Thursday, October 30, 2008
2. The Cybils are awesome. Today I got four books in the mail! For free! To keep! Just because the publishers want me to read them, so that I can help select good ones for the shortlist! To date I've read 18 nominees and choosing only a few for the shortlist is going to be really hard. It's a good thing I get free books to make up for how hard it's going to be. :) I told you the Cybils are awesome. You can watch my Cybils stats in the sidebar.
3. Speaking of the sidebar, you may notice some new labels popping up over there. I've decided that since I know who checks out Everead, I can make some personalized recommendations. For instance I think my brother Micah will love The Hunger Games (well, I think a lot of you will, but I want to make sure he knows I think he should read it) so I tagged it "Micah's list." As I continue doing this I hope that even if I don't make a list just for you, you'll find a list you like. The whole goal here is to connect you with books. And to yammer about them.
4. One more thing: What do you think about a "Cool Quote of the Moment" archive? I've been saving the ones I've put up, but I could create a post that is a repository for them. I mention this because I just found a fab quote, but the awesome one that is up has not been up for very long. So, yea or nay on the archive?
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
What I'm trying to say here is that The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a good book. It's got adventure (boy has it!). It's got danger. It's got politics. It's got romance. It's gonna be a big hit with teens -- guys and gals alike. I made Jacob read it because I needed to talk to someone about it right away.
The Hunger Games. Picture the ancient Roman Gladiators meeting the modern reality show Survivor. In a time that is kind of between the future and the past, but definitely not the present. Also picture fireballs and mutant wasps and all manner of weaponry. Yeah, you're not going to need to worry about language or sensuality, but weapons get plenty of use.
Jacob's 2 cents: "Only 2 cents? I don't know if I can narrow it down to that. . . . Read it. But don't expect a satisfactory ending." Yeah, it was very cliffhanger. This one, I must recommend specifically for Micah, but like I said, the rest of you only have 2 choices. Read it now, or read it later.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
It's mostly about Mibs Beaumont (that's short for Mississippi). She's about to turn 13, and in the Beaumont family that means she's about to get her savvy. Her brother has what you might call an electric personality. Her grandmother captured radio waves in jars. What will her savvy be? And how will it help Mibs in her quest to help others?
This book is full of scumbly-bumbly adjectives and such. It's quite fun to read, and I thoroughly love the Beaumont family. There are some great savvies, too. The best part of the book was going along with Mibs as she figures out what's going on and how to make things right. She's no dummy, and she's got a pack of people to help her out. The pacing in the book was great -- by 3/4 of the way through you're just dying to know how it all works out. Recommended wholeheartedly.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Have a fun and safe and very costumed Halloween! I hope you eat way too much candy! I'm planning on it. :D
Thursday, October 23, 2008
So. Let us begin with the obligatory but always interesting "What books and projects are coming next from you?"
Next out to the public (in January 2009) is Babymouse: The Musical! Fun, frolic, and Fosse routines, all done in pink.
What is the best and worst of working with your sibling?
Matt "crashed" on my IKEA couch in my studio apartment in NYC for several months at one point. I always say that if we survived that, we can survive just about anything.
Worst: She took all of the Peanuts books from our parents' house!
Jenni - In a Q&A on your website, you state that The Empire Strikes Back is one of your favorite movies. I'm a fan as well; but, of the original three Star Wars movies it is my least favorite. Why do you like it particularly?
I just have to interject: Philistine! Sorry. Carry on. (Actually, the original Star Wars--now referred to as Episode IV--is my favorite, on sentimental grounds, although ESB is clearly a better film on most measures: writing, directing, acting.)
It's the tightest story-telling of the three and shows the characters as real multidimensional human beings. And, there's no Ewoks in it.
Matt – You've said, "What do I do? I sit around and draw pictures of mice all day." When you're not drawing mice, which I guess would have to be at night, how do you fill your time?
She by H. Rider Haggard. He's the guy who wrote King Solomon's Mines and created the Allan Quatermain character back in the late 19th century.
I am currently reading a graphic novel called CANCER VIXEN which is surprisingly funny for such a downer of a topic like breast cancer. The collected strips of LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE. I'm also re-reading my beloved GOON collection (graphic novels). I >heart< The Goon.
What is one of your favorite pieces of trivia?
For many years I thought my middle name was "Fer" as in Jenni Fer Holm (I am, in fact, Jennifer Louise Holm.)
What question have you not been asked in an interview, but think you should be asked? (Both the question and the answer, if you like)
Question should have been asked: "What is your opinion of hedgehogs?" Answer: I think they are quite cute, actually.
Q: Did you read anything other than comics as a kid?
Thanks for that awesome interview, you two! Keep up the great work!
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Sweethearts, by Sara Zarr, is un-put-down-able. Seriously, I think I only put it down twice, to do very important things. And since it's fairly short, that means I finished it in less than a day.
With a title like "Sweethearts" you might think it was a sappy teen romance. Au contraire! The book is about best friends Jennifer and Cameron, brought together by circumstance and temperament in grade school. How does having befriended Cameron change Jenna's life? Who is she, with and without him?
I think at least some of the un-put-down-ableness of this book comes from its honesty. When we read books, our attachment to characters often arises from how much we see of ourselves in them. And let's face it: we've all got that awful fourth-grade experience (e.g., wetting our pants in the cafeteria because we and a friend were laughing too hard) we hope our adult peers never hear about, or that hideous sixth-grade school photo (two words: ginormous glasses) that we've done our best to hide from posterity. So we can all relate to Jenna's carefully buried "Jennifer." That connection, paired with the way the author only gradually reveals the details of the big and terrifying past event that proved the turning point in Jenna's life keep us hanging on to this story and hoping Jenna will show us just how past humiliations can be finally overcome.
Poignant and memorable, this one left Ashley and I both feeling wistful. It reminded me of some of my life experiences, and . . . well, it was just riveting. Also a bit of fun, this one is set in Mormon mecca Salt Lake City; so there were a few references to Mormonism though the main characters don't belong to the church.
Recommended for teens and adults.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Waiting for Normal. . . isn't really a good title for this book. Leslie Connor writes a story of a spunky young gal who is all about making things happen -- not waiting for them. Sure, I guess there is a little bit of waiting happening in the book, but by and large Addie recognizes her problems with a keen mind and a go-get-'em attitude. She sees what's going on, what needs to happen, and she makes lemonade, so to speak.
Addie's mom is all or nothing, hot or cold. She loves her kids, but her priorities can get tossed around and she doesn't always see the consequences of her actions. But Mommers and Addie are doing alright. Or are they?
Tough issues, great treatment. I very much fell in love with some of the characters. Actually, now that I think about it, most of them. I heart Addie and Soula and Grandio and Dwight and Hannah and the Littles and even Mommers. Recommended to the 10+ crowd of realistic fiction fans.
Monday, October 20, 2008
I've had some similar experiences, but (thankfully) to a lesser degree. Oh, Shannon how I love thee:
I adored the intoxicating discussions, the unraveling of poetry, the sweet little A's at the tops of my essays. (Let's pretend they were all A's. There's no reason to become slaves to detail here.) . . .
Steinbeck was like trudging through mud to get to an ice cream stand that exploded and burned just as I arrived. I couldn't understand why I was supposed to care about Hemingway characters who spent forty pages drinking and fishing. I still haven't recovered from The Scarlet Letter. . .
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Original text: The first two paragraphs of Jenni's bio.
When I was a slime mold, I liked to read. A lot.
One of our cats said slowly that his clearest memory of me as a child was watching me rake the lawn one-handed while I ate a refrigerator with the other! In fact, the highlight of a particular summer vacation was not, for me, going on the meatloaf slide at an amusement park, but rather sinking at a bookstore with a great kid's section and discovering- Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!-that my favorite author, Bruce Springsteen, had written 1968 more books.Matt's take:
When I was a rutabaga, I liked to read. A lot.
One of our cupcakes said reluctantly that his clearest memory of me as a child was watching me rake the lawn one-handed while I flew a puppy with the other! In fact, the highlight of a particular summer vacation was not, for me, going on the wristwatch slide at an amusement park, but rather punching at a bookstore with a great kid's section and discovering-yipes!-that my favorite author, Ludwig van Beethoven, had written 2,187 more books.
Full interview is now available, here!
Friday, October 17, 2008
The book is in the first person, and though Pausch had help compiling it, it seems to come mostly from him. Tuesdays was from the biographer's perspective. Both books are about former professors, but Tuesdays is about an old man; The Last Lecture is the story of a man with three young kids.
The practical advice and enjoyable anecdotes in the book are what make it a winner. My personal favorite is Pausch's "First Penguin" award -- given to risk-taking students. After all, who knows what is in the water when the first penguin jumps in?
Short, funny, insightful. Worth a read.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
I buy books,
and if any is left,
I buy food and clothes.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
It was particularly fun to listen to this book (rather than just read it) because it is set in Ayortha -- a nation of singers. And the people over at Full Cast Audio don't do things halfway. There was music and accompaniment with the lyrics in the book, and each voice had its own actor. This is quite fun, but does sound weird occasionally; for instance, when it's like "I turned around and dad burst out with 'Where are my chainsaws?'" (no actual chainsaws in the book.) I just mean when the sentence isn't complete with only one voice. Anyway, it was fun more often than weird.
So Aza is not pretty. Not even close to the fairest in the land. But she's got a great voice. It leads her into all kinds of crazy adventures involving kings and queens and princes and puppies and magic mirrors and even *gasp* the dreaded fairy, Lucinda. (You may remember her from Ella Enchanted.)
It was a good book with a solid cast of characters and an enjoyable plot. Ella Enchanted is still my favorite of Levine's works though.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Hilary will be proud of me. I finally read Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding. Parts were quite funny, but overall the book was a bit. . . risque for my tastes.
It follows Bridget (duh, it's her diary!) through a year of romantic mayhem. What you might not know is that it is also loosely based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. There are some changes of course. For one thing, I could see how Elizabeth would go for Wickham. Why anyone would go for the equivalent (found in the characters of Daniel and Julian) is beyond me. I had them pegged as duds from the beginning.
One of my absolute favorite parts is when one of Bridget's friends decides he is going on a diet. He asks her how many calories a person needs to stay alive and proceeds to quiz her on how many calories any given food item has. It's quite funny. There are other funny passages and ideas as well, but I don't know if the goods outweigh the bads. That's my take.
Nominate your favorite books of this year while you still can! Nominations close after tomorrow. There is a link in the sidebar.
Even though nominations haven't closed yet, we panelists have started reading. I am very impressed with all of the books I've read so far, and reviews will be coming soon. Seriously, any one of the five and a half books I've read could be a winner. Lucky for me the panelists don't have to pick just one. :D
Do you have any questions about the Cybils? Post them in comments.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
The writing is poignant and interesting. I was hooked from the beginning. It is a short book, but it's a page-turner. The characters are multidimensional and very real. Heck, you know its good if it has been a success for this long (over 40 years) with a main character by the name of Ponyboy. That could ruin a lesser novel. Also amazing: the author was 16 when it was written.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Anyway, of course one of the most recent hot-ticket items on the YA book market is Christopher Paolini's long-awaited three-quel, Brisingr. Now, it's been a few years since I read the first two books in the Inheritance Trilogy (oops! I mean "Cycle"...can you sense I'm a little bitter about that switch?), but I brushed up on the storyline by referring to ever-so-useful Wikipedia and it all started coming back to me. I got sufficiently excited for Brisingr to come out as the midnight release party advertisements went up and the major hoopla set in. But then I actually started reading the book.
Now, the plotline is engaging, the characters are memorable and interesting, the beginning and the ending are satisfying, and in short, most of the elements of a great story are there. Unfortunately there are a few more elements too...like super extensive descriptions that appear to have no other function except a fulfillment of the author's apparent obsession with swords and dwarf politics. Overall, the story was too long-winded to be satisfying. It's like Paolini's editors decided not to make him cut anything or trim the novel down. Perhaps they're trying to one-up Harry Potter's book lengths? Well, I have news for you friends: not every YA novel in the fantasy category has to be a bajillion pages long to be popular!!! Do us all a favor and cut some of the superfluous nonsense. Tolkien can get away with superfluous, but he wasn't writing for ADD teenagers, and he gets away with it because his stuff is classic (arguably). Tolkien tries my patience, Paolini tries my sanity.
My other main complaint about Brisingr is the obligatory nature of the romance. Paolini can go on for pages and pages about the minor and insignificant details of sword-forgery, but he doesn't seem to have room to develop a genuine romance in Brisingr. Clearly we can see where his priorities lie. I'm not saying that the book should be taken over by romance--it's a fantasy, not a fairy tale. But still, he dots the book with an occasional mention of Arya and a fleeting thought thrown her way now and then by Eragon. But these slight romantic touches mostly just appear as afterthoughts. There's only one sequence in the book in which Arya and Eragon have an extended conversation, and it's interrupted by a magical phenomenon that takes on the real importance in the sequence. Go figure. Maybe Paolini broke up with a girlfriend just before he started drafting Brisingr which caused him to swear off romance...or maybe he just doesn't care to develop that side of his story anymore. He's the author and it's his story, but I'm just sayin': I don't appreciate the lack of romance. I don't remember being upset about this with Eragon or Eldest, so what happened with the romantic elements of the story in Brisingr?
Many criticize Paolini for unoriginal ideas. Some say he just pulls from all the basic elements of fantasy set forth by notables such as J.R.R. Tolkien and George Lucas. To them I say: what did you expect? I love when critics moan and gripe when fantasy novels don't include one or more of the "basic elements" of fantasy, but then they moan and gripe about mindless plot-copying when authors do follow use the "basic elements." I think Paolini's put together a very engaging story with great twists and turns. In my opinion, some of his twists are more predictable than others, and actually Brisingr erred a little more on the unpredictable side. Yes, many of the set-ups are not uncommon in famous works of fantasy, but that doesn't make them any less enjoyable.
Bottom line: Paolini and his editors probably could/should have cut out a lot of long-winded waste-of-time stuff and kept it to three books instead of four, but who wants to do that when you can build up anticipation and make a lot more money?
The Battle of the Labyrinth
To talk about this one much would be spoilery, since it's the 4th in the series. It was good. I can't wait for the fifth and final volume. Just read them already.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
I enjoyed this fairy tale thouroughly. It's on the longish side, but the twist in the middle was fantastic. I liked that it was an original story with great characters. The villain is just the right amount of creepy. I liked Rose's determination and the love that her family has for her. Dislikes: cheesy bear poetry. I could do without it, but I've read a review that sites it as a favorite. I also would have liked to get to know the prince (who made our list) a bit better.
The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison -- This book's protagonist is Prince George. Prince George's world is one where those with the ability to communicate with animals, a.k.a. "animal magic," are feared and persecuted. When George learns that his bride-to-be keeps a wild hound for company all kinds of personal and political decisions have got to be made.
WHAT?! A book from the Prince's perspective? That's right. I thought it was awesome. Don't you wonder what the prince is thinking sometimes? And the princess's story could be just as intriguing -- but I like that we got George's version. I also liked exploring all the relationships in the book. George's relationships with his parents and tutor affect how he makes his decisions when it comes to Princess Beatrice and her father. And Prince George is very honorable. swoon. I'm glad he made our list of Favorite Princes in Print.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
by William Nicholson
Noman is the final book in the Noble Warriors trilogy, begun with Seeker and Jango. As I read the first two books, I couldn’t put my finger on why they had me so captivated. What was it about Seeker, Morning Star, and Wildman that had me so enamored with their stories, aside from their fabulous characterization and ever-evolving personalities? On the surface, there’s the obvious love triangle, and I always enjoy watching that kind of tangle unfold itself into a happy ending. But this series was so much more than that. And in Noman, the captivation comes clear.
The trilogy is a story of religious beliefs, of pointless fanaticism, of god-making, of manipulation, of greed, and of power in all its forms—good, bad, and in-between. Through a twisting and fantastical tale, William Nicholson tackles cosmic and universal questions: What is God? How can there be so many different versions of the same higher power? How much of what people believe is manmade—their own wishful thinking driven by the mentality of the masses? And how is any one person ever to find real, genuine Truth?
Ultimately, in reading, we discover alongside the characters the complexities the world has used to cage the answer. And in the end, the author gives us the key to open the cage and release the simple, obvious, and so true-to-life answer. This is a great read.
She told us all kinds of awesome stuff about how she used to make Huggies commercials (and wishes that she still did, now that she has 2 kids and could use the free diapers!) and about what it took to write the books she's written. For instance she storyboards each Babymouse book and then sends it to her brother, Matt Holm for the art and his two cents.
She also conducted an awesome Babymouse "Draw-off" -- kinda like a shootout, but two audience participants had pens instead of pistols when she said "Draw!" And she did some original Babymouse art herself -- Benjamin was cute enough that Babymouse wanted to welcome him to the world (but she doesn't like dirty diapers):
We also enjoyed a presentation by Cynthia Leitich Smith, hearing some yearns spun by Dan Keding (who incorporated guitar into his awesome storytelling) and Kathe Brinkmann (don't let the Bellybutton Monster get you!). There was fantastic music by various bands and orchestras and a free raffle with awesome prizes. Benjamin won Babymouse: Queen of the World! We're not going to let him have it until his saliva slows down a little bit though.
One last fun thing: Jenni Holm said I should get in touch with her and Matt for an interview. Once I drum up some questions, you can look forward to that. What would you like to know about them/their books? Leave questions in the comments. For a fun interview of Jenni that Shannon Hale did, check here.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Black on White by Tana Hoban is one if his favorites. He just can't get enough of it. I think it's pretty cool too. I like that the black, shadow-like illustrations are also kinda glossy. This allows me to sit with Benjamin on my lap and the book in front of us (for ease of page turning) and still see his reaction in the glare from the pages. Schweet.
We've also enjoyed Animal Kisses by Barney Saltzberg. That one kept him interested for quite a while. It's got textures for each of the animal's kisses. It's just too bad that since it's a library copy the "scratchy cat kiss" is worn smooth. I don't think it will mess him up for life though.
One that I remember from when I was a kid and that he likes, too is It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw. Sometimes it looks like spilt milk, sometimes it looks like a pig. Sometimes it looks like a birthday cake. What is it really? Read to find out! The high contrast colors are a favorite of his, and he likes looking at the text as much as the pictures.
These books are quite sturdy -- very important at this age since he likes to taste and touch as much as look and listen!
Friday, October 3, 2008
I'm really excited for it, though! All kinds of authors will be there! Well, all kinds of kids authors anyway, and where authors are officially, authors are unofficially. I'm probably most excited to see Jennifer Holm, who wrote the excellent historical fiction Our Only May Amelia, the what-category-does-this-fall-into Middle School is Worse than Meatloaf and co-authors the rockin' Babymouse series. There are many other exciting events as well: storytelling, puppet shows, movies, live music, authors speaking and so on. I can't attend the whole day (drat!) because it happens to be on the same day as General Conference, but I'll give you the report!
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale, 2008, 144 pages.
Let me start off by saying I just can't get enough of Shannon Hale. This is her seventh book (not counting her addition to the compilation First Kiss then tell) and I've devoured every one. So, I had really really high expectations for this book.
Wow! Expectations met and exceeded! I haven't read many graphic novels (which are comic book style publications), only about four if you are counting the Babymouse series as one. But this one is the best graphic novel I have read.
Why do I love it? Great plot -- Rapunzel has escaped from the tower unaided and decided to put an end to the witch's evil doings. Great characters -- Rapunzel has spunk and heart, Jack has guts and gentility, and they both have hilarious wit. The villains and monsters of the story are memorable and formidable. Great illustrations -- one of my favorites is of young Rapunzel when she thinks she has won an argument with the witch. The illustrations are also full color and a true treat for the eyes.
Things I didn't like: Hmmm, thinking. . . nope. I got nuthin'.
Read it! Love it! Great for people 8+ of both genders.
Laura attended the release party; reports here.
I'll be serving as a panelist on the Middle Grade Fiction panel, whittling down your nominations into a shortlist for the judges. Can't wait!