Tuesday, October 26, 2010

REVIEW: Anything But Typical

This post isn't going to be funny.  I tried to find a way to make this review funny, but I got nothing.  Besides, if you try to make a funny review about a moving and serious book on autism, you become the book blogger who thinks autism is funny.  I will not be that girl.  So, below is a review in my "old-school" more serious style:

Baskin, N.R.  (2009).  Anything But Typical.  New York:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

195 pages.


Appetizer:  12-year-old Jason Blake is good with words.  He's a writer.  And posting his stories on an online story website is the way that he engages with people.  He has trouble speaking to people in person and expressing his emotions because he is autistic.  He thinks that because he has trouble expressing what he feels, many neurotypicals, like his classmates, assume he doesn't feel.  Most people try to keep their distance from him and Jason silently believes that he'll never have a girlfriend.

But then, when Jason goes to check for comments on his latest story online, he discovers a nice comment.  A nice comment from a girl!  A girl named PhoenixBird who seems to want to be his friend.

As Jason and PhoenixBird continue to talk online, his parents inform him that they'll let him go to the storyboard website's annual conference.  While normally this would be a dream come true for Jason, it causes him to worry.  What if he sees PhoenixBird there?  Will she still want to be his friend when she sees that he's different from most of the kids their age?  That he has trouble holding still?

Nora Raleigh Baskin does an AMAZING job of entering Jason's perspective.  He's a wonderfully believable character.  Jason is regularly bullied and taken advantage of by some of his classmates and Baskin does a great job of describing Jason's experiences in a fair manner.  I can see why this book was one of the Schneider award winners this year.

Throughout the book, there are wonderful moments when Jason describes the craft of writing.  Because of these moments, I'd probably pair reading this book aloud with having students write their own stories, paying attention to the tensions, the perspective and tools students use to tell the story.

I very intentionally say I'd use this book as a read aloud because there are a lot of moments throughout the book that I think a teacher needs to encourage students to discuss the content or provide some background:  What autism is, the way the book jumps back and forth through time, the vocabulary, the way gender is presented, the way some of the characters feel about Jason and his feelings toward him, etc.

This is one of those books, which, while it's technically middle grade, it can also be used with young adults.

I assigned this to my undergrads to read and their reactions.  The vast majority liked it and were impressed by Jason's perspective.  They threw comments around about how this book can help educate readers on autism, how to interact with autistic people, etc.  There was a lot of really great and deep discussion.  Plus, the book is less angsty than Mockingbird (which I was considering using next quarter, especially since it was recently named a National Book Award finalist).  Monica and I discussed it a few months ago.

But I'm sorry, Mockingbird.  I think I'm sticking with Anything But Typical for the time being.




Dinner Conversation:

"Most people like to talk in their own language.
They strongly prefer it.  They so strongly prefer it that when they go to a foreign country they just talk louder, maybe slower, because they think they will be better understood.  But more than talking in their own language, people like to hear things in a way they are most comfortable.  The way they are used to. The way they can most easily relate to, as if that makes it more real.  So I will try to tell this story in that way.
And I will tell this story in first person.
I not he.  Me not him.  Mine not his.
In a neurotypical way.
I will try--
To tell my story in their language, in your language." (p. 1).

"Why do people want everyone to act just like they do?  Talk like they do.  Look like they do.  Act like they do.
And if you don't--
If you don't, people make the assumption that you do not feel what they feel.
And then they make the assumption--
That you must not feel anything at all" (p.14).

"I read the comment one more time.
Because somethign tells me--
That this note is from a girl.  There are some boy cheerleaders, but I don't think a boy would admit that.
So I thin PhoenixBird is a girl.
So I think a girl has just said something nice to me" (p. 29).


Tasty Rating:  !!!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Literary Feast Discussion: Sisters Red (Chapters 6 - 11)

Hey kids! Have you all been enjoying Sisters Red thus far? We've tackled chapters six through eleven below, so feel free to read along... and jump into the conversation!

Shel: Okay, so I'm kinda confused. How many fenris are there in the world? Cause it seems like all men, except Silas, are soulless fenriss...fenrises...fenri? (Is this an underlying message about the true nature of men?) But then all the little wolvies are freaking out so much about one wee-baby potential wolf-puppy. It makes me confuzzled.

Monica: Have we met a single non-Fenris guy at this point, aside from Silas!? Hang on. Let me review. There's the crack addict guy in their apartment... the bus driver... Screwtape the Cat... and the dude drumming in the subway. (Side note, I am pretty much in love with him. I'm going to integrate "chickadee" as a term of endearment, as of right now.) So in summary, Shel, you're right. What's up, Jackson Pearce? Are there really no redeemable men in your world!?

Shel: Okay, so the booksmugglers blog had cited chapter seven as being the source of a lot of "blame the victim" ideology in the story. I have to say, I did not get that vibe. While I suppose you could read it that way, I thought most of that scene was about bitter Scarlett behaving bitterly. It goes to the ignorance being bliss/knowledge being a curse tension.

Monica: I... I did actually get that vibe, as I was reading it. Because really? "... everything about them luring the Fenris. Inviting danger like some baby animal bleating its fool head off. Look at me, see how I dance, did you notice my hair, look again, desire me, I am perfect. Stupid, stupid Dragonflies" (108). True, Scarlett does then immediately roll her eyes and reflect on how she will save them anyway, because, wait for it, "Ignorance is no reason to die," but... I can certainly see why people might get up in arms about this chapter.

On the other hand, when HASN'T Little Red Riding Hood been filled with invited sexual tension? The original, with a cute little girl walking alone in the woods in a bright-colored cloak whilst she talked to dangerous strangers... that wasn't exactly subtle either. ;)

Shel: I'm so glad that the story clarified what it meant about being a woodsman. All this time, I'd thought being a woodsman was about being a wolfkiller (a la Little Red Riding Hood). But nope, it turns out it's more of a sweaty Wolverine in Wolverine X-Men Origins sort of job.

Monica: Mmmmmmm.... I like it so much more, now that you've drawn that parallel.... Unfortunately, the only woodsmanesque photo I can find to post looks sort of like he's learning how to fly. Faithful readers, I leave it to you to Google your own Hot Wolverine images at your leisure, if you don't like mine. ;)


Shel: Origami? Really?

Monica: Sure! Why not? Blade Runner managed to make it look badass, and Harrison Ford wasn't even as skilled at throwing knives as Rosie is!

Shel: On second thought, if Rosie can make an Origami Yoda I will totally be jealous. I wanna make a yoda!

Monica: Sweetie, as soon as we are done with this book, we'll learn how.

Shel: I'll bet another five books that the "seventh son of the seventh son" thingy so casually mentioned is going to be the key to who is a potential wolf. Look out Silas, you're going to have to shave more than your face soon.

Monica: ::: LAUGHS ::: Again, this book isn't huge on subtlety. I was, however, sort of surprised at the way that Silas is being handled here. This doesn't really seem like a Seventh Son kind of book, in my opinion -- I would have expected something more along the lines of "Silas, your mother was once charmed by an attractive man with yellow eyes," or something like that....

Whoo! I'm not going to lie, guys -- this book is both super enjoyable, and super... dark. And kind of draining. I'm worried about what the next five chapters will bring, but don't worry. Shel and I are up for the challenge. ;)

Meet back here on Friday, and we'll see how the book progresses!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

REVIEW: The Twilight Prisoner

Few But Dear Readers, it has happened again.  I read the first book in a series and didn't enjoy it, forced myself to suffer through the second book and discovered that I liked that one much more.

Marsh, K.  (2009).  The Twilight Prisoner.  New York:  Hyperion Books.

246 pages.


Appetizer:  Less than a year after the events of The Night Tourist, Jack is back to living in New York City and for the first time in his life he has friends and a major crush on a girl named Cora.

After Jack finally gets up the nerve to ask Cora out, he's disappointed to find that the date isn't going as well.  Jack can still see ghosts (a fact the ghosts find very unnerving) and Cora invites along Austin on their date.  To try to turn things around, Jack suggests they tour the basement of one of the buildings on Columbia's campus.  Mid-tour, Jack realizes they've happened upon another entryway into the underworld.  He can't help but want to take Cora there, to share his past with her.

Once in New York City's underworld though, Jack discovers that not all is as he left it.  His friend and guide Euri is in an asylum for ghosts who are having trouble accepting that they are dead.  She's angry and acting as a poltergeist.

And even worse, there's new law enforcement in the underworld.  The guards are focused on stopping The Living Avenger (AKA Jack) and on preventing him and Cora from returning to the land of the living.  A fact Cora is having trouble dealing with, since she knows her mother needs her.

I don't quite know why, but I had a much easier time getting into and enjoying The Twilight Prisoner than I did The Night Tourist.  Part of it could be the addition of Cora.  She spent the entire trip to the underworld worrying about returning home to take care of her mother.  This added the tension that I thought was missing from the last book.  Also, when dealing with the serious topic of suicide, this book seemed more focused on the "choose life" side of the discussion (not that the last book was on the "choose death" side, it was more about denying responsibility/consequence).

I loved the Living Avenger parts too, the idea that ghosts are haunted by a living person was fun.

I also liked that this book focused its allusions on the Persephone/Hades myth.  I've always had a special love for that myth, ever since I was eight and participated in a play of it.  I think I played a flower?  Maybe.  I don't know.  All I remember is that I sat a lot and that I wanted to be Persephone and I thought the fifth grade boy who played Hades was cute.  (Dear psychologists, is this the source of my literary bad boy obsession?  My crush on Hades at a young age?)

You can imagine how big of a deal it was the first time I ate pomegranate seeds when I was a freshman in high school.  I TOLD EVERYONE!  (Thus cementing my reputation as a big dork forever after.)

Plus, this time around I got more of the humor.  (There's an interesting scene involving the ghost of etiquette-queen Emily Post.  I was amused.)

It could also be that I turned reading this book into a drinking COFFEE game.  Every time Euri got pissy with another character or Jack had to hold Cora's hand I took a gulp of coffee.  While I love coffee, this did involve a bit of pain on my part, especially when I got close to the bottom of the cup.  My cats seem to have the special ability to shed hair on my food and in my cups.


That hair ain't mine.

Would it be more or less gross if it were?

So, that last gulp from my coffee cup tends to be be more cat hair than coffee.  Tell me, few but dear readers, have you ever felt a clump of cat hair slide down your throat?  It is not fun.  I do however, recommend it if you would like to stop drinking all together.

I'm going to have to start drinking my coffee from sippy cups.


Dinner Conversation:


"It was just before dusk in Central Park, and JAck Perdu knew he needed to make his move.  Cora Flores, a fellow sophomore and Latin scholar at the George C. Chapman High School, sat propped against a tree trunk, blowing bubbles with her gum, and filling in the New York Times crossword puzzle" (p. 1)

"They were in--all of them.  Jack hesitated at the edge of the stream.  All they had to do was walk across the water, and he could show Cora something more amazing than the cyclotron:  a place where he had powers that no other living person had" (p. 41).

"We're in hell?"
"I prefer to call it the afterlife," said Euri.  "It's got a better ring to it."
"Am I dead?" Cora cried, turning to Jack.
"Here we go again," Euri muttered under her breath.
"When we crossed over the stream, we entered the underworld," Jack explained.  "But you're not dead and neither am I.  I promise.  And we can go back" (p. 51).

"Who's the Living Avenger?" Cora asked.
"Um, I think that might be me," Jack said.  He tried to give Cora a reassuring smile, but she was busy frantically pressing buttons on her cell phone.
"Neat name," said Euri.  "Do you have a mask, too?"
"Very funny" (p. 83).


Tasty Rating:  !!!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Literary Feast Discussion: Sisters Red (Chapters 1 - 5)

Welcome, faithful readers, to our first Sisters Red Literary Feast Discussion!

Ooooooooh!

Hunker on down here while Shel and I toss out our thoughts. And do feel free to add anything you want to -- this book seems like it's going to be stirring up some controversy, and the more people added to that kind of discussion, the better!

Ready? Here we go.

Shel: Wow, from page one Jackson does a good job of creating icky-creepy man vibes with her Fenris, werewolf guys.

Monica: Almost too creepy! Can’t you hear the ominous music starting as he leans causally on a fence post and stares all scary-like at the tasty little girls!?

Shel: I totally can. And as I imagine it, I also see great use of shadow and light. When Scarlet was off hunting alone in chapter one, I got a distinct Buffy vibe. That's a high compliment.

Monica: Except… Buffy usually had witty quips. I’m getting the feeling from Scarlett that her whole hunting vibe is a little more obsessive. Not that that’s a bad thing, necessarily, but humor doesn’t seem to be her forte.

Shel: This is true. Scarlett should have stayed in school. It could have helped with the wits (or at the very least given her time to be bored and thinks up witty comments). So are you a Scarlet or a Rosie, hmmm? Who do you relate to more?

Monica: Rosie all the way! Or… maybe neither, to be honest. I don’t know if I could be coerced into doing as much exercise as either of these girls seems to enjoy – I’m not really a “let’s work out and then throw knives and also run a little” kind of a person. You?

Shel: While I'm more inclined to like tough Scarlet, she does have a tendency to be too unforgiving. (And also, I took a criminal justice class, in which the prof was like "NEVER THROW YOUR WEAPON AT A PERP! THEN YOU ARE WEAPONLESS. THROWING KNIVES IS MOVIE BS. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS SACRED, HOLD ON TO YOUR KNIFE IF YOU ACTUALLY WANT TO CUT THE MO-FO AND LIVE!"

Monica (breaking into the rant): That... that's a really good point, actually. Wow. Not that I would know how to throw a knife anyway, but....

Shel: Plus, after Rosie was attacked and only managed to kill only one of the two Fenris, I'd hope my sister would be at least a little more concerned about my well-being. I'm already getting a bit of the "blame the victim" vibe coming off of her (and we haven't reached the scene The Book Smugglers were talking about yet). I think though, I'm going to operate with the hypothesis that what is at fault so far is Scarlet's characterization and not the underlying ideas of the book. My grad schooly argument: As someone who was a victim of attack herself and who was left marked and scarred by the experience, it is part of Scarlet's way of dealing with the trauma to never be the victim again and she has distanced herself from empathizing with others who might be in a similar feeling to avoid the motions of loss she might feel about herself. Or something. That might just be a bunch of crazy talk.

Monica: No, no, I think you 100% have it. That’s how I’m reading it, at least. (Of course, my thoughts were a little bit less classy. More like, “Ooh, remember the scene in 10 Things I Hate About You where Cat was talking about how she was unwilling to let her sister date boys because, having lost her virginity to the slimy sock model and had her heart broken, she refused to let anyone else close to her be hurt in the same way? This book is JUST LIKE THAT!”)

Shel: Oh, Ten Things I Hate About You! LOVE! I just saw the TV series on DVD actually. There's a little less to love there.

Monica: Seriously. Without Heath, what's the point?! Um. Back to the book?

Shel: Five bucks says the potential wolfie is Silas. Are you with me on this? Hmm, if we're going to bet though? Maybe we should bet five books, since those are more precious. No wait, I might not feel strongly enough about this bet to risk my books.

Monica: No. No way. Well, maybe. But I hope not! It would seem too cliched. Can you imagine Scarlett and Rosie standing there, all "We love you but we must destroy you because you have become an Evil Wolf and thus have no chance at redemption," and he's meanwhile trying to convince them it's just a flesh wound... Shel, I'm actually not sure at ALL that I will like this story, if he turns out to be the potential.

Shel: Don't think about it for now, then. I'm excited that Jackson Pearce seems to have done her research when it comes to her history of the folktale: She has the German background with Oma March. All the better that she used to tell the sisters folk, fairy tales and philosophical arguments at night. We also have vague allusions to the history of Little Red being a story about morality and what not.

Monica: Morality and sexuality. Don’t forget the latter. ;)

Shel: Chica-bee, I could never forget the sexuality.

So really, guys, in the first five chapters we have had creepy seduction, emotional scars as they relate to physical ones, back alley street fighting, spats between sisters, and, wait for it, a potential love interest. In the first five chapters. We'll do the next five for Wednesday, so get reading! Who knows what will happen!?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

REVIEW: Clever Jack Takes the Cake

Fleming, C. & Karas, G.B.  (2010).  Clever Jack Takes the Cake.  New York:  Random House.


Appetizer:  Jack, along with all the other children in the kingdom, has been invited to the princess's tenth birthday party.  Since he doesn't have any riches to offer as a gift, he decides to bake the princess a cake.  But on the way to the castle, Jack encounters some trouble.  So much trouble that he can't be certain he'll arrive with the cake in hand or even arrive at all.

At the beginning of the story, Jack goes through a very complicated process to bake a cake.  He has to gather all of the ingredients from many different sources and then do the actual cooking.  I got exhausted just reading about the process.  (Side note--Even despite my exhaustion, I was pretty excited to see a male character do all of the baking.  Cool points!)

Despite having read a pretty good review or two, I almost didn't read Clever Jack though.  I opened the books and discovered there were a lot of words to a page:



Words. And words.  And words.

WORDS.

I know that a person in her mid-twenties, who is a PhD candidate focusing on literature shouldn't look at a page in a picturebook like that and be freaked about by, what?  150-ish words?  But I was.

Either way, I didn't know if had the attention span for this.

So, I skipped ahead to the ending and discovered that one of the morals was "Yayz stories!" so I decided to tough it out and behave adult-ish and read all the words.


I was glad I did.  Clever Jack has an old-school, folklore-ish, Brothers Grimm-y feel, but without any of the blood, mutilation or death.

I didn't make the connection as I was reading either book, but now, thinking back, I'd totally do a book pair between Clever Jack and Lois Lowry's The Birthday Ball.  Both involve bored princesses who invite peasants to birthday parties, but from very different perspectives.

Both are good fun!


Dinner Conversation:

"One summer morning long ago, a poor boy named Jack found an invitation slipped beneath his cottage door.  It read:
His Majesty the King cordially invites all of the children of the realm to the Princess's Tenth Birthday Party tomorrow afternoon in the Castle Courtyard."

"The boy thought for a moment.  "Then I will make her something," he declared.  "I will make her a cake."
"From what?" asked his mother.  "From the dust in the cupboard?  From the dirt on the floor?"
"I have a better idea," said Jack."

"I'm taking this cake to the princess."
"Aw-caw-caw-caw-caw!" cackled the birds.
And as quickly as they had come, they were gone, taking with them the walnuts that spelled "Happy Birthday, Princess."


Tasty Rating:  !!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

REVIEW: Black Hole Sun

Gill, D.M.  (2010).  Black Hole Sun.  New York:  Greenwillow Books.

340 pages.


Appetizer:  I'm having an exceptionally difficult time figuring out how to describe this book.  It's one of those books in which the actual plot doesn't become apparent until about 100 pages in and when you describe it, you don't want to ignore those first 100 pages entirely.  I think the book jacket blurb person had trouble too:
Durango is playing the cards he was dealt.  And it's not a good hand.
He's lost his family.
He's lost his crew.
And he's got the scars to prove it.
You don't want to mess with Durango.
No, I imagine I don't want to mess with Durango.
But what does that mean?  What is this book about?  Except from an angry boy with scars who I don't want to mess with?

Here's my best try:  Durango lives on Mars.  Mars is a stinky place (literally and figuratively).  An outsider, Durango works as a regulator to try to restore justice.  He has an artificial intelligence implant that is named Mimi and that talks to him and is almost always sarcastic (Love her!).  And he kinda-sorta, maybe, likes/loves Vienne, the girl who works for him.  But their relationship is purely professional.  It'd be wrong to let her know how he feels.  Against the rules.
When some miners have some trouble with some Draeu (cannibals!), it falls to Durango and a rag-tag group of regulators to help them, completely unaware that their long-shot mission will have an impact on the entire planet.

Does all of that make sense?


Without hearing about the starred and positive reviews, I probably wouldn't have picked up this book.  Don't get me wrong, I love sci-fi.  I love humor.  I love adventure.  I don't like the title.

Everytime I read "Black Hole Sun" I inevitably get the Soundgarden song stuck in my head.  The Soundgarden song that I don't know most of the lyrics to.  It's a wee bit annoying.  "Black hole sun!  Black hole sun!  Won't you come and wash away the raaaain," or whatever.  It's a bit whiney for my taste.  Plus it gives me flashbacks to middle school.  Not a good time for me.  Ugh.




But after I got beyond the title of flashbacks and whiney song, I really enjoyed this book.  There is so much action that it's hard to put the book down.  The banter between Durango and Mimi, the A.I. implant, was hilarious.  (But I was confused.  Mimi can read Durango's thoughts.  That's fine.  But can only Durango hear her when she speaks?  I thought so, but toards the end of the book, I swear, someone else responds to one of Mimi's comments and I got confused.  The book never explains this.)

I didn't want to stop reading, even though as far as 80 pages in, much of the background of the culture, weird sci-fi terms and Durango's own story were still unexplained (meaning this book would have been a wee bit frustrating for YA readers who aren't already fond of sci-fi).

I found that Durango reminded me a lot of Captain Mal from the Firefly series/Serenity movie.  And at other moments, I was reminded of Han Solo.  These certainly aren't bad comparisons for readers looking for a new bad boy sci-fi role model or crush (or am I the only nerd who is regularly on the search for a new bad boy sci-fi crush?  Any one?).

Here's a chart comparing our three boys.  Because I can:


While I liked Durango as a character and the tension he dealt with as he was in love with someone he worked but couldn't date due to his belief in The Tenets, or the strict code of conduct for being a regulator, I had a lot of trouble understanding the motives of the maaaaaaaaaaaaany girls in his life.

I guess I kind of understood Vienne, mostly because I just though of her as being a teenage version of Zoe from Firefly.

But the others, one minute one is flirting with Durango, the next moment she's weeping and I did not understand the change.  I suppose I could put on happy rose-colored glasses and argue I was fully in Durango's "guy" perspective, but I tend to think I could have used a little more character development with some of the secondary characters.


Dinner Conversation:


"Now come the mousies nosing out their hole, thinks Kuhru as he wipes fresh bone marrow from his snout.  Three pretty little mousies.  Humans.  Females.  Ripe and soft and full of warm blood.  He shudders.  It will be ecstasy to hunt them down" (p. 1).

"Mars stinks.  From the depths of its rock quarries to the iron-laden dirt that covers the planet's crust, it has a pungent, metallic tang that you can taste in your mouth.  And it isn't just the soil.  Our polluted air is poisoned with the stink of human waste and burning fuel.  The terraformed oceans stink; the newborn rivers reek; as do the lakes, which spew a perpetual efflux of sulfur.  The whole planet is a compost heap, intentionally designed to rot and burn endlessly so that one day, its air will be completely breathable, and its waters capable of supporting life.  But tonight the stink is so powerful, I can smell it up here.  Ten kilometers above the surface.  Where I'm standing on a small square platform.  Looking straight down.
About to wet myself" (p. 4).

"Trouble always finds me.  People like this, their desperation is inversely proportional to the amount of money in their pockets.  The more they need a Regulator, the less they've got to pay for one.  Not this time.  Not me.  No more charity works.  I need paying clients.  It's the curiosity that kills me.  Miners?  What are miners doing in New Eden?" (p. 55).

"You disappoint me, Jacob."
Here it comes.
"Your biological mother was chosen for her intelligence and physical prowess.  A PhD in molecular biology who was an Olympic swimmer.  The surrogate who birthed you was the finest available.  Your birth was without event.  Your education demanding, your training flawless.  This is not your destiny, Jacob.  It is your destiny to become the leader of Mars, not a common dalit mercenary."
For a moment I say nothing.  Look down and away from his relentless gaze, the way I did as a child.  "You made me a dalit, Father" (pp. 81-82).


Tasty Rating:  !!!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Literary Feast Invitation: Sisters Red

Hey kids!

I know, you've been desolate without our Literary Feasts, so Shel and I have wasted only a little time in getting our next one together. We're going to be reading Sisters Red by the lovely Jackson Pearce, who appears to love both tabby cats and celebrity gossip. But really, who doesn't?

Shel has been filling my brain already with all sorts of thinly veiled hints about this novel -- including one notable conversation which involved the phrases "ridiculously strong female leads" and "suggestions that victims of sexual assault invite it through their behavior" -- so I don't know if I should be excited or scared to be starting chapter one. Honestly, I'm just pumped about the cover. Do you see that, up there, readers? Take that sucker in -- That is a rockin' book cover.

The teaser quote from the dust jacket does have me fairly hooked: The wolf opened its long jaws, rows of teeth stretching for her. A thought locked itself in Scarlett's mind: I am the only one left to fight, so now I must kill you.

Dang guys. I am already more intrigued than I was during the entirety of I am Number Four, so let's get this thing going!

We'll be starting this Friday by reading the first... five chapters? Let's say five chapters -- up to page 93. Hit up your library or your local bookstore, and get ready for "a dark, taut fairy tale with heart-pounding action, fierce sisterly love, and a sizzling romance." Oooooh.

#Readathon: Wrap-Up

So, I'll admit it.  There was some sleeping involved towards the end there.  But not a lot!  I still have that lack of sleep, burning eyes feeling that I've always associated with sleepovers and a fun time since childhood.

It was great to have a day to completely focus on reading.  I managed to meet my simple goals:  Finish Anything But Typical and Black Hole Sun.  I also managed to get a fair chunk of both, The Twilight Prisoner and Countdown read.  Plus, I read all of the picturebooks I'd checked out from the library last week.  (You know what that means!  Time to go back to the library for more!)

As with the previous readathons I've participated in, I'm left feeling kinda sad that it's over and wondering why I have to wait so long for the next one.

Thanks to all the organizers, cheerleaders, readers and mini-challenge participants for their work and time!  Talk to all-ya-alls again in April!

#Readathon: Shel's Eighth Update




Guys, I think we've reached that time...that time where my bed is beckoning me.  That time where I tell myself that it's okay to read in bed.  I'll just put on PJs and brush my teeth first out of habit, not because I'm actually going to sleep.  And I'll rest in bed, at first, with the blankets pushed off to a corner.  But soon enough, without thinking, as I keep reading, I'll be under the blankets.  I'll just remind myself that I won't put my head down.  But I will put my head down, few but dear readers.  Then I'll tell myself that I'll just close my eyes for a minute.  See, I'll still hold my spot in my book with my hand.  No harm, no foul.  

Then I'll open my eyes and it will be light out  and my neck will be sore from where I slept on my book.  I will curse and quickly fill-out the final readathon survey and backdate it for the time when the thing actually ended earlier in the morning.

I welcome that time, friends!  I welcome that experience!  It all seems rather pleasant.

Stay strong, my fellow readers and cheerleaders!  And if anyone asks, tell them I stayed strong too.

Coffee:   No more cups of coffee for awhile.

Books Finished:  Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett (picturebook), The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson (picturebook), The Village Garage by G. Brian Karas (picturebook), The Trucker by Barbara Samuels (picturebook), Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin, 80ish pages of The Twilight Prisoner by Katherine Marsh (To Be Continued Later!), David Macinnis Gill's Black Hole Sun (to be reviewed on Monday!), over 100 pages of Countdown by Deborah Wiles, the beginning of Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce, Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie by Joel Stewart (picturebook) and whatever I bring to bed with me.

Book I’m Currently Reading:  Whatever I bring to bed with me.

Snacks Consumed Since Last Update:  No more snackies.  My teeth are all brush-ied.

And the Winner of the Poetry Angst! #Readathon Mini-Challenge Is:

Nfmgirl!


Guys, this was an incredibly difficult decision (that did come down to randomness).

I want to thank all of you for participating!!!!!

Some of you chose a humorous approach, others an honest approach.  All of your poems were engaging and fun.

Thanks for answering the challenge!  I wish you all a swift and painless end to the readathon!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

#Readathon Challenge--Poetry Angst! (11 PM-2 AM)

Welcome Readathon participants!

As the readathon approaches those difficult, dark hours of darkness and night, we'd like to challenge you to think about how you feel about all the reading you've done and all the lack of sleep you've had (and are still not going to get), all that time you've spent sitting on your poor backside and turn aaaaaaall those thoughts and emotions into a poem.

Write a haiku about that perfect seat that is comfy, but not so comfy that you fall asleep.

Write a love sonnet about how you miss your bed or an ode to your favorite author, who has gotten you through most of the day.

Write a dirty limerick about...something readathon-ish.

Whatever you prefer!

Here's the poem I would enter:

An Ode to Coffee

Coffee!  Coffee!  Coffeeeeeeeee!
You taste so good.
You keep my eyes scanning the page,
but you make my brain too jittery,
to understand the words.
Coffee!  Coffee!  Coffeeeeeeeee!

You certainly don't have to rhyme or use any specific poetic form.  Just take a few minutes to write a poem about your readathon experience and post it in the comments of this site (or post a link to your own blog where Monica and I can find your poem, if you prefer).

One super-awesome-cool participant will be chosen at random to receive a $10 gift card to Barnes and Noble.

And by "random" I mean, I'll read all of the entries and try to pick the one that amuses me the most or that feels like an authentic readathon experience that any of us could relate to.  But since I have the problem of my brain being jittery due to all the coffee, the selection process will wind up being pretty random.  Yay, random!

So, enter a poetic state of mind and...WRITE!

#Readathon Challenge Response: Wordle

A Wordle Based off of my blog


#Readathon: Shel's Seventh Update




Okay gang, I'm starting to feel a little tired.  The sun goes down and my body asks if it's bedtime.  Never fear though, I'm in this for the long haul.  I just need to take a break from the historical fiction, I think.  And maybe start listening to some tunes as I read.


Coffee:  5.5 cups drunk!

Books Finished:  Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett (picturebook), The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson (picturebook), The Village Garage by G. Brian Karas (picturebook), The Trucker by Barbara Samuels (picturebook), Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin, 80ish pages of The Twilight Prisoner by Katherine Marsh (To Be Continued Later!), David Macinnis Gill's Black Hole Sun (to be reviewed on Monday!), and read over 100 pages of Countdown by Deborah Wiles.

Book I’m Currently Reading:  I'm starting in on Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce.  For those of you who like online literature circles, this is the book Monica and I plan to tackle next.

Snacks Consumed Since Last Update:  Dinner!  Nomnomnom.

#Readathon Challenge Response: Title Word Scramble


Here's my best shot at unscrambling the titles.  Frankly, I'm shocked that I was able to make sense of any of them.  This is not usually one of my strengths.  In fact, I hate it when my friends want to play scrabble.  (Vile, evil game!)  But since they were book titles, I found myself wanting to try.

1.  Firefly Lane
2.  East of Eden
3.  Water for Elephants
4.  To Kill a Mockingbird
5.  The Great Gatsby
6.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
7.  The Art of Racing in the Rain
8.  The Time Traveler's Wife
9.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
10.  Diary of a Wimpy Kid
11.  A Wrinkle in Time
12.  The Polar Express
13.  Love Walked In
14.  Where the Wild Things Are
15.  The Shining
16.  Goodnight Moon
17.  Interview with a Vampire
18.  The Secret Life of Bees
19.The Search
20.  The Help

#Readathon: Shel's Sixth Update




Since we're having a beautiful day here in C-bus, I decided to take this readathon outside.  It was nice and pleasant.  But then some amateurish football players decided to play catch right beside where I was reading.  This added a sense of danger to my reading since these guys were VERY amateurish and couldn't really catch the football.  (Although, they seemed to have fun jumping for the ball, making manly grunting noises and watching as the ball flew by several feet above their outstretched arms.)


When the tension of whether or not the football would hit my head at the next toss became too great, I headed for home.  One of the guys asked me if I wanted to play with them.


Ummm, no.


I've thrown a football once in my life.  It did not go in the direction I was aiming.  And the experience ended with me apologizing several times to a couple of people.  That is all I will say about that.


Then, one of the guys suggested I cheerlead for them.


Ummm, also no.  


I didn't say it, but I greatly prefer people who cheerlead for readers to the type who encourage amateurish football players who they've never met before.


So, thanks to all you cheerleaders out there.  It is with you in mind that I returned to the safety of the indoors.


Coffee:  4ish cups drunk!

Books Finished:  Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett (picturebook), The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson (picturebook), The Village Garage by G. Brian Karas (picturebook), The Trucker by Barbara Samuels (picturebook), Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin, 80ish pages of The Twilight Prisoner by Katherine Marsh (To Be Continued Later!), David Macinnis Gill's Black Hole Sun (to be reviewed on Monday!), the first 50ish of Deborah Wiles's Countdown (I couldn't read very fast!  I kept having to look up for fear a football was about to hit me in my head!).

Book I’m Currently Reading:  I don't know yet...I might continue with Countdown or with The Twilight Prisoner.  I also foresee a humorous book of some sort in my future.

Snacks Consumed Since Last Update:  An apple.  But I think I'm a'hankering for some din-din soon.

#Readathon Half-Way Survey


1. What are you reading right now?

Countdown by Deborah Wiles

2. How many books have you read so far?

Erm, 7.5 ish (but a handful of those were picturebooks and in a couple of cases I'm taking 100-page leaps forward in some longer books.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

That late night time when you get kind of giddy.  And hosting my own mini-challenge.  Just a few more hours!

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?

Nope.  I was planning for this for awhile.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

Nothing too bad.  I've allowed myself to get distracted once or twice as an excuse to be able to wander around the house, stretching my legs.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

How fast the day has gone.

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

More of the same, please.  Or, better yet, can we do this every weekend?  It's so nice having cheerleaders encouraging me to do my reading.

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?

I'd make a point of having more short books and unread picturebooks in the house.  I'm down to one last picturebook, which I'm saving for late at night as a little pick-me-up.

9. Are you getting tired yet?

No, not tired.  My back is a little sore though.

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?

I'm keeping my coffee cup topped off.

#Readathon: Shel's Fifth Update




Coffee:  3 cups drunk!  (And I'm starting in on an English Toffee Latte, yums!)

Books Finished:  Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett (picturebook), The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson (picturebook), The Village Garage by G. Brian Karas (picturebook), The Trucker by Barbara Samuels (picturebook), Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin, 80ish pages of The Twilight Prisoner by Katherine Marsh (To Be Continued Later!) and David Macinnis Gill's Black Hole Sun (to be reviewed on Monday!).

Book I’m Currently Reading:  I'm just starting Countdown by Deborah Wiles.  It's a lot of fun, but it's one of those books that I'm not even going to try to read in one go.  (I'm all about the book juggling.)

Snacks Consumed Since Last Update:  None!  I am snackless!  I did, however, take a break to call my parents and let them know I was alive.  They were happy for the update.

#Readathon: Shel's Fourth Update




Stretch break!  My back has declared that I've been sitting too long.  I ran in place for a minute and my cat glared at me in such a way that clearly expressed she thought I was insane.  (This is possible!  My cats are that expressive.  And they know several definitions of insanity.  They are that smart!)


Coffee:  3-ish cups drunk!  (I'm starting to lose track!)

Books Finished: Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett (picturebook), The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson (picturebook), The Village Garage by G. Brian Karas (picturebook), The Trucker by Barbara Samuels (picturebook) and Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin.

Book I’m Currently Reading:  No more finished books to report.  I am almost halfway through Marsh's The Twilight Prisoner now.  I think I'm going to have to take a break from that one though.  I think I'm going to work on David Macinnis Gill's Black Hole Sun for awhile.  I've been meaning to finish it for about a week now.  It's a very fun sci-fi, YA, Mars adventure.  Just what I need!

Snacks Consumed Since Last Update:  Facon AKA Fake Bacon.  Now that my entire house smells like burned facon (what?  I like it crispy), my cats are going crazy.

#Readathon Challenge Response: Armchair Traveling

I've spent the last hour working through some of Katherine Marsh's The Twilight Prisoner:



In it Jack and his friend Cora travel to the New York City underworld and fly around the city as ghosts.

So far in the book they've visited the Campus of Columbia:


The American Natural History Museum:


And The New York Public Library:


Thus far, I am getting an excellent tour of a city that my one previous actual visit to involved a flight layover, during which I missed my connecting flight back to Pittsburgh.  That did give me time to buy a "I *heart* New York" T-shirt though.  Maybe I should find that shirt and wear it now....

#Readathon: Shel's Third Update

Coffee:  2 cups drunk!

Books Finished: Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett (picturebook), The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson (picturebook), The Village Garage by G. Brian Karas (picturebook) The Trucker by Barbara Samuels (picturebook, and my favorite among the ones I've read so far today.  And even though it has a cat in it, my cat still wandered away as I attempted to read it aloud for him.) and Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin (I loved the ending!).

Book I'm Currently Reading:  The Twilight Prisoner by Katherine Marsh.  (It's for school.  Boo!  And I probably won't finish it today.)

Snacks Consumed Since Last Update:  Strawberries and pancakes!  (Mmm, sugar!  Should we start the countdown for when I crash?)

#Readathon Challenge Response: Show Me the Books

As you can see, I have a lot of work ahead of me:

#Readathon: Shel's Second Update

So far so good:

Coffee:  One cup drunk.  (Plus more poured!)

Books Read:  Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett (picturebook), The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson (picturebook) and The Village Garage by G. Brian Karas (picturebook).


Book Currently Reading:  Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin (50 pages to go!)


Snacks Consumed Since Last Update:  None!  I'm becoming a hungry bear.  (And after reading The Cow Loves Cookies, I want COOKIES!  That would clearly be the breakfast of readathon champions.)

#Readathon Challenge Response: Six Word Celebration Challenge


Sleepless Book Peeps United in Sleepiness!

#Readathon: Shel's First Update: Where I'm Reading From

Good morning, fellow Readathoners!

I woke up this morning refreshed and ready to read!  (Plus, the coffee is brewing.  That'll keep me excited!)

It's dangerous, but I think I am going to start out the morning reading in bed.  Mostly because one of my cats is sleeping on my foot.  If I move she may scratch.  And I'm not opposed to warm feet.

So, before I dare to move to actually pour the coffee, here are my answers to the meme-challenge on the readathon website:

1.  My To Be Read pile technically consists of hundreds of books stacked around my bedroom in out of the way places.  But I really want to finish reading Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin and Black Hole Sun by David Macinnis Gill.  After those are done?  Who knows.



2.  I don't have any specific goals aside from having some devoted reading time.  (Which is a huge deal for me!  My past several weeks have been dominated by various projects, so I haven't gotten much reading done.)

3.  This is my third-ish(?) readathon.  The first time I ignored some advice to start out reading some short books or picturebooks to begin on a high "look at me finish books!  YAY!" note, and that readathon draaaaaagged.  The second time, I made sure to include some short books, and that readathon went much more smoothly.  So take breaks from longer books with wee-little-baby short ones!  That is all the wisdom I have.

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