Anna Smudge Poster Winners!

Congratulations to our contest winners! The rules for entry were simple: comment on my Anna Smudge review. And the winners are...

Jen Robinson with the "Tough Day on the Job" poster
Ms. Yingling with the "Too Much Finger Painting" poster.

Or, if you ladies wanna switch that's fine with me.
To claim your prize you must email your shipping info to everead [at] gmail [dot] com by December 8 (one week from today)! If you haven't done so, your prize will go to another random commenter.

Small Steps

Post by Ashley
My take: A fun and interesting but vaguely disappointing companion novel to the mega-best-seller, Holes, by Louis Sachar. Because it was the companion novel, I had certain assumptions going in. I assumed, for instance, that, like Holes, Small Steps would consist of a bunch of different plot threads that seemed totally unrelated but that tied together at the end of the book in a surprising, ingenious, and just-plain really fun way. So as I was reading (well, listening in my car, actually), I kept subconsciously snagging onto different seemingly unimportant plot details, thinking they'd end up being part of a big woven puzzle to be solved at the end. Turns out, they were just unimportant plot details.

However, notwithstanding my minor disappointment, I did enjoy the story. We get to follow Armpit's post-Camp Greenlake story---how he gets a job and goes back to school, determined to get back on his feet and make something of his life, despite his semi-well-intentioned friend X-Ray's money-making schemes that almost lead to his second run-in with the law. It's a well-developed story and mostly believable. I just wish I'd gone into it knowing what (not) to expect.

Spreading the Love (but not so thin that you can't taste it)

Here is some linkage to a fun graphic novelist that would be a great pick for all the children (or people with inner children) on your Christmas list. His site is Don't Eat Any Bugs and I recommend reading the first chapter of A Cheese Related Mishap. Jacob and I were laughing about the scientist and the penguin ("Penguins aren't made for the cold!"). Then there are samples from YARG!, Another Dirt Sandwich, and coming soon is Cupcakes of DOOM!

Anyway, just poke around a bit. If your family is anything like mine, you won't have a hard time pegging who would go for the work of Ray Friesen. I can think of two people (besides me) who would love his thing. Just look at his author shot. I mean, c'mon!

The Willoughbys

Post by Alysa
The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry

This book is so funny. It is one of those ones I read and then immediately started reading aloud to Jacob. Okay, I don't think I had even read the whole thing before I started reading it aloud to him. Anyway, it would make a very fun read aloud. (Alas, it was due back at the library before Jacob and I finished it.)

It's not all fun and games though -- nope there are some serious villains in this book. They are the nefarious Willoughby parents! *gasp* It is perhaps this fact (nefarious parents) that has readers divided on this book. People either seem to love it or to hate it. Or maybe the reaction is divided because it is so different from other books Lois Lowry has written (The Giver, Number the Stars).

Anyhow, it is a new favorite of mine, and I think that many people with a sense of humor and with keen minds where children's literature is concerned will enjoy it. There are tons of fun references to books like Heidi, Anne of Green Gables, Mary Poppins, and The Bobbsey Twins. And those are just the ones I've thought of off the top of my head.

Pretty much anybody fourth grade and up would like it, and it's appropriate for all ages as well. Okay. I will stop yakking so you can start reading. Enjoy this one!

Other reviews by fellow Cybils panelists here and here and here. And I should say that since this is a Cybils nominee this review reflects my opinion only and not the opinion of the entire panel. And that goes for all the other Cybils nominees, too (which is pretty much everything I've reviewed since October).

I forgot about the glossary! Oh! It is so good! A glossary to die for! Stopping now!

Business & Pleasure

Business: Don't forget the Anna Smudge contest! Still got a few days on that one! Also share your fave books with us below.

Pleasure: Saw Twilight last night. :D Anybody else? My mom camped out for tickets. Rawk awn.

Books we loved this year!

Time for our next list! This one is a list of books we love. What book have you loved this year? There are no limits on genre, publication date, or reading level. Just leave a comment and we will add your beloved book to the list.

Also, what should our next list be? Favorite Best-sellers? Favorite little-known books? Books that are must-reads for nearly everyone? Pet peeves in books? Vote in the poll to the right.

  • The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan
  • Forever Rose, Hilary McKay
  • My Dad's a Birdman, David Almond
  • Blackbringer, Laini Taylor
  • The Host, Stephenie Meyer
  • The Stuff of Thought, Steven Pinker
  • Life as We Knew It, Susan Beth Pfeffer
  • The Dead and Gone, Susan Beth Pfeffer
  • Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher
  • Unwind, Neal Schusterman
  • Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer

Clementine's Letter

Post by Alysa
A while back we had a "cool quote of the moment" courtesy of this book. It was just so fun! It was filled with good stuff. Great characters! Great illustrations! Good plot and pacing! I didn't even mind that it was not the first book in it's series -- it was fine standing on its own. In fact, it made me want to read the other ones. :)

Clementine is a bit of a troublemaker. She isn't spiteful, but she seems to get into sticky spots. Lucky for her, she has a great support system. Her family is wonderful, and her teachers are excellent. I think Clementine is an excellent example of making things work out for the best. Not hoping they work out, making them work out.

A must read for Clemintine's peers (Yay 3rd grade!) and their supporters.

From Alice to Zen and Everyone in Between

Post by Alysa
This book is excellent. It is superior in its sphere. It's plot type is age old and has been done a million times and in a million different ways -- which is why I was so surprised that I loved it so well.

You know the story. "We're going to a new school and we have to fit in, but really we should just be ourselves." But what you've never heard before (that this book gives you) is the most clear look at what motivates this story. In a book done poorly, you ask the main character "Why are you even trying to fit in with the popular crowd?" and the whole time you are thinking "Stop acting so stupidly. You're embarrassing us all." Not the case with this book!

Elizabeth Atkinson has managed to get us inside Alice's head so well that we care about a story we've heard a million times before. Oh, certainly the story has its own unique bits and pieces, Zen being one of the most wacky. But the beauty of the book is that it works. It is so, so well done. I hope it never (ever) gets made into a movie. It would be a terrible one. But, man! It's a great book.

Read and enjoy! From Alice to Zen and Everyone in Between by Elizabeth Atkinson.

Don't forget about the Anna Smudge contest going on!

Thoughts on Paolini

Post by Ashley

Phew! What day is it?

I have just now officially come back to life as we know it—year 2008—not a dragon, elf, or magical sword in sight. Where have I been for the past few days? Buried deep in the latest installment of Christopher Paolini’s “Inheritance” trilogy-that’s-now-a-quadrology. I know, I’m a little late on the draw. The book’s been out for a few months, but such is its popularity that my name just came up on the library’s reserve list for Brisingr a few days ago. So tonight I finished reading. My assessment: Good. Yep. Just good.

My quarrels with the book are these: Sometimes the writing is too self-conscious. You know, when you’re reading a book and you’re suddenly picturing how the author came up with that particular turn of phrase to describe that scene instead of living in the scene itself? That’s self-conscious writing. It’s a semi-jarring experience that authors should avoid submitting their readers to.

Quarrel number two: way too much violence. But that’s just my opinion. And it’s the opinion of a girl who, when she saw the first Lord of the Rings, thought she was physically going to die, right there in her theater seat, it was so scary. But still, all the mention of “gore” and “grey matter” and “smearing/dripping/spurting/squirting/drenching/etc. blood” and “smashing/crushing/etc. bones” and all the limb severing was a little more than I could stomach. I mostly let my eyes drift over those parts, of which there were many. This is definitely not a book I’d recommend to anyone under the age of fifteen or so. In my case, under the age of twenty-four.

Quarrel number three: If I was really in love with this series, I probably would’ve lapped up all the extra detail and all the extensive information about, well, everything. But since I just like the series, it felt a tiny bit excessive to me. The first thirty-plus pages of the book (I lost count at thirty) were just a conversation between Eragon and his cousin Roran. No action, just talking. As an editor, I can tell you that I’ve been trained to hack and slash when authors do that. But since he’s an established author and it’s an established and well-loved and much-anticipated series, he definitely has the freedom to do some rule bending, no doubt about it.

Aside from that, and if you’re still even reading my own TMI post, it was a good, enjoyable, fantasy-thriller book. I’m excited to see how it ends, but I guess I’ll just put that one on the back burner, since I and all the other “Inheritance” fans probably have a couple-year wait ahead of us.

Laura's review here.

Anna Smudge: Professional Shrink

Anna Smudge: Professional Shrink, by MAC

Noir+KidMystery+Evil Villains+Rilly Big Chapter Illustrations+Funny+Kinda Silly=Good Book!

Okay, so I know my scientist husband would be like "that equation makes no sense" but whatever. Sometimes, even though the whole is more than the sum of its parts, you want to name some of the parts anyway.

This book is totally fun. And, even though it has a girl as the main character, it's not too girly. So all you middle grade boys out there (Abe?) wouldn't be all like "eww! girly book! get it away from me!" And the second book in The Professionals is Quenton's. I am very much looking forward to that, as he was my favorite in this book.

It took me a little bit to get into this book at first. You see, I wasn't rollin' with it. I thought "Who does that? That doesn't make sense!" But then I let a healthy "suspension of disbelief" kick in and I had a lot of fun.

This book will speak to middle graders. You know, it reminds me a little bit of that play that I wrote as a High School Freshman. . . where the villain had a badger-hand (instead of a hook or something inanimate). No badger hands in this one, but it's still outrageous fun!

So here comes the best part: along with my Cybils review copy, the publishers sent me some awesome posters. I'm keeping the first one. It's goin' in the bathroom. But if you read the book and want one of the other two, just leave a comment on this post by. . . oh. . . say Thanksgiving, and I'll do a drawing or something and we'll have two poster winners! And you don't have to have already read the book, you can just want the poster.

The Diamond of Drury Lane

Post by Alysa
Okay, it's time to talk about this book. It's totally good! It just came across the pond this year and it is so action packed and awesome!

Catherine Royal earned her last name by laying in a basket as an infant outside the Theatre Royal in London. That's where she was found and where she's lived ever since. (So fun!) When her benefactor, theater owner Mr. Sheridan, mentions a diamond hidden in the theater, Cat volunteers to help him keep it safe and under wraps. But there are all kinds of dangers on Drury Lane! The French Revolution is under way and street gangs and wanted men are about! Oh! and a little romance, too! Nothing super gushy, this is a third party romance.

I think pretty much everyone will like this book, and that's why I'm recommending it specially for Clare. She doesn't waste time with namby-pamby boring and lame books. Also she likes awesome phraseologies such as those found in this book. Read it Clare, or I'll give you a gob full of claret!

Oh! Also awesome maps in this book!

The Diamond of Drury Lane, by Julia Golding.

Feathered Friend

Awesome Halloween costume! I found this link on Bookshelves of Doom. The Pigeon books are great. As is everything else by Mo Willems that I've read.

Cool Quote of the Moment Archive

The Archive will be updated as new quotes replace the old.

"Ah! The agony! She's beating me with her little wings!"
~Spoony-E in Dragon Puncher by James Kochalka

There was an old lady of Steen,
Whose musical sense was not keen;
She said, "Well, it's odd
but I cannot tell 'God
save the Weasel' from 'Pop Goes the Queen.'"
--by Beatrice P. Krone, from Laughable Limericks compiled by Sara and John E. Brewton.

Iku Kasahara writes home:
"My supervisor can be a bit gruff, but sometimes he hugs me tightly to encourage m..."

"Augh!! What am I writing?"
*crumple crumple*

Library Wars: Love & War volume 4 by Kiiro Yumi

My mother gets mad at us for talking about him behind his back.
"The boy just hasn't grown into himself yet," she protests, which is mom-code for "He's a total dork."

--Pies and Prejudice by Heather Vogel Frederick

"What, if he doesn't fill out all the forms, they won't let him die?"

--The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

What do you get if you pull your underwear up to your neck?

A chest of drawers.

Why did the chicken cross the road, roll in the mud, and cross the road again?

Because he was a dirty double-crosser.

--Horrid Henry's Joke Book by Francesca Simon

"If he didn't make this book, I'd be crying my head off."
-- Lily of Bookie Woogie speaking about The Arrival by Shaun Tan

"A good many men had proposed to her in the course of her career, but none of them had ever left her with this odd feeling of exhilaration. Psmith was different from any other man who had come her way, and difference was a quality which Eve esteemed. . . ."
-- Leave it to Psmith, P. G. Wodehouse

"With great power. . . comes great need to take a nap. Wake me up later."
--The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

"Flunk us?" said Nick.
"Kill us?" said Marta.
"Worse!" exclaimed Mrs. Starch. "I'll lose all respect for you. All respect."

--from Scat by Carl Hiaasen

"I mean, you've got to be at least twice my age."

"Twice your. . . Valette, I'm twenty-one. Unless you're a very mature ten year old, I'm nowhere near twice your age."

--Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

It was hard to imagine a pig and a turtle together but it gave me something to do through the rest of the meeting.

--Everything on a Waffle, by Polly Horvath

I love Dead Bride.

--The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

What do you get when you pour boiling water down a rabbit hole? Hot cross bunnies!
--The Encyclopedia of Immaturity, Klutz

Raisins are actually turds!

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry

He wore a sweater in a tangerine and teal diamond pattern under his ever-present corduroy jacket, the knot of his tie painfully cinched as if he had just climbed down from an unsuccessful attempt to hang himself.

-- Fiendish Deeds by P. J. Bracegirdle

"'If a chipmunk mated with a monkey, would it be called a monk-munk?' asked Quenton.

'Don't be ridiculous, Quenton!' said Rachel indignantly. 'It would be called a chip-key.'"

-- Anna Smudge: Professional Shrink by MAC

"Listen to her. Elizabeth! What's seven plus two plus six plus eight plus five? See? It's all slipping. Spell Czechoslovakia. See? No answer. The girl's on her way to rack and ruin." -- Auntie Doreen in My Dad's a Birdman by David Almond.

Mrs. Rice took one look at my face when I walked in and said, "Do you want to tell me what's bothering you today?"

"Not yet, I said. "Do you like tattoos?"

"Not too much. Do you?"

"Yes," I said. I took a deep breath. "Okay, now I want to tell you."

from Clementine's Letter written by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee.

"Is it morning...or are we dead? Cause I feel dead."

"Nope, sadly, it's just morning."

--Rapunzel's Revenge; Rapunzel, Jack.

". . . I have no right to indulge in a lack of confidence. It would only interfere with the task before me."

--Educating Esme, Esme Raji Codell

"Pigs are very stinky animals blah blah blah..."

--Babymouse's Teacher, Babymouse 8: Puppy Love.

"My fatal flaw is hubris."

I blinked. "That brown stuff they spread on veggie sandwiches?"

She rolled her eyes. "No, Seaweed Brain. That's hummus. Hubris is worse."

"What could be worse than hummus?"

--Annabeth and Percy, The Sea of Monsters

"Everything I've read has been dull as doorknobs." -- Reynie Muldoon, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey

Guest Review: The Big Over Easy

Post by Alysa
Today's reviewer is none other than Aislin! She's astute, adorable, and just generally awesome in real life -- and it looks like she has some book review skillz too!

The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde

I am generally interested in books that are aware of themselves and their context as literature, and am entertained with the way modern writers enjoy putting new spins on canonical stories, so the idea of Detective Investigator Jack Spratt working on the case of Humpty Dumpty’s fall (suicide or homicide?) was delightful. I had no idea just how skillfully Jasper Fforde would bring this clever idea to life.

Fforde’s past success has been with classic literature (The Eyre Affair, etc.), but his most recent series “tumbles into the seedy underbelly of nursery crime.” One doesn’t need more than a cursory knowledge of basic nursery rhymes to enjoy this novel, but if the reader is familiar with classical mythology and an array of 20th century books, there are allusions on every page to be enjoyed. Fforde not only takes liberties with classic Mother Goose; he also pokes fun at our modern fascination with criminal investigation and forensics.

The Big Over Easy takes us to the community of Reading, where thinly veiled mock ups of famous literary detectives (Hercule Parrot, Miss Maple, Lord Peter Flimsey, etc.) are traipsing about in Sherlock Holmes’ wellies. Fame in crime-busting is dictated by publications in Amazing Crime Stories; the more dramatically a DI can solve a case, the more recognition they receive (tv serial adaptations guarantee good funding for one’s division). Jack Spratt is a nondescript family man with too many ethics and too few personal excesses for the interest of the media. Public opinion is set against him and his Nursery Crime division is heading for the chopping block, despite years of dedicated service.

A feud with his old partner-turned-celebrity and the Guild of Detectives doesn’t help matters, but with the help of his new detective sergeant Mary Mary (a little contrary, but a good egg) Jack is determined to crack Humpty Dumpty’s secretive and sordid past to learn how and why he fell from the wall.

Jasper Fforde’s trick to making this book interesting, action-packed, and smart, rather than just silly, is playing it straight. It reads like a CSI episode. The characters are not cartoons, and yet I found myself laughing out loud frequently. This is a clever, stimulating and refreshing read. A shout out to my sister Suzanne for recommending it.

So, doesn't that sound like a ton of fun? I think I'm going to have to try it (after Cybils, of course)! I picked up The Eyre Affair once on Laura's recommendation, but couldn't get into it. Maybe because I've never read Jane Eyre? (Shh... don't tell! I mean to read it sometime!) Anyway, I've definitely read Humpty Dumpty! Heck, I can recite it from memory! Thanks for the review, Aislin!

Cybele's Secret

Post by Ashley
The secret is out! This is a great book! A companion novel to "Wildwood Dancing," which is a story based loosely on the fairytale of the twelve dancing princesses, "Cybele's Secret" follows the adventures of Paula, an independent younger sister and scholar who dreams of one day owning her own book-selling business. She accompanies her merchant father to Istanbul to act as his assistant, even though it's a society that frowns upon women even being seen, let alone taking on professional positions.

On the way to Istanbul, a chance crossing of ships introduces readers to the dashing, flirtatious, bad-boy pirate, Duarte: love interest number one. In Istanbul, Paula and her father hire a bodyguard to protect them while they pursue the purchase of a rare and historic artifact. Enter Stoyan---tall, strong, extremely loyal, proud, and uneducated---and love interest number two.

Though the first half of the book felt a bit slow for me, once I reached the second half---whoa! The wait was definitely worth it. Juliet Marillier tells another fantastic story that blends the real and the fantastical into a totally believable and seriously exciting world that will leave readers hoping the youngest sister also has an adventure in store. And as an aside, the cover artwork is great. I love recognizing as I read all of the characters depicted on the front and back and the part they play in the story. I definitely recommend "Cybele's Secret."

Introducing Ashley!

Okay, so she's already done several guest reviews for Everead. But I thought now that she's officially become part of the Everead team, free to post reviews without emailing them to me first, we'd do a bit more of an intro.

Ashley loves princess books. She just can't get enough of them: Crown Duel, Ella Enchanted, The Goose Girl. Branching out has has led her to some new favorites: The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman, Sweethearts, and The Secret Life of Bees.

But reading isn't her whole life. She has an a husband studying chemistry (me, too Ashley!) and a cute baby boy (oh! Me too!). Unlike me, she helps make future books better by editing professionally. Ashley is also working on YA novel, which I'm sure will precipitate her debut into the fabulous world of published-author-dom.

For now, she's making her debut as one of the stylish, witty, and irresistible book mavens on Everead! Welcome Ashley! (Did I splice any commas back there?)

My Dad's a Birdman

This book in a word: lovely. It is very high on my list of favorites from this year. I recommend it unreservedly to anyone. Can't read yet? I bet you'd still like it. Just get someone to read it to you! You'll love the pictures! (Though, if you can't read, I'm not quite sure how you're going to get this opinion...) And I think this is a book that is very accessible. You wouldn't be embarrassed to be seen with if you were older, and you'd be able to handle it if you were younger.

But yes! The illustrations are lovely. The writing is beautiful! The themes exquisite! It is such an enjoyable little gem! Short and sweet and it leaves you thinking about lots of things. What happened before? What will happen next? What does it mean to follow your dreams? What exceptions should be made in our world of rules?

Oh, you want a little plot summary? Hmm... I hate to say too much. Lizzie's dad is entering The Great Human Bird Competition that is coming up soon! But not everyone thinks that trying to fly across the river is a good idea, even if the prize is a thousand pounds. (Oh yeah, it's set in Britain.)

Loved it! Must read! My Dad's a Birdman by David Almond

The London Eye Mystery

How does someone go up, and not come down? Salim got on the London Eye, in a sealed capsule that took a half hour to view London. When the doors opened, he couldn't be found.

This was a very cool mystery. Part of what made it cool was the mystery itself, which has a fabulous twist near the end that confirms (or disproves) your theories and then throws them all out anyway. The other part of what makes it cool is the protagonist. Ted is a kid whose brain works with a different operating system, and it's just cool seeing the world through his eyes a little bit. Oh, also cool because it is an international book, being set in London and written across the pond and such.

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd is a Cybils nominee, and I recommend it to mystery lovers of all ages and especially Lydia.
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