Friday, March 28, 2014

More Than This review

More Than This
by Patrick Ness
Candlewick Press
September 2013

I nearly gave up on this book. I make a rule, that if a book doesn't grab me in the first fifty pages, it's okay to give up on it. Let me recount what happens in the first fifty pages of this story:

  • Seth wakes up and is confused and disoriented. He's in his childhood home in England, with no idea how he got there.
  • He drinks some water
  • He throws up quite a lot.
  • He falls asleep again.
  • He manages to pee. It is a bit of an ordeal.
  • He sleeps.
  • He bathes in the rain, but does not feel much cleaner.
  • He eats a bit of horrid cold chicken soup from a can

And... that's it. Ladies and gentlemen, I was ready to throw in the towel right there, but I had several friends who had read the book and encouraged me, keep on going! It gets better!

I am glad that I soldiered on. Once poor Seth gets past the very base of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, things start to get interesting when Regine and Tomasz show up. Regine and Tomasz are both are willing to entertain Seth's idea that they are in some kind of afterlife - a hellscape, if you will - but it seems that all of them have suffered blows to the head, disconnecting some kind of chip installed in their heads, and all of them are having vivid dreams of their lives and the circumstances that led them to the abandoned English town where they find themselves. Seth has a traumatic past, unloving parents, a special needs younger brother Owen (he blames himself for Owen's difficulties) and has recently discovered, thanks to his new boyfriend Gudmund, that he is gay. Regine has been in a very abusive home with a sketchy stepfather and young Tomasz was a struggling Polish immigrant.

This is a true dystopia, with a grim landscape and tons of suspense. It's a bit Matrix-like, and readers who aren't put off by the incredibly slow start will find the incredible twists and turns of the plot very satisfying.

Compare to:

Blood Red Road - Moira Young
Hello America - J.G. Ballard
The Silver Child - Cliff McNish
The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Top Seven Things On My Bookish Bucket List

1.) Get caught up on all the book reviews I'd like to put on my blog. I know - I can dream, right?

2.) And in a similar vein, I have a small bookshelf of ARCs sitting by my bedside that need to be read...

3.) Read 300 books in a single year. Okay. It's not quite Tolstoy and the Purple Chair - a woman who pledged to read a book day (real literature, too!) for an entire year. But, it's pretty close. Most years I struggle to break the 100 books read record.

4.) Be cool as a cucumber around my favorite authors. So many times, when I meet my favorite authors I just spaz out and barely manage to stammer out a coherent greeting. I'm proud of the times that I've met with authors and managed to appear intelligent and sane - I just wish it was all the time!

5.) Be able to say that I've read 10% of the collection at my library. I know 10% doesn't sound like much - but with a collection of 90,000+ titles, 10% would be pretty darn impressive.

6.) Attend BEA again. It's been a loooong time since I've been to Book Expo America. It's a convention that I usually skip in favor of going to the ALA Annual Conference, (or in favor of my own vacation to visit family and friends, imagine that!) But I would like to check it out again, especially since I'm told that it's changed and grown so much in the last several years!

7.) I have always dreamed of serving on the Newbery committee. I've kept my ALA membership active and applied for it several times, but I've never come close to being chosen for the prestigious book award committee. Maybe one day it will happen!

I know this is supposed to be a top 10 list - but I really can't think of three more things! I feel that I've been pretty lucky in already accomplishing so many things that I'd like to: working in a bookstore and now a library, meeting authors, hosting book signings, traveling to bookish events, thinning out my personal book collection, participating in Nanowrimo, meeting lots of reading and reviewing goals. I keep pretty busy.

What's on your top 10 bookish bucket list?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Dawn Treader Book Dragon

Wow! Check out this amazing recycled book art. It's the Dawn Treader from the Narnia series.

Found on

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Top 6 Books on my Spring TBR

I really tried to come up with a top 10 list of books I'm looking forward to this spring. But, I am trying to be very selective with what's on my To Be Read list - and these top six were absolutely the top of the heap... everything after these is a solid "maybe" so I thought I'd just focus on my absolute must-reads for spring.

17 First Kisses - Rachael Allen
Written by a member of my book club. I'm so excited for her debut novel!

One - Kiera Cass
Can't wait to read the finale to this fun trilogy. Like the Hunger Games with more makeovers and beauty and less killing. Yay!

The Taking - Kimberly Derting
What an intriguing story! A girl finds herself returned to her family - only 5 years have passed and she hasn't aged a bit.

Free to Fall - Lauren Miller
I was turned on to this book at an author talk, where Lauren Miller talked about her work in progress. So, I can't wait to read the finished product!

Dorothy Must Die - Danielle Paige
I'm a sucker for Wizard of Oz retellings. This one seems to have Dorothy as the baddie.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters - Laini Taylor
Squeeee! I'm so excited to read the finale to this sublimely excellent trilogy.

Friday, March 14, 2014

What Colleges Don't Tell You review

What Colleges Don't Tell You (and Other Parents Don't Want You to Know): 272 Secrets for Getting Your Kid Into the Top Schools
by Elizabeth Wissner-Gross
Hudson Street Press
August 2006

The woman who wrote this book is crazy town.

Okay - let's back up a minute. I'll say some nice things about this book first. Some of Wissner-Gross's advice is quite good. I think she understands a fine line between angrily demanding in an entitled fashion (a common mistake) and earnestly inquiring how to help your student excel.

She does a great job of explaining why colleges don't want well-rounded students - a kid with a single overriding passion or with two different but very intriguing interests is better than an applicant with a smattering of everything. She does a great job of explaining that what high schools and colleges want doesn't always line up with what's best for your child.

She shares a great example of how to ensure that your children get good grades. Say you come from a nice middle class, or upper-middle class family. You've carefully chosen a good high school and reasonably challenging classes for your kids. Chances are, nearly all the kids in a "good" high school from well-to-do, caring families are perfectly capable of getting an A in an AP level course. Why? The sample size is small, and the group of kids is already skewed to being more successful. But it will look "odd" if the teacher gives out an A to every single kid in class. So, pretty early on, consciously or subconsciously, the teacher will start looking around to decide who to give a B or even a C or D to. Promptly addressing any grade concerns can prevent your kid from being the chump who gets stuck with a B, when they could have just as easily gotten an A.

I really liked Wissner-Gross's idea of taking the day before SATs and celebrating it as a family holiday - "Cram Day" as those few extra points on the test could mean the difference between admittance or being wait listed.

I liked her point about how parents should never roll their eyes and agree with anyone who complains about their teens. To the rest of the world, the family should provide a united front. Not a bad idea.

However! Whenever Wisnner-Gross talks about her sons, she becomes braggy, obnoxious and strange. She maneuvered to get them into the New York Opera - not so much because they had an actual interest in music but rather because she thought it would make them "interesting" to college admissions boards and their auditions at Lincoln Center might make for good college essay material. Both boys eventually got into Harvard.

For me, where she really falls down is when she tries to make the case for why helicopter parenting is a good idea. All the other parents are doing it. Kids these days seem okay with it. You really should give your child every advantage - and yes, that means, never ever letting them fail. Rifling through your child's backpack. Scheduling every free minute of their time with impressive sounding activities. Prepping for the SAT starting in 7th grade. All of this seemed to go too far to me. The author seemed to have very little thought or concern about the child's overall happiness or their ability to succeed as an independent adult.

The book was written nearly 10 years ago, and feels a tiny bit stale. It's written to a Boomer audience who aren't comfortable with computers. Her advice about creating neat looking college applications by physically cutting and gluing typed responses onto a page, or hunting down an old-fashioned typewriter, and her enthusiasm for sending faxes vs. e-mail seemed rather dinosaur-ish to me.

Overall, this is a quick read. Nervous parents looking for college application advice for their teens should cherry-pick some of her best ideas, and ignore or modify the rest.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cat in the Hat storytime

We just finished a great Cat in the Hat program to celebrate Dr. Seuss's 110th birthday!

Here's talented performer, Reuben Haller, as the Cat in the Hat, with some audience volunteers as Thing 1 and Thing 2. The kids went crazy for his balancing act, his "Thingcatcher" net and clowning antics. What fun!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Gravity Keeper review

Simon Bloom: The Gravity Keeper
by Michael Reisman
February 2008

First line: "Look around you. What do you see? If you're inside, you might see walls, carpeting, furniture. If you're outside, you might see grass, buildings, sky. But the world is a lot more complicated than it seems."

Simon Bloom's life is turned upside-down when he discovers the "Teacher's Edition" of his classroom physics textbook, which magically gives him power over the laws of physics. He manipulates gravity and friction, allowing him to float, fly, zoom or slow down. After accidentally eavesdropping on a group of excessively silly senior wizards sporting wacky psuedo-medieval names, he finds himself unavoidably caught up in the action.

The evil Sirabetta is able to control several different branches of science (magically) with various tattoos that seem to writhe all over her body. Of course, she is hoping to add the book of physics to her collection. Simon's two best friends, Owen and Alysha join him in trying to keep the magic book out of the hands of villains.

Owen has a rather annoying habit of speaking-so-quickly-that-all-of-his-sentences-are-rendered-in-dashes, and Alysha is a bit of an outsider at school who joins them in their expeditions to Dunkerhook Woods. Only towards the very last third of the book do Owen and Alysha start to come in to their own, gaining the power of velocity and electricity, respectively. In a way, I was disappointed to see Owen and Alysha lose their powers so quickly.

Plenty of inside-jokes seemed geared towards Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fans, which might go over the heads of the intended audience. In many ways, Gravity Keeper reminded me of the Angie Sage's Septimus Heap books, but with a more scientific bent. An omniscient narrator, similar to one in A Series of Unfortunate Events provides comic relief. Fast-paced, inventive and fun, I'll recommend this new series to any budding science-fiction fan.

Compare to:
Magyk - Angie Sage
The Bad Beginning - Lemony Snicket
Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians - Brandon Sanderson

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Read in February 2014

Last month I read the following the books:

1. Steelheart - Brandon Sanderson
2. Crucible of Gold - Naomi Novik
3. Library Wars: Love & War v. 1 - Kiiro Yumi
4. Scarlet - A.C. Gaughen
5. Blood of Tyrants - Naomi Novik

Picture credit: Reading Girl by Franz Eybl


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