Wednesday, June 30, 2010

You Are So Undead to Me review

You Are So Undead to Me
by Stacey Jay

Word on the street is that zombies are the new vampires. I dunno. I just don't know. Zombies don't have nearly half the sex-appeal that vampires do. The thing is, vampires dress great, sometimes are quite wealthy from their long-term (real long term!) investment schemes, and frequently have impeccable manners (when they're not overcome with bloodlust). Zombies, on the other hand, are kind of gross. They smell bad, they lurch and stumble and they like to eat brains. What's appealing about that?

Megan Berry is born into a Zombie Settler family, meaning she has been gifted/cursed with ability to put the undead to rest. Unlike the stereotype, these "Unsettled" don't eat brains, but are merely seeking out mediums with which to share their last wishes or mortal regrets. Once they've said their peace, they quickly make their way back to their graves. This doesn't make working with them any less unappealing, however, as they usually suffer from various states of decomposition. Megan borrows a page from Buffy's book as she desperately tries to keep the growing number of undead in her small Southern town under control; she wants nothing more than to be on the cheerleading squad, and enjoy homecoming dance. She hopes that by ignoring her gift, somehow, the gross and gory zombies will just leave her alone. Five years ago, she was party to an especially vicious zombie attack, and since then, her powers have waned considerably. She'd been hoping that she'd get to go back to being a completely ordinary girl, but a new rash of zombies have squelched her plans for a run-of-the-mill existence. An old childhood friend, and fellow Settler, Ethan, is around to give Megan catch-up lessons as she desperately tries to sort out who might be behind the increased numbers of Unsettled, including much more dangerous Reanimated Corpses. Megan struggles to keep a facade of normalcy with her best friend Jess and popular jock Josh (who she considers excellent boyfriend material) as she attempts to hold on to her popularity ranking at school. In the meantime, she has to cope with bitchy Monica, a fellow Settler, and her own growing crush on totally cute, now-that-he's-all-grown-up Ethan, now working for Settler Affairs. Interspersing disgusting battle scenes and smelly zombies with high school humor and flippant off the cuff remarks from Megan, You Are So Undead to Me definitely owes a debt to Buffy of Vampire Slayer fame.

There's quite a surprise ending to this book when the true villain is revealed, which I didn't see coming and really enjoyed. There's a sequel, Undead Much? released earlier this year. Anyone looking for a funnier, less moody take on zombies than Carrie Ryan's wonderful Forest of Hands and Teeth will want to take a look at this series.

I blogged this during the 48-Hour Reading Challenge.
I received a free copy of this book.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

ALA 2010, Washington, D.C.

Tomorrow I'll be flying out to ALA in Washington, D.C.  Ah, how I love ALA Annual.  It's always a great opportunity to learn new things, get re-invigorated, connect with fellow librarians and friends around the country.

I'm sure I'll hit all the major events, like Nancy Pearl's talk, and Toni Morrison's opening speech.  I'm going to the YA Coffee Klatch and will probably make it out to the Bookcart Drillteam.  This year I splurged and bought tickets to the Newbery Caldecott Wilder banquet, so I'm looking forward to that!  There is a dizzying number of panels I'd like to go to, and I know that I won't get to even a fraction of all of them.  And of course, I'll be sure to see what for many people is the main attraction, the exhibits room, where intrepid and bold librarians may make off with oodles of swag; ARCs, bookbags, posters, bookmarks, pens, you name it.

I'm attempting to go with ONE piece of carry on luggage, (including my laptop) so I anticipate spending a good deal of today feverishly packing, and re-packing to make that work.

Hopefully, I'll have the chance to put in a blog entry or two while I'm there... but if not, expect a full wrap-up when I get home.  Are you going to be at ALA 2010?  I'll be checking my Twitter account frequently... @madiganreads.  See you there!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Burned review


Every time I promise myself that I will stop reading the House of Night books, I give in, and read "just one more." This series is like candy. You can't stop with just one, and even though it's probably not nutritious, they are delicious reads. This latest installment is not for the uninitiated; readers will be lost without the backstory from earlier books.

Reading Burned, I was struck by how different it seems from the start of the series. The perspective hops around a lot, and with Zoey out of commission, this really is Stevie Rae's book. As the first red vampyre priestess, Stevie Rae is responsible for the red fledglings, vampyres that are much more similar to the traditional undead than the superhero blue vamps. She's hiding a dangerous secret... she's Imprinted with a Raven Mocker, Rephaim, something her friends' who've survived several deadly Raven Mocker attacks, would never understand. 

Much like Zoey, Stevie Rae now has to juggle her boyfriend, Dallas, and Rephaim, who is living in hiding near the House of Night campus as his broken wing heals. There's a lot of moral ambiguity here, as Stevie Rae has recently recovered from being evil herself, so she's quite sympathetic to Rephaim's struggle to figure out his path now that his link to Kalona has been weakened. She's also oddly protective of her red fledglings who have gone rogue and started attacking and torturing humans again. She hopes to influence them to improve their behavior. Stevie Rae's burgeoning feelings for the half-birdman Rephaim tarry dangerously close to furry fandom in my eyes, however. Creepy!

In the meantime, Stark, Aphrodite and Darius are off to the Scottish Isles to see if they can perform a ritual that will bring Zoey back from the coma that she's in. Through a series of "aha" moments, they realize that Stark has enough Scottish ancestry to qualify for entrance to the Isle of Skye, where he pleads with their Queen for the chance to save Zoey. Lots of capitalized titles here, as the Casts worldbuild a more and more complex scheme of Priestesses, Prophetesses, Queens, Warriors, Shamans, etc.

Aphrodite does drop a couple of f-bombs in this book. I really feel for the Casts. When Zoey uses silly-sounding euphemisms like "bullpoopie" they are roundly mocked for being namby-pamby. When they resort to four-letter words, for more "realism" however, they'll risk alienating parents and teachers who purchase the book. Stevie Rae's favorite exclamations still tend to be "dang" and "ohmygoodness."

I'll be frank. I can't imagine any Catholic nun warmly endorsing paganism, as Sister Mary Angela seems to do in this book. This seems to be a way for the authors to put words in the mouths of those who are conservative idealogical opposites to their views on the goddess. Marion Zimmer Bradley does something very similar in The Mists of Avalon.

For me, the scenes with Zoey are some of the weakest in the book. As she wanders in Otherworld with Heath, split from various parts of her personality, readers are subjected to corny exchanges like the one she has with her 9-year-old self who exclaims on meeting the grown-up Zoey, "We got boobies!" Ridiculous. And despite Heath's recommendation to Stark that he should best support Zoey by letting her take the lead, the scene still has the distinctly creepy feel of one man "giving" her to the other.

I was surprised to see Zoey returned to full-strength by the end of the story. I really thought that an added challenge of coming back to Tulsa with the "disability" of being no more powerful than other fledglings would be an interesting turn.  And that's the crux of the problem, really.  A great story needs conflict.  With Zoey's supernatural powers (unusually strong, even among the already gifted vampyres), great looks, and a bevy of gorgeous guys fighting over her, the stakes seem fairly low.  There's not a lot of dramatic tension when you start to feel that Zoey will come out of any and every situation unscathed and probably Even More Powerful than before.

Will I read the next book in the series? Hard to say. At the moment, I've sworn not to. And yet, by next year, when Awakened, the eighth book in the series, comes out, I may have changed my mind.

I blogged this during the 48-Hour Book Challenge.
I borrowed this book.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2010: YA Edition

Dead Beautiful
by Yvonne Woon
August 2010

I love the cover. I love the title. After the death of her parents, Renee Winters is sent to a remote boarding school in Maine, where she falls for mysterious Dante. Yes, this is my kind of book. A mystery, (maybe supernatural?) and a little bit of romance. I'll have to check this one out.

by Kody Keplin
September 2010

Realistic fiction about a girl who thinks she's the "Designated Ugly Fat Friend" among the beautiful and popular crowd, and the guy she'd be embarrassed to admit to her friends that she's secretly dating.

The Replacement
by Brenna Yovanoff
September 2010

I'm digging this uber-creepy cover. The story sounds a little complicated... but it's basically about a fairy changeling boy, who's fighting to survive.

Zombies vs. Unicorns
edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier
Simon & Schuster
September 2010

I'm not normally one for short story anthologies, but this I will have to see.  Zombies!  Versus Unicorns!  If that doesn't offer excitement, I don't know what does.  I should think it would be perfectly obvious that unicorns would win this battle... they've got lightning-fast speed, a razor sharp horn, and that delicate, yet deadly hoof-stomping thing going on.  Zombies can't do much except shamble and groan.  Maybe zombies would have a fighting chance if they were able to overpower the admittedly scarce unicorn forces with their sheer numbers, as zombies do tend to move in hordes. Plus, zombies do have that whole undead, difficult to kill, single-minded determination that's definitely in their favor.  Hmm... maybe this match-up isn't so easy to call as I thought.

by Andrea Cremer
October 2010

Yes! Werewolves! Need I say more? I like the looks of this book by first time author Cremer.

by Allie Condie
November 2010

In a dystopian future, Cassia starts to question if she wants to continue to live by the Society's rules. You had me at dystopian.

by Mike Lupica
November 2010

I've only recently discovered Mike Lupica's sports fiction. How thoughtful of him to write something new, seemingly just to my taste, with a hint of paranormal, about a boy who discovers he's inherited superpowers.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Heat review


After a steady, steady diet of teen girl fantasy and science-fiction, I really felt that I should stretch myself a bit, and read something outside of my normal comfort zone. I couldn't have chosen better than Heat by Mike Lupica, a baseball story about the challenges that a Cuban-American kid faces as he plays in his local Little League.

Michael Arroyo and his older brother Carlos are feeling the pressure mount as they try to hide the fact that their father has recently died of a heart attack. Michael throws himself into his baseball games with more fervor than ever as a way of blocking out all his troubles at home. As their money dries up, Carlos turns to working with a gang and other shady opportunities to make money. With the opportunity to play for the Little League World Series in Yankee Stadium at stake, the rival team spreads a rumor that Michael is lying about his age. While it is never directly addressed, proof of whether they're in the country legally or not must be behind the drive to see Michael's official papers. When their original story that their father is visiting a sick relative in Miami begins to wear thin, the boys go so far as to hire an actor to play the part of their father as part of their gambit to remain out of foster care. What could be a grim story is saved by the comic relief of Michael's goofball best friend Manny. Michael has a very tentative and innocent romance with a girl named Ellie and the happy ending felt a bit deus ex machina to me, but I think most readers will be pleased to see everything wrapped up in such a satisfactory way.

Lupica is a prolific writer, with many other sports titles under his belt. I'm sure I'll be returning to the rest of his books as soon as I need a sorbet to cleanse my fantasy palate again. Much more sophisticated, with an urban voice, this is a far finer book than most of the Matt Christopher offerings. I would give this to middle-grade readers in a heartbeat.

I blogged this during the 48-Hour Reading Challenge.
I borrowed this book from my public library.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Voyage of the Dawn Treader trailer

Hurrah!  I'd heard that plans to make the third Narnia movie, Voyage of the Dawn Treader had been scrapped, but it looks like it's finally come together.  Found the trailer for it earlier today.

Chronicles Of Narnia 3

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder review

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder
by Julie Halpern
Feiwel & Friends

I loved this book. Jessie Sloan is me. I am Jessie Sloan. Well, except for the fact that I embraced nerd-dom whole-heartedly, unlike Jessie who frets over what she thinks will be an inevitable fall from popularity once she begins associating with the D&D playing crowd.

Jessie is a sophmore in high school, and her brother Barrett, a senior. She's used to riding his coat-tails of popularity. He and some friends are in a punk rock band and her best friends, Bizza and Char are total hangers-on for the punk rock scene. Bizza and Char decide to give themselves punk rock makeovers for the next school year, while Jessie busies herself sewing a motley collection of cool, theme-fabric, A-line skirts.

When Bizza puts the moves on Jessie's longtime crush, Barrett's bandmate, Van, Jessie passive-aggressively accepts this at first.  After Bizza cheaply hooks up with Van however, all bets are off, and their friendship is over.  Jessie magnanimously agrees to accompany Bizza to the clinic when she contracts gonorrhea from her one-time liason, and after that they are through.  In the meantime, Barrett decides to quit the band, and starts dating preppy (yet surprisingly feminist) prom queen Chloe Romano.  Without a whole lot of other social options, mathlete Jessie befriends comfortable nerd Dottie from her study hall.  Through Dottie she is introduced to a whole other circle, who quickly accept her as one of their own.  Jessie is mortified at first to realize that she's crushing on Henry, a poorly-dressed, yet cute curly-headed member of the nerd herd with intense blue eyes.

There was so much in this book that I related to. The superiority of Dunkin' Donuts to Krispy Kremes. Her pros and cons lists. I liked all the meta-references to the audiobooks that Jessie listens to: Cell by Stephen King, Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin. I enjoyed the reference to Jessie's Frog and Toad skirt, featuring lots of buttons, natch. As a costumer, I totally understood the part of the book when Dottie begins hinting to Jessie that she might want to sew costumes for them for a weekend roleplay event. Too many times have I seen that glimmer in someone's eye, as they say, "You can sew? Can you look at this pattern? I'd totally pay you for the material!" and you can practically hear them thinking, "Ah, if only I could lock you in my closet and make you my sewing slave... then I'd be the best-dressed, most historically-accurate nerd in all the land!"

Interestingly, even as Jessie agonizes over her new group of friends, no one else seems to have any adverse reaction to her hanging out with the D&D'ers. Mostly, their reactions vary from, "D&D, huh? I tried it once, but it was pretty complicated," to Jessie's dad's enthusiastic reminiscing about some of his college-day campaigns.

The book culminates in a gigantic, weekend-long LARP session as Jessie and her new-found friends camp out and role-play.  You get the feeling that she is going to make it through the rest of high school just fine.

I liked the cover of this book.  The pink swirling background reminded me vaguely of the yellow swirling background on Audrey, Wait by Robin Benway.  The corseted dress amidst a field of D20's seemed really perfect as well.  Even though I am a big fan of cropped photo covers, I liked that this book used something different, as it really sets it apart.

I would put this book in the hands of teens who like realistic fiction such as the aforementioned Audrey, Wait, or the Gingerbread trilogy by Rachel Cohn.

I blogged this during the 48-Hour Reading Challenge.
I borrowed this book from my public library.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2010: Picture Book Edition

It's a Book
by Lane Smith
Roaring Brook Press
August 2010

I'm liking the looks of this. I've loved Lane Smith ever since seeing his brilliant, retro, funny picture book The Happy Hockey family. If he's got something to say in defense of print, I am all ears.

Dick and Jane and Vampires
by Laura Marchesani, illustrated by Tommy Hunt
Grosset & Dunlap
August 2010

Oh, Seth Grahame-Smith, what hast thou wrought? Has the undead/classics mash-up genre finally jumped the shark? I don't know, but the title alone had me rolling with laughter. With sentences like, "No Sally! Do not go outside. There is something outside." this not-really-for-kids title is sure to be beloved by hipsters everywhere.

Baxter: The Pig Who Wanted to be Kosher
by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by David Goldin
Tricycle Press
August 2010

A kosher pig?? I can't decide if that's offensive, or not. Here's a book that's bound to be either incredibly awesome, or just plain weird. I'm leaning on the "looks weird" option. Either way, I can't wait to see it. Bonus! Laurel Snyder lives in nearby Decatur, maybe I'll get to see her at a local book signing.

Welcome Home, Mouse
by Elisa Kleven
Tricycle Press
September 2010

Ever since I first opened up The Lion and the Little Red Bird, I have been in love with Kleven's colorful, textured paper and watercolor collages. If we can judge a book by it's cover, I'm certain I'll be no less enchanted with Welcome Home, Mouse.

Dinosaur vs. the Potty
by Bob Shea
September 2010

I'm not much for scatological humor, but honestly, who can resist a good potty book? Dinosaur doesn't think he needs to go... he's going to try to hold it. Hmm... let's see how that works out for him.

Elsie's Bird
by Jane Yolen, illustrated by David Small
September 2010

I love the cover, and the storyline, about a girl who makes the adjustment from living in a busy city to living on the prairie seems very appealing.

13 Words
by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Maira Kalman
October 2010

Wow! This is going to be great, right? I'm a sucker for a book that makes use of arcane vocabulary, and Daniel Handler (aka, Lemony Snicket) has never been one to disappoint on that front. I've been a fan of Kalman's ever since I stumbled across her quirky picture book Ooh-la-la (Max in Love). I enjoy the photo and painted collages with unusual perspectives on New York she's been featuring on her blog, too. Yup. Highly looking forward to seeing this book.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bloggiesta Complete

Well, you're never really finished, adding, improving, editing, updating, changing. Ranganathan's Fifth Law (The library is a growing organism) is very, very applicable to the blogosphere, and this here corner of the web is no exception.

How'd I do?

I didn't keep track of every hour spent... so I don't have a "total hours" to share.

I do, however, have a list of things I worked on.

My goals:

Worked on blogging some entries (didn't complete as many as I expected), including a list-post that I'm really having fun with. Fixed a lot of broken image links in some of my older posts.

Blog design:

Added the Link Within widget. I think I like it. It's kind of fun to jump around randomly, from one post to another and see where it takes you. They advise that the longer you are on it, the better links it will provide, and that is certainly true. Will I keep it for good? I'm not sure. Can't quite decide if seeing those old blog posts is worth the slightly more cluttered look on my blog.

I did something I've been meaning to do for a long while... I set up a "dummy blog" so that I can test out any design ideas, so that any new changes won't cause my real blog to go "kablooey". And it's a good thing I did, because "go kablooey" is exactly what happened. I tried out several blog skins on my tester blog, and most of them crashed. Not loving the new blog templates on Blogger, either. There's more granularity, to be sure, but none of the designs really grabbed me. With so many people switching over to the new templates, perhaps in time, this one I'm using will start to look charmingly retro?

I swapped out some of the blogs listed in my blogroll. It's good to keep things fresh.

RSS feed:

Double-checked it, and yes, I think it's working the way that I'd like. I normally don't truck much with RSS.

Added a "follow by e-mail" option. Again, not sure if I'll keep it. I hate clutter.

Blog stats:

Signed up for Google Analytics.
I generally don't really worry about blog stats. I guess it will take a while for Google to decide how things are looking and give me back some interesting charts/graphs/numbers to obsess over. This would probably be a lot more important to me if I was interested in running ads on my site, which I'm really not. To me, at least, it feels like you give up soooo much, and get soooo little in return. In exchange for covering your blog with blinking, flashing ugliness, with pictures of people with eyes that are too big, or otherwise disturbingly photoshopped "attention-getters" you get what? A few pennies? Not worth it.

Other mini-challenges:

Tried the comment mini-challenge, and got seriously waylaid, checking out so many blogs. The blogosphere is huge, my friends. Really huge. Like, staggers the imagination huge. I'm quite the lurker, so actually posting comments was tough for me. For every comment I left, I read about three different blogs. Interesting to see what's out there, especially with non-kidlit bloggers.

I think I lost about half a day, struggling to change my favicon, and unfortunately, it just kept crashing, crashing, crashing. I'm a details-oriented person, and I'd like to fix that. But, not at the expense of not being able to load my website properly. Clearly, this requires more thought.

Sometime it feels like a real slog, taking care of all these un-sexy, nuts and bolts type housekeeping tasks. And it feels a bit odd, too, to be posting about it! I'm happy that I got so much done. This weekend left me feeling inspired and connected. It sure was a lot easier taking care of business when I felt like I had a crowd cheering me on. I can't wait to get back to posting book reviews, reporting on literary events, and sharing general thoughts about librarianship.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Shadowland review


The third book in a planned series of six, Shadowland picks up where Blue Moon left off. Immortal Damen has finally been reunited with his long-lost love Ever, but is now suffering a curse that leaves him allergic to her bare skin. One touch from her will banish him to the Shadowlands, a murky underworld for lost souls.

The cover of this book reminded me of the cover for The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong. A few of the themes are the same, especially Ever's ability to speak with the dead.

As Ever starts to search for a cure for Damen, she meets Jude, a hot surfer guy, who works in the psychic bookshop. Just as Ever is on the brink of a breakthrough with a potion that might fix their problem, Damen admits to her that he knows Jude... that Jude has also been reincarnated many times over the years, always as a love interest for Ever. He decides that the only honorable thing to do is to stand aside, and give Ever a chance to get to know Jude better so that she can truly make a choice between them. For a guy who's been pining for Ever for centuries, Damen sure doesn't act like he's eager to be with her after all!

One minor quibble I had with the book was the description of the Getty museum. I wasn't clear if Ever and Damen were at the Getty, or the Getty Villa in Malibu, and my brain kept switching back and forth between the two trying to visualize where they were. The way they drive up, it seems like the Getty Villa. The Getty is famous for the trolley car you must take up the high hillside. Yet, the exhibits and the view that are described really seem like the new Getty. I was distracted by this, but most readers who aren't familiar with Los Angeles probably wouldn't be.

A number of the side-plots seemed less interesting to me. While in the Summerlands, a kind of mystical realm, where visitors can manifest nearly anything simply by the power of thought, Ever becomes acquainted with twins Romy and Rayne, friends of her sister Riley's ghost. When they accidentally get ejected from the Summerlands, they are taken in by Damen, who is swearing off his materialistic ways (mostly). Miles, Ever's gay friend, is excited by his upcoming opportunity to perform in Florence, Italy. Ever is horrified by one of her teacher's crush on her aunt Sabine, but she finally comes around and decides that Sabine deserves a chance at romance, too. At the end of the book, Ever is deeply dismayed that her only chance to revive her friend Haven ends up leaving her Immortal as well. Haven, on the other hand, is delighted, saying something to the effect of, "This is exactly like being a vampire, but without any of the bad side effects!" I have to admit, Haven has a really good point. I wasn't really sure why Ever sees her immortality as such a curse.

Not a terrific amount of forward plot movement in this middle volume to the series, but an enjoyable read nonetheless.

I blogged this during the 48-Hour Reading Challenge.
I borrowed this book from my public library.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Okay, I wasn't going to do it.  But, last minute, I think I'll give it a shot.

What are my Bloggiesta goals?

  • Think about a new template.  I really love this one, but, so many people use it.  Maybe I need something more unique.
  • Complete some entries on a stack of picture books I have waiting for me, that I didn't tackle during last week's 48-Hour Reading Challenge.
  • Write up a list post.
  • Take part in some mini-challenges.
  • Clean-up some tags, hunt for broken links, including broken images.
  • Check out some other book blogs, catch up on reading blogs.
  • Make some business cards.

That's about it, really.  I don't think I'll push myself as hard as I did for the 48-Hour Reading Challenge.  Check back for my progress post on Sunday!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Blue Moon review

Blue Moon

In this sequel to Evermore, Noel explores what might happen if psychic Ever could have the choice to return to her past and prevent the car accident that took her family's lives. Doing so means losing Damen, her one-true-love over the centuries, however. Is it worth it?

At the start of the story, there is trouble in paradise, as Damen and Ever continue to run into conflicts in their relationship, mainly because Damen continues to be secretive about his past. Ever doesn't feel ready to take their relationship to the next level, chastely insisting that since he's waited 600 years for her, what's a little longer? And, she's still a little intimidated by how perfect he is.

New guy, Roman, appears to bring everyone under his spell, including Damen, who, predictably, turns on Ever once again, and begins to court queen bee Stasia. He begins getting sicker, and sicker, and Ever is certain that Roman is behind whatever is poisoning him. This puts Ever into tailspin of depression, as she desperately tries to figure out what's going on. Eventually, she sorts out a few secrets, including the fact that Roman is a rogue Immortal, bent on harassing Ever as punishment for the loss of Drina. When she figures out how to time-travel, she's faced with a choice. Should she go back to the point in time when Roman turned Damen against her? Or, go even further back in time, and save her family (which would mean she never would have moved to Laguna Beach and met Damen in the first place?) Ever decides to try and have it both ways, by writing herself a note, not to forget her sweatshirt (she blames herself for the car accident that killed her family when they turned around for her forgotten camp shirt, and hit a deer), and to not forget Damen.

To me, the most interesting part of the book was when Ever finds herself back in her old life in Oregon. On the whole, she is pretty happy, but she's plagued by niggling doubts that something is off, something is missing. She finds herself suddenly very unattracted to her boyfriend, and wishing for something different. As her memories start to come back, she feels certain that she can prevent the car accident. At the crucial moment, her sister Riley reminds her that she doesn't belong there, and even though Ever's done everything she can think of to prevent it, the car accident happens anyway. I thought the whole family vs. true love was such a false dichotomy. If Damen's been hunting her down and finding her over and over again for the last couple of centuries, surely he'd find her in Oregon, eventually, right? And it sets up the possibly disturbing idea that you can't have a relationship and stay close to your family at the same time. In Noel's world, you've got to choose one or another.

When Ever returns to her own timeline, she is tricked by Roman into giving Damen a potion that she thinks will cure him as he's on the brink of death. The book ends with quite a cliffhanger, as Damen's life is saved, but he may not be able to be with Ever anymore. Readers with an uncritical eye looking for some fast-paced pleasure reading could do worse than to tackle this sequel in the popular Immortals series.

I blogged this during the 48-Hour Reading Challenge.
I borrowed this book from my public library.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Evermore review

Alyson Noel
St. Martin's Griffin

I was drawn to this book by the cover, which seemed like a take-off on Twilight, featuring a tulip, much like the cover of New Moon. Upon diving in to the story, I saw a lot of similarities. Ever is the sole survivor of a horrific car crash that killed her entire family. The shock of the incident has awakened psychic powers in her which allow her to speak to her bratty younger sister's ghost, and read the thoughts of everyone around her. Overwhelmed by the barrage of thoughts from her classmates, and trying to adjust to her new life with her career-driven aunt Sabine in Southern California, she withdraws into herself, wearing oversized hoodies, and listening to headphones as a way of trying to block everything out. Ever is fascinated with a new guy at her school, Damen Auguste, as she finds that he is one of the only people that she cannot read, and spending time with him brings merciful relief from the normal psychic chatter that she is subject to. I got excited at this point, thinking, "Why, this is just like Twilight! Except the female protagonist has some kind of psychic power, instead of the male vampire." I was hoping that Ever would prove herself to be a powerful, stand-up-for-herself kind of woman once she gets her powers more fully under her command. Sadly, things don't play out that way at all. She's weak-willed and helpless, completely falling under Damen's sway.

I felt certain that it would be revealed that Damen Auguste was a vampire. All the classic clues were there. Wealthy, jet-setting, sophisticated, bored, he doesn't eat much except for a mysterious "red juice" and it seems as if he's much, much older than he's letting on. School is a breeze for him. Surprisingly, the big reveal is that he is an Immortal, an alchemist from the Middle Ages who has discovered a potion which gives eternal youth. In my opinion, Damen is a complete cad. He treats Ever badly, pouring on the charm, and then ignoring her, getting her into dangerous situations and then disappearing, leaving her to deal with the consequences. He showers Ever with tulips, and then turns around and starts flirting with other girls right in front of her. He and Edward are truly two-of-a-kind.

Ever's reaction to this treatment is -- there's no other word for it -- spineless. She's hopelessly devoted to Damen, and with every cruel little barb he throws her way, she finds ways to justify his behavior. Ever also eagerly dumps her only friends, poor-little-rich-girl Haven and gay musical theatre kid Miles as soon as Damen is on the scene. She discovers that she has been reincarnated many times over the centuries, each time meeting and falling in love with Damen, but always meets an early end via Damen's jealous ex-wife, Drina, who is determined to keep her man to herself. Ever's her final showdown with Drina, Damen's hellbent ex-wife seems anti-climatic, when Damen steps in at the last possible moment and rescues her.

What this book does have going for it, is readability. It's a light, undemanding read. Ever's development of her supernatural powers give a brief nod to The Hero's Journey. Even if it bothers feminists, Noel's alternate take on immortality will appeal to teen readers who enjoyed Meyer's books.

I blogged this during the 48-Hour Reading Challenge.
I borrowed this book from my public library.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bree Tanner sneak-peek

Stephenie Meyer and Little, Brown Books are making The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner available for FREE online, at
for the next month.  Had a hankering to check it out?  Waste no time, the online version is going away on July 5th.  Certainly, it won't stop Twi-hards from purchasing the hardcover book, to complete their set.  One dollar from the first 1.5 million copies sold will be donated to the American Red Cross.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Kid multimedia review

I have to admit I was skeptical when I heard they were making a live-action movie version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The cartoons, so simple, so expressive, really are the heart of the book. How would it be possible to visualize Greg Heffley without them? My skepticism was only deepened by the fact that I had recently listened to the audiobook for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which had failed to impress.

I had been planning on skipping listening to the audiobook altogether. How could you put such a visual presentation into audio? I was encouraged, however, by Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret. I'd scoffed (as many did) that it'd be an impossible task to translate that unique Caldecott-winning book into a different format, and was very pleasantly surprised to see that music had been used to skillfully create atmosphere in the story. So, I approached the audiobook of Diary of a Wimpy Kid with an open mind. Sadly, it failed to deliver. The narrator simply read the story. Naturally, without the cartoons, many of the sight gags simply fell flat.

I was understandably cautious when I went to see Diary of a Wimpy Kid but ended up delighted by the film. The movie used just enough of the cartoons to give the flavor of the books. It was true to the story, and honestly hilarious.

Any big fan of Diary of a Wimpy Kid (and these days, what middle-schooler isn't a fan of the enormously popular series?) will definitely want to take a look at the Movie Diary. It's chock-full of behind-the-scenes info and tidbits about the child actors who play Greg Heffley and his best friend Rowley, including baby pictures and some of the first sketches of Greg that Kinney produced. Many kids have a vague idea of how a movie gets made, but the book really breaks down the process step-by-step. For example, in the scene where Greg and Rowley are sledding, it's not real snow, of course. And it wasn't actually that cold on the day of shooting. The book talks about how make-up artists painted the boys' cheeks red to simulate the look of being out in cold weather. That's a little detail that might have escaped the average movie viewer.

Another interesting detail is how the location scouting was done. When the school was selected, an army of designers and set dressers came up with a school mascot, and created hundreds of items that might be found in the school, including flyers on the bulletin boards.

I enjoyed reading about the thought process behind the design of several of the main character's bedrooms. Rowley's room is supposed to reflect that his family is very well-off, that his rocket ship bed, and other stuff is really, really cool... but also a bit babyish for a typical middle-schooler. The designers had the idea that Greg is the kind of kid who pursues hobbies with a passion and then drops them. They figured that he had just finished a big "pirates" craze, which is why you see so many pirate-themed items in his room. But before that, he went through a "sports" craze, which is why his bedsheets and some items he's had longer are sports-themed. For Fregley, the designers decided that his parents must be older. They created a more old-fashioned looking room, with vintage floral wallpaper and clothes and bedding for him that look like they came from a thrift store. It's interesting to see how the designers take a few kernels of information from the book, and really run with it.

With plenty of photos from the set, original drawings by Kinney, and large hand-lettered type, this book will be a blazingly fast read for most, although I anticipate some readers will want to read and re-read this while they are waiting for the fifth book in the series, due out next fall.

Check out
the Monday round-up of non-fiction reviews 

at Charlotte's Library.
I blogged this during the 48-Hour Book Challenge.
I borrowed this book.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

How'd I do?

Notes from Friday, June 4

Going into the 48-Hour Book Challenge, I knew that a lot of participants were excited by the sheer luxury of curling up and reading, for hours and hours and hours. And to be sure, I am too. However. I have quite a "backlog" of reviews that I've been meaning to post, and last thing I wanted to do was go into this and end up with an even more intimidating backlog of reviews to take care of. The whole point is to get caught up, get ahead with some "rainy day" posts, and challenge yourself, right? With that in mind, I got started doing more blogging than actual reading.

7:30-7:51 am Began blogging (21 minutes)

7:51-7:53 Comment on blog (3 minutes)

7:53 Resumed blogging
9:04 Completed entry on Wimpy Kid Movie Diary
10:50 Completed entry on Burned
11:55 Completed entry on Evermore (241 minutes)

11:55-12:10 pause for a quick bite to eat

12:10-12:40 resumed blogging (30 minutes)

12:40-1:10 Twitter (30 minutes)

1:10 pm resumed blogging
2:10 completed entry on Blue Moon
At this point I started to feel myself lagging, so it's interesting that these reviews are still taking about an hour a piece.
3:00 completed entry on Shadowlands (110 minutes)

3:00-3:15 quick break for a snack
I didn't want to feel like a total slug, so I went to the gym and read on the treadmill.
3:15-3:30 walk time to gym
3:15-4:45 pm Reading Into the Wild Nerd Yonder while on treadmill (90 minutes)

4:45-5:00 walk time to home
5:00-6:20 Reading Into the Wild Nerd Yonder while snugged around in total coziness at home (80 minutes)

6:20-6:45 quick Twitter break (25 minutes)
6:45-6:55 quick break for blog commenting (10 minutes)

6:55-7:20 finished reading Into the Wild Nerd Yonder (25 minutes)

7:20-8:00 returned to blogging (40 minutes)

8:00-8:25 I realize this solidly removes me from the "hardcore" group, but I stopped to take a shower

8:25 resumed blogging
8:45 pm completed Into the Wild Nerd Yonder post (20 minutes)

8:45-9:30 pause for blog reading, commenting and twittering (45 minutes)

9:30 resumed blogging
10:23 completed You are So Dead to Me post (53 minutes)

10:23-10:33 quick twitter and blog reading break (10 minutes)

10:33 resumed blogging
11:30 completed Heat post (57 minutes)

11:30-11:45 resumed blogging, but feeling pretty tired, I decide to go to SLEEP (15 minutes)


Blogging: 9 hours, 47 minutes
Reading: 3 hours, 15 minutes
Social media'ing: 2 hour, 3 minutes

TOTAL TIME DAY 1: 14 hours, 20 minutes

Notes from Saturday, June 5, 2010

7:20-9:20 Started reading The Year of the Bomb (120 minutes)

9:20-9:50 Blog commenting and twitter break (20 minutes)

9:50-10:05 Completed reading Year of the Bomb (15 minutes)

10:05-10:25 started blogging (20 minutes)

10:25-10:40 blog commenting break (15 minutes)

10:40-10:53 resumed blogging (13 minutes)

10:53-57 quick e-mail break (4 minutes)

10:57 resumed blogging
12:05 completed Wondrous Strange review (68 minutes)

12:05-3:30 Started reading Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (205 minutes)

3:30-4:00 took a nap
4:00-4:15 finished reading Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (15 minutes)

4:15-4:35 paused for a brief snack

4:35-5:35 twittering, blog reading and commenting (10 minutes)

5:35-6:00 resumed blogging (25 minutes)
I had pictured having read a LOT more books by this point, but am very pleased to see that even with "only" 3 books read, my To Be Read pile already looks so much smaller. And, truthfully, reading copiously, or even speed reading is no problem for me, so I'm glad to be getting so many reviews done.

6:00-7:00 reading, commenting on blogs (60 minutes)

7:00-7:50 break for shower and dinner
7:50-8:45 began reading Spaceheadz (55 minutes)

8:45-9:15 twitter, reading and commenting on blogs break (30 minutes)

9:15-9:30 continued reading Spaceheadz (15 minutes)

9:30-9:45 another social media break (15 minutes)

8:45-10:30 continued reading Spaceheadz (105 minutes)

10:30-10:35 reading/commenting on blogs (5 minutes)

10:35-10:51 blogging (16 minutes)

10:51 continued reading Spaceheadz
12:04 am finished reading Spaceheadz (73 minutes)

12:04-5:45 am SLEEP

5:45-7:30 am awoke and resumed blogging until TIME'S UP (105 minutes)


Blogging: 4 hours 7 minutes
Reading: 10 hours 3 minutes
Social media'ing: 2 hours 39 minutes

TOTAL TIME DAY 2: 16 hours 49 minutes

I was a little concerned that I might have been too much social media time, but everything ended up perfectly balanced, so that's great.  And now... the grand total...

GRAND TOTAL: 31 hours 9 minutes!

Phew!  I survived!  I feel relieved, exhausted and glad to step away from the computer.  Yet, simultaneously, I'm a little sorry to see it end.  I nearly wish the 48-Hour Book Challenge would never end... or at least, last just a bit longer.

And now I'm off, for a celebratory breakfast.  Thanks to all my fellow participants for reading, blogging and cheering me on!

*edited to add the following info*
Books read during challenge: "only" got through 4 books

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern
The Year of the Bomb by Ronald Kidd
Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
Spaceheadz  by Jon Scieszka

Friday, June 4, 2010

And we're off!

Starting the 48 Hour Book Challenge, I must admit, this is anathema to my usual method of blogging.  I'm a big believer in "slow and steady wins the race"  When I started this book blog, I initially made a rule, no more than three posts a week -- I was excited to get started, but at the same time, I didn't want to post every day for a month, wear myself out, and then never blog again.

Typically, I'll have between three to six ideas for posts rattling around, and once I've got those down, more ideas will have sprouted in my brain.

Last April, I was not up for Maureen Johnson's Blog Every Day April challenge.  But this year (no one seemed to pick up the mantle and officially host anything) I quietly tried it out.  I was fully prepared to kiss quality posts goodbye, all in the name of posting, something, anything every day in April of 2010.   Much to my surprise, blogging every day was not as hard as I thought.  I kept it up (mostly) through May.  Will I continue blogging every day?  Not sure.  Three times a week has been working very well for me.  We'll see how much I'm able to do during this blogging marathon, and take it from there!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Gearing up for Mother Reader's 48-Hour Book Challenge

I've been pretty quiet this week.  I'm saving my strength for MOTHER READER'S FIFTH ANNUAL 48-HOUR BOOK CHALLENGE.

I've cleared my schedule.

Cozy chair? Check.

Reading lamp? Check.

Stack o' books?  Check.

Yup, it's all systems go.
See you tomorrow!


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