Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dystopian Giveaway Hop: Audiobook of Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin

This blog hop is hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and My Shelf Confessions.

For my portion of the hop, I am giving away two copies of the audiobook:

Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin
Series: Birthright #2
Audiobook Narrator: Ilanya Kadushin
Published: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Format: 9 audio CDs
Length: 10 hours, 51 minutes
Disclosure: Audiobook copies provided by Macmillan Audio

Read my review of Because It Is My Blood

Goodreads summary:
Since her release from Liberty Children's Facility, Anya Balanchine is determined to follow the straight and narrow. Unfortunately, her criminal record is making it hard for her to do that. No high school wants her with a gun possession charge on her rap sheet. Plus, all the people in her life have moved on: Natty has skipped two grades at Holy Trinity, Scarlet and Gable seem closer than ever, and even Win is in a new relationship.But when old friends return demanding that certain debts be paid, Anya is thrown right back into the criminal world that she had been determined to escape. It’s a journey that will take her across the ocean and straight into the heart of the birthplace of chocolate where her resolve--and her heart--will be tested as never before.

Terms and conditions:
Must be 13 or older to enter and have a U.S. mailing address
Use the Rafflecopter widget to enter.

Monday, October 29, 2012

It's Monday! What are you reading? 10-29-12

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen and Kellee  over at Teach Mentor Texts also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

Last week I finished:
Jake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli

Currently reading:

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Currently listening:

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick

Last week on the blog:
Laura Ellen Blind Spot debut event at Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor
Author Carrie Harris does a writing workshop with my students
The Turtle Hospital: Marathon, Florida

Current giveaway:
Audiobook of Outpost by Ann Aguirre

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Turtle Hospital: Marathon, Florida

While in Florida this past summer, on our way from Key West to Miami, my husband and I had one of the most memorable and educational moments of our trip: a visit to The Turtle Hospital in Marathon.

Opening its doors in 1986, The Turtle Hospital began its life originally as The Hidden Harbor Motel and eventually morphed into a full-time turtle rehabilitation facility. In the 26 years since its inception, they have treated and released over 1000 sea turtles. Today it is not just a rehabilitation facility but also an educational and research facility.

They offer daily tours to the public in order to help raise funds for the medical treatment and equipment that is needed for its temporary and permanent residents. You can also buy Turtle Hospital merchandise like t-shirts and hats, and/or adopt a sea turtle to help them raise much-needed funds.

Reservations are recommended if you want to take a tour, but we lucked out because we just stopped by on our way to Miami and there was still room for us on the 12:00 tour.

A tour of The Turtle Hospital lasts about 90 minutes and begins with a slideshow of the different types of sea turtles and the reasons for why each species is endangered or threatened. From there, the tour group is escorted into the medical facility where you get to see how the turtles are treated. And then comes the fun part: meeting the turtles. Hearing about each turtle's story and reason for being at the facility is both sad and uplifting at the same time. It's sad to know that so many sea turtles are in need of rescue because of what humans are doing to them, but it's also uplifting to know that a facility like this exists and is doing all it can to educate the public to prevent these beautiful creatures from dying out.

Some of the residents of The Turtle Hospital:

Canopied salt water pool that holds the permanent residents
Feeding time!

I highly recommend a visit to The Turtle Hospital if you're ever driving through the Keys. Even if you don't have a chance to make reservations for a tour, don't let that stop you from dropping in to see if there is space available. It is well worth the 90 minute detour. I'll never forget the experience of getting to see these beautiful creatures up close and personal.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Carrie Harris classroom visit take 2

Last year Carrie Harris, author of the epically funny Bad Taste in Boys and the soon-to-be released Bad Hair Day, came to visit my 6th graders at the end of the year to give an author talk. But I recently had a conversation with Carrie and told her I thought it would be awesome if she could come in October this year and do her Monster Prom writing workshop with my class before NaNoWriMo. Not only would it be awesome to have a published author come and do a writing lesson with them, but it would also help to give them ideas and motivation to do the Young Writer's Program of NaNoWriMo. And being the awesome person Carrie is, she agreed. So that is what happened in my classroom today.  And it was amazing. The kids were engaged and enthusiastic, and they came up with some brilliant ideas.

Carrie started the workshop by having students brainstorm types of monsters in groups. They were asked to defy convention and create new and unusual types or combinations of monster. Students wrote down their own ideas as well as the ideas from the people in their group. My favorite monster of the day was Santa Claws.

Next, they were to pick one of the monsters on their list and write interesting and unusual traits about their character: like maybe their vampire-like creature doesn't like blood and only eats organic produce.

I don't want to give it all away because, well, you just have to experience a Carrie Harris writing workshop to truly appreciate how much fun it is, but I am certain that based on their experience today, many more students than usual will be participating in NaNoWriMo this year. And given the fun, crazy ideas they came up with, I can't wait to read their stories!

My students hard at work making a welcome poster for Carrie

The epic zombie/monkey/ice cream post my students made

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Author Event: Laura Ellen's debut novel, Blind Spot

Last night at Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor, local author Laura Ellen debuted her YA mystery novel, Blind Spot. I attended this event with a couple of my Nerdy Book Club friends, Brian Wyzlic and Jessica Crawford and we had a great time.

It's always interesting to hear what inspires authors to write their novels and with Laura Ellen it was no different. As per usual, author inspiration so often comes from personal experience. Like her main character, Laura Ellen also suffers from macular degeneration and relates a great deal to the poor choices of her protagonist, Roz.

This was the first book signing I've been to at Nicola's where there were literally no more books left on the shelf. Clearly Laura Ellen has a loyal fan base and loads of supportive friends and family who came out to celebrate her new success as an author. It was wonderful to see. I'm looking forward to reading more of her books in the future!

Brian, Me, and Jessica with debut author Laura Ellen

Check out my review of Blind Spot from earlier this summer: the only book I've read in recent months that kept me up until 2 a.m. finishing.

Check out the awesome book trailer, which Laura's son and his guitar teacher wrote and performed

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Spooktacular Giveaway Hop: Win an audiobook of Outpost by Ann Aguirre

This blog hop is hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and The Diary of a Bookworm.

For my portion of the hop, I am giving away an audiobook copy of:

Outpost by Ann Aguirre
Series: Razorland #2
Published: September 19, 2012
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Format: Audiobook, 9 CDs
Audiobook Length: 10 hours, 20 minutes
Narrator: Emily Bauer
Genre: Dystopia
Audience: Young Adult
Disclosure: Audiobook provided via Macmillan Audio

From Goodreads:
Deuce’s whole world has changed. Down below, she was considered an adult. Now, topside in a town called Salvation, she’s a brat in need of training in the eyes of the townsfolk. She doesn’t fit in with the other girls: Deuce only knows how to fight.

To make matters worse, her Hunter partner, Fade, keeps Deuce at a distance. Her feelings for Fade haven’t changed, but he seems not to want her around anymore. Confused and lonely, she starts looking for a way out.

Deuce signs up to serve in the summer patrols—those who make sure the planters can work the fields without danger. It should be routine, but things have been changing on the surface, just as they did below ground. The Freaks have grown smarter. They’re watching. Waiting. Planning. The monsters don’t intend to let Salvation survive, and it may take a girl like Deuce to turn back the tide.

Giveaway Terms and Conditions:
You must be 13 or older to enter and have a U.S. mailing address
Use the Rafflecopter widget to enter

Monday, October 22, 2012

It's Monday! What are You Reading? 10-22-12

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen and Kellee  over at Teach Mentor Texts also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

Last week I read: 
Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct by Mo Willems
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Brian Mealer, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

Currently Reading:
Pathways to the Common Core by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth, and Christopher Lehman
The Trouble with May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm
I actually started listening to the audiobook of The Trouble with May Amelia, last week but the narrator was so incredibly apathetic and unemotional that I couldn't listen to it anymore so I decided the check out the real book instead.

Currently listening:
Swim the Fly by Don Calame
Jake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli

Last week I reviewed:

Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson
Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Audiobook Review: Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin

When Anya Balanchine is released from Liberty Children's Facility, she wants nothing more than to go back to school and live a normal, peaceful life with her younger sister Natty. Unfortunately, wherever Anya goes, controversy and illegal activity is sure to follow, and it isn't long before the family business she wishes so badly to escape comes back to put a stranglehold on her. At first Anya spends a great deal of time and energy trying to break through the chains of her family business, but she soon realizes that escape is futile and she must surrender to what Michael Corleone and she now know is true: "Every time I think I'm out, they pull me back in."

Because It Is My Blood is the second book in the Birthright series by Gabrielle Zevin, the first book being All These Things I've Done, which is where we learn that Anya Balanchine grew up in a world where coffee and chocolate are illegal, but her family runs a very successful chocolate company in Russia, selling their wares on the black market in the U.S. And just like All These Things I've Done, Because It Is My Blood has a quiet power to it. Anya is one of the strongest, fiercest female protagonists I've ever come in contact with and yet that ferocity is coated under a thick layer of stoicism and control. And despite her reserved nature, Anya is not cold. She comes across as quite likeable even though in the hands of a less dextrous author, I'm sure she would have come across as icy and robotic. I continue to marvel at what a contradictory yet empathetic character Zevin has created in Anya Balanchine.

Just as with the first audiobook, Because It Is my Blood is narrated by Ilyana Kadushin and she is every bit as perfect for the role of Anya as she was in the first book. If you read the first book and enjoyed it, there is no doubt in my mind that you will enjoy the continuation of Anya's story in Because It Is My Blood

My only real contention with this book is that it is categorized as dystopia when it reads nothing like a dystopia. In my review of All These Things I've Done, I called it dystopia-lite because while society has degraded and become more corrupt, it wasn't drastic enough to feel dystopian. There was no Big Brother, or factions, or an arena full of kids fighting each other to the death. Corruption was evident but not perverse as it is in most dystopias.

Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin
Series: Birthright #2
Audiobook Narrator: Ilanya Kadushin
Published: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan Audio
Pages: 350
Audiobook Length: 10 hours, 51 minutes
Genre: Dystopia? <------ I'm still not convinced of this
Audience: Young Adult
Disclosure: Audiobook received for review from publisher


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Audiobook Review: Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

Born in Ethiopia and adopted to Swedish parents, Marcus Samuelsson has probably the most interesting and intriguing human-interest stories of anyone in the food world. But his story is not what rocketed him to the top of the food world, it was his talent. When a devastating cut from the soccer team he loved caused him to question his purpose in life, fatefully and blessedly, Marcus thought back to the love of his grandmother's Sunday dinners and decided to consider a career in food.

Marcus was curious and passionate. He had the desire the learn about traditional mother cuisines, but what really helped him stake his claim in the world of his food was his desire to play with flavors and textures that defy tradition.

This book has everything I love about a food memoir: passion, heart, drama, and mouth-watering descriptions. Samuelsson holds nothing back about his life: he discusses his own issues with race, the child he abandoned, and even talks smack about other chefs, namely Gordon Ramsay who, according to Samuelsson, is just as mean (and also bigoted) as he appears to be on his TV shows.

I loved this memoir and I adored listening to Samuelsson narrate his own auidobook -- I could listen to him talk ALL DAY. But I'm not gonna lie, I'm dubious as to whether he wrote this book himself. Any time a celebrity writes a book, I have to suspect that it was written by a ghost writer. The same holds true for Yes, Chef. Does that make his story any less important to read or less entertaining? No, not at all. But the dirty little secret of celebrities hiring ghost writers to tell their stories always leaves me wondering what percentage of them actually write the books that bear their names. My guess is that percentage is not very high and my gut suspicion is that Samuelsson gave a rough outline of his story to the person he or his publisher hired to write his story and then went off to judge an episode of Chopped.

Still, after listening to this audiobook, I have a great respect for Samuelsson as a chef and am now determined to eat at one of his restaurants the next time I'm in New York or Chicago. His passion for food mimics my own: finding ways to honor traditional cuisine while amping up flavors and textures in new and unusual ways. Of course, Samuelsson's passion and talent is obviously much more legit and disciplined than my own: he's a professional chef and I'm just some schmo who likes to cook and eat.

If you like food memoirs or are a Food Network junkie like me, I highly recommend reading or listening to Yes, Chef. Though if you're also like me and love listening to Marcus Samuelsson talk, choose the audiobook over the hardcover.

Check out my review of Marcus's cookbook, The Soul of a New Cuisine.

Yes, Chef by Marcus Sameulsson
Published: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 319
Audiobook Length: 11 hours, 51 minutes
Genre: Memoir
Audience: Adults
Disclosure: Checked out from library

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fall Into Fantasy blog hop: win a 3 pack of vampire novels

This blog hop is hosted by The Write Path and I Am a Reader, Not A Writer.

For my portion of the hop I am giving away a threesome of vampire books:

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer (hardcover)

Bitter Blood by Rachel Caine (hardcover)

Blood Fever by Veronica Wolff (paperback)

Terms and conditions:
Must be 13 or older to enter
Must have a US mailing address
Use the Rafflecopter widget to enter

It's Monday! What are You Reading? 10-15-12

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen and Kellee  over at Teach Mentor Texts also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

Last week I finished:
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
Not feelin' the Newbery love on this one. I enjoyed listening to Gantos read the audiobook, but the story itself underwhelmed me. My favorite part happened early in the story, which was when we first meet Miss Volker, but other than that scene, I wasn't finding myself terribly invested in the characters or plot. 

Still reading:
Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America by Jonathan Kozol

Currently (still) listening:
I just started The Trouble with May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm

I'm still listening to Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson and I absolutely love this book. Samuelsson's family history is fascinating and his passion for food mimics my own, though he is obviously much more disciplined than me. :) I especially love that I recently came to the part of the book where he totally calls out Gordon Ramsay for being the jerk he appears to be on TV (and pretty much calls him a racist too). I wasn't expecting that. Though DO expect a glowing review of this one when I'm finished.

What I reviewed last week:

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
Bad Hair Day by Carrie Harris