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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Book Views (1)

Kate over at The Neverending Shelf does these consistently and she suggested I try them for my last few graphic novels read.


Review in 75 Words or Less: The Incredible Rockhead is a humorous play off of traditional nerd boys turning into superheroes. Instead of becoming super strong, be able to fly, and do other cool things, Chip's head turns into a rock. In this adventure, he is at the zoo when some animals get out of their cages. He is able to knock the animals out with his head and save the popular girls.

Final Verdict: Definitely a fun adventure for those students that can relate to being the odd man out, or just a bit nerdier than everyone else. Still has that comic book hero side to it, while combining more elements of life as we know it. I'd say kids aged 8-12 would get a kick out of this one.


The Storm in the Barn

by Matt Phelan

Review in 75 Words or Less: Filled with gorgeous pencil drawings, this graphic novel transports you into the past during the Dust Bowl and adds fantasy elements that I would not have foreseen being in this book. I absolutely fell in love with the story and the imagination of the young boy in it.

Final Verdict: A gorgeous book and one that I would gladly buy just because the artwork is so fantastic. Also, a great graphic novel to use when learning about the Dust Bowl and just how horrible it really was. Probably more geared towards upper elementary and middle school students.


Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood

by Tony Lee

Review in 75 Words or Less: A fantastic rendition of the tale of Robin Hood, this graphic novel is filled with beautiful full color graphics and a style that is quite breath-taking. I like the small differences between the other tales told of Robin of the Hood and that it was long enough to really involve you in the story.

Final Verdict: Absolutely gorgeous graphic novel and one I may purchase for my own collection. If you love tales of adventure and love, this is the graphic novel for you. Definitely geared more towards middle grades and high school students.



Review in 75 Words or Less: This graphic novel takes you into the past, showing you different events during the Cold War and the race between Russia and America to send someone to the moon. It goes back and forth between Russian and American scientists and how they came up with the different types of rockets and satellites that would travel up into space.

Final Verdict: Possibly the most boring graphic novel I have ever read. Of course, I'm not a science junkie, so that may be part of it. Contains a ton of great information about the Space Race and puts the reader in the perspective of the people involved with creating the first rockets and satellites. I'd say upper middle school and high school students would be capable of reading this one.


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Clear Away the Clutter Mini-Challenge


Kate at The Neverending Shelf is hosting this awesome mini challenge. Here are the details!

Clear Away the Clutter's purpose:

If you are like me, you have an abundant amount of review and TBR books that need desperately your attention. This mini challenge will challenge you to read and do something with those titles once they have been completed.

Your goal is read as many titles as you can and pass along those that you do not absolutely want to keep. This means that if you do not plan to reread a certain book at least once or twice... get rid of it, it is just clutter.


Guidelines:

  • The mini challenge begins March 1st and ends May 31st. You can join at anytime once the challenge as begun.
  • Anyone is welcome to participate in the mini challenge.
  • By the end of the challenge, you MUST get rid of all the titles that you do not absolutely love. You can hold a contest, donate, give to a friend, etc. Your ultimate goal here is to clean off your shelves.
  • You do not have to have a blog to participate. If you are interested, please email me at neverendingshelf@gmail.com for more information.
  • Please create a post for titles you plan to read. You can of course update and modify this list at any time.
  • Once a novel is completed, let us know what you plan to do with it. You can put this information beside the title in your challenge list post. Right now, I am planning to host a large contest for all the novels that I read and do not absolutely love at the end of the challenge.
  • Crossover with other Challenges is welcome.

Levels:
  • Packrat: Read and clean out 5 titles
  • Mini-packrat: Read and clean out 10 titles
  • Organizer: Read and clean out 15 titles
  • Cleaner: Read and clean out 20 titles

Personally, I'm attempting the Cleaner Level, but we'll see. I'm not sure how many of the books I read I'll be giving away. Most of the books will be put into a blogoversary contest - much like my Birthday Bash - that is coming up in June, just in time for this to end.

I'll be keeping track on this post how I'm doing!

1. The Heart is Not a Size by Beth Kephart (tour book)
2. Alex Van Helsing by Jason Henderson (tour book)
3. Tempest Rising by Nicole Peeler (tour book)
4. Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce (tour book)
5. The Cave by Steve McGill (for Giveaway)
6. Little Black Lies by Tish Cohen (for Giveaway)
7. Dead Guy Spy by David Lubar (donated to Library)
8. Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams by Rhonda Hayter (tour book)
9. Everlasting by Angie Frazier (tour book)
10. Border Crossing by Jessica Lee Anderson (for Giveaway)
11. Forget Her Nots by Amy Brecount White (tour book)
12. Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves (tour book)
13. Whisper by Phoebe Kitanidis (tour book)
14. Blood Feud by Alyx Harvey (tour book)
15. Gateway by Sharon Shinn (tour book)
16. Dark Life by Kat Falls (for Giveaway)
17. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (tour book)
18. A Golden Web by Barbara Quick (tour book)
19. Angel Star by Jennifer Murgia (tour book)
20. The Beautiful Between by Alyssa B. Sheinmel (tour book)
21. Claire De Lune by Christine Johnson (tour book)
22. A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler (tour book)
23. The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller (tour book)
24. The Ghost & the Goth by Stacey Kade (tour book)
25. A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner (tour book)
26. The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi (giveaway)
27. Wayfarer by R.J. Anderson (tour book)
28. Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey (tour book)
29. Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony (tour book)

Join in the fun over at Kate's blog - The Neverending Shelf.
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In My Mailbox - February 28th

video

IMM is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

For Review:
The Castle of Galomar (New Brighton Archeological Society) by Mark Andrew Smith & Matthew Weldon
Shadow Hills by Anastasic Hopcus (Around the World Tours)
The Heart is not a Size by Beth Kephart (Traveling ARC Tours)

Books won:
The Turning by Gillian Chan (from Goodreads)
My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent (from Kelly @ STACKED)
What Would Emma Do? (From OfficiallyMRS)

Books bought:
Fairest of All by Serena Valentino
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

From the Library:
Flyte by Angie Sage
All Shook Up by Shelley Pearsall
The Mailbox by Audrey Shafer
Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor
Schooled by Gordon Korman


We'll see if I get to all the library books. :-D
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The Agency Review + Interview (Traveling to Teens)


The Agency: A Spy in the House
by Y.S. Lee

Summary (from the author's website):

It is May 1858, the beginning of London’s “Great Stink” — a blend of river pollution and heat wave that paralyzes the city. Tucked in the attic of a nondescript girls’ boarding school is the Agency, an intelligence service with a difference: it’s an elite, all-female group of private investigators with a reputation for getting things done. And it’s just hired a hotheaded, 17-year-old ex-thief whose on-the-job training goes completely wrong…

New agent Mary Quinn’s task is to pose as a lady’s companion and observe a merchant suspected of smuggling. But this straightforward assignment goes awry when Mary gets impatient and exceeds her mandate. Almost immediately, she finds competition in the shape of James Easton, an arrogant young man who’s doing some snooping of his own. They first tangle — literally — in a closet.

When pressed, Mary reluctantly joins forces with James. But as useful as the partnership may be, it’s also dangerous: their mutual attraction threatens to distract them from the real secrets of the merchant’s household. Eventually, they reveal a plot that threatens James’s life, as well as Mary’s own dark secrets…


Review:
There really is something so wonderful about a well written novel set in Victorian London. Lee's novel introduces you to a most extraordinary character - Mary - who is on her first assignment for the Agency and eager to do well. While reading this, I became so entranced by the involved plot that took some serious twists from where Mary begins her journey. The added romance and interesting characters sidetrack you a bit from why Mary really is there and how she can aide the Agency in gaining information about the Thorold family and their trade.

This novel draws you in so well that you wish it would go on forever. I think that this was a fantastic start to a new series and a realistic start to young Mary's position as an agent of The Agency. I cannot wait to see what lies in story for our heroine.

5/5 Roses

Buy it on Amazon*
Find it on Goodreads

*If you buy this book on Amazon through the link above, I will receive a small portion of the sales.
**A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in return for an honest review.


Interview with Y.S. Lee

When/How did you decide you wanted to become a novelist?

I always secretly wanted to be a novelist, but thought it was unrealistic and pretentious to admit it. As I was finishing up my PhD in Victorian literature and culture, I had this moment when I realized: it’s now or never. If I don’t write a novel now, I’ll have to get an academic job and this is my last chance so I’d better just do it.

What was the inspiration behind your novel The Agency?

I love the first 90% of Jane Eyre, but the ending makes me INSANE. I hate that Jane marries Rochester instead of taking her massive inheritance and going out into the world and doing something really interesting. It got me thinking about what choices a similar girl might have, if she were poor and uneducated. That was when the character of Mary Quinn crystallized for me.

What type of research did you put into your novel?

I did a lot of research even before I thought of writing a novel, because of my PhD research. For Spy, I specifically researched shipping insurance, Indian civil construction, and the details of various London neighbourhoods.

Which character is most like yourself in your novel?

This is a cliché, but I’m not like any of them. There are bits of me in each character but I don’t resemble any of them as a whole.

What types of books do you read when you find the time?

I lean towards contemporary literary fiction: Jane Gardam, Zoë Heller, Douglas Coupland. I also love travel writing and books about big ideas.

Find Y.S. Lee on Twitter.
Check out more Tour dates with Y.S. Lee.
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Sunday Spotlight - Loud Words and Sounds

Today I have a teen book blogger who has a super cute and awesome blog about mainly young adult books. Learn more about Andrea below!

Name
: Andrea
Nickname and/or blog name: Mg (short for Musicangirl)
Blog URL: http://loud-words-and-sounds.blogspot.com/





Tell me a bit about yourself.
My idea of fun is different from people who are my age. Instead of constantly hanging out with friends, I prefer to curl up in my bed and read a good book, and at the same time listening to some genre of rock music. I also enjoy practicing my clarinet and writing stories. Like some, I just like peace and quite after a long hectic day at school (where I'm way too involved in too many clubs). But at other times I like to be loud and obnoxious with my friends, while also working on computers (which is unusual for girls at my school might I add).


When and why did you start your blog?
I started blogging because it combined my three loves: Reading, Writing and Web Design into one. But also, a lot of my friends had them and I just felt I needed to get on the bandwagon (which can be bad but in this case was good on my part).


What is your blog all about? Any cool features you want to share?
My blog is really just a place for anyone interested in a bunch of stuff to come to. Yet keeps the main focus on books. I have a meme for every day of the week really, and some I've made up. Some Meme's that I have are: Madness Manga Mondays, Tunes Thursdays, Films Fridays and School Books Sundays (this one is going to start soon). I also participate in some challenges, but not many since I'm very busy at school and at home. Other than that I'd have to say the coolest feature I do is Madness Manga Mondays, I know Manga is something that not many have an interest into, but I love it. And since I love Manga so much I made the meme Madness Manga Mondays.


What are some of your favorite genres and/or books currently?
Books= The Host by Stephenie Meyer, Major Crush by Jennifer Echols and Graceling by Kirsten Cashore

Genres= YA Romance Comedies, Fantasy, Manga and some other books - depends.


How do you find out about the books you read?
Mainly I find out about books from my friends, blogs or the online bookstores. Other than that sometimes I just come across a book that has a cool cover and a great synopsis, that I just buy it


Any tips or advice for those starting or thinking about starting a blog?
Start a blog that you will care for, make it mean something for you. Mine for example is a place that I can write about music, movies and books that I like. Other than that network with other blogs.


Thank you Andrea for stopping by and sharing your awesome blog with us! Keep it up girl! Head on over to see how cute her blog is and leave her some comment love! :)

Are you a new blogger too? Or just getting back into the swing of blogging? Do you want to be featured on my blog? Shoot me an email at dragonzgoil (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cinderella Society Winner

Congrats to Patti from Book Addict for winning The Cinderella Society!

Stay tuned next week for another giveaway. :-D
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Puzzle Ring Review and Guest Post

The Puzzle Ring
by Kate Forsyth

Summary:
When Hannah's grandmother breaks her femur, Hannah gets to travel with her mother back to Scotland - the place of her birth. Since her father went missing not long after she was born, her mother has avoided contact with his family and especially visiting Scotland. When Hannah arrives, she finds that there is more to Scotland that meets the normal human eye. The fairy realm exists and so does a curse upon her family - placed in the days of Mary Queen of Scots. Hannah will have to find the 4 separate parts of the puzzle ring and combine them in order to break the curse. But in order to do so, she must travel back into the past. Will she be able to do that though?

Review:
The Puzzle Ring is a marvelous adventure that mixes Scottish lore and fairy tales with the modern day. The world of Scotland and the historical world equivalent are so well described that you really feel apart of what is taking place. The characters have their strengths and weaknesses and this is probably one of those rare books where you really see how much the characters do not simply meld into the new setting, but remain modern day teenagers in attitude even throughout their adventures. They complain and whine about eating regular old porridge and get quite sore when riding a water horse. Kate does a fantastic job of mixing reality as we know it with her mystical world of lore and history.

Probably the only problem I had with this novel was I felt like their time in the time of Mary, Queen of Scots, was a bit short. There were weeks of travel that could have been more elaborate and I guess I really just wanted more to the end of the story before everything was wrapped up. What a complaint right? Wanting more. I loved this world and the whole idea of solving a family curse and I wanted it to last longer. I will definitely be reading more of Kate's novels in the future.

4/5 Roses

Find it on Goodreads

*A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in return for an honest review.


Researching with Kate Forsyth

‘The Puzzle Ring’ is a time travel adventure that tells the story of 13 year old Hannah who, in order to break an ancient curse upon her family, must travel back in time to the days of Mary, Queen of Scots, a time when witches were burnt, queens could be betrayed, and wild magic still stalked the land ...

I had to do so much research to write this book! It took me almost 18 months to research and write, including a trip to Scotland with my husband and three children. That was 17,000 kilometres from our home city of Sydney, Australia, so not an easy undertaking. It was so worth it, though! We stayed in castles, grand old Scottish houses, and an old monastery on the shores of Loch Ness, and went to all the places that Hannah must travel to in the book – fascinating villages like Fortingall where the oldest tree in the world grows, and the Corryvreckan whirlpool, one of the largest natural whirlpools in the world, and Loch Lomond, so beautiful it makes your heart ache.

Much of my research was done at home, in my study in sunshiny Sydney. I read every book I could find about life in 16th century Scotland and the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. I read up about modern theories of the time-space continuum, and how time travel could actually happen. I pored over Scottish witch trials and books on Scottish fairy lore. I had maps of Scotland all over my desk, and photos of Scottish lochs, mountains, forests and castles stuck to me wall (and on my computer screen saver!). I read up about Tudor feasts and pastimes, and read a book about Scottish ghillies and how they survive sleeping out in the open in a freezing Scottish winter wearing only a kilt. I copied out recipes from cookbooks I found in the castle where we stayed in Scotland, and actually cooked them for my family (marmalade cupcakes become a favourite!) And of course the internet was a constant resource for me, from rhyming dictionaries to websites specialising in 16th century Scottish law (the penalty for being found in one of the queen’s forest with your longbow strung was to lose an ear).

A lot of the early research I do while I’m plotting and planning (I do like to plot!) Then, I’m constantly checking things while I’m actually writing the book – or discovering I don’t know enough, and having to stop writing while I go back to my research books. I had one major problem with my plot that slowed me down for weeks. I didn’t find the solution until our last night in Scotland, when my husband and I took the kids along to the Beltane celebrations in Edinburgh, which are held on Calton Hill. There were stilt-walkers, and fire-eaters, and people dressed as fairies dancing around bonfires, and a wonderful Scottish storyteller who told us a tale about a fairy boy who was found on the very hill on which we were sitting. There is meant to be a gateway to fairyland on Calton Hill, he told us – and all my hairs stood on end, and I thought, Yes! I knew exactly what to do to solve my plot problem ...

Luckily I love doing research. It’s simply reading with a purpose. And after writing, reading is my favourite thing to do in the world.



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Saturday Spotlight - Page Turners

Today I have another fun blogger who loves to read and is from Australia. Learn more about her below!

Name:
Becky
Nickname and/or blog name: Page Turners
Blog URL: http://pageturnersbooks.blogspot.com

Tell me a bit about yourself.
Outside of friends, family and work, reading is my other interest. I work as a solicitor for a government organization that assists socially and economically disadvantaged people. It
is a tough job but I love it. I live my boyfriend of 4 years - no kids yet but we do have 2 gorgeous rabbits. In any spare time that I get, which is limited I admit, I read. I love reading, I probably get through 5 books a month just reading on the train on the way to and from work.


When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog in June 2009 because I wanted to keep a track of the books that I read. I wasn't thinking about the books when I finished them, I just finished them and moved on. The blog gave me a chance to think more deeply about what I was reading. As I did it more and more though, I saw a lot of other wonderful blogs, that made me want to take blogging more seriously, which I did a couple of months ago. Now it's not about doing it for me (although that's still a big part), but also so that I can share my enthusiasm for books with others.


What is your blog all about? Any cool features you want to share?
The blog is largely book reviews at this point in time, although 2010 is the year of new features for me. I have weekly and fortnightly memes about recommending books to others, author reviews, literary discussions and a feature similar yo 'Spotlight' every Friday. I try to ensure that my book reviews provide information about the books, a bit about the plot, why I chose it and then what I thought of it. At the end of each review I ask 4 questions about the book that I hope will help others decide if it is something they are interested in reading.


One individual feature about Page Turners is that I do try to read Australian literature and review a lot of Australian books. Not all of them are Australian of course, I like variety. But I do want to read literature coming from own country and support our industry as much as possible.


Basically, my blog is all about books and sharing my love of them. I want others to enjoy reading as much as I do and I hope that people enjoy my recommendations.

What are some of your favorite genres and/or books currently?

I read a lot of general fiction and classics. I like books that focus on the daily lives of people, I like characters that I can get involved with, sweeping drams, that sort of thing. I am currently still reading The Railway Children (on ebook) and am starting Capricornia by Xavier Herbert, a famous Australian novel.


How do you find out about the books you read?
That's a really tricky question to answer. Some of them friends recommend to me, others I see from blogs and most I honestly couldn't say how I know about them. A lot of books that I buy I have to be honest and say that what attracts me is the cover, I'll then read the back of the book, and if O like that I'll flip to the middle of the book somewhere and read a paragraph. If it grabs me, I'll buy it!


Any tips or advice for those starting or thinking about starting a blog?
I'm pretty new to blogging, having only been doing it seriously for a couple of months. I just want to keep in mind that it should be something that's fun, and if other people read it and have fun with it to, then that's great.


Thanks again Becky for sharing more about her fantastic blog! One Australian author I really love is John Flanagan - author of the Ranger's Apprentice series. I wish I read more Illinois authors.

Are you a new blogger too? Or just getting back into the swing of blogging? Do you want to be featured on my blog? Shoot me an email at dragonzgoil (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs Review + Interview


Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs
by Ron Koertge

Summary:
A follow up to Shakespeare Bats Cleanup, Kevin is back writing poetry after his dad hands him a new journal - telling him he doesn't have to use it, but it's there - so he starts writing poetry again. Kevin has a girlfriend Mira - who doesn't exactly get his poetry. When he goes with his dad to an open-mike night, he meets a girl who writes poetry herself - Amy - and he can't seem to stop thinking about her. Does he really like Mira, or is she just simply cute to him? Kevin has a lot to figure out about girls at 14.

Review:
I loved the first book and this one didn't disappoint at all. I love the banter between Amy and Kevin throughout this book. It's interesting to see him realize that dating girls isn't all about good looks, but who you generally get along with and share interests with. Kevin finds himself through poetry and poetry leads him to Amy - a girl who understands and appreciates his poems.

I love the different types of poems in this book - reminding me of poetry lessons of my past and really how fantastic Ron is at writing poems to make them part of a story. Novels in verse are becoming a huge movement in children's literature and I haven't found a bad one yet. Definitely a book both boys and girls can relate to.

5/5 Roses

Buy it on Amazon*
Find it on Goodreads

*If you buy this book on Amazon through the link above, I will receive a small portion of the sales.
**A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in return for an honest review.

(Read my review of the 1st book - Shakespeare Bats Cleanup.)

And just to demonstrate the awesomeness that is this book... one of the poems from it:

A Few Words About the Setting

The BB is actually a pretty cool place.
A real bungalow. Nooks and crannies.
Sofas and chairs with soft, beat-up
cushions that look like fat ghosts
are already sitting in them. Wall-to-wall
volumes, (free) tea and Oreos on a table
that's wearing two bunny slippers on
its front feet. Cat with a chewed-up ear
asleep on a dictionary.

I shake hands with Ophelia. Her hair
looks like it can't make up its mind,
her T-shirt says LET THERE BE LIGHT.

"This is Amy." She nods toward a girl
in velvety-looking overall, which I
immediately like because overalls
are work clothes and velvet is for lying
on a couch and eating little sandwiches.

"But you can call me Trixie," Amy says.
Her mother warns, "Don't start."

Trixie/Amy hands me the clipboard.
"Wanna read?"

I've heard that one a million times:
It's a challenge. A double dare.
You'll never hit this guy, Boland. He's got your number. And if I happen
to swing and miss: Nice cut. How about a tennis racket next time?

"I already signed up."

It only stop her for a second, but it stops her.
Like a clean single right past the shortstop.

"A Few Words About the Setting" from SHAKESPEARE MAKES THE PLAYOFFS, copyright c 2010 by Ron Koertge. Used by permission of Candlewick Press.

A bit about Ron:

Ron Koertge is the author of many acclaimed novels, including DEADVILLE, STONER AND SPAZ, THE BRIMSTONE JOURNALS, and his first novel-in-verse about Kevin Boland, SHAKESPEARE BATS CLEANUP. A two-time winner of the PEN Award, Ron Koertge lives in South Pasadena, California.

Interview with Ron

What was the inspiration behind your books Shakespeare Bats Cleanup and Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs?


My wife and I were sitting at a AAA baseball game a few years ago. Down in the boxes along the third base line sat a kid about eleven and his Dad. The dad was a real chew 'em up fan---ragging on the ump, cheerleading the home team. The kid was writing something in a little notebook. So I started to wonder what that might be like---attracted to baseball and writing, too. So I made a book to find out. And then a sequel.

Did you always plan to write the books in verse?

Lord, no. I don't plan much of anything. My first novel-in-verse was The Brimstone Journals, a rough-around-the-edges story of a potential high school shooting. I started it before Columbine, which made the whole process very eerie. I've been a poet all my life, though, so it's not too much of a stretch to think that I might give novels-in-verse a whirl. Brimstone was different from anything else I ever wrote because it just assaulted me; I wrote it all in about six weeks!

Poet or baseball player---which are you better at?

Way better as a poet. For one thing, I'm 69 years old. Not creaky or forgetful, but I like to be able to sit down and write. And my fast ball is not what it used to be.

When you were writing Shakespeare Bats Cleanup, did you know that you'd write a second novel to follow up?

No way. In fact, I'd tell kids during school visits that sequels didn't interest me very much. Like I know anything, right? I'm really not in charge of my writing life. I'm a guy who writes every day, so I just show up for work with my lunch box and see what the Muse has in mind for me. There's a sequel to Stoner & Spaz in my editor's office right now.

What are you working on currently, writing-wise?

I'm interested in writing poems or poem-like things about the Greek gods: Zeus, Hades, Demeter, etc. I think my editor is rolling her eyes because she's wondering how many kids even know who the Greek gods are anymore. But the poems (or poem-things) are interesting and they're fun to write. I can tell there's something juicy in this project, but I don't exactly know what it is yet.

What type of books do you like to read when you're not writing?

I read anything and usually don't finish. I'm reading short stories by Jennifer Egan right now. I just finished something by Pico Iyer. I stay away from kids' books and read other stuff. I like fast-paced trash like Kitchen Confidential.

Anything else you want to add?

I live in what fans call "The Halloween House." It's in two or three early scenes in the Jaime Lee Curtis/John Carpenter film "Halloween." The first one. Just yesterday some guy from Georgia came by and was all amped about the place. My wife has some plastic pumpkins on the porch, so lots of people hold one and sit where JLC sat and have their picture taken. Almost everybody asks if it isn't spooky living here, and it's not. For one thing, only exteriors were in the movie. No inside-the-house stuff. For another, this is a very friendly structure. There are some pictures of the place and me and Buddy the Poetry Cat on the Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs Facebook page. Check 'em out.


Thank you Ron for stopping by today! I love these books!
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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Shakespeare Bats Cleanup


Shakespeare Bats Cleanup
by Ron Koertge

Summary:
Kevin is a 14 year old boy who has mono. Which means he can't play baseball and is stuck at home doing not much at all. When his dad gives him a journal, he begins to write his thoughts out in the form of poems. Even when he gets over mono, he keeps up writing poems - so much that his teammates start to call him Shakespeare on the baseball field.

Review:
I just ate this book up. It made me laugh so hard at parts and really just captured my interest right off the bat and continued to keep me interested. Novels in verse are starting to grow in children's literature and I am so happy that it keeps growing. Also, this is one of the rare books in verse that teaches you a bit about poetry. Kevin finds a book about different types of poetry and starts to use them in his journal and he lets you know what he's experimenting with when he is.

Definitely a book that boys and girls will both understand and enjoy.

5/5 Roses

Buy it on Amazon*
Find it on Goodreads

*If you buy this book on Amazon through the link above, I will receive a small portion of the sales.
**A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in return for an honest review.

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Thirteen Reasons Why


Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher


Summary:
When Clay comes home one day, he finds a box of cassette tapes with his name on it. On the tapes, are the reasons why Clay's crush and classmate, Hannah Baker, killed herself - and more accurately the 13 people that started the snowball affect that turned into her suicide. Clay has no idea why he is on this list. If he listens completely to the tapes, he will find out - but if he doesn't, someone will expose the second set of tapes to the world. Clay doesn't want either of these things to happen, but he has no choice. He has to listen to the tapes.

Review:
I have to say, this was a book unlike any other. Yes, some similarities to John Green's work -but much more intense. By the end of the book, I was so passionately PISSED at Hannah for killing herself I think I walked around in a huff for days. This is the perfect book for someone who has thoughts of suicide to read because suicide only hurts more people and you can just feel that emanating from Clay during the whole book. He barely even knew Hannah as a person and he was devastated by her suicide.

There are so many great issues brought up in this book - suicide, teen drinking, sexuality, and more. To narrow it down, the whole reason Hannah kills herself is that she loses her identity in the swarm of rumors and horrible things that happened to her. She feels less like a person and can't keep living as one.

The way the story is told is ingenious - as much as she was a total b*word for setting up something so terrible to send around AFTER she already killed herself. That being said, this is a must-read book. I loved the audio version and it drives you to really become passionate about the characters and what is going on. So, so good.

Short note: I listened to this on audio and I definitely suggest this format for this book! Made it that much better.

5/5 Roses

Buy it on Amazon*
Find it on Goodreads

*If you buy this book on Amazon through the link above, I will receive a small portion of the sales.
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Link a Contest Thursday



Rules (or at least STRONG suggestions):
1. Name the item being given away (instead of the blog name)
2. Give the end date in () after the name
3. Make sure to link DIRECTLY to that contest post - if you don't know how to do this - just click on the title of the contest blog and it will give a direct URL you can use.
4. If you want to post a contest you've found, make sure it isn't already posted.



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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sunshine


Sunshine
by Robin McKinley

Summary (from Goodreads):
Rae Seddon, nicknamed Sunshine, lives a quiet life working at her stepfather's bakery. One night, she goes out to the lake for some peace and quiet. Big mistake. She is set upon by vampires, who take her to an old mansion. They chain her to the wall and leave her with another vampire, who is also chained. But the vampire, Constantine, doesn't try to eat her. Instead, he implores her to tell him stories to keep them both sane. Realizing she will have to save herself, Sunshine calls on the long-forgotten powers her grandmother began to cultivate in her when she was a child. She transforms her pocketknife into a key and unchains herself--and Constantine. Surprised, he agrees to flee with her when she offers to protect him from the sun with magic. They escape back to town, but Constantine knows his enemies won't be far behind, which means that he and Sunshine will have to face them together.

Review:
I really liked the first part of this book, but it seriously lagged at times and I think that's the reason why I kept taking breaks from this book. There would be some action and then nothing for pages upon pages. I couldn't quite connect with any of the characters which was another problem for me.

But, it was still a good book. Rae had some pretty cool powers that were reinforced with sunlight. I liked the world set-up - a bit similar to Kim Harrison's Hollows series (which I love!). The vampires were supposed to be scary.. but it felt like it wasn't built up enough - the horror aspect of it. I really wanted to like this book a lot - it being about vampires, but it just wasn't a favorite of mine.

I actually have read another of her books and it too feel short of my expectations - but I think it's a writing style issue. She packs a lot into her writing and I think I really am a plot-driven kind of reader and I get lost when the plot flows away into learning more and almost too much about the character.

3/5 Roses

Buy it on Amazon*
Find it on Goodreads

*If you buy this book on Amazon through the link above, I will receive a small portion of the sales.


Read more...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Author Safari Winner (3)


Last week we had a new author on Kate's and my new bi-weekly event where we explore the habitat of a newer or less-known author. We find one picture, give two clues and then send you out on the hunt. Last week's author was Kristin Walker. Check out her debut novel A Match Made in High School.

Now, last week we gave two clues:
Clue #1: Spread my wings, ready to fly off the page.
Clue #2: A doodle that could very well take flight.


The Prize:
I'm giving away my signed ARC of Kristin's novel A Match Made in High School along with some cool swag.


The Image:
There was a few images meeting our clues, the one we first picked out was the bird on Kristin's bio page. There's also a paper airplane on her contact page and a butterfly on her main page.


The Winner!
See Kate's blog (The Neverending Shelf) for the actual winner and an interview with Kristin herself! :)

Read my review of A Match Made in High School as well!
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Monday, February 22, 2010

A Match Made in High School


A Match Made in High School
By Kristin Walker

Summary (from Goodreads):
When the principal announces that every senior must participate in a mandatory year-long Marriage Education program, Fiona Sheehan believes that her life can’t get any worse. Then she marries her “husband”: Jerky jock Todd, whose cheerleader girlfriend, Amanda, has had it in for Fiona since day one of second grade. Even worse? Amanda is paired with Fiona’s long-term crush, Gabe. At least Fiona is doing better than her best friend, Marcie, who is paired up with the very quiet, very mysterious Johnny Mercer.

Review:
Fiona is the type of girl that you think is just great - because, well, you're in her head. She kind of goes against the crowd a bit, is funny, sarcastic and loves pranks. But, being in her head does make you want to kill her at times. Like every teenage girl, she's a bit self-centered and always concerned about her own problems - even when it's obvious her best friend is going through some interesting times herself. And she doesn't catch on until her friend pretty much slaps it in her face.

I liked the realism of this book - how I can totally see this happening and this type of reaction of having to be married to some random person during your senior year of high school. It also had some decent messages - such as people really aren't who they seem. Even the jock turns out to be a better guy than anyone expected. I think it shows the growth teens make in their final year of high school - realizing that what happens during that year is something that won't matter for much longer. Definitely a fun and great read.

4/5 Roses


Buy it on Amazon*
Find it on Goodreads

*If you buy this book on Amazon through the link above, I will receive a small portion of the sales.
**A copy of this book was provided by the author in return for an honest review.
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It's Monday, What are you Reading?


This fantastic meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books.

Read this past week: (Most of these reviews are done and scheduled.. I swear!)
Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Sunshine by Robin McKinley
Magyk by Angie Sage
Sucks to be Me by Kimberly Pauley
The Line by Teri Hall
Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs by Ron Koertge

Currently Reading:
Meridian by Amber Kizer
The Puzzle Ring by Kate Forsyth
A Spy in the House (The Agency) by Y.S. Lee

Upcoming:
Tourist Trap by Charles Ogden
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brasharas
The Alchemyst by Michael Scott
All Shook Up by Shelley Pearsall
Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus

News:

Oh, in this picture below - we have Kristina and two of her critique buddies that are part of a fun blog called Author2Author. :-D


Then, there's me getting a book signed by Richard Peck - who is a fantastic author and very humorous speaker. :)


And last of all, a sneak shot of Jordan Sonnenblick while I was waiting in line. Another fantastic and funny speaker. Probably the only author to pull off a humorous book about a kid with cancer.


Overall, tons of fun!
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The Line (1 ARC Tours)


The Line
by Teri Hall

Summary:
Rachel lives with her mother on The Property working for an older lady. The Property is far out from the cities, where the government is more brutal and unfair than out in the outskirts, near the Line - a section of the National Border Defense System - an invisible line that no one can cross. But there's more to Rachel's past than her mother is letting on and comes to light when the government pays a visit to the small town near them. What did Rachel's mother do and why do they have to keep a low profile? All of that changes when one day, Rachel hears a voice from The Line, calling for help. But rumors have it that those on the other side of The Line are different - in a dangerous way. Does Rachel have the courage to see who is out there that needs help?

Review:
I must say this book didn't really live up to the hype, but that doesn't make it a bad book. In fact, it was a quick and enjoyable read. I think I expected more from a dystopian novel, but the main character did seem to be younger and the book aimed more at a middle grade audience. Taking those factors into consideration, I found that this book had a lot of mystery in it, secrets from the past that come to light, and a sense of adventure to come.

Rachel has some room to grow in the book and hopefully will continue to grow as a character in any further books to come. I'm just assuming there's another book coming as the ending was very open ended. I myself want to see more of the character that appears later in the book and am intrigued as to what is on the other side of The Line. It was missing some of the intensity I was expecting this book to contain and things were a bit lightened up due to the audience this book was targeted at. I will read on if there are more books and hope to learn more about this world the author has created.

4/5 Roses

Buy it on Amazon*
Find it on Goodreads

*If you buy this book on Amazon through the link above, I will receive a small portion of the sales.
**A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for the 1 ARC Tours in return for an honest review.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Cinderella Society


The Cinderella Society
by Kay Cassidy

Summary:

Jess Parker is always getting pushed around by a girl at her newest school. And the reason - she took her place on the cheerleading squad. Luckily, she's finally caught the eye of some of the nicer cheerleaders and they take her under their wing. Only, Jess finds out that they're not just being nice - they're a part of a secret society called The Cinderella Society. They train girls to become more confident and fight against the mean girls called the Wickeds. Will Jess be able to gain confidence enough to help defeat the Wickeds AND snag the boy she likes?

Review:
I have to say, this was the perfect book for me to read during Valentine's day week. I've been putting off the review because I really enjoyed this book and don't think I can suitably tell you why - but I'll attempt it. Jess is a sixteen year old girl who isn't sure of herself and wants to just meld in, but she has the potential to be a great person and even a leader. I love watching her transform and really starting to see what is inside of her and how to let that out. I loved the aspect of the secret society and the battles of the wits between her and her arch nemesis. And can I even talk about the romance? I'm so glad it wasn't perfect, that there was a bit of a trial to matching up Jess with her Prince Charming and trying to figure out if he really was the guy for her.

So, between the conflict, the fantastic characters, and the overall fun this book was to read - I'd say you have a fantastic book. Yes, it's chick-lit - not my usual type of thing, but it takes it farther and deeper. It still overall has a feeling of light-heartedness, but there's so much more. And can I say Secret Society any more.. I just love secrets, don't you?

5/5 Roses

Buy it on Amazon*
Find it on Goodreads
Find it on LibraryThing
Find it on Shelfari

*If you buy this book on Amazon through the link above, I will receive a small portion of the sales.
**A copy of this book was provided by the author in return for an honest review.


**IF you leave a comment on this review, you get an extra entry in my contest for the signed ARC of this book.
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In My Mailbox - February 21st

video

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

For Review:
Something Like Fate by Susanne Colasanti
White Cat by Holly Black
Still Sucks to Be Me by Kimberly Pauley
Numbers by Rachel Ward
The Tempest by Nicole Peeler (for Borrow My Book Tours)

Won:
Shadow Hills bookmark (from An Addicted Book Reader)
Hourglass by Claudia Gray
All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard
Captivate by Carrie Jones
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Wish by Alexandra Bullen
Some sweet swag - (6 arcs and swag from The Compulsive Reader)

From the Library:
Scarlett by Cathy Cassidy
The Boy Who Dared by Susan Bartoletti
The Mark by Jen Nadol
Trouble by Gary D. Schmidt

Bought:
Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey
Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce
Bad Apple by Laura Ruby
Clone Codes by Patricia McKissack
Hourglass by Claudia Gray
Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern
Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
Here Lies the Librarian by Richard Peck
Big Fat Little Lit edited by Art Spiegelman & Francoise Mouly


And yes, I realized Hourglass is in there twice. Why? Because I could buy the hardcover early and get Claudia to sign it - so I did! :) So, that may be a future giveaway.

So, what did you guys get?

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Affiliates News!

I've picked my first five affiliates and there's still room for five more! See my post on Affiliates to check out what Affiliates are and how to become one.


1. Jenn from Book Crazy is a fantastic online buddy of mine. I just recently became an affiliate of her blog and wanted to return the favor. Jenn runs some great things over on her blog - including Music Mondays. I just love how friendly and open she is and how fantastic her blog looks with it's makeover.



2. Natalie at Mindful Musings is a fantastic blogger. I became an affiliate of hers when she opened it up to the blogosphere and felt guilty not repaying the favor right away. Natalie has fantastic reviews and we read a lot of similar books, so it's great to see her take on them.



3. Kate at The Neverending Shelf became my blogging buddy the past month or so and ever since we connected on Google Chat, we've done a few combined projects and help each other stay motivated and reading. I just love Kate and all of her fantastic ideas that we pull out of our foggy twenty some year old brains. She's definitely a fantastic blogger and keeps things real on her blog, which I appreciate a lot.



4. Eleni at La Femme Readers is another one of those fantastic bloggers that I simply enjoy all the books she reviews and chatting her up online. She runs a fabulous blog that really speaks to my inner chic side.




5. Last, but definitely not least, is WilowRaven from Red House Books. She has been a frequent commenter on my blog and keeps coming back. I love her blog and especially the reviews she has on it. She's one of the sweetest bloggers I know out there and I'm glad to have met her!


So, 5 more to pick. I'll probably cut off the applications next weekend. I'll include some affiliate news with this week's Monday post. :)

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Sunday Spotlight - Michelle and Leslie's Book Picks

Today I have with me a blog run by two sisters. Leslie is the younger reader and writes most of the YA reviews on the blog. She's stopped by today to tell you more about herself along with their blog. I wish I could get my little sister to read...

Name:
Leslie
Blog name: Michelle and Leslie's Book Picks
Blog URL: http://booksandmakeup.blogspot.com




Tell me a bit about yourself.
Aloha! My name is Leslie and I'm in the eighth grade. I just turned 13 years old in November.
My favorite color is light blue and I love to eat Chinese food especially orange chicken (yum!). I live in Hawaii and even though I like going to the beach sometimes I prefer to stay at home and read--I don't like getting sand on my books! My favorite genre to read young adults and in particular paranormal and fantasy YA.

When and why did you start your blog?

I reviewed my first book (The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong) on Halloween last year and that was when I officially started blogging. My sister Michelle
(she reviews mostly romance novels but also reads YA) actually asked me to write a review for the blog because she wasn't reading much around that time because she was busy with her new job and wanted to have a review posted for the blog.

What is your blog all about? Any cool features you want to share?
After I posted my first review, my sister talked me into reviewing more and before I knew it, I was doing regular review posts. My sister changed the name of the blog to what it is now and it became a part-YA and part-romance blog--that's what our blog is all about. My sister reviews romances and I review young adult books.

We will be starting a new weekly feature soon that will list our favorite books called "Friday Favorites"
and each week we will have a short list of our favorite books. One week could have our favorite paranormal series, the next week might have our favorite YA books, another week might have our favorite fairy tale remake books and so on--this feature will hopefully introduce our followers to more titles and authors out there.

What are some of your favorite genres and/or books currently?
I just recently read Vampire Academy and it was strangely addicting. I really, really want to read the next book in the series. Right now I am reading Catching Fire and loving it! The Hunger Games series is my sister's and my new book obsession. We are Team Peeta all the way!!
WOO-HOO!!!

How do you find out about the books you read?
I mostly find out about books I read from my sister. She visits many YA book blogs and lets me know about any YA book she finds interesting or ones that are to be released. I also like to browse bookstores and our local public library.

Any tips or advice for those starting or thinking about starting a blog?
I think you can definitely start a book blog. Just go for it! As long as you have a love for reading and books and can dedicate some time to writing reviews, it's doable. It's a lot of fun so don't take blogging too seriously. If you want people to know about your blog, take the initiative first step by following a blog and leaving comments--according to my sister, that's how other bloggers find you and how you can find readers for your blog.

Mahalo nui loa to Kristen for having me here today and letting me share about our book blog!


And thanks to you too Leslie! Check out her and Michelle's blog and leave some comment love!

Are you a new blogger too? Or just getting back into the swing of blogging? Do you want to be featured on my blog? Shoot me an email at dragonzgoil (at) gmail (dot) com.
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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Book Signings

Here's a calendar of the events which I plan on attending here in Illinois. I hope I see some of you there! I'll be updating this calendar frequently.


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Saturday Spotlight - The Lost Entwife

Today I have with me a fun blogger who loves reading and the library! Read more about Lydia below.

Name:
Lydia
Nickname and/or blog name: The Lost Entwife
Blog URL: http://thelostentwife.net

Tell me a bit about yourself.
I'm a 33 year old single gal living in Georgia. For my "job" I help my ex-brother-in-law with the raising of my niece and nephew (it's a long story!) and I wouldn't give it up for the world. I've also been playing piano since I was 4 years old and love playing everything from classical music to Disney songs for my niece to dance to.

I started reading around age 4 as well. I was home-schooled most of my life, and am the eldest of nine children so our big outing each week was to the library. My mother, in an attempt to keep track of the books, would only allow each of us 2 books! But I would sneak out more than that. I'd usually check out 5-6 and hide them in my bag, my shirt or wherever I could until I could get home and run up to the 3rd floor to my room. I've usually have them read in just a few days.

Today I am always pushing my library's 75 book checkout limit. I have them organized by piles and stacked in the series order (if there are series). I read them all in time for me to bring them back and never have to worry about late fees! I usually average about 35-40 books a month.


When and why did you start your blog?
I actually started my blog as more of a family blog in 2007. It wasn't until a few months ago that I really got into GoodReads and began to seriously review books. I've been getting more into my stride and decided for a New Years Resolution this year to purchase my own domain and make the leap. I love reading, clearly - and I love recommending books. I'm a shy person and I've found that the more diverse my reading, the more I find myself at ease talking to strangers that I meet. I wanted to provide an outlet for people who might not know what to read outside of their usual genre to go to. My friends have told me that they love how I write about how the book made me feel and a general summary without ever giving anything away.


What is your blog all about? Any cool features you want to share?
Books, books and sometimes life! I've joined several challenges, I am hosting one giveaway a month this year and I am hoping to start getting some Author Chats going!


What are some of your favorite genres and/or books currently?
Oh man, that's a rough one. I love literary gothic type books. The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon was one of my more recent favorite reads. I also really liked The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan which is an apocalyptic YA read.


How do you find out about the books you read?
I actually have a post series on how I select books! I use everything. I take pictures of books in B&N with my cell phone and then upload them to put them on my "to-read" list. I use GoodReads, Amazon recommendations, the library's lists of what's new and their list of debut authors. I use friend recommendations and I read a ton of other book blogs! Two of my favorites are http://j-kaye-book-blog.blogspot.com/ and http://bookjourney.wordpress.com/.


Any tips or advice for those starting or thinking about starting a blog?
Look around at other blogs in the genre you want to start and just start experimenting! My blog changes almost daily as I find new widgets and plugins to add, and I love playing with it! And it's really not that hard. If you are a brand spankin' new beginner, use a program like blogspot or wordpress.com and just play around. Promote your blog on Twitter and Facebook and get your friends to start reading! They'll help spread the word.

Giveaway alert!
Lydia is currently giving away a copy of The Magician's Elephany by Kate DiCamillo. Make sure to enter on her blog. Hurry because it ends February 28th at 9 pm EST!


Thanks for stopping by Lydia and telling us more about your blog!

Are you a new blogger too? Or just getting back into the swing of blogging? Do you want to be featured on my blog? Shoot me an email at dragonzgoil (at) gmail (dot) com.
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