Hi, I'm Mrs. F-B!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Secrets of the Savanna - Mark & Delia Owens

This is the third book written by scientists Mark and Delia Owens that I have read. I read the first when I went to Zambia, which is where they did a lot of their research and work with elephants to try and end the horrific poaching that was such a problem in Zambia. I really enjoyed this series, although I think those two did some incredibly crazy stuff that I could never have done because I am just not enough of a risk taker. The great thing is that their work really made a tremendous difference, both for animals and people in Zambia, and I was really impressed by the great lengths they went to to make such an important difference.

I am reminded of a quote from Margaret Mead that these two definitely practice:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How I Created My Perfect Prom Date - Todd Strasser

So what do you think about dating your stepbrother? But what if you didn't know he WAS going to be your stepbrother when you started dating him? And besides, you only did it to get back at another boy and prove you could make him into someone everyone would be after. Kind of. Right?

This was another quick read, teen romance which I picked up over break. Beach books, I call them, although there was definitely no sign of the beach during this Arctic Blast winter vacation, was there?

I thought this book was funny and fun, and I liked how it had alternating chapters between the two main characters, a boy and a girl. If you're just looking for a light read, give this one a try.

P.S. this book is by the author of Give a Boy a Gun, and The Wave but it is WAY different than those books. I think it's pretty amazing how an author can write such divergent works, don't you?

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Geography of Girlhood - Kristen Smith

This book is a nice addition to the genre of books written for teens in verse instead of in prose. Verse writing is tricky because the writer has to tell the story completely, but they have so few words to flesh it out. Kristen Smith does a lovely job of that here.

It seems like the books I've read in verse (Stop Pretending, One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies, Shakespeare Bats Clean Up, Love that Dog) tend to focus on the feelings of the characters and leave lot of the action out. And it works beautifully, although it wouldn't work, I don't think, in prose. It's interesting.

Penny, whose mother abandoned her when she was six years old, is now trying to navigate the world of high school, which is hard enough WITH your mom there to help you. The voice is very strong, and I found myself really feeling for Penny as she struggles through her emotional pain.

A nicely written novel which I am happy to be able to recommend to mature readers looking for another novel in verse. I hope to read more from this author in the future.

Available at Multnomah County Library.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Gamma Glamma - Kim Flores

I really liked this funny book about a girl who undertakes a science project involving makeovers of real people to see if she could change their status in the world that is high school. Clearly, she hadn't read Frankenstein yet!

If you've read a lot of the entries on my blog, you'll know that character development is the main thing I enjoy in a book, and Luz is a wonderfully developed young woman. She is an admitted science geek, that's why she's at Gamma High, but when she realizes that the science fair competition is on the same nigh t as the Homecoming dance, she really doesn't want to do it. Unfortunately, the fish in the tank are dead and Luz is basically forced to do it. She comes up with a plan that she's SURE the science teacher could not possibly approve, but the fish are still dead and her plan is approved. Thus begins the circus that is Luz's science experiment. And the results are quite dramatic...although not necessarily good news for those involved, except maybe for Luz and Swen??

Luz's sense of humor, her smarts, and her inventiveness make her a really fun character to get to know in this creative novel which really captures the high school experience.

Sciencey types, those who like a laugh, and fans of a little romance will enjoy this great book by Kim Flores.

Available at the WOMS library.

How to Hook a Hottie - Tina Ferraro

This was a cute teen romance that was also pretty funny. Kate's parents have promised her that if she can make $5000 before the end of the school year she doesn't have to go to college and she can start on her plan to become a millionaire by age twenty right away. She has no idea that she will catapult to popularity and that her plan to earn money will get completely out of control when she starts up a matchmaking service. But of course, everything does go berserk, and Kate, who never thought she'd be in such a position, is not quite sure how to handle everything. A quick, fun read for fans of teen romance with some good lessons in it as well.

Available at Multnomah County Library.

Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride - Helen Halstead

This is one of those books in the "Pride and Prejudice Continued" genre (not actually a real genre, but you know what I mean) that I love to read because I so love P&P. I thought this one was pretty good, but a little slow for me. It was quite true to the original, so that was fun. I wonder how many times the authors of these types of books have read P&P. And how many other books of Austen's and the period have they also read. It would be interesting to know. Clearly, this woman was very familiar with the style because she did a good job of imitating it.

If you liked P&P and haven't read any of these sequels, this might be a nice choice to try. Available at Multnomah County Library.

In Her Shoes - Jennifer Weiner

This is a companion book to some of Jennifer Weiner's other fluff books that I've read, and I can't figure out exactly why I keep reading them. I mean, they're OK, but I have a zillion books on my shelf - have you SEEN my Shelfari list??? I think since I've read the other ones I sort of feel some sort of obligation to keep reading. Perhaps I should put this on my New Year's Resolutions list to stop doing that...

If you're just looking for an easy read about relationships, this one would be a good way to pass the time, but there are better books out there for doing that.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Book Blog Swap - WOW!

Somewhere in my blog trollings in November I saw a post about a Secret Santa Swap between book bloggers, so I thought I'd participate, and what fun it turned out to be. Dawn from Concord, queen of She Is Too Fond of Books, was my Secret Santa, and it was like she KNEW me. She sent me a whole bunch of goodies that were all prefect choices for me. I got YUMMY chocolate truffles - hand-made in Concord, a calendar of great books which I'm afraid is going to be running my library hold list up quite high, a great mix CD for yoga (which I just recently stated doing) and some of my favorite Burt's Bees lip balm. I also got a great new blog to read through this swap, and that just might be the best gift of all - it's certainly a gift that keeps on giving! Thanks, Dawn!

And then, as if the cosmos were linking us together or something, my mother-in-law sent me this fun hanging ornament which I am planning to put in my own library! How cool (and random!) is that?

I'm super glad someone decided to organize this, and I hope that Christine, who has a very cool blog (Between Concrete and Sky) about books and photography, two things I love, received her gift from me - it was scheduled to arrive on Christmas Eve - nothing like waiting until the last minute to mail a Chrismtas gift...

Hope you are all enjoying a fun and relaxing holiday season like I am :)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Change of Heart - Jodi Picoult

I fell in love with Jodi Picoult's writing when I read My Sister's Keeper, and I am afraid that book was SO amazing, that the other books of hers I've read just haven't been as good. this one in particular, I kept wanting to quit reading, but I needed to know what was going to happen. I guess that means something...

I think the main problem with this story was that I did not feel empathy for the main character who is a prisoner on death row. I want to say more, but I can't without giving things away. Jodi Picoult certainly gets readers thinking about things, and this is another of her books where I wonder what I'd think if I were a mom and I read this book. If you like Jodi Picoult's other books, you'll probably want to read this one.

Available at Multnomah County Library.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The President's Daughter books 1,2,3,4 - Ellen Emerson White

I really enjoyed this series which I started around the time of the elections. the main character is Meghan Powers, whose mother decides she's going to run for President, and she wins! Sounds pretty exciting, right? Well not to Meghan. She never wanted her mom to even run much less win! The series begins when the family still lives in Massachusetts, runs through the election, and carries on to the White House. There are many moments of suspense, some WAY too unbelievable, but of course FICTION is often about suspending disbelief, and if you can do that, I think you'll enjoy these books a lot, especially if you're interested in politics or what it's like to live in the White House.

Available at the Multnomah County Library.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Call Me Hope - Gretchen Olson

How would you feel if your parents named you Hope and then your dad left and your mom called you Hopeless all the time? It's not something anyone would wish for, and certainly not something the main character of this story enjoys. Her mother is quite verbally abusive to her, calling her names, belittling her, and generally just being mean. Hope tries so hard to be good, but it seems like she can never meet the mark. Even though you know this story is fiction, it's really hard to read some parts because you know that this really is the way some parents treat their children.

When she reads the Diary of Anne Frank in school, Hope makes a connection with Anne and the difficulties Anne's facing that help her to find ways of coping. The counselor at her school also gives her some great strategies she can use. The other thing that helps Hope through is finding people that show her they care about her, like the two women who run the resale shop where Hope gets a part time job.

This story is an intense read, but Hope's power of spirit and her constant attempts to overcome her difficulties make it an excellent piece o literature for middle grades and will hopefully open up some avenues of discussion for children in situations of verbal abuse.

Sea Otter Resuce - Roland Smith

This is one of the non-fiction Battle of the Books titles for this year, and it was a quick read and super interesting. It's about the Exxon Valdez oil spill that happened up in Alaska in 1989. I spent some time up in Alaska (even Valdez) this summer, so I was really interested in this story. Roland Smith used to be a veterinarian, so when the oil spill happened he was asked to go up and help. His first hand knowledge of the animals and of the rescue effort made this a really great piece. Plus there are awesome photos of the rescue efforts. Those little sea otters are sooooo cute. But only when they're not covered with oil.

The Exxon Valdez oil spill was one of the worst ever and caused the deaths of thousands and thousands of animals, including the sea otters, birds, seals, some whales, and many other animals. It was a devestating event that no one was properly prepared for. Luckily, as a result of the spill, people learned a lot about how to do a better job of containment and clean-up in the event of a spill, and new rules were created which will require all oil tankers in the future to have basically two hulls to help prevent spills in the case of an accident.

I'd definitely recommend this book for lovers of animals and the envirnonment.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Host - Stephenie Meyer

I have to say it took me about 200 pages to get into this book (it's over 600 pages long), and that isn't really like me. I did grow to like the story, although it's not really my kind of book. This is a sci-fi futuristic book, and although I enjoy most sci-fi, I realize now that I don't really enjoy alien sci-fi. That's just a little too weird for me. Sort of like I only like fantsy that has real people in it, I guess I also only like sci-fi that has people in it, not aliens. I think that's what saved this book for me. It did have real people in it, and now that I think about it, I think they came in around page 200...coincidence? I think not. Honestly, had it not been our book club book for this month, I probably wouldn't have finished it, but I'm glad I did.

Recommended for lovers of alien sci-fi stories middle school aged and up.

A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula LeGuin

If you've ever heard me a do a book talk, you undoubtedly know that fantasy is not really my genre, so you will probably not be surprised to hear me say that a book with the words wizard and earthsea (not even a word!) was not my favorite I've read this year. It's a Battle of the Books title, so I forced my self to read it (I listened, actually), but it was just a little too wizardy for me.

Having said that, if you LIKE fantasy, I think you will really enjoy this book. It's got a good mystery, pleny of adventure, lots of magic, and a good plot going. It's the first in the Tombs of Atuan series, and I'd definitely recommend it to fantasy fans or those who are interested in exploring this genre. It's well written and has been around for quite some time, written by Oregon's own Ursula LeGuin.

Copies of this title are available on the OBOB spinner rack in the WOMS library.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Barack Obama - Son of Promise, Child of Hope - Nikki Grimes

I read this recently published children's book just before the election. It's a good book, and I did like the illustrations a lot, but I didn't love it. I thought it could have had a little more information in it than it did. Picture books aren't my specialty, of course, but I have read quite a lot of them, and this one just didn't WOW me. It's a nice place to start, though, for young children who don't know anything about our 44th President.


Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist - Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

It is really too bad this book has so much bad language in it that I could NEVER have it in my library, because I really did enjoy the plot of this novel. Nick has just gone through a terrible break-up, and when he sees his ex at a concert, he does the only thing he can think of, he turns to the girl next to him (who he's never seen before) and asks her if she'll be his girlfriend for just five minutes. For her own reasons, Norah agrees with a whopper of a kiss. And this begins not just five minutes but a whole night of young love.

This story was written by two authors, one male and one female, and they tell the story in alternating chapters. One chapter's Nick, then the next is Norah. Sometimes this can be difficult to read, but these authors pull it off marvelously. The character development is outstanding, and these two characters, while they do have potty mouths, also have some great boundaries and don't just act without thought. In fact, they're quite thoughtful as evidenced by many of their discussions.

I'm curious to see the movie of this book which has just recently come out to see if the characters match my vision of them. It rarely happens, so I kinda doubt it. This book is only appropriate for mature high schoolers.

Shantaram - Gregory David Roberts

This was fascinating book, but I think it's the book hat's taken me the longest to finish of any book I've ever read. It took me over 6 months. Of course, if you look at teh last six months of this blog, you'll see that I have read just a couple of other things as well, but still it's quite unlike me to spend so long on one book. And then again, I don't often read 936 page books...

One reason I don't spend forever reading books generally is that I tend to forget hat was happening if I leave a book and then come back after a while. This did not, interestingly, happen at all with Shantaram. No matter how long I stepped away from it, it was always clear when I came back. I thought that was interesting.

This book had action, suspense, character development, philosophy, crime, romance, pretty much everything. I guess when you write such a long book you have room to write about everything! but the secret is in being able do it well and not have your reader feel like it was just dragging on and on. I never really felt like that with this book, which was great.

The story is about a man who got into drugs, was thrown in prison, escaped and went off to India where he ended up working for a mafia type group there. In real life, the author himself ended up in prison and escaped, went to India and opened a health clinic (also a part of the story). It was fascinating to wonder how much of this story was true, and how much completely made up. I felt like the main character's descriptions of his feelings as an escapee on the run must have been more accurate than anyone else would have been able to write them, along with some other things, like treatment of people in prisons (super difficult to read about sometimes).

I really, really enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to adults with staying power or a bunch of spare time on their hands.

The Last Chinese Chef - Nicole Mones

This was my most recent book for my grown up book club, and I totally loved it. I think it's the second best book we've done in book club (The Thirteenth Tale was my very favorite). It was beautifully done by local Portland author, Nicole Mones. At first I struggled with the ancient Chinese history part, but by the end I really enjoyed how she wove that in. It was a book that made me feel peaceful when I read it. It was totally fantabulous. I'd recommend it to other grown-ups reading this blog.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Streams of Babel - Carol Plum-Ucci

I thought this was a terrific page-turner of a book. I actually read it a little more slowly than I might have otherwise because I didn't want it to end. The events are a little unbelievable, but I found myself not really caring about that because it was a compelling story and focused a lot on character, which if you've been reading my blog for long, you'll know is really important to me. Like Plum-Ucci's other books, this is a mystery novel. Unlike her others, it's also a bioterrorism story. Those who have read her other books or who read and enjoyed Code Orange will likely enjoy this book quite a lot.

This story is told from multiple points of view - called a "split narrative. This has the effect of keeping readers in suspense - just as one character's situation comes to a head, she moves on to the next character's plight, and readers are left hanging for several more (short) chapters before they get back to Cora or Scott or Owen. This certainly works well in this novel to develop tension.

The characters are primarily teenagers - some here in the States, and one in Pakistan. The Pakistani boy, Shahzad, unlike some other terrorism novels is NOT one of the terrorists, but rather a hero working first from Pakistan then from the US to help try and find the roots of the Red Vinegar threat he's uncovered on the Internet.
Shazad is a computer genius at 16! Each of the characters in the story has his or her own quirks, and yet through this experience they all find other people who befriend them in spite of their issues. I think this is a powerful lesson for kids who often think that if someone isn't just like me, I can't hang around with them. It also shows that we all have weaknesses, and that those don't have to define us even though they're part of us.

I do worry that this type of book feeds into what I feel is sometimes an over-hyping of terrorist threats. Sure, we need to be prepared, and yes, obviously some people don't like the way our country does business and might want to hurt us. However, I don't want kids to begin to think that everyone's out to get us, and that they need to be afraid of doing normal things. For that reason, I'd recommend this book for 8th graders and up.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Mother Daughter Book Club AND Much Ado About Anne - Heather Vogel Frederick

These two books are by local author Heather Vogel Frederick, and I loved both of them. I loved them for their strong character development, for their honest portrayal of teenage girls and their relationships with their mothers and with one another, and for their literary references to two of my most favorite books - Little Women and Anne of Green Gables.

The four main characters in these novels are Megan, who would definitely rather be at the mall than at the library; Cassidy, whose over-protective mother thinks hockey is NOT the sport for her at all, even though Cassidy thinks it's her life; Emma is the Mrs. FB of the group - she's read EVERYthing; and Jess is so busy missing her mother who went off to New York for an acting job, that she can hardly think of much else.
But whether they like it or not, these four girls are going to spend one evening a month discussing books in the Mother Daughter Book Club organized by Emma's mom!

Over the course of the first book the club reads Little Women, and over the course of the second book they read Anne of Green Gables. In both books the author does a nice job of tying together things that are happening in the girls' lives with things that are happening in the novels they're reading, but you don't have to have read Little Women to understand the reference.

I thought these books were really thoughtful without being preachy, and lots of fun to read. I would definitely recommend them to middle school girls. I am hoping to use the first one as our first WOMS Book Club book. If you're interested in joining our book club, please be sure to take the SHORT survey that's on the library webpage.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Boy in the Striped Pajamas: A Fable - David Boyne

I listened to this on audio and I totally loved this book! It is a Holocaust novel, so it's not for everyone, and it would be a good idea to have someone to talk with about this novel after reading.

Bruno, the nine year old narrator of this story, is the son of a Nazi officer who moves his family from Berlin to "Out-With" where he is to be the new commandant at the concentration camp. Bruno knows nothing of what's really happening in the camp, which he can see from his bedroom window. All he knows is that many people live there behind the fence, and they all wear striped pajamas and hats and have shaved heads. As Bruno has no friends at Out-with, only a sister who he calls quite frequently, "a hopeless case," he's terribly lonely. He imagines that the people living behind the fence are all happy families who get to run and play and he's sort of jealous of them.

Then one day he meets a boy wearing striped pajamas who lives behind the fence. His name is Schmuel. Bruno and the boy become friends, with Bruno going to see Schmuel nearly every day, even though his father has expressly forbidden going anywhere near the fence. He really wants to go visit Schmuel, and Schmuel wants him to visit, but they both know it's not a good idea. One day, however, after Bruno has told Schmuel his family is moving back to Berlin, they hatch a plan for Bruno to sneak in under the fence which will lift up juuust enough.

What follows is a tense and terrifying conclusion which readers with some knowledge of the Holocaust are sure to understand although it is never spelled out.

This is an incredible piece of writing for mature readers with some understanding of the Holocaust.

Fire on the Wind - Linda Crew

This is one of our Oregon Battle of the Books titles (the 9th one I've finished out of the 16 titles for this year), and it's written by an author whose work I really enjoy, Linda Crew.

I have to admit, this book started out a little slowly, but as I got to know Storie and her family either the action picked up or I didn't mind the slower pace. I'm not really sure which. This novel is set in an Oregon logging camp in 1933 and it was really interesting to learn some things about logging. The actual fire in the novel is the Tillamook Burn. I've seen evidence of since I was a little girl but I didn't really know too much about it, and it was pretty fascinating to learn how far and fast it traveled and how it affected the people who were logging at that time.

I have to say I'm glad I didn't live back then, and I'm especially glad no one in my family was a logger, because that seemed pretty dangerous.

I really ended up enjoying this book, but if you choose to read it, just know that although it might not be that exciting at the beginning, it's a really interesting story that's worth reading.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

GET A PRIZE during Teen Read Week Oct. 12-18

Teen Read Week 2008 is next week and the library has some fun activities going on! Don’t miss out on the fun!

•Tuesday is our field trip to see Rick Riordan. This is going to be an awesome experience for the 34 7th and 8th graders who are going!

•The library will be open both lunches on Wednesday and Thursday next week to celebrate, and there will be fun games where you can win a prize!

•All students who check out a book next week will be entered in a drawing to win a free book.

•To encourage students to renew or return overdue books, all students with no overdues as of next Wednesday morning will be entered in a drawing. There will be three winners, one from each grade level. Winners will get a $5 scrip card for Borders! Get your overdues renewed or returned ASAP so you can be entered in the drawing.

The Mysterious Benedict Society - Trenton Lee Stewart

I just finished listening to the audio version of this delightful mystery about four brilliant young people who bascially save civilization. Pretty tall order for four young people, but Reynie, Sticky, Kate and Constance are up to the challenge.

The story begins when the young orphan Reynie Muldoon finds an ad in the newspaper asking, "Are you a gifted child looking for Special Opportunities?" Reynie's not SURE he is, but it sounds interesting, so he shows up. Reynie and the other children all make it through what turns out to be quite a rigorous testing regimen - each using his or her very different strengths to make it through.

After they've made it through, they're each invited by the very wise Mr. Benedict to be a part of a special group whose job it will be to infiltrate the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened (LIVE) and figure out what exactly is going on there. Mr. Benedict is quite sure that messages detrimental to society are being broadcast from the institute directly into the minds of the world's citizens, and he wants desperately to discover the origin and end the problem.

Once the children arrive it becomes clear that there is something REALLY strange going on here, and it becomes crystal clear as to why Mr. Benedict himself cannot show up here (although there is quite a scare until they've figured this last part out).

There is a lot of suspense and intrigue in this story, and the characters are very well developed, which you know I love. This is the result, of course, of excellent writing, but it also stems from the fact that the book is pretty long, so Trenton Lee Stewart had a good amount of time to flesh out his characters. I think the story has enough suspense and intrigue that most readers won't mind the length, though, and may even be surprised at how fast they can get through it. Listening to this story read aloud I think may also have contributed to my connection with the characters, but these four children are indeed very special, and grew to really love their personalities, even Constance Contraire who certainly lives up to her name.

I'd highly recommend this book to all middle school readers. This would also be a fun read-aloud at home!

This book is available at the WOMS library and at Multnomah County on audio (and in print there, too, of course). We also have the sequel, but I haven't read it yet.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Teens Top Ten/Teen Read Week

Want to vote for the Teens Top Ten books of the year? If you're ages 12-18, you're in luck! CLICK HERE, or just copy and paste this address into your browser:


At the WOMS library we have a lot of fun things going on for Teen Read Week, too!

•Tuesday is our field trip to see Rick Riordan. 7th and 8th graders, we still have a couple spots left, but come see Mrs. FB by Tuesday morning, October 6th if you want to go but haven’t turned in your paperwork yet because she’s going to give our unused spots up to another school this afternoon.

•The library will be open both lunches on Wednesday and Thursday next week to celebrate, and there will be fun games where you can win a prize!

•All students who check out a book next week will be entered in a drawing to win a free book.

•To encourage students to renew or return overdue books, all students with no overdues as of next Wednesday morning will be entered in a drawing. There will be three winners, one from each grade level. Winners will get a $5 scrip card for Borders! Get your overdues renewed or returned ASAP so you can be entered in the drawing.

Join the fun @ Your Library!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I Love Your Blog Award for me - THANKS, Ms. Yingling!

I got some exciting news when I opened my email today, and it was that Ms. Yingling had nominated me for an "I Love Your Blog" award! And now I get the joy of nominating other awesome blogs that I enjoy. I'd encourage you to check out these blogs, too.

Before I get so busy telling you how great these blogs are, I'd better give you the fine print (the rules of getting this award)

1. Add the logo of your award to your blog (which of course I proudly did!)
2. Add a link to the person who awarded it to you.
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4. Add links to those blogs on your blog.
5. Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs.

Ms Yingling Reads is one amazing blog you should definitely check out. Ms. Yinlging is a librarian in Ohio (where I have a niece and 2 nephews, so I feel extra connected to her), and she's on on a quest to read every book in her library. Unlike me, who just pretends I've read every book (all the kids think I have anyway!), she's really doing it! I love how she basically creates my order lists for me with her excellent reviews.

Here are 7 other blogs that I really like. They're interesting and fun, and I always learn a lot when I check them out.

Sarah Dessen is my very favorite YA author, and her blog is hilarious. She talks about writing, of course, but she also talks about all these other things, like shopping, shrimpburgers, television (she's a TV junkie!), and her adorable baby. She's a very stream of consciousness writer in her blog, and I feel like I know her personally even though I've never yet gotten the chance to meet her. But someday I will, I'm sure of it. I'm pretty sure we'll be BFFs as soon as we do meet.

Justina Chen Headley's blog is another author blog of someone who's writing I really enjoy. She has two books out now, Nothing But the Truth (And a Few White Lies) and Girl Overboard. And she has a new book coming out soon which I'm excited to read. Its title is North of Beautiful. I just came across her blog recently when I was checking out some Readergirlz stuff - she helped start that website - and I thought it was really great. She's living in China this year - lucky duck - and there are a lot of funny stories about her experiences there. She' coming to Portland next week for the Oregon Association of School Libraries conference, and I'm really hoping to meet her. Meeting an author for me is like meeting a rock star for most people.

I mentioned Justina helped create Readergirlz which is an online book community for girls and here's a link to their blog. Their website is also very cool. They often have contests and fun stuff going on. It's totally worth checking out. during Teen Read week they're going to have live online chats with authors. There's more info about that in a previous entry on my blog.

Fuse #8 is another fantabulous blog I like to check out. It's more for librarian type people, or booksellers, but if you're interested in finding out some cool books or interesting things going on in the publishing world, I'd highly recommend it. I guess this is technically now a School Library Journal blog, but I still call it Fuse #8.

The children's book buyer who's studying to be a children's librarian and writes on Wizards Wireless always provides me with interesting possibilities and she (well, I think it's a she, although I don't know if I've ever seen a picture now that I mention it...have I?) always has these fun little polls on her site that I love to do. Plus pictures, lots of pictures. It inspired me to put more pictures on my blog!

Here's how the YA YA YA's describe themselves: Three Young Adult Librarians blather about YA literature, YA librarianship, and maybe even the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. And they write about YA (young adult) all the time. How could you not love a group that incorporates the name of a book and a genre into their blog name and it fits so perfectly?

Sometimes as a middle school librarian I find myself struggling to find literature that is, well, I guess "wholesome" might be the word, although that sounds a little old-fashioned. But it's hard to find a balance between things that are appropriate for older, more mature readers and younger, less mature readers and to ALSO find stuff kids will enjoy. That's where Deliciously Clean Reads comes in. They will only recommend books that are free of profanity, sex and graphic violence. It's a great resource for me, and I appreciate that someone out there is hitting this angle.

So that's seven of the blogs I like to read that I feel are definitely award worthy. I hope you'll find sometime to check some of them out and get some great new ideas!

As Sarah Dessen always says, have a great day, everyone!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Readergirlz Night Bites - author chats live and online 10/13-17!

More than a dozen authors to converge on rgz forum to chat with ravenous teen readers

In celebration of Young Adult Library Services Association’s (YALSA’s) Teen Reed Week™, readergirlz (rgz) is excited to present Night Bites, a series of online live chats with an epic lineup of published authors. The chats will take place at the rgz forum, Oct. 13-17, 2008.

Playing off of YALSA’s theme of “Books with Bite,” Night Bites will feature five themed chats designed to appeal to an array of literary tastes. Sure to suck in even the most reluctant teen readers, the complete Night Bites schedule is as follows:

o Monday, Oct. 13: Multicultural Bites with authors Coe Booth (TYRELL), An Na (THE FOLD), and rgz diva Mitali Perkins (SECRET KEEPER)

o Tuesday, Oct. 14: Verse Bites with rgz diva Lorie Ann Grover (ON POINTE), Stephanie Hemphill (YOUR OWN SYLVIA), and Lisa Ann Sandell (SONG OF THE SPARROW)

o Wednesday, Oct. 15: Contemporary Bites with Ally Carter (CROSS MY HEART AND HOPE TO SPY), rgz diva Justina Chen Headley (NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL), and Maureen Johnson (SUITE SCARLETT)

o Thursday, Oct. 16: Fantasy Bites with Holly Black and Ted Naifeh (THE GOOD NEIGHBORS), rgz diva Dia Calhoun (AVIELLE OF RHIA), and Tamora Pierce (MELTING STONES)

o Friday, Oct. 17: Gothic Bites with Holly Cupala (A LIGHT THAT NEVER GOES OUT), Christopher Golden (SOULLESS), Annette Curtis Klause (BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE), and Mari Mancusi (BOYS THAT BITE).

It all happens at the rgz forum (http://groups.myspace.com/readergirlz) beginning at 6 p.m. Pacific Time (9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time), Oct. 13-17.
Watch the Night Bites video at rgz tv www.youtube.com/readergirlz

About readergirlz
readergirlz is the foremost online book community for teen girls, led by five critically acclaimed YA authors—Dia Calhoun (Avielle of Rhia), Lorie Ann Grover (On Pointe), Justina Chen Headley (Girl Overboard), and Mitali Perkins (First Daughter: White House Rules). readergirlz is the recipient of a 2007 James Patterson PageTurner Award.
To promote teen literacy and leadership in girls, readergirlz features a different YA novel and corresponding community service project every month. For more information about readergirlz, please visit www.readergirlz.com and www.myspace.com/readergirlz, or contact divas@readergirlz.com.

Seen Art? - Jon Scieszka

This is another picture book and I totally and completely fell in love with it. I bought it for our library for Mrs. Mandis to use with her classes and it ROCKS!

It's about a little boy who's looking for his friend Art in New york City? He walks up to someone on the street and asks them if they've "Seen Art?" As in, have you seen my friend named Art. But this person misunderstands him and thinks he wants to see ART, so they direct him to the Museum of Modern Art, called MoMA. When he gets there, he keeps asking different people again and again if they've "Seen Art?" Each person wants to show him a different piece of art, and the book is full of reproductions of some amazing and varied art that's in MoMA. It's an adorable story with fabulous art reproductions and wonderfully drawn characters who are going through the museum.

At the end of the book, the two friendsare re-united, and the main character definitely decides he HAS seen art.

This book didn't get raves from reviewers, but I think they must have been having a bad day because I think it's fantastic. I would highly recommend this picture book for kids through grown ups!

First Daughter: White House Rules - Mitali Perkins

This book is actually a sequel, but silly me, I didn't know that until after I read it. It didn't really matter, but I did feel like I should have known a few things. Ooops.

Sameera, the 16 year old adopted Pakistani daughter of the man who has just become President of the United States is moving into the White House and discovering that this life is going to be pretty amazing and also sort of not so hot in some ways.

I really like how spunky Sameera is, and how she is thoughtful about important issues. I also like how she has a blog. We're basically sisters, I guess :) This story is rich with opportunity for discussion. About friendship. About religion. About politics. About ethics. About how people who have money are treated and how people who don't are treated. About equality (or not) in the education of children in our country. About love and what it means.

This book was a quick read and required some suspension of disbelief, but I really enjoyed it and I think middle school girls will really like it.

P.S. Mitali Perkins is a fun author who is one of the co-founders of the way cool website Readergirlz. http://www.readergirlz.com/issue.html You should really check it out.

Sweetheart - Chelsea Cain

This book was the sequel to Heartsick which I read last year, and both books are definitely grown-up books. They're about a female serial killer, and while I love them, for their mystery and suspense they are definitely not for middle schoolers.

Chelsea Cain, the author, came to my book club last night to talk about her book, and I am always so excited to meet an author and talk with her (or him) about the process of writing a book. It's so interesting to me how someone can create a whole world, and characters, and action and suspense and all that. How do they do it? It was super awesome to get to hear her ideas and how she did her writing and what she was thinking about while she was writing. I you ever get a chance to meet an author, I'd definitely recommend it!

And Tango Makes Three - Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

Welcome to Banned Books Week, the week that librarians across the country remind people about the First Amendment and its importance!

For Banned Books Week I decided to set up a display of picture books that have been challenged and/or banned and have students try and guess why. And Tango Makes Three was one of the most often challenged books in the country last year, so I had to read it to find out why.

This picture book, done in lovely watercolors, is the story of three penguins. And you should know that it's based on a TRUE story from the Central Park Zoo in New York City. In the Central Park Zoo there are two chinstrap penguins, Roy and Silo, both male, who have decided that they like each other instead of liking female penguins. So they do everything together, and one day they build themselves a nest and begin sitting on it, just like they see all the other penguins doing. Except two males aren't going to produce an egg. A zookeeper notices the two penguins and brings an egg from another nest that might not have otherwise made it and gives it to Roy and Silo, and they sit on the egg until it hatches - enter Tango. The three of them are a very happy family and do everything the other penguins do.

This is a lovely, sweet story about penguins. Can you guess why it was challenged so many times? Make a comment and let me know what you think about why it might have been challenged and what you think about challenging books. Should people be able to say books should be taken off the shelf in a library? Why or why not?

If you'd like to see this book, you can get it at the Multnomah County Library.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature - Robin Brande

Wow, would I NOT like to be Mena. She's a high school freshman who is shunned by many of her peers, people who USED to be her best friends. Mena has done something, clearly, but there are only veiled hints as to what it is for the first probably half of the book. Whatever it was, it surely made some people VERY angry. Angry enough that while they profess to be Christian, they call her some very unkind names.

Luckily, Mena finds a new friend, Casey, but there's one big problem. Casey's a boy. Mena's already in big trouble at home for whatever it is she already did, and now she wants to go to the house of a BOY?!? He is her only friend, and it is for science class, well, at least at first, but still. She knows her parents would never go for it, and so she begins to lie. And when was the last time you ever read a novel (or saw a real life situation for that matter) where the lying worked out? Mmmmm-hmmmm.

And then there's this whole other part of the story which is about Mena's science class where her teacher is teaching about evolution. But one of the town's pastors is very against this, and wants Intelligent Design included in the curriculum. Ms. Shepherd, the teacher, is having no part of it. Mena is a thoughtful Christian girl. She has trouble understanding the great rift between evolution and Christianity. In fact, she even finds some places in the Bible where she sees evidence of evolution.

As she tries to makes sense of all this - the behavior of her pastor, her so-called friends, her parents - for herself and for others (The Bible Grrrl says), she learns a lot of important lessons about leadership and doing the right thing even when it's hard. She learns a few things about puppies, Lord of the Rings and first love as well.

I'd highly recommend this to 8th graders and up who like science and a novel that makes you think a little. I think some of the science concepts might bog down younger readers.

Thwonk - Joan Bauer

I read this directly after reading Squashed, and it's the Joan Bauer novel I've like least of all her books that I've read. It has a sort of cute premise. The protagonist, AJ, finds a cupid who can grant her one "area of improvement." She, of course, picks love over grades or talent, and it turns into quite a fiasco when the boy who suddenly is in love with her goes WAAAAAY over the top and actually ends up making her kind of nuts.

Unfortunately, I thought it was a little overdone and while it was funny in parts, I didn't think it was of the same caliber as her other novels. An OK read, but just that.

Squashed - Joan Bauer

I REALLY liked this story!

Ellie is trying to grow a champion super-sized pumpkin for the town fair, and so far it's been a very good year. but growing a champion is NOT easy stuff. Did you know you had to inject those babies with a super secret potion through a slit in the stem? Or did you know that sometimes at night you had to cover them with a heating pad? Or did you know that if the hail's a comin', you'd better get out there with 10 layers of blankets and maybe even a trap tent or a lean-to? Well as someone who had trouble growing even zucchini this summer (must amend soil!), I was pretty fascinated by all the effort it takes to grow a pumpkin!

And then there are all the other issues:
* the problem of pumpkin stealers!
* the problems of the parents (or of only having one parent in this case, and not a
farmer one at that)
* the problem of the cute boy
* the problem of the extra 20 pounds and the pants that are seriously going to burst
at the seams...ever worn a pair like that?

I thought this story was a lot of fun. Joan Bauer tends to be a funny author, and this story, like many of her others had quite a lot of humor in it. I also cried in some parts when Ellie's desperately missing her mother. It had great suspense, and readers will find themselves cheering Ellie on right up until the end. A lovely fall read! Highly recommended for all levels of middle school.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Her Royal Spyness - Rhys Bowen

I thought this would be a sleuth/spy novel sort of like I'd Tell You I Love you But Then I'd Have to Kill You or Maisie Dobbs, but it was more grown up than those. It wasn't super complicated in its plot or anything, but the main character, a young woman 34th in line for the throne of England, is a little older and I don't think this story would be very interesting for middle schoolers. I liked it ok as an adult, but it didn't really move along quite fast enough for me.

The Princess and the Pauper - Kate Brian

This is a typical trade lives book, but even though I sort of knew what was going to happen, I didn't know all the details, and I thought it was a fun little read.

Princess Carina, on a trip to America, is dying to get away from her bodyguards so she can go to a concert and meet the rock star she's been e-mailing with. This is proving quite difficult. But then they meet Julia; she's practically Carina's TWIN! With some work on Julia, they're pretty sure they can pull it off. But Julia doesn't really want to participate...until they offer her $10,000 which she and her mother, who are about to be evicted from their apartment for not paying their rent on time, REALLY need.

They manage the switch-off, and it seems to be working, at least at first it's working. Needless to say, things quickly unravel, and before she knows it, Carina is stranded in the desert and Julia is on a plane across the ocean.

It's a story with some sweet moments and some funny ones. This is definitely a more girl oriented book than boy oriented, but if you're a girl and you like princess stories, I'd recommend it.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Accidental Love - Gary Soto

This book wasn't as good as I was hoping it was going to be, but it was still good. The premise is that a girl gets in a fight, like a real fist fight, and in the course of that two of the people involved drop their identical cell phones. Of course, they pick up the opposite person's phone without realizing it.

14 year old Maria is the protagonist in this story. And she's a pretty tough young woman. Rene (a boy) is the owner of the other phone. He is an absolute NERD. Marisa surprises herself by becoming attracted to this little nerd, despite his high-water pants and his white socks. His personality wins her over. And Marisa begins to see that he has opportunities that she definitely does/ will not at the school she's currently attending. She figures out a way to transfer, and things are really looking up for her academically. Rene's mother, however, is NOT keen on Marisa, and she does everything she can to keep them apart.

There are a lot of struggles in this book which many teens will relate to in some way. Hispanic teens will particularly appreciate the smattering of Spanish phrases thrown in, and they will be easily understood by all readers. A not-so typical teen romance novel.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Do the Math - Secrets Lies and Algebra by Wendy Lichtman

If you like math, this is a GREAT fiction book for you. If you don't like math, but you like stories about middle schoolers and the things they're thinking about, this is a book for you. If you like both, it's your lucky day.

This book is about an 8th grade girl who's really good at math, and she figures out how math is really related to everything else. She can apply it to people's personalities, to situations, to relationships, everything. I like math ok, but I'm not really a math person, so it was interesting to me to see math applied in these kind of not usually math kinds of situations.

The plot isn't too complicated or earth shattering, but it's very like what's going on in middle school, and for this reason, I think many students will enjoy it.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Snow Baby - K. Kirkpatrick

The full title of this book is The Snow Baby: The Arctic Childhood of Admiral Robert E. Peary’s Daring Daughter. This is an award winning, non-fiction book about the childhood of Marie Ahnighito Peary, and it is fascinating. There are TONS of photographs in this book, and they're all very interesting. Marie's father, Admiral Peary was trying to reach the North Pole. The story is full of fascinating tales of Marie's experiences and those of her father's explorations. Sometimes Marie went on the explorations with her father, but other times she did not. Often they were separated on different continents. There were many, many struggles for her father and for the whole family.

It's a super good book, and it's not that long, so it doesn't require a huge investment of time. I'd highly recommend this book, and we have it in the WOMS library.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

This is my new "Little Girls Book Club" book for my book club I do with my 10 year old niece. I don't know how I missed this book in the past. It's awesome! It's a little bit challenging because there's some discussion of things that were taking place in India when it was under British rule, and if you didn't know what an "ayah" was, for example, it might get confusing. There's also a lot of English dialect that makes it a little challenging, but it's SO worth it.

It's a lovely story about a young girl who becomes orphaned and has to go live with her uncle who is a very sad and depressed man. At her new home, she discovers there's a garden where no one is allowed to go, and she's determined to find it. She also discovers a little boy there, and he is NOT a particularly nice little man. She, however, is equally not nice, so they make a perfect pair. But together, with the help of a perfectly WONDERFUL young man of the moors, they form a friendship and grow into people who are not only nice, but really quite wonderful. And their friendship works many miracles, both for themselves and for others.

It's quite a delight, and I'd highly recommend it!

5 OBOB books this week!

Here are the 5 OBOB (Oregon Battle of the Books) books I read this week:

The Pinhoe Egg
Ark Angel (my favorite of the five)
The Stouthearted Seven
Atherton: House of Power

Can I just say that for some reason I wasn't that excited about this group when I read the titles? Now though, it's a whole different story. I really, really liked ALL these books. I'm excited to tell you all about them and get teams signed up for OBOB. the regional competition is Feb. 28th here a our very own school, and I'll be getting students signed up next month for school competition teams. We'll also have hte all 6th grade competition as usual. Ms. Darby's hoping to retain the trophy that's been in her room for 2 consecutive years now, but Mrs. Gatlin's determined to take it away! Look for many more details later.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Princess Mia - Meg Cabot

A totally typical Princess Diaries book, and of course I liked it a lot. You'd think I'd grow out of these, but I haven't. I think it's just that I know Mia so well now, it's like having an old friend come by for a visit. What is this number 7 or 8 in the series or something? And she's still the same old Mia. Maybe it's that somewhere inside I still hope that someone's going to tell me I'm a princess...I really ought to be one, you know. And every time I have a summer vacation I realize more that I was meant to live a life of luxury...but alas, I don't think it's to be if it hasn't happened by now. Good thing I have the next best job to being princess---school librarian :)

If you liked the rest of the series, this one's a sure thing. If you haven't ever read a Princess Diaries book and you, like me, wonder what it would be like to be a princess, check this series out. Although I'm warning you, even princesses have to pass Algebra!

Feed - MT Anderson

This audio book was one of the best audio presentations I've ever heard. I really want to look at the book's text and see how it's done, because the way they presented the audio was amazing. I'd HIGHLY recommend the audio of this novel.

This book is set in the future, at a time when basically everyone has some sort of computer chip implanted in our brains, and we receive information directly, kind of like having the Internet and TV commercials all directly routed into our brains. Most people never question it, but Violet's not like the others, and she wants people to think! Frighteningly, I think this story has some very real possibilities. Maybe like Orson Wells's 1984 which he wrote in 1949. A little too prescient.

Some of the material and language is more appropriate for high school than middle school, so I won't be getting this book in our library, but I'd recommend it to mature readers and high schoolers. There's a lot of cool stuff and some pretty creepy stuff, but any way you look at it, it's fascinating contemplating the future.

Wait for Me - An Na

I listened to an audio version of this book (not the best reader ever, I thought), and it took me quite a while to really get hooked. The action was pretty slow during the first part of the story. As it went on, however, the story become very compelling, and many students will determine this book a winner.

This is an immigrant (Korean) family drama where, typically, the teenagers in the family clash with the parents who have perhaps more traditional values than their children. For Mina, she has no voice of her own, even to tell her mother about important things. There is a lot of hurt in this family, often suppressed for many years, and there are many deep secrets tearing this family apart. The question is whether they will be able to find a way to work through their problems or whether things will explode to an irreparable point.

Although the immigrant issues will ring true for some, the issues of parents and children striving to find a way to co-exist peacefully will resonate with nearly all teens.

A great story by Printz Honor winner, An Na.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Heart, You Bully ,You Punk - Cohen

This was my book club pick for August, and it was definitely a heart breaker at the end. Every single person in the book group was like, "WHAT?????" It was an interesting study of three people: teenager Ann James, her math teacher/tutor, Esker, and her father. The writing in this novel is quite stunning, and upon a second reading I found more sympathy for the most troubling of the three characters, but this is one of those books where I'm not really sure if I liked it or not because there was so much I questioned about so many of the characters' behaviors. An interesting read for grown ups with lots to discuss.

The Constant Princess - Philippa Gregory

THIS was a fantabulous book about the life of Katherine of Aragon. It is quite an amazing and interesting story. I can't even imagine some of the things she lived through. And even though I knew what was coming at the end, the getting there was a wonderful journey. Great story!!

Saturday - Ian McEwan

I have to say, this novel draaaaged for the first 3/4 of it, but I was determined to finish it since I'd borrowed it from a friend nearly a year ago and it had merely languished on my pile. By the time I got to the last 1/4, though, I couldn't stop. It's kind of an interesting work, since it takes place all in one day in the life of a neurosurgeon in London, and not many books are like that. The characterization, although I expected it to be really strong based on the type of story, was not what I'd hoped for. Or maybe it was just that I never REALLY cared about the characters as much as I wanted to. It was an OK book, but not one of my faves.

Suite Francaise - Irene Nemirovsky

This was an amazing book - one of the best adult books I've read all year! It was written by a young Russian Jewish woman in France during WWII about the occupation of the Germans in France. It was heartbreaking in its honesty and clarity. It was a different perspective than one usually sees in Holocaust literature, which I really liked.

Because the author of this book was sent to Auschwitz, this book was actually only 2/5 finished, and it is difficult to imagine the power the completed work might have had after reading this.


Sunday, August 03, 2008

The New Yorkers - Cathleen Schine

This was a super fun audio book. It's another of my summer grown-up books. I'm not sure where I got the idea to read it. The friend I thought recommended it to me, said she's never heard of it. Whoever recommended it, good choice. Nice, light summer story. Has a sense of short stories about it at first, but then they weave together. Not a Pulitzer Prize winner, but I liked it.

6 Summer Reads

On vacation and in between vacations (well, I guess the whole summer's really vacation, but I mean vacation, vacation, like actually leaving home vacation) I got busy and did a bunch of reading. Only one of the books on this list is a YA book That book is the first on my list: Deadline (audio) by Chris Crutcher. Chris Crutcher is one of my favorite YA authors. He writes about tough experiences, and bases a lot of his writing on the work he does as a therapist for adolescents. His work, including this one, is always thoughtful and though provoking. Many of his books have been challenged because people thought they dealt with topics too mature for kids. I think this one is a little advanced for middle school both topically i na few spots and philosophically, but it is great writing and would be perfect for high schoolers.

Deadline focuses on Ben Wolf who discovers, just at the beginning of his senior year, that he has terminal cancer. his parents don't know, and since he's 18, he can decide whether to tell them or not. He decides not to. He's trying to save his family from pain. As a grown up I can see how that's never going to work, but I admire his idea of protecting the people he loves. The book is a roller coaster of emotion and has really funny parts, and really sad parts, as you can imagine. I, of course, was bawling near hte end, and if you're home reading where no one can see you, it's one thing, but if oyu're sitting in your car listening to a story while everyone in the parking lot can see you crying your eyes out, you get some looks, let me tell you!

I'll just give you a quick blurb of the adult books:

**Whistling in the Dark - Kagen I read this for my reading group. It was OK, but not great. It just never really grabbed me.
**Seven Wonders - John C. Ryan This was a fabulous quick read of seven inventions we have that if more people started using them could probably save our planet! Some of the things are (1) the laundry line (instead of the dryer), (2) the library (instead of buying new books all the time - that's a lot of paper!), (3) the bicycle (instead of cars)
**The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Bauby Incredible story (now a movie) of a very successful man in his early 40s who suffers a massive stroke and is imprisoned inside a non-functional body with a completely sharp mind. He dictated this story through eye blinks! Amazing and utterly distressing.
**Water for Elephants - Gruen I loved this story about life in a circus in the post-Depression era. It was fascinating. Great photos to accompany the text.
**Thunderstruck (audio) - Erik Larson We'd already listened to another of this author's novels (Devil in the White City) which we enjoyed, so we thought we'd give this one a try. Interestingly, he followed nearly the same format. Two separate stories that after a LOOOONG time, come together. This one, too, had a mystery as one storyline, and the other storyline was that of Marconi, the inventor of wireless communication. Imagine if he could see what "wireless" means now! A little too much of the Marconi for me, but it was enjoyable, nevertheless. The reader could have been better. His voice as a little too soothing, and I kept falling asleep. Luckily, I wasn't driving!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Airhead - Meg Cabot

Well, this was an OK Meg Cabot, but I didn't think it was her best. The reviewers really liked it, though. I liked it, too; I just didn't LOVE it.

It's a bit of a Twist on Freaky Friday and maybe sort of Frankenstein where the main character ends up a science experiment as a brain/body transplant patient. Was it coincidence or fate that super smart but kind of nerdy Emerson Watts and supermodel Nikki Howard were both at the opening of a new Stark Megastore when the ginormous TV screen crashed down? Guess whose brain got saved and guess whose body...

So now Em has to figure out how to convince people that she's really NOT Nikki, even if she looks like her, and she has to figure out WHY she has this other person's body, too. It's got a lot of funny parts when people expect her to be someone she's not, and it's got some good thought-provoking parts as well.

If you're a Meg Cabot fan, a Freaky Friday fan, an A-list girl, or one who's the complete opposite of this, you'd probably enjoy this novel. And if you enjoy this, be sure to watch for the sequel.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

3 Maisie Dobbs Novels - Jacqueline Winspear

This is a great little series about a young woman detective named, you guessed it, Maisie Dobbs. The three books I've finished are called

Maisie Dobbs
Birds of a Feather
Pardonable Lies.

I listened to the first one on audio. The reader read with an English accent (the books are set in post WWI England), and then I "heard" Maisie's voice in my head with the next two. It was pretty cool.

I love Maisie's spunk and determination. She makes some poor decisions in her relationships with people, though, which is disappointing, but then again, real life sometimes is.

I'd definitely recommend this series to lovers of mystery.

The Last Juror - John Grisham

This was partly a mystery story, but mostly it was a character story. And that made it a perfect combo for me, since mystery is one of my favorite genres, but I really love books with really strong characterization. It's the most important thing for me in a book. It's one of the reasons I don't like short stories. This book was set in the South, and had some really wacky characters and some characters that were unavoidably lovable. Unfortunately, I really disliked the ending of this story, so I'd only give it three stars.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

2 books by Ally Carter

During this last week of school I really needed some easy on the brain reading, so I read two of Ally Carter's books for grown-ups: Cheating at Solitaire and Learning to Play Gin. They were fine, but I have to say that Ally Carter does kids books WAY better than she does grown-up books. I totally loved and adored I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You and its sequel (unfortunately I can't remember the name of that one - hey, give me a break, it's my LAST day of school - my brain is full), and I was only middle of the road on these two. These were a little too surface-y and a little too predictable for me. Don't get me wrong, they were perfect for the week I was having, but they just weren't what I expected from her, having read the other two first. Her character development was super strong in the kids books, and there was a ton of suspense. In these grown-up books, not so much. I'm hoping she continues her spy school series - what can I say, maybe we're both just kids at heart.

Happy Summer!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

2 books by Justina Chen Headly

Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies)
Girl Overboard

These books are written by my dentist's sister-in-law, of all things, which is how I heard about them, and I really enjoyed them. Both books have Asian main characters, which is great, as there are not that many Asian main characters in teen writing, although more are appearing each year. Both books are very funny and have boy and girl characters, although both leads are girls. (My dentist did tell me Justina is writing her next one from a boy's perspective - yeah!).

One thing I really like about these main characters is that in Nothing but the Truth the main character is a super smart math student and in Girl Overboard the lead is a super studly snowboarder. The characters both have some big flaws, so they're not perfect (because in real life, who is?), but I really like that they're both in roles that are not necessarily traditionally thought of as "girl" roles.

Both books also deal with parent issues, and most kids, no matter what ethnic group they belong to, can relate to that!

I enjoyed both books, but I have to say I liked Girl Overboard better - I thought it was a little smoother. I'm looking forward to the next installment from Justina Chen Headly

PS I found out from the book jacket this author is one of the co-founders of that super-cool readergirlz website I like so much: http://www.readergirlz.com/issue.html
Way to go, Justina!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Hedda Gabler - Henrik Ibsen

This summer I'm planning to see a play in Ashland called The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler so my friend Susannah said I had to read the original play first. I listened to it on CD, and it wasn't read by just one person, but was actually a taping of a performance, or at least it had all the characters acted by different people.

It is a crazy play with a wild woman at the helm. I'm not sure when it is set, but it's definitely at a time when women still do not have many freedoms, and Hedda clearly longs for them. She is definitely trapped in many ways, and she does not react well to her circumstances. She's biting and can be quite cruel, as I can imagine I might be if I were in her situation. She's also somewhat obsessed with some pistols, which is not really a good thing for a woman of her temperament.

I did figure out from this why there's a picture of a pistol on the playbill, but given the fact that I'm going to see her FURTHER adventures, I was kind of surprised at the ending of the play. That's show-business I guess, hey?

A fun, very fast play that I'd definitely recommend to adults, especially this CD version available at Multnomah County Libraries.

Austenland - Shannon Hale

Shannon Hale writes really fabulous YA books - check out my previous post on Book of a Thousand Days - but this is one she did for adults. It's a play on Pride and Prejudice, focused on a character who is holding out for her Mr. Darcy to come along before she will entertain any idea of a serious relationship. Well, no, not really true. She entertains the idea of serious relationships all the time, and even has several, but Colin Firth just never shows up. Then her aunt dies and leaves her a trip to "Austenland" an interactive dramatic camp of sorts for enthusiasts of Jane Austen. She goes there thinking she'll be forced to get over her obsessions, but you'll have to read it yourself to find out if it works out that way or not. A fun, fast read (or listen to in my case) for Jane Austen fans only.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls by Matt Ruff

This was my book group's last book, and I thought it was fascinating. It's a fictional story about someone with multiple personality disorder. I am telling you, I would not want to have that. It must be so difficult. The story was well told and engaging, but it was pretty confusing at first because there were all these souls living in the main character's head, and it was a little tricky to tell who was who at the beginning. I don't think many middle schoolers would be interested in this, but I sure enjoyed it

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hattie Big Sky - Kirby Larson

My friend Shannon recommended this book to me, and so did Mrs. Robinson. It's another one that I'd been meaning to read for a long time but just didn't seem that interesting. Wow, was I wrong. I LOVED this book, and I can totally see why it was a Newbery Honor. the writing is delicious, the imagery top notch, and the characterization extremely strong. I felt for Hattie and rooted for her the whole way.

After reading this novel I know for sure I could never have been a pioneer woman, especially as a teenager. Hattie, however, was made of hearty stock, and she put her best effort into every step required for earning her homestead in Montana. I wonder if her uncle who left it to her in his will knew she was so hearty, didn't realize the incredible effort this was going to require from Hattie, or knew this might be her only chance so gave it to her just in case she could make it.

This book was an extremely accurate portrayal, I think, of the difficulties of homesteading and the way communities pulled together and were pulled apart sometimes, as in the case of the German immigrants in this novel. I really liked the parallels the author drew between what was happening in this novel during World War I and some of the things that have resulted from 9/11 in her additional material after hte end of the story.

I would highly recommend this novel. Available in the WOMS library.

The Final Warning - James Patterson

I got to read this book thanks to Colin W. :)

Do you think it will really be the FINAL one? I doubt it. I enjoy this series a lot, so I won't mind if there are more, but I didn't think this was as good as some of the others in the series. Speaking of which...can I just say

THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!

to James Patterson and the folks at his website for the TEN, yes, you read that correctly, TEN copies of the third book in the series that were sent FREE to our library courtesy of James and his website. They offered free copies to the first 1000 schools that applied, and apparently we were in the first 1000. That is SO cool.

If you have not read any of the other books in this series, you should probably start at the beginning, not with The Final Warning, and you're in for a wild ride. It's quite a series. It's also being made into a movie, I believe, which ought to be pretty interesting. I'm not sure how they're going to portray bird kids because I have a hard time visualizing them myself, but Hollywood has some great tricks up their sleeves, so I'm sure it will be good.

Science fiction fans, suspense fans and adventure fans will all love Maximum Ride. 1-3 currently available at the WOMS library; book 4 will be here in the fall.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Big Over Easy - Jasper Fforde

I really enjoy Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next mysteries, so I decided to give this one a go, but it wasn't nearly as good as the Thursday books, so I was a little disappointed. This author generally writes for adults, although there's no reason a younger audience couldn't read them, I just don't think they'd want to read them. They're pretty literary, with references to all kinds of novels and storylines, which can make them a little confusing if you don't have enough background knowledge. I think that may have been part of my problem with this one. Th storyline in this novel revolves around the NCD, the Nursery Crimes Division, so you need to know a lot of nursery rhymes, and although I have a passing knowledge of many, I don't have a thorough knowledge of them, which really might have helped.

Based on the title, The Big Over Easy, can you figure out which nursery rhyme was the heart of this novel? If you guessed Humpty Dumpty, who had a great fall, you'd be right. Humpty is dead, and it's up to detectives Jack Sprat (who, surprise, surprise, cuts off all the fat from his bacon) and Mary Mary to figure out what happened. And each time they think they've got it, they discover they're not quite there yet.

This book is an ok read, but if you're just trying Jasper Fforde, go for the Thursday next books. The Eyre Affair is the first in the series I think.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Susan Fletcher to speak May 18th

If you have never had a chance to hear Susan Fletcher speak, this is an awesome opportunity. She's a fantastic writer who has had some amazing experiences, particularly in connection with the writing of this book. Her book Alphabet of Dreams which she'll be discussing on May 18th at the Wilsonville Public Library is an incredibly rich story and it's been chosen for the 2008-09 school year OBOB list. I'd highly recommend this as a family outing. But don't ask her to sign your shirt...only some of us get that privilege!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Lock and Key - Sarah Dessen

My favorite, favorite YA author has finally had another book published. I don't know why it's taken her so long - how much time can having a baby take up? ;)

I love Sarah Dessen so much because she's such a great character writer, and if you know what I like to read, you know that character is my number one focal point. If it has strong characters, I'm probably going to love it. If it doesn't, it's not likely to be high on my list. This book, like her others, has really strong main characters and some fairly strong more minor characters as well, namely Jamie and her friend at school whose name is escaping me - Olivia maybe? This book, like Dessen's others, ask characters, and readers, to re-think what they think they know - a good practice for most people probably. She also focuses on the importance of telling the truth, and how it can really mess things up if you don't. Even if telling the truth doesn't seem like a great option, not telling it is usually worse. Dessen really shows how vital these things can be through the relationship of Ruby and Nate. And of course there might be a little romance involved, for which, chick-flick addict that I am, I am always a sucker.

I didn't feel Ruby's sister Cora was quite as believable as I wanted. I'm not sure why this was, maybe since she held back a lot as a character I felt more disconnected, and maybe that's how it was supposed to be, but she just didn't feel quite right to me. Also, the fairy tale element of it was a little too much. People in reviews were saying one good thing about this novel was that this time the Dessen character was poor, and at the very beginning of the story, she surely was. I know I've never had to live in a house where the power has been turned off. That must be a really stressful situation to be in! But Ruby goes from nothing to everything in this novel, and seems to adjust pretty easily. There were things that couldn't have happened if she hadn't, but again, it just didn't feel right to me.

Now this book is no Truth About Forever, mind you, my favorite Ssrah Dessen of all time, but lightning rarely strikes twice so who'd expect it to be? If you like Sarah Dessen or you've never read her work but you like books with strong characters and possibly a little romance, you might want to check out this newest novel by Sarah, Lock and Key.

Two copies available at the WOMS library.

Eat, Love, Pray

I read this grown-up book over the weekend for my book club. It was pretty good, although I felt that the main character tended to be a little whiny. I did like that she put her whole self out there, though, not trying to make herself seem perfect. I think she sure missed a lot of the beauty of Italy by not going to any museums. Might have walked off some of those 23 pounds if she had...I liked the India and Bali sections better because she seemed less self absorbed. There were some very interesting philosophical points to think about with this book. I'll probably read the sequel which is due out next year, but then again I might just have someone tell me about it.

LOVED the cover of this book! Very cool photos.

Peak - Roland Smith

I just listened to this newest Roland Smith novel on CD, and I really enjoyed it. It's the story of Peak Marcello (yes, his crazy mountain climbing parents really did name him Peak!) who gets into a little trouble with the law over some skyscraper climbing in New York City. Apparently some people don't think imitating Spiderman is such a great idea...

So Peak can either go to a juvenile detention facility or go to Thailand with his dad - who he hasn't heard from, incidentally, in about 7 years. Well, it's not really a choice, is it? So off he goes to "Thailand." Or, actually, to Mt. Everest. Turns out his dad's mountain climbing guiding business is in a little financial trouble, and he intends to have Peak climb Mt. Everest to give things a little jump-start. Peak, you see, would be the youngest person to ever climb Mt. Everest if he makes it. A VERY big if. But a VERY big deal if he actually does make it.

At first I was thinking this was insane. Well, actually I still think it was insane, but I was thinking that it would be impossible for such a young person to climb Mt. Everest and survive. Many grown-ups don't make it. How could a kid do it? Turns out, a very few kids HAVE done it, so I was wrong. Knowing that, I was better able to accept the story, and I thought it was really interesting.

There were many suspenseful moments in this novel for sure, and I think kids are really going to like it. It's been chosen as an Oregon Battle of the Books book for next year, and I'm very excited to announce that we will be hosting Roland Smith as a guest author at our school next February as well. We have several copies of this book, so come on down and check it out!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sarah Dessen's Lock and Key out tomorrow

Well, I don't know about you, but I'll definitely be going to Powell's tomorrow to pick up Sarah's new novel, Lock and Key. In the meantime, you can ready an interview with here from when she "chatted" with the Readergirlz.

You can click the title of this post or you can paste this link into your browser!


Also, today's the last day to enter Sarah's contest, so don't miss out. See my post from a few days ago on that!

As Sarah always says, Have a great day, everyone!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Teen Reads Contest

5 Lucky winners will win a totebag filled with five free books from TEENREADS.COM! One of them is signed by Meg Cabot!! This contest is running through April 23rd. Age 13 years and older only.

Click on the title of this entry to go to the site, or copy and paste this URL


Lionboy Trivia FINAL Question

Posting date: 4/18
Due Date:4/21/08

Question: What special gift from his mother, to be used only in an emergency, does Charlie share with the lions?

Thanks for playing Lionboy trivia! We hope you enjoyed the book and our game!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Lionboy Trivia Question #16

Posting date: 4/17
Due Date:4/19

Question: The Chief Executive claims he wants to find the cure for asthma. Why doesn’t Magdalen believe him?

Stephenie Meyer coming to PORTLAND!!

Tuesday, May 20
Powell's Books presents …guest speaker STEPHENIE MEYER author of the bestselling TWILIGHT series, currently being filmed in Portland!
Doors at 6 p.m.; $26 advance tickets;
price includes a copy of her new novel The Host (not part of the Twilight series)

Tickets available at Ticketmaster, Bagdad & Crystal box offices.
All ages welcome!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lionboy Trivia Question #15

Posting date: 4/16/08
Due Date: 4/18/08

Question: When the huge snake finally sheds its skin, what’s underneath?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Readergirlz Teen Book Drop April 17th!!!


So somehow I missed this little tidbit, but there's a cool thing going on in jsut a few days from now called Operation Teen Book Drop. Here are the details:

YALSA and readergirlz are partners in Operation Teen Book Drop (TBD). To celebrate April 17, 2008, Support Teen Literature Day, we've organized a massive, coordinated release of 10,000 publisher-donated YA books into the top pediatric hospitals across the country!

We invite you to celebrate Support Teen Lit Day with us. How? Donate one of your own books to your community and join our amazing online book bash: The TBD Post-Op Party.

What To Do Now?

- Download and print the appropriate readergirlz/YALSA/TBD bookplate. Paste it into the book you plan to donate. (http://www.readergirlz.com/tbd.html)

- Leave one copy of your novel, with a TBD bookplate pasted inside, in a teen gathering spot in your community. Place it where the book will be found, taken, and read. (i.e. a coffee shop, the park, your school, a bus stop.) Imagine the fun someone will have when they find your donation! This is the same day all 10,000 publisher-donated books will be dropped in pediatric hospitals across the country, and it is the same day authors and readergirlz worldwide will release their own books into their communities just as you have.

If you're allowed to go on MySpace, here's anotehr opportunity for you. We invite all readergirlz and authors to join our online two-hour book party hosted at the readergirlz MySpace group forum (http://groups.myspace.com/readergirlz), on April 17th (Support Teen Literature Day), from 6-8pm Pacific/9-11pm Eastern. The chat will be in a thread titled "TBD Post Op Party." The readergirlz divas will be giving away books and prizes, and chatting with teens and authors from around the world. We've invited so many authors and girlz you just never know who you might end up chatting with!

Operation TBD has special meaning to the readergirlz divas. After researching pediatric oncology wards for her novel GIRL OVERBOARD, Justina Chen Headley spent a year purchasing autographed YA novels to donate to her local Children's Hospital, specifically because most hospitals do not have comfort objects for teens. Lorie Ann Grover (ON POINTE) and Dia Calhoun (AVIELLE OF RHIA) personally know the healing power of stories during hospital stays, since they both live with chronic illness. Mitali Perkins (WHITE HOUSE RULES) has recently joined the team and is eager to support a readergirlz/YALSA special project.

We all know that books give hope. Together, let's show our love of teen lit and ROCK THE DROP.

Read, reflect, and reach out!