Friday, July 30, 2010

Upcoming Author Event - You're Invited


On Sunday, August 1, 2010, at 2 p.m., Borders/Glendale will be hosting three amazing 2010 debut authors for a book signing.  You did read that right - three authors.  Jennifer Cervantes (Tortilla Sun), Christina Diaz Gonzalez (The Red Umbrella), and Heidi R. Kling (Sea) will be speaking about their respective books, and answering questions.  There will probably be some other surprises and you might even be able to spot one or two other YA authors in the audience.

Where:  Borders/Glendale - 100 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale, CA 91204

Time:  2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

What to bring:  Yourself and a friend or two (or three)

Books by each of these awesome authors will be available for purchase at the store.  Consider purchasing one for yourself and an extra as a gift to a friend, or a school library.

Looking forward to seeing any Southern California folks there.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Maggie Stiefvater, Linger Contest, and photos

Some of you may know that I started out reviewing on Young Adult Literature Review Blogspot.  I still hang out of there with my friend Vi and Renee.  I did a blog post with my photos from the Maggie Stiefvater event at Borders/Glendale (Monday, July 26, 2010) and am offering up a signed copy of my ARC of Linger.  To enter the contest, find out more about this phenomenal event, click here.

Winner of the Keys to the Repository Contest

Congratulations!  There is a winner for the Two-in-One Contest.  Diana G. - you won a signed copy of The Keys to the Repository by Melissa De La Cruz.  Please contact me at kidlitfrenzy(at)gmail(dot)com within the next 24 hours.

Thanks to everyone who entered.  For those of you, who were hoping to win, the Heist Society by Ally Carter - keep an eye open for another chance to win.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Book Review: Linger

Author:  Maggie Stiefvater

Publisher: Scholastic Press (July 13, 2010)

Reading Level: Young Adult

Source: Advanced Reader's Copy

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description from GoodReads:

In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other.  Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack.  And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love -- the light and the dark, the warm and the cold -- in a way you will never forget.

I received a copy of Linger back in March and basically inhaled it in one sitting.  However, it was too early to write a review at that point.  Anyway, I am glad I saved my review though for now because I can do a back to back post.  First, a review of Linger and then follow it up with an Author Event post about Maggie's visit to Borders/Glendale.  Maybe even a contest for that ARC I have.

Back to my review of Linger.  Last year, I accidentally happened upon Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater.  I was looking for a book to read and saw a display on release day and picked it up.  I read it straight through and fell in love with Grace and Sam.  Stiefvater's writing was lyrical, heart-warming, and moving.  There was something magical about it and I wasn't referring to the werewolves.  It was probably my favorite read of the summer of 2009, and I highly anticipated the release of Linger.

In March, I had a chance to finally find out what happened to Sam and Grace.  Linger picks up where Shiver left off.  (Please note there will definitely be spoilers for Shiver and I will attempt to keep this as spoiler free for Linger.) Sam has supposedly been cured and isn't shifting from boy to wolf based on temperature.  This should be an exciting time for Grace and Sam.  However, this is a book 2.  I say this because book 2 is always where the author takes her beloved characters and makes them struggle, suffer, go through really crappy things.  And Stiefvater does not disappoint.  These are the things that I *hate* about book 2, in any series. There were times while reading that I wanted to throw the book and other times when I wanted to scream at Stiefvater.  Yes, I get emotional when reading about my favorite characters.  And if the characters didn't struggle, the author wouldn't have done her job.  Without saying much more about some of those struggles, let me just say keep the tissue box close by.

Now that you know what I *hated* about Linger.  Here is what I loved about Linger?  I loved the addition of a new wolf, Cole.  Cole is charming, sexy, and definitely a bad boy.  You will love him.  He plays well off of Isabel's character and offers a bit of relief from the emotional rollercoaster that Sam and Grace are navigating.

What I am still up in the air about? Grace's parents have a much more prominent role in this book than they did in Shiver.  I have mixed feelings about the transition from book 1's lack of involvement to book 2's extreme involvement.  I'm still not sure about this, but you will have to see what you think about it.

Finally, the ending of the story, though the cliff-hanger, was somewhat predictable.  I am not certain if the ending was the most natural progression for the story or if it was just the easiest.  Despite though having a strong idea about how the book would end (not all of the details but the conflict), I still cried.

Linger may not win over any Shiver fence-sitters, but it will definitely be a book that passionate fans will be eager to read and devour.

If you post any comments, please keep them spoiler free.

Congratulations to Maggie Stiefvater for debuting at #1 on the New York Times Best-Seller List.  Now I wonder if I can hack into her computer and download Forever?


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Book-a-Day Challenge Week 5 Update

It is amazing that I am already doing a week 5 update.  It is also scary at how fast my summer is flying by.  The Book-A-Day Challenge is being hosted by Donalyn Miller, teacher extraordinaire and a write to boot.  I have been linking to her original challenge but she recently posted an her own update which included a list to the blogs of others participating in the challenge.  You can find it here.  It has been fun seeing what everyone is reading for Book-A-Day.  Lots of wonderful books.

I have to confess that this was not one of my best reading weeks.  It was a busy week with lots of commitments that left little time for reading.  Since I knew it was going to be a slow reading week, I stocked up on graphic novels, manga, and picture books.

Book-A-Day Week 5 Reads:

Picture Books

It's A Book by Lane Smith (Advanced Readers Copy) This picture book will be out in the fall.  It is hysterical!  One character is very technology savvy.  The other is partial to traditional books.  The dialogue between the two is hilarious.  Check out Amazon's page for the trailer.  Note: Some parents may not appreciate the use of "jacka**" in the book.  You will have to read it and determine its appropriateness for your class.

Mirror, Mirror! A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer This is a beautiful and amazing book.  Filled with two page spreads that incorporate stunning illustrations and reversible text that provides two sides for every featured fairy tale.  For my review, click here

Alfred Zector, Book Collector by Kelly DiPucchio Alfred as a young boy sets out to collect every book in the town and then to read every book.  In the end, he learns a lesson that reading books is good but sharing them is even better.

Non-fiction Picture Books

Hot Diggity Dog: The History of the Hot Dog by Adrienne Sylver  I love finding creative non-fiction picture books to use with upper grade elementary students.  This one covers the history of the hot dog.  For my review, click here.

Graphic Novels:

Flight Explore, Vol. 1 by Kazu Kibuishi This is Kibuishi's Middle Grade version of his Flight series.  I enjoyed the collection of stories included in this volume and hope that more will be coming.  For my review, click here.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home (Season 8 Vol. 1) by Joss Whedon This is Whedon's first attempt at writing a graphic novel and also a chance to continue the Buffy Series after it went off the air.  It benefits the reader if you are familiar with the series.  Though it is a little "clunky", I did enjoy it and have been promised by friends that subsequent volumes improve. (Note: This would be considered YA and up).


Death Note Vol. 1 Boredom by Tsugumi Obba A bright but bored teen discovers a Death Notebook left intentionally by a death god.  Light (main character) attempts to create an utopia using the notebook.  The dialogue between Light and Ryuk (death god) is probably the best part of the book.  Not sure Manga is really my thing but this was interesting.


Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony This has been on my TBR list since before it was released and is part of my list of books for the 2010 Debut Author Challenge.  Considered a dystopian novel (and it does have many elements of a dystopian novel) it is very different from something like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  For my review, click here.

All in all, still a pretty good reading week.  What have you been reading this summer?  Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Two-in-One Post

Debut Author, Joelle Anthony (RESTORING HARMONY), is celebrating Indie Bookstore Week over on her blog.  You can check out her blog post and contest here.  In honor of Indie Bookstore Week, I want to tell you about my favorite local indie Bookstore.

Vroman's Bookstore is located in Pasadena, CA.  It is an amazing bookstore, with incredible customer services, and the most fantastic  events.  Of course one of my favorite areas of the store is the children's section which is quite large (actually there are some indie Bookstores that would fit in the children's book area) and the selection of books from picture books to YA is fabulous.

Today, I was at Vroman's for an author event.  Two awesome YA authors were featured at the afternoon event. Ally Carter (Heist Society, The Gallagher Girls) and Melissa de la Cruz (Van Alen Legacy, Blue Bloods) shared the spotlight in front of a packed out audience.

Ally Carter began with talking about her books followed by Melissa De La Cruz.

Of course, Pasadena and the Los Angeles area is home to some great YA authors who also stopped by to show their support.

Yes, you guessed it Margie Stohl and Kami Garcia were in the audience.  They brought along Vania (known on Twitter as ReverieBr).

After waiting in line and getting books signed by both Melissa and Ally.  They were gracious enough to take pictures with me.

Thanks Kami for taking the picture of Melissa and me.  Vania snapped the one of me and Ally.

Also, another local blogger and friend was on hand.  Here is a picture of Janelle and Ally.

Now for a surprise.  I have a hardcover copy of the Heisty Society signed by Ally Carter and a copy of the Keys to the Repository signed by Melissa de la Cruz to give away.   One lucky winner will be able to win one book (either Heist Society or the Keys to the Repository).

Here are the rules:

1.  All entrants must complete the attached entry form.

2. Entrants must be 13 or older.  International participants are welcome.

3. Please leave a comment about which book you would like and why.

4. Contest closes at 11:59 p.m. PDT on Wednesday, July 28, 2010.

Please complete the Entry Form (click for link).  If you have trouble with the link, please email me at kidlitfrenzy(AT)gmail(DOT)com.

Good luck everyone and if you have an Indie Bookstore in your area - go out and support it!

- Aly

Book Review: Restoring Harmony

Author: Joelle Anthony

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (May 8, 2010)

Reading Level: YA (6th grade up)

Source: ARC for review

Rating: 5 Stars

Description from GoodReads:

The year is 2041, and sixteen-year-old Molly McClure has lived a relatively quiet life on an isolated farming island in Canada, but when her family fears the worst may have happened to her grandparents in the US, Molly must brave the dangerous, chaotic world left after global economic collapse—one of massive oil shortages, rampant crime, and abandoned cities.

Molly is relieved to find her grandparents alive in their Portland suburb, but they’re financially ruined and practically starving. What should’ve been a quick trip turns into a full-fledged rescue mission. And when Molly witnesses something the local crime bosses wishes she hadn’t, Molly’s only way home may be to beat them at their own game. Luckily, there’s a handsome stranger who’s willing to help.

Restoring Harmony is a riveting, fast-paced dystopian tale complete with adventure and romance that readers will devour.

When I received the Advanced Reader's Copy (ARC) of Restoring Harmony, I was bogged down with books to read for book club or prior books for review.  In addition, work/life was just really busy.  Some books I have a gut sense that I am going to enjoy and I don't want to rush through them. I had that feeling about Restoring Harmony and I found myself carrying it around but not reading it because the time wasn't right.  Finally, I had just the right time and I devoured the book in one sitting.

Let me just start with what I liked about the book...

I have discovered that I love books with short chapters.  This may be a silly thing but it makes the book feel like a super fast read even if it takes me exactly the same time to read as any other book with the same number of pages. Additionally, it means that the book will go on my list to recommend to reluctant readers.

Another reason that this will go on my list for reluctant readers is that Anthony grabs you from the beginning and keeps you hooked in until the end.  I really don't feel that as the reader I should wade through 75 or 100 pages before the book "gets good".  My reluctant readers won't even hang in there for that many pages before giving up on the book.

My third reason for loving this book - I loved the characters.  Molly is a wonderful protagonist.  She is bright, tenacious, resourceful, and just plain likable.  She is sent out on a journey to contact her grandparents and convince them to return to Canada with her.  Molly embraces her mission and despite obstacles and set-backs plunges forward without giving up and without annoying the reader.  Molly isn't the only character I loved.  There is Spill.  You really need to read the book - you will fall in love with Spill too.  He is swoon-worthy in a very good way.  I am adding him to my list of fictional crushes.

My fourth reason for loving this book - I truly appreciate books that have a sense of community in them and adults who are not all jerks.  I realize YA is written from the perspective of teens, but not all teens hate all adults.

Just a few more things...I can share Restoring Harmony with readers from sixth grade on up.  I appreciated the timeless feel to the book, and the dialogue did not annoy me.  Have you ever read a book where the voice of the characters just irritated you?  I have and it really is a turn off - not so with this book.

Finally, the writing of the book was wonderful.  Anthony does an incredible job in describing her world, the struggles of the society, the challenges facing the characters, the emotions behind the words.  There is intensity and darkness balanced with hope.

Joelle Anthony's debut novel, Restoring Harmony, is a wonderful offering and one that I hope really gets the attention that it deserves.  I look forward to future books by this author.

Check out Joelle's blog for more information about Restoring Harmony and to listen to some related music or check out the wonderfully done book trailer.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Book-A-Day Challenge Week 4 Update

Can't believe that I just finished the fourth week of the Book-A-Day Challenge hosted by Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer).  I did get in 8 books this week including a Manga book which was a new genre for me.  I was aiming for a few more books but I had a couple of days where I was doing some vacation/touristy things with my sister and didn't get in any reading.

Book-A-Day Week 4 Reads:

Picture Books:

Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse by Rebecca Janni  Nellie Sue wants a horse.  She will do just about anything to show her parents that she can be responsible for a horse.  On her birthday, Nellie Sue gets a surprise gift from her parents.  A fun story, with great language, imagination, and illustrations.

Birdie's Big Girl Shoes by Sujean Rim  The illustrations really won me over on this one.  This is a book for every girl who has either wanted to play dress up with her mother's heels or who has played dress up or who has tried to do anything in heels will get a kick out of this book.  Birdie learns that heels aren't all they seem.

Graphic Novels:

Amulet Book 2: The StoneKeeper's Curse by Kazu Kibuishi  Though the first book in this series had some rough spots technically (awkward transitions, and areas that were unclear), I was interested in seeing if book 2 was better developed.  I am glad to say it is.  Emily (The StoneKeeper) and her brother Navin continue on their journey to learn how to control the amulet (and not let it control them), to fight the Elf King, and to save their mother.  Note: This is a Middle Grade level graphic novel.


Black Bird, Vol. 1 - Kanoko Sakurakoji  - This was my first time reading Manga and it required that I get use to the back to front, right to left format.  Misao is a 16 year old girl who can see spirits.  These are demon spirits who she discovers wants to eat her (guess her blood is powerful but also smells good).  She is courted by Kyo (a tengu demon and head of his clan) and another demon (also head of his clan).  Classic love triangle and feels like a Japanese twist on the Twilight story.  Interesting.  I will probably give volume 2 a shot but not sure if I want to read every one in the series at this point.  Note: This is definitely a YA Manga series.

Middle Grade:

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper Melody is an 11 year old girl with severe Cerebral Palsy.  She is unable to speak or to let anyone know what she is thinking.  And Melody has a lot of thoughts.  This is a remarkable story about perceptions and attitudes towards children and people with disabilities.  Every teacher should read it.  I think it ill be a contender for an ALA/Schneider Family Award in 2011 (MG book with a character with a disability).

A Place For Delta by Melissa Walker  Joseph spends the summer in Alaska with his Aunt Kate helping to care for a polar bear cub and trying to find out who killed Delta's (polar bear) mother.  An interesting story of friendship, mystery, and the care of the environment.  Read my review here.


Spirits that Walk In Shadows by Nina Kiriki Hoffman  Jaimie has grown up in a family using magic.  Kim is from a world without magic.  Jaimie and Kim end up as roommates in college.  Turns out that  Kim's struggle with depression may not be purely psychological.  An interesting twist on the typical world of magic, and paranormal beings.

Top Secret Manuscript - I also read an author friend's second book in her paranormal romance series.  The book will be out next year and it will be great.  But I can't say anything more than that.


First Rule by Robert Crais  Joe Pike is back and this time it is personal.  A former member of his team has been killed along with his family.  Was he killed because he was "dirty" or did the killer have the wrong home?  I love Robert Crais books and this one was no exception.

In progress:

A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne Several teachers on my staff and I are reading a couple of chapters of this each week and discussing it.  Very powerful and practical.

So how are you doing on your summer reading challenge?  Read any good books lately?  Post a comment about what you are reading.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

2010 Debut Author Challenge Update

Several months ago, I signed up for the 2010 Debut Author Challenge being hosted by the wonderful Story Siren (Krisit).  I have been terrible at posting my reviews on her site.  So in some ways you would think I had done nothing towards this challenge.  But I have and I am going to write one large update right here.  For more information about the Debut Author Challenge click here.


Scones and Sensibility by Lindsay Eland  - Twelve year old Polly is a hopeless romantic who loves Pride & Prejudice and Anne of Green Gables.  As she travels about town delivering, scones and other baked goods from her parents' bakery, she schemes about ways to play matchmaker for friends and family.  Hilarity ensues and some lessons are learned.  Read my review here.


The Reinvention of Edison Thomas by Jacqueline Houtman - Edison "Eddy" Thomas is a middle school student, who loves to tinker with inventions but struggles to understand innuendos of those around him. After coming in 3rd in a school science fair, Eddy begins to tinker with another invention which leads him to some interesting lessons, new friends, and a lesson in understanding bullying.  Read my review here.


Under My Skin by Judith Graves - I love stories that are filled with paranormal beasties, great characters (especially kick-butt heroines), resident hotties, and humor! This one has it all.  It has probably been one of my most fun debut reads.  Fans of Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance will love this.  Read my review here.


The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams by Rhonda Hayter - This middle grade debut is filled with magic, humor, history lessons, and some great fun.  Middle grade girls will especially love Abbie and her magical ways.  Read my review here.

13 to Life by Shannon Delany - Between Judith Graves and Shannon Delany, I am becoming more and more a werewolf fan.  I really enjoyed this book.  I read it in one sitting.  Love the characters, the mythology, and the overall story.  Read my review here.


Sea by Heidi R Kling - Fifteen year old Sienna (Sea) lost her mother in an airplane accident over the ocean.  Three years later her father decides to take her to assist with orphan victims of the tsunami.  Her journey provides her with experiences that lead her to grow emotionally and personally. Read my review here.

Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy - How many teen girls wish that they were cool, popular, and dating a hunk?  Fifteen year old, Jess learns that it isn't all about appearances but that it really is an issue of girl empowerment and good battling evil.  Read my review here.


Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus  - So often in Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romances, a human girl falls in love with a supernatural boy or vice a versa.  Hopcus has main characters that are equally matched with secrets of their own.  Great characters, well developed story, and I am already pining for book two. Read my review here.


The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere #1) by Jacqueline West - A haunted house, a curious 11 year old girl, talking cats, enchanted glasses, and a mystery.  This was a great read.  What a wonderful Middle Grade debut novel.  One of my favorite reads this year.  Read my review here.

The guidelines of the challenge encourage participants to read at least 12 debut novels.  I am 3/4 of the way to the minimum goal.   However, I am determined to read closer to 25 books by debut authors.  Guess I should get reading if I am going to meet that goal...


Monday, July 12, 2010

And we have a winner...

For the first Summer Giveaway Challenge, we have a winner - Sharmaine (@rawstatic)!  I will be sending you an email which you will need to respond to within 24 hours.  Congratulations on winning a signed copy of Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


A Literary Day Trip

Yesterday, I had a chance to spend the day in Amherst, Massachusetts.  It was the first time in many years that I got to visit the place I spent four years of my life.  Even after an extended absence, as I was driving into Amherst I had the same feeling as my first time - I love this place.  Sometimes, I even wonder why I left.  Well, I won't dwell a lot on those decisions, but let me tell you about my visit.

My sister and I first stopped in Amherst at my favorite bakery/deli/cafe.  If you ever get to Amherst, you must stop by for a chocolate croissant or a sandwich and a Chai latte.  My personal favorites.  Though my sister claims the cheese danish is to die for. I am pretty sure that you can't go wrong with anything that you order.

When my sister first proposed a trip up to Amherst, she wasn't thinking about the literary richness of the area.  She wanted to go to a Butterfly Conservation Garden and thought it would be a "nice day trip".  How long can you look at butterflies anyway?! Right?!  In my mind, there would be plenty of time to see some pretty butterflies and then drag her around to museums. :-)

After looking at many beautiful butterflies, I suggested to my sister that we stop at the Emily Dickinson House.  We made it just in time for a tour which turned out to be just my sister and me led by a really cute South African graduate student doing a summer internship at the museum.  I can't believe that I lived about 2 miles from the museum for four years but that this was the first time I actually visited the house.  I wish we could take pictures of the inside of the buildings.  The information was wonderful and I grew in my appreciation of Emily Dickinson and her poetry.

After visiting the 19th century, my sister and I jumped into the 21st century with a visit to Hampshire College's Eric Carle Museum.  The museum has three exhibit areas that were currently displaying a permanent collection of art and information on Eric Carle.  The middle gallery had some lovely artwork on display from illustrator Leo Lionni (Swimmy, Little Blue & Little Yellow).  The third gallery was displaying Lisbeth Zwerger's artwork.  Zwerger was actually at the museum signing copies of her books.

The museum also contains a beautiful art room that welcomes visitors, young and old, to develop their own tissue paper creations.

So what have you been up to this summer?

Any fun literary trips?  

Love to hear what you have all been doing....


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Book-A-Day Challenge Week 3 Update

Wow!  I am into my third week with the Book-A-Day Challenge hosted by Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer).  I have been this kind of crazy obsessive person with the challenge.  I am determined to get at least 7 books (including picture books) read during the week.

Book-A-Day Week 3 Reads:

Picture Books:

Pete and Pickles by Berkeley Breathed This is an odd (in a good way) story about a friendship between a pig (Pete) and an elephant (Pickles). Pete is a bit uptight.  Pickles is a free-spirit.  The ultimate odd couple.   The illustrations seem to come alive and the story is touching.

I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll I loved this twist on "the monster under the bed" concept.  The little boy in the story is unable to sleep without his monster under the bed.  Gabe, his monster, has gone on a vacation.  Substitute monsters are sent but none are just right.  What's a boy to do without his monster to keep him in bed at night?!  Great illustrations.  Great text.  Read my review here.

LadyBug Girl by Jacky Davis  A little girl and her alter-ego Ladybug Girl go out for the day on her own adventures when her brother tells her she is too small to play ball with him and his friends.  I know a lot of little girls who would just adore this book.

LadbyBug Girl At the Beach by Jacky Davis This is a companion novel to Ladybug Girl.  In this installment, our ladybug girl is afraid to admit that she just might be afraid of the water at the beach.  After a day of trying every which way to avoid going into the water, ladybug girl must come to the rescue when her favorite purple pail starts to float away.  Read my review here.

City Dog, Country Frog by MoWillems, John Muth (re-read) I had originally read this prior to it's release so it was fun to actually hold a finished copy in my hand.  Mo Willems is a master at writing wonderful stories with simple language.  Muth's illustrations enhance the story wonderfully.  The concept of the story is a tale of friendship between a dog and a frog.  Willems tells of how the dog and frog play during spring, summer, and fall.  After winter, dog goes to find his friend who is missing (do I dare, I won't).  What will dog do in frog's absence?  The story has an answer to that question.

Graphic Novels:

Amulet Book 1: The StoneKeeper by Kazu Kibuishi  I am not a huge graphic novels fan.  I think I get distracted by the pictures. :-)  However, this one will certainly appeal to 9 and 10 year olds.  A girl discovers a special amulet which is activated after her mother is captured by a creature from an alternate universe.  The girl and her younger brother go in search of their mother and discover the history behind the amulet and the legacy that is bestowed on them.  Read my review here.

Middle Grade:

The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere) by Jacqueline West I will be posting a review of this book soon so I won't say much other than - this is a definite read.  I will edit the post when I have written the review.  Read my review here.

The Kneebone Boy (Advanced Readers Copy) by Ellen Potter  I will be reviewing this book in August closer to the actual release date for the book.  However, I will say that Ellen Potter has outdone herself.  Fans of Lemony Snickets and Pseudonymous Bosch are certain to love this book.

Shooting the Moon by Frances O’Roark Dowell In this novel of coming of age during the Vietnam War, Jamie learns through the rolls of film her brother sends to her to develop that war may not be all that she believed it to be and even her father who is a Colonel in the Army may be helpless to prevent somethings from happening.


Beautiful Darkness (Advanced Readers Copy) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl I will be doing a review closer to release date on this book, but I will say that fans of Garcia and Stohl's first book, Beautiful Creatures, will love this sequel.

Reality Check by Peter Abrahams This Edgar Winnner for Best YA is a fast, compelling read.  Abrahams leaves you wondering for most of the book who can you trust.  After a slightly slow start, I was unable to put this one down until I finished.

Scanned by did not truly read:

Nightlight (A Parody of Twilight) by Harvard Lampoon Okay, I will admit it.  I like Twilight.  I think those who love to poke fun at Twilight will love this, but it just annoyed me.  I scanned parts of it but just lost interest after awhile.

In progress:

A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne Several teachers on my staff and I are reading a couple of chapters of this each week and discussing it.  Very powerful and practical.

So how are you doing on your summer reading challenge?  Read any good books lately?  Post a comment about what you are reading.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Summertime Reading Giveaway...

Do some books remind you of a particular time of the year? Some books make me think vacation.  Others remind me of where I was or a particular time in my life.  However, some books seem like great summer reading material.  For the next few weeks, I am going to be hosting a series of book contests.  Yes, you read that contests - plural.

I am kicking the Summer Reading Giveaway with a book that says summer to me but one that I don't think has gotten as much recognition as I think it should.  I am featuring Saundra Mitchell’s Shadowed Summer.  Saundra has been wonderful and sent me a signed book plate for the book, and some additional swag including a Shadowed Summer bookmark, sticker, and a Vespertine book card.

Description from GoodReads:

Iris is ready for another hot, routine summer in her small Louisiana town, hanging around the Red Stripe grocery with her best friend, Collette, and traipsing through the cemetery telling each other spooky stories and pretending to cast spells. Except this summer, Iris doesn’t have to make up a story. This summer, one falls right in her lap.

Years ago, before Iris was born, a local boy named Elijah Landry disappeared. All that remained of him were whispers and hushed gossip in the church pews. Until this summer. A ghost begins to haunt Iris, and she’s certain it’s the ghost of Elijah. What really happened to him? And why, of all people, has he chosen Iris to come back to?

My Review:

I actually read Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell back in December.   It had come to me highly recommended, and someone joked that it should be read in the middle of the winter.  So I did read it surrounded by 2 feet of snow outside.  It is one of those books that warms you up.  When I jumped into the first chapter of the book, I could feel the heat and humidity of the Louisiana summer rising off the page.

But to be fair, this is truly a summer book.  Mitchell's Shadowed Summer is a southern gothic ghost story. From the first pages, Mitchell drew me into her world and kept me reading.  I could almost sense myself walking around this small Louisanna town in the summer with the heat and humidity rising from the ground, and the laziness of the days. Her characters - Richly developed, and come alive on the pages. There is friendship, secrets, and more. Mitchell's background as a screenwriter lends itself to crisp writing without excessive words and pacing that never drags. If anything, I wanted to spend more time in her world and was sad to see the story end even though the length was appropriate. And even though part of me thought I knew how the book was going to end, I was still was a little surprised.

I would highly recommend this to anyone, and I do.  Mitchell has been added to my favorite author "watch list" and I can't wait for her next book Vespertine to be released in 2011.

To Enter the Contest:

1. You must fill out the form below.

2. You must be 14 years or older to enter the contest.

3. You must submit the form prior to 11:59 p.m. PDT on Sunday, July 11, 2010

For Extra Entries:

- Leave a comment in the comment section about your favorite summer book (1 extra entry)

- Tweet it, Blog about it, or post it on your blog or Facebook page (each item will earn you 2 extra entries)

- Follow the Blog (New followers will get 1 extra entry, Current Followers will get 2 extra entries)

Good luck,


Click Here for Entry Form

Please email me at alybee930 (at) gmail (dot) com If you have any troubles with the entry form.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Book-A-Day Challenge: Week 2

Before I leave for my vacation (I will still be posting next week), I wanted to do a quick update on my progress with the Book-A-Day Challenge hosted by Donalyn Miller (THE BOOK WHISPERER).

Book A Day Week 2:

Picture Books:

Way Down Deep In The Deep Blue Sea by Jan Peck A little boy discovers a wonderful adventure filled with sea life and sea elements.  The book will appeal to readers who are fans of Brown Bear, Brown Bear.  The rhythmic and repetitive language and beautiful illustrations will draw young children into the book.  And I love the twist at the end.  A definite hit with the under 5 crowd .

Oh No (Or How My Science Project Destroyed The World) by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Dan Santat  This is a fun read and would be especially enjoyable for any elementary class getting ready for a science fair/expo.  The main character has to figure out what to do when her science project (a robot) gets out of hand.  Though I enjoyed the text and kids will get a laugh out of it, I really loved Dan Santat's illustrations more.  I am a huge Santat fan so that was the reason I picked it up in the first place and I wasn't disappointed.

Young Zeus by G. Brian Karas  This is a great introduction to Greek Mythology for younger readers.  The story is written in a way that 1st/2nd graders on up will enjoy the tale of Zeus as a child.  There are also some great humorous lines.  The illustrations do a fabulous job supporting the text.

Picture Books/Non-fiction:

Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum by Meghan McCarthy I have become a big fan of non-fiction picture books lately.  Often times written more for 3rd grade and up, they do a fabulous job of drawing readers into a variety of topics and being quite informative.  Though I would say Pop! is written for 2nd/3rd grade on up, I might consider using it with certain Kinder/First classes.  The story addresses bubble gum specifically though it alludes to the history of gum in a general manner.  The illustrations are bright and entertaining and support the text well.  And the fact at the end are great for expanding discussion on the topic.

Middle Grade Fiction:

The Summer Before by Ann Martin  If you are a fan of the Babysitters Club Series, then you will love this prequel.  I read this for a book club without ever having read the Babysitter Club Books.  I can see the appeal it would have for fans of the series or for 9 and 10 year old girls, but for me - it was okay.  The first person who actually reads this post and comments that they want the's yours.

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron  Now this story was amazing.  I loved Lucky. This was an amazingly well written story.  I would recommend it to everyone.  You can check out my review here.

YA Fiction:

Numbers by Rachel Ward  Jem has the ability to see the date (month/day/year) when a person is going to die by looking in his/her eyes. This presents some challenges with day to day relationships. One day while in London, Jem notices that all these people have the same date of death - the current day. She realizes that something is going to happen and works to get her and Spider out of there. This begins a journey of running from the authorities. I found it to be a fast read and pretty interesting. I do need to warn potential readers that there is quite a bit of crass language and also sex in the book so depending on your school and students, you may want to recommend it to older teens. On a side note: I did feel that the language & sex was really a part of who the characters were.

Far From You by Lisa Schroeder After reading I Heart You, You Haunt Me, I immediately went on to read the rest of Lisa's books.  I just love her writing style and her books have gotten more complex and rich as she developed her writing style.  In this book, Ali has to come to terms with her mother's death, her father's remarriage, and new baby.  The emotional journey that Ali goes on is very real and very relate-able.  Just keep the tissues by you when you read this one.

Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder This is a companion novel to I Heart You, You Haunt Me.  It is set in the same world as her first novel and I am glad that I read them in order.  There is a little gift to her readers if you read it following the first book.  In this book, Schroeder looks at the death of Nico from the perspective of his older brother and his (Nico) girlfriend.  The book is told from alternating viewpoints and the way they end up helping each other through their loss is tender and very touching.  I'll probably cry...but hope is always a part of Lisa's books.

Okay, more to come next week....keep reading - even if it is only 1 or 2 books a week...

- Aly

P.S. The contest has been won but keep reading the blog.  More giveaways will be happening.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Author Event: Lisa Schroeder signs at Vroman's

Yesterday, I had the wonderful opportunity of attending Lisa Schroeder's book signing at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena.  Lisa took time out of her family vacation to come and talk with fans about her latest middle grade book IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES (see my review here )

Lisa kicked off the signing by sharing with fans the story of her road to publication and the lessons she learned along the way.  It was fun to hear how the ideas for I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME and FAR FROM YOU came to her.  (If you haven't read either of these novels in verse, go out and get them - now.)

We also got to listen to Lisa read from IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES.  

In celebration of Schroeder's book, Polkatots Cupcake owner Alma Tarriba donated cupcakes for the event.  If you live in or around the Pasadena area, I would certainly recommend trying them out.  I'm still debating between the lemon or the raspberry chocolate mini cupcakes. Yummy!!!!

While people lined up to have Lisa sign their books, I got a chance to hang out and chat with Khyrinthia (Frenetic Reader Blog) and Shannon Whitney Messenger (Blogger, and volunteer tour guide/driver for Lisa).  I realized afterwards I didn't get a picture of the 3 of us.  Oh, well maybe next time?!

But I did get a picture with Lisa (thanks Shannon for being the photographer).

Of course, I couldn't go to the signing and not pick up a little something for one lucky reader.  Lisa mentioned during her signing that readers loved Ava from I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME and were asking for a sequel.  Lisa indicated that her book CHASING BROOKLYN is her gift to her readers.  Though it isn't a sequel but more of a companion novel, there is a little Ava in it.  For a chance to win a signed copy of CHASING BROOKLYN, check out my review on Tuesday, July 5th over at Young Adult Literature Review Blog.

Until next time....


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Summer Goals, Part II

A few days ago, I blogged about my summer reading goal here.  Today, I wanted to share my writing goal for the summer.  Normally, I consider myself a reader.  What do I mean by this?  I love reading books, but I never gave any serious consideration to writing a book before.  I consider myself a reasonable writer from a technical standpoint.  I write a lot for work but that is very different than creative writing and story development.  As a teacher, I also read a lot of student work and enjoy the process of helping them improve on their writing.  So, I also consider myself a decent editor.  But calling myself a writer,well that is another thing.  I almost have this feeling of being taken back to preschool and to dress-up pretend play.  I wonder if I am the only one who feels like this?

Yet, over the last year, I have felt the pull to try my hand at writing creatively.  To stretch my brain and do something that may be uncomfortable and hard at times.  Several friends have talked about creating a writing group that can support one another.  To set goals and to work towards those goals.  A couple of the members have manuscripts that they are preparing for query.  Others, like me, have not even fleshed out a true chapter.

Of course when you decide to do something it seems like writing challenges pop up all over the place.  Karen Mahoney, a YA author, started a Summer Reading Challenge which you can read about here.  I signed up for it knowing that in June I would get little writing in and would have to play catch up in July and August.  Then, on Judith Graves' posting on GoodReads about a 1K a day challenge.  The lovely ladies over at YA Edge are hosting a 1K a day challenge for the month of July.  You can sign-up here I encouraged a couple of my other friends to join me.  Breaking the writing task into 1,000 words seems much more do-able.  However, I don't think writing my blog counts towards my 1,ooo words.  So, I am heading off to - yes, write.

I do have one quick announcement - In the next day or two, I am going to kick-off my summer book contests.  I will be giving one book a way per week for the month of July in celebration of summer reading.

Happy reading or writing,