Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Giveaway and Highlights from November

November was such a busy month! School kept me very occupied. But here's a little of what I was up to over at The Prairie Library.
  • I reviewed two books: A Balanced Introduction to Computer Science and The Ugly Truth (the 5th book in the Wimpy Kid series).
  • I did a Short Story Saturday Feature about The End of Books
  • I did a post on the Saga of Print vs. Digital 
  • And I'm hosting a giveaway for a $35 gift card to CNS stores! The giveaway is open to anyone in the U.S. or Canada. Follow the link and sign up!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Saga of Print vs. Digital

Is the book about to meets its end? Check out my newest post at The Prairie Library to find out why not.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Highlights from October

Here are some quick links to a few of my posts this month.

  • A review of Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi.
  • Would you like to know a bit more about how online social media affects our lives, especially in regards to your profession? Check out my post "Librarian Offline: Are Your Posts Forgotten?"
  • Read a short story by am amateur writer at Short Story Saturday!
  • What is a children's book? Here my thoughts on children's books and read a review of The Higher Power of Lucky.

Friday, September 3, 2010

On Why I Don't Read Mysteries

Check out my latest post, "On Why I Don't Read Mysteries..." at my new blog!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Review and Confession: Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell

My review of Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, a memoir of one man's journey through gaming, is up at my new blog! Read my review HERE.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Books and Bookend Giveaway

Khelsea at Once Upon a Review is giving away Breaking Dawn inspired bookends and two books from the Twilight Saga. Interested? Click HERE to fill out an entry form. Ends 8/1/2010.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Review and Giveaway: Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

My review of this fantasy sequel is up at my new blog! Click HERE to read.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Blogoversary Giveaway #3 at Ellz Reads!

Top two winners pick from a huge selection of titles! Open to U.S. participants (international for those willing to pay shipping). Enter the contest HERE.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Review of Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart: A Memoir

My review of Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart is up at my new blog, The Prairie Library! I'm also giving away a new paperback copy (open internationally) so check it out!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Vote for My Next Giveaway!

Today is the last day to vote in my poll for my next book giveaway! The poll can be found at  my new blog, The Prairie Library, on the sidebar. It's a close race right now! So, vote, vote, vote!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

My review of Carrie Ryan's novel is up at my new blog, The Prairie Library. Here's the beginning to entice you: "When you think 'zombies' what comes to mind? Do you think of the latest video game or horror movie that features some skinny chick lopping off heads? Not your thing? Not mine either. Yet, I have inadvertently read two zombie books in a row. But both are completely different and neither are what I would have expected from a zombie story..."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The LA Times Spotlights Book Bloggers

Check out my response to the LA Times' article about book bloggers at my other blog, The Prairie Library. Just a reminder: I'll be abandoning Time Out in a few months as I'm posting all reviews on my new blog. Head over and vote in my poll for my next giveaway!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Goop Soup: Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie book 3 by David Lubar

My review of Goop Soup is up at my new blog, The Prairie Library. If you have young kids you should really check it out!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Review: This is Me from Now On by Barbara Dee

My review of this book is up at my new blog, The Prairie Library. Hop over and check it out!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Anastasia's Secret by Susanne Dunlap and the Alexander Palace

My review is up at my new blog! That's right...my NEW blog! There's also links to pictures of the real Romanov family and their palace.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bloggiesta and My New Blog

Today is the last day of Bloggiesta. There are some great pictures of other participants up on Maw Books Blog! I did the RSS Mini-challenge today, finishing 5 out of the 7 steps, that Puss Reboots suggested. I spent about 3 hours today doing the bloggiesta. It was fun watching the transformations on other participants websites and hearing about their hard work. Thanks to those who stopped by and gave me more blogging tips!

If you haven't already, check out my new blog The Prairie Library. I have begun posting my book reviews at the new blog and will shut down Time Out in a few months!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Follower Alert! Time Out is moving as part of Blogiesta!


Maw Books Blog is hosting Bloggiesta to ecourage bloggers to whip their blogs into shape! There are challenges, prizes and great tips from book bloggers on how to improve your blog! The event ends Sunday the 13th.

In my recent post on Branding, I mentioned I didn't care for my blog name, Time Out. My layout has been giving me issues as well. Bloggiesta has motivated me to make a major change. I have started a new blog with a new URL at The Prairie Library. So, in order to keep following my posts head over to my new site and follow me there! In a few months I will shut down Time Out so, say goodbye to the old and in with the new! I  hope you like my new layout! Other than that, expect more of the same as you get at Time Out.

I finally finished E.M. Forster's A Room with a View and my review is already up at The Prairie Library along with photos of my honeymoon in Italy.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

On Returning to the Real World

Well, I'm back to civilization and want to say thanks for the well wishes on our camping trip! We had a fantabulous (spell check says this isn't a word, but I DO so there!) time! I evaded being sunburned too bad. Just a little pink on the forehead. That's me canoeing. I think next time I'll take the back seat because rear end shots are not the best. I'm shielding you from the other pictures...trust me.

Amanda, camping is my recharge session as well! It's oddly relaxing to me to be active outside. And it helped that the locals were awesome and gave us free cake and ice cream when we stopped at their berry farm. =)
 
I only read one chapter last week from A Room With a View. I don't know what it is with this book but it's taking me forever. I am enjoying it so I don't know what it is. I will try to be more articulate when I eventually post my review. How do you guys work in time to read when you're on vacation? Or do you just forget about it? I'm curious.
 
Today was my first day back to work. I've been unemployed/in limbo/playing housewife since December. It feels good to be a productive member of society again! I have my old job back at the University's library working for the circulation department. It's like old times again.
 
I hope everyone's summer is off to as great a start as mine!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Gone Camping

Behold my terrible drawing skills! I am not your greatest ally in Pictionary. Luckily, drawing skills are not required for where I'm headed.

We'll be camping in The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. That's supposed to be me and my husband roasting marshmallows. Hopefully I'll get a chance to do some reading in between the biking, canoeing and cave touring. Notice the sun is shining in my picture. Pray it doesn't rain.Well, see you all next week!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Marketing Your Blog: Post Three on Branding

PART THREE: This post is intended to give ideas to book bloggers who want to increase their readership using methods of marketing. I will be writing from my personal experience. Although I am not an expert, I figure I can pass along some things I wish I had known a while back. Much will be obvious but some maybe not so much. Use what helps you, forget what doesn’t! This is post three of three in my marketing series.


Branding: Making Your Mark: The look and feel of your blog can, in less than 5 seconds, decide if someone stays to read or clicks the X to exit.

My Name Is – Time Out by sheer default because I wasn’t feeling creative and wanted to get my blog going as soon as possible (because I was excited, ya know?). But I’m not crazy about the name. It’s OK. If you’re still a newbie blogger and don’t care for your blog’s name, change it before people consider you and your blog’s name to be one and the same. Think of your blog’s name as a name brand, like Starbucks. You thought of coffee didn’t you? Not stars and not bucks – coffee. The name and object are one and the same. That’s the power of a brand. You’re blog title is the same – a brand. Your brand. And it’s a difficult decision to change it late in the game. Sometimes, I visit a site just because their blog title is nifty. Brand power!

Color, Font and Layout Matter – big time! Your blog’s look (regardless of content) attracts or detracts certain readers. To gain readers, use a style that works, not necessarily what you may like best. This can be hard, I know. But a little sacrifice and effort can go a long way towards readership. And there’s usually a happy medium to be found.
  • Colors Send a Message: Be sure you are attracting the type of reader that matches the type of content you post. I want men and women readers so I have chosen a fairly gender neutral background color. Ladies: got a girly looking site? Then don’t be surprised if you never get many guy readers. Many just won’t stay if your web site is pink. Period. Food for thought. But maybe you read chick lit so gals are your target audience! Then pink might be right for you.
  • Let’s talk font. Simple is best. If it’s hard to read, they won’t stay. End of story. If a reader mentions difficulty reading your site, hurry and change the colors/font!
    • Keep in mind, if you use Internet Explorer but 30% of your readers use other browsers (check your analytics), it’s likely their browsers interpret fonts differently than yours. Also, older computers may have difficulty loading and reading a flashy or colorful website. 
  • Layout effects the way people process information on your blog. To be most effective:
    • Compartmentalize your side bar(s). Keep similar sidebar posts together for easy reader reference. 
    • The human eye likes symmetry. When applicable, do you best to make things line up and be sure text and graphics are not overlapping. A continuously sloppy layout sends the wrong message. It says disorganized, disinterested and unreliable. 
    • Many chose to pay someone to create a personalized blog with personalized buttons. Let your designer know not only what you like, but what kind of audience you want to attract with your look.
  • Keep your layout clean, tidy and with the most important information in prominent locations. Doing so creates an easy friendly reading environment and marks you as an author who cares about what you’re doing.
  • Your blog is personal. If you feel you’ve made too many sacrifices and lost the essence of “you” then by all means, make your blog look how you want. Blog design is a tricky tango between personal taste and reader needs.
About Me Page – a really good idea. Be honest (don’t exaggerate), be succinct (dispense with the “I don’t know what to say” stuff), be yourself (like you’re talking to a friend). This is not the place to talk to publishers. This is the place to talk to readers, to attract them into subscribing/following and to build community. Readers do not want to hear your sales pitch to the corporate world. Have a separate page or section for soliciting ARCs. I read so many “about me” sections that are THE SAME which is bizarre since we are all so unique and different. So, Info to Consider Including:
  • What you read – favorite books, genres, authors.
  • What your site is for - Blog because you love reading? For escape? Fun? Work? School? If you feel comfortable being personal let us know what type of school, what job or what reading club you read with.
  • Location makes you interesting. Where in the world are you?
  • What you do when you’re not blogging/reading.
  • How you heard about blogging and started your own.
Tone: Even Starbucks has a tone. And they try hard to set an appealing one (though lost on me – not a coffee drinker). A part of your blog’s brand is the way your blog feels. Your tone is comprised of everything visible on your site including: pictures, graphics, background, font, links, giveaways, blogroll, header, post titles and all text. Look at your blog homepage – the colors, the types of giveaways you advertise, post titles. Are they funny, serious, whimsical, pushy, gothic, academic, sexy, happy, forgetful? What word(s) comes to mind? This is your blog’s tone. Set a tone that reaches out to your target audience as well as one that reflects who you are.

Well, there you have it. My tips for marketing your blog: know your audience, actively pursue them and brand your blog. Remember, there’s no wrong way to eat a peanut butter cup write a blog. Just ok, good and (always) better. Be patient and attentive and you’ll gain the readers you’re looking for!

What ideas do you guys have about branding? What has worked/not worked for you? And if you actually read the entire post – wow, thanks! It got a bit long!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Authors, Awards and Holidays, Oh My!

I had my first author visit here at Time Out - very exciting for me! David Lubar, author of Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie and Goop Soup, stopped by one of my armchair BEA posts. How cool is that?

Lisa at Bibliophiliac has given me an award! This weekend just keeps getting better!

If you are given this award you must first accept it by leaving a comment on the post you were nominated on. Then copy and paste the post and add it to your own blog. Make a list of the last 5 books you read and pass the award on to 5 other bloggers (no backsies!). Please also identify the blog from which you got the award and don't forget to tell your picks that they have a blog award!

My past five reads are: Smile, Incarceron, The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To, This Book is Overdue!, and Tithe.

I am passing this award on to, in alphabetical order...
Community Bookstop - I found this blog through the Book Hop last Friday and I enjoy the short tid bits and book reviews found here. So far I've seen paranormal type books and a few movie related posts.
Emily's Reading Room - Mostly a YA reader, Emily does great reviews and is a very active blogger. She even helped with the armchair BEA which was a lot of fun for those of us who could not go to BEA.
The Glittering Burn - With an affinity for Tea, there's definately a British vibe here (though I'm not certain where she's from), the Glittering Burn has a great sense of humor and posts on Books, music, movies and more.
Lions and Men - I've been enjoying Nick's posts on science fiction, fantasy and horror. He recently posted on his adventures at Book Expo America with some great pictures of the event.
You've GOTTA Read This - Sandy's blogs is one of the first book blogs I found and I have been following her ever since.

Happy Memorial Day everybody! I'm chillin with my veteran husband today, playing video games and eating lots of yummies! Remember our fallen heroes and give your veteran loved one a kiss!

Smile by Raina Telgemeier: Another Great Graphic Novel

I am usually a read-one-book-at-a-time type of reader. But I could not resist that cover. It begs to be picked up. I ended up reading the book straight through.

When twelve year old Raina loses her two front teeth – her permanent teeth – it seems like the end of the world. Through years of braces, headgear, retainers, middle school and high school Raina learns who her true friends are and how to be happy with herself.
I’ve yet to read a graphic novel I haven’t liked. And Smile by Raina Telgemeier is no exception. It has such an uplifting message for young girls and is an enjoyable read. Telgemeier is not only a great writer but a great artist. The pictures are all in color and do a nice job of capturing the emotion of each moment. There were some funny moments when I chuckled and some tender ones when I teared up. From experiencing your first crush to worrying about pimples, there’s something in this book for every girl. In a time of life when girls feel pressured to mature quickly, I appreciated how Smile portrays an innocent who’s happy to be that way. Raina realizes she doesn’t have to follow her friends into makeup and kissing if she’s not ready. As you likely noticed, the character and author’s name are the same. That’s because this is a true story which makes it even better!
Publisher: Scholastic, 2010     Pages: 218
Rating: 5 Stars     Recommended Age: 10 and up     Source: IC Public Library

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Marketing Your Blog: Post Two on Visibility

PART TWO: This post is intended to give ideas to book bloggers who want to increase their readership using methods of marketing. I will be writing from my personal experience. Although I am not an expert, I figure I can pass along some things I wish I had known a while back. Much will be obvious but some maybe not so much. Use what helps you, forget what doesn’t! This is post two of three.

Making Your Blog Visible: Marketing involves actively pursuing your audience. The key idea here is being active. A little extra effort can go a long ways towards gaining readership.

Post frequently – especially if you want to increase your readership. Once you’ve established the readership you want, then slowing down your publishing rate isn’t a terrible thing. But posting frequently keeps you visible to search engines and your followers/subscribers’ blog reader. At the very least you won’t lose readers because you don’t post often enough to maintain their interest.

Comment Frequently: 
  • Fellow book bloggers are a valuable resource. They can give you ideas and answer questions you may have about blogging. In order for them to get to know you, leave a thoughtful comment on their blog. Engaging in conversation increases your visibility. Finding book blogs with similar tastes as your own and leaving comments there increases the chances that their readers will become your readers. We all like comments so, give some to get some. 
  • No matter where you comment on the Web, leave your blog’s URL attached if the commenting system asks for it. Leaving an unsolicited URL in a comment is a bit tacky. And I freely admit I’ve done so. But now I know better. It especially looks disingenuous when you do it on several blogs. Bloggers and readers will notice copy-and-paste tendencies! We are a community and read many of the same posts and comments. So, be good to each other by giving the kind of attention you want to receive. 
  • Participate in Memes and Challenges: A great way to advertise your blog is by participating in the Book Blogger Hop on Fridays hosted by Crazy-for-Books. Again, you give in order to get. With the Hop, the more blogs you visit and comment on the more visits you are likely to get than if you remained silent or didn’t visit any of the participants.
  • Social Networking Sites – like Facebook and Twitter can help you get going and maintain readership. By clicking the “share” button at the top of Blogger you can make an announcement to, for example, Facebook friends, telling them you have written something. I highly encourage you to open such an account if you don’t have one and start following, fanning and tweeting away. Blogging is a part of who you are now and you should share it with people you care about and vice versa. Other sites to consider: Goodreads, Shelfari, Library Thing, My Space, Book Blogs.
  • Utilize Key Words to attract search engine results – Understanding a little about key words can help increase your visibility. For instance, I find it’s not always effective to simply use a book title and author name in the post title. Use the book title and author name within the body of your post. For whatever reason, Google picks up on this and makes it easier for people to find your post through  search engines. Check your Google Analytics to see which key words searchers are using that are the most effective (i.e. they remain on your site for more than 2 seconds). Try to determine why a keyword is/is not effective and use that knowledge to your advantage. See, I told you Google Analytics is useful!
  • Ping the Old Fashioned Way – if you can’t find yourself through search engines. Try manually adding your blog URL to Google’s index and sites like BlogBuzzer. A ping is sort of like leaving a message for search engines that says “I’m here!” Participating search engines will then add you to their inventory of searchable blogs. You may need to do this for each post (or at least the ones important to you).
  • Giveaways and Contests– Even if you’re not a fan of the “must be a follower to enter” idea about giveaways, let’s face it, it works. Also, giving extra entries for those who post on social networking sites or their blogs about your giveaway can also generate traffic. Not every giveaway needs be run this way, for sure, but it does help your stats if you feel your blog is being neglected. Understand that many readers will not enter because of the contingencies. And just because a person follows you for a prize doesn’t mean they intend to read your posts. But many will participate if the giveaway is generous or interesting to them. Even without contingencies, you can still snag readers with a good freebie. Post giveaways on websites like Book Blogs in addition to your blog.
So, you’ve targeted your audience and actively pursued them. What’s left? Creating your own brand is hugely important and keeps your blog from falling into bloggy oblivion. Stay tuned to Time Out for Part Three!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Books, Blogs, and Lots of Hopping

It's Friday and time to check out all the other book  bloggers participating in this week's Book Blogger Hop over at Crazy-for-Books! Add your link to the list and get hopping! Here's a few blogs I've found last week (or two) that I enjoyed: The Mother/Daughter Book Nook, Book Love, and Reader Reads. If you're hopping by say hello!

Remember to check out what's going on at Armchair BEA! Lots of great posts!

Armchair BEA/BBC Post on Marketing Your Blog

PART ONE: This post is intended to give ideas to book bloggers who want to increase their readership using methods of marketing. I will be writing from my personal experience. Although I am not an expert, I figure I can pass along some things I wish I had known a while back. Much will be obvious but some maybe not so much. Use what helps you, forget what doesn’t! This post is part one of three. For "the gist" of a paragraph read the bold and  italicized portion.

Understanding Your Visitors: If you haven’t already, begin using Google Analytics as soon as possible. There are other free analytic applications (that a Google search will bring up) but I will focus on Google’s since I use it and am happy with it. A key to successful marketing is understanding your audience. Using Analytics is a good step towards gaining that knowledge.

What does Google Analytics Do? It tracks daily visits, visitors, average time spent on your site, unique (new) visitors, bounce rate and more. And it puts this info in a snazzy chart that is easy to read at a glance. Google Analytics also tells you, percentage wise, the type of web browsers your readers use, the country/state/city they are reading from and the pages/posts getting the most hits. It tells you key words used to find your blog as well as how many hits are generated by referrals, search engines and direct traffic. There’s more but for the sake of time, I’ll move on. This application is free and easy to copy and paste into the html of your blog. Don’t worry. There are lots of instructions on how to do this! Here's a guy's homemade video I found very helpful should you need more help.

Why bother with an analytic application? The numbers generated give you a precise understanding of how many people are reading your blog. It also tells you which days have more hits. This is invaluable info. With this knowledge you can infer what posts are popular and when a good time to publish your content is. For instance, my highest hit day is Saturday. So, if I’ve worked really hard on a post that I want the most readers to see, my best day to publish is Saturday. Ever make a change on your blog and wonder if it’s helping? Google Analytics can help answer this question. For instance, I just changed the layout of my blog. I will check my analytics’ stats to see if this change makes any difference in hits in the coming weeks. Also, if you plan to solicit ARC’s, publishers often like to know your blog’s number of absolute unique visitors. So, you will want to get this number counting up ASAP by implementing an analytic program.

Google Friend Connect (Followers) is an easy way for readers to “bookmark” you and get highlights about your posts. Even if you are not using Blogger, I know the application works for Wordpress and likely works for others. You can get to know your public followers by clicking on them, visiting their blogs, and saying hello. Having Friend Connect is a great way to build community. I don’t revisit many blogs which don’t offer Google Friend Connect. I’m sure there are others like me so take advantage of this free widget.

Taking Aim: Targeting Your Audience – People like to compartmentalize and put things into categories. It’s just the way most of us are wired to think. If your blog is all over the place in terms of content, your readership may falter. If you want to blog mostly about books, keep a blog just for that. If you like to blog about your daily life quite a bit, too, keep a separate blog for that. Getting the drift? You can advertise your posts on your different blogs, no problem. But I highly recommend specializing each blog so it has a distinct feel. You can go further by choosing a particular genre to review. Highly specialized blogs, say ones that focus just on historical fiction or predominately YA, tend to do very well in terms of followers. Personally, I want to target readers with vast interests which is why I post on several genres. But my readership remains small as a result. I understand I may not get many readers right away because of this decision but I’m OK with that. Take a moment to decide who your audience is and what you’re willing to do to get their attention.

Speaking of attention getting, tomorrow’s post, Part II, will be about Making Your Blog Visible. Stay tuned for more tips on marketing your blog! This post is part of the Armchair BEA Book Blogger Convention Roundtable.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Signed Books: An Armchair BEA Post

In the spirit of Armchair BEA I am posting my favorite signed books and telling who I'd make a bee-line for if I was actually at the Book Expo.

First off is Last Man Out, a biography of Glenn McDole, by Bob Wilbanks. McDole is a survivor of WWII and was a prisoner of war in the Pacific Arena. This is a great story about survival. McDole retired in my  hometown and passed away recently and so I treasure my copy that he signed. For a video of McDole check out Iowa Public Television's website.


Next, is A Season On the Mat, a bio about Dan Gable, by Nolan Zavoral. Dan Gable, another Iowan, won the gold medal at the Summer Olympics in 1972 in wreslting. He coached wrestling for many years at my school, The University of Iowa. I've heard him speak and met him. He's incredibly inspirational. He signed the book to my husband.


Here is my signed copy of The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I loved this book (check my review page) and was thrilled to go to her book signing a few weeks ago.


Now, if I was at BEA I would want to visit David Lubar. His new book is called Goop Soup which I have not read though I did read Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie last year and really enjoyed it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

In the Works: Upcoming Events and Posts

This week is the Book Expo of America (BEA) and the first Book Blogger Convention (BBC). I and many others are participating from home via the Armchair BEA/BBC. When I’m not reading the excellent posts by other bloggers, I’ll be doing some posting of my own. Topics I may cover this week are: marketing your blog, writing great content and my favorite signed books. I encourage you to check out the Armchair BEA event as there are a lot of giveaways and great topics. It’s going to be fun!

Next week I will be reviewing A Room with a View which is set in Italy during the early 1900s. This week marks the one year anniversary of my five-year delayed honeymoon to Italy (my husband was in the Army when we married and quickly shipped to Iraq). But was it ever worth the wait! I'm feeling nostalgic so, I’ll be posting pictures of our trip to the Italian Alps and Rome along with my thoughts on E.M. Forster’s novel.

Currently my mom and I are visiting local libraries, admiring their architecture, chatting with librarians and finding out how each library meets its patron’s needs. We call it our “library tour.” We saw four today and it was very interesting and plan to visit more tomorrow. So, expect a post and some pictures on that at some point.

Phew that’s a lot but I wanted to let you know what’s going on here at Time Out. Is anyone else keeping up with Armchair BEA or posting about the BBC? Well, I hope you’re all enjoying the last of spring! Ninety degrees here today. I thought I was going to melt.

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

It’s hard for me to believe this book took three years before it emerged in the U.S. market. But I’m glad it’s here now. I hope it gets popular because I enjoyed this story and want to hear more about what other readers thought.

Claudia has prepared all her life to marry the prince. But as the wedding day approaches, the aloofness of her father, the Warden, and certain rumors spur Claudia to action. Questions must be answered. Finn, a cell-born without father or mother, scared and alone, is released into the world of Incarceron – a vast prison system, dark and dangerous, a great experiment gone wrong.

I totally read for plot. It usually can’t be helped but this time I became engrossed by the all the elements of plot. The exposition, setting and intro material about characters, etc, pulled me in. This is hard to accomplish. I usually can’t wait to get to the middle of a story and become worried that I’m wasting my time. There’s a lot of action and intrigue in the first few pages so I had no problem getting into it. The raising climax was nail biting. Where is the prison? How is it controlled? How is it that no one gets in or out? The climax is fairly predictable. We’re set up to know what to expect. And then, for the most part, it happens. But the resolution was great. I wasn’t sure about the prison’s location but at least one of my theories was in the ball-park. And I didn’t see the last bit coming (I don’t want to give anything away but it was a gasp moment). I am so excited I won a copy of the sequel, Sapphique (available this Dec. in the U.S.), because I am really intrigued by the futuristic society and the prison. I want to see how Claudia and Finn attempt to achieve their goals.

Let’s talk prose. Fisher uses third person narration in Incarceron and it works very well as she alternates between the two worlds. I enjoyed the “quotes” at the beginning of each chapter that were bits of Incarceron legend or the gossipy private letters between characters that are full of intrigue. This story is set in a technologically repressed future (creating a "high fantasy" feel) and a couple times I found the dialog sounds a bit too “today.” But it’s not a big deal and is probably just me being picky. However, there were some times I got lost. The descriptions can be hard to interpret. With a re-read I usually got what was going on. This is the only real drawback to this book. Nonetheless, I didn’t find they stopped me from wanting to continue. Incarceron is a fast read that reminded me of The Hunger Games. Both are fantasy set in the future, they feature a good dose of violence and action but, oddly, remain very innocent. The swearing is infrequent (mostly “bitch” and “hell”) and there are no sex scenes. I think this is a book you can give your young adult and not worry so much about content. I think the story is ok for younger readers but they may have difficulty with some of the tricky descriptions. But that doesn’t mean younger  kids (or adults) wouldn’t enjoy Incarceron. I sure did!
Publisher: Dial, 2010 (originally in G.B. in 2007)     Pages: 442
Rating: 4.5 Stars     Recommended Age: 13 and up    Source: IC Public Library

Monday, May 17, 2010

Signed copy of The Giver by Lois Lowry

Win a signed copy of The Giver (my review) by Lois Lowry from the Super Librarian! I really liked this book. It is a Newberry Medal recipient as well. So hopefully you will sign up for a chance to win, too!

From the Super Librarian: "To enter:
Leave a comment here with your e-mail address.
You will receive an extra entry if you mention the contest on your blog - leave a link in your comment. (Edited to add: Tweeting will earn you an extra entry too. I forget about Twitter sometimes because I have not yet signed up!) ..." Contest ends May 23, 2010.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To by D.C. Pierson

If you never had to sleep just think of all the things you could do. If you didn’t get tired but could stay up all night to do whatever you wanted, what would you do? Oh the possibilities. Think of all those things you’ve wanted to do but didn’t because you were just too exhausted. Well, 15 year old Eric Lederer has lived one consecutive day, never sleeping, always conscious, for as long as he can remember. But someone dangerously mysterious comes looking for him.

Pierson’s novel is hilarious. I laughed. My husband laughed at the quotes I read him. Written from Darren’s perspective (Eric’s best friend) the novel captures the daily lives of two nerdy, sci-fi loving teenagers. I enjoyed Darren’s reactions to Eric’s secret ranging from disbelief to awe. This novel felt really present to me. Pierson is able to capture suburban culture very well perhaps, I think, because he is such a young writer. It’s like he speaks my language (culturally speaking). The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep explores all the aspects of an average young adults’ life as well as some unusual ones. I could relate to the Red Bull chugging, video-game playing, suburban existence of these kids. Ultimately, I think Pierson’s novel is a coming of age story about friendship.

This is a very 21st-century novel. The text is graphic at least twice about sex. The language is very colorful. And drugs are involved in their attempts to test Eric’s sleepless limits. I’ll have to say that I am usually pretty turned off by these elements. And the text would have been great without the raciness because there is a good story to tell. But Pierson is a great writer and doesn’t use language and sex in a merely gratuitous way. It feels like a natural part of these boys’ lives, like what many teenagers do and witness, as they stumble along the growing up cycle. This is not a YA book, isn’t marked as one, and so I don’t recommend it for young teens lest you hand it to yours and become shocked by what your kids start saying. It makes me sad because this book is so funny. But there you have it.

My favorite part of this book (besides the humor) is the creative story-line. This kid really never sleeps and it leads to a whole lot of wild and bizarre adventures across the Arizona desert. My least favorite part was the ending. It wasn’t bad just not what I wanted/expected. It reminds me of the end of an X-files episode where Agent Scully effectively debunks the abnormal happening but Agent Moulder finds the wiggle room to still believe. That’s an inadequate analogy but the best I can do without spoiling anything!
Publisher: Vintage Books, 2010     Pages: 227
Rating: 3.5 Stars     Source: IC Public Library     Recommended Age: 18 and up

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hoppin' Around

Take some time this fabulous Friday to check out other book blogs. Head over to Crazy for Books where you can add your book blog link to the list or simply peruse the blogs already listed. The Hop is a great way to find some interesting readers and writers. If you're hopping by, thanks! And be sure to say hello!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

This Book is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson

In case you didn’t know, I begin classes this fall in Information and Library Science. So, the title of this book caught my attention right away. Johnson’s book gave me a nice overview of the changes in the field. She talks about the transformation from the card catalog to the digital age, from shushing librarian to reference activists providing 24 hour service. It’s a quickly changing field and Johnson captures the excitement as one who embraces the opportunities change brings.

My favorite chapters were: “On the Ground” in which Johnson discusses what the process of keeping up with current technology is like for librarians and IT specialists (who often butt heads); “The Blog People” because, obviously, I like blogging. Here are a couple librarian blogs which Johnson mentions and I found interesting: Miss Information (anecdotes and personal stories) and Tame the Web (with a current events and tech focus). And last but not least, I really liked “Gotham City” that explores the massive New York Public Library – its branches and services, changes and adaptations to budget cuts and community needs. If I ever make it to NYC the library is on my “to see” list.

The video is one I’ve seen before on another review about This Book is Overdue! by a fellow blogger. Believe it or not, each year the ALA holds a drill cart competition. Johnson attended one in 2007 and reported it was hilarious. The video is of the 2009 winners’ drill. Enjoy.


Johnson’s writing style is informal giving the text a personal quality as she focuses on individual librarians and their accomplishments. Some places were a bit dry. Personal descriptions tended to be long-winded. I wasn’t interested in a librarian’s mustache or glasses frame but his/her achievements. Otherwise, the text was very readable. Anyone working in a library or similar setting will likely enjoy this book. I’m glad I read it. I feel like I have a better idea of what I’m getting myself into! I can’t wait.
Publisher: Harper, 2010     Pages: 272
Rating: 4 Stars                     Source: Bought on Amazon

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tome's 500 Page Challenge

Over at Tome's Devotee, Paula is challenging readers to finish a 500 page book this month. My selection is Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. At 541 pages, I've been putting it off because of the size of this thing. But I've heard a lot of buzz and want to read it. So, I'll be diving into it soon to get it done by June! If you want to join the challenge and share what you're reading, head over to Paula's post to sign up! On an aside, I hope everyone had a great Mother's Day! Also, thanks to Beverly for the heads up on this challenge.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black

Let me begin by saying Tithe has some really strong points as well as some really low points. This is perhaps why I am having difficulty writing a review.

A part of me enjoyed the story. Kaye, a sixteen-year-old girl, finds out she is really a changeling – a pixie that looks human – and is thrown into the middle of a courtly feud in this new world. But I wasn’t really interested in Kaye or most of the characters. The human characters smoke, drink, swear, shoplift and ditch school a little more than most normal kids. It was pretty impossible for me to identify with them. I felt sorry for Kaye (her mom is a transient rock star wannabe who has no interest in parenting) but by the tone of the text the reader isn’t meant to feel pity for her. Kaye’s best friend is very childish and jealous. The boys are very touchy feely with the girls. The only reason I did not dislike Kaye is because of the lack of guidance she has and the fact that she is young and trying to figure herself out. In stark contrast to the humans, Roiben, the “dark knight” faerie, is a complex character offering mystery and a better romantic figure. I liked Roiben and he was probably the only reason I kept reading.

It took about a hundred pages before I became interested in the story. I felt the text lingered too long on Kaye’s crappy human life and I was antsy to get to the faerie tale part which was good. Black doled out just enough of the good stuff to keep me reading. The text is a fast read. I would have quit otherwise. Some of the sentences just didn’t make sense. I was re-reading many, trying to get the meaning out of them without success. The “f” word set in right away but tapered off to my relief because the dialogue was just too high school for me, if that makes sense. As the story focused more on the faerie tale part, my reading experience improved. I feel Black’s writing style in Tithe is very conflicted. It seemed as though she wanted to write as Kaye in first person. I think that would have worked so much better. The third person POV was cramping Black’s style.

If you like faeires, kelpies, and pixies crossing from weird other worlds to ours, you may enjoy Tithe. If you like urban-fantasy, I suspect this text is for you. Although marked as YA, parents should be aware of the issues, most of which I mentioned earlier. Without parental guidance, I do not recommend letting very young teens read this. Like I said, I did like the story. I’ll be reading Ironside in the future with hopes that Black will have worked out the kinks.
Publisher: Simon Pulse, 2004 (originally published 2002)     Pages: 331
Rating: 2.5 Stars     Recommended Age: 16 and up                   Source: IC Public Library

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Giveaway Winner!

The winner of my first giveaway is

Mindy!

Congratulations, you have won a copy of The House On Mango Street!
I have sent you an email.

Thanks to everyone for participating and sharing the meaning of your names. It's been fun reading them.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

By now, what has not been said about this number one, top selling novel? That’s more of a statement than a question. I doubt I can say anything that hasn’t been said before. My hope is that if you haven’t read The Help you’ll beg it off your friend, get in the hold line at your library or break down and purchase it because why? Because it is worth it. I know some people have a few complaints that run along the lines of: the ending was anti-climatic or the dialect bothered them. Some more serious complaints are that it’s just one more bash on Mississippi. Even if you finish and wonder what all the fuss is about I promise you won’t be disappointed that you read it.

I wasn’t sure what this book was about when I decided to buy it. I knew it was set in the Southern U.S. during the 1960s and there was something about a lot of women afraid to follow after whatever it was they wanted. And that there would be racial issues thrown in there. This is a terrible summary. However, not knowing what I was in for left me deliciously and delightfully surprised. I didn’t expect to become engrossed by a maid’s daily life. I didn’t expect to laugh out loud on several occasions. I didn’t expect to learn and this novel enlightened me about how complicated the civil rights movement was for many different (but not so different) people.

This book was a pleasure to read. As a rule, I don’t mind dialect but I find it slows my pace down. Truly though, I savored every page. The story alternates between three women’s point of view: one young white woman, one middle-aged black maid and one not-quite-old black maid. I adored all the voices but Aibileen’s (the eldest’s) was my favorite. There is so much tension, anxiety and fear in these women’s lives because of their desire to tell the truth. I felt nervous for them and kept hoping they’d find a way to iron out the wrinkles (hehe. Aibileen hates ironing pleats). I feel this book is a must read for those living in the U.S., perhaps especially my 20-something generation who have grown up in a different era and have little understanding of what daily life was like in the South during the 1960s.

So, I have this great thing called a public library. And mine hosted the author, Kathryn Stockett, who stopped by on her way to the Windy City to speak, read and sign our books! Hearing her speak was a blast. If you have the opportunity to see her, do it! She spoke a bit about her anxieties being a white woman writing in the voice of black women. Stockett had a black maid growing up and this book is her way of expressing many of the things she has learned about what life was like for the help. In case you’re curious, she said two of her favorite authors are Lee Smith and Kaye Gibbons (among many others). She has an awesome southern accent! And in response to a question said that no, she is not Skeeter (the young white protagonist), that she was never as brave as Skeeter or able to ask those kinds of difficult questions when she was a child. I think she was rather brave to write this story, though. Ms. Stockett was gracious enough to let me take my picture with her so, there we are. Now, go get yourself a copy of The Help and settle in for a good read.
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books, 2009     Pages: 451
Rating: 5 Stars                                             Source: Purchased on Amazon

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Giveaway Ends Tomorrow!

Be sure to sign up for a used copy of The House on Mango Street! The giveaway ends tomorrow! I am looking forward to tomorrow because it marks my one month anniversary of drinking no soda pop. Nada drop. It's been hard! There have been a few intense cravings for Mt. Dew. But I have managed to make it to my goal. I feel I've conquered my addiction so that's good! I hope every one's week is going well. I'll be posting a review soon for The Help. I am loving this book. I even got to "meet" the author and get my book signed! So, stay tuned for a review and pictures coming soon!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Circulation Workers, Beware!

Americans like to think we are a very independent people. As such, we often like to do things for ourselves rather than rely on a middle man. But does the expediency of self-serve programs really make our lives better? When did the self-serve wave begin? The elevator assistant has long been banished. Except for a few gas stations on the west coast, everyone pumps their own gas. We pay at the pump. We wash our own cars. Fifty percent of the time, I scan and bag my own groceries. If I want a cashier I have to wait in a longer and slower line. I can get lunch out of a vending machine. I get money out of an ATM. I do all my banking on-line. I can easily go through an entire day without speaking to another human about any of my needs. Is this good quality service? I don’t know. I like having options - the option to get in the cashier line, the option of speaking to a bank teller. I like knowing who to speak to if I have questions or problems. So, why am I talking about this?

In the spring edition of American Libraries by the American Library Association, an article entitled "A Circulation Renovation Cuts Expsenses" praises a public library for implementing technology that replaces the need for circulation workers thereby cutting costs significantly. This machine checks books out, in and sorts the returned materials into appropriate bins. Kudos to the engineer of this thing. I understand the economy has caused many libraries to cut budgets, cut jobs and look for ways to serve their communities without cutting programs. But honestly, as a circulation worker myself, this article scares me. I have worked at my college’s circ. department and plan to work there this summer. I’m the first person most people go to for any and all questions – not the librarians’ reference desk. As a student, I am often able to answer patron questions that the librarians don’t know how to answer. Not that I’m dissing the librarians. They know more in general than I do. I guess I don’t feel appreciated knowing a machine can replace me. It makes me uneasy every time technology puts more people out of a job. And I feel like my options are being limited.

What do you all think? Am I being paranoid? What are the up-sides to self-serve check out?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Do You Know What Time It Is?

IT'S TIME TO HOP! You know what to do! Go over to Crazy-for-Books, post your book blog link, and check out all the bloggers going nuts for book! Here's a few blogs I've found in the past couple weeks that I am enjoying: Emily's Reading Room, Read It, See It and The Ninja Librarian.

If your new, thanks for stopping by and check out my book giveaway for The House on Mango Street. There are not many entries so sign up to win!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Old Man's War by John Scalzi


I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife's grave. Then I joined the army. - Scalzi 9
These are the opening words to Old Man’s War by John Scalzi, a science-fiction novel wherein humans compete with extra terrestrials for inhabitable planets. If you like action and adventure you’ll get it here since colonizing the universe incurs a lot of conflict. The colonizing officials find it expedient to recruit earth’s elderly, with life experience to draw from and nothing left to lose, and transform them into battle-ready soldiers. These recruits have no idea what they’re in for, literally, as earth is under an information quarantine. John Perry is one such recruit and this novel tells his native-earthling-turned-super-space-soldier story.

Scalzi has an abundant sense of sarcasm which is injected into John’s Perry’s first-person narration that I found amusing. The humor kept an otherwise serious colonial commentary feeling lighthearted and fun to read. The characters were great, especially some of the minor ones. There’s sort of a love story here but it’s secondary to the main plot. Speaking of which, it took awhile before the main conflict is revealed but it wasn’t a drawback for me. I was so engrossed in Perry’s transformation and his training that I didn’t get bored wondering what it was all pushing towards. I saw the end “twist” coming but it was still a great ending and was not disappointing for having figured how things would end. Scalzi’s descriptions of planets, aliens and technology were sufficient and enjoyable for me. If things get real technical I tend to get lost and bored. This was not the case with Old Man’s War. Overall, this was a fast and fun read. If you’ve never visited Scalzi’s blog check it out here: http://whatever.scalzi.com/. If you’re not into science-fiction you’ll find he posts on a lot of topics, book-ish and more.
Publisher: Tor, 2005     Pages: 320     Source: IC Public Library
Rating: 3.5 Stars           Recommended Age: 17 and up for language and sexuality

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

When I picked up this book I thought I knew what I was in for. But apparently I was ignorant of the largest involuntary migration in the U.S. – that of Mexican workers, many legal citizens, who were forced to move to Mexico during the Great Depression. Esperanza’s story is set during this turbulent time. The daughter of a wealthy Mexican rancher, Esperanza has everything she could ever desire. But in one night her life changes and she and her mother migrate to California to work on a farm labor camp. While the Great Depression rages, Esperanza adjusts to the difficulties of her new life.

I enjoyed Esperanza’s story, based off Ryan’s grandmother’s life. The writing is interspersed with Spanish making this a very cultural text. I think this is an excellent book for kids to learn about the difficulties of emigrating families, the richness of Mexican culture as well as the history surrounding the Great Depression. I find this story particularly relevant today as we come out of our economic slump. With so many unemployed, sympathy for non-citizen workers definitely fades. Esperanza’s story reminds us that everyone deserves humane treatment and that stereotyping has never helped our country in the past. That’s what I got out of this text, anyways! I will tuck away this title in my memory bank for my future kid someday.
Publisher: Scholastic, 2000      Pages: 262          Source: IC Public Library
Rating: 4 Stars                             Recommended Age: 10 and up

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games was a nice treat. I’ve been drifting awhile in the sci-fi/fantasy genre and, finally, I’ve found what I’m looking for. This is a dystopian plot set in a post-U.S.A. North America that is broken into twelve districts. It’s a clever set-up and serves as a nice backdrop for the lives of those forced to play the hunger games – a Coliseum-like event set in the 21st century. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen is in the unfortunate position of a “tribute” or a player of the Hunger Games. She must search and destroy the other players before they seek and destroy her.

This book has some great action and adventure while teenagers fight for survival in the expansive arena. Weapons are used. People die in not so good ways. But all in the name of entertainment. Or, is it that simple? No, no! Just as the emperors of Rome used the Coliseum, the games are meant to inspire a fearful loyalty as much as they are meant to entertain. As the protagonist so clearly sees, the Capitol city uses the games to say “Look at how we can make you destroy yourselves so, don’t question our rule.” But not everybody feels negatively about the games. Many are avid fans who support certain tributes and bet on them. Katniss is deeply conflicted between her instinct for self-defense and her aversion to killing another person. Although there is violence I find the text illustrates how not simple being a part of violence is. Every victory in the games comes with physical and emotional baggage which is not easily gotten over. There’s a lot to draw out of this book and the violence is just one aspect of The Hunger Games. The Capitol stands as a symbol for decadent living – the ultimate fashion, food and power center. But their luxuries come at a price. Perhaps more than the strict laws imposed upon the district people, the ultimate flaw is that the citizens of the Capitol have become blind to their greed and inhumanity. I could go on but I’ll get to the gist of it…

At first, the prose was not drawing me in. On page one the first-person present-tense narration turned me off and I thought “Oh, no. Not present tense and first person.” Not my favorite POV. However, the prose gradually improved until I really enjoyed Katniss’ narration. I felt inside her head, hearing a twig snap when she did, feeling panic when she did. I even teared up a couple times. By the middle of the book I was hooked and had to know how the games would end. It seems all great sagas tend to draw out the begining a bit. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Catching Fire. Besides the semi-slow draw, this was a great book. If you haven’t read it yet, hop on the wagon.
Publisher: Scholastic, 2008     Recommended Age: 12 and up
Rating: 4.5 Stars                        Pages: 374   Source: IC Public Library
P.S. The Coliseum picture is one I took when I was in Rome last summer. It was strange to stand in a place where people died. Can you imagine watching such a "game"?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hop to It, Book Bloggers!

It's Friday and time to find new book blogging friends! Crazy-for-Books hosts this weekely Blog Hop where you can list your book blog and, in return, visit a few. If you don't blog check out the list because it's a great resource for finding new book blogs.

If you're hopping by, check out my book giveaway! Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, April 19, 2010

American On Purpose by Craig Ferguson

American On Purpose is an uplifting and fun read. This is not to say it is an entirely funny read. There is plenty of humor interspersed, as would be expected of the host of The Late Late Show, but this memoir is a reflection on the harrowing journey Ferguson took through drugs, alcohol and failed relationships before landing a successful show-biz career in the land of the free and home of the brave.

Growing up in Scotland, Ferguson felt an affinity for the United States as a young child, and after a visit to NYC he swore he would return to pursue a career in Hollywood. It was a long time before his dream was realized. There are a lot of dark moments as Ferguson hits several lows but eventually the light dawns, he reaches out for help and begins a slow but successful climb to sobriety and success. Eventually, Ferguson decides that the U.S. of A. is a people he identifies with and has a Constitution he believes in. He truly is a patriot who thought carefully before becoming a U.S. citizen.

Ferguson is a captivating writer who is able to recount events in his life without boring his reader to death. And surprisingly he handles the darker moments of acid trips and wild brawls in such a way that made me neither disgusted nor overly sympathetic. He maintains an endearing honesty throughout and an uplifting message of hope for anyone who has ever experienced or known someone who is consumed by an addiction. I strongly suggest viewing a few of his shows before reading because a) Ferguson is hilarious and b) it was so much fun to hear his Scottish accent in my head while I read. I enjoyed this book. It’s nice to know some people truly love this country. I am reminded of a professor of mine from Uganda who received his citizenship while I was taking his class. We were all so excited for him and he was thrilled. Encountering stories such as these remind me how precious our freedoms are and that the U.S. is still the land of opportunity!
Publisher: Harper, 2009          Source: Purchased at a Local Bookstore
Rating: 4 Stars                          Recommended Age: 16+ (for language and drug use descriptions)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

I am sad to say I am putting this book aside. At page 227, over half way through the book, Shiver just isn’t holding my attention. I’ve been trying really hard to get into it (I’ve heard so many good things) but it feels like a chore to read and it’s due back at the library soon.

If you’ve been thinking about reading this I’d say go ahead. Don’t let me stop you because there are some positive aspects to this book. Stiefvater is a great writer. There are some beautiful passages with creative metaphors. I liked how the chapters switched between Sam and Grace’s point of view. The dialog isn’t cheesy although I felt it sounded pretty grown up for teenagers. The story-line is fairly original for the age-old werewolf story. The main thrust of the novel is its romantic relationship and this is where it fell flat for me. The relationship between Sam and Grace didn’t engage me. The romance felt rushed without a gradual build-up. They were just instantly in love and glued together. I guess I like more suspense. And the whole hiding-my-boyfriend-in-my-bedroom was sort of lame to me. Also, there wasn’t enough mystery. At once we know what Sam is (so no suspense there) and the danger lurking within the pack didn’t draw me in either. If you’re a fan of paranormal romance I suspect you will like Shiver. Maybe I’ll pick this back up in the future but for now, I’m moving on.
Publisher: Scholastic, 2009          Pages: 392          Source: IC Public Library
Rating: none since I didn’t finish it

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hoppin' Book Bloggers! It's Friday!

It's Friday and time for another Book Blogger Hop hosted by Crazy-for-Books! The point is to connect with other bloggers who you may not know exist. It's alot of fun so get hopping!

If you're new to my blog, thanks for stopping by! Check out my book giveaway while you're here and happy Friday!

Book Giveaway: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

I am holding my very first book giveaway to celebrate several things. First, May 5th marks my one-month-no-soda-pop goal! It's been really hard but good for me. Second, it's Cinco de Mayo and why not celebrate! Lastly, my reader base has really grown and I am grateful for those who share their interest in books with me!

Giveaway Details:
One Book: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (click for summary)
First Vintage Contemporaries Ed., April 1991 Pages: 110
This is a well loved copy with highlighting and writing inside but the binding and cover are in good shape.
Begins: 04/16/2010
Ends: 05/05/2010 at 11:59 pm central – I will post the winner’s name on 05/06/09 and email that person. The winner must respond via email by 5/8/2009 or I will select another winner. The winner will be chosen randomly.
Open to U.S. Residents Only, sorry!

How to enter:
1) You must be a follower of my blog!
2) Leave a comment under this post with your first name and a description of what your name means. In the chapter “My Name,” Esperanza tells us all the different things her name means. It’s one of my favorite chapters! So, let’s share our names' histories. Try this site to look up your name.
3) Leave your email address so I can contact the winner! I won’t be using your email for any other purpose.

My name, Michelle, means “like God” or “close to God.” That’s a lot to live up to! I was named after my mom’s cousin. My nickname is Chelle (pronounced shell). And just for the record, I do not like the Beatles’ song, “Michelle, ma belle.” Ok, good luck!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

I loved this book! It was one of those stories I felt invested in the characters and enjoyed the whole reading experience. Before I get too carried away, here’s a short description.

Twelve-year-old Miranda encounters shifting friendships, a sudden punch, a strange homeless man and mysterious notes that hint at knowledge of the future. These and other seemingly random events converge in a brilliantly constructed plot. – from: http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/%20newberymedal/newberymedal.cfm

So, what was so great about his book? The voice, Miranda’s voice, was incredibly authentic. She was cute, spunky and genuinely concerned about those around her. Yet she was sometimes selfish and gave her mom a bit of lip. She isn’t perfect but she sure is loveable. Stead captures the concerns of a 12-year-old perfectly. Miranda often asks: Why does my best friend avoid me? Why do the girls at school give me dirty looks? She becomes aware of her family’s lack of money. Her first crush develops. And in addition to these normal bumps to growing up, Miranda receives mysterious and rather alarming notes. These notes drive the plot as Miranda tries to puzzle them together. I enjoyed how the book is written as Miranda’s reply to the messenger and how the text begins addressing someone we don’t know. This is a touching story of growing up, learning how to be a good friend and opening oneself up to possibilities. I don’t want to give too much away as there is quite a bit of mystery. The plot kept me guessing and I wasn’t sure of the messenger’s identity until he/she is revealed.

This text references A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (my review) throughout the book so, if you haven’t read Wrinkle you may want to do so first or at least read a synopsis of it before reading Stead’s book. Miranda finds comfort and role models in her favorite book and is alarmed when others try to pick it apart. She says, “The truth is that I hate to think about other people reading my book. It’s like watching someone go through the box of private stuff that I keep under my bed” (Stead 49). That’s often how I feel when a book is discussed in class and characters that I adore are scrutinized. It’s funny how adults will become defensive and argue their favorite character’s integrity! I can see this being a teacher’s great challenge when discussing books with kids and trying to get them to see a different perspective. Have you ever felt so strongly about a fictional character? When You Reach Me was a perfect story and a must read. I’m sure it will be a well-loved book for years to come.
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books of Random House, 2009
Rating: 5 Stars            Source: IC Public Library           Pages: 200    Recommended Age: 10 +

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

An enduring classic, A Wrinkle in Time is a great book to get kids excited about math and physics. With unusual and endearing characters this novel also encourages strong family bonds, especially between siblings. It is science fiction that will appeal to several age groups since there is something for everyone in this tale. There is the classic good against evil plot that tries Meg, the heroin, her brother Charles and friend Calvin. This book was all over the place in terms of subjects – time travel, space travel, aliens, absent parent, strange witches who may be good or may be bad, school challenges – but they are woven together seamlessly. I was surprised (in a good way) by the Christian undertone and am sure many religious adults will appreciate the allegory as much as kids will appreciate the action and adventure. There were several references to Shakespeare (The Tempest) and other philosophers as well as Biblical quotes. So, in addition to mathematics, this text also encourages kids to explore the liberal arts. This book still gets young readers excited and has quite a following – impressive for such an “old” book. The themes of family and friendship will always be important to people and I think these elements make this book time-less. This was a really different read for me and made me stretch my imagination. But it was an enjoyable story in the end.
Publisher: Laurel-Leaf of Dell, 1962     Recommended Age: 10 and up
Rating: 3 Stars                                            Pages: 190