Friday, July 30, 2010

Review: Books Make Me Happy by Judy Pelikan


I have to share this with you.

A few weeks ago, I was in Target wandering around, picking up last minute items for our vacation.  Out of the corner of my eye, I spot this book...see the cover to your left?  It's cute, right?  Books make ME happy, as you all well know, so I picked it up.

It's a reading journal for kids!

I'm blessed with an avid reader...but my avid reader doesn't really like to write so much.  Apparently, this is common, especially with early readers.  So, I thought that this would be a good guide for him to write about the books he's reading.

Inside the book are spaces for each book's title, author, and illustrator.  Each log entry asks the same "My favorite part of the book was:"  "I will recommend this book to a friend because:" and asks for a drawing inspired by the book.  After that, the questions are changed up throughout the journal.  Your child will answer questions like, "Name one book that made you so happy you wanted to read it again and again," or "What is your favorite place to read a book?" or "Does your Mom have a favorite book?  Ask her to write about it here." 

This book is supposed to encourage reading...but I would have to say that it also encourages writing with engaging questions and a simple format.

I'm sure this isn't the first book of its kind, but it's the first one in our home, and we love it.  Now that he has a format, I expect the Kid's Reviews to be rolling in!  Stay tuned!


About the Book:
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 64 pages
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company (November 26, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 076115597X
ISBN-13: 978-0761155973


About the Author:
Judy Pelikan is the author of the bestselling Grandmother Remembers: A Written Heirloom for My Grandchild, as well as numerous other illustrated gift books such as The Heart's Journey and The Music of Wild Birds. She lives in the north country of New Hampshire.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Kid News!

The Title and Cover for Diary of a Wimpy Kid #5 is here!

Introducing...


November 9th can't come soon enough for us!

As I am putting together this post, my two boys are looking over my shoulder yelling:

"Is that the new book?"
"It's purple!"
"It's so cool!"
"November is SO far away!"

Needless to say, we have pre-ordered our Wimpy Kid #5 - have you??


This summer, the Wimpy Kid Ice Cream Truck Tour will be traveling around the country.  Check out the tour stops here.



To Pre-Order Diary of a Wimpy Kid #5:



The DVD of Diary of a Wimpy Kid is coming August 3, 2010:



Review and Blog Tour: The Language of Trees by Ilie Ruby

It didn't stick with me like I thought it would.

Synopsis from author's website:
In the sprawling lake region of Canandaigua, New York—a place where some families have secrets they would do anything to keep—little Luke Ellis disappeared. Now, over a decade later, his teenage sister, Melanie, has vanished, abandoning her infant son. As the frantic search for Melanie ensues, Grant Shongo, a Seneca healer, finds himself caught up by a spirit that draws him into a world where nature and the spiritual realm are intertwined and nothing is as it seems. It is only with the help of his childhood love, Echo O'Connell, that the mystery of the Ellis children can be put to rest. But before the healing must come the forgiveness. Written in a magic realist vernacular, THE LANGUAGE OF TREES examines the tremulous bonds between parents and children, lovers and friends, and restless spirits—both living and not. It is a story that will make you believe that the spirits of those we love watch over us, that people can heal each other, and that if you can truly forgive yourself, the world will return to you all of your forgotten dreams.



I originally wrote the review for The Language of Trees two weeks ago, moments after I read the last page.  For some reason, computer gnomes most likely, my review did not save, so here I am two weeks later...with a slightly different opinion.  The gnomes did me a favor, they allowed me to step back and take a look at a book again.  Unfortunately, I found The Language of Trees did not have staying power.

The first time around, I did enjoy this book and thought that it was a beautiful story with many of the Native American "magic" weaved throughout the story of this little town on Canandaigue Lake. 

My biggest complaint about the book was that the words got in the way.  The writing felt forced at times.  There were some great ideas, but the too obvious "words of wisdom" were poorly positioned and didn't feel authentic.  I had to wonder if the novel was over-edited, because at times there were passages that didn't flow, and were inconsistent where they were positioned.

There were times when the writing worked.  It was as if Ilie Ruby was in the zone and her words spilled out of her effortlessly.  Ms. Ruby must have been alone at her desk, in a quiet house when her imagination kicked in and she lost herself in her story.  Again, it makes me wonder about the editing or rewrites.  It makes me want to see the manuscript!

Some of my favorite moments in the book, had little sprinkles of Ilie Ruby's magical writing in it. 

"Most beautiful thing is to see hope come back into a face."
"He thought her beautifully human."
"...she was gentle with the world but not afraid of it..."


I enjoyed the story of Grant and Echo, and the intertwining families of Canandaigua Lake. I especially enjoyed the relationship between Echo and Joseph - the only parent-child relationship in the whole story that is loving and functional, and it's also the only one that's not biological.  The characters were alive, and the plot was interesting and magical, but I did not connect with the story enough for it to stick with me. 


Book Extras:
TLC Book Tour Stops for The Language of Trees
Ilie Ruby's website
Facebook Page

Watch the Book Trailer




About the Book:
The Language of Trees by Ilie Ruby
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Avon A (July 20, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061898643
ISBN-13: 978-0061898648

About the Author:
Ilie Ruby grew up in Rochester, NY and spent her childhood summers on Canandaigua Lake, the setting for her debut novel, THE LANGUAGE OF TREES. She is the winner of the Edwin L. Moses Award for Fiction, chosen by T.C. Boyle; a Kerr Foundation Fiction Scholarship; and the Phi Kappa Phi Award for Creative Achievement in Fiction. Ruby is also a recipient of the Wesleyan Writer's Conference Davidoff Scholarship in Nonfiction and the Kemp Award for Outstanding Teaching and Scholarship. She has worked on PBS archaeology documentaries in Central America, taught 5th grade in Los Angeles on the heels of the Rodney King riots of 1992, and written two children's books, MAKING GOLD and THE LAST BOAT. In 1995, she graduated from the Masters of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California, where she was fiction editor of The Southern California Anthology. Ruby is a painter, poet and proud adoptive mom to three children from Ethiopia.
The Language of Trees Blog Tour Stops:

Tuesday, July 20th: I’m Booking It
Wednesday, July 21st: Café of Dreams
Thursday, July 22nd: Alison’s Book Marks
Monday, July 26th: Library Queue
Wednesday, July 28th: Fizzy Thoughts
Monday, August 2nd: Chaotic Compendiums
Wednesday, August 4th: Take Me Away
Thursday, August 5th: Booksie’s Blog
Monday, August 9th: Jenny Loves to Read
Tuesday, August 10th: Chefdruck Musings
Thursday, August 12th: Books Like Breathing



Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Review and Kid's Review: Meanwhile by Jason Shiga

Moms shouldn't choose their son's books, and this is why.  While flipping through this book made me a bit dizzy and confused, my son devoured it in one day, and has read it over and over again.

It's a choose-your-own adventure comic book - and even cooler than it sounds, if such a thing is possible.

I have to admit, if I saw Meanwhile in the bookstore, I would have picked it up, not understood it, and walked out without buying it...and my son would have missed out on this great reading experience.  Not only did he really enjoy this book, but it has opened him up to comic books and graphic novels - something he had no interest in before! 

The story is hysterical, the pages feel really neat to the touch (you'll see what I mean), and the artwork is colorful and engaging. 


The Kid's Review:

My favorite part of the book was when Jimmy saw him self from ten minutes ago in the bathroom and threw a book at him.  I recommend this book to my friends because it's funny and action-packed.


Synopsis:
"Meanwhile" begins as our young hero in dire need of a bathroom, knocks on the door of a mysterious recluse. His mansion is in fact a wonderous laboratory filled with amazing inventions: A mind reading helmet, a doomsday device and a time travel machine (although it can only go back ten minutes).

Which invention will young Jimmy play with? YOU, the reader get to decide in my branchiest and most complex interactive comic to date. "Meanwhile" works via a network of tubes connecting each panel to the next. Sometimes these tubes split in two giving the readers a choice of which path they would like to follow. Sometimes these tubes even lead off the page and onto tabs sticking out from other parts of the book.


Disclosure:  A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher - and they aren't getting it back.  :)  Many thanks to the genius people at Amulet/Abrams for sending us this book!


Book Extras:
Author Website
Author interview video (includes a "how to read this book" demonstration - my son didn't need instructions, he figured it out.  Me?  I needed the video.)
Author's Blog
Time article on Jason Shiga
Fleep, the collected comics


About the Book:
Meanwhile by Jason Shiga
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 80 pages
Publisher: Amulet Books (March 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0810984237
ISBN-13: 978-0810984233

About the Author:
(Pictured below with the "matrix" for Meanwhile)

Jason Shiga won the Eisner award in 2003 for “talent deserving of wider recognition.” In 2008, his graphic novel Bookhunter was also nominated for an Eisner. He lives in Oakland, California.




 




Monday, July 26, 2010

What Are You Reading?

Today is Monday, July 26, 2010...What Are You Reading?

This weekly meme is hosted by Sheila over at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books...also known as Book Journey.  Everyone say hello to Sheila, who is probably sitting on a comfy chair reading a good book somewhere outdoorsy.  Don't forget your sun block, Sheila!

I have reader's tan!  I have this strange white line on my neck where my head was bent downward, looking at my book.  This past week we were on vacation.  When I wasn't playing with my boys, boogie boarding in the ocean, or eating ice cream, I was reading!  There is nothing better than reading on the beach.  I'm sure my husband has a picture of it somewhere! 

I miss the beach.

Books I completed this Week:


Books I am Currently Reading:

Books I Plan to Read this Week:

Review: Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

Great fun and a wonderful introduction to Audio Books!

Synopsis: (from Goodreads.com)
Scarlett is the third of four children in the Martin family. The Martins live in and manage a shabby hotel in NYC that dates back to the 1920s. When Scarlett turns 15, she is put in charge of one of the hotel's 27 rooms- the Empire Suite. Into this room moves Mrs. Amberson, a failed 1970s starlet who has returned to New York to write her memoirs. Soon, Scarlett is taking dictation, running around town with Mrs. Amberson, and getting caught up in her Auntie Mame-meets-Bianca Jagger adventures.



In the midst of all this, Scarlett falls in love - or so she thinks - and it takes Mrs. Amberson to help her see the light.
 
Despite a few bumps in the road, my first audio book was a great success!  For more on my experiences and lessons I learned about audiobooks, you can read my post here:  Audiobook Week:  Seven Lessons.  Since this is my first Audiobook review, I am going to steal some ideas from the hostess of Audiobook Week, Jen at Devourer of Books.  Thanks, Jen!  I hope that as my experience with this media grows, I'll find my own way of doing things. 

Book Review:
This book was so much more than I thought it would be! 

There were so many different story lines swirling around Scarlett, and she was the glue that held it all together.  Each of her siblings had their own issues with love, trust, forgiveness and maturity and they all came to her to make it all okay.  Scarlett's new boss, Mrs. Amberson always had some scheme that threatened Scarlett's honesty and sanity.  The drama company of Spencer's always seemed to need Scarlett to come to the rescue in one way or another.  In the end, though, she needed to stop being the glue and make some decisions for herself.   As a reader, I cheered for Scarlett and wanted her to be happy.

Of all the relationships in the book, the one between Scarlett and her brother, Spencer, was my favorite.  His character was my favorite as well.  He was the comic relief throughout the book, even though he himself was fighting a pretty tough battle with his parents to let him live out his dream of being a professional actor, while they pushed for him to go to culinary school and return to the hotel as the chef.  It's also through Spencer that Scarlett meets a love interest or more like a love possibility.  Spencer was great - I think it was through him that I saw a little more of the author's voice as well. 

I was SO glad that Maureen Johnson wrapped up her book and left me with a sense of satisfaction and closure, while leaving the door slightly ajar for the next installment in Scarlett's life.  I hate it when the first book in the series is all set up and cliff-hangers and no substance.  This was a wonderful book, on its own and as the first book in a series. 

There was only one question I had to keep asking myself - was Scarlett really only 15?  Were any of us that mature at 15?    I'm sure the YA readers will adore Scarlett...it just made me feel like a fuddy duddy mom who kept thinking,  Doesn't she have a curfew?? 


Audio Review:
I have to admit, a part of me was extremely disappointed when I started playing the audio and did not hear Maureen Johnson's voice.  She was our keynote speaker at the Book Bloggers Convention back in May, and she was hilarious!  I could *hear* her voice coming through in some of the characters, especially in Scarlett's brother, Spencer, with his wit and sarcasm.

Even though it was not Maureen's voice, I thought reader Jeannie Stith did a wonderful job.  She had voices for all the main characters, staying mostly consistent throughout.  The biggest thing I was worried about in listening to an audiobook is the narrator's VOICE.  I was pleasantly surprised that her voice did not bug me at all.  It wasn't screechy or whiny, or forced.  It felt very natural. 

There weren't any background sound effects.  For some reason, I thought there would be some.  I'm new to this, so maybe there aren't usually sound effects...unless you're listening to John Grisham or James Patterson, maybe.

All in all, I thought this was a fun book, and one that I recommend to any reader or listener!



*Disclosure:  I received a copy of the CD-Rom from Brilliance Audio in the Book Bloggers Convention swag bag. 
Book Extras:
Maureen Johnson's Website
Publisher's Suite Scarlett page
Video of Maureen Johnson

About the Audio Book:
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Audio CD
Publisher: Brilliance Audio on CD Unabridged; Unabridged edition (February 20, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1423381041
ISBN-13: 978-1423381044

About the Book:
Reading level: Young Adult
Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Point; Reprint edition (May 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0545096324
ISBN-13: 978-0545096324


About the Author:
Read Bio Here

I had the pleasure of meeting Maureen Johnson back in May at BEA and at the Book Bloggers Convention.  She had me laughing so hard, and at 9 o'clock in the morning!  I knew there and then that I had to read everything she has ever written.  I'm off to a great start and enjoying every minute. 









Thursday, July 22, 2010

Giveaway: Ravens by George Dawes Green (8/6)

Good morning book lovers!

It's my birthday this week, and to celebrate, I thought I would share the love and give away a book that I REALLY want to read.  Hachette Book Group is celebrating with me by offering TWO copies of Ravens by George Dawes Green. 

Synopsis:
The Boatwrights just won 318 million dollars in the Georgia State lottery. It's going to be the worst day of their lives.

When Shaw McBride and Romeo Zderko pull up at a convenience store off I-95 in Georgia, their only thought is to fix a leaky tire and be on their way again to Florida-away from their dull Ohio tech-support jobs. But this happens to be the store from which a 318,000,000 million dollar Jackpot ticket has just been sold -- and when a pretty clerk accidentally reveals to Shaw the identity of the winning family, he hatches a ferociously audacious scheme: He and Romeo will squeeze the family for half their prize.

That night, he visits the Boatwright home and takes the family hostage, while Romeo patrols the streets nearby, prepared to murder the Boatwrights' loved ones at any sign of resistance. At first, the family offers none. But Shaw's plot depends on maintaining constant fear-merciless, unfaltering terror-and soon, under the pressure, everyone's sanity begins to unravel . . .

At once frightening, comic, and suspenseful, RAVENS is a wholly original and utterly compelling novel from one of our most talented writers.


Book Extras:
Reading Group Guide
Ravens at Hachette Book Group
Author George Dawson Green


Contest is Open Until Friday, August 6, 2010
To Enter Fill Out Form Below:



*Contest open only to residents of US and Canada
*No P.O. Boxes - sorry!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Author Interview and Book Giveaway: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Today is a very special day at Alison's Book Marks! 

I would like to welcome author,

Maggie Stiefvater!

Maggie is on tour for her new book, Linger, which is the second book in her Wolves of Mercy Falls series, and she has decided to stop by and chat for a bit!  As part of her virtual tour, she has agreed to answer a few questions, as well as offer a finished copy of Linger to one of my readers! 

Thank you, Maggie for stopping by Alison's Book Marks!  We're so excited to have you.  I have been following your writing, your music and your art since I read Shiver.  You are an amazing artist, do you have any plans to write and illustrate a children's book or are you sticking to guitars?

Aw, thanks. One day I will write a graphic novel and it will be a thing of beauty and colored pencil. But until then, I’m sticking to guitars and book trailers. I actually originally wanted to be a book illustrator, before I got into my portrait art career. I don’t know if I’ll ever do that . . . but I definitely am feeling the graphic novel itch.


Maggie's Sharpie Meets Her Guitar

A graphic novel by Maggie Steifvater sounds like a treat!  I'm a huge fan and want you to write for me, my kids, and everyone I know, but you need a break too. I get that. When you're not writing, what is your escape?


I would like to write for you, your kids, and your neighbors as well. But yes, I do like to take off time to live and actually experience things to write about. At home, I’ll often read or play music -- piano, guitar, bagpipes, harp, or the tin whistle. Or I will apply sharpie marker to inappropriate surfaces. I also love being outside and so I’ll bike with my kids or ride horses or traipse through woods.

You and Grace have something in common!  I know you wouldn't be afraid if you encountered a wolf, but I wonder how you feel about other exotic animals.  For example, If I gave you a tiger cub, where would you hide it?

Depends. Is this thing still breathing? That narrows the options down, a lot.

Still breathing?  Well, um, yes.  Ok, this conversation just took a weird turn.  Then again, were you thinking of the stuffed variety?  Like Hobbes?  I was thinking Real.  Alive.  Breathing.  Moving on.  How would you finish this sentence, "If I knew then, what I know now, I never would have..."

“... taken that tiger cub from Alison.” In all seriousness, it is sort of against the Maggie creed to have regrets.

Ha ha, ok, point taken!  Note to self:  cancel the tiger delivery.  I love that you have no regrets.  It keeps you moving forward.  I like to move forward as well...unless I'm watching my favorite TV show.  Speaking of, What is on your DVR?

DVR is for television weaklings. I have Netflix, because I am one of those people that is content to wait for the season to be done so that I can watch it all at once. And it’s Burn Notice and My Little Ponies, thank you very much.

I need to look into Netflix.  We're more of a Star Wars/Transformers family, though.  Someday, we'll be ordering your movies from Netflix - Shiver has been optioned by Warner Bros.!  Which part would you want to play in the Shiver/Linger movies?

I would want to be the random cameo. Or the chick in the candy shop that says, “Y’all are a cute couple. Don’t ever break up or let unfortunate shape-shifting come between you.”

Mmmm.  I love that scene.  I can still remember the smells like they were my own! 

Thank you so much for stopping by Alison's Book Marks, it was a pleasure having you here, and you are ALWAYS welcome to come back any time! 

----------------------

Oh my goodness!  I just did an interview with Maggie Stiefvater!!!  I love being a book blogger.

Now for even more Linger goodness - Maggie is leaving you all with a present!  I can give away one finished copy of Linger to one lucky winner.  All you have to do is follow these rules.  Good luck!


Contest is Open Through July 31, 2010

To Enter:
1.  Click the Google Friend Connect Button (if you haven't done so already)
2.  Comment below with your E-Mail Address
3.  Contest open to residents of US and Canada only (sorry!)
4.  No P.O. Boxes please (sorry again!)
5.  Extra entries by:  Follow me on Twitter, "Like" Me on Facebook, Post about this giveaway, share this giveaway (link below), etc.

Review: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Well worth the wait!  I loved this sequel to Shiver so much, I read it twice.

Before I even begin talking about Linger, I must say that I will do my best to keep this review free of spoilers.  When reviewing a sequel, though, it's hard to not mention key points from the first book.  If you haven't read Shiver...go read it first.  (Click here for my review).  For the rest of you who have read Shiver, and can't wait to get your hands on Linger, oh, are you in for a treat! 

The first time I read Linger, I allowed myself to become totally and completely absorbed in the story that I devoured it in one sitting.   Maggie Stiefvater adds two new voices to Linger.  Sam's and Grace's points of view are joined by a new couple - Isabel and Cole. 

Isabel and Cole.  I love this couple, even though they are the complete opposite from Sam and Grace.  They are friends, enemies, confidants, kindred spirits.  They have a connection and a fire in their relationship, I was torn between wanting to read more about them and wanting to read more about Sam and Grace.

Isabel.  She has always been a feisty character - never afraid to speak her mind, and has less than stellar patience when she feels someone isn't being completely upfront with her. Isabel has grown into one of my favorite characters, and the addition of her point of view works on every level. It's also nice to see Sam and Grace's relationship from an outsider's perspective, especially when the outsider demands nothing less than the truth.  Isabel had so many great lines in Linger, but my favorite must have been, "...no matter what Grace thought, I know that in Mercy Falls, it's never over." 

Cole.  Oh, boy.  What can I saw about Cole?  He's hot.  He's the bad boy girls can't help but fall for, but he's not proud of it.  He is a new wolf...with a swagger, a sense of humor, and a bad boy past...and Victor, is his best friend, who was dragged into this life.  Cole chose to be a wolf, and clashes with Sam over it.  While Sam would rather die than become a wolf again, Cole would rather die that stay human.  Cole's character really becomes important later in the book, but for the first two-thirds, all I kept thinking to myself was, "Isabel has met her match!"

Grace.  She was always the girl who was bitten, but didn't change, thanks to a heavy dose of parental negligence.  She doesn't feel right, even though the doctors diagnose her with a simple virus, and send her home with Tylenol and a fever.  What is happening to her?  Will we find out? 

Sam.  Oh, can I just swoon all over Sam for a minute?  He is the rare good guy in YA fiction, and I heart him all over the place.  He can't lie, misses his mom, works in a bookstore, and bakes bread for crying out loud!    Sam's "cure" proved to stay steady all through winter and into spring, but with the emerging warmer weather comes the shifting of the new wolves into their human forms.  Sam must be the new Beck, whether he's ready for it or not, and whether he agrees with the new wolves' presence or not. 


There is a shift in Linger - a shift of energy, power, lust, love, family and leadership.  All four of the main characters are trying to find their find their place, and they each take on a role much different from what they are used to.  The characters we already know and love are growing, and the new guy fits in, I can't imagine what Shiver was like without him! 

Linger also had a science vs. magic element.  What was once a story composed of myth and legend is now broken apart as chemistry and biology.  Don't worry.  The magic is still there!   

Criticism? There is only one small issue I had with Linger.  Cole said he would rather die than stop being a wolf.  Sam said he would rather die that stop being human. There was a desperate ache within these characters, who felt that if they couldn't find their way out, they would have killed themselves.  I'm not sure how I feel about two of the main characters feeling their only way out is suicide.  Maybe this was a bit too melodramatic for me?  Maybe it was the young adult audience reading it that I want to insulate from this way of thinking?  I hurt for Cole and Sam, I really did, but I'm a bit unsettled over this.

Grace's Chapter 47 gave me chills.  I so badly want to quote the whole thing.  I can't say anything about it, because I would ruin the whole book for you.  So beautifully written, I could hear Grace's voice, just the way she would say it, I can even imagine the music playing in the background.  Oh, I just loved it!! 

Only after I read Linger for the second time did I take the time to contemplate the name of the book.  The first time through, I was too absorbed in what was happening to appreciate the subtle intricacies, and beautiful language for which Maggie Steivfater is so well known.  The word "linger" will never quite mean the same thing to me.

Brava, Maggie! 
Book Extras:

Maggie Stiefvater's webpage
Scholastic Press webpage
Shiver series Website
Maggie Stiefvater's Blog
Maggie Stiefvater on Twitter
Maggie Stiefvater on Facebook
Link to Book Trailer
Scholastic's Shiver/Linger page


Disclosure: I borrowed a copy of the ARC from Clinton Book Store (I couldn't wait for the publisher to send it to me!) AND received an ARC from the publisher for review. 

About the Book:
Linger (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book 2) by Maggie Stiefvater
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press (July 20, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0545123283
ISBN-13: 978-0545123280

About the Author:
Maggie Stiefvater is a twenty-seven-year-old writer, artist, and musician. Her debut novel, Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception, was published by Flux in 2008. Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of Tantalize, called her writing "musical, magical, and practically radiating romance...perfect for engaging sharp minds and poetic hearts." Maggie lives in Virginia with her husband and their two children.





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Friday, July 16, 2010

Review: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher


Imaginative, but predictable.  Exciting, but unsatisfying.  Praiseworthy, but saturated.  I am torn.

Incarceron is a prison of sorts, one that was created long ago with no way in and no way out.  The people of Incarceron aren't even completely sure if there is anything Outside of their world.  Since no one on the Outside has seen the inside of the prison, it is believed to be a Utopia.  Unfortunately, evil exists everywhere.  The Warden alone has the key, and no one other than him knows its secrets of this living, breathing, world.  When the Warden's daughter, Claudia, becomes too curious, secrets are revealed and the doorway between these two worlds becomes blurred.

Unlike anything I had ever read before, Fisher magically weaves together a false "protocol" of an era long ago with the technology of a futuristic age.  While the women have ladies-in-waiting tightening up their corsets, they have to be sure to check the mirror to see if they need to use the laser skinwand to rid themselves of any new wrinkles.   One would think this kind of dichotomy would be hard to get used to, but I had no trouble jumping head-first into this imaginative pool of sci-fi goodness. 

The world Outside Incarceron, Claudia's world, is one in which she is a modern girl being forced to live a lie in a mock-up of the 18th century.  As a modern girl, she can't help but be curious and daring, and unable to obey orders from anyone - not even the Queen.

The world Inside Incarceron is Finn's, an eighteen year old boy who was "born" inside Incarceron three years ago.  He has fragmented memories of being Outside, of cake and birthday parties, and a pretty girl.  Finn hopes that these pieces of a memory will help him figure out who he was before he woke up Inside.  He and his gang, including his oathbrother, Keiro, and the Master Gildas, fight their way through the inner politics and gangs of inmates to find a portal to the Outside.  There is only one who has done it before, Sapphique, and they follow in his footsteps, with little more than faith to guide them.

---

I had read so many rave reviews for Incarceron this past year, but it wasn't until I picked up an ARC of the second book of Catherine Fisher's trilogy at BEA that I reserved a copy of Incarceron from the library and got reading.  And, so far, I'm sure it sounds like I loved the book...so what's with all the confusion, Alison?

I can't quite put my finger on why I am not gushing over Incarceron, but when I was about half-way through the book, one of my friends was walking through my kitchen and saw it on my counter.  When she asked, "Oh, how about this one?"  I impulsively answered, "Meh."  I actually surprised myself a little with that answer, but that's how I felt.

The biggest issue I had with the book was its predictability.  A futuristic world made up to look like the 18th century with a doorless prison was predictable?  Actually...yes.  After 100 pages, I knew who Finn was thought to be, I guessed where Incarceron was, and I had a good idea of how it was going to end.  Consequently, I got through the rest of the book just to see how Fisher was going to bring me there. 

While many of the action scenes were exciting, I couldn't help but feel extremely unsatisfied by the end.  Maybe it was my accurate predictions, but I knew by page 300 that this was not going to be a book that wraps itself up nicely only to bring us on another adventure with the next book. Instead, Incarceron is only one-third of a story, instead of one book in a trilogy. 

Breaking my own rules, I read too many reviews of Incarceron.  The expectations were high, and I wasn't going to be the one discovering a hidden gem.  Incarceron has not only been read and reviewed around the blogosphere recently, but after its original successful release in the UK three years ago, Americans have been asking for this book. 

All that being said, there were a lot of things I LOVED about it, not the least of which was its originality.

Incarceron is unlike anything I have ever read before - YA or otherwise. It isn't quite a dystopia, but it isn't too far from historical fiction either. It's Phillipa Gregory meets Star Trek. As much as I criticize certain aspects of the book, I can not overlook the fact that it is unique. In a sea full of copycats and knockoffs, Catherine Fisher stands on her own.  She has successfully created a world that was easy to accept, and leaves its readers wanting more. 

Will I read the sequel? 

I've already started reading Sapphique.  I couldn't help myself!  Catherine Fisher created this exciting, original, world, in which I could easily immerse myself.  Her characters are not always likable, but I found myself thinking about them after I finished the book.  Finally, there is the hint, the possibility, of a love story - even though I am probably thinking of the unpredictable, improbable match instead of the obvious one.

The Good:  Suspenseful, original, exciting

The Bad:  Predictable, unsatisfying, crowded

The Verdict:  If you like sci-fi, if you like adventures, and if you're looking for something new and different with an element of the magical, read Incarceron...then come back and tell me what you think!



Other Reviews:
Guys Lit Wire
Bookalicio.us
Steph Su Reads

Book Extras:
Catherine Fisher's website
Penguin's Incarceron Page
Read an Excerpt

About the Book:
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Dial; 1 edition (January 26, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0803733968
ISBN-13: 978-0803733961

About the Author:
Catherine Fisher is an acclaimed novelist and poet, and has written many fantasy books for young readers, including the popular Oracle Betrayed series



Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event where book bloggers get to drool over highly anticipated books.   This meme is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine,  With a blog name like that, I imagine Jill to wear black leather, very heavy mascara, and Hollywood Red lipstick.  Hello, Mistress Jill, and thanks for allowing me to join in the rave this week!

With Comic Con 2010 coming up, I wanted to dedicate my very first Waiting on Wednesday to a book that I have been drooling over for months:

The Deranged Stalker's Journal of Pop Culture Shock Therapy
by Doug Bratton


The first thing I thought when I saw this book was, it's like Diary of a Wimpy Kid for adults with a sense of humor! 

My friends know that I am already a fan of Doug Bratton's comic, Pop Culture Shock Therapy, which I re-post on my Facebook page quite frequently.  They are simply too funny not to share! So, imagine my excitement when I learned that Pop Culture Shock Therapy was coming out with a book - and not just a collection of comics, but a hilarious book with a very cool premise.






Full Disclosure Time:  Doug Bratton, the author and illustrator behind the Deranged Stalker's Journal, also happens to be one my oldest and dearest friends.  I won't embarrass him with stories of our teenage antics - not yet, anyway - but I can say that Doug is one of the good guys. 

If you want to check out this subtle genius for yourself, you're in for a treat. 
He will be at Comic Con!

Doug Bratton

Andrews McMeel Booth
Friday 2:00 - 3:00
Signing samples of comics w/book release info

National Cartoonists Society Booth
Thursday 1:00 - 2:00
Friday 11:00 - 12:00
Saturday 2:00 - 3:00
Sunday 11:00 - 12:00


* If you are a book blogger and would like more information about Doug Bratton and his book, The Deranged Stalker's Journal of Pop Culture Shock Therapy, feel free to contact me or Andrews McMeel directly.  If you are going to Comic Con, stop by the booth and say hello to Doug! 

Book Extras:


About the Book:
The Deranged Stalker's Journal of Pop Culture Shock Therapy
by Doug Bratton
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing; Original edition (November 2, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0740799045
ISBN-13: 978-0740799044


About the Author:
Doug Bratton is a self-syndicated cartoonist and currently the New York Metro chapter head for the National Cartoonists Society. His comics have appeared in Nickelodeon Magazine, MAD Magazine, and in dozens of college papers and alternative newsweeklies throughout the United States. He lives in Rockaway, New Jersey.



Shop Indie Bookstores


Review: Leaving the Bellweathers by Kristin Clark Venuti

A fun read that would make a great family movie!

Synopsis from the publisher:
The young Bellweathers–fourteen-year-old Spider, thirteen-year-old Ninda, and the ten-year-old triplets, Brick, Spike, and Sassy–and their equally peculiar parents have brought constant chaos to the once-peaceful village of Eel-Smack-by-the-Bay. Still, no one has suffered more than their loyal butler, Benway, who has finally had enough. He is secretly writing his tell-all memoirs, packing his bags, and planning his move to a tropical location, Far, Far Away.But when the siblings discover Benway is preparing to leave their lighthouse home, they band together to prove how much he’s needed, as only Bellweathers can. . . . Full of comic capers and close calls, an art heist and albino alligators, and good intentions gone wrong, Kristin Clark Venuti’s hilarious debut novel introduces a new family that is absolutely unforgettable.

I had been wanting to read Leaving the Bellweathers for a while, but moved it to the top of my reading pile when I learned that Kristin Clark Venuti's sequel, The Butler Gets a Break, was coming out.  I can't read the sequel if I haven't read the original!  The cover hooked me, the characters were quirky and funny, and the storyline simple and fun.

The Bellweathers' butler, Tristan Benway, has been serving them, and their ancestors for just under 200 years, to fulfill an Oath of Fealty.  Most of the book are excerpts taken directly from the butler's journal.

"The happy news is that the two hundred years are nearly up, and I will be free of this circus which masquerades as a household."

Even though Benway, the Bellweathers' butler, is planning his escape from the lighthouse, it doesn't take the reader long to realize that Benway is soft on these crazy kids.  His complaints are justified, sure!  The eldest girl hosts a troupe of circus performers, and their pet seal, in her bedroom; the eldest boy thinks a hungry endangered albino alligator is the ideal pet for a lighthouse; and the triplets...well...
"...it is an unfortunate fact that the triplets never communicate at a decibel below earsplitting unless they are Up to No Good."

..and they are often Up to No Good.  Ah, yes, Kristin Clark Venuti loves to capitalize in Benway's journal, to emphasize his dislike for certain nuances of the Bellweather family.  He counts down his finals days in the house, but finds the faults of the children charming, as does the reader.  Still, even when he begins to doubt his plans to leave, Benway reminds himself:

"I only know that any action ever taken by any Bellweather family member has always, and will always, result in crisis"

Maybe it was the their-crisis-is-bigger-than-mine aspect that made this such a fun read for me!
I only have one criticism, which isn't really a negative when you see the big picture.  While the content was fun and imaginative and appropriate for children, I felt a lot of the humor and vocabulary may be lost on younger children, and would go over better for the pre-teen set.  No one understands sarcasm better than a twelve-year old. 

Interestingly, this one criticism I have is the one thing I love about some of my favorite children's movies.  Don't you just love going to see a movie with your kids, and there are little one-liners that are benign to the kids, but hilarious for the parents?  There were a few times I felt that way about this book.   So, if you're going to get this book for your Middle Grade reader, read it together!

Oh, and when you're finished go read Kristin Clark Venuti's Butler Tristan Benway's website - hilarious!

*Disclosure:  I borrowed a copy of this book from my library. 

Many thanks to Kathleen for recommending - and then reminding me to read - this book! 

Book Extras:
Leaving the Bellweathers Website
Egmont's Leaving The Bellweathers Page

About the Book:
Reading level: Ages 9-12  *(I believe the reading level to be more from 11-13)
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: EgmontUSA; 1 edition (September 22, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1606840061
ISBN-13: 978-1606840061

About the Author:
Kristin Clark Venuti wrote on many things while growing up, including her father’s prized dictionary, her mother’s walls, and the family dog (with blueberry ink, of course). Now a children’s-theater producer, scene painter, and two-time black belt, she lives with her husband, children, and their ink-free dog in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. Leaving the Bellweathers is her first novel.










Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Alison, how do you read so many books?

This is for all the people in my life who ask me, "How do you read so many books?"  Allow me to share some of my reading habits with you.  Alison, don't you mean reading addiction??



Skimming is cheating.  My heart ached the first time someone said, "How do you get so much from skimming through a book?"  Oof.  That hurt just writing it.  I do not skim through books!  I'm not a speed reader either.  You would be surprised at the amount of typos I can find, consistency errors, and grammatical mistakes, and that's not including the unproofed reviewer's copies I receive.   I once had someone suggest that I read the first 40, the middle 40 and the last 40 pages of a book I didn't like so I could review it.  I couldn't do it.  So, I promise all my readers, I read every book I review from cover to cover.  Pinky Swear!  I spent many a college nights writing term papers on books I never read, and referencing other books I pretended to read.  Dude, remember that paper on Jane Austen the Monday after Homecoming weekend?  Emma who?  No more! 

Television kills brain cells.  There is not much television that requires my full attention, so while some people relax in front of the boob tube between the hours of 8 and 11, I am there, on the couch, reading.  The only show that has ever required my full and undivided attention was Lost.  And, don't make me shed another tear for Jack Shepard...please...*sniff*  The Yankees may not require my attention, but they get it, too, especially when Andy Pettitte is pitching...

My kids don't play with me any more.  I have two very active boys, who like to play outside.  My little guy isn't quite as independent as he thinks he is, and can be a bit accident prone.  Since I'm a worrywart, I don't leave them out there by themselves, so you can usually find me in my chair off the the side of the yard reading while they play basketball, ride scooters, squirt each other with water guns. Not on Mommy's BOOK!!!

Got a minute?  Doctor's offices? Waiting for your kids to finish practice?  Picking up someone from school?   I always have a book with me.  I love my winter purse because it can hold a bowling ball...but it also can hold a hardcover edition of War and Peace - ow, my back! - or Anna Karenina - ow, my morality! or Breaking Dawn - ow, my eyes!  It's actually a running joke with the ladies I see around town, "So, Alison, what book is in your bag today?"  I'm like Mary freakin' Poppins...instead of a hat stand, I've got books.

If I sit, I read.  I read while I eat, I read while I exercise, I read while I blow dry my hair, among other, um, ritualistic morning activities that involves, um, sitting.  What's the big deal?  Just say it: Everybody poops!  Shhhh.  My inner voice has learned how to type!!  Oh, that's embarrassing.

If I walk, I read.  Since I have discovered Audiobooks, I now can add gardening, watering flowers, cooking, folding laundry, and cleaning the house to my list of things I can do while reading.  Come winter, I'll probably add shoveling snow to that list - this past winter, that was almost a daily chore that isn't easily forgotten, even in this heat.  Audiobooks count as books, by the way.  No, I'm not holding the book, that's someone else's job...the nice lady in my earbuds who is reading the story to me.  Thank you, lady.

The Car.  I will only suffer car sickness for a REALLY good book.  If a book is great, I'll suffer for it, and read while The Man drives.  We live far from family, far from the shore, far from...well everything we live in the sticks of NJ!!!...so if I can do it, I'll read in the car.  Again, the iPod audiobooks come in handy here, but The Man doesn't like it when he doesn't know he's being ignored.  He would rather me read a book, that way he KNOWS he's being ignored.   Also, he thinks it's weird if he can sort of hear the voice coming through the earbud.

Me Time.  Every so often, usually on weekends when The Man is around, I get time to myself.  These are longer periods of time during which I can indulge in reading, curled up in a chair, drinking my coffee.  No watching the clock, not rushing to finish a chapter before the bus comes.  It's me, my book, and my coffee QUIET! Mommy's trying to read!  I'm not necessarily alone, but I pretend to be.  These times are rare and precious and STOP hitting your brother! don't happen all that often now that school's out for summer.  So, when I can sneak off into a corner and read I'm locking this door! I can take time to enjoy my guilty pleasure that doesn't make me feel all that guilty.  Stop pulling on mommy's book, you know where the band-aids are!

Lucky Me!  Books are a blessing, and I am beyond grateful to have so many books to choose from at any given time.  As a book blogger, I receive books to review from publishers, publicists and sometimes directly from authors.  I have an amazing county library with a handy dandy on-line reservation system.  I'm also a book buying addict.  Some girls love shoes...I love books.  I can't go more than a week or two without visiting my favorite book shop.  They're all so shiny and new! Who am I kidding, I love the old and worn ones even better!  Right now, I have a bookshelf full of books - and a floor stacked with books, and a nightstand stacked with books and a library tote bag stuffed with books -  all waiting to be read.  Especially that copy of The Lacuna that's been giving me the stink-eye for the past year.  I am book blessed.



So, while you are chillin' out watching So You Think You Can Dance, or flipping through a magazine, or concentrating with all of your attention on your 5 year old's ability to maneuver a two-wheeler, I'll be reading!

I'm a book lover - it's what I do!

 One of these days maybe I'll take pictures of myself in all my favorite reading places, but I'm shy.  Bwahahahaaa.  Ok, maybe I'm not shy.  Maybe I'm just a little lazy?  Yep.  That's closer to the truth.

One Clinton, One Book



My favorite Indie Bookstore, Clinton Book Shop, has recently announced their first One Clinton, One Book choice for Fall, 2010. This is the first Town Wide book club choice of their program. Each season a new book will be introduced.



To honor the 50th Anniversary of one of the most beloved novels of the 20th-century, To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, the Clinton Book Shop will be holding a special town-wide book club discussion on September 25th at 7:00 PM. This is an all ages event. Although it is not necessary to purchase the book at the Clinton Book Shop, they will be honoring a 20% discount off of any edition of To Kill A Mockingbird that you purchase. If you like, you can opt out of the discount and ask that your 20% donated to Hunterdon Public Library, North Branch.




To Kill A Mockingbird is the unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.


Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior - to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.


Help us to keep Clinton reading by engaging the whole family in reading and discussing this very important novel. Invite your friends to join us in celebrating an American classic.

To review the different editions of To Kill A Mockingbird, please visit the Clinton Book Shops web site by clicking the link below.

Clinton Book Shop: One Clinton, One Book:  To Kill A Mockingbird




Many thanks to Harvey and Rob for this wonderful initiative!

Monday, July 12, 2010

What Are You Reading?


Today is Monday, July 12, 2010...What Are You Reading? 

This meme is being hosted by the Josie to our Pussycats, the Diana to our Supremes, the Courtney Love to our Hole (oh, wait that doesn't sound right), it's Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books
Sing us a tune, Sheila!

The summer is a little crazy, and my time is NOT my own; so, I can't promise that I will be doing this meme every week, but I will do my best.

Books I Completed Last Week (and maybe the week before):
NO judgement on reading Eclipse for the 5th time.  I had to prepare for the movie...which I will review.  I am trying to find someone to see it with me (ahem..again..ahem).



Books I Am Currently Reading:





Books I Plan to Read This Week (and probably the week after, and maybe the week after that...here's the line up):





So, talk to me, book people, what are YOU reading??

What are your KIDS reading??

Is there a book that has caught your eye, but I haven't reviewed yet?

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