Saturday, October 30, 2010

Giveaway: 250 Followers!

Yay! I've been waiting to reach some sort of distinctive number of followers to hold a fun little giveaway. This morning, I logged on to my computer and saw that I had reached 250 followers. That seems like a perfect number to host one. So, here goes!

Feel free to leave a comment after entering to share what's at the top of your wishlist. I'm always looking to add to mine!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Book Review: Trash by Andy Mulligan

As a high school English teacher, I am always looking for great whole-class reads. I think that I might have found one with Andy Mulligan's novel Trash. One of the challenges I face in selecting books that I can use with all students in a class is readability because I have a variety of students in front of me and because I read aloud lots and lots. (Not every book is great when read aloud.)

And, I am forever looking for accessible, interesting, and current World Lit. Yes, I know that there are tons of adult books that are great out there that also qualify as World Lit, but it can be difficult to find a whole-class read that is interesting and dynamic and written about a culture other than the US.

Trash will take my students to a place that they have definitely never been.  Lots of my students live in poverty, but not like these kids. This story takes place in an unidentified South American/ Latin American country where the law is lawless and the people suffer under corrupt politicians and police officers. This is a world unlike any other that I've ever read about. Scenes that take place in the dump where the children live and in the prisons are so full of vividly disturbing imagery. There is no way to read this book and not picture the absolute hell that these people live in, sometimes for their entire lives.

But, this book is more than just a sad story about the lost children of the dump. It's a mystery and a political expose and it's told through the eyes of several characters. The adventure that these boys take you on will be wild and intense, but feels real and like a tiny little victory for human kind. It's a suspenseful read. I loved it. Now, I just need to come up with a plan for reading it with my students. That shouldn't be too difficult!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Book Review: Generation Dead by Daniel Waters

I've read a few zombie novels now, and am loving them. Some are post-apocalyptic and scary (Forest of Hands and Teeth), some are classic-funny (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), and others are a bit of a social commentary. Generation Dead is more of the latter. It's not the most plausible, but it is interesting.

The plot almost reminds of an integration story. Zombie teens (created after death from a combination of a mysterious brain fungus and teen hormones) are now a part of society in the United States. So, they are starting to want to do normal things, like have jobs and go to school. Some parents are accepting of their "differently biotic" children; others are not. There is discrimination and bias and there are stereotypes and violence.

As typically biotic children and the undead start to mingle, relationships start to form. This is true of the main character, Phoebe, and her love interest, Tommy. He catches Phoebe's eye when he tries out for the football team. Of course, there are protests and anger and outrage at a zombie trying out for football. The living do not want their children mingling (or showering) with the undead.

But Tommy's just trying to prove a point. The he can do what the living can do. That the undead have rights that did not end when their hearts stopped beating. This whole civil rights aspect of this novel definitely made me think of other struggles for equality and acceptance. Certainly, I was reminded of the Civil Rights Movement, but also of more current issues like the fight for equal rights for gays and immigrants.

I loved this parallel. I did not get upset that there was little of the typical zombie stuff in this book. There were no zombie teens craving brains. No humans fleeing from the undead. If anything, the zombies were more at-risk from the breathers in this book. It's definitely a different take on a fairly typical paranormal subject, and it's one that I enjoyed.

And, if you're still interested in reading this book, I am giving away a copy of it along with an awesome bookmark and a "zombies eat flesh" button. Click here to enter!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Book Review: The Limit by Kristen Landon

Americans tend to spend more than they earn. We have all read the headlines, watched shows like "The Real Housewives" and MTV's "Sweet Sixteen". We know that America has a problem with buying for pleasure, and some of us have even felt the repercussions of this spending philosophy (whether because of our own doing or because of someone else).

As bad as losing our jobs and our financial security has been, what about losing our children? Kristen Landon's The Limit imagines a futuristic America where parents who overspend lose their children to Dickens-like workhouses. Think Oliver Twist.

Except, not all of the workhouses are created equally. If your child is smart, he or she may live in the lap of luxury, unwittingly racking up more debt for your family. If your child is not so bright, they live a life of menial servitude until they turn 18 and are given their own limit. And the cycle continues.

This story centers around a preteen named Matt and his misadventures in one such workhouse. He is taken away from his distraught parents after they go on wild spending sprees. The saccharine-sweet woman who takes him to the skyscraper workhouse assures Matt that he will leave as soon as his parents pay down their debt and are under their limit. And, he can help by working hard on his computer. Too bad for her. Matt is no dummy and is not fooled with the fun and games for very long. He starts asking questions, demanding freedom, and causes problem after problem for the adults in the workhouse.

But, in a society that sees the spendthrift purchases of its adults as the inheritance of its youth, are Matt and his peers doomed to workhouses no matter how much they protest?

This is a thought-provoking and adventure-filled middle grade/ lower high school read. I think that there are lots of discussions that can come out of a reading of this book. Perhaps we need to start talking more openly with our young teens about money in order to prevent the very society that Landon predicts? I don't think it would hurt!

**Read and reviewed as part of the Y2-D2 Dystopian Books Challenge at Bart's Bookshelf**

Friday, October 22, 2010

Book Review: Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams

Heartbreaking. Gritty. Devastating. Somber. Real. 


These are the words that come to mind when I think of my experience in reading Carol Lynch Williams's novel in verse, Glimpse. It is the story of two sisters torn apart by an abusive, uncaring, and demented mother. It is the story of innocence lost. It is madness and reality all in one. 

Written in a series of poems, the narrative voice of the main character has a child-like feel to it. In fact, the speaker in this book is probably in her pre-teen years. It reads like a poetic version of Dorothy Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina. The themes are similar and so is the utter desperation of the children in these books. 

This book gave me horrible nightmares. It is not out-and-out graphic in terms of portraying the abuse that infects the lives of these two girls, but it is emotionally and mentally provocative. I was disturbed by this book. But, that is not necessarily a bad thing. I think that this book could be very helpful and/or interesting to readers who have enjoyed other controversial novels like Ellen Hopkins's Tricks and Thalia Chaltas's Because I Am Furniture. No happy endings. But, a realistic view of the lives of two young girls whose every day lives are turbulent and unpredictable.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Author Guest Post: Catherine Ryan Hyde

For this author guest post, I asked Catherine Ryan Hyde to write about her choice of including a trangered character in her novel Jumpstart the World.  Here's what she had to say:

As some of you may know already, I grew up with a transgender sibling.  When I was about 13 or 14, I had to learn to call my sister my brother and switch from “she” to “he.”

I managed.  I don’t mean to make it sound like the trouble was all mine.  Sometimes I think people make too much of their own discomfort as a friend or relative of someone in transition.  Really you are not being asked to do anything but accept change.  Maybe I’m lucky, because I got a good early lesson in acceptance.  That’s the kind of lesson that comes in handy as life unfolds.

This is actually not the first time I’ve included a transgender character in one of my books. Pay It Forward---yes, Pay It Forward—contains the character of a transgender teen.  Gordy is his name.  He’s a teenage boy with a female gender expression, not really in transition yet, but presenting himself as female whenever he can get around his angry stepfather.  Unfortunately, his character never made it into the movie, so most people don’t know about Gordy.  See, that’s another good reason to read the book instead of just seeing the movie, for those interested in LGBT characters in fiction.

I knew why I wrote him into that book, too.  I was so outraged by the violence and abuse faced by transgender people.  The way someone will cross over from the other side of the street to start trouble.  To get in their faces, push them.  Ask them, “What are you?” (Uh, a human being?)  Call them “it.” When it happens to someone you care about, it’s pretty damned unbearable.  So I wanted to make that point.  Okay, it seems strange to you, fine.  Walk the other way.  Why would you even take it on as a personal problem?  You’re a total stranger.  What’s your point of engagement?  Why do you even care?

Not too long after I wrote Pay It Forward I met my friend Doug (I dedicated the book to him).  I read an article about a local transgender man (female to male) in the newspaper. I was so impressed by the courage it takes to come out like that in a small-town setting.  I didn’t know him at all, but I knew he’d just done a radio interview with a guy I know, so I got his email address and sent him a note of support.  I wanted to applaud him for that article.  In case he got any other, less supportive, notes.  He wrote back, and we’ve been friends ever since.

One thing has been experienced in common by both these transgender people in my life:  the fear and helplessness involved in a hospital stay.  When you read Jumpstart the World, if you do, you’ll see how that came into play.


I think I’m pretty disturbed by how much misunderstanding remains around the subject of transgender.  And I want to make a small contribution to clearing it up.  It’s hard for me to believe that many people still think it’s a mental illness, but there are those who still do.  Transgender people are not so disturbed that they don’t know what gender they are. 
Transgender people are not so disturbed that they don’t know what gender they are.  A transgender person is someone whose insides don’t match their outsides.  It could have happened to you.  As it turns out, it didn’t.  But if it had, you’d understand, and you’d wish others would be open to understanding.  Or at least accepting.

So that’s why I wrote about the subject on more than one occasion.   Because I know from experience that when you know a transgender person, acceptance is not hard.  So, after this, maybe you’ll know Frank (from Jumpstart the World).  And maybe that will help just a little.  Maybe that will add a little understanding and acceptance to the issue.  I hope so.  I think it’s overdue.


Thanks to Catherine Ryan Hyde for visiting this blog and for writing such amazing books!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Book Review + Swag Giveaway: Beautiful Creatures by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia

Beautiful Creatures is a Southern Gothic novel of epic proportions. It is complicated and intertwines Civil War era history and paranormal activity in with a modern teen romance.

Ethan and Lena meet in a thunderstorm of nightmarish proportions. Ethan has just lost his mom and Lena has never known hers. They are a motherless pair, and the quickly become inseparable. But, Ethan is from one world and Lena is from another. Ethan's world is filled with Southern tradition, sports, and traditional Southern Belles. Lena's world is filled with mystery and magic. But, when these two get together, it's impossible to ignore the almost visible sparks.

The only thing that can keep these star-crossed lovers apart? The fact that Lena is turning 16. Seems innocuous, yes, but in Lena's world, 16 is an age where you find out whether you're Light or Dark. Either way, Lena and Ethan are not sure what the future holds for them.

*   *   *
This plot is even more complicated than I'm making it out to be in this review. That's because this tale is masterfully told. It's like it's an historical novel, a murder-mystery, a paranormal tale, and a teen romance all woven together. It's awesome. And, the next book in this series, Beautiful Darkness, is out in stores. So, there's zero wait!

To win a Beautiful Creatures bookmark and a pin, simply comment on this post. Make sure to leave an email address so that I can contact you. Ends 10/26 at midnight EST. This bookmark is so gorgeous and I have a bunch, so I may even choose more than one winner! Fun!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Book Spooks: Cast Your Villian

WORD for Teens is holding a hugely awesome Halloween event. It runs everyday until Halloween, and there are going to be all sorts of bookish events. One of the activities that they have planned is the Cast Your Villain challenge. If you participate, you could win TWO books; The Body Finder and Desires of the Dead.

To enter, simply choose a villain from one of your favorite reads. Then, find an actor (or actress) who should play that role in the movie version of your book. I've chosen to cast Mayor Prentiss of the Chaos Walking series. I am currently reading Monsters of Men and feel like I have a good picture of this evil, controlling man in my mind. Here he is:

Malcolm McDowell as Mayor Prentiss
Doesn't he look scary? Even when he's happy? That's the kind of man we need to play Mayor Prentiss, the king of evil and manipulation. This actor is no stranger to playing evil characters. He starred in the film production of A Clockwork Orange, which is easily one of the most disturbing book-to-movie that I've ever seen. But, this had better happen soon, as Mr. McDowell is getting older by the minute. Quick, someone cast him for this role!

Book Review: The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

 If you read James Dashner's The Maze Runner, chances are you're dying to find out what's happening next in The Scorch Trials. If so, you need to read this book soon. Rather than finding answers, you may be asking more and more and more questions. Nothing is as it seems in this bizarre world.

If you thought that the Gladers were safe after leaving the maze, you're wrong. WICKED, the mysterious organization behind the maze and the scorch trials is upping the ante. Only a few will survive the next test. And this test is much harder than the first. This will test the boys and girl(s) mentally and physically. There are no safe spots, there is no way to escape the game.

Was it a little frustrating to have this book pile on more and more questions and offer no answers? I'm not going to lie, it was. For sure. But, I was not disinterested in the story once. And, I am looking forward to the next book in this series even more than I was this second installment.

So, I guess that I have to wait a whole year to find out the what's going on in this whacked-out world. I hope it's well worth the wait!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Giveaway: Halloween Treat Prize Pack

It's almost Halloween. I am a huge fan of dressing up, acting like someone else, and wearing gaudy jewelry and make-up. I also love to read books that are scary and creepy. I've read a few books lately that fit this category. And now, I'm going to give one to you!

Here's what you can win:


Generation Dead by Daniel Waters
A Zombies Eat Flesh Button
A Bookmark with Skulls

Here's what you need to do to win:

Leave a comment answering: What are you giving out for candy this year? I never have anyone stop at my house, so I'm giving out this prize pack. But, I'd like to know what you're doing. 

Make sure to leave your email so that I can contact you. This giveaway is only open to US residents; international folks, I promise to have something for you very soon. 
Closes 10/31 at midnight EST.




Halloween Read-A-Thon: Wrap-Up Post

 I'm calling it quits early on the Halloween Read-A-Thon. Actually, I'm just going to go to bed and read for a while until I pass out. Reading makes me tired!

This has been a surprisingly productive read-a-thon for me. I had lots of plans for the weekend, but came down with a surprise sickness and have been in bed for the better part of a day and a half. Which, of course, has equaled lots of reading time. Here's what I read this weekend:


All three great in their own separate ways. Now, I just have to find time to write lots of reviews...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Halloween Read-A-Thon: Mini Challenge 3

Jami at the YA Addict is hosting a mini challenge for the Halloween Read-A-Thon. For this challenge, participants are asked to post about their "spookiest" read.  I haven't read a lot of books that have spooked me, but there is one that I read recently that has me wondering and thinking. And, it's kinda spooky.

It's called Trance and it's by Linda Gerber. Here's my synopsis:

Ashlyn and her sister, Kyra, have an ability that no one else seems to have. Every once in a while (could be once per day or once per month), they have visions. While they are having a vision, they go into a deep trance. In their trance, they see events that have yet to happen. And when they awake, they see that they have written lots and lots of equations.

Though Kyra and Ashlyn have the same ability, they do not have the same reaction to their trances. Kyra saw visions that led her to believe that something bad was going to happen to their mother. Ashlyn chose to silence her trances with alcohol. Then, their mother died in a tragic accident--an accident that Ashlyn caused.

Now, Kyra is gone. Ashlyn does not know where. Worse, her father has completely immersed himself in his work and pays little attention to Ashlyn. She feels totally and completely alone. And the visions are still coming. But, this time she plans to solve the mysterious clues and help to save a life rather than take one.

Halloween Read-A-Thon: Mini Challenge 2

This is the second mini challenge that I'm participating in as part of the Halloween Read-A-Thon. I chose to complete this one next because it is just going to be so very easy for me. It's hosted by Truth Be Told and it asks participants to choose a song to go with their current read. I am reading Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes, which is the first book in a graphic novel series. (I won it from Vampires and Tofu during a read-a-thon that I participated in earlier this fall and have been saving it for this read-a-thon.)

So, what song am I going to choose? Is there any other choice? I have to pick "Enter Sandman" by Metallica! It's absolutely perfect for this book, not only because of the title and lyrics, but the tone and rhythm of the music. Love it. Here's a video for your viewing/ listening pleasure:


Metallica - Enter Sandman (Official Music Video) [HD] from MetallicaHD on Vimeo.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Halloween Read-A-Thon: Update


I have a super busy weekend and cannot commit completely to the Halloween Read-A-Thon, though I definitely wish that I could. But, I do have some time tonight and tomorrow night and Sunday night. That's three nights. That could equal two books (more?) read.


Tonight, I've already read almost 200 pages in Generation Dead by Daniel Waters. I've chosen a couple of scary-ish reads for this rad-a-thon, given that it's a Halloween challenge. I'm also planning to participate in all of the mini challenges. I hope to get to visit some new blogs and follow some that pique my interests. I've already found a couple!

Here's to a good night of reading to you all. I hope to wake tomorrow with Generation Dead near finished!

Halloween Read-A-Thon: Mini Challenge

 One of my favoritest blogs, Vampires and Tofu, is hosting a mini-challenge for the Halloween Read-A-Thon. Why do I love this blog so well? Because the content is well-written, the reviews are thoughful, and the blog design and layout are gorgeous. Love that blog.

So, I am going to participate in whatever's going on over there. It just so happens that what's going on is related to the Halloween Read-A-Thon, which I'm all signed up for. Here's the challenge:

Your mission for this challenge is to grab the scariest book you have and leave the opening sentence from it in the comments. Be sure and leave the name of the book and the author too!

Well, I don't really keep any of the books I've read at home. Most books that I read and write about are all YA, and I bring them to my students as soon as I'm done. So, I had to pull from the adult section of my shelves (admittedly small, about 100 titles or so, but stocked full of good reads). Here's my choice for this challenge:


"It was as black in the closet as old blood."

Makes you want to keep reading, no? 
Here's the book that this first line is from:


Not really a young adult book, but chock full of creepy goodness!

Halloween Read-A-Thon: Sign-Up (Repost)



Though this Read-A-Thon takes place during the weekend of a huge graduate symposium during which I need to present a huge paper, I'm thinking that my addled brain might need a little break from all of the research about literacy and such. So, I'm going to sign up for the Halloween Read-A-Thon that's being hosted by Young Adult Books Reviewed.

Want to join? Sign-ups started today! Don't know if you can participate? That's okay, because you can join in the fun without participating too heavily. There will be mini challenges and giveaways for those who join and read, so it'll definitely be worth your efforts!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Character Connection: Bill Sikes


Character Connection is a weekly meme hosted by Jen at The Introverted Reader every Thursday. For the month of October, the characters featured in this meme are going to be evil characters who totally freak you out.
 A character that freaks me out is Bill Sikes. He's one of the most evil, malicious, violent characters I've ever had the (dis)pleasure of meeting in a book. He literally creeps me out and has no redeeming qualities.  Here are some Bill Sikes-related scenes from Oliver Twist that I cannot rattle our of my head:

-The one where he nearly kills his prostitute girlfriend, Nancy, for helping Oliver
-The one where he does kill Nancy
-The one where he kidnaps Oliver
-The one where he forces Oliver to commit robbery
-The one where he locks up Oliver and holds him hostage

He's a scary man. Luckily, he dies. But, there's just something so very base and barbaric about this man. Uggh. I get cold shivers just thinking about him!



Character Interview & Auction: Swati Avasthi's Split

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview one of the most realistic characters I've ever met. His name is Jace, and his story is told in Swati Avasthi's novel Split. It's a fantastic read. It's a must-read.


I am an English teacher and students sometimes use writing assignments as a place to open up about their troubles. If a teacher were paying close attention to you, would they suspect that something was going on at home? Did you give off signs that others missed? 

Probably not.  I was pretty decent at hiding it. Practice makes silent. The what-happens-at-home-stays-at-home policy wasn’t just to protect my dad; it was a survival strategy for me, too.  Schoolbecame a sort of sanctuary for me.  For hours upon hours, I was a regular kid.  

Could my teachers have figured it out if I wrote something about it?  Well, there's the rub.  I would never written anything about it.  If I did, I’d have shredded it.

So, maybe that’s how they could have figured it out -- from what was not there.


Suspicious Absence:  I never took a picture of my parents, my houses (not even when we moved), or a self-portrait.


Your father is a judge, which is an interesting profession for someone who is so violent and controlling. Do you think that your experiences with you father have colored your relationship with authority figures?

Colored?  Too mild.  Try damaged. Authority figures who think that they've earned my respect because they are in a black robe, carry a badge, or even just stand in front of a blackboard, aren't the ones I'm wild about.

 Authority figures who don't inspire mouthy comments are the ones who have earned my respect.  Christian is sort of an 'authority figure'.’  I listen to what he has to say because he's got good judgment and gets me.   He doesn't force me to accept rules, anymore.  Instead, he explains why. Like I call him if I'm going to be late; I get that he worries if I'm not home.  That’s the kind of authority figure that works for me -- the kind that works with me.


What would you say are the warning signs that a girl should look for when dating a boy or man who is a potential abuser? What clues should your girlfriend or your mother have taken as a sign to get help?

I wish my mom had paid attention early.  When my mom and dad started dating, she'd never have put up with his crap. No one starts out as a victim; they are groomed into it.

Insults graduated to name-calling graduated to a fight where he grabbed her arm.  When she tried to call him out on it, he'd call her his very own, little drama queen, all affectionately.  He could charm and demean her all at once.

He eroded her barriers slowly.  Like how he got her to quit her friends.  He would sulk when they were with her friends and turn on the charm around his. She got the message.  You want the happy version?  Hang out with him in his style with his friends. And one day when she was mad at Lindsay, he told her Lindsay was never good enough for her anyway.  So...

Warning Sign No. 1:  He wants you all to himself -- to the point of isolating you from friends and your family.

Warning Sign No. 2:   He controls things that have nothing to do with him.

Do a mother-check.  If someone told your mom what to wear on her date, or that she should be less this or more that, wouldn’t you tell that creep he  should go … (PG-version) jump off a cliff?

Warning Sign No. 3:  He wants to know where you are all the time.

I used to walk Lauren from one class to another, saying she deserved the royal treatment.  It was actually an excuse to make sure she wasn't flirting with other guys. If he can’t let you out of his sight, it’s not romantic.  It’s creepy.

Warning Sign No. 4:  You start excusing his behavior.

He’s got you groomed.  He’s erased those boundaries, the lines in the sand.

My advice:  you're no one's cure.  And why should you be?   I get that it's great to be needed, but you can be needed in better ways -- ways that are about who you are, not who you aren't.  

  
Is there help for you? Do you feel like you're doomed to be an abuser if you grow up in a home like yours or are you able to change?

God, I hope so.  Deeply, deeply hope so.

Whenever I get discouraged and start thinking I am doomed, that I'm genetically pre-conditioned into repeating my dad's *&$& ups, I remember Christian.  He didn't come out of my house with his fists raised.  It would be easy just say, "Yes, I'm doomed," and let my fists find their home.  Saying I'm doomed is just another way of letting me off the hook.

I'm not doomed.  I may have to work hard -- maybe all my life -- to control my temper.  But I choose what I do.

And if it means that all my life I am vigilant – they’re worse things.  I've seen them.  Hell, I've been them.  Vigilance is an easy price for what I get in return.
 

I am moved your story and imagine that there are many other readers who feel similarly. What can we do to help end domestic violence and teen dating violence?

If anyone tells you they know the answer to this, check that you have your wallet.

We can start talking to guys.  It’s up to us guys to tell other guys that hitting someone you love is seriously messed up. We need guys like Christian. Remember that argument between him and Mirriam, the one eavesdropped on?  Christian didn't back down; he backed away.  Backing away and starting clean -- that's not unmanly.  That's manning up.

Now not all abusers are guys and not all victims are girls.  Which is another reason we need to talk to guys.  Face it; it’s hard as a guy to admit anyone is beating on you, much less his girlfriend. So, we've gotta talk to guys about that, too.

*     *     *
I have to admit that I got a little emotional just reading Jace's answers to these questions. It was hard for me to write these questions; I did not take this task lightly. If this were another book, another subject, I would've had some fun and played around a little. I could not do that here. And, Jace wouldn't have wanted me to. I've read this book twice, and know Jace. He's serious. He's angry. He's not someone you want to joke with. So, I spend a week or two thinking up these questions. And, Jace answered them. His voice and his character are present in these answers. If you are at all curious about this book, please read it. If you are a secondary teacher, please make this book available to your students. And, if you or someone you know is being abused, please find help.

 Ms. Avasthi is raising money for the Family Violence Prevention Fund. Here are two of the amazing items that are being auctioned through this project:

From Andrew Karre: Critique of 2000 words of manuscript

From Tina Ferraro: Personalized, signed copies of all 3 of her novels  

Bid on something you're interested in, donate a few dollars (or more), spread the word.
However you help, please help!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Book Review: Girl Parts by John M. Cusick

Girl Parts is an interesting book. I'm not exactly sure how I'd like to go about this book review, as the book has left me more than a little disturbed. But, I'm going to go ahead and see what I can say about this book that will make sense and help you decide if it's a book that you'd like to read.

First, I'd like to say that I had hugely high hopes for this book. I am always scouting for new reads for the Chick Lit Book Club, of which I am an adviser.  I thought that this book was going to be a revised Weird Science, an '80's film where a couple of boys try to create a "perfect" girl and then figure out that they are really in need of an actual girlfriend instead of a robot.

Instead, this book was a little more involved. The book starts with a boy who witnesses the suicide of one of his classmates online. As one would expect, he's disturbed by what he's seen. When his parents suggest that he see a therapist, he agrees to go an talk to one. But, the therapist offers a diagnosis that doesn't quite fit: David is socially disassociated. Which doesn't really make sense, because David has lots of friends and is pretty socially engaged. But, the psychologist insists. The treatment? David's parents agree to purchase a "girl" from Sakora: Solutions for Life.

Rose arrives and is gorgeous. And, this is where some of the interesting social commentary begins. (Along with some serious weirness and grossness about robot sex. It grossed me out. A lot.) It is interesting that Rose is so objectified and marginalized, not just because she is a robot, but because she is a she. Rather than fully develop this notion of inequality and conflicting expectations about males and females in our society, the book takes some weird turns and ends up in a weird laboratory where Rose gets a uterus. Bizarre.

For me, this book has serious potential. But, it stops short of sending a message that is powerful and not demeaning to young women. At the end of the story, Rose is no more of a "real" woman than when she started this book. I am putting this book on my free reading shelves in my classroom, but will not purchase a set for the Chick Lit Book Club.

Maybe someone else can suggest a good title for our club?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Book Review: Nomansland by Lesley Hauge


What would it be like to live in a world without men?

Nomansland explores this question, and I have to tell you: Life without men, the way Hauge portrays it, is not sugar and spice and everything nice. In this futuristic dystopia, women in power are ruthless, controlling, and are opposed to anything feminine. Reproduction and relationships have been reduced to pure functionality.

Of course, men are not completely gone. How else would the women make children? If this were a world filled with technology, maybe this would be possible, but this futuristic world is back-to-basics. There is little in the way of innovative technology. The women survive by raising animals and produce. Hard labor.

And, women have manly names. No names are given with an "e" sound at the end. No Jennies, Susies, Hayleys, Brittanys, etc. (My name, Hattie, would not be acceptable.) Women are not allowed to look at themselves in the mirror, wear makeup, or have relationships with one another. Of course, men are forbidden. 

There is so much more that I could get into in relation to the plot and characters of this book. I am not sure that it's going to be a series, but I hope it is. I enjoyed this first book for the questions that it raises. What does it mean to be a woman? Are there inalienable characteristics that women possess? I have always thought so, and do even more after reading this book. 

I've been thinking about this book ever since I finished it. I am a bit baffled by the world created in it and feel like there is room to explain how and why these women have decided to shun their womanly characteristics. It is an entertaining and interesting read. It leaves off with a bit of a cliffhanger, but I hope that is just a set-up for a sequel. 

**Read as part of the YAD2 Reading Challenge Hosted by Bart's Bookshelf**

Dewey's Read-A-Thon: The Finish Line


In the end, I did not make it the entire 24 hours. I did make it to hour 17, but got so tired and my vision blurred so that I could not read any more. I did not accomplish all that I had set out to read, but that's okay with me. I did manage to:

-Finish Nomansland by Lesley Hauge
-Read The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
-Listen to Tell Me a Secret on audio
-Start I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan
-Start Girl Parts by John Cusick
-Add a few new blogs to my follow list
-Participate in several mini challenges

All in all, very successful. Now, I just need to write reviews for the three books I finished. Before I do, I'd like to thank all of the cheerleaders and hosts and participants who made this read-a-thon so very exciting and community-oriented. Without all of that, yesterday would have been a bunch of people reading books. Because of these dedicated and cheery bloggers, it was a true event. Thanks!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Dewey's Read-A-Thon: Hour 17 Update & Mini Challenge


Phew. Done listening to Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala on audio. Amazing. It truly does make a difference to hear a book rather than read it silently. Some readers add so much to the story through their use of intonation. Loved it.

The mini challenge for this hour (from the Midnight Book Girl blog) asks participants to write a **fake** proposal to ban a book that we've read. I'm going to go with Tell Me a Secret, because it's on my mind and because my brain is all haywire right now. Fuzzzzz.


 Mini Challenge *FAKE* Book Ban Proposal

Tell Me a Secret, a book about a girl with loose morals and ambiguous thoughts, should not be placed in hands belonging to impressionable teens. First, the main character's sister is dead. That alone is just too sad for the average teen to deal with. Why read about it?

Furthermore, the main character's parents are completely clueless and are basically not there for their daughter. This not a responsible portrayal of parents nowadays. Children need to read books about parents with morals and values. Adults have all of the answers, and that's where the main character should've started. She never would've ended up in such a delicate state if she were a better daughter!


And, this leads me to my second to last point. In this book, a teen girl gets pregnant. I know. Aren't girls going to read or listen to a book like this one and use it as a manual on how to get pregnant? Even though the main character has a horribly painful social life, her relationship with her parents tanks, and she is abandoned by her boyfriend and best friend as a result of her pregnancy, girls might want to get pregnant after reading it! Shameful.

One more thing: That cover. Soft-pornography if I've ever seen it! (Which I never, ever have. I swear!)


In sum, this book ends without any real solutions. Shouldn't books all end on a sunny note? Do we want teens who feel discouraged when they learn that life is not full of happiness and rainbows? I think not.


**Again, FAKE. Loved this book. Rush out and read it. Just don't blame me 
if you get pregnant after reading it! You have been warned!**

Dewey's Read-A-Thon: Hour 16 Update & Mini Challenge


I finished The Scorch Trials! Yay! Book two is done, book three is almost done, and I need to choose something fun and lighthearted for my next book. It's gotten a little too serious up in here this evening.

For this hour's mini challenge, I get to write a poem for The Hungry Readers book blog. I'm going to write an easy one--an acrostic. I'm waay too tired and anxious to start on a new book to come up with another poetic form. I decided to create a sort of mini review of James Dachner's The Scorch Trials for my poem. Here it is:

Dewey's Read-A-Thon: Hour 15 Update & Mini Challenge


I am so very close to being done with The Scorch Trials. Just fifty pages and I'll know what happens! Aggh!! I am also fairly close to finishing my audio experience of Tell Me a Secret (I've done quite bit of laundry. I should try this more often). Hopefully, I'll start book four next hour. That would be awesome.

And, I'm participating in the mini challenge that's being hosted by Reading Through Life. It's pretty simple if you've ever created a wordle. I make them all the time because they're so very pretty and fun. I took a post that I wrote for Novel Novice on why I blog about YA lit. You see, I'm a high school teacher and a huge nerd. That is my brief synopsis of this post. Here's a visual representation:

 I love how it kinda looks like a peanut. It's my post in a nutshell! Ha. Okay, very nerdy.

Dewey's Read-A-Thon: Mid-Event Mini Challenge


We're at the mid-point in Dewey's 24 Hour Read-A-Thon. Yup, 12 hours of bookish antics have happened all over the US, all over the globe. To celebrate, there's a mini challenge. Here are my answers to the survey:

1. What are you reading right now?  
The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (hardcopy) and Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala (audiobook)
 
2. How many books have you read so far?
I've finished Nomansland by Lesley Hauge. That's all. 

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
I'm looking forward to starting Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde. 
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?
I actuallt agreed to proctor the SATs because then I'd be trapped with lots of time for reading. I was worried that a gorgeous fall day would cause me to wander...

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
I've had some interruption. I took a nap. I have tried to minimize disruptions in reading by listening to Tell Me a Secret on audio while I do other things. I've already listened to more than half of it. 

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
How wonderfully organized and fluid it all is. It pretty amazing--a lot of people have put in a lot of work. Thanks!
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
This is my first time participating in this particular reading challenge. I can't think of anything that should be different. Hopefully, I can be a cheerleader or something next year. 
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?
I would visit more blogs. I really want to do this, but I keep going back to my books. I'm trying to not get too distracted.

9. Are you getting tired yet?
I took a nap. I ahd to or else I'd never stay up as late as I'm planning to!

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 love all of the little chants and rhymes that cheerleaders have come up with. And, I'm thankful that I've received so many awesome comments. It really is encouraging to think that cheerleaders are out there visiting blogs and reading and thinking up cool cheers. They rock!

Dewey's Read-A-Thon: Hour 10 Update


Hour 10 already?! That's just nonsense! I've not been reading as much as I can, but I am still making progress. I stopped to chat with some friends who stopped by. It seems that "normal" people don't do crazy things like read-a-thons. I get weird looks whenever I mention one. But, say you're running a marathon and people cheer. It's just not fair.

And, I took a bit of a nap. I like an afternoon nap now and again. And, I find that they help me to stay up later. I need all the help I can get with that! I tend to be asleep by 10 or 10:30.

So, I'm still reading The Scorch Trials. Still wondering where the story is going. It's definitely not predictable!

Dewey's Read-A-Thon: Hour 6 Update & Mini Challenge


Yay! I'm home. After finishing the SATs, I ran some errands and got some lunch. There's a soup place on my way home called Soup For You (a take on Seinfeld's "No soup for you!" Soup Nazi). I ordered some spicy bean chipotle soup. Yum.

Before I left work, I decided to prepare for a time away from my current reads by downloading a book. I already had the first chapters of Holly Cupala's Tell Me a Secret, so I grabbed the remaining eleven chapters. I managed to listen to the first five chapters during my travels. Wow. I love the reader for this book and am totally sucked into this story. I might play it again later if I decide to do some housework. That's a rather big "if" at this point, but the thought of listening to this book is encouraging me more than the pile of dirty laundry in the basket. We'll see what wins out.

So, I haven't finished The Scorch Trials, but am loving it. It does have me puzzled, but I'm sure that it'll start to make more sense soon. Hopefully.

Here's my shorter-than-short microfiction story for I Heart Monster's challenge. I wrote so much more, but had to eliminate some to meet the 100 word limit. It's exactly 100 words. I hope it make sense!

Here it is:

I glide through the hall, eyes downcast. My mind races. Please don’t look, please don’t, please. Chancing an upwards glance, I see no one looking. I am holding my breath. I need to breathe. In, out. In, out.

Finally, my locker. The combination’s automatic; I don’t have to think. The locker sticks, I use some muscle to open it. I jerk upward. slamming my shoulder into it. One quick movement. My eyes dart around from behind my bangs. No one’s looking. Good.

As I pull the door to my locker open, it all falls out. Everyone turns; points. They know.

*   *   *

Cheerleaders and visitors--Thanks for all of the encouragement and feedback. You all rock the mostest!
 

Dewey's Read-A-Thon: Hour 5 Update & Mini Challenge 2


The SATs are almost finished! I'm going to shout a virtual YAY! for all of the silent students in this room...Who are beginning to look at me very curiously after I just took a couple of pics on my laptop. It's okay with me if they think I'm crazy. They're the crazies who are taking the SAT on a long weekend!

Anyway, Crystal of My Reading Room is hosting a mini-challenge called Show Me the Books. For it, you have to snap a picture of the books you're reading, have read, or will read for this Read-A-Thon. I only have two books with me at school, so I'm showing those off.

And, I've now read more than 100 pages of The Scorch Trials by James Dashner. I have more questions than answers about the world of this book...I hope to have some within the next hour!

One book down...
Another baffling dystopia started!

Dewey's Read-A-Thon: Hour 4 Update


I am in hour 4 and have started The Scorch Trials by James Dashner, which is the sequel to The Maze Runner. It's really, really good--I've read about 50 pages. And, the SATs are almost done! We have three sections left after this one...No more 25 minute sections left. I'm going to get back to reading so that I maximize my time!

Dewey's Read-A-Thon: Hour 3 & Mini-Challenge


I am entering into hour 3 of this Read-A-Thon. I have finished reading Nomansland by Leslie Hauge and will start read The Scorch Trials by James Dashner this hour. I'm feeling pretty successful!

In addition to reading, I'm trying to visit blogs and leave comments whenever I need a reading break. I'm also planning to participate in as many mini challenges as possible. Here's one from Estella's Revenge:

Your challenge is to creative a six-word celebration of Dewey's Read-a-Thon.
Sounds deceptively simple.  I've been thinking and thinking and am probably overthinking. So, I'm going to *attempt* a six-word memoir that gives a snapshot of how I'm feeling after just two hours of straight reading and writing:

So, there you have. Off to add to the brain fuzz...



 
 
 

Dewey's Read-A-Thon: Hour 1 Meme


This is the first meme in Dewey's 24 Hour Read-A-Thon.


Where are you reading from today? 

I am currently proctoring the SATs. The kids are adorable and are acting like scared little rabbits. I wish that I did not have to play the part of robotteacher. I'd tell them that, in all honestly, this test is really not going to be that big of a deal. But, I'm a pre-programmed  robotteacher with no original or empathetic thoughts.

After this (about 5ish hours) I'll head home and read from my couch. Or my bed. One of the two.

3 facts about me …  
 
1. I did not do well on the math portion of the SATs, but received a perfect score on the verbal section. And I became an English teacher. Go figure.

2. I am wearing glasses today all day for the first time in about ten or twelve years. My eyes hurt for some reason, and my little eyeballs were having no contacts this morning. 

3. I am a huge procrastinator. I have a lit review due for a research course I'm taking. I'm procrastinating today and I'll have to give up all of Monday to compensate. I am my own worst enemy.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
 
Right now, four. I've listed them already in a previous post.  

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'd like to finish the books I've set out to read. But, I am going to be realistic about this. It's hard to get into a book when you have to stop every twenty (or so) minutes to read testing instructions from a god-awful manual to a group of cute little overachievers. Seriously. There are 8th graders here!

And, I have to go out to dinner and for a few games of pool with my husband and friends. It was his birthday yesterday, but we're celebrating tonight. It'll be fun. No books allowed, though. 


If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?  
 
I've not participated in this read-a-thon before, but I have in others. I would say that having fun is of the utmost importance, and taking time to search for and encourage other bloggers is another. This is a social event, not just a timed reading race (for me, anyway). 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Dewey's Read-A-Thon: The Line-Up

When I signed up for Dewey's 24 Hour Read-A-Thon, I thought that I'd be pressed for reading time. But, now I am proctoring the SATs. I don't know if you've ever proctored this exam, but it's long. Maybe you've taken it? Remember the hours and hours that it took to take it? Well, all that time there was an adult sitting there doing basically nothing. That'll be me tomorrow.

So, I'm going to bring a few books with me to keep me occupied. I have a book club book that I've been putting off, a book that I want to finish, and one that I want to start. This is a good starting line-up. Here's what I'm going to lug into school tomorrow:





So. This is it. I'm almost finished with Nomansland. Actually, I might finish it tonight. I don't really want to read Wolf Hall, so I'll pick it up now and again to make a teensy bit of effort for my book club meeting. But, I really want to read The Scorch Trials and Jumpstart the World. I'm sure to make some progress on these books.

I can't wait to get started, meet some new bloggers, and join in on the Read-A-Thon fun!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Free Book: For REAL!

So, I'd read in a couple of spots that I could download a Chaos Walking book for free, but I didn't really have time to investigate this situation until tonight. I'm happy to report that it's completely true! I just downloaded The New World by Patrick Ness FOR FREE. From amazon. No kidding.





If you've been following the Chaos Walking series, you'll want to get this book. It's Viola's story about leaving Earth. And, if you haven't read this series, you should probably download this book for the minute you do finish it, because you'll want it. It's just an amazing series. And it's a free book.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Recreate the Cover Contest: Matched by Ally Condie

Squeaky Books is hosting a redesign the cover contest for Ally Condie's Matched. I had to enter something, as this is one of my new favorite YA series, but I had a seriously difficult time getting a concept that I liked.

Mostly, I wanted to capture the matching concept of the book, but portray it as disturbing rather than romantic. I also wanted to keep the color green on the cover somehow, because that was the color Cassia chose for her dress in the book. I am not super happy with my recreation, but am tired and need to go to bed. So, I'll probably dream of much better covers all night long. Oh well.

Here is my rushed recreation:

Feel free to share a link to your covers! I'd love to see some more ideas.

Helluva Halloween II Contest: Choose Your Paranormal Character/ Story


I am a huge fan of all things Halloween. I love creepy stories. I like to eat candy. I love to dress up and get into character. I love this holiday because it does not take itself all that seriously, yet its fans take it so very seriously. It's all good.

I am participating in the Helluva Halloween Challenge, which is hosted by the Book Rat. This Challenge is an awesome collection of book reviews, craft-offs, games and goodies. It's super fun and I'm joining in with a little challenge to all of you and a giveaway reward for TWO random winners. If there are more than fifty entrants for this contest, I will add another prize. It'll be amazing.

Here is what you need to do to enter:

Pretend that you are a character in a paranormal YA book. What is your paranormal identity? Are you a vampire? A werewolf? A zombie? Something else? Give a name to your character and a bit of your story. 

Here's an example from me. If I were a character in a paranormal book, I'd be a zombie named Mrs. DeadRaps. I would roam the earth in search of literary brains. And then I'd eat them. No author of any genre would be safe! Poets, journalists, horrible jingle-writers for commercials--No one would escape me! And, here's a visual (in case you couldn't image me as a zombie):


That's my sample. Have fun creating your own! You can either post your answers in the comments section of this blog, or create a post and use the Mr. Linky provided. If you create a post and win, I'll throw in a little extra something for you.

Uninspired? Don't know where to start? Here are some name generators to get you going:

Ghost Name Generator
Vampire Name Generator
Werewolf Name Generator
Zombie Name Generator


And, on to the prizes!
 I have one ARC of The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan up for grabs for the first place winner. 
I also have a Team Zombie or Team Unicorn button for another winner.  
(And an extra surprise if there are more than 50 entrants!)
So, enter away! This contest closes on Halloween night--October 31st at midnight (EST). How ghoulish is that? And, remember to leave an email with your entry if you're just commenting so that I can contact you if you win.
(Unfortunately, this giveaway is only open to paranormal characters who reside within the US. I will be hosting an international giveaway soon.)

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