Monday, May 30, 2011

Author Interview + Giveaway: Alison Pace

Alison Pace is the author of the books If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend, City Dog, Pug Hill, and now the much-anticipated, soon-to-be released, A Pug's Tale on June 7th. I have read and reviewed her upcoming release and would like to welcome Alison to A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust.

Foodie Bibliophile: Hi Alison! Thanks so much for stopping by! All of your books revolve around dogs in some way. As a dog-lover myself, I certainly appreciate this aspect of your novels, but what is your motivation for including dogs in all of your stories?

Alison Pace: Hi Beth! I love dogs, and greatly enjoy writing about them. Ever since my first novel, in which schnauzers played a big role, whenever I conceive of a story, I think of a dog character in it; at this point it's just part of my writing process.

FB: This is your second book dealing with pugs. What is your own personal affinity for these snorting, sniffling canines?

AP: Well, I am a fan of all types of dogs, but I do find pugs so charming. They're just so terrific at expressing their emotions, at being playful, and they, as a dog breed, are very caring of their people. I'm very enamored of them.

FB: Explain the story of Pug Hill. The place, that is, not the book. It seems to be a place steeped in myth and urban lore.

AP: Pug Hill is a place in Central Park, where pugs used to meet every Saturday and Sunday. I think that once the NYC leash laws were in effect the pugs didn't come there anymore but it was a really fantastic sight to behold when they did. Upwards a forty pugs gathering in a clearing, running loose. Truly adorable and heart-warming.

FB: How did you get the idea to continue Hope’s story as a mystery?

AP: From Hope! Hope as a character is such a searcher, always looking for something. After she found so much of what she was looking for at the end of Pug Hill, I found myself wondering again and again what Hope would look for next. From that the idea of Hope as detective came to me.

FB: Besides your own, what’s your favorite pug book and/or dog book?

AP: So many. I loved Merrill Markoe's Walking in Circles Before Lying Down and recently, Julie Klam's You Had Me at Woof. I love The Bark magazine's collections of dog essays, Dog Is My Co-Pilot and Howl: A Collection of the Best Contemporary Dog Wit (and not just because I have an essay in the latter). I cried and cried at Marley & Me and was a huge fan of that book along with everyone else. And old school: Flush, and Travels with Charley.

FB: Do you foresee anymore Hope and Max capers in the future? (Or at the very least another mystery? I think you really have a knack for this genre!)

AP: Thank you! I think about both a lot. I'd love to explore what happens with the last thing that happens to Hope in A Pug's Tale. It's in the early "thinking" stages now.

FB: From reading your books, I can tell you have more than a passing knowledge of art. What is your art background?

AP: I worked in the art world for about ten years, I worked at the auction house Sotheby's and at two different art galleries.

FB: Daphne Markham is the delightfully eccentric elderly socialite in A Pug’s Tale, and besides Max, she was one of my favorite characters in the book. Did you base her off a real person or was she completely imagined?

AP: I love Daphne very much, too, so I'm very glad you did, too. Daphne is imagined.

FB: Hope’s place of refuge in NYC is Pug Hill. What is your personal NYC refuge?

AP: All of Central Park. I take my dog their every morning and it's a lovely, peaceful way to start the day in the midst of hectic NYC life.

FB: I’ve only visited NYC once and that was to do all the traditional touristy things like visit the Empire State Building, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, go to Times Square, see a Broadway musical, etc. I definitely plan to visit NYC again someday and when I do, I want to do some of the things New Yorkers do. So where should I go if I want to feel like a true New Yorker?

AP: Oh so many things, even though it's touristy, you'd have to go to the Met, have a drink up on the roof after, and then walk all around Central Park. Dinner at a restaurant I love in the East Village called Lavagna. A walk through the West Village. A bike ride on the West Side Highway. A stroll on Madison Avenue, a walk around Gramercy Park. So many things...let me know when you get here! Many thanks for the great questions Beth!

FB: And thank you so much Alison for the wonderful responses and for writing such heartwarming stories!  And I will definitely be checking out Lavagna the next time I visit NYC!

Giveaway time!!!!

If you would like to win a copy of A Pug's Tale by Alison Pace, just leave a comment answering the following question: what is your favorite dog book/story of all time? (Don't forget to leave your email address so I can contact you if you win!) If you haven't read Pug Hill, no worries. Even though this book is a sequel, it also works as a stand-alone.

Contest rules:
  • Must be 13 years or older to enter
  • Open to countries where The Book Depository ships
  • You are not required to be a follower to enter but it is greatly appreciated
  • Starts May 30th, ends June 7th at 11:59 PM EST
  • Winner chosen at random using

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Pug's Tale by Alison Pace

 From Goodreads:
There are pugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art!

Hope McNeill has worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for years, but this is the first time she's been able to bring along her pug, Max. (Officially at least. Previously she's had to smuggle him in inside her tote bag.)

The occasion: a special "Pug Night" party in honor of a deep-pocketed donor. Max and his friends are having a ball stalking the hors d'oeuvres and getting rambunctious, and making Hope wonder if this is also the last time she gets to bring Max to the museum.

But when a prized painting goes missing, the Met needs Hope's--and Max's--help. In her quest for the culprit, Hope searches for answers with an enigmatic detective, a larger-than-life society heiress, a lady with a shih tzu in a stroller, and her arguably intuitive canine. With luck, she'll find some inspiration on her trips to Pug Hill before the investigation starts going downhill.

This is by far Alison Pace's best book to-date. Her quick wit and penchant for writing humorous tales revolving around dogs and art have come together in this magnum opus. 

While I loved and adored Pug Hill, what left me wanting more from that story was that the pugs of Pug Hill were not in it enough. A Pug's Tale most certainly remedies the problem of not enough pugs. While Hope is the protagonist of this story, her pug Max is most certainly the star, for without Max, it would be impossible for her to solve the strange mystery of the Fantin-Latour painting that has gone missing from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

And what Pace has mastered so beautifully is her ability to make a non-talking, non-narrating dog feel like a real character. Max is just a dog in this book. He has no special powers (well, other than intuitiveness) and yet, there would be no book without Max. I don't think I've ever read an author describe the mannerisms and spirit of a pug so deftly as Alison Pace has. The whole book is full of perfectly pugnacious passages like this:

Max, who'd been completely quiet, obedient, docile even, for the duration of my phone call with Ben, twirled his head around like an owl and looked up at me with great urgency. His eyes were extra large, his gaze intense. His tongue lolled out the side of his mouth as he made a quick slurping noise. With a few grunting pants, he whipped his head toward the corner of the studio, hoisted himself up, and, like a bullet, took off, gasping, snorting, wheezing across the room. I will admit that my first thought was not about the art. My first thought was that I was worried about Max's ability to breathe. (20)

There are so many different hats this book can wear for different types of book-lovers. If you love mysteries, you'll love this book. If you love chick lit, you'll love this book. If you love dog books, you'll love this book. If you love New York City, you'll love this book. Heck, if you loved From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler as a kid, you'll love this book as a grown-up. Just go out and read it.  More than likely it will appeal to who you are as a reader because there are so many different types of readers it will appeal to.

A Pug's Tale by Alison Pace
Publish Date: June 7, 2011 by Berkley Trade
Pages: 289
Genre: Mystery
Audience: Adults

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher

Read-i-cide n: The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools.   

Whether you agree with his arguments or not, Kelly Gallagher wrote this book and made his arguments for all the right reasons: schools ARE killing reading and he wants to be part of the solution rather than the problem.

Let me see a show of hands: how many people reading this blog right now used to love reading, but had that love squashed from the ridiculous amount of analysis and minutiae of their high school English lit class? *raises hand* I don't want to criticize my high school English teachers because I truly did have some wonderfully inspiring ones, but there's something these teachers forgot to include in their curriculum which would have helped me and my classmates tremendously: time for recreational reading. And as such, I spent four years of my life reading difficult texts I wasn't ready for and completely lost my desire to read on my own (whereas in elementary school and junior high I used to DEVOUR books).I didn't get that desire back until about two years after college when I actually had the time and inclination to get back on the horse and start reading the books that I wanted to.

In this book Gallagher makes the case for a balance of recreational reading and academic reading and why we must provide time for students to read in school. He shows why students will experience readicide if you underteach or overteach a book, and what you need to do as a teacher to reach that "sweet spot" of instruction.

I highly recommend this book for any teacher who is drowning in a sea of worksheets and knows there is a better way, but just hasn't found it yet. This book along with Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer would be my suggestions for anyone needing to be inspired to teach reading that creates lifelong readers rather than book haters.  

This would also be a great supplement for teachers who use a reading workshop approach but would like to slowly start adding more direct-instruction into your routine. Gallagher's balanced approach of 50% recreational reading and 50% academic reading gives great suggestions for how to teach those difficult texts without slaughtering them.

Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher
Published: May 2009 by Stenhouse Publishers
Pages: 150
Genre: Nonfiction
Audience: Teachers

In My Mailbox (31)

 In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.  The books you share do not have to be ones you actually received in the mail.  They can be ones you bought at the book store, checked out at the library, or downloaded to your e-reader.  The idea is just to share what's on your TBR pile for the upcoming week.

Holy Wow! This was a week of epic book finds! I might not have been able to attend BEA, but I still got some awesomeness this week.

My library has a used book store that's open a couple days a week. I always go every Tuesday because that's when they replenish their stock. This week I bought an insane amount of books for less than $15, which is awesome to me since that's less than the cost of a hardcover book.

These are all the hardcovers I bought:

East by Edith Pattou
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
The Fire Within by Chris D'Lacey
Peak by Roland Smith
Before, After, and Somebody in Between by Jeannine Garsee
Loser by Jerry Spinelli
Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Holding at Third by Linda Zinnen
A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Replay by Sharon Creech
Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes
Ida B by Katherine Hannigan
Dingers! A Short History of the Long Ball by Peter Keating
Burned by Ellen Hopkins

And these are the paperbacks:

The Land of the Silver Apples by Nancy Farmer
Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger
Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules by Jeff Kinney
The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau
Thunder from the Sea by Joan Hiatt Harlow
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
Rules by Cynthia Lord
Zia by Scott O'Dell
Choosing Up Sides by John H. Ritter
The Witches by Roald Dahl
Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
You Don't Know Me by David Klass
Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Love and Other Four-Letter Words by Carolyn Mackler
What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Patterson
Hoops by Walter Dean Myers

Yeah, all that for less than $15. I hope my student appreciate all the hard work I put into allowing them to have a classroom library made of awesome!

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Audiobook Review: The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson

From Goodreads:
Ginny Blackstone thought that the biggest adventure of her life was behind her. She spent last summer traveling around Europe, following the tasks her aunt Peg laid out in a series of letters before she died. When someone stole Ginny's backpack—and the last little blue envelope inside—she resigned herself to never knowing how it was supposed to end. 

Months later, a mysterious boy contacts Ginny from London, saying he's found her bag. Finally, Ginny can finish what she started. But instead of ending her journey, the last letter starts a new adventure—one filled with old friends, new loves, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Ginny finds she must hold on to her wits . . . and her heart. This time, there are no instructions.

It's not often that I find sequels more enjoyable than the original, but in this case I'd have to say that The Last Little Blue Envelope is better than 13 Little Blue Envelopes. Maureen Johnson has evolved and improved in her writing, which mainly manifested itself in her character development, which was much richer and full of life in this second go-around. My main criticism of the first novel was that the characters didn't jump off the page enough; they didn't feel real or empathetic, and for someone who much prefers character-driven novels to plot-driven, this stifled my desire to add the book to one of my favorites. And I assumed it would become a favorite before I started reading it because of the fact that the main character was traveling across Europe. I am a sucker for "coming-of-age" stories that involve travel, so before I even started reading, I had high hopes for it.

In this second installment, however, Johnson has given Ginny more confidence in herself (though not so much that she's a different character entirely) and her actions and motivations are much more clear to the reader. In addition, the other major characters are much more vivid in your mind and feel like real people, much moreso than in the first book.

The audiobook narrator, Emily Durante, did a fantastic job and sounded just like what Ginny would in my mind, which is why I am still disappointed that both of these books were not written in first-person. I really think if they had been written AS Ginny instead of FOR Ginny, that the characters would have been much more vivid and empathetic. Both 13LBE and TLLBE felt like they needed to be narrated by the main character and not some distant, unknown person. I would have liked to get into Ginny's head more than what the distant, third-person narrator was able to accomplish.

The way the sequel ended was satisfying, if not a bit contrived, but at the same time, it ended the way I'm sure most readers assumed it would end. I guess it just depends on whether you like your predictions to come true if you consider this a good thing or a bad thing.

Overall, TLLBE was a satisfying conclusion to the gaping hole that was left from the first novel and if you're a lover of travel and/or coming-of-age stories, give both 13 Little Blue Envelopes and The Last Little Blue Envelope a try.

The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson, narrated by Emily Durante
Published: April 2011 by Harper Teen and Harper Children's Audio
Pages: 304
Audiobook Length: 7 hours, 17 minutes
Genre: Realisitic Fiction
Audience: Young Adult

Thanks to HarperCollins Children's Audio for providing me with a copy of the audiobook.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Splash Into Summer Blog Hop

 Thank you to I Am a Reader Not a Writer and Page Turners for hosting this blog hop!

The giveaway I am offering for this blog hop is:
The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson
Published: January 2011 by Flux
Pages: 327
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Young Adult

From Goodreads:
When high school senior Asha Jamison gets called a "towel head" at a pool party, the racist insult gives Asha and her best friend Carey a great money-making idea for a post-graduation trip. They'll sell T-shirts promoting the Latte Rebellion, a club that raises awareness of mixed-race students.

Seemingly overnight, their "cause" goes viral and the T-shirts become a nationwide fad. As new chapters spring up from coast to coast, Asha realizes that her simple marketing plan has taken on a life of its own-and it's starting to ruin hers. Asha's once-stellar grades begin to slip, threatening her Ivy League dreams, and her friendship with Carey is hanging by a thread. And when the peaceful underground movement turns militant, Asha's school launches a disciplinary hearing.Facing expulsion, Asha must decide how much she's willing to risk for something she truly believes in.

Contest Rules:
  • Must be 13 years or older to enter
  • Open to U.S. residents only
  • You are not required to be a follower to enter but it is greatly appreciated
  • Starts May 25th at 12:00 a.m., ends May 31st at 11:59 PM EST
How to enter:
Leave a comment with your favorite coffee/latte drink (don't forget to leave me your email so I can contact you if you win!)

My favorite latte is Starbucks green tea latte. I used to make fun of people who went to Starbucks all the time, but then I became a teacher and students would give me Starbucks gift cards for Christmas. After I gave a few of them away to friends and family because I can't drink coffee anyway (it burns my stomach something fierce), I decided to try one of their non-coffee drinks. It was a chai latte and I think Starbucks must put crack in their drinks because that first sip got me addicted right off the bat. Chai was my gateway drug. Now I mostly order green tea lattes in the cold months and vanilla frappucchinos during the warm months. Bottom line? My name is Beth and I'm a Starbucks addict. (and I don't even drink coffee!)

While you're at it, don't forget to visit the other blogs participating in this blog hop:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

You Had Me At Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness by Julie Klam

From Goodreads:
Julie Klam was thirty, single, and working as a part-time clerk in an insurance company, wondering if she would ever meet the man she could spend the rest of her life with. And then it happened. She met the irresistible Otto, her first in a long line of Boston terriers, and fell instantly in love.

Over the years her brood has grown to one husband, one daughter, and several Boston terriers. And although she had much to learn about how to care for them-walks at 2 a.m., vet visits, behavior problems-she was surprised and delighted to find that her dogs had more wisdom to convey to her than she had ever dreamed. And caring for them has made her a better person-and completely and utterly opened her heart. Riotously funny and unexpectedly poignant, You Had Me at Woof recounts the hidden surprises, pleasures, and revelations of letting any mutt, beagle, terrier, or bulldog go charging through your world.

Anyone who knows me knows I can't get enough of dog books because even though we always know the outcome of just about every dog story ever written, they always make our human world just a little better with their loyalty and unconditional love. Julie Klam manages to put so perfectly into words what it is about dogs that makes us love them so much. 

I knew I would love this book when, in the first chapter, Julie Klam describes her Boston Terrier Otto as smelling like Fritos. I knew I found a kindred spirit at this declamation because I have always said to my husband that our pug Frank, on occasion, smells like corn chips. He always looked at me like I was crazy when I said this, so that was the moment when I knew this book was going to be nothing short of loveable.

There are moments of heartbreak, joy, and absolute hilarity in this book, but crux of Klam's thesis is, no matter how dysfunctional your house might seem, dogs will almost always fill it with love, laughter, good health, and happiness.

I was initially drawn to this book because the adorably awkward Boston Terrier on the cover reminds me so much of my pug Guenter. And even though I love dog memoirs, I wasn't initially sold on this book from the jacket blurb. I have read so many dog books and this one didn't jump out at me as unique or different from the ones I've already read. But every time I would go to the book store, I would see that face, the one with the bulgy eyes and the awkwardly angelic expression that reminded me of Guenter, and it wasn't long before the pull of the cover caused me to cave and finally buy it. 

I was not disappointed. So much of Julie Klam's reasons for loving dogs are my own reasons and they're not ones I can articulate without re-writing her entire book.  So my suggestion to you if you're a dog-lover (or if you're not a dog-lover and just want to know what makes us crazy dog-people tick) is just to just read this book. You won't be disappointed.
A note about the format: I did actually listen to the audiobook version of You Had Me at Woof. Usually if I listen to an audiobook, I'll do a review of the audio presentation if it was stellar or sub-par. This audiobook was right in the middle. There was nothing distinguishable about it, but it kept me engaged and the narrator, Karen White, had a pleasant and soothing voice. If you enjoy listening to audiobooks and are always on the lookout for good ones, I would recommend this one.

You Had Me At Woof: How Dogs Taught Me The Secrets of Happiness by Julie Klam, narrated by Karen White
Published: September 2010 by Riverhead and  October 2010 by Tantor Audio
Pages: 240
Audiobook Length: 5 hours, 44 minutes
Genre: Memoir
Audience: Adult dog-lovers

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Audiobook Review: Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell

From Goodreads:
Sahara Jones is going into fifth grade-again. Although she won't be "Sahara Special" anymore (special needs, that is), she doesn't expect this year to be any better than last year. 

Fifth grade is going to be different, though, because Sahara's class is getting a new teacher. With her eggplant-colored lipstick and strange subjects such as "Puzzling" and "Time Travel," Miss Pointy is like no other teacher Sahara has ever known. With her help, Sahara just might find a way to redefine special for herself.

I read Educating Esme last summer and really appreciated Codell's spunk and zeal for teaching despite the grave conditions of the school and home environment of her students. Sahara Special is a novel that frequently resembles situations from Esme's own teaching experiences. 

Phylicia Rashad is the narrator of the audiobook and at first, I thought it was going to be another disastrous decision by an audiobook producer, choosing a middle-aged woman to narrate for a pre-pubescent girl. Surprisingly, however, Rashad did an amazing job narrating for Sahara. She was able to bring her voice up to a register that sounded more youthful and her voices for other characters were on point. 

My only concern about the book is the large amount of swearing for a middle-grade novel. I understand that Codell did this to add authenticity to the story (seeing as how her own students talked this way) but it's really difficult to assign a book like this in school or do a read-aloud when there is so much foul language. I have read aloud quite a few books to students that have one or two swear words, but this book is peppered with them. I can justify one or two obscenities to a parent, but it becomes increasingly harder to justify when the
profanities are a common occurrence. 

Other than the language, this was an enjoyable story with a great lesson. 

Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell narrated by Phylicia Rashad
Published: July 2003 by Hyperion and Listening Library
Audiobook Length: 3 hours, 16 minutes
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Middle Grade

In My Mailbox (30)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.  The books you share do not have to be ones you actually received in the mail.  They can be ones you bought at the book store, checked out at the library, or downloaded to your e-reader.  The idea is just to share what's on your TBR pile for the upcoming week.

Won from Alethea at Read Now Sleep Later:
So Shelly by Ty Roth

Beyond the Reflection's Edge by Bryan Davis
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Garbrielle Zevin

Tupelo Honey Cafe: Spirited Recipes from Asheville's New South Kitchen by Elizabeth Sims and Brian Sonoskus

Library Loot (audiobooks):
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron
Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik

Refreshing Summer Drink: Horchata

It's been quite a while since I've written anything food-related on my blog. The long winter coupled with a cold and rainy spring has left me incredibly uninspired in the kitchen. But a couple weeks ago, my husband and I went to a Mexican restaurant that we'd never been to before and I noticed something on the menu that I'd never seen at a Mexican restaurant: horchata. I had heard of this beverage before, and even seen it made by a few people on Food Network, but I had never had the inclination to make it myself. That is, until I tried it at Los Amigos in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

If you've never heard of horchata before, it is essentially rice pudding in beverage form. It sounds really strange and unappetizing, but it is nothing short of refreshing, and unusually thirst-quenching. Upon returning home from our trip to Los Amigos, I realized that one of the cookbooks in my collection had a recipe for horchata. So I made it on Thursday, and just finished off the pitcher as I am writing this blog post.

Horchata (from Jamie's America by Jamie Oliver)

3/4 cup long-grain rice
1 quart whole milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 or 2 cinnamon sticks

Boil the rice following the package instructions, then drain and run under cold water so it cools down quickly. Pop into the blender with the milk, ground cinnamon, and sugar. Blend until smooth, then taste and add more sugar until it's sweet enough for you.

Strain into a jug with a load of ice and discard the rice. Snap cinnamon sticks in half and place into pitcher with the horchata. Sprinkle over a little more ground cinnamon and serve.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to showcase upcoming books that you can't wait to read.

My anxiously awaited title this week is: 

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Publisher: Candlewick
Pages: 240
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Middle Grade

From Goodreads:
The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming... The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. 

The few reviews I've read on Goodreads of people who have already read this book are so striking that I just HAVE to read it. If I were judging this book on just the synopsis alone, I probably would have passed it by, but this is definitely one of those instances where reader buzz and reviews declaiming the gravitas of the story's impact on the reader has more than piqued my interest. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

In My Mailbox (29)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.  The books you share do not have to be ones you actually received in the mail.  They can be ones you bought at the book store, checked out at the library, or downloaded to your e-reader.  The idea is just to share what's on your TBR pile for the upcoming week.

Won from Katie at One Page at a Time:
Elixir by Hilary Duff
The Time-Traveling Fashionista by Bianca Turetsky
It's so funny that I won this book because I just bought it last week. No worries though. I'll keep one for my home bookshelf and one for my classroom library!

Library Loot:
All-American Girl by Meg Cabot
I downloaded this audiobook to my iPhone from my library's Overdrive page and it is a RIOT! The narrator has the perfect voice and is so expressive. This book is audiobook narrating done right.
Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher
I've had this book for one day but I've just decided I'm going to buy it because I've already used four post-it flags to mark important passages and I'm only on page 8! Clearly Kelly Gallagher is preaching a gospel I want to hear. If you teach reading in any capacity, I highly recommend this book! (which is a pretty bold statement only being on page 8!)

Shimmer by Alyson Noel

From Goodreads:
Having solved the matter of the Radiant Boy, Riley, Buttercup, and Bodhi are enjoying a well-deserved vacation. When Riley comes across a vicious black dog, against Bodhi’s advice, she decides to cross him over. While following the dog, she runs into a young ghost named Rebecca. Despite Rebecca’s sweet appearance, Riley soon learns she’s not at all what she seems. As the daughter of a former plantation owner, she is furious about being murdered during a slave revolt in 1733. Mired in her own anger, Rebecca is lashing out by keeping the ghosts who died along with her trapped in their worst memories. Can Riley help Rebecca forgive and forget without losing herself to her own nightmarish memories?

It took a while to get into this story, but once I did, I couldn't stop reading. Noel has created a strong-willed protagonist in Riley Bloom - definitely not someone I would imagine as a messenger of God. Then again, Noel's idea of Heaven is something completely different than what most people imagine it to be - calling it instead Here & Now rather than Heaven, with God never being mentioned once in either book. This is not a complaint per se, merely an observation. This book is, after all, a fantasy, so Noel has the will and the right to create whatever world she desires. 

My complaint about Riley is more her inconsistent characterization. One minute she's talking like a well-read adult using words like cajole, gobsmacked, and eke, the next minute she's talking like the pre-teen that she is, mentioning rocking out to Kelly Clarkson, and talking about how she hates her teacher, Bodhi. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't one of the requirements of "crossing over" that you let go of all the hate and anger? This is not just in my idea of Heaven, but also for the Here & Now as well since Riley's job as soul catcher is to convince tormented souls to let go of their earthly torment and cross over into eternal peace. Riley's inconsistent characterization was not enough to keep me from finishing the book, but I do worry that the audience this book is aimed for might read it more suspiciously because she sounds too much like an adult in certain places. Kids want to read about characters who sound like them, not what an adult THINKS they sound like.

Despite my criticisms, it was an entertaining, worthwhile read. I enjoyed the added historical aspect to the story as well - with Riley having to convince Rebecca, the young girl murdered in a slave revolt, to cross over into the Here & Now. I will definitely continue with the series when the next book comes out.

Shimmer by Alyson Noel
Published: March 2011
Publisher: Square Fish
Pages: 187
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Middle-Grade
Format: Finished copy

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to showcase upcoming books that you can't wait to read.

My anxiously awaited title this week is: 

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Expected Publication: September 29, 2011
Publisher: Dutton
Pages: 684
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Young Adult

From Goodreads:
For budding costume designer Lola Nolan, the more outrageous, the outfit—more sparkly, more fun, more wild—the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins move back into the house next door.

When the family returns and Cricket—a gifted inventor and engineer—steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

Gayle Forman's Where She Went was my most anticipated book from the first half of 2011. Stephanie Perkins's Lola and the Boy Next Door is my most anticipated book from the last half of 2011. I can't tell you how much I adored Anna and the French Kiss. I mean, who didn't ? Well, I think there were a few curmudgeons out there who had something to complain about it, but most people adored it. And most people agreed that it wasn't just the romantic setting of Paris and the adorable Etienne St. Clair that made the story swoon-worthy. No, from what I've read, most people have reached the consensus that what made the book so perfect was Stephanie's charming, sassy, and even biting style of writing. If I can get my hands on an ARC of this book I will be one happy woman! I vow from this day forward to read everything Ms. Perkins writes!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

In My Mailbox (28)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.  The books you share do not have to be ones you actually received in the mail.  They can be ones you bought at the book store, checked out at the library, or downloaded to your e-reader.  The idea is just to share what's on your TBR pile for the upcoming week.

For review from Harper Children's Audio:

The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson

Thanks to Berkley Publishing Group for sending me a finished copy of

A Pug's Tale by Alison Pace
I will be posting my review of this book very soon as well as an interview with Alison. This book was even better than Pug Hill!

You Remind Me of You by Eireann Corrigan

Free e-book:

Songs for a Teenage Nomad by Kim Culbertson
 You can get this book free on your Nook or Kindle right now!

Library Loot:
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing Traitor to the Nation Volume I: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Can you believe I haven't read this book yet? There are so many modern retellings out there that I figured I need to read the original to really appreciate the retellings. My goal is to get schooled in more classic literature this summer.

Picture books:
Stop Snoring Bernard! by Zachariah O'hora
Moi and Marie Antoinette by Lynn Cullen, illustrated by Amy young

Huck Runs Amuck! by Sean Taylor, illustrations by Peter H. Reynolds
Little Chicken's Big Day by Katie and Jerry Davis

The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson
The Time-Traveling Fashionista by Bianca Turetsky
OMG! the illustrations in this book are GORGEOUS!!!! This was an impulse buy that's for sure! I was seduced by the loveliness between the covers!

You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me The Secrets of Happiness by Julie Klam
I bought this book because the adorably awkward Boston Terrier on the cover reminds me so much of my pug Guenter: