Monday, June 30, 2014

It' Monday, What Are You Reading? June 30, 2014

Books Purchased
Mistborn: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

Books Read
Obsidian (Lux, 1) by Jennifer Armetrout
The Girl With The Windup Heart (Steampunk Chronicles, 4) by Kady Cross
Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, 3) by Leigh Bardugo
The Angel Experiment (Maximum Ride, 1) by James Patterson
Drift by MK Hutchins
Only Everything by Kieran Scott
True Love (Nantucket Brides, 1) by Jude Deveraux
Mistwood by Leah Cypess
Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer
Beyond The Highland Mist(Highlander, 1) by Karen Marie Moning
Loot by Jude Law

There is something about summer that makes me want to just read romance and fantasy books. Hopefully combined into one awesome package. I often pass over books I need to read in search of books that have that magic ingredient that is designed to transport me into the book as a side character. And while I've found some decent romance novels and some good fantasy, these aren't the books I'm looking for.

That aside, I did have some good reads these past two weeks.  Loved the ending to Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy, all the while she had me thinking she was bringing me to one place and we ended up somewhere far better.  I was pleased at having so many questions answered as lately it seems series novels either don't want to end or the author wants you to decide what happens to the characrer. While I'm all for inference and predictions and some ambiguity -  I want a mostly complete story - especially if it's the last book in the series.

We continue our quest for a book to use for our One Book program in February - hence the James Patterson novel.  And #WeNeedDiverseBooks (still) so check out MK Hutchins book Drift and read here as she talks about Obsidian and how it's used in her novel.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo - #bookaday 6

Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, 3)
Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Fantasy

The end of a trilogy is always sad. This one had me tossing aside my chores (kidding, that's all books really) and glued to the pages. Last year, I re-read Shadow and Bone before Siege and Storm came out but I neglected to re-read Siege and Storm this year.  No matter.

Bardugo helped us pick up pretty much where we left off. This installment had more of the Lantsov Prince, thankfully. I love his character. The wit and cunning, oh how I wish he and I were friends. And he was real, of course.

There was a moment when I had to put the book aside when I could NOT believe what happened.  My heart stopped.

This was a (mostly) satisfying end. I would love to read a follow-up but it will not be necessary to the story - just to my heart.

Angel Experiment by James Patterson - #bookaday 5

The Angel Experiment (Maximum Ride, 1)
James Patterson
Genre: Paranormal

The Angel Experiment has been suggested for One Book consideration by students for the past 4 years. I've always said no way.  This year, I decided to put it in front of the committee, in the hopes that they would see it my way.

I started this one on audio.  Usually I go back and forth between the audio and the physical book if I have lots of books to read. Unfortunately my audio version was not only abridged but the narrator was not that great.

Not the best book I've read but I can see students enjoying this one. Lots of action and moves quickly. The writing style isn't my favorite and I can't see myself reading beyond this first one, though.  Also, a little concerned about the random violence even though it doesn't seem to keep anyone down. Maybe that's it - the violence doesn't seem to matter and that's my issue.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Tools of the Trade by MK Hutchins - Guest Post - June 2014

Hutchins, M.K. Drift. Tu Books (Lee and Low), 2014. 392p. $19.95. 978-1-62014-145-8.

Pick up your copy of Drift (affiliate links) Amazon | Indiebound and stop by tomorrow for my review.

Drift follows Tenjat, 17 as he tries to carve out a life for his sister Eflet and himself. They lost their parents five years ago as they were escaping their previous island home, Island Ita.  Tenjat is determined to escape the life of a farmer hub and become a Handler on Island Gunaji to give Eflet the future she deserves. The future he promised his father he would give her.
Read on as M.K. Hutchins talks about flintknapping obsidian and how that helped define her worldbuilding in Drift.

Years ago I sat in a room with a tarp-blanketed floor, holding a chunk of obsidian in my hand. Some of the exterior of the rock remained – gray and pitted like a crumbling piece of city sidewalk. Inside, though, the obsidian gleamed: black as ink, glossy and glittering as polished jewelry. The stuff is practically magic.
Using a piece of antler or a round, smooth stone, I struck at the obsidian, trying to fracture off a long flake in a process known as flintknapping. Any badly-angled strikes could produce a bad flake or – worse – cause imperfections inside the stone that would make further flintknapping difficult. My protective leather gloves were soon spiderwebbed with thin cuts, even though I worked with care. Freshly flintknapped obsidian is far sharper than surgical steel scalpels. When the class was over, we gathered up those tarps and safely disposed of the obsidian in accordance with hazardous waste regulations.
Beyond the beauty and the skill and the danger, I also admired the technology I was trying to learn. It would be wasteful to take one chunk of obsidian and knap it down into a single tool. Ancient peoples figured out how to make cores. They looked somewhat like tapering cylinders with a flat striking platform on top. From that platform, an experienced flintknapper could knock of blade after blade, utilizing almost every bit of the beautiful stone.
And the Classic Maya were virtuosos of flintknapping. They didn’t just make tools and weapons, they made art, called flint eccentrics. By striking off flakes, they crafted delicate, graceful patterns and profiles of human faces. Every time I look at one of these, I think of how one misplaced blow during the manufacturing process could have snapped and ruined the entire thing. The technology to create these is lost – modern flintknappers can’t recreate them.
I never became a great flintknapper, but I’m still a little obsessed with obsidian. Fantasy is a genre defined by setting. It’s part of the reason that I, at least, read fantasy. I want to become immersed in a world, in the smells and sounds and tastes.

Drift was largely inspired by Maya mythology, and I wanted to pay homage to that. Often, fantasy is a realm of swords, blacksmiths, and horses, but I wanted to step away from that. I wanted jungles and plaster, howler monkeys and turkeys. And I wanted obsidian – with all its danger and beauty. In the novel, the use of stone tools is just one aspect about the world, but it made the world more real to me.
Sample Chapters of Drift
MK Hutchins blog
MK Hutchins Twitter

Blog Tour
June 19: John Scalzi’s Whatever Blog - M.K. Hutchins on worldbuilding and cultural ecology here
June 20: Supernatural Snark – M.K. Hutchins on being inspired by Maya mythology here.
June 23: It’s All About Books – M.K. Hutchins’ top 5 most influential books here.
June 25: Read Now Sleep Later - Drift GIVEAWAY here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Girl With the Windup Heart by Kady Cross - #bookaday 4

The Girl With the Windup Heart (Steampunk Chronicles, 4)
Kady Cross
Genre: Science Fiction

I've been waiting for this book for a year. I loved The Strange Case of Finley Jayne, The Girl in the Steel Corset and The Girl In the Clockwork Collar. I thought the Girl With the Iron Touch was good, but not as good as the others.  I wanted to know more about Mila. I was happy to hear Windup Heart would be about Mila!

But, it wasn't. Not really. Mila's story was interspersed with Griffin's story but I felt his took precedence. There seemed to be much repetition and things moved pretty slowly. I felt as if I was reading what was intended to be two short e-novellas.

I did like seeing Jack in action and seeing how much he'd grown to care for Mila. The introduction Finley's father was also a welcome addition. I would recommend reading at least the first two but not necessary to read the rest to feel satisfied.

Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout - #bookaday 3

Obsidian (Lux, 1)
Jennifer Armentrout
Genre: Paranormal

This was a recommendation to me from a friend. Weirdly, I have a hard time taking recommendations even though that's part of my job. Sometimes it's because I have a lot to read already and sometimes I wonder what I will say if I don't like the book. I encourage students to tell me when they don't like something because it helps me advise them better the next time. I always try to get particulars so I can refine their choices.  I wish there was a way to add notes to their records instead of trying to keep track of it in my head.  If only there was an easy way for them to add reviews to our system.

Let's start with the cover.  I don't think the guy is attractive and he looks to old to be in high school. The author tells us over and over how hot he is and what a jerk he is. And yet ?, the main character, still liked him. I probably wouldn't have so much of a problem with it if she hadn't kept harping on it - like you can't be attractive and not be a jerk. Though of course, he has his reasons for being a jerk.

I never connected with any of the characters in this. I didn't feel an of the urgency or have a sense of foreboding. I did like the sense of humor and that Katy was a blogger. I enjoyed hearing her talk about doing her Waiting on Wednesday posts and other blogger memes. Other than that, not for me.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey - #bookaday 2

The 5th Wave (1)
Rick Yancey
Genre: Science Fiction

Our goal for our One Book, One School program is to encourage students to choose reading as one of their recreational activities.  We look for books that make students want to turn the page and read on, and if there is a second book, to want to read that book also.

In the 5th Wave, aliens are invading the earth and killing off the population. They are doing it in waves and four waves have passed already. The few people who are left are trying to survive and plan for the 5th wave.  Cassie is hiding out in the woods, trying to make her way to Wright-Patterson where she believes her little brother, Sammy, has been taken.

Although Cassie's is the main story, we also hear from Evan, another survivor who helps Cassie out, and Ben Parrish, a soldier. Their stories overlapped in a way I predicted but the outcome is not one I suspected.

One criteria we have is the book we choose should hook you within the first 75 pages.  This is not that book. No matter how much I enjoyed reading The 5th Wave once I got hooked, it won't work for our purposes.  Though, I can't wait to pick up The Infinite Sea in September and this time I won't wait a year to read it!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer Throwdown Year 3 - Librarians and Teachers READathon

Do you love reading?
 Is part of your job getting books into the hands of youngsters? 
Well, get ready to decrease those TBR Piles!

Brian (@BrianWyzlic), Jillian Hiese (@HeiseReads) and Sherry Gick (@LibraryFanatic) are excited to welcome you back to The Third Annual #SummerThrowdown!

Summer Throwdown is all about reading as much as you can so that you can bring new titles to your students in the fall. It started out as a contest between School Librarians and Teachers and just evolved!

The rules are simple:

  • Every book you read or listen to counts as 1 book. Every.Book.Counts!
  • Set your goal and enter it on the #SummerThrowdown Spreadsheet
  • Each time you read a book, enter it on the spreadsheet.
  • At the end of the month, let's see how you did!
An Optional Challenge
In order to satisfy those with a friendly competitive spirit (ME!) - we are encouraging you to do Callout Challenges!  Choose a friend and challenge them to read a certain number of books.

Then, over the course of July, let them know how many books you are reading and give them a little ribbing! This is totally optional! I've been called out by non other than Sherry (@LibraryFanatic)!

I accept Sherry's challenge to read 30 books and offer her one of my own - NO PICTURE BOOKS! What say you Sherry?? 

Again, this challenge is optional! 

The only thing you need to participate in #SummerThrowdown is a willingness to read and record your reading!

We do ask if you are on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ or other social media - you use it as you are reading and add the #SummerThrowdown hashtag!

So, what are you waiting for?? 
Head on over to the #SummerThrowdown Spreadsheet to sign up! 

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson - #bookaday 1

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)
Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Science Fiction

As a fan of Brandon Sanderson and his extensive world-building (see my attempt to catalog The Way of Kings here, here, here, and here) I was eager to find out how his earlier writing compares to his more recent work. Mistborn is his second published work after Elantris, which I have around here somewhere too.

As much as I can tell, there are two major types of magic in Mistborn, Allomancy and Feruchemy.

Allomancers gain power by downing metals.  They can increase their vision by burning tin or their strentght by burning pewter.  Some Allomancers can only use one type of metals (there are at least 10, possibly 11) but Mistborns can use them all. Feruchemists use their own bodies to gain power, which they store in metals until needed. They can store up youth when they want to appear younger or strenghth when they need muscle power.

Mistborn follows Vin, a street thief, as she is caught up into a new thieving crew whose goal is to take down the Lord Ruler.  The crew is led by the legendary Kelsier, the only known survivor of the Halthisn Pits.  Vin doesn't trust anyone on the crew.  She goes along with them because she's interested in learning more about the gift of Luck that she has.  It turns out she is a true Mistborn and what she calls luck is a form of changing peoples emotions.  She can Soothe or Riot them. She also has many other powers.

What follows is Vin's take on Kelsier's plan. It introduces us to lots of cool magic, including traveling by pushing off metals, which reminds me of the Lashings in Sanderson's The Way Of Kings. They also read a logbook about The Hero of Ages which is the third book in the series. Can't wait to see how that connects!

So far I've enjoyed Mistborn, Warbreaker, Alcatraz Vs. Evil Librarians, The Way of Kings, The Rithmatist, and Steelheart. Hope to hit Elantris this summer and revisit Way of Kings next summer so I can read the sequel, Words of Radiance.

I am an Amazon and Indiebound Associate.

Monday, June 16, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? June 16, 2014

I'm looking forward to getting my reading mojo this summer.

Books Purchased
Thrive by Meenoo Rami
Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller
Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

Books Read
Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
The Prophecy by Ellen Oh
Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (17%)

I participated in 48 Hour Book Challenge last weekend, as my schedule permitted. The theme this year was #WeNeedDiverseBooks and I was able to finish Prophecy by Ellen Oh which was ok but a little light on development. I don't see myself going any further in the series but who knows!  I also read, and loved, The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson.  This was a seriously fun read! I will be using it as one of my first book club books for 6th graders.  The pacing was just right and the storyline was fun and easy to follow.  It will be interesting to discuss the reality of some of the pranks and see what we can pull off at school.  I'll be on the lookout for some other heist-type or shenanigan-related reads for a full display.

It was amazing to finish the Harry Potter series back to back. I needed an audio book back in April, picked up #1 and just couldn't stop listening. Though when the audiobook was checked out of the library, I did revert to reading the paper books.  It was so interesting to reread knowing how it all ended, every conversation, every spell, every magical item took on a new significance. Well played, JK Rowling.

It's  Monday, What Are You Reading is hosted by TeachMentorTexts.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

48 Hour Book Challenge - The Beginning - June 2014

Due to senior graduation (I can't believe my baby graduated! :() and many grad parties (I had many of these students in kindergarten!) my goal is to put in 12 hours. I have from now until Monday, June 9th, at 7am.

I have 3 books I would love to finish:

  1. Prophecy by Ellen Oh - diverse author and characters
  2. The Great Greene Heist  by Varian Johnson - diverse characters and author
  3. Tankborn by Karen Sandler (reread) - diverse characters
I have about 2 hours before the next party. Let's get this reading party started!


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