a bloodhound like everyone else in the family. He wants a papillon.

Not being able to talk to his dad is only one of Luke's problems. He is also afraid of storms, or any bad weather. Luke spends a lot of time glued to The Weather Channel so he can be prepared when a storm arrives.  He stays home when things get bad outside and he wishes everyone else would also stay safe.  

Luke gets a summer job helping out at Storm Watcher Kennel for the summer. He hopes that he can earn enough to get the dog he wants instead of the one his dad wants. He meets Megan, the owner's dad, and they become fast friends while helping Megan's mom, Willajean, train dogs for Search and Rescue. Luke believes he can change his dad's mind about papillon if he can show how good they are at Search and Rescue, his dad's job!

When Megan's father moves back home, things get complicated. Luke also decides he can't tell his father the truth about the dogs which leads to more complication.

How will Luke and Megan get back on track with their families?

This was a deceptively simple read. On the surface it's the story of a boy trying to find his place in his family, now  that his mother has died. In reality, it's so much more as each person in Luke's family tries to create a new dynamic without the person that held them all together. Luke being the youngest, and most sensitive, takes a huge burden on himself. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I still enjoyed the read. I look forward to sharing this book with our 6th graders. 

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About the Author
Website | Facebook
Maria V. Snyder writes adult and young adult fantasy novels and short stories. Formerly an environmental meteorologist, she earned a Masters degree in writing from Seton Hill University; she is currently a teacher and mentor for the MFA program. Storm Watcher is her first middle grade novel. You can contact her at maria [at]

Check out all the Tour Stops!

The Storm Watcher Blog Tour

Feb 19 - Mar 5, 2014

Hosted by
Join us for interviews, guest posts, reviews, and giveaways!

Tour Schedule

Wed 2/19 - The Book Monsters - review & giveaway
Thu 2/20 - I Am a Reader - interview & international giveaway
Fri 2/21 - Unleashing Readers - guest post & giveaway
Mon 2/24 - Bookalicious - review & international giveaway
Tue 2/25 - Kid Lit Frenzy - guest post & giveaway
Wed 2/26 - Sharpreads - review & giveaway
Thu 2/27 - The Mod Podge Bookshelf - guest post & giveaway
Fri 2/28 - The Windy Pages - review, interview & giveaway
Mon 3/3 - Teenage Reader - review & giveaway
Tue 3/4 - Read Now Sleep Later - review & international giveaway
Wed 3/5 - The Brain Lair - review & giveaway


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