Monday, August 31, 2015

Taking Stock: August - 2015

Total posts this month: 18
Total books read this month: 20
Total books read this year: 221

Audio: 10/ 51
Debut: 2/6

The Good: Well, I read a fair amount with my ears and socked in two more debuts.

The Bad: My total for August was rather pitiful, but I was prepping for a new course I'm teaching this year. So, be kind. Also, I didn't do too much reviewing.

The books: * indicates a favorite book
202. The Black Reckoning by John Stephens (8/1)*
203. The Trouble with Ants (Nora Notebooks 1) by Claudia Mills (8/2)
204. X: a novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon (8/6)*
205. The Unlikely Adventure of Mabel Jones by Will Mabbit (8/7)*
206. Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper (8/7)
207. Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Planet Girl by Tommy Greenwald (8/9)
208. The Early Cretaceous Period by Juan Carlos Alonso & Gregory S. Paul (8/13)
209. That's (Not) Mine by Anna Kang (8/13)
210. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins (8/14)
211. The Trouble in Me by Jack Gantos (8/14)
212. Michael Vey: the prisoner of cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans (8/15)
213. Denton Little's Death Date by Lance Rubin (8/17)* 
214. Drive Me Crazy by Terra Elan McVoy (8/19)
215. The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith (8/22)
216. The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (8/24)*
217. The Turn of the Tide by Rosanne Parry (8/25)*
218. The Best Friend Battle by Lindsay Eyre (8/26)
219. Ghostlight by Sonia Gensler (8/28)*
220. Princess Academy #2: Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale. (8/28)
221. Stealing Air by Trent Reedy (8/30)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

What's New? Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Hop on over there to ogle what other bloggers got this week.

Nothing for review this week, thank goodness. I am so behind. I was away last week and haven't been in to school to check my mailbox there. Made some absolutely essential purchases - must reads (with my ears)!


Stone Wall by Ann Bausum. Unabridged audiobook on compact discs. 3 hours. Narrated by Tim Federle. Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, May, 2015. 9781101925621.

Publisher synopsis: That’s the Stonewall.
The Stonewall Inn.
Pay attention.
History walks through that door.

In 1969 being gay in the United States was a criminal offense. It meant living a closeted life or surviving on the fringes of society. People went to jail, lost jobs, and were disowned by their families for being gay. Most doctors considered homosexuality a mental illness. There were few safe havens. The Stonewall Inn, a Mafia-run, filthy, overpriced bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village, was one of them.

Police raids on gay bars happened regularly in this era. But one hot June night, when cops pounded on the door of the Stonewall, almost nothing went as planned. Tensions were high. The crowd refused to go away. Anger and frustration boiled over.

The raid became a riot.

The riot became a catalyst.

The catalyst triggered an explosive demand for gay rights.

Ann Bausum’s riveting exploration of the Stonewall Riots and the national Gay Rights movement that followed is eye-opening, unflinching, and inspiring.

I picked the hardcover of this title up at ALA Annual this past July and it will be a while before I can get to it. When I learned that not only was it out as an audio, but was narrated by Tim Federle, I promptly ordered it.

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray. The Diviners, book 2. Unabridged audiobook on 16 compact discs. 20 hours. Read by January LaVoy. Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, August 25, 2015. 9780449808771.

Publisher synopsis: After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O'Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. Now that the world knows of her ability to "read" objects, and therefore, read the past, she has become a media darling, earning the title, "America's Sweetheart Seer." But not everyone is so accepting of the Diviners' abilities...
Meanwhile, mysterious deaths have been turning up in the city, victims of an unknown sleeping sickness. Can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld and catch a killer?

I was absolutely enthralled with The Diviners, which I read with my eyes. It is pretty much a high school read and I've got a tbr stack that is fairly large, so, I'll be reading book 2 with my ears.

That's what's new with me. What's new with you.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Memes: The Kidney Hypothetical by Lisa Yee

Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader and Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice.

The Kidney Hypothetical by Lisa Yee. 265 p. Arthur A. Levine Books/ Scholastic Inc. March, 2015. 9780545230940.

Publisher Synopsis: Lisa Yee gives us her most fascinating flawed genius since Millicent Min.
Higgs Boson Bing has seven days left before his perfect high school career is completed. Then it's on to Harvard to fulfill the fantasy portrait of success that he and his parents have cultivated for the past four years. Four years of academic achievement. Four years of debate championships. Two years of dating the most popular girl in school. It was, literally, everything his parents could have wanted. Everything they wanted for Higgs's older brother Jeffrey, in fact.
But something's not right. And when Higgs's girlfriend presents him with a seemingly innocent hypothetical question about whether or not he'd give her a kidney . . . the exposed fault lines reach straight down to the foundations of his life. . . .

First Line: It was supposed to be the best week of my life, but then everything went terribly wrong.

Page 56: For Sally Ride High School Helps Week, all the seniors were required to do community service. I created the Society for Animal Protection as a joke. Everyone loves animals. So what if SAP only had two members, me and Nick? We protected an animal.

I love Lisa Yee's books. She has a knack for making dead-on observations hilariously funny without being mean or snarky.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Pete Milano's Guide to Being a Star by Tommy Greenwald

WoW is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share the titles we can't wait to release.

Pete Milano's Guide to Being a Star by Tommy Greenwald. 292 p. Roaring Brook Press, February 16, 2016.  9781626721678.

I learned about this from the author's website several weeks ago. There is no publisher synopsis as yet. It's a Charlie Joe Jackson spinoff featuring Charlie Joe's friend Pete. That's enough for me. My students adore these books.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Special Non-Fiction Monday: Blog Tour - The Early Cretaceous

The Early Cretaceous: notes drawings, and observations from prehistory by Juan Carlos Alonso & Gregory S. Paul. Ancient Earth Journal series. 112 p. Walter Foster Jr./ Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc., September 1, 2015. 9781633220331. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

I am thrilled to participate in the blog tour for this special book. I had the opportunity to send questions to Mr. Alonso for a Q & A. My review follows.

What was the collaborative process between you and Gregory Paul? Both write/ illustrate? Meet in person? Online?
It was very smooth actually. Besides being a researcher and author, Gregory Paul is a very established and well-known illustrator, so when we first met over dinner, I showed him my initial sketches of the idea I had for this book. I was a little uneasy anticipating his response, but he seemed to like what he saw. Later when I approached him about working together, I proposed doing all the illustrations; he had no issue with it. He did however have a lot of input on everything from the overall proportions to the size of the toenails – I wouldn’t have had it any other way. He was very engaged in the project. One of the aspects of paleoart that really appeals to me is the artistic interpretation of these extinct animals. So much of the fossil record is absent, there’s always some speculation that goes into a life restoration. This is what makes paleoart so great: part science, part art.

With the exception of our first meeting, all our collaborations have been via email. Regarding the writing, I created the outline of how the book was going to be sectioned and wrote a draft for the introduction. Greg incorporated more information, some edits and a few times back and forth: together we built a picture of the Early Cretaceous.

How long did you two work on the book? You have a day job, running your own company, I believe, as well as other artistic interests, such as sculpting, when did you find the time to create this? 
Yeah, I’m a pretty busy guy, but I like it that way. Being a creative director is a full time job to say the least, and very deadline oriented, so things have to get done by a certain date come hell or high water. But, I feel like I do a good job in dividing my time between my interests. For instance, taking breaks when you can, it allows for quality time to focus on what’s at hand. But alas, I cannot do it all, so sculpting has taken a back seat for the time being. I also try to stay in shape going to the gym at least 4 days a week. This helps with the energy level and keeping up with my 7 year old daughter.

How long have you been drawing dinosaurs? What, if anything, sparked this interest? Do you spend a lot of time in museums studying bones?
I’ve been fascinated with dinosaurs since I was a child. So the real answer is, I’ve been drawing dinosaurs my whole life. It wasn’t until about 5 years ago, when my daughter was 2 years old, that I decided I was going to write and illustrate this book. Her childish sense of wonder inspired me to create the book I wanted as a child. At this time, I began to do the research and take up drawing dinosaurs much more seriously. My approach to the illustrations was to create more personal, intimate drawings as if from a first-person point of view. This is a good contrast to the trend right now in dinosaur books where the illustrations are digital or photo-real.

I love spending time in museums. I just got back from New York were I spent quite a bit of time at the American Museum of Natural History – it’s one of my favorite places. It’s one thing to see the dinosaur skeletons in books or in photos, but you never get the sense of scale unless you are standing alongside of one. But truth be told, the skeletons in the museums are a product of interpretation as much as the artwork that appears in books. Most people don’t realize that the majority of fossils are crushed under pressure and many are incomplete including the skulls. By using the scientific methods and some artistry the skeletal mounts are assembled. If you take a look at these mounts back 40 years ago, you would notice how the posture and general appearance has changed. Science itself evolves just as much as the dinosaurs did. It’s what keeps this field so interesting.

Why did you pick the Early Cretaceous period in particular?
The Early Cretaceous was a truly transitional stage in the evolution of wildlife. I have felt that it deserves more attention than it gets. For years little was known about the Early Cretaceous and it wasn’t until recently that a light has been shed on this period. Impeccably preserved fossil finds in China have painted a broad picture of the Earth during this time. The first true birds took to the air as the first ancestors of the Tyrannosaurs began evolving. Bizarre animals with large crest and elongated spines inhabited South America, whereas large theropod dinosaurs covered in feathers terrorized China. Evolutionarily speaking, it was a strange time.

By dedicating the book to half of a time period, more animals, seldom seen in other books, can be brought to light. Ultimately my goal was to create a snapshot of wildlife in this 38 million year window called the Early Cretaceous.

It looks like your book is a series starter. Do you know what other topics are planned? Will you be involved with any more? 
Yes and yes. I hope to do more in a series dissecting time periods and to give readers a better perspective on prehistoric wildlife and which animals coexisted with one another. Growing up I always thought that all these animals lived in the Mesozoic at the same time. But in reality, some species lived further apart from each other than humans did from the dinosaurs. For instance Tyrannosaurus rex lived 83 million years separated fromStegosaurus whereas we live 65 million years from Tyrannosaurus rex. It’s that kind of perspective that I want to explore.

I remember reading somewhere that before the advent of photography, most people drew and many kept nature journals. Nowadays, it is common to hear students claim that they can't draw. Is the idea behind the artist's notebook format meant to encourage young readers to think of themselves as artists? Frankly, even I was tempted to whip out some paper to try drawing some - particularly the 3/4 portrait of a juvenile Scipionyx on page 42. It really jumps off the page.
I have had several graphic designers that have worked for me and said the same thing, “but I can’t draw.” It’s epidemic. They don’t teach drawing or sketching at all in school and it’s an important tool, especially when it comes to graphic design. It’s a lost art I guess.

When it comes to children I strongly believe they are all born as artists. Self expression is coming out of them in every way possible: they draw when they see something that inspires them, they dance when they are moved by music and even act out their favorite scenes from their show when they find it funny. It’s all done without it being taught to them and it’s all very pure. It is this same type of inspiration I received from dinosaur books as a child. This is what fed my curiosity and imagination, desire to draw and my reasoning for wanting to share.

That Scipionyx is my wife’s favorite dinosaur in the book, I think it has to do with the eyes. It took several drawings to get that one right, so I’m glad you like it.

Review: All four of my sons went through a phase of dinosaur fascination but none as deeply or as long as #3. He would insist on learning the multisyllabic names of most of the dinosaurs in our many books. It was such a hoot to hear those names trip out of this little munchkin's mouth so adroitly. Once a month the boys would trek into the city early on a Sunday morning to spend hours at the American Museum of Natural History with their dad for boy time, although, I occasionally got to go. Plenty of time was spent in the Hall of Dinosaurs, but they loved the entire place, including the planetarium. What I loved about those many trips, besides the bonding with papa, was the sense of wonder that all the exhibits inspired. They all loved those trips. The familiarity never seemed to bore them. They seemed to find something new to notice every time. Isn't that what we want as parents and teachers?

I recalled those times as soon as I opened the mailer containing this book. As I held the book in my hands, I thought that my three-year-old son would've loved this and kind of wished for a young dino-maniac to share it with. The book is quite lovely.

The 9 x 12 trim size is not what I'd call oversized but the book has heft. One may mistakenly believe that the fearsome carnivorous dinosaur that seems to leap off the cover is a T-Rex but one immediately discovers that this prehistoric terror is a Carcharodotosauridae. This larger than life impression is helped by the fact that the illustration is slightly raised. The thick pages give the feel of a textured artist's notebook/ journal, which after a forward written by two experts in paleontology and an introduction that provides an overview of the Early Cretaceous period, is basically what the book is - artistic renderings. And beautiful renderings at that. I could very easily envision a young reader copying the art in his or her own art notebook. Indeed, I was tempted to try my hand as well.

The Theropauds, the Sauropods, the Ornithischians, the Pterosaurs and the first birds are covered in five chapters, followed by a pronunciation key. Each chapter provides an explanation of the characteristics of the dinosaur group as a whole including a scale drawing of all the dinosaurs in the group compared to each other an a six-foot human. The pages that illustrate each dinosaur include information about where the dinosaur lived, the family it belongs to, its length, height and weight and temperament. There are studies of a variety of interesting anatomical features, all labeled of each dinosaur. 

I am writing this review while on vacation and do not have access to a scanner to show an example of the detail of these illustrations but luckily, there's a trailer available that will give you a glimpse. 

My only quibble is the lack of sources and suggestions for further reading. As a former nurse, I also wondered about the choice of blue to illustrate the very long aorta of the sauropod (p. 54). It is my understanding that arteries are illustrated in red, with the exception of the pulmonary artery. Again, a quibble because the point is that this particular vessel was extremely long. 

This book would be a unique addition to the 567.9 collection. I will be on the lookout for additions to the series.

Please check out the book's page on Quarto's website, Quarto Knows to follow the blog tour and enter a giveaway. The next stop will be tomorrow at Curling Up with a Good Book.  Many thanks to Michelle and Quarto Publishing for sharing Early Cretaceous with me.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

What's New? Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Hop on over there to ogle what other bloggers got this week.

For review:

The Turn of the Tide by Rosanne Parry. 294 p. Random House Children's Books/ Penguin, January 1, 2016. 9780375869723.

Publisher synopsis: On a beautiful day in June, the ground broke open.
In Japan, you’re always prepared for an earthquake. That’s why Kai knows just what to do when the first rumbles shake the earth. And then he does the exact opposite of what you’re supposed to do: He runs. And then the tsunami hits.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Pacific, Kai’s cousin Jet sets sail off the coast of Astoria, Oregon. She knows she should have checked the tide—she always checks the tide. Except this time she didn’t.
When the biggest mistakes of their lives bring them together, Jet and Kai spend the summer regretting that one moment when they made the wrong decision. But there’s something about friendship that heals all wounds and, together, Jet and Kai find the one thing they never thought they’d have again—hope.

The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan. 300 p. G.P. Putnam's Sons/ Penguin Random House LLC. February 23, 2016. 9780399173073.

Publisher synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Amadou counts the things that matter. For two years what has mattered are the number of cacao pods he and his younger brother, Seydou, can chop down in a day. This number is very important. The higher the number the safer they are because the bosses won’t beat them. The higher the number the closer they are to paying off their debt and returning home to Baba and Auntie. Maybe. The problem is Amadou doesn’t know how much he and Seydou owe, and the bosses won’t tell him. The boys only wanted to make some money during the dry season to help their impoverished family. Instead they were tricked into forced labor on a plantation in the Ivory Coast; they spend day after day living on little food and harvesting beans in the hot sun—dangerous, backbreaking work. With no hope of escape, all they can do is try their best to stay alive—until Khadija comes into their lives.

She’s the first girl who’s ever come to camp, and she’s a wild thing. She fights bravely every day, attempting escape again and again, reminding Amadou what it means to be free. But finally, the bosses break her, and what happens next to the brother he has always tried to protect almost breaks Amadou. The old impulse to run is suddenly awakened. The three band together as family and try just once more to escape.

Tara Sullivan, the award-winning author of the astounding Golden Boy, delivers another powerful, riveting, and moving tale of children fighting to make a difference and be counted. Inspired by true-to-life events happening right now, The Bitter Side of Sweet is an exquisitely written tour de force not to be missed. 


Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromley. 330 p. Penguin Young Readers Group, August, 2015. 9780525428404.

Publisher synopsis: Sherlock meets Veronica Mars meets Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in this story of a wisecracking girl who meets a weird but brilliant boy and their roller-coaster of a semester that’s one part awkward, three parts thrilling, and five parts awesome.

When Philip Digby first shows up on her doorstep, Zoe Webster is not impressed. He's rude and he treats her like a book he's already read and knows the ending to. But before she knows it, Digby—annoying, brilliant and somehow attractive?—has dragged her into a series of hilarious and dangerous situations all related to an investigation into the kidnapping of a local teenage girl. A kidnapping that may be connected to the tragic disappearance of his own sister eight years ago.

When it comes to Digby, Zoe just can't say no. Digby gets her, even though she barely gets herself. But is Digby a hero, or is his manic quest an indication of a desperate attempt to repair his broken family and exercise his own obsessive compulsive tendencies? 
A romance where the leading man is decidedly unromantic, a crime novel where catching the crook isn't the only hook, a friendship story where they aren't even sure they like each other—this is a contemporary debut with razor-sharp dialogue, ridiculously funny action, and the most charismatic dynamic duo you've ever met. 

What's new with you?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud

WoW is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share the titles we can't wait to release.

Lockwood & Co. Book Three: The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud. 400 p. Disney-Hyperion, September 15, 2015. 9781484709689.

Publisher synopsis: As a massive outbreak of supernatural Visitors baffles Scotland Yard and causes protests throughout London, Lockwood & Co. continue to demonstrate their effectiveness in exterminating spirits. Anthony Lockwood is dashing, George insightful, and Lucy dynamic, while the skull in the jar utters sardonic advice from the sidelines. There is a new spirit of openness in the team now that Lockwood has shared some of his childhood secrets, and Lucy is feeling more and more as if her true home is at Portland Row. It comes as a great shock, then, when Lockwood and George introduce her to an annoyingly perky and hyper-efficient new assistant, Holly Munro.

Meanwhile, there are reports of many new hauntings, including a house where bloody footprints are appearing, and a department store full of strange sounds and shadowy figures. But ghosts seem to be the least of Lockwood & Co.'s concerns when assassins attack during a carnival in the center of the city. Can the team get past their personal issues to save the day on all fronts, or will bad feelings attract yet more trouble?

Danger abounds, tensions escalate, and new loyalties form in this third delightfully terrifying adventure in the critically acclaimed Lockwood & Co. series.

I absolutely adore Jonathan Stroud's writing. He is whip-smart and funny! His Bartimaeus books are among my all-time favorite and so far, the Lockwood & Co. books are way up there as well. While I read the first twice, first with my eyes, then with my ears, I just finished The Whispering Skull on audiobook and think I will continue reading the series with my ears. The narrator is a spectacular Lucy.