Monday, October 31, 2011

A Lovely Surprise, Part 2

Happy Halloween!

Patti and I were tagged by our blog friend Dog Ear as one of her 5 selections for a Liebster Award which highlights blogs with less than 200 subscribers. We'd like to pass on the goodness by recognizing 5 more blogs. Thank you, Dog Ear!

Printz Picks : Mock Printz discussions. What's not to love here?

Pinot and Prose : This blog is by a former library marketer turned freelancer and food writer. Laura mostly writes about food, so take a break from all your book blogs and let your eyes feast on this one.

Awesome Storytime : This one is a storytime treasure! Librarian, teacher, parent - so many good ideas here.

BookMoot : A long-time kidlit blogger. Camille is a Texas school librarian.

Bookish : A newish blog on the book scene. Check them out.

The award requirements:
  • Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
  • Reveal your 5 picks on your blog with links.
  • Let the winners know by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • Post the reward on your blog.
(A Lovely Surprise, part 1)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I May Not Have Been Posting, but I Have Been Reading

A ton of books. A ton! And some were real stinkers. Let's recap (briefly and in reading order):

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
In my official reviewing capacity, I would classify this book as "OK." I really like curmudgeons and there was a great one in this book. The ending was far fetched and ridiculous, but the book overall was entertaining enough. The setting was great.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
If you're looking for a romance with no sexual tension between a bossy vampire with no personality and a witch who could be interesting, but isn't. Well, this is the book for you! There were some disturbing parallels to Twilight. He sneaks in her window and smells her (*shudder*) she falls in love with him, his incredible need to protect her makes him so angry (so angry!) that sometimes he just can't take it. And they never have sex. Never. And it is really, really long.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
This was really fun. I loved Rory, she was just a real appealing character. Loved the idea and setting. Wished there was more to it. I know it is the first in a series, but I didn't get a good enough sense of "why" to make me want to tune in for more. I reserve the right to change my mind though.

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
A Scandinavian police mystery where a cop has gotten shot and his bad attitude gets him hidden away in a newly created "Department Q" which will focus on cold cases. This was much lighter than Steig Larsson (thankfully - who could take more of his horrors?) and I had totally figured out what happened about half way through, but it was fun. I really liked Carl the cop and I would tune in again to find out more about his mysterious assistant Assad.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Hi, Liz, I'm Joanna and I read the end of books, too.

It's funny because I haven't done that in a long while.


I did it with 2 books back-to-back this month because I just couldn't take the suspense and had to just flip ahead a bit in the story and see if my characters were gonna make it.

This week: Blood Red Road (C'mon, Emmi, c'mon! - I'm still reading it.)
Last week: The Night Circus (Bailey! Poppet!)

Feels good to let that out.

I tend to read quickly as it is and when I'm anxious about the story I really read fast. Doing my flip check can slow me down and let me enjoy the story better. And I'm a total chicken. I don't like when bad things happen! Just tell me so I can prepare! Readers, haven't you noticed that Patti writes all the reviews for zombies and people back from the dead? No. Thanks.

Now, I'll have to think about when I've read a book that I've flipped and then quit because I didn't like what happened. That's the kicker.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Adventures of Sir Gawain the True by Gerald Morris

A few years ago I was looking for an early chapter book for my son. I read a review of the first book for the series (Adventures of Sir Lancelot the Great) in Horn Book and checked it out at the library. The adventures of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table was a new subject for my son and one I thought would greatly appeal to his Star Wars/pirate obsession. My husband read him the first book that year and last year he read the second book himself (The Adventures of Sir Givret the Short).

This week I read Heavy Medal's post by Jonathan Hunt regarding the newest adventure, Sir Gawain the True, as a fine example of a distinguished early reader and a series book that stands alone.  As it happens my son just finished reading Sir Gawain and it is in our library bag waiting to be returned. Perfect timing.

These books are funny, the narrator occasionally speaks directly to the reader, and there's head chopping and jousting. Okay, Morris also uses these stories to highlight elementary age character building themes like being a good friend, using manners (!!), and keeping your word. These are good things and the author easily brings them up within the context of the story.  I enthusiastically recommend these books. They also make a fun family read aloud if the reading level is above your child's, .

P.S. Aaron Renier illustrates this series. You may know him from his 2010 graphic novel The Unsinkable Walker Bean.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Texas Book Festival 2011

This weekend is the Texas Book Festival. While I won't be there I know many friends who will and I will just have to live vicariously through their updates.

There are so many wonderful events, but this one has my vote for most awesome. It's IN the STATE CEMETERY with YA AUTHORS. Our super friend/colleague Kathleen is hosting. Expect nothing short of amazing.

Happy Book Fest, Y'all!

A Convergence of Souls

a collaboration with Austin Bat Cave featuring the Festival's young adult writers

Date: Saturday, October 22, 2011
Time: 9:00 - 9:45
Location: Lit Crawl: Texas State Cemetery

What’s spookier than a slew of the nation’s finest young adult authors all gathered together in one place? Well, a lot actually – that sounds downright pleasant. But did we mention they’re gathering in the Texas State Cemetery, where the hallowed graves of countless former statesmen (and sometime ghosts) pass their grim vigil? OK, so it might be more than a little spooky, but terror aside, this collection of sheer talent should make for a rather fun evening. You’ll get to meet the writers (listed below), hear them talk about their newest books, and maybe even watch them compete for literary glory. And don’t worry, we promise to keep the prospect of your looming mortality to, you know, a minimum. Bring a blanket and flashlight!

Authors:Jennifer Ziegler
Margaret Stohl
Cynthia Leitich Smith
Joe Schreiber
Alex Sanchez
Louis Sachar
David Rice
Kathy Reichs
Shelia P. Moses
Barry Lyga
David Levithan
Joe R. Lansdale
Ellen Hopkins
Kami Garcia
Sarah Dessen
James Dashner
Rosemary Clement-Moore
Libba Bray
Chris Barton
Jay Asher
Jessica Lee Anderson
Jill S. Alexander
Emceed By: Kathleen Houlihan

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Anton Can Do Magic by Ole Könnecke

We celebrated my son's 3rd birthday this week and he received this book for his birthday. I put it on a wish list as soon as I read Jules of 7-Imp's review over at Kirkus and hoped someone would pick it out. (Thanks, Astrid!) I adored the previous book Anthony and the Girls when it came out in 2006 and I constantly put it on display at my library so it would get noticed.

The cover is fantastic. There's Anton twirling his magic wand at a slightly perplexed bird while he holds up his "real" magic hat. How can you resist?

Anton tries working his magic (wiggling his fingers thus causing his hat to fall over his eyes) to make things disappear - with some funny success that kids will enjoy. Did the bird disappear or did it just fly away? And does he have the power to make it reappear? What's a real magician to do?

The simple text relies on the images to tell the other part of the story. Check this one out!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

2011 National Book Awards - Young People's Literature

Oh, the first of the big lists! Once again it is another eclectic mix o stuff. And so my list of books to read grows and grows.

Franny Billingsley, Chime
(Dial, an imprint of Random House)

Debby Dahl Edwardson, My Name Is Not Easy
(Marshall Cavendish)

Thanhha Lai, Inside Out and Back Again [my review]
(Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)

Albert Marrin, Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy
(Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books)

Lauren Myracle, Shine
(Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS)

Gary D. Schmidt, Okay for Now [my review]*
(Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Young People’s Literature Judges: Marc Aronson (Panel Chair), Ann Brashares, Matt de la Peña, Nikki Grimes, Will Weaver

Also, note that John Corey Whaley's selection as a 5 under 35 honoree. Nice! See Patti's review here.

*I saw a tweet a couple months ago by Matt de la Peña where he said he wanted to buy Gary D Schmidt a beer.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Wow. So it's October. Between family travel and a lightning zap to my computer, I missed posting on one of my favorite books of the year: Laini Taylor's  Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

It lives up to the hype.

Some of my sticky note thoughts.

1. Irresistible character names = immediate draw to the novel. Karou, Madrigal, Razgut, Akira, Thiago, BRIMSTONE, Issa, Twiga, Yasri, Chiro, Hazael, Liraz
2. The premise of an angel and a devil (chimaera) falling in love. Plus the promise of the intro page that states: "It did not end well."
3. Taylor's sense of place. All the travel to real places as well as her created ones. Prague really held no interest to me until I read this. Same with goulash, which yes still sounds like not my thing but then, dang, Karou and Zuzana ate it a lot...
4. at the genius place called Poison Kitchen and the Pestilence statue! Gray, cold, spooky, funky, and in Laini Taylor fashion - hilarious ... as further evidenced by...
5. Page 22 (of the ARC) brings the true wisdom: Brimstone's sex talk. I think "inessential penises" will be the foundation of my talk with my kids as well.

This is a dreamy, tense, violent, smouldering love story. Many of the same elements that made Lips Touch extraordinary.

Finally, If you aren't already following Laini's blog  you should. She posts about home design and decor as well as writing tips and strategies. Plus, lots of adorableness by way of her daughter. It's one of my favorites.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow

I have such a hard time picking up stories set during WWII. I just do. I know BAD things are going to happen and I just don’t want to go there. I get so depressed reading them and having to re-experience all the horrible things human beings do to each other. And it doesn’t help that so many of them are really well written and so compelling that I can’t even put them down. This one was no exception (and if you're wondering why I picked it up despite all that, it is because this is a possible Mock Printz title).

Karl doesn’t consider himself Jewish. His family are atheists, he does not go to a religious school, he doesn’t even look “Jewish” which allows him a level of religious anonymity that he embraces. But when the Nazi party rises to power things begin to change. At first Karl embraces the changes, he even agrees with some of the things said about Jewish people.

This, of course, all comes to a stop when he is identified as a Jew at school. He is taunted and bullied and he is enraged and confused. After a particularly horrible incident, fate steps in the form of Max Schmeling, a boxing champion, who agrees to train Karl in exchange for a portrait that Karl’s father owns. Karl’s boxing training is used effectively as a metaphor throughout the book.

We get to experience the tightening up of German society through the eyes of Karl who is a very observant teen even if he doesn’t understand all the complexities at first glance. His experience is juxtaposed with his sister’s much harsher treatment as a kid who looked “Jewish.” This adds to his guilt and confusion. As do the various responses to Nazi propaganda from the people around him. What becomes of people you thought were friends? Who can you trust? Who is honorable? And what would you do when faced with these difficult choices?

In the book Karl is an artist with an interest in cartooning and his cartoons are interspersed throughout the book. I have to be honest, they were my least favorite part of the book. I think that his interest in cartooning would have been equally effective without the drawings. Or maybe I just have drawing fatigue. Either way, I wasn’t impressed.

The secondary characters were really good. I especially enjoyed the Countess and the men at the boxing gym. Friends come in unlikely places.

An excellent historical fiction.

Book Source = Tayshas Review Copy

A Lovely Surprise

Very big thanks to Caressa and Rae at Bookish who awarded us with a Versatile Blogger award. It sure is nice to be thought of!

Here are the Rules:

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave the award to you.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Give the award to 15 other bloggers.

Here are some fun facts about me. Joanna, I hope you edit this post and add some about yourself:

1. Until recently I had never heard of a Canadian Tuxedo, despite of (or maybe because?) having grown up in Canada.

2. I love black licorice.

3. My brother and I used to crank call each other and say, "hello, my name is Trina." And it cracked us up. Every. Single. Time. It still does. I have no idea why.

Joanna signing in for duty. Thanks, Bookish!

4. I think I can say that Patti and I both had zero interest in storytimes until we had our sons and discovered that yes, yes we really do want to shake our sillies out.

5. Growing up in Florida I used to hate Disney. Now I am such a sucker for it. See Hidden Mickeys.

6. I can't get past my childish prejudice towards blue cheese.

7. In high school my parents said, "You should be a librarian. You'd like it." I said, "Yeah, right." (insert exaggerated teenage eye roll)

Thanks Bookish!