Monday, May 26, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? May 26, 2014

During the weekend of June 6, MotherReader will host the annual 48 Hour Book Challenge. This year the focus is #WeNeedDiverseBooks.  All books read during the event, whether middle grade, young adult, or adult, should have a diverse focus.
Due to graduation, and grad parties, and snow days, I won't be able to give this my full participation but I'm hoping to eek out 12 hours of reading! I'll post about the books I have on hand next week.  So now you gotta come back! ;)

What I Bought
Landline by Rainbow Rowell

What I Read
More Baths Less Talking by Nick Hornby
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling (audio)
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
Super Human by Michael Carroll
The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner
Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling (audio and print) 49%
Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst 45%

We are reading furiously to find our next One Book, One School selection. I'm lucky in that our Language Arts teachers choose great books to read and discuss with class and give students some choice also.  Students still look on this as "school reading" and, as such, our goal is to encourage students to read for fun. We have trivia contests, game shows, a book battle, art/writing/music contests, and this past year, a scavenger hunt. The contests are based on the reading, which we divide over a month, and they can win prizes. We use the power of everyone talking about the same book as a way to encourage students to read. In addition, everyone who works in the building gets the book.  We have a "formula" that we believe works, but we are also looking to branch out a bit. Hence, Super Human and Steelheart. I love superhero books. These also have great supervillians and focus on what is good and what is evil.  We are also looking at Harry Potter because we think this group of students we have may have missed out on the books.

I was lucky enough to meet Gae Polisner! Check out her Gae's facebook page for some great photos of the events she did for Reading For Life! I also got to meet Kelly Vorhis (@kelvorhis) and had a visit with the great, Sherry Gick (@libraryfanatic)! We had a great time at our own impromptu After Party!

Maria and I are doing something different for Batty About Books and so far, I don't like it! I miss her forcing me to check in partways through the book instead of waiting until the end!  Though, I think it's the type of book we are reading too. We read scifi or fantasy each time and mostly feel as if our arbitrary divisions hinder our enjoyment because we remove ourselves from the reading to make our posts.  I'm finding that the weekly breakdowns actually served to keep me vested when other chores were calling to me! Also, I miss the feeling of reading with Maria.  Things might change this week when we write about the book.  Can't wait.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Batty About Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst - Cover Appeal

Batty About Books
Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
Simon And Schuster (Margaret K. McElderry Books), 2012
424p. $16.99. 978-1-4424-2376-3

We are trying something new with Batty About Books. Several times we've felt the book would have been better if we'd read it straight through. So we decided that we would do that with Vessel. So, we'll have this cover post then, 2 weeks from now, we'll have our thoughts about the book.

Along the way, check out Batty About Books on Facebook as we promise to post quotes and thoughts as we read.

Cover Appeal

Batty About Books talks Cover Appeal

I love this front view.  It looks like they took shades of one color to make this.  The color scheme is amazing. It gives me a Dune vibe, which I love, but the rich wine colors also pop out.  (Stop making me admit to books I haven’t read...)

It’s very atmospheric. The clouds whirling around her, the bright moon in the background, and the undulating sands at the bottom combine to give the cover movement and depth.

It’s rare to see a person of color on the front of a book. She looks thoughtful and beautiful. Heck, just seeing a full woman - not a portion of the face missing or a focus on a single body part - is also a nice change. (ha!, so true!)

Her clothes speak of times past though the henna on her arms makes it seem not too far in the past. I wonder if she wears that scarf to keep out the heat? I definitely felt the desert even before reading the copy!

I love the typeface. Even though it’s not the same font as Not A Drop to Drink - it has that similar see-through treatment. I like that the title is at the bottom giving the girl the more important part of carrying the cover.  I hadn’t picked up on that - but I love it!

Even the tagline and the author’s name are in the background.  The cover I’m showing is a paperback, but I have the hardcover here and at the bottom it says “She must defy the gods to save her tribe.” The inside states Liyana is abandoned by her tribe. So even though she’s abandoned, she sets out to save them. I like that.

The back of the hardcover is mostly just sand and darkness. I really want to know how she will survive that. My back cover has that image as well, but has the copy over the image. It makes it a little hard to read when it goes over the sand, since the text is white.

The spine is also inviting (if you ignore my messy house). It’s sort of a mini-repeat of the front cover, including Liyana.  I really wonder what she is looking at. Her facial expression is determined, resolute, and a little sad. The letters  themselves are like vessels. They are stronger than the letters on the front. And they appear to be empty. I love the spine! I started with that part of the cover, and found it very intriguing. 

Overall, I think it’s attractive both from the side and the front. I can’t wait to get started!

Now you've seen what I think - head over to Maria's Melange to see how she approached this cover appeal. She starts in a very different spot!

Monday, May 12, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? May 12, 2014

I've been reading More Baths, Less Talking by Nick Hornby and I love the format of the book. It reminds me of the old In My Mailbox posts that used to be popular, combined with the IMWAYR posts.  Each chapter in the book lists what Hornby bought, what he read, including unfinished tomes, and then a narrative that talks about his reading and puts it into some sort of context. It's humorous and informative.  While I can't possibly be as erudite as Hornby, I decided I'd like to try that format to these posts. So, welcome.

What I Bought
Tankborn, Awakening, Rebellion (The Tankborn Trilogy) by Karen Sandler
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
Ruin and Rising (Grisha Trilogy) by Leah Bardugo
Sinner (Shiver Quarter??) by Maggie Stiefvater

What I'm Reading
Demons of the Oceans (The Vampirates, 1) by Justin Somper  (50%)
More Baths, Less Talking by Nick Hornby (84%)
Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix (50%) audio
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (33%)

I like to listen to books in my car or cleaning the house and when the library didn't have what I wanted, I started listening to the Harry Potter books.  I've read the first four several times but never got into the 5th, The Order of the Phoenix. This time though, I'm obsessed. Even knowing how the entire series ends, I just want to drop everything and pick this book up!  Not so much the Vampirates book. It started out strong but I'm pretty sure I'm going to give up soon. As a matter of fact, a student asked me to read Steelheart so we can discuss it, so I picked that one up instead of reading more of Demons of the Oceans.  So far, so good. At first, I didn't like it because, like this post, it's in first person. I didn't think I had a problem with those sorts of books but for this one, I did. Now, I can hardly put IT down. Which makes it hard to type as I have two books calling my name!

Each chapter in More Baths is a different month from a column in the magazine The Believer.  They are old posts. There was a spot a few chapters back where Hornby talked about books I actually read! He also bought Will Grayson, Will Grayson.  I may get the magazine to see if he ever read it. At one point he mentions sitting on the couch sandwiched between his two sons, each involved in his own activity.  It reminded me of me and the daughter because sometimes it's just nice to be in the same room, no matter what each person is doing.

More of what people have been reading can be found on TeachMentorTexts.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Batty About Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis - Wrap Up

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

If you've missed any discussions, check out Cover Appeal, Part One, and Part Two below. Also, feel free to stop by the Batty About Books Facebook page! Join the discussion!
Now here we are at the end. Maria's thoughts are in purple. For her full discussion, check out Maria's Melange (@mselke01).

Part Three - pgs 196 - end

There were several unexpected things that happened in these final pages. And since these are final pages, they are spoilery.  I decided to write them anyway but I changed the font color on most though I left one intact but labeled, so that you can skip them if you want. “If you do want to read them, highlight the text for the full effect.  As I mentioned on Goodreads, this is one of those rare books that would have benefited from more pages. 
Maria: Ahhh, good plan. I struggled with how to talk around the spoilers. And I agree - I wanted a lot more development of a variety of plot points during this section.

Vera and Lucy and Neva
As we knew she would, Grandma arrived. The way she arrived was wholly unexpected to me though. I expected more of an entrance and even though she arrived with the men from the south. And did I know she was Neva’s mom? Why was I thinking it was Eli’s mom? She did not add anything to the story for me, not sure why we needed her as they could have gotten medicine without her.

There’s an undercurrent of sexual assault that comes to the surface several times throughout the book but particularly in this last part.  It was counteracted, somewhat, by Lynn and Eli’s relationship. I found it nice of Stebbs to take Lucy for a spell so that Eli and Lynn could have some time alone. This gave Lynn a chance to be a somewhat “normal” teen-aged girl for a change.  But, the progression to the cot seemed un-Lynn-like to me. She had just wondered if he was going to try to have sex with her (p.209 ) then she didn't understand why he would need to take a bath in a snowbank. (p. 214) If the cot was as small as it was described (he carries it to the stream house later) and they were wrapped in an embrace...well. 
Maria: Yes, I found this confusing as well. I’d be curious to know if teens would find it more understandable. It’s been a GREAT many years since I teetered on the edge of “knowing but not really understanding”.

Spoiler - I didn't understand why the men wanted Neva and not Lynn. We had already been told how pretty she was and they seemed to be running a trade shop, why didn't they take her too? Despite the father. 
Maria: Exactly. This was a spot I found underdeveloped as well. Even with that we find out later, I found this jarring. I talked about the assault aspects on my post as well. I found it so disturbing, and I want to believe it’s unrealistic. But with what is going on in Nigeria right now - that we think all those girls were kidnapped and sold into “marriages” (really sexual slavery) - it feels all too likely. In a world where societal niceties break down, this is the kind of horror that real people actually do.

I figured Neva had something crazy up her sleeve, we’d been told often enough that she wasn't right in the head. But, I did not expect her to kill herself. Especially so soon after being reunited with her mother and knowing that Lucy was sick. I I would have expected her to believe in Lynn and Stebbs a little more and see if they would rescue her. I thought she would find a way to let them know where she’d gone, leave a trail somehow
Maria: YES. I know we've had the build up of her being a bit unstable, but this event still felt unlikely.

Lucy’s father is alive. I guess I should have expected that since he was mentioned quite often. But, in my head, he would not have been in great shape. He was also supposed to be crazy, so I pictured him alive but noticeably mental.  But, he was ruling a town. Making trades. And, like no time had ever passed, building a dam. He knew she was alive and how she was living yet offered no assistance.  
Mara: I think I would have liked this plot twist if it didn't feel so…. twisty and abrupt. Yes, I think there were bits leading up to this point that let us know that her father is important to the story. But because the ending was so quick, I didn't feel like it carried through well. More development with her father might have made me like this part better.

Eli. Unbelievable. I thought maybe Stebbs or Lucy but Eli? I was for sure Lynn and he would make it to the next book and possibly get married. Raise Lucy. “...unable to look away from the path of the only bullet she had ever fired with love in her heart.” (295) 
Maria: I know, right?!? I mean, on one hand her actual action fits with what we know about her. She’s decisive, and she doesn't let emotion get in the way of what needs to be done. On the other hand, I was angry about this loss. I expected her to lose someone at the end… but NOT this character!

She shot her father in the forehead.  
Maria: I did like how she phrased her decision. I think that -- again -- more development in this part of the book would have given this choice greater impact.

I would love to know how old Lucy is now.  I've always wondered how Lauren was able to get all the furniture, including a piano, into the attic. When I picture an attic, I can’t see a piano going up the steep stairs, let alone one being carried alone.  I’m so happy that Lynn found the “safety of community”. It tempts me to read the second book. 
Maria: I put the description of the companion novel on my post. I was hoping I’d get to hear about the city - but instead the book jumps ahead in time to describe this community. I’m interested enough in the characters that it will go on my list to read in the future.


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