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

Challenges:
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)!

Purchased:

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. 

Purchased:

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. 

Saturday, August 15, 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 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.

Publisher synopsis: What it would be like to see a living, breathing dinosaur? The Early Cretaceous brings readers closer to prehistoric life than ever before. By combining the latest paleontological findings with highly detailed, intimate drawings of wildlife from the Early Cretaceous, readers will look into the eyes of some of the most fascinating creatures to ever inhabit the earth. Written and illustrated in the style of a naturalist's notebook, the viewer will be given a first-hand account of what it is like to stand alongside everything from the first birds to flying dinosaurs to some of the largest creatures ever to walk the earth. Through detailed illustrations and descriptive narrative, readers will discover how some dinosaurs survived polar blizzards, while others were able to pump blood five stories high to reach their brains. While many books on prehistoric life lump dinosaurs into the general timeline of the Mesozoic Period, no book currently dissects plant and animal life during one specific period. This allows the book to explore wildlife seldom featured in publications, many of them recent discoveries. The Early Cretaceous is backed by the research of one of paleontology's most acclaimed theorists, giving the book the most up to date scientific interpretation regarding animal behaviors, interactions, and recreations."

I'm participating in a blog tour for this one. Look for my review and an author Q & A on August 24.



The Dogs by Allan Stratton. 258 p. Sourcebooks, September 1, 2015. 9781492609384.

Publisher synopsis: Out of the corner of my eye, I catch something moving by the barn.
When I look, it disappears. Wait. There it is again, at the cornfield.
Some movement, some thing.
Mom and I have been on the run for years. Every time he catches up with us, we move to a new place and start over.
But this place is different.
This place is full of secrets. And they won't leave me alone.

Purchased: Yeah, yeah, I know. Ridiculous given all I already have to read but I met a friend at a local indie before going to lunch. She had a gift certificate to spend and I absolutely cannot enter a bookstore without buying something.



YOLO Juliet by William Shakespeare + Brett Wright. 100 p. Random House Childrens Books, May, 2015. 9780553535396.

Publisher synopsis: Romeo and Juliet, one of the greatest love stories ever told . . . in texts?! 
 
Imagine: What if those star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet had smartphones? A classic is reborn in this fun and funny adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays!
 
Two families at war. 
A boy and a girl in love.
A secret marriage gone oh-so-wrong.
 
<3 and h8. The classics just got a whole lot more interesting. ;)
 
tl;dr A Shakespeare play told through its characters texting with emojis, checking in at certain locations, and updating their relationship statuses. The perfect gift for hip theater lovers and teens. 
 
A glossary and cast of characters are included for those who need it. For example: tl;dr means too long; didn’t read. 

I had fun reading Srsly Macbeth this past spring. Not sure I'll invest in any more unless my students get into them; but it's a clever idea.



You and Me and Him by Kris Dinnison. 275 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, July, 2015. 9780544301122.

Publisher synopsis: Maggie Bowers thinks she knows what to expect her junior year of high school--yeah, it would be nice if her mother didn’t care so much about her weight, but at least she has Nash, her out-of-the-closet best friend and a cool after school job at the local record store. But when Tom moves to town at the start of the school year they have something unexpected in common—feelings for the same guy. Up until now Maggie and Nash they have always chosen each other, but what if winning someone’s heart means losing their soul mate? 



Frank Einstein and the Electro-finger by Jon Scieszka. 170 p. Abrams/ Amulet Books, March, 2015. 9781419714832.

Publisher synopsis: In this second book in the series, Frank Einstein (kid-genius scientist and inventor) and his best friend, Watson, along with Klink (a self-assembled artificial-intelligence entity) and Klank (amostly self-assembled artificial almost intelligence entity), once again find themselves in competition with T. Edison, their classmate and archrival—this time in the quest to unlock the power behind the science of energy. Frank is working on a revamped version of one of Nikola Tesla’s inventions, the “Electro-Finger,” a device that can tap into energy anywhere and allow all of Midville to live off the grid, with free wireless and solar energy. But this puts Frank in direct conflict with Edison’s quest to control all the power and light in Midville, monopolize its energy resources, and get “rich rich rich.” Time is running out, and only Frank, Watson, Klink, and Klank can stop Edison and his sentient ape, Mr. Chimp!

When I received book 3 for review a few weeks ago, I realized that I missed the publication of book 2. Remedied that.



More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera. 295 p. SoHo Teen/ SoHo Press, June, 2015. 

Publisher synopsis: In his twisty, gritty, profoundly moving debut—called “mandatory reading” by the New York Times—Adam Silvera brings to life a charged, dangerous near-future summer in the Bronx.


In the months after his father's suicide, it's been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again—but he's still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he's slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely. 

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron's crew notices, and they're not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can't deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can't stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute's revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is. 

Why does happiness have to be so hard?

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

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Memes: The Trouble in Me by Jack Gantos

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


The Trouble in Me by Jack Gantos. 208 p. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, September 1, 2015. 9780374379957.

Publisher synopsis: This fiery autobiographical novel captures a pivotal week or two in the life of fourteen-year-old Jack Gantos, as the author reveals the moment he began to slide off track as a kid who in just a few years would find himself locked up in a federal penitentiary for the crimes portrayed in the memoir Hole in My Life. Set in the Fort Lauderdale neighborhood of his family's latest rental home, The Trouble in Me opens with an explosive encounter in which Jack first meets his awesomely rebellious older neighbor, Gary Pagoda, just back from juvie for car theft. Instantly mesmerized, Jack decides he will do whatever it takes to be like Gary. As a follower, Jack is eager to leave his old self behind, and desperate for whatever crazy, hilarious, frightening thing might happen next. But he may not be as ready as he thinks when the trouble in him comes blazing to life.

First line: I was still in my white Junior Sea Cadet uniform and was marching stiff-legged like a windup toy across the golden carpet of scorched lawn behind our new rental house.

Page 56: Since the hamburgers were ruined Dad suggested that he and Mom go to the Sea Cadet Commodore's cocktail party at the Kon-Tiki Club after all. He had been going to skip the party because of his birthday celebration, but now without dinner I  had inadvertently given him and Mom an excuse to get away from us.

No one can tell a story like Jack Gantos.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan

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


The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan. 320 p. Penguin Young Readers Group, February 23, 2016. 9780399173073.

Publisher synopsis: For fans of Linda Sue Park and A Long Way Gone, two young boys must escape a life of slavery in modern-day Ivory Coast

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. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Arc review: Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko


Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko. 280. p. Wendy Lamb Books/ Random House Children's Books, August 4, 2015. 9780307975775. (arc courtesy of the author)

Motherless thirteen-year-old Lizzie Kennedy loves nothing more than to accompany her physician father on house calls. In fact, she is determined to become a physician despite the fact that, in the early 1900s, female physicians were rare and girls of Lizzie's social class went to finishing schools, came out in society and married suitable boys. She lives with her father, beloved brother, Billy, Jing the cook and Maggie the housemaid on the grounds of her aunt and uncle's Nob Hill estate. Thanks to Aunt Hortense, she attends the odious Miss Barstow's School for Girls each day and counts the hours until she can return to the refuge of Jing's kitchen and watch for another chance to slip out with her father, who seems to appreciate her calm demeanor and steady hands in emergencies. 

Amid plague rumors, Chinatown is put in quarantine and when Jing fails to return home one night, Lizzie fears that he's stuck in Chinatown and is determined to find him and help him escape. She's not quite sure how to do this though and enlists Billy's aid. Surprisingly, he refuses; so she sets out on her own with nearly disastrous results. When she discovers Jing's son Noah hiding in his room, a son she never knew Jing had, Lizzie begins to question how well she really knows her cook. Through Noah, she learns more about how the Chinese population of San Francisco live and deal with the prevalent racism. 

As the rumors swirl, newspapers, including her own uncle's paper deny the epidemic. Lizzie finds some unlikely allies in her search to get to the bottom of this mystery. 

The San Francisco setting is particularly vivid, especially the juxtaposition of high society life and the poverty of Chinatown. Characters are well-drawn as well, with Lizzie being particularly appealing. There's humor, heightening suspense, and tragedy. While this is a work of historical fiction, thoughtful readers will make modern day connections to persistent problems of race, class, sexism and access to health care. 

I usually have trouble enticing my students to try historical fiction. Gennifer Choldenko makes my job easy. My students and I adore her Al Capone trilogy. Her fans should take to this one as easily. Give Chasing Secrets to fans of mystery as well. This is a must-purchase and 2015 favorite.

Saturday, August 8, 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:

Finding Forever by Ken Baker. 248 p. Running Press Book Publishers, September 8, 2015. 9780762458172. 

Publisher synopsis: In this YA series, Brooklyn Brant is a celebrity news blogger dying to have her big break. Her blog, Deadline Diaries, features the clickbait hook-ups, break-ups, and screw-ups of the Hollywood glitterati, but she has yet to nab the one juicy scoop that will establish her as the ultimate insider.
Actress Taylor Prince is America's sweetheart—beautiful, talented, successful, and sober. With a Golden Globe win, Oscar nom, clothing and fragrance line, and too many magazine covers to count, Taylor is ready to celebrate her sixteenth birthday with a big poolside bash. However, she is not prepared for a police raid and blacking out in the arms of a dangerously handsome stranger.
Brooklyn is called by Taylor's assistant to locate the missing starlet under the radar and on a very tight deadline. And she will need both her sleuthing and journalistic skills to solve the mystery and get the story of a lifetime.
In this suspenseful, dual narrative thriller alternating between the perspectives of Brooklyn and Taylor, author Ken Baker uses his in-depth experience with celebrity journalism and behind-the-scenes truths to explore the ugly underbelly of Hollywood's obsession with finding the ever elusive fountain of youth.


That's (Not) Mine by Anna Kang. Illustrated by Christopher Weyant. unpgd. Two Lions/ Amazon Children's Publishing, September 1, 2015. 9781477826393. 

Publisher synopsis: Two fuzzy creatures both want to sit in the same comfy chair. The trouble is, they can’t agree who it belongs to. They get madder and madder, until…


With expressive illustrations and simple text, this giggle-inducing tale about (not) sharing and (not) being a good friend features the endearing characters from Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small.

What's new with you?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday Memes: Ghostlight by Sonia Gensler

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



Ghostlight by Sonia Gensler. 247 p. Alfred A. Knopf/ Random House Children's Books, August 4, 2015. 9780553522150.

Publisher synopsis: Things that go bump in the night are just the beginning when a summer film project becomes a real-life ghost story!
 
Avery is looking forward to another summer at Grandma’s farm, at least until her brother says he’s too old for “Kingdom,” the imaginary world they’d spent years creating. Lucky for her, there’s a new kid staying in the cottage down the road: a city boy with a famous dad, Julian’s more than a little full of himself, but he’s also a storyteller like Avery. So when he announces his plan to film a ghost story, Avery is eager to join in.
 
Unfortunately, Julian wants to film at Hilliard House, a looming, empty mansion that Grandma has absolutely forbidden her to enter. As terrified as Avery is of Grandma’s wrath, the allure of filmmaking is impossible to resist.
 
As the kids explore the secrets of Hilliard house, eerie things begin to happen, and the “imaginary” dangers in their movie threaten to become very real. Have Avery and Julian awakened a menacing presence? Can they turn back before they go too far?

First Line: We'd only been at Grandma's for five minutes before Blake ruined everything.

Page 56: I stared at the ceiling for quite a while that night, thinking about this so-called "ghost" Julian had in mind for our movie. To say I didn't feel so great about the idea was what Blake would call a "massive understatement." But had I said anything to Julian?

     Of course not.

     He'd had that lively look in his eyes again-that creative spark that seemed to light me up, too.