Friday, April 29, 2011

REVIEW: Moon Over Manifest

Vanderpool, C.  (2010).  Moon Over Manifest.  New York:  Delacorte Press.

342 pages.

I finally got around to reading the current Newbery winner.  When Moon Over Manifest was announced as the winner, only one person I knew had read it (one person out of at least a dozen who spend their time trying to read as much children's literature as is humanly possible.  This book wasn't just a sleeper agent.  It was the unexpected chaos factor).  That one-person-out-of-a-dozen's reaction?  "Baaaaaaaaah, they keep picking books that are beautiful to adults but BORING to kids.  All of the people and their different names are confusing.  Bah humbug."

Okay, I'll admit.  I added the bah humbug to the end of that quotation.  As far as I know, I'm the only person (not in a famed Christmas novel or movie adaptation) who uses the phrase bah humbug.

Then, as other people I knew got around to reading the book before me, their comments pretty much confirmed what Person One already said:  "I'm an adult and I'm confused.  How will an eleven-year-old tolerate this book?"

So, when I finally got around to reading the book, I was a little hesitant.  I had my pen ready to take notes on who was who in the cast of characters.  Because I would defeat this book!  I will not be confused!

...for once.

Appetizer:  In May of 1936, Abilene Tucker has been sent to Manifest, Kansas to stay while her dad works on the railroad.  He'd often told her stories about the town where he grew up, but Abilene is surprised by the dusty town she finds.  on her first night there, she discovers a box of mementos.  Abilene begins to seek out the history of the objects and her father's history in the town.  She relies upon the stories of a psychic, old newspaper articles and other methods to try to learn her family's past.

Since the novel is set during the Great Depression, I was strongly reminded of Out of the Dust (but without poetry).  Visually, I also kept thinking about the TV show Carnivale (which is in no way appropriate for wee little ones), and which represents the 1930s well.

Moon Over Manifest is such a good social studies teacher book.  I could talk about the KKK, the Great Depression, World War I, treatment of immigrants, coal mining, newspaper writing, small town life, the importance of storytelling, prohibition, finding a sense of belonging or home...and on and on.

But there are also a lot of difficulties with the book.  There are flashbacks within flashbacks, some difficult vocabulary.  Characters who have multiple names.  And even though there is a list of characters at the beginning of the book, not everybody is included.  (If used as a read aloud, I would strongly recommend creating extensive character list worksheets to have students fill-out as we go through the book.)

I did enjoy the ending of the novel though.  The interweaving plots came together nicely and reinforced the importance of story, knowing the past and creating a sense of home.

I was left feeling as though the book took on more than it should have.  I thought that if it were trimmed down by a hundred pages, the humor and the central story would have been brought out more and would probably engage young readers a little more.  As it is, I was left reading a book that had some nice moments (KKK+Dark Outhouse+Plus switching toilet paper with poison ivy leaves=AWESOME!) but that also left me feeling pretty bored.  It was a book I felt like I had to get through, instead of one I was actually enjoying.  Which is not good.

As it is, I have to agree with my anonymous friend that I mentioned at the beginning of the post.  Moon Over Manifest feels like a winning novel for the adults, not for the kids.

Dinner Conversation:

"The movement of the train rocked me like a lullaby.  I closed my eyes to the dusty countryside and imagined the sign I knew only from stories.  The one just outside of town with big blue letters:  MANIFEST:  A TOWN WITH A RICH PAST AND A BRIGHT FUTURE.
I thought about my daddy, Gideon Tucker.  He does his best talking in stories, but in recent weeks, those had become few and far between.  So on the occasion when he'd say to me, "Abilene, did I ever tell you 'bout the time...?"  I'd get all quiet and listen real hard.  Mostly he'd tell stories about Manifest, the town where he'd lived once upon a time."  (p. 1)

"I knelt on the floor, and with a fairly easy push and pull, the floorboard popped up enough for me to get my fingers under it and pull it up.  It would have been the perfect hiding spot for one thing.  There was already something there.
I pulled the something out, slow and gentle, and held it up to the moonlight.  It was a Lucky Bill cigar box and inside were papers and odds and ends.  There were letters, thin and folded neat.  One bigger page looked like a map.  The odds and ends clanked inside the box."  (p. 21)

"Let us put your mind to the test as well.  It seems everyone is fond of a good story, dead bodies on trains notwithstanding.  Therefore, your assignment will be to write a story of your own.  You may select the topic and it will be graded for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and creativity.  It will be due September first."  (p. 31)

"An honest to goodness spy!" cried Lettie as the three of us crouched behind the wooden Indian in front of the hardware store.  "Right here in Manifest!  Why, I've never heard anything so exciting."  (p. 41)

"It was interesting piecing together fragments of stories I'd heard from Miss Sadie.  Noting what had changed and what had stayed the same.  But for some reason, these stories all made me sad and more than a little rankled.  It rankled me that everyone in this town had a story to tell.  Everyone owned a piece of this town's history.  Yet no one mentioned my daddy.  Even when Gideon had been here, he hadn't really been here.  I couldn't find much of a sign of his ever even having set foot in Manifest, let alone having left an impression."  (pp. 245-246)

Tasty Rating:  !!!

Also, since we're quite a way into 2011, I figured it was time to start working on some of those challenges I wanted to participate in.  This may be pushing it, but I had wanted to read this book ever since it was announced as the Newbery winner all the way back in...January.  Yes, January.

It counts!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

REVIEW: Cupidity

Goode, C.  (2004).  Cupidity.  New York:  Simon Pulse.

273 pages.

Appetizer:  Laura Sweeney loves mythology.  She's set to be her class's valedictorian, but the one thing she lacks is love.  Without thinking, she sends a prayer to Jupiter asking for a boyfriend.

Her prayer is heard!  Most of the Roman gods are living in a retirement home in Los Angeles.  Since it's been a while since anyone has prayed to them, they decide to answer Laura's prayer, sending Cupid in the disguise of a beautiful teenage girl named Cupidity to make a match for her.

It doesn't take long for cupidity to cause chaos in Laura's Ohio high school, with jocks dating goths, popular girls dating popular boys.  Realizing something is not right, it'll be up to Laura to restore order.

I have to say, I really liked the concept of Cupidity.  I thought the idea of having the Roman gods living in a retirement home was an interesting twist.  Also, the romantic confusion is so complex, seemingly challenging to high school cliques and gender bending (since Cupid becomes Cupidity and then winds up having a role in the confused love mess), I was reminded of a Shakespearean comedy.

I think I would have loved this book...when I was eleven.  You know, before I had any idea what romance or high school were actually like.

The writing not so great.  I found myself cringing at cliches and mediocre descriptions.  The book often tells instead of shows.  As a character, Laura did not engage me at all.  I found her annoying and as the story went on I had serious trouble believing that she was as smart as she was supposed to be.  She was just blah.  Her love interests were blah as well.

I was left feeling certain that I loved the concept of this book, it's potential sense of escapism, much more than the actual book.

Overall, I was left feeling meh.

Dinner Conversation:

"Flies buzzed around the Dumpster in the alley, and the late-summer heat was brutal even in the shade.  Laura Sweeney swatted a mosquito away from her arm and pushed her glasses back up her cute but sweaty nose.  Her friend Taryn sat across from her on the benches behind the Dairy Queen, and both were dressed in the blue polyester uniforms of the DQ" (p. 1).

"Why isn't there a perfect boy out there for me?  Someone I really like.
In anguish, she lifted her head and shouted to the rainy sky, "Jupiter, send me a boyfriend!"
A crack of thunder startled her, and she looked around, feeling a slight chill" (p. 14).

"Cupidity...bow and arrows.  Laura's fevered imagination seized on a ludicrous explanation for these two unlikely romances.  Cupidity had shot her arrows that fateful night when Megan and Peter fell for each other....
No, it's too insane to think that Cupidity is some kind of modern-day Cupid, Laura decided.  I've got to keep my imagination in check" (pp. 111-112)

Tasty Rating:  !!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

REVIEW: The Immortal Fire (The Cronus Chronicles Book Three)

Ursu, A.  The Immortal Fire.  New York:  Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

510 pages (Yikes!).

Appetizer:  In the final Cronus Chronicles novel, Charlotte is still recovering from the adventures in the last novel, The Siren Song.  She and Zee are back at school, but all is not right in the world.  They watch the news, knowing that the world is unravelling as the Greek gods stop hiding their existence from humanity.

Philonecron is keeping busy too, more certain than ever that he is going to become the ruler of the universe, he visits an Oracle and receives some disturbing news.

Zeus, the current ruler of the universe, is not a fan of all the new chaos.  In fact, he thinks it might be time to be done with the silly humans for once and for all.

I have to say, I am sad that this series has ended.  The narration of this series is so fun.  I absolutely love Charlotte and the themes (sacrificing one for the many, the continuation of life after death, etc.).  I just wish I wasn't reading these thick books under a dissertation related time frame.  It puts a bit of a dampener on the enjoyment factor.)

I enjoyed The Immortal Fire immensely.  The jumps back and forth in time made more sense with this book than with the second one.  The voices of the gods were incredibly engaging.  I also loved Philonecron's realization that Charlotte and he should be "frenemies."

Part of the reason I wish there were more books in this series is that the ending of The Immortal Fire did seem a little rushed.  There are all these wonderful tensions about how the humans may have to rebel against the lazy-slacker Greek gods and I felt like that key conflict was dismissed too easily.  Plus, I felt like I wasn't left with a clear picture of what Charlotte and Zee's life would be like after the events of the story.  It was a little dissatisfying.  (But also, since I'd hit page 500, I was also pretty ready to JUST BE DONE WITH THE BOOK!!!!)

Dinner Conversation:

"At the cradle of civilization, close to the belly button of the world, there is a sea like no other on Earth.  This sea is unique for many reasons--the particular wine-dark color of its water, the fact that it is at the nexus of three continents, and of course because of the vast population of Immortals who call it home.  Up until about an hour ago, it was also unique because on it there sailed a yacht like no other--but there is not much of that yacht left anymore, thanks to the ministrations of a rather vengeful, extremely giant, giant squid" (p. ix).

"A few days later, half a world away, one ordinary eighth-grader girl was lying on the couch in her den, stroking her cat and feeling sick.  There was nothing too extraordinary about this situation; this girl stayed home from school, and if you looked at her you would not be surprised.  For Charlotte Mielswetzski (you know how to pronounce that by now, right?  Meals-wet-ski?) was covered in gross yellow bruises and small cuts and wore her wrist in a splint and generally looked as if she had had an unfortunate encounter with a very large falling piano" (p. 3).

"The gods had retreated because Zeus didn't want to deal with humanity anymore.  And they kept it so humanity didn't know they existed.  That didn't mean they didn't interfere--some gods used the mortal realm as their playground, and people as their playthings.  The policy seemed to be that they could do whatever they wanted as long as no one noticed them.
Well, people were noticing them now"  (p. 11).

"This was the way of things.  [Philonecron] was a hero, this was a hero's journey, an epic for the ages--the saga of a humble demon's long journey from Underworld garbage collector to Supreme Lord of All Creation.  He never wanted an enemy--he was peace loving, not prone to conflict--but every hero had a nemesis, one as terrible as he was great.  It was only literary.  It was the conquest of the Universe, after all.  One did expect it to be literary" (p. 57).

"Yes, [Zeus] had made a decision, but circumstances change and a good leader changes with them.  The children had caused all of this, and maybe humanity needed to be punished for it.  Zeus hated to give Hera the satisfaction of doing what she wanted, but if those children did one more thing it would be time to make another decision.  It would be a terrible bother, of course, and his world would be a little more empty without humans, but sometimes you have to suffer for justice.
They had one more chance" (p. 125).

"[Mr. Metos] paused and gazed at the cousins.  "Though now I find I have a new [purpose]."
"What's that?" Charlotte asked.
"Keeping the two of you alive."
"Oh," said Zee.
"And apparently I cannot do that by myself, and I cannot do that while you two lead your daily lives in the open.  I have made every attempt to shield you from danger, and with every attempt the danger seems only to grow.  There's only one option that I can see."
Charlotte and Zee looked at each other.  "What?" Charlotte asked, her voice shaking a little.
"You are coming with me.  We are going to the Prometheans" (pp. 158-159).

Tasty Rating:  !!!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

REVIEW: The Phantom Tollbooth

Juster, N.  (1961).  The Phantom Tollbooth.  New York:  Dell Yearling.

256 pages.

If you would have asked me a couple of months ago, I would have sworn that I never read The Phantom Tollbooth.  Ever.  When I finally listened to the audio book and then picked up a paperback copy, I started to realize a few of the characters Milo meets seemed...familiar.

It turns out I *did* read the classic novel sometime around the fourth or fifth grade.  It just didn't leave much of an impression.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I thought it was boring with an image or two capturing my interest every now and then (like Alec, who always had the same point of view and so walked on air waiting to "grow down" and reach his full height, or like Milo leading an orchestra in the sunrise).

As an adult though, my impression has changed.  (Although, Alec the boy who walks in the air and conducting an orchestra in colors are still two of my favorite moments.)

Appetizer:  Milo is one out of sorts little boy.  He just doesn't know what to do with himself.  He's not interested in anything.  One day, he arrives home to find someone has delivered a small car, a map and the phantom tollbooth.  After going through the tollbooth, Milo finds himself in a fantastic land, where cities named Dictionopolis and Digitopolis are always at odds.  The only hope for the entire country is to bring back the princesses Rhyme and Reason to the country.  Milo, along with some of the friends he makes along the way, may have the best chance at restoring rhyme and reason to the land.

With lots of play with language and filled with observations about culture, I wouldn't call The Phantom Tollbooth a plot driven novel by any means.  (At that could have been part of my problem as a fourth or fifth grader.)  Instead of tension, the novel is more episodic revealing witty observations and critiques of culture and language.  I think it is a book that, when used with kids, an adult should help mediate the experience, to help the kids know what it is they should be taking away from the story.

For my students, the aspect of the novel that seemed to strike them the most was the conflict and companionship between language and mathematics.  By chance, I wound up with a lot of students who plan to be math teachers someday.  Generally, a lot of future math teachers are unhappy that they are required to take my course, which inherently favors language arts and social studies.  So, it seemed to be an inspiring and powerful message that our first book explored this supposed battle between math and language (through the conflict between Digitopolis and Dictionopolis).  I even got the best-est email ever from a student saying they couldn't wait to incorporate The Phantom Tollbooth and other literature into his math classroom.  (YAY)

My students are now in the exact right place for me to show them my favorite picturebook series about math EVER:

Don't you just see this book and want to read it?

If I'd had a teacher who'd shown me this series's mix of fantasy, history and math when I was younger maybe I would have enjoyed math a little more.

Despite all of the wonderful and witty explorations of idioms and discussions of math and how they go hand-in-hand, my students still came to the conclusion that language was favored throughout The Phantom Tollbooth since more chapters were set in Dictionopolis than in Digitopolis.  But we did discuss how we loved the fact that a pencil is described as a "magic staff" capable of great power and magic.  That is such a powerful metaphor.  I love it!

Sidenote--I originally listened to the audio book of this novel and it caused me to declare it to be THE MOST BORING BOOK EVER.  Reading it myself made it much more enjoyable for some reason or another.  Something for you readers of the world to be aware of.

Dinner Conversation:

"There was once a boy named Milo who didn't know what to do with himself--not just sometimes, but always.
When he was in school he longed to be out, and when he was out he longed to be in.  On the way he thought about coming home, and coming home he thought about going.  Wherever he was he wished he were somewhere else, and when he got there he wondered why he'd bothered.  Nothing really interested him--least of all the things that should have" (p. 9).

"Suddenly he found himself speeding along an unfamiliar country highway, and as he looked back over his shoulder neither the tollbooth nor his room nor even the house was anywhere in sight.  What had started as make-believe was nor very real" (p. 16).

"Well, then," said Milo, not understanding why each one said the same thing in a slightly different way, "wouldn't it be simpler to use just one?  It would certainly make more sense."
"Bosh," they chorused again, and continued.
"We're not interested in making sense; it's not our job," scolded the first."  (p. 40)

"And so they were taking from the palace and sent far away to the Castle in the Air, and they have not been seen since.  This is why today, in all this land, there is neither Rhyme nor Reason."
"And what happened to the two rulers?" asked Milo.
"Banishing the two princesses was the last thing they ever agreed upon, and they soon fell to warring with each other.  Despite this, their own kingdoms have continued to prosper, but the old city of Wisdom has fallen into great disrepair, and there is no one to set things right."  (p. 77)

Tasty Rating:  !!!!

Although I picked up this novel only to discover that I had in fact read it as a child, I'd still like to count The Phantom Tollbooth in the "Wish I'd Read That" Challenge, since if I hadn't picked it up to read, I would not have discovered that I was actually re-reading it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Readathon: Monica's Fifth Update

Oooooh, I'm really enjoying my current book--Inside Out by Maria Snyder. I had been worrying, because I finished Across the Universe not too many days ago, and it seemed like two futuristic mystery-ish spaceship novels in almost as many days might be too much. Apparently, though, I'm just a spaceship kind of girl. ;)

This may be my last post of the Readathon, unfortunately. I am going to keep at the actual reading portion of it, but I have moved to my bedroom and... there's a strong chance that I'm going to pass out unexpectedly for the remainder of the night. I will try to remain strong, though!!

Just in case, it has been a brilliant day! Thanks to all who participated on our Mini-Challenge. And see you next year!!!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Readathon: Monica's Fourth Update

Shel and I were reflecting today about how we've done quite a few Readathons at this point, and it's fun every time. Are you guys still all going strong and reading like champs, friends and readers?

I worked my way through House Without Windows, which was just... fantastic. I love old books to start with--I think it's that super-ancient-paper smell--and this one in particular was even better than normal. I was planning on reviewing it here but I think I may actually need to let it percolate for a few hours before I attempt it. I babble under the best of circumstances, so probably trying to write something serious after... many... many hours of reading and caffeine... isn't the best idea.

Next up, I'll be tackling Inside Out! I have heard it's brilliant in pretty much every way, so I have high hopes it'll carry me through the evening.

Keep on reading!

Read-a-thon: Shel's Fourth Update

Hi again, Cool Cats, Hot Dogs and Few But Dear Readers,

I'm checking-in to let you know that it's getting close to my bedtime.  I'm going to keep reading, but it will be from the comfort of my bed.

Expect my update to come tomorrow morning.

Keep up the reading, peeps!

Shel's Response to the Book Sentence Mini-Challenge

It's kind of sensical....

The mockingbirds shiver, wide awake, getting revenge on Lauren Wood.

Readathon Mini-Challenge: Re-Create the Cover Winner!!!!!

Guys, this picking winners stuff is difficult.  I can see why Monica and I have always chosen people at random in the past.

This time though, Monica and I decided to choose by effort.  And that made this incredibly difficult.  So difficult, in fact, that Monica and I had to choose at random between the finalists.

So, without further ramblings, the winner is Sheila at Bookjourney with this recreation:

Congrats to Sheila!  Pick your book-alicious prize  from the dewey website!!!!!

Monica and I would also like to make note of a couple of honorable mentions who were in serious competition for the top spot.

Anna of wordsandfood did an amazing job:

Her time and effort really shows!!!!!!!  Monica and I were super-impressed!

We also wanted to recognize the work of LRAtRandom:

It took me longer than I would like to admit to realize one of the images wasn't actually a book cover.

Thank you to everyone who participated!  There were so many fun and amazing recreations!!!!!!

You all have futures as cover designers, as far as I'm concerned.

Read-a-thon: Mid-Point Questionnaire Response

1. What are you reading right now?


Monica: The House Without Windows, by Barbara Newhall Follett

2. How many books have you read so far?

Shel: Pathetically, I haven't finished any. But I have made progress in two longer novels and worked on my dissertation.

Monica: Ditto! Oh my gosh, I'm ashamed of myself. But in my defense, I'm reading a super ancient Library of Congress copy, and I'm afraid to turn the pages too quickly.....

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

Shel: Continuing to march my way through The Immortal Fire.

Monica: Gently turning the pages of House Without Windows, onward.....

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


Monica: Not at all! Hooray for Saturdays!

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

Do my indoor cats clawing to be let outside count? I tried to explain to them that they are my indoor babies, but they're rather obstinate. So, instead I have to get up every ten minutes to let one in or out from my balcony.

Monica: Some... the birds were screaming, occasionally I got hungry... and The Walking Dead keeps calling my name. Alas.

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

The lack of reading I've done. Instead I've been enjoying jumping from blog to blog. Bad reader!

Monica: I have really enjoyed the challenges this year! They all seem so inventive!

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

I just love participating.

Monica: I vote ponies for every participant.

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

Remember to check out picture books from the library so I will be able to feel *awesome* when I say I will have read 20 books.

Monica: Get sturdier books! And also maybe more snacks... I'm running low.

9. Are you getting tired yet?

Not yet. My lower back is demanding I stretch more.

Monica: Getting there! I may need coffee!

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?

Caffeine. But I doubt it's undiscovered.

Monica: Um. Good lighting? Not being near cats? Cats for sure lure you into taking naps....

Readathon Mini-Challenge: Re-Create the Cover

Welcome Readathon Participants!  

This mini-challenge runs from 5 PM to 8 PM EST.

Your mission, should you be super-awesome enough to accept it, is to use household objects, pets, stuffed animals, people, places, things in your neighborhood, etc. to take a photo recreating the cover image of one of the books you've read or plan to read for the readathon.  

If you lack a book cover, don't feel left out!  You can create some sort of representation of whatever you are reading by drawing, constructing, pasting, shaving, WHATEVER....

Participants should post an image of the book cover (or a brief description of it if no cover is available) and the photo of their recreation on their blog and then post a link to the post in the comments of this post.

(The prize will be provided by Dewey.)

Readathon: Monica's Third Update

Well friends, I had to take a break from fun reading to eat lunch and watch a bit of Walking Dead with the boytoy.

But really, isn't that almost like participating in Readathon? Because, after all, the show is based on a really epic graphic novel series, which absolutely everyone should read.


Back to actual book-reading.

Read-a-Thon: Shel's Third Update

Hello Cool Cats, Hot Dogs and Few But Dear Readers,

I am here and I am still reading.

I managed to meet my daily goal for working on my dissertation.  (Although my cats still aren't showing any initiative to type up the changes.)  If I'm super lucky, maybe I'll work ahead a little later in the read-a-thon.  Maybe.

For the time being, I'm taking turns reading The Immortal Fire, Moon Over Manifest and listening to the audio book of the second House of Night novel, Betrayed:

In other news, I have a cat on my lap.  This does not bode well for moving or stretching my back.  (That's right kids, the first symptom of achy-back-if-i-were-a-real-slug-being-still-this-long-wouldn't-be-a-problem syndrome has begun.)

Readathon Mini Challenge: Favorite Classic

And here's our next challenge, coming by way of Allie over at A Literary Odyssey: Name your favorite classic book... and a justification.

Although it's tempting to be all "OMG PRIDE AND PREJUDICE," I think I'm going to have to go with "The Secret Garden," by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I've loved it since I was old enough to read. At this point, my battered stained copy is like a personal friend.

Plot-wise, the book has pretty much everything. Brat of a girl slowly becoming a decent human being? Yes. Pseudo-magic boy who can almost talk to animals? Check. Gorgeous descriptions of the English moor coming alive in spring? Definitely. And of course, mysteries in a potentially haunted mansion, down-to-earth servant girls who don't know how to be "proper," scary uncle/father figures who loom about in the background whilst slowly gaining your sympathy, and endless descriptions of crocuses coming to life.

I can't even pick out which character I like best. Mary is, as mentioned, a brat of the highest order. Burnett happily writes along, describing her as all yellow and pinched and nasty-looking, so it's a relief when Mary finally starts to improve. You have to love a book where minor characters say things like, "God, I know we're supposed to feel bad for her because her parents are dead, but did you ever SEE such a repulsive little creature?" Oh yes.

Mary's cousin Colin is even worse--my favorite scene in the book is when Mary storms into Colin's room while he's shrieking like a banshee about his impending death, and smacks him full in the face while shrieking back about how he's the most horrible boy on earth and why doesn't he just DIE already!? (Actually, this is making me a little worried about my personal psyche, that at age eight this was my favorite book....)

And of course there's Dickon, the kindhearted country boy who has tame fox kits as pets and who can call birds straight down from the trees. He can SUMMON ANIMALS. Guys, this is awesome. He sees beauty in everything, even nasty little pinched Mary, and more importantly sees their potential to become something wonderful. Loved him. The nineties-era movie did not do him justice.

And... now I'm rambling, and have the insane desire to throw aside the not-nearly-as-good book I'm currently reading, and go back for a nice reread of Secret Garden. Because it's fantastic. ;)

Read-a-thon: Shel's Second Update

Break time!

Thus far, I've only been working on my dissertation.  But I only have to revise another six pages or so before I meet today's goal (very doable.)  Then somebody will have to type up all of my changes...  *glances at cats*  it's about time they started contributing around here.  I mean, I can't type up the changes, today is supposed to be devoted to reading.

Also, can anyone figure out the answer to Monica's mini-challenge book cover puzzle below?  I cannot.  Unless, CSI Asia:  A need for speed is really a book someone has decided to publish.  No?

I'd probably read that book.  As long as there was some Sara/Grissom angst.  Their romance was the only reason I watched that show.

Okay, back to the reading!  I think I'm going to take a break from the dissertation and switch rooms for awhile to help me stay motivated.  Hello, comfy chair.  Hello, Newbery award winner.

Readathon Mini Challenge: Book Puzzle

My first posted mini challenge of the day! I'm sure there will be more, unless of course I succumb to fatigue and pass out under the table for the remainder of the afternoon....

According to the instructions over at One Librarian's Book Reviews,

For this challenge, you will be creating a Book Puzzle. Essentially, this is a series of pictures, graphics, or photos that you put together that will describe a book title.

So let's see... we'll do one that I just read the other day (for the first time, which is sort of embarrassing). Have fun guessing!

Now, back to the books!

Readathon: Monica's Second Update

Well friends, it's official -- I'm probably going to give up on the proofreading and dive right into trashy YA reading within the next hour. This, of course, goes against my entire plan for the day. But how am I supposed to concentrate on grammatical inconsistencies when there's a book about spaceships calling my name, siren-like, from the corner of the living room?!

It's a losing battle, for sure.

I don't know if any of you ever have the pleasure of proofreading, but it can be a wonderful experience... or a nightmarish one. I was worried originally that I would end up unable to read books "normally" ever again--that I would latch on to every tiny mistake and grumble about how the editors should have caught it. Luckily, I apparently can compartmentalize that particular section of my brain, and keep it from bothering me when I'm reading for fun. ;)

Read-a-thon: Shel's First Update

Okay, so I'm having a...sloooooow start to the day, this morning.

Nonetheless, I am super-excited about the readathon today.  In case you haven't noticed, I've been dropping the ball what it comes to posting reviews as of late.  Blame my dissertation.  It has been turning me into a crazy person these past few weeks.  Seriously.  A crazy person.  I'm so thankful that I still manage to remember to brush my hair each day, because the rest of my mind is going.

So, I am very much looking forward to a day of reading (with a few hours of dissertation work intermixed).  Be prepared for a day of posting because both Monica and I love participating in readathon mini-challenges.  We'll also be hosting our own challenge later in the day.

If you'd still like to join the readathon or learn more about it, visit here.

But before I leave you to immerse myself in a nice, welcoming story, here are a few answers to kick the day off.

1)Where are you reading from today?

My home.  Where the cats circle and the cable box makes a funny clicking noise.

2)Three random facts about me…

1)  My dissertation is driving me crazy.

2)  Teavana's Earl Grey Creme tea has become the official Tea of Me.  It is delicious with ricemilk and LOTSA sugar.  (But then, lots of sugar can make just about anything delicious.)

3)  Did I mention I have turned into a crazy person?

3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?

I don't have a specific number.  I just need to make some serious bum-kicking progress in the books I've been reader.  (For more on the books that will be bum-kicked, see the next question.)

4)Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?

I don't have any specific goals beyond getting through another twenty pages of my dissertation and getting through a large Chunk of Ursu's The Immortal Fire and Vanderpool's Moon Over Manifest.  Both of which I have been stuck in the middle of for a couple of weeks.

5)If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?

It really does help to read graphic novels, picturebooks or some other quick read to help you feel like you're making process.  I'm just not certain if I'll be following my own advice....

Readathon: Monica's First Update

Good morning fearless readers! And welcome to the first Readathon of the year! :)

I'm super pumped for today, and I know that Shel is too. My birds, unfortunately, seem less than thrilled -- they've been shrieking since eight this morning and show no signs of stopping... I may need to send them on a field trip outside if I'm going to get any actual reading done.....

Anyway! On my TBR pile today I've got two books by Barbara Newhall Follett (The House Without Windows and The Voyage of the Norman D), Inside Out by Maria Snyder, and A Conspiracy of Kings by my she-just-doesn't-know-it-yet-BFF Meghan Whalen Turner, of whom the ground upon which she walks I worship. Heartsies.

I'm also proofreading today, which I figure counts as reading, albeit tedious and not all that fun reading, so that'll be helping me break up the day as well.

How about you, friends? What are your plans for the day?

Happy Reading!


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